Friday, December 25, 2009

Christ is Born!

We got a snowstorm for Christmas this year, and it has created all sorts of last minute improvisations and changes in Christmas plans.

Oh, I don't think it will end up being quite as severe as the predictions, but it isn't over yet, so who knows? But it means that our family's celebration is looking a little different this year. Last night's Christmas liturgy was cancelled at our church, and we will not be able to make our annual Christmas Day trip to SW Minnesota (where no travel is advised at the moment). The Transposzing men spent a good chunk of Christmas Eve day moving snow - and they will likely spend a bit of Christmas Day doing the same thing.

Having a bit more time on my hands than I planned to have yesterday, I was able to take care of a few chores at home, and on and off checked Facebook to see how friends were faring with their Christmas celebrations. I was particularly struck by the post of one FB friend, a Lutheran pastor serving in a rural midwestern parish: "I hate shoveling. Street plow didn't come until noon, had to shovel again. Parents couldn't come, hospital call and a death. Merry Christmas."

Despite it's crabby overtones, this post sort of helped to clarify my thoughts about this year's celebration: How great a thing it is that God comes to us, anyway.

God's coming to us in the form of the infant Jesus born in a cave and lying in a feed trough rather rains all over our ideals of what Christmas is supposed to be. It's a good reminder of how distorted some of our ideals have become. The giving and receiving of perfect Christmas gifts, setting the perfect Christmas table, serving the perfect menu to the perfect guest list, and recreating the Christmas celebrations of our youth are not intrinsically bad notions. But it rather changes the focus from what God has done for us at Christmas to what we do at Christmas. And so it seems that sometimes we need a good Christmas snowstorm to shake things up a bit and to help us re-focus.

"Today salvation has come into the world," the Church says. And God's Word Made Flesh comes to us - today - despite our frustrations and our anxieties, and despite our unreadiness and our fears, and despite our disappointments and our failed plans and our cabin fever. God's great gift of Himself has been given to us and for us, anyway.

And that is precisely the point.

Christ is born! Glorify Him!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Memory Eternal

Folks in the Midwest Diocese of the OCA - and Orthodox Christians all over the country were saddened to learn today of the sudden and unexpected death of our heirarch, Archbishop +Job.

It is suspected that he died of pneumonia, after having been ill all week. He was only 63.

Archbishop Job was well-loved in our diocese and throughout the OCA. He visited my own parish several times in recent years and I regret that I never had the chance to meet him personally. It was an opportunity I sought, but which never presented itself, as I had heard such wonderful things about him. But our boys were each priveleged to serve at Divine Liturgy with him.

May his memory be eternal.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Another Blogger Hangs It Up

I read with a little sadness this past weekend that blogpal, Dixie, has decided to discontinue her blog. Hers was one of the first convert blogs I discovered a few years ago when I began nosing around seriously into Orthodoxy - long before I could actually envision myself as an Orthodox Christian. It was helpful for me - and it has remained helpful to me in one way or another all this time.

So I want to offer a brief and public word of thanks to Dixie, whose words and work have made a difference to me.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Cold Comfort Coop

Well, it's really winter in Minnesota now.

After an incredibly warm and wonderful November, reality came blowing in on Tuesday evening. High winds, snow, freezing temperatures - blizzard warnings for areas just south of the metro area where we live.

I've spent lots of time reading online about appropriate accomodations for chickens in the wintertime. We prepared our coop by the book: insulated the henhouse, we wrapped the open bottom open level of the henhouse in plastic, leaving the small pop door open for ventilation, installed a mason-jar light fixture in the lower level of the henhouse, bought a base heater for our galvanized waterer, and stuffed the henhouse with extra straw. According to all of the information I could find, if you do these things your chickens should be just fine in very cold temps.

Still, on Tuesday night when the wind was whistling and the temps were plummeting, I worried about the ladies. DearHusband went down to the henhouse just before bed to check on them. He reported that all was calm and quiet in the henhouse. The girls were all settled in and it was just sort of peaceful in there - warm in comparison to the gusty windchills outside. Today he swapped the 60 watt bulb in the fixture for a 100 watt (because he thought Lucy looked cold).

I just went down and snapped this picture of the ladies in their winter digs. (Miss Betty, giving me the old stink-eye, appears to have gotten the hang of balancing that big old booty on a small roost.) The temp outside is -5 according to the thermometer outside - but +14 according to the thermometer inside the henhouse. With those nice coats of down and feathers, I think they will be just fine.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Scenes From Lefse Day

An Old Norwegian Lefse Recipe
Yew tak yust ten big potatoes. Den yew cook dem til dar done. Yew add to dis sum sveet cream. And by cups it measures vun. Den yew steal tree ounce of booter, an vit two fingers, pinch sum salt. Yew beat dis werry lightly, if it ain’t goot--it iss yer own fault. Den yew roll dis tin, vit flour. Light brown on stove yew bake. Now call in all Scandihuvians tew try da fine lefse yew make.

We try to make a batch of lefse every year before Christmas. Last year we learned that as much fun as it is to make lefse, it's even more fun to make it with a few friends.

Because December Saturday schedules got filled up pretty quickly this year, Lefse Day became an after-work affair, Lefse Evening - and it was a long one! This year our gathering fell on the night of the first really good snowstorm of the winter. Traffic was bad, the roads were bad, and some forgot stuff at home and it could have been a really crabby event - but it was alot of fun. YoungerSon even got into the lefse action this year, while ElderSon happily attended a hockey game with a buddy instead.

Here are a few photos (cross-posted from FB).

Sunday, December 6, 2009

On the Feast of St. Nicholas

"The truth of things hath revealed thee to thy flock as a rule of faith, an icon of meekness, and a teacher of temperance; therefore, thou hast achieved the heights by humility, riches by poverty. O Father and Hierarch Nicholas, intercede with Christ God that our souls may be saved."

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Akathist of Thanksgiving

The Akathist of Thanksgiving
By Metropolitan Tryphon of Turkestan
Found in effects of Hieromartyr Grigori Petroff (+1942)

Kontakion 1
O King of ages, Who, by the power of Thy salvific providence, holdeth in Thy right hand all the ways of man’s life: I thank Thee for all Thy visible and secret goods, for earthly life and for the heavenly joy of Thy future Kingdom. Pour forth richly Thy grace, in the future as well, on us who sing to Thee: Glory to Thee, O God, in ages!

Ikos 1
I was born on earth as a feeble and helpless child, but Thy angel, spreading his shiny wings, has sheltered my cradle. From that moment Thy love shines in all my ways and miraculously guides me into the light of eternity. For that my soul lauds Thee and hails Thee with all who know Thee:

Glory to Thee Who hast called me into life.

Glory to Thee Who art revealing to us the beauty of the universe.

Glory to Thee Who art opening to us heaven and earth as an eternal book of wisdom.

Glory to Thy eternity in the passing world.

Glory to Thee for Thy covert and overt mercies.

Glory to Thee for every sigh of my heart.

Glory to Thee for every step of life, / every moment of joy.

Glory to Thee, O God, in ages!

Kontakion 2
O Lord, how good it is for us to be Thy guests! How fine it is for us in Thy world. The fields are fragrant, the mountains rise high up into the sky, and the golden rays of sun and the light clouds are reflected in the water. All nature mysteriously speaks about Thee, all is filled with Thy mercy and all carries the seal of Thy love. Blessed be the earth which, with her short-lasting beauty, awakens the yearning for the eternal homeland in Thy kingdom, where in everlasting beauty resounds the song: Alleluia!

Ikos 2
Thou broughtest me into this life as if into a wonderful garden. I see the sky deep and blue, the birds as they chirp in flight; I listen to the soothing rustle of trees and the sonorous sound of waters; my mouth is enjoying fragrant and succulent fruits. How wonderful it is in Thy world and how joyous it is to be Thy guest!

Glory to Thee for the feast of life!

Glory to Thee for the scents of lilies of the valley and roses.

Glory to Thee for the abundance and multiplicity of earthly fruits.

Glory to Thee for the glistening of morning dew.

Glory to Thee for the joyous smile of dawn / with which Thou dost waken me.

Glory to Thee for eternal life / and the kingdom of heaven.

Glory to Thee, O God, in ages!

Kontakion 3
By the power of the Holy Spirit every flower breathes. Thy breath I feel in the quiet movement of the fragrant fields. Observing the harmony of colors I admire Thee. Wherever I look, I see all around me the beauty of the Great One in the little.Glory and thanks to the life-creating God Who covers the earth with flowery meadows, crowns the fields with golden ears of grain and embellishes them with blue cornflowers, and my soul with the joy of contemplation. Be glad and sing to Him: Alleluia!

Ikos 3
How wonderful Thou art in the beauty of spring when all earth is being rejuvenated and thousands of sounds sing about Thee: Thou art the spring of life, Thou art the conqueror of death! In the pale moonlight with the song of the nightingale, the valleys and forests rest under a snowy white veil. The whole earth, Thy bride, is awaiting Thee, the Eternal Bridegroom. When Thou so clothest the grass of the field, how art Thou to adorn Thy chosen ones when they resurrect in the future age! How will then our bodies shine forth and our souls glitter!

Glory to Thee Who from the dark depths of the earth / bringeth forth so many colors and scents.

Glory to Thee for the beauty of nature.

Glory to Thee Who hast surrounded us / with thousands of Thy creatures.

Glory to Thee for the depth of thy wisdom / whose seal is borne by all creation.

Glory to Thee for the tender feeling / with which I kiss the trace of Thine invisible foot.

Glory to Thee Who hast from the beginning / lit the glowing light of eternal life.

Glory to Thee for the hope in perfect and eternal beauty.

Glory to Thee, O God, in ages!

Kontakion 4
How Thou delightest the hearts of those who meditate upon Thee, O God! Thou feedest their souls with Thy Holy Word. Talking with Thee is better than oil and sweeter than honey. Prayer to God refreshes and invigorates; it fills my heart with joy. How majestic then appears this world and all life. Where Thou art not – all is empty. Where Thou art – there is the richness of the soul.There, as living water, is the everlasting song: Alleluia

Ikos 4
When night falls upon the earth, the stillness of sleep reigns and sounds of the past day become silent; I see the splendor of Thy heavenly mansions. Flame and purple, gold and azure presage the indescribable beauty of Thy home and solemnly call forth: Let us go to the Father!

Glory to Thee in the quiet hours of the evening.

Glory to Thee for pouring forth deep peace on earth.

Glory to Thee for the rays of the setting sun.

Glory to Thee for the rest of a graceful sleep.

Glory to Thee for consolation in the darkness / when the whole world appears far from me.

Glory to Thee for the warm prayer of my tortured soul.

Glory to Thee for the promise that we shall awake in the joy of Thy everlasting day.

Glory to Thee, O God, in ages!

Kontakion 5
The tempest of life does not frighten one in whose heart shines the light of Thy divine Fire. Around me are whirling storms and roaring winds; terror and darkness surround me; but in my soul is peace and light. Christ is in her. And my heart sings: Alleluia!

Ikos 5
I look into Thy sky filled with stars. O how rich Thou art! How much light there is in Thee! Through the light of the distant stars Thou lookest at me from eternity. I am tiny and destitute, but the Lord is with me. His hand is always near me and He leads me with love in all my ways.

Glory to Thee Who continually watcheth over us.

Glory to Thee Who considereth mine every meeting with people.

Glory to Thee for the love of relatives / and the fidelity of friends.

Glory to Thee for the meekness / of the domestic animals who serve me.

Glory to Thee for the bright moments of life.

Glory to Thee for the happiness of living, seeing and feeling.

Glory to Thee, O God, in ages.

Kontakion 6
How great Thou art in the whirlwind and the storm! How majestic is Thy hand in the swiftness of the lightning! The voice of the Lord rises above the fields. It rustles through the woods, it roars in the thunder. The voice of the Lord resounds over the waters. Thy might is proclaimed by the fire of the volcano. Thou quakest the earth and liftest the waves of the sea into the sky. Glory to Thee to whom we repentantly cry: Alleluia!

Ikos 6
When swift lightning illumines the night, how pitiful and miserable our earthly candles seem. So also, deceitful earthly joys become colorless and dark when Thy light shines forth in the soul. Wherefore my soul struggles toward Thee and my heart yearns for Thee.

Glory to Thee Who hast planted into man’s heart / an unquenchable thirst for God.

Glory to Thee because nothing earthly / can completely satisfy us.

Glory to Thee Who clothest us in light.

Glory to Thee, the conqueror of the spirits of evil and darkness.

Glory to Thee for Thy revelation, / for the blessedness of feeling Thee and living Thee.

Glory to Thee, O God, in ages!

Kontakion 7
In the harmony of sounds I hear Thy call. In the lofty beauty of music, in the magnificence of artistic works Thou art allowing us to foresee Paradise. Whatever is truly beautiful soars toward Thee and teaches the soul to sing to Thee a victorious song: Alleluia!

Ikos 7
By Thy Holy Spirit Thou inspirest the thought of the artist, the poet and the scientist. By the power of Thy wisdom they prophetically enter into the mysteries of Thy laws and reveal the depth of Thy wisdom. Even their works involuntarily speak about Thee. O how wonderful Thou art in Thy works! O how great Thou art in man!

Glory to Thee Who showest us / Thy might through the laws of the cosmos.

Glory to Thou Who fillest everything.

Glory to Thee Who revealest to us according to Thy mercy.

Glory to Thee Who hidest from us according to Thy wisdom.

Glory to Thee for the depth of the human mind.

Glory to Thee for the creative ability in man.

Glory to Thee for the outpouring of Thy grace.

Glory to Thee, O God, in ages!

Kontakion 8
How close to us Thou art in our days of illness. Thou visitest the patient, Thou descendest to the bed of the sufferer and his heart communeth with Thee. Thou kindlest the soul with peace at the time of sorrow and suffering. Thou sendest unexpected help. Thou art the comforter. Thou art all-knowing love. To Thee I sing: Alleluia!

Ikos 8
When I as a child for the first time appealed to Thee, Thou fulfilled my prayer and lightened my soul with great peace. I understood then that Thou art good and that they are blessed who seek refuge in Thee. Therefore I do not cease to pray to Thee and to call upon Thee.

Glory to Thee Who fulfillest and to good purpose completes my wishes.

Glory to Thee Who watchest over me day and night.

Glory to Thee for the time that is passing / and taking away our sorrows and sadness.

Glory to Thee in whom nothing is lost, / for Thou grantest to all life eternal.

Glory to Thee Who promised us / desired meetings with our deceased ones.

Glory to Thee, O God, in ages!

Kontakion 9
Why is all nature so mysteriously smiling in the days of the feasts? Why then is our soul so light and joyous? Why does the air in the temple seem so bright? It is all because of the flow of Thy grace, because of the reflection of the light of Tabor. Heaven and earth are then singing together a laudable song: Alleluia!

Ikos 9
When Thou inspirest me to serve my neighbors and enlightenest my soul with humbleness, then the rays of Thy light fall on my heart and it begins to radiate and shine. As the sun in the waters, so in those moments in my soul is reflected Thy infinite meekness, full of love and the unspeakable peace of Thy radiant countenance.

Glory to Thee Who through good deeds transformeth our lives.

Glory to Thee Who hast sealed with unspeakable sweetness / every commandment of Thine.

Glory to Thee Who art invisibly present in the works of mercy.

Glory to Thee Who sendest upon us troubles and sorrows / in order to teach us to commiserate in the suffering of others.

Glory to Thee for the love / which Thou hast raised above everything on earth and in heaven.

Glory to Thee, O God, in ages!

Kontakion 10
Whatever is destroyed cannot be restored. But Thou revivest those whose conscience is dead and returnest pristine beauty to the souls who lost it. Through Thy mercifulness all is possible. Thou art Love, Thou art the Creator and Restorer. Thee I praise with song: Alleluia!

Ikos 10
O my God, Thou who knowest that the angel of pride, the Morning Star, hast fallen from Thee, do not let me doubt nor depart from Thee. Sharpen my hearing so that I will always listen to Thy mysterious voice and call upon Thee, Who art everywhere present.

Glory to Thee Who all-wisely governest my life.

Glory to Thee for inspired premonition.

Glory to Thee for warnings in a mysterious voice.

Glory to Thee for revelations in dreams and in reality.

Glory to Thee for thwarting my useless intentions.

Glory to Thee because through sufferings Thou liberatest me from passions.

Glory to Thee because Thou humblest my heart / and savest me from pride.

Glory to Thee, O God, in ages!

Kontakion 11
Through all the passed chain of ages I feel the warmth of Thy Holy Spirit and the surging of Divine Life. Thou art near, Time is nonexistent. I see Thy Cross – it is for my sake. My spirit is humbled into dust before Thy love, limitless and incomprehensible. Wherefore, beneath Thy Cross I will unto ages glorify Thee, my Savior, with song: Alleluia!

Ikos 11
Blessed art those who sup with Thee in Thy kingdom. However, blessed art those whom Thou hast already here on earth accepted as partakers of Thy Mystic Supper. How many times, with Thy divine hand, Thou hast allowed me, a sinner, to receive in Holy Communion Thy Body and Blood. And I have received the Holy and felt Thy love, ineffable and wonderful.

Glory to Thee for the incomprehensible and life creating power of grace.

Glory to Thee Who hast founded Thy Church to be for us a quiet harbor.

Glory to Thee Who givest us rebirth through the life-giving water of baptism.

Glory to Thee Who forgivest a sinner who repents / and restorest in him the viceless purity of lilies.

Glory to Thee for a perpetual spring of forgiveness.

Glory to Thee for bread from heaven and the cup of life.

Glory to Thee Who art guiding us into the kingdom of eternal joy.

Glory to Thee, O God, in ages!

Kontakion 12
Many a time I saw the reflection of Thy glory on the faces of the deceased! With what unearthly beauty and joy their faces shine! How transparent and immaterial become their features! With their silence they sing of Thee. When the time of my death cometh, enlighten, O God, my soul as well, to sing to Thee: Alleluia!

Ikos 12
What is my praise before Thee! My ears did not hear the song of cherubims; it is heard only by the souls of the righteous. I know only how nature lauds Thee. I saw in winter, how, lightened by the moonlight and beneath the cover of snow which sparkles with silvery light, all the earth is quietly praying to Thee. I saw how the crimson rays of the rising sun rejoice in Thee and how choirs of birds hum praises to Thee. I listen how mysteriously forests speak of Thee, how winds wing, and brooks murmur Thy name; how, with their fixed movements through limitless space, the myriads of stars preach about Thee. What is my praise before Thee, O Lord! Nature is obedient, and I never cease to sadden Thee. While I live and see Thy love I want to glorify Thee, to pray to Thee and to call upon Thee:

Glory to Thee Who hast shown us the light.

Glory to Thee Who hast loved us with deep, immeasurable, divine love.

Glory to Thee Who protects us / with bright armies of angels and saints.

Glory to Thee, all-holy Father, who art giving us Thy kingdom.

Glory to Thee, O Holy Spirit, the life-giving sun of future ages.

Glory to Thee for all, / Holy Trinity, divine and all good.

Glory to Thee, O God, in ages.

Kontakion 13
O all-good and life-giving Trinity, receive our gratefulness for all thy goods and show us worthy of Thine eternal treasures, so that we may multiply the talent entrusted to us, reach Thy kingdom and enter into the joy of our Lord, singing to Him victorious song: Alleluia!(thrice)

And again the first Ikos and Kontakion are read:
Ikos 1
I was born on earth as a feeble and helpless child, but Thy angel, spreading his shiny wings, has sheltered my cradle. From that moment Thy love shines in all my ways and miraculously guides me into the light of eternity. For that my soul lauds Thee and hails Thee with all who know Thee:

Glory to Thee Who hast called me into life.

Glory to Thee Who art revealing to us the beauty of the universe.

Glory to Thee Who art opening to us heaven and earth as an eternal book of wisdom.

Glory to Thy eternity in the passing world.

Glory to Thee for Thy covert and overt mercies.

Glory to Thee for every sigh of my heart.

Glory to Thee for every step of life, / every moment of joy.

Glory to Thee, O God, in ages!

Kontakion 1
O King of ages, Who, by the power of Thy salvific providence, holdeth in Thy right hand all the ways of man’s life: I thank Thee for all Thy visible and secret goods, for earthly life and for the heavenly joy of Thy future Kingdom. Pour forth richly Thy grace, in the future as well, on us who sing to Thee:Glory to Thee, O God, in ages!

Friday, November 6, 2009

What He Said

Another fine post by Fr. Stephen Freeman of Glory to God for All Things (posted yesterday).

I Don’t Know About That
A hermit advised, “If someone speaks to you about a controversy, do not argue with him. If what he says makes sense, say, ‘Yes,’ If his comments are misguided, say, ‘I don’t know anything about that.’ If you refuse to dispute with his ideas, your mind will be at peace.”

There is an element of this story which makes many want to cry out, “Yes, but!” It is a story similar to Christ’s admonition to “turn the other cheek.” And like the instruction to give the cheek – this suggestion of ‘I don’t know anything about that,’ feels like a guaranteed way to allow those who have false ideas to win. And the anxiety it creates, I believe, is the same anxiety. To a degree it is the anxiety of ‘Christian atheism.’

We have an option: either we believe that God is alive and working for our salvation or we believe that God, though alive, is removed from our lives and that we must do all in our power to advance His cause (for it seems He will do little of that Himself).

I am overstating the option on purpose. The second option is overstated to the point of the Grand Inquisitor in The Brothers Karamazov. An anxiety besets us in which we feel that the success or failure of the truth of the faith is dependent upon our actions. We can cite very active saints such as St. Athanasius who tirelessly sought to defend the Orthodox faith and to counter the arguments of the heretic Arius. Or we can even think of St. Nicholas of Myra (today known as ‘Santa Claus’) who at the Council of Nicaea even smote Arius on the cheek for his impious statements (St. Nicholas was disciplined for this but restored at the miraculous intercession of the Mother of God.

I should therefore state that I believe some are called to be like St. Athanasius and some are perhaps even to be like St. Nicholas. But Athanasius is known for his lonely persecutions and exiles – which things we should seek to imitate if we plan to take up his great defenses as well. And St. Nicholas was known primarily for his wonder-working miracles and his extreme charity towards children and even towards convicted felons. Such extreme charity should also mark our lives if we feel called to follow in the apologetic footprints of the kindly saint.

But for many, I fear, it is neither saint that is the model for their vigorous defense of the faith, but rather a certain anxiety, that heresy and ideas opposed to the Orthodox faith will somehow go uncorrected. It is here that we must stop and ask ourselves, “Is the Orthodox faith a set of ideas or a divine reality?” If it is a set of ideas then we’d better get our arguments together and do it soon.

Christ himself said, “…if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight…” But His kingdom is not of this world – it is not among the things that are passing away. It is that which is coming and it will never pass away. Many accompanying aspects of the Kingdom have come and gone and come and gone (I think of the outward trappings of empire and the like). Those things which have come and gone are of this world and should be of no concern to us.

The ability to remain silent even in the face of an invitation to argue is not weakness, but confidence in the truth.

My father-in-law, a wonderful man of God, often met my many arguments with, “Well…I don’t know about that.” It was frustrating for me but also a great learning over time.

The faith has never failed because we lacked good arguments and the will to carry them forward. The faith has failed at points because we failed to believe it. If the Orthodox faith flourishes in this world, at this time, it will be because it flourishes in the lives of those who have embraced it.

We live in a 24/7 news cycle – marked mostly by talking-heads and interminable arguments. Does anyone actually believe that another argument, even when brought by a Christian, will matter?

An argument won’t matter. But a Christian will – precisely because they are so hard to find.

Memory Eternal

Lutheran church music icon Paul Manz died last week at the age of 90. (Paul is pictured here with his wife, Ruth, who died in 2008.)

For 37 years, Paul served as Cantor at the parish for which I work, and as Cantor Emeritus there for the past seven years. His ministry at Mount Olive served as a sort of springboard for his tireless work to the larger church. Paul taught Lutheran Christians their song - what that song is and how to sing it well. It was my own song for many years, a song which has its own place in my heart and memory, a song I still sing often, along with a newer (actually older, but newer to me) song.

But Paul lives on in the work of those who were his students, in his published works and recordings, and in the memories of those who knew him. He was a great gift of God to the church.

In his last days, Paul's son John kept his family's friends updated on his father's condition while he and his siblings waited with him. In a note written a couple of days before Paul died, (which someone published a week ago on Facebook even!) John wrote - quoting Lutheran theologian Martin Marty - “Let him fall asleep now. God will wake him up.”

Surely God will wake him up. And I hope to be there when He does.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Top Ten Signs

DearHusband forwarded this laugh to me some time ago. It was originally posted somewhere by Al Green (I've been to Al's blog lots of times as I'm sure lots of folks have, but I can't remember what it's called or I'd link it.)

Good for a laugh or two.

Top Ten Signs You Are No Longer a "Newly Illumined" Orthodox Christian:
* with personal notes

30. You don't think it unusual that there are 30 items in a top 10 list.

28. You are comfortable enough with mystery to not question where number 29 went.

27. You have food arranged in your freezer by the feasts and fasts.
* Nope. Just feel fortunate when there is food in the freezer.

26. Your coffee consumption exceeds that of the Presbyterians.
* It always has.

25. You enjoy the irony of having a great feast whereupon one fasts (Sept 14).

24. You can unconsciously count to 40 'Lord have mercies' without thinking.
* Nope. Still have to count on my fingers - even when I'm only counting to twelve.

23. You do not expect a swift conclusion to the service when the deacon starts the litany with "Let us complete our prayer to the Lord."
* I caught on to this long before chrismation.

22. You wonder why folks are at the Krispy Kreme on a Sunday morning.

21. You think "Do Thou.." is positively wonderful sentence construction.

20. You have actually used "noetic" and "effulgent" in a normal conversation (or as a password on your computer).
* Nope. Never used them either in conversation or as passwords.

19. You own at least one pair of industrial strength insoles.
* Nope - but I do own a couple pair of very sensible shoes.

18. You can add or subtract 13 days from almost any event without thinking.
* I'm getting better at this.

17. You look at Christmas decorations and wonder how much better Santa would look with an omophorion.

16. You can tell the seasons of the year by looking at the color of the cloth on the analogion.
* Of course I could do this as a Lutheran.

15. Holy Week and Bright Week have surpassed the Super Bowl as the major sporting event of the year.

14. You try to sing in choir and find that you can't turn the pages either.
* Yes I can.

13. You can buy a steak on Wednesday and not have any desire to cook it till Thursday.
* Nope. I still want to cook it on Wednesday.

12. You know how to make 40 different bean dishes that all taste good.
*Nope. But DearHusband can.

11. All your food includes either cabbage or dill or both.

10. You are not embarrassed to meet people you know in the liquor store.
* Never have been.

9. You read poetry and wonder what tone it is in.
* Ha! I do this all the time!

8. You no longer look past the first 4 ingredients when buying food during Lent.
* Five ingredients, actually.

7. You don't have to consult Hints from Heloise to know how to get wax out of fabrics.
* Anyone who has ever served on Altar Guild (in any denomination) knows this.

6. You have worn out at least one chotki.
* Sadly, no.

5. You have put a safety latch on your once loaded Bible.
* huh?

4. You think that shrimp are vegan and notice that fish sticks have no backbone.
* I've actually noticed that lots of things don't have a backbone: hamburgers, ice cream, etc.

3. You have a desire to do everything in triplicate.

3. You have a desire to do everything in triplicate.

3. You have a desire to do everything in triplicate.
* :-)

2. You realize that the heterodox do not have the market on swinging from the chandeliers.
* I have never known any heterodox or Orthodox who swing from the chandeliers.

And the number one sign that you are no longer newly illumined....

1. "March Madness" refers to an inexplicable desire for hummus.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

On Worship

Words of Richard John Neuhaus, which I'd read some time ago and of which I'd lost track. How wonderful to see a link to a post which included them today.

"We do not worship in order to assist, to facilitate, to serve any other end, no matter how honorable or urgent that end may be. We worship God because God is to be worshiped. Worship is as close as we come here on earth to discovering an end in itself, for it is our end eternally."

HT: Pr. Weedon

Monday, September 14, 2009


One of our two young pullets, Betty, finally started laying this past Saturday!

Late Saturday morning she gave us a small and perfect little brown egg. On Sunday afternoon she gave us another one, just slightly bigger.

She took today off.

Now it's her sister's turn - and she looks ready!

Friday, September 11, 2009

A Day of Mourning and Repentance

This was posted today by my friend, Dwight, who has recently announced that he's on blogging hiatus. I'm glad that he continues to share some thoughts on Facebook.

I thought it worth sharing.

Today is the anniversary of a series of horrible events. It marks the eighth anniversary of the deaths (and injuries) of thousands in New York, Pennsylvania, and Washington, DC. The victims of the crashes should be remembered -- and as the Orthodox say, may their memories be eternal.

But those were not the only victims of that horrifying day. Truth was a casualty that day: Need I mention "weapons of mass destruction" or the "connection" between Al-Qaeda and Sadam Hussein or the political manipulation of threat code-colors or the denunciation of non-existent "death panels"? And how about "liberal" commitment: How many supposed liberals and non-violent Christians found themselves shouting for the bombing of Afghanistan, because "they" (who? "they!") bombed us first. (Scott Simon, of NPR fame and infamy, opened my eyes with his threatened-masculinity tirade in the Wall Street Journal, saying, in essence, "What? We should just take it? Of course not. We have to kill in return -- and it doesn't matter whom.")

And democracy in this country may have suffered a mortal wound: As Ben Franklin wisely noted, "The man who trades freedom for security does not deserve nor will he ever receive either." Nevertheless, in our USAmerican eagerness to forget the past, we stifled dissent -- calling it "treason" and "anti-American" -- even as we institutionalized racial profiling, denied basic human rights with policies of rendition and Guantanamoization, suspended basic First Amendment guarantees (for citizens, mind you) with the notorious and ironically titled "Patriot Act."

Decades ago, Soviet Premier Nikitia Khruschev uttered his (mistranslated) "We will bury you" judgment on the USAmerican future. Of course, the non-critical listeners and thinkers took that to be a military threat, even though it was obvious that he meant that they would survive while we rotted from within. Well, the USSR didn't fare very well in its authoritarianism (although arguably the Russian Soviet Republic is back and holding out). But is seems clear that there was a prophet's wisdom in his pronouncement. We find ourselves in an environment of decivilization (at many levels from Abu Graiib to booing the President in a session of Congress and calling him out as liar to shouting down opponents at "town meetings).

It's easy to say that we lost something precious that day eight years ago -- some have stupidly said that it was our "innocence" we lost. But no, we lost something deeper: We lost lots of dear lives -- but we continue to lose hundreds and thousands of dear lives, only now we don't wear our hearts on our sleeves because they're soldiers and "collateral damage." We lost our heart. Supposedly, we woke up to realize that we could be "hit" on our home ground -- though of course, Timothy McVey had taught us that in Oklahoma City, and we didn't rush wholesale against the fundamentalist-Christian-militarist-libertarian-racist crowd. We lost our sense -- or reality and of fair play. Did we lose our sense of security? No, we lost our conviction that a democratic structure for truth, liberty, equality, and fair-play can perdure even in the face of threats from those who, in the service of whatever agenda, seek to subvert that structure. We lost our integrity.

And perhaps most sadly of all, the Christian Church in this country lost its faith. We did not and do not pray for our enemies; we did not and do not stand up for the thousands of innocent victims who are massacred (much as were the Twin Towers victims massacred) in the name of American interest or self-preservation. We did not and do not affirm HOPE -- not "wishes and dreams" kind of hoping, but the the firm conviction that just a God raised Jesus from the dead after his Son's life of faithfulness and dedication to his truth, so He will sustain us and, if death it be, raise us up. We have once again committed ourselves to the worship of Molokh, even as we entertain ourselves for an hour on Sundays with bread and circuses.

I wish it were some of this that would cause sadness among USAmericans today and make of this a Yom Kippur instead of a day of licking festering (and in many cases, self-inflicted) wounds.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

In Which A Picture Says a Thousand Words

Ummm ...

Mine would be the short one.

I married up.

Friday, September 4, 2009

The Understanding of the Relationship Between Invisible Internal Objects

Shamelessly nabbed from my friend, Dwight - who sent it to me in email form this afternoon. He notes that it has gained wide circulation on the internet - and with this I'm gonna make that circulation a little wider.

A longish read, but I found it moving.
(Thanks for sharing it, Dwight.)


Thanks to the locally produced public radio program, Performance Today, I was introduced to Karl Paulnack, who is a fine pianist and the director of the music division at the Boston Conservatory. (He played today with Jorja Fleezanis, who until recently was concertmistress of the Minnesota Orchestra.) The host brought attention to a welcoming talk the Mr. Paulnack gave to the parents of incoming freshmen at the Conservatory. It has gained wide circulation on the Internet, and I reproduce it here, hoping either that this is now officially in the public domain or that this constitutes fair use...

Welcome Address, by Karl Paulnack

“One of my parents’ deepest fears, I suspect, is that society would not properly value me as a musician, that I wouldn’t be appreciated. I had very good grades in high school, I was good in science and math, and they imagined that as a doctor or a research chemist or an engineer, I might be more appreciated than I would be as a musician. I still remember my mother’s remark when I announced my decision to apply to music school—she said, “you’re WASTING your SAT scores.” On some level, I think, my parents were not sure themselves what the value of music was, what its purpose was. And they LOVED music, they listened to classical music all the time. They just weren’t really clear about its function. So let me talk about that a little bit, because we live in a society that puts music in the “arts and entertainment” section of the newspaper, and serious music, the kind your kids are about to engage in, has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with entertainment, in fact it’s the opposite of entertainment. Let me talk a little bit about music, and how it works.

The first people to understand how music really works were the ancient Greeks. And this is going to fascinate you; the Greeks said that music and astronomy were two sides of the same coin. Astronomy was seen as the study of relationships between observable, permanent, external objects, and music was seen as the study of relationships between invisible, internal, hidden objects. Music has a way of finding the big, invisible moving pieces inside our hearts and souls and helping us figure out the position of things inside us. Let me give you some examples of how this works.

One of the most profound musical compositions of all time is the Quartet for the End of Time written by French composer Olivier Messiaen in 1940. Messiaen was 31 years old when France entered the war against Nazi Germany. He was captured by the Germans in June of 1940, sent across Germany in a cattle car and imprisoned in a concentration camp.
He was fortunate to find a sympathetic prison guard who gave him paper and a place to compose. There were three other musicians in the camp, a cellist, a violinist, and a clarinetist, and Messiaen wrote his quartet with these specific players in mind. It was performed in January 1941 for four thousand prisoners and guards in the prison camp. Today it is one of the most famous masterworks in the repertoire.

Given what we have since learned about life in the concentration camps, why would anyone in his right mind waste time and energy writing or playing music? There was barely enough energy on a good day to find food and water, to avoid a beating, to stay warm, to escape torture—why would anyone bother with music? And yet—from the camps, we have poetry, we have music, we have visual art; it wasn’t just this one fanatic Messiaen; many, many people created art. Why? Well, in a place where people are only focused on survival, on the bare necessities, the obvious conclusion is that art must be, somehow, essential for life. The camps were without money, without hope, without commerce, without rec reation, without basic respect, but they were not without art. Art is part of survival; art is part of the human spirit, an unquenchable expression of who we are. Art is one of the ways in which we say, “I am alive, and my life has meaning.”

On September 12, 2001 I was a resident of Manhattan. That morning I reached a new understanding of my art and its relationship to the world. I sat down at the piano that morning at 10 AM to practice as was my daily routine; I did it by force of habit, without thinking about it. I lifted the cover on the keyboard, and opened my music, and put my hands on the keys and took my hands off the keys. And I sat there and thought, does this even matter? Isn’t this completely irrelevant? Playing the piano right now, given what happened in this city yesterday, seems silly, absurd, irreverent, pointless. Why am I here? What place has a musician in this moment in time? Who needs a piano player right now? I was completely lost.
And then I, along with the rest of New York, went through the journey of getting through that week. I did not play the piano that day, and in fact I contemplated briefly whether I would ever want to play the piano again. And then I observed how we got through the day.
At least in my neighborhood, we didn’t shoot hoops or play Scrabble. We didn’t play cards to pass the time, we didn’t watch TV, we didn’t shop, we most certainly did not go to the mall. The first organized activity that I saw in New York, that same day, was singing. People sang. People sang around fire houses, people sang “We Shall Overcome”. Lots of people sang America the Beautiful. The first organized public event that I remember was the Brahms Requiem, later that week, at Lincoln Center, with the New York Philharmonic. The first organized public expression of grief, our first communal response to that historic event, was a concert. That was the beginning of a sense that life might go on. The US Military secured the airspace, but recovery was led by the arts, and by music in particular, that very night.

From these two experiences, I have come to understand that music is not part of “arts and entertainment” as the newspaper section would have us believe. It’s not a luxury, a lavish thing that we fund from leftovers of our budgets, not a plaything or an amusement or a pass time. Music is a basic need of human survival. Music is one of the ways we make sense of our lives, one of the ways in which we express feelings when we have no words, a way for us to understand things with our hearts when we cannot with our minds.

Some of you may know Samuel Barber’s heartwrenchingly beautiful piece Adagio for Strings. If you don’t know it by that name, then some of you may know it as the background music which accompanied the Oliver Stone movie Platoon, a film about the Vietnam War. If you know that piece of music either way, you know it has the ability to crack your heart open like a walnut; it can make you cry over sadness you didn’t know you had. Music can slip beneath our conscious reality to get at what’s really going on inside us the way a good therapist does.

I bet that you have never been to a wedding where there was absolutely no music. There might have been only a little music, there might have been some really bad music, but I bet you there was some music. And something very predictable happens at weddings—people get all pent up with all kinds of emotions, and then there’s some musical moment where the action of the wedding stops and someone sings or plays the flute or something. And even if the music is lame, even if the quality isn’t good, predictably 30 or 40 percent of the people who are going to cry at a wedding cry a couple of moments after the music starts. Why? The Greeks. Music allows us to move around those big invisible pieces of ourselves and rearrange our insides so that we can express what we feel even when we can’t talk about it. Can you imagine watching Indiana Jones or Superman or Star Wars with the dialogue but no music? What is it about the music swelling up at just the right moment in ET so that all the softies in the audience start crying at exactly the same moment? I guarantee you if you showed the movie with the music stripped out, it wouldn’t happen that way. The Greeks: Music is the understanding of the relationship between invisible internal objects.

I’ll give you one more example, the story of the most important concert of my life. I must tell you I have played a little less than a thousand concerts in my life so far. I have played in places that I thought were important. I like playing in Carnegie Hall; I enjoyed playing in Paris; it made me very happy to please the critics in St. Petersburg. I have played for people I thought were important; music critics of major newspapers, foreign heads of state. The most important concert of my entire life took place in a nursing home in Fargo, ND, about 4 years ago.

I was playing with a very dear friend of mine who is a violinist. We began, as we often do, with Aaron Copland’s Sonata, which was written during World War II and dedicated to a young friend of Copland’s, a young pilot who was shot down during the war. Now we often talk to our audiences about the pieces we are going to play rather than providing them with written program notes. But in this case, because we began the concert with this piece, we decided to talk about the piece later in the program and to just come out and play the music without explanation.

Midway through the piece, an elderly man seated in a wheelchair near the front of the concert hall began to weep. This man, whom I later met, was clearly a soldier—even in his 70’s, it was clear from his buzz-cut hair, square jaw and general demeanor that he had spent a good deal of his life in the military. I thought it a little bit odd that someone would be moved to tears by that particular movement of that particular piece, but it wasn’t the first time I’ve heard crying in a concert and we went on with the concert and finished the piece.

When we came out to play the next piece on the program, we decided to talk about both the first and second pieces, and we described the circumstances in which the Copland was written and mentioned its dedication to a downed pilot. The man in the front of the audience became so disturbed that he had to leave the auditorium. I honestly figured that we would not see him again, but he did come backstage afterwards, tears and all, to explain himself.

What he told us was this: “During World War II, I was a pilot, and I was in an aerial combat situation where one of my team’s planes was hit. I watched my friend bail out, and watched his parachute open, but the Japanese planes which had engaged us returned and machine gunned across the parachute chords so as to separate the parachute from the pilot, and I watched my friend drop away into the ocean, realizing that he was lost. I have not thought about this for many years, but during that first piece of music you played, this memory returned to me so vividly that it was as though I was reliving it. I didn’t understand why this was happening, why now, but then when you came out to explain that this piece of music was written to commemorate a lost pilot, it was a little more than I could handle. How does the music do that? How did it find those feelings and those memories in me?”

Remember the Greeks: music is the study of invisible relationships between internal objects. This concert in Fargo was the most important work I have ever done. For me to play for this old soldier and help him connect, somehow, with Aaron Copland, and to connect their memories of their lost friends, to help him remember and mourn his friend, this is my work. This is why music matters.

What follows is part of the talk I will give to this year’s freshman class when I welcome them a few days from now. The responsibility I will charge your sons and daughters with is this:
“If we were a medical school, and you were here as a med student practicing appendectomies, you’d take your work very seriously because you would imagine that some night at two AM someone is going to waltz into your emergency room and you’re going to have to save their life. Well, my friends, someday at 8 PM someone is going to walk into your concert hall and bring you a mind that is confused, a heart that is overwhelmed, a soul that is weary. Whether they go out whole again will depend partly on how well you do your craft.

You’re not here to become an entertainer, and you don’t have to sell yourself. The truth is you don’t have anything to sell; being a musician isn’t about dispensing a product, like selling used Chevies. I’m not an entertainer; I’m a lot closer to a paramedic, a firefighter, a rescue worker. You’re here to become a sort of therapist for the human soul, a spiritual version of a chiropractor, physical therapist, someone who works with our insides to see if they get things to line up, to see if we can come into harmony with ourselves and be healthy and happy and well.

Frankly, ladies and gentlemen, I expect you not only to master music; I expect you to save the planet. If there is a future wave of wellness on this planet, of harmony, of peace, of an end to war, of mutual understanding, of equality, of fairness, I don’t expect it will come from a government, a military force or a corporation. I no longer even expect it to come from the religions of the world, which together seem to have brought us as much war as they have peace. If there is a future of peace for humankind, if there is to be an understanding of how these invisible, internal things should fit together, I expect it will come from the artists, because that’s what we do. As in the concentration camp and the evening of 9/11, the artists are the ones who might be able to help us with our internal, invisible lives.”

Monday, August 31, 2009

And the Winner is ...

I posted a long time ago about a family contest - a race. The idea was that if I could pay off my car before YoungerSon got his braces, I win (or at least I will be able to make my car payments payable to the orthodontist - which is as close to winning as the Transposzing parents are gonna get with this one.)
When the race started, YoungerSon still had a whole bunch of baby teeth. At the initial consult, the orthodontist said the baby teeth would have to be out before the braces could go on - and we were just hoping that some of those teeth would hang in there until my car was paid off.

Well, today the braces went on - even though YoungerSon still has one lonely baby tooth left (no fair!). My car is still a couple of months from being paid off - BUT - we paid off DearHusband's car last month.

So who won the race?

The orthodontist, I guess.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Girl ...

... you'll be a woman soon. (we hope!!!)

Our "little girls" are now officially bigger than "the ladies" (they are a heavier breed than the red hens). I'm thinking it's about time for these freeloaders to get to work.

"When will my pullets finally start laying?" is the most popular question on the Backyard Chickens online forum which I frequent. The best answers I have seen are:

... the day after you give up on them ever laying
... the day you break down and go to the grocery store and buy eggs
... the day you sit down and do the math, figuring out exactly how much you have invested in your first egg.
... the day you think that you might be hungrier for fried chicken than you are for eggs

The more serious responders have posted "clues" - things to watch for when they are getting close. Wilma and Betty have met most of the criteria - though it seems they are still a bit pinker in the comb than the ladies, whose combs and wattles are a very vibrant red. Hens need about 14 hours of daylight to lay eggs and with fall soon upon us, the days with 14 hours of daylight are waning, if not already past. We had thought we wouldn't use artificial light in the henhouse to keep them laying in the winter - but we made no firm decisions about articifial light in the late fall. Technically, winter doesn't start until Dec. 21, right?

Twenty weeks is the average age for the first egg from Buff Orpingtons. By my count, they will be about 19 weeks this weekend.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Scenes from a Vacation

My family and I returned on Sunday afternoon from a lovely week of vacation at the Medayto Lodge in Spicer, MN - it's becoming an annual summer tradition to spend this first week of August with our extended family on DearHusband's side.

It was a relaxing week and members of my family spent it fishing and reading and hiking and swimming and napping and talking and eating.

Here are some visual highlights:

Fishing is always on the agenda for our boys, and they got a bunch of it in.

We had a couple of rainy mornings toward the end of our week, but we managed to find indoor activities during those times. Happily, the rain events usually ended within just a couple of hours.

On one of the more overcast days, my BIL announced that he was going to take the boys and go fishing at a nearby weed bed on the lake. Months ago I had seen directions online for how to make a St. Brigid's cross from reeds and had always wanted to try it. So I asked him to cut me a good handful of them while he was out there. When they returned, I found the instructions online (we were able to get some spotty internet service there), and I was amazed at how easy they are to make. So I made one - and then I showed some of my other rels how to make them and we made ALOT of them!

The evenings were especially lovely!

We are already looking forward to next year!

Friday, July 31, 2009

Usefulness and Beauty

Another wonderful post from my favorite blogger, Fr. Stephen Freeman:


We can say without hesitation that God is the ultimate author of Beauty, and what we know and love of beauty is an echo or stronger of our desire for the Beautiful God. It becomes a major problem of sin, largely unrecognized, when beauty begins to recede from the consciousness of people, or something tawdry or ersatz becomes substituted for that which is beautiful.

We live, of course, in a culture which is predicated on mass production. Thus even within Orthodoxy we are driven towards mass production in an effort to economize and to satisfy ourselves with the same level of aesthetic that marks our culture (this is frequently true of icons in mission churches, including my own). I have had opportunity to see and worship in an environment marked by quality iconography and in a few cases, truly great icons.

I can recall being in a parish that has a particularly well-rendered “Rublev” Trinity (the three angels in the visit with Abraham) in the parish altar. I was officiating Vespers. As the sun began to set, the dying rays of the evening sun caught the icon and it began to “luminesce” in a manner I had only read about. The icon shone brightly with a light that appeared to come from within. This is not easily accomplished in the painting of an icon, but is certainly a proper goal of its execution. It is a revelation of the heavenly light (iconographically).

Both the orientation of the Church and the quality of its iconography became one with the service that was being offered and a beauty that is all too rare was revealed. There was nothing to be said, but as the choir sang, “O Gladsome Light,” the icon wordlessly proclaimed the same.

There is much in our life and culture that pushes us away from beauty. Mass production and the nature of our economy (marked by a level of productivity unknown in human history), are driven by questions other than beauty. Beauty has value as it can be marketed, but too often is absent in any depth from much of our experience. (I should add that the long-term goals of my parish include proper iconography and a temple that conforms to Orthodox architectural norms.)

Deeply distressing is the drive to “utility” in our lives. Value is given to that which is “useful.” Beauty thus becomes an avocation, a luxury not seen as useful or necessary to our existence. Of course, this is a deep miscalculation of the nature of human existence. Human beings do not exist well without beauty – and in most of human culture throughout most of human history, beauty has been valued beyond many of the things which we think of as “useful.”

The recent questions about knowing God – which I have described as something that often comes to me in the “peripheral vision” of my life – seems somehow related to the perception of beauty as well. Beauty often seems to be “greater than the sum of its parts.” We see beauty not simply by looking at a thing – but by seeing it. Many people look at icons – a rightly prepared heart is required in order to see an icon. Beauty is not an object to be manipulated – but always a gift and a wonder to be venerated. So, too, our knowledge of God. Thus the knowledge of God seems radically different than the knowledge we gain by the exercise of our rational faculty. God cannot be mastered or measured. Even though He has given us words to express Him – He cannot be contained in the words. As the Fathers of the 7th Council said, “Icons do with color what Scripture does with words.” I would suggest that it is also true that Scripture does with words what icons do with color. With that – some brief thoughts on beauty.

A very sad existence indeed is a human life that has been reduced to utility and emptied of beauty.

The very presence of God brings beauty into the world, for God Himself is beautiful. As human art has revealed, even in the suffering of the Cross, God is beautiful.

I can recall some years ago chairing a committee of a parish that was in the process of interviewing architects (we were planning to build our first true “church”). One architect we interviewed shared his opinion: churches historically had wasted a lot of money that could have better been spent on the poor. I do not hesitate in preaching our obligations to the poor, nor the need for us to tithe and give beyond ourselves. But I had no hesitancy in looking for a different architect. I daresay few architects would have said to a family whose house they were designing, “I think people have spent too much on building their homes and have neglected the poor.” It was churches that should be relegated to utility.

I strongly expect, because of the seamless garment of Christian theology, that someone who does not understand the necessity of beauty will not truly love the poor. For the poor must be treated not merely as the objects of our utility but the beautiful creations of God: anything less is not love.

I recall the title of Macolm Muggeridge’s wonderful book on Mother Teresa: Something Beautiful for God.

Yes. Yes, indeed.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Many Years!

I joined my friends at Lutheran Church of the Resurrection (my former fellowship) this past Sunday morning as their pastor of many years, Robert Hausman, celebrated his last eucharist as their pastor and begins his retirement.

Though I was a member of this parish for just a few short years, it was a time of great learning for me and of profound deepening of faith, thanks in part to the ministry of this faithful pastor.

The first time I visited his church I was completely charmed by it. A small congregation who sings the hymnody and liturgy like they really mean it (they do!), a warm and inviting sanctuary, a complete and faithful liturgy, a wonderful choir, and this rather non-typical (at least for MN) pastor with a really long sermon and sort of a mortician's handshake. For a good Lutheran, what's not to love? And so I went back the next week. And the next. And before too long I became a part of this community of faith and he became a mentor and friend.

And for those next weeks and months and years this pastor with a mortician's handshake taught me. With every liturgy and sermon and meeting and conversation he taught me something. Something about God or about the church or about liturgy or about community or about life. Perhaps most importantly, he helped me to learn much about myself.

But my last last several months as a member at Resurrection were a time of spiritual struggle for me. And during those months while I slogged through the muck of frustration and fear and everything else that sometimes happens when God calls a person to a new place in life, at times I dragged him through a bit of muck, too. Yet at those time he slogged along with me, because that's what a good pastor does. And that is what a good friend does.

Though he has not been my pastor for nearly three years he has continued to be a patient and trusted friend, and in every note or conversation or visit he continues to teach me.

May God grant him many, many years ... I still have alot to learn.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Holding Our Breath

A couple of weeks ago we added a large addition to our existing chicken run in order to help with the integration of our 2 young pullets and our 2 laying hens. The feathers flew momentarily a couple of times at first - a bit of squawking and chasing and nipping every now and then - but within only a day or so they got it sorted out and our two little flocks were spending their days together quite peacefully. At about dusk each night the hens would climb the ladder up to the henhouse and the pullets would pace the fence, waiting for us to come and put them in their own small coop to sleep.

The pullets should start laying soon and we will go on vacation even sooner. We really want to have all of our chickens together in the same henhouse and run - peacefully - before we go (because they can let themselves in and out of the henhouse, all our chicken sitter will have to do while we are gone is stop over to change the water and check the food once a day - and collect the eggs from the hens.)

So now is the time to get the girls into the henhouse with the ladies. And tonight seemed as good a night as any to give it a shot.

We put the pullets up into the house just before dusk (they were sorta freaked out, not knowing what to do up there), and we waited just the few short minutes until dusk, and watched the hens head up the ladder into the henhouse.

Then we watched them climb immediately back down again, chattering away ("What are THEY doing up there???").

Then they went right back up. Lucy (queen of the coop and alpha hen stood there and BAWKED for a few minutes, then she settled in next to Ruby in their regular sleeping spot in the henhouse. Then, we stood on the deck and waited for a good fight to break out. And we waited. And waited. Finally after about 15 minutes, DearHusband and YoungerSon went down to the yard and took a peek in the henhouse. Both the hens were asleep, and the pullets were quiet, but nervously looking around.

That was about an hour ago. And it's still quiet down there. Not a cheep out of anyone...yet.

If no one has been pecked to death, or attacked, or booted out of the henhouse by morning (all of which can happen and often does), I think we may have cleared this hurdle rather painlessly.

This is what happens.

This is what happens when we fail to teach (at least in words, if not by example) our children that marriage is not about us, and that marriage is serious business.

This is what happens when congregations allow their temples to become rental halls.

This is what happens when we do not teach our children who God is - and how to approach him to ask for his blessing. And when we fail to instill in them any idea of what holiness is or what it means.

Things get out of hand.

Sometimes it is helpful to remember that the rites of the church are the way they are not because of some lack of creativity on the part of God's people, but because they serve a higher purpose than simply being a creative outlet.

But the church no longer knows how to say no. Like the overly permissive parent who equates love with saying yes to everything and doesn't realize until it's too late that saying yes to everything was not the most loving - or responsible - thing to do.

Christ whose bride is the Church united himself to her by suffering and dying for her. And by this Christ showed us what marriage is to be.

But that doesn't sound like much fun, does it?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

New Icons at Church

Knowing that some new iconography was going to be installed on the walls of our church last week, I took a few days off from work hoping to be able to watch some of this installation project up close, hoping to get some photos of the installation for the church's website photogallery, and hoping to be able to visit a little with the iconographer while he is in town.

I was fortunate to be able to do all of these things during those few days - YoungerSon came along each day and was as fascinated as I was. Six new icons now adorn the walls of our church, in the spaces between the windows. These new icons, in combination with the icon of the Theotokos over the altar, depict various verses of the Canons. Here are the new icons (forgive the glare from the flash of my cheap camera, and click on the images for a better look):

I was amazed at just how "at home" they looked, right from the minute they were put up on the walls - how the whole interior of the church was sort of tied together by the new iconography on the walls. It's almost as if the whole interior of the church is one large icon. The St. Paul paper wrote a little piece on the project in this past Saturday's paper.

What a good several days it was! A couple of folks from the church (including YoungerSon and me) assisted in various ways - and even though our tasks were quite small, it was a blessing to feel a part of the project. Iconographer Nick Papas was patient and gracious in the midst of his work to answer my many questions not only about this particular project, but about iconography in general - gave me lots of food for thought.

Now I'm off to assemble a couple of pages of photos of the installation for the church's website photogallery.

Thanks be to God for this wonderful work which will teach and inspire those who see it for many years to come!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Tender Mercy

The icons of the “Tender Mercy” type show the Christ Child pressing his left cheek close to the right cheek of his Mother. Here the Theotokos again represents the Church of Christ, thereby displaying the fullness of love between God and man, a love that can only be achieved within the bosom of the Church, the Mother. Love here bridges heaven and earth, the things of God and the things of men; and this unity is expressed in the touching of the faces and the halos.

The Theotokos is pensive, as she presses her Son to herself. She envisions His way of the cross, His life full of sufferings. The almond-shaped eyes, the narrow nose, and the dark shadows in the face - all these features have a dematerializing effect, stressing the Divine.

(HT: a wonderful page of information about the various types of icons of the Theotokos)

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Dance Dance Revolution

For Bach lovers, like me!

HT: My friend, Dash

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Weekend Update

What a fine weekend it has been! Normally when it's been cold and rainy all weekend, I'd be inclined to whine about it, but it's been so dry here in recent weeks, that the rain this weekend has come as a welcome blessing.

Because of the rain, we busied ourselves indoors and got a few things done inside for a change, which was long overdue.

I spent some time working on an icon of the Theotokos, which is almost done. It needs some touch up, a couple of nimbuses/halos, some lettering, and a couple of coats of varnish. Because I'm a beginner when it comes to painting icons, I spend lots of time practicing, and I try to practice using materials that are inexpensive (until I feel ready enough to pony up and buy the $80 gesso board - maybe when I take another class.) But the board I used for this particular icon was the cheapest board I've ever found. And as soon as I started to lay paint on it I found out why it was so inexpensive...the board seemed to almost repel the paint. As if it had some slick coating on it. The packaging said that it had a gesso finish - I have my doubts. But I got off to a good beginning with it, so I didn't want to scrap it and start over. Yet the board and paint have fought me at every turn, and it has taken several coats of paint on everything to cover the surface.

Our older hens decided that it was time for a dustbath on Saturday - and because of the rain, their dustbath had turned to mud. No matter to them - they made it a mudbath and rolled around in the mud for almost an hour. By all outward appearances, they had the time of their lives, and they emerged as the sorriest looking wet and black chickens ever. Somehow, magically, when they came down from the coop this morning, most of the mud was off of them and they looked sorta fresh actually. (The hens pictured here are supposed to be red!)

Today is Pentecost in the Orthodox Church - and our church's parish feast. It was a beautiful liturgy. At the end of the service we had a procession around the church as it was blessed on it's feast day, then returned inside for the end of the liturgy and the kneeling prayers. After liturgy we had a celebratory potluck luncheon before heading home.

Here are a couple of photos from the blessing of the church building today:

The rest of these photos can be seen here.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Not For Lightweights

A friend forwarded me a link to a great essay today. It's an essay about a Baptist pastor's first visit to an Orthodox Church. I'll cross-post it below:

Last Sunday was the 4th of 13 in my sabbatical time. Each of them is precious to me. Each week I am choosing a place and a way to worship. I’m not a church tourist, hoping to see new things. I’m seeking spiritual experiences. I want to worship. Saturday night Jeanene and I still hadn’t decided where to go. I experienced something common to our culture but new to me. The “Where do you want to go to church - I don’t know where do YOU want to go to church” conversation. I found the Saint Anthony the Great website. It's an Orthodox church that has beautiful Byzantine art in the sanctuary. We decided to go there.

Shelby and Lillian went with us. On the way we warned them that this was going to be different. “They might not have changed their worship service much in a thousand years or so,” I told the girls.

That was an understatement.

Saint Anthony the Great isn't just old school. It's "styli and wax tablets" old school. We arrived ten minutes early for worship and the room was already filled with people lighting candles and praying. There was one greeter. I said, “We don’t know what to do.” She handed me a liturgy book and waved us inside.

Pews? We don’t need no stinking pews! Providing seats for worshipers is SO 14th century. Gorgeous Byzantine art, commissioned from a famous artist in Bulgaria. Fully robed priests with censors (those swinging incense thingies). Long, complex readings and chants that went on and on and on. And every one of them packed full of complex, theological ideas. It was like they were ripping raw chunks of theology out of ancient creeds and throwing them by the handfuls into the congregation. And just to make sure it wasn't too easy for us, everything was read in a monotone voice and at the speed of an auctioneer.

I heard words and phrases I had not heard since seminary. Theotokos, begotten not made, Cherubim and Seraphim borne on their pinions, supplications and oblations. It was an ADD kids nightmare. Robes, scary art, smoking incense, secret doors in the Iconostas popping open and little robed boys coming out with golden candlesticks, chants and singing from a small choir that rolled across the curved ceiling and emerged from the other side of the room where no one was singing. The acoustics were wild. No matter who was speaking, the sound came out of everywhere. There was so much going on I couldn't keep up with all the things I couldn't pay attention to.

Lillian was the first to go down. After half an hour of standing, she was done. Jeanene took her over to a pew on the side wall. She slumped against Jeanene’s shoulder and stared at me with this stunned, rather betrayed look on her face.

“How could you have brought us to this insane place?”

Shelby tried to tough it out. We were following along in the 40 page liturgy book that was only an abbreviation of the service were were experiencing. I got lost no less than 10 times. After 50 minutes Shelby leaned over and asked how much longer the service would be. I was trying to keep from locking my knees because my thighs had gotten numb. I showed her the book. We were on page 15. I flipped through the remaining 25 pages to show her how much more there was. Her mouth fell open.

“Are you serious?”

“Yeah. And I think there's supposed to be a sermon in here somewhere.”

“They haven’t done the SERMON yet? What was that guy doing who said all that stuff about…all that stuff?”

“I don’t know?” I said.

“I have to go to the bathroom,” she said. I looked around and saw the door at the back of the sanctuary swinging shut.

And then there was one.

I made it through the entire 1 hour and 50 minutes of worship without sitting down, but my back was sore. Shelby came back toward the end. When it came time for communion I suggested that we not participate because I didn't know what kind of rules they have for that. We stayed politely at the back. A woman noticed and brought some of the bread to us, bowing respectfully as she offered it. Her gesture of kindness to newcomers who were clearly struggling to understand everything was touching to me.

Okay, so I started crying a little. So what? You would have too, I bet.

After it was over another woman came to speak with us. She said, “I noticed the girls were really struggling with having to stand.”

“Yeah,” I said. “This worship is not for lightweights.”

She laughed and said, "yes," not the least bit ashamed or apologetic.

So what did I think about my experience at Saint Anthony the Great Orthodox Church?

I LOVED IT. Loved it loved it loved it loved it loved it.

In a day when user-friendly is the byword of everything from churches to software, here was worship that asked something of me. No, DEMANDED something of me.

“You don’t know what Theotokos means? Get a book and read about it. You have a hard time standing for 2 hours? Do some sit ups and get yourself into worship shape. It is the Lord our God we worship here, mortal. What made you think you could worship the Eternal One without pain?"

See, I get that. That makes sense to me. I had a hard time following the words of the chants and liturgy, but even my lack of understanding had something to teach me.

“There is so much for you to learn. There is more here than a person could master in a lifetime. THIS IS BIGGER THAN YOU ARE. Your understanding is not central here. These are ancient rites of the church. Stand with us, brother, and you will learn in time. Or go and find your way to an easier place if you must. God bless you on that journey. We understand, but this is the way we do church.”

I’m going back again on Sunday. I started to write, “I’m looking forward to it.” But that’s not right. I’m feeling right about it.

And feeling right is what I'm looking for.

Update: This was actually written on May 26 or 27. I went back to Saint Anthony the Great on Sunday. I found I was following along a little better. I'm REALLY getting a lot out of Orthodox worship. Shelby and Lillian declined to go with me this time.