Monday, May 31, 2010

Camouflage Watermelon

In my recent blogging haitus, I've been learning a bit of needlecraft - knitting and crocheting (and finding that crocheting is alot easier and less frustrating!)

I've made lots and lots of scarves and most recently have been working on afghans. My first couple of afghans taught me some important lessons in what not to do when you crochet an afghan.

My first one was made in a variety of blues and greens. Started out with a skein of practice yarn in variegated blue/green. Once I got good and going on it, I thought it was going so well that it seemed a shame to pull it all out just because it was practice, so I just kept adding to it, purchasing a skein of solid colored yard for each of the colors in the variegated pattern, which amounted to 4, if I remember. So when it was all done, it ended up being a big thing with fat stripes in different complimentary colors. And though it all sort of went together color-wise, it needed a little something to tie it all together, so I added a big, fat, navy blue border to the whole thing. In the end it was pretty big, and very, very busy. And because not all of the complimentary yarns were the same brand or kind of yarn, some of it was soft, some of it was stiff, some was heavier or lighter weight. In the end I thought my first big completed afghan was quite ugly - and it was mostly BLUE to boot (and I just don't really like the color blue). But Sis liked it enough to take it home and let it be a functional eyesore in her living room, so I was happy to give it to her. (No photo provided because I really didn't like it enough to take a photo of it before it left the house.)

So when I started my second afghan, I put to use a couple of the lessons I learned from the first one: use all the same brand and weight of yarn, and really, a couple of colors is plenty. So I stocked up on 2 colors I like alot and got busy on afghan number two. The yarn I chose was called "thick and quick," an enticing name for an impatient person like, me! And it was thick, and indeed, pretty quick, too. But the important lesson I learned from this second afghan is to use an appropriate sized hook, because a hook that's too small leads to a VERY dense weave. So even though the second afghan looks pretty good, it weighs about 40 pounds. But it's very, very warm and looks OK on the chair in the living room, so I kept that one, at least for now.

So with all of this knowledge about what NOT to do when crocheting an afghan, I started a third one. This one is for YoungerSon, so I let him pick out the yarn. When I saw the yarn he picked I thought it was very cool - looks like the colors of a watermelon, I thought. But by the time I got a half dozen rows done, I realized that it looks less like a watermelon and more like camouflage (not a patten I'm particularly fond of). Even though I'm not real wild about the pattern, YoungerSon likes it alot, and I guess that's what counts. And the weight seems just about perfect for the yarn.

So I'll keep plugging away, hoping that the third time's the charm.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

And From Another Excellent Post

by iconographer Matthew Garrett:

"... It seems to me that this is precisely why icons are important. One could easily assume that icons are a way of making the invisible visible. But this is not accurate. Icons are allowable, and in fact necessary, precisely because they make the visible visible. In a sense, they operate in much the same way as a microscope or a telescope does. One would be wrong to suggest that a very small cell or a very distant planet was invisible. They are fully visible, they are every bit as real as the things that we see with the naked unassisted eye, but they cannot be perceived without assistance. Icons help us to see what is visible, but not always perceived."

An Excellent Post

One of the best I've read in a very long time.
From Fr. Stephen Freeman of Glory to God for All Things:

The Church at a Crossroads

This week, canonical Orthodox bishops across North America are meeting in New York to begin conversations towards greater Orthodox unity. Many Orthodox hope for an eventual, single autocephalous Orthodox jurisdiction on the American continent. This may yet be years away. For myself, I rejoice that the conversation has moved to this next level. In light of the meeting, I offer these few thoughts on “ecclesiology” – the doctrine of the Church. It is not the way the ecclesiology of the Church is formally stated – but it seems a worthwhile way to think about the subject.


Writing to the young Timothy (first letter) St. Paul gives this homey admonition:

"These things write I unto thee, hoping to come unto thee shortly: But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth."

Paul does not then go on to give us several chapters’ explanation of ecclesiology, expounding and unpacking the phrase, “pillar and ground of the truth.” The phrase simply hovers as a statement of fact beckoning the brave to “come up higher.”

Some have done so over the years: most famously in modern times Paul Florensky’s book by that very title - a massive tome of writing by the mathematician/mystic/theologian who is himself often as enigmatic as he is interesting.

Being Orthodox means living with words like “pillar and ground of truth.” Or singing gleefully in a liturgy, “We have seen the True Light, we have found the true faith.” In the wrong hands such words can be dangerous indeed. They are true enough, but such truth can be uttered well only as praise to the Living God, rarely as apologetics or as “war words” in our confused scene of Christianity. Uttered in “battle” (if the little dust-ups that occur hither and yon can be called such) these words take on the fearful character of “that by which we will be judged” (Matthew 12:36).

The insanity of modern American Christianity is the product of sola scriptura, poor or no ecclesiology, and the entrepreneurship of the American spirit. Thus almost every Christian group that exists has something excellent to say about itself (like so many car dealerships). The perfect ratiocination of Reform theology, an Infallible Pope with a Magisterium, or the perfections of an invisible Church (really, how can you discuss an invisible Church?) Even Anglicans, born of divorce and compromise (I know they don’t like to say it like that in Anglican seminaries, but it’s history), can brag about Via Media, or today, “Inclusivity.”

Into this playing field of discussion come the Orthodox. We are familiar with Pillar and Ground of Truth, True Light, True Faith, Fullness, etc., words of excellence and perfection. Of course, as soon as they are uttered, gainsayers will point to everything about us that appears less – and there is so much at which to point (our messy jurisdictionalism, internal arguments, etc.) People who have mastered cut-and-paste functions on their computer can quote concatenations of the fathers proving that our Pillar and Ground of Truth was always sitting in Rome. What’s an Orthodox boy (or girl) to do?

I do not think we give up conversation, but we have to be aware of the nature of our conversation. We utter “Pillar and Ground of Truth,” etc. “in a sacred mystery.” Pulled out of its context (that is the living Church) and placed in argument, the phrase becomes words weakened by every other word we have ever spoken, and particularly the actions we have performed or failed to perform. Such phrases are no less true, but they were never meant as offensive weapons (except perhaps in spiritual warfare).

I would start, as an Orthodox boy, with the fact that everyone who is Orthodox has agreed to “deny himself, take up his cross and follow Christ.” The ecclesiology of the Orthodox Church, the Pillar and Ground of Truth, is found precisely in its weakness and is found there because God wants it that way. If salvation means loving my enemies like God loves His enemies, then I am far better served by my weakness than my excellence. If humility draws the Holy Spirit, then my weakness is far more useful than any excellence I may possess.

The Orthodox Church has perhaps the weakest ecclesiology of all, because it depends, moment by moment, on the love and forgiveness of each by all and of all by each. Either the Bishops of the Church love and forgive each other or the whole thing falls apart. “Brethren, let us love one another, that with one mind we may confess: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” These are the words that introduce the Creed each Sunday, and they are the words that are the bedrock of our ecclesiology.

We live in a wondrous age of the Church. Having suffered terrible blows at the hands of the Bolsheviks, we were smashed into jurisdictions (they don’t really start until the 1920′s), and often turned on one another in our rage. Today, the Bolshevik has been consigned “to the dustbin of history.” Moscow and the Russian Church Outside of Russia are actually reunited. We still have the spectre of a powerful Patriarch of Constantinople bumping into a powerful Patriarch of Moscow here and there, although this week Patriarch Bartholomew is meeting in Moscow with Patriarch Kyrill. We live in interesting times.

But in each and every case the only ecclesiology that will work, that will reveal the Church to be the Pillar and Ground of the Truth will be an ecclesiology of the Cross: mutual forgiveness and abiding in the truth in love. This will be the Church’s boast: that it became like Christ in all ways; or it will have no boast at all.

I rejoice that I am alive in such a time as this. We stand at the edge of an abyss. We can embrace each other in joy and forgiveness or fall into the abyss itself (I trust Christ’s promise to keep us from such a misstep – though He has pulled us out of such places more than once). I rejoice because I don’t want anything other than to be conformed to the image of the crucified Christ. Let everybody else be excellent if they need to be. I need to die.