Sunday, September 21, 2008

"Without Me You Can Do Nothing..."

The icon of the Theotokos which I started during the Dormition Fast last month was blessed after liturgy today.

This was the second icon I have painted and the experiences in painting each were vastly different from one to the other. In the structured classroom setting, I was able to learn a little about technique, the use and meaning of colors, I learned about some very famous icons, and in the meantime, class participants painted an icon. Painting that first icon was difficult for me in lots of ways.

Nearly a year later when I decided that I wanted to try again, I dropped a note to my priest to seek a little advice about how or whether to proceed. He encouraged me to try again, but reminded me that iconography is best learned one-on-one at the feet of a master (of which there are pitifully few in the Twin Cities), but that of course practicing the things I learned in the first class I took was important, too. So he suggested that until I take another class, I should go ahead and paint and practice if I was so inclined, remembering that "what makes one spiritual approach blessable is not so much the form, but the spirit. If you don't like the result, you burn it reverently and try again. If you do like the result, seek to have it blessed as an honest attempt."

So I was glad to receive a blessing and to have this icon blessed after liturgy today. The prayer which I prayed each time I sat down to work on the icon ("A Prayer at the Beginning of any Undertaking") begins this way: "Lord, Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of Your eternal Father, You have said with Your most pure lips: Without me you can do nothing..."

I learned while working on this second icon just how true these words are.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Name That Book!

I mentioned in an earlier post that I'm currently on my church's (very small) cookbook committee. We've been plugging away at this project and are making some good headway! Soon we will meet again to get the really important stuff sorted out - what should be on the cover, what sort of categories are necessary based upon the recipes we received, where to have it copied, how to bind the book, and - not unimportantly - we have to come up with a good title for our church cookbook.


I've given this a little thought this week and I admit that I have a good bit of uneasiness about church cookbooks with titles that have too strong a connection to liturgical or Eucharistic language. I resolved that I would not bring any titles of this nature to the discussion table. (I was glad to hear my priest express the same uneasiness when it came up in conversation the other night).

So - here's a contest!

Submit your ideas for the title of our cookbook - you can submit as many suggestions as you want in the comments section of this post - and I will bring any submitted titles to our little committee for consideration. If YOUR title is chosen, I will personally purchase and send to you a copy of our new church cookbook (we are hoping to get it out by Christmas).

Please remember that I won't bring to the committee any titles with strong Eucharistic or liturgical nuances (so please, no titles like, "Take and Eat," "Make and Eat," "Bake and Eat," "Heavenly Food," "A Foretaste of the Feast to Come," etc. You see what I mean, right?) This is not to say that there can't be references to church and churchy sorts of things - it's a church cookbook after all!

The cookbook will include lots of different types of recipes: simple and more complicated dishes, fasting recipes, both sweet and savory foods, some ethnic dishes, a large variety of desserts, and even recipes for koliva and prosphora, which are just handy to have in a church cookbook!

So if anyone has a great name for a church cookbook, post it here in the comments. Who knows? You just might win a new cookbook!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Fall Favorite

It's a Transposzing fall favorite snack!

1 part candy corn + 1 part salted, dry roasted peanuts = a snack that tastes just like a Pearson's Salted Nut Roll.

There's just something about that combination of sweet and salty ...
We usually keep a bowl of this stuff around at least until Halloween (when they stop selling candy corn at the store).

The Exaltation of the Cross

The most helpful words about the cross that I encountered today:

Nowhere Where the Cross is Not
by Fr. Jonathan Tobias.

Wherever you look, you’d be hard pressed not to find a Cross.

Since Jesus came, every plus-sign, every perpendicular,
every intersection of vertical and horizontal is a sign you can’t get away from.

It’s the sign of Jesus, Son of God, Second Person of the Trinity,
and of what He did in the world, for the poor in spirit,
the marginal down and outers.
For the sick and broken.
For me. For you.

Wherever you look, go ahead, and try to find not the Cross:
it’s planted everywhere.
Every tree is a Cross now, since Jesus was hung on one.
Every building is a Cross, since of all the cornerstones He is the Chief.
Every intersection is a Cross, since all life is met in Him,
and in Him are all things held together.

Every tower, every aspiration, every refusal of sorrow, every hope launched out
into the unknowns of death and tomorrow:
these are all the Cross,
as the Son of Man was lifted up between earth and sky,
to violate the policies of the Prince of the Air.
To forever compromise the darkness,
and design in the night a flame undenied.

Wherever you look, go ahead, I dare you to try,
and beyond all the obvious plus-signs at Church and on your icons,
you find that Jesus’ sacrifice, the nails, the spear and death itself,
has got you surrounded.
His Eucharist, Body and Blood are writ large, incarnadine and valentine,
posted to all your inboxes, and in every wordless thought
between every unconscious breath.

Wherever you look in the Night, it’s there.
Jesus is now Lord of the Night as well as the Light:
the Son never goes down on the Cross of Christ.
The Cross is a mystical bonfire that brightens every darkness,
and it’s time that you see it wards off every shadow and haunting.

The bleak houses of spite radio their scripts,
and previews of bodiless terror leech into unconscious dreams,
like the nightmare of the fall that never stops and the ground is rushing up.

Look carefully, there’s the Cross.

The intellectual whispers murmuring that perhaps the Church is not right,
that perhaps it doesn’t matter,
and services are too long and the kids think it’s boring.

Look carefully, there’s the Cross.

The feeling of tiredness, and the thinking that you’ve tried and tried
and now what’s the use?
No joy, it seems, and life is a house once cleaned,
that gets messed up, dirty dishes and water rings, just an hour after.

Look carefully, there’s the Cross.

The inescapable knowledge, after forty-three, incessantly,
that what you thought you’d escape from which affected the rest of the race
you know is now coming for you,
and will come, the moment of fall, decease and dread.

Look carefully, there’s the Cross.

The Cross is there,
because Jesus and His Saints are there, and prayer is there,
and all has been seen before.

There is nothing you can experience that hasn’t been covered by His life,
the fellowship of the Redeemed, and the Sign of the Cross.
This life is answered, healed, only at the Tree of Life in the next:
so it is that the Sign of the Cross is the warding off of demons,
the dispelling of shadow,
and the open code passkey into Paradise.

Look carefully, there's the Cross.

Wherever you look in the Day, it’s there.
The schoolfriend whose makeover covers the tears in the night,
and whose cruelties and chatter were learned
in too many car rides, and too many shows at prime time.

Look carefully, there’s the Cross.

The child that no one understands but you,
but the child who is nice to everyone else but you,
and the child who trusts no one else with their very worst but you,
is a child you love but are afraid you don’t.

Look carefully, there’s the Cross.

The friend who’s drunk and disappoints,
who you wish would clean up his act and get some help,
but he’s done that fifty times already
and so he doesn’t want to change, now he’s hungry and a mess.

Look carefully, there’s the Cross.

The boss who's forgotten every labor advance,
or the former colleagues who are gathering up a paper trail on you,
or the schedule that has no notion of Sunday
and only a hope for a penthouse and cruises
until the end in an urn, in some marble corner.

Look carefully, there's the Cross.

The parent who won’t trade roles with you,
but who, sometimes, acts like a child, lost, needy, lonely, and wounded,
but too much aware that they’re a mom or dad of an adult
so God forbid they’ll say I need you, please help, I’ll trust you today.

Look carefully, there’s the Cross.

The spouse who isn’t your spouse any longer,
or just doesn’t seem to be:
your house has drifted, and the interstitial space has extended, dulled,
and he/she has receded from you
as the space of your home has grown
from that charming little apartment where you were touchingly dirt poor
into a large sterile residence where space, no longer close, can creep so cold.

Look carefully, there’s the Cross.

The Cross is there, because prayer is there and you are there,
and you see the Cross, only because you see yourself no longer.
Your world doesn’t end at your feelings anymore.
It doesn’t matter to you anymore how you are treated,
how you are dealt with, how much respect you get,
how you are looked at, talked to, noticed or acknowledged,
or who bows to you along the way.

In loving Christ, you are paroled from self
and you can then and only then look with His love toward the other,
and you bring the Cross
to the poor, the lost, the lamb and lost coin, the pearl of great price,
the orphan, the widow, the man left bruised along the way.

You, as you denied yourself and followed Christ,
bore the Cross in your soul,
and as your soul was no longer stuffed with self, it grew up,
Christlike,
and proclaimed Christ crucified.

Who was poured forth for the Life of the World.

Which is exactly what your schoolfriend, your boss, your drunk friend,
your child, your parent, your spouse, your friend …
exactly what was needed …
the One Thing needful.

The Cross is everywhere,
but there was a cold soul season, once, when it was nowhere.

Today, there is nowhere where the Cross is not.

Your Cross we adore, O Master,
And Your Holy Resurrection we glorify


Wishing all the blessings of the feast.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Makes Sense to Me

A timely word from Ben:

September 11, 2008
"Politicians that seek to maintain their honor by not attacking their opponents on this day of remembrance, but who have no reservations concerning slander, exaggeration and lies on any other day of the year, have already long ago spent their reserves of honor and do not really have to worry about maintenance. "

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

"Let Us Call Brother Even Those Who Hate Us..."


... and "friend" even those who hardly know us!

For the second time in recent weeks, I received one of those "this is a voice from your past" sorts of email messages. The first one which I got several weeks ago was from a former teacher - the guy who was my high school choir director when I was a junior in high school. Fun! We shared a brief email exchange and he promised to call next time he's in town so we can get together.

The second one came in the form of a Facebook invitation yesterday morning. This one was from a former college roomate who was an exchange student from Denmark - a delightful woman I've wondered about from time to time over the years. Well, the only way I could make contact was to set up a Facebook account - something I have really avoided doing if for no other reason than it's just so trendy. I have enough online forums to keep up with without adding another - but I really wanted to find out how my old roomate is doing after these 25 or so years. So I went ahead and signed up.

So when I signed up for the account, the first thing Facebook did was go through my email address book and identify everyone there who also has a Facebook account - and it also identified alot of other people I didn't know who weren't in my address book. So first I sent a reply to my old college roomate, and then because the program had listed a whole bunch of people I'd never seen as my "friends" I started deleting the links to the pages of those I don't know.

Somehow in my haste to save the page so I could get ready to go to work, I managed to send an invitation to all those that I did know to be my Facebook "Friend." The page popped up right away, letting me know that my invitation to be a Facebook friend had been sent to - well, a whole boatload of people.

"Oh (insert explative! here)," I thought.

Then I quickly tried to remember who was on that list. Let's see:

Some in-laws: oh well, since you can't pick your family maybe they'll be flattered at being picked to be a friend.

My boss: well, he's a friend, I guess - we've been to parties together. I've been to his house and he's been to ours. He might come in to the office and tell me he'd rather be my boss than my friend, but regardless, he's sort of stuck with me, either way. I can explain what happened, though it may throw into question my administrative acumen ...

A couple of former co-workers/former vicars from the church where I work: Actually it might be kinda nice to keep up with them ...

My godmother: she's sorta stuck with me, too - but there's something strange about the implication that we need a Facebook friendship to stay in touch - I see her almost every week ...

A couple of people from church who sent recipes to me for our church cookbook ... well, they might as well be my Facebook friends, too. Why not? No harm done there, I don't think.

Then it came to mind that at least a couple of people - cyber-acquaintances with whom I have exchanged maybe one or two email messages - they might get a little squirmy about receiving my invitation - I know I would. At least two of these cyber-acquaintances are only casual visitors to this blog. So if you got one of these invitations from me (at least one of you accepted my invitation, which was sorta sweet, really) and it sort of skeeves you out, please know that my invitations were sent by mistake.

So now I'm on Facebook, where friendships are established - and verified - with the simple click of a mouse button. Wow.

All this to make contact with a former college roomate. She'd better write ... or I'll go and write something unseemly on her wall.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Through a Glass Darkly

The way it looks from here ...

The RNC

  • I'm glad it's over.

  • I'm glad it was held in the other "twin" of the Twin Cities - the one where I don't work.

  • Such events, regardless of political party, do not bring out the best in people.

  • I'm glad that I can turn the news on at 10:00 tonight and actually be able to watch the news.

McCain's choice of a running mate

  • I think it's wonderful that he chose a woman as his running mate - but it would have been more helpful if he'd have chosen one who is actually qualified for the job. Being perky and spunky doesn't make her qualified. Neither does her ability to kill and dress a moose in the field. I'm not sure why she isn't just a little insulted ...

  • I think that if a person who claims to hold such high "family values" really held them, she'd have declined the nomination. It's fairly obvious that she's got her hands full at home and that her family really needs her more than the rest of the country does just now.

The OCA Financial Scandal


  • The festering boil on the bum of the OCA has been lanced, (the report of the SIC has been published). It would seem as if much of the nasty stuff has oozed out, which makes it possible for healing to begin. Thanks be to God!

  • There was nothing in this report which was a shock to me (which is actually sort of a sad commentary about how cynical I am).
  • I am sad to see the reactions of many Orthodox Christians to the report and to the news of the retirement of Metropolitan Herman. Instead of joy and relief at being given this opportunity for healing, many seem to be more interested in exacting their pound of flesh.

Meanwhile - back at the ranch ...

The Blogger

  • Last night I finished the icon of the Theotokos which I started several weeks ago during the Dormition fast. I'll write about it in a future post.
  • I still have a bunch of recipes to type. Today's my day!
  • I'm glad that the pace at work has picked up - I don't do well at biding time.

Monday, September 1, 2008

qwerty

Typing, typing, typing - that's what I've been up to for the last couple of weeks.

Almost a year ago, some of us were talking at coffee hour after church one Sunday about something scrumptious which was being served that day - and about all of the other wonderful things which had been served at church in recent months. The discussion quickly evolved into a plan to put together a church cookbook. We set the deadline for recipes far, far away, thinking that recipes would dribble in for many months at a reasonable pace.

Our small committee of 3 divided the jobs up - each according to our gifts. I'm a secretary, so I volunteered to type the hard copy recipes into a consistent format and re-format the email submissions into that format. Another member of our little committee has done some work in graphic design and has experience in compiling such things into a decent presentation...I pass the formatted recipes on to her. The third committee member (our priest's wife) was appropriately put in charge of "collections," (the thought being that folks might be more receptive to her requests for recipes.)

We set a deadline of August 31 for submissions. Well, for many months nothing came in at all. Now, of course, it's raining recipes - which is wonderful - but so much for our thought that they might come in at an easy and workable pace. I've plugged away at typing recipes for a couple of days this holiday weekend, hoping to get them done. But I still have a pile left to do.

I'm weary of typing now, so I took the day off from recipes today (knowing that I get to go back to work and type all day tomorrow.) But I am pretty excited about the cookbook. It looks like it's going to be a winner. I think that almost every wonderful thing I've eaten at church might be included!

We're hoping to have it ready before Christmas.

The Fat Lady's Singing

I can hear her loud and clear.

It's over and summer has come to an (unoffical) end.

I first heard the announcement of summer's end a couple of weeks ago as the cicadas started buzzing in our back yard, encouraging me to notice the sunlight's autumnal golden hue, the seedum going to seed, and the earlier and earlier onset of darkness in the evenings.

Now it's Labor Day and the Transposzing family sits on the cusp of a new season:

DearHusband is welcoming the return of school days. As he is a work-from-home Dad, school days will be a pleasant change from the "Take me" days of summer ("Take me fishing, take me to the driving range, take me bowling, take me to the ball game.") Now there will be a new season of "Bring me" days ("Bring me my trumpet, bring me my blue notebook which I left on the coffee table, bring me my gym uniform, bring me my permission slip"). DearHusband will soon get some very well-deserved peace. His boss (my sister) will also welcome having a full-time employee back again!

ElderSon is in 8th grade this year - he gets to be one of the Big Men on Campus at the local middle school. He's been practicing his alpha-male exercises all summer on YoungerSon. ElderSon has grown about 6 inches this past summer it seems, and he has finally settled into his new lower voice, which I still have a hard time recognizing on the telephone. ElderSon confessed that he was ready to go back to school several weeks ago - we're gonna try to keep that momentum going for as long as possible ...

YoungerSon is in 6th grade this year - a new middle schooler. He reminds us every day that he is really not ready to go back to school. I suspect that if school never started again, it would be too soon for YoungerSon. He's also grown by leaps and bounds and is now about as tall as I am. As one who gets bored pretty easily with school, I'm hoping that the break between classes and a different teacher every hour will be helpful for YoungerSon. We're gonna try and get some momentum going with that one.

(As luck would have it, both of the boys and I will end up leaving the house at the same time for the next 9 months. This should make for interesting morning routines, especially the scheduling of the bathroom ..)

Labor Day is generally pretty low key for our family, giving us a "free day" before the hustle and bustle begins. We'll roast a chicken on the grill for supper, and finish the summer the same way we started it - with some marshmallows over the fire in the fire pit.