Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christ is Born!

He who holds the whole creation in the hollow of His hand today is born of the Virgin.
He whom in essence none can touch is wrapped in swaddling clothes as a mortal.
God who in the beginning founded the heavens lies in a manger.
He who rained manna down on the people in the wilderness is fed on milk from His Mother’s breast.
He who is the Bridegroom of the Church calls unto Himself the Magi.
The Son of the Virgin accepts their gifts.
We worship Thy birth, O Christ.
Show us also Thy divine Theophany.

-The Eve of the Nativity, from the hymns of the Ninth Hour

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Memory Eternal

We said memorial prayers at Vespers last night for Archbishop Job, who died two years ago today. He is greatly missed in our diocese.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Psalm 130

While on my way to work the other day, I listened to a recording I have heard a hundred gazillion times, John Rutter's Requiem. The whole work is beautiful, but on that particular day, this musical movement and even the Psalm itself came to my ears as if I'd never heard it before.

Out of the deep have I called unto thee, O Lord:

Lord, hear my voice.

O let thine ears consider well:

the voice of my complaint.

If thou, Lord, wilt be extreme to mark what is done amiss:

O Lord, who may abide it?

For there is mercy with thee:

therefore shalt thou be feared.

I look for the Lord; my soul doth wait for him:

and in his word is my trust.

My soul fleeth unto the Lord:

before the morning watch,

I say, before the morning watch.

O Israel, trust in the Lord,

for with the Lord there is mercy:

and with him is plenteous redemption.

And he shall redeem Israel: from all his sins.

Also fascinating to hear this brief presentation by the composer about his arrangement of this Psalm:

Sunday, September 11, 2011

A Thought on 9/11/11

While I was glad that we remembered in prayer at church today those who died ten years ago at the hands of religious fanatics, the families of those who died, and those who were wounded in that incident, it made me a little sad that we did not also pray for those non-American innocents who have died at our hands since that day, because of that tragedy.

Lord, have mercy ... on them all ... and on us.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Help Wanted

Two shy, black, 1 year old Australians (Australorps) and one 3 year old, pushy, blonde American (Buff Orpington) seek to add two workers to their diverse, all-girl production operation in the northern metro area of the Twin Cities, MN.
Candidates will be females, 5-7 months old, calm and good-natured, have a sense of humor, and be self-starters. No experience or training necessary. Preference will be given to those candidates who are clean, disease and parasite-free, well-groomed and in possession of at least most of their feathers.

Compensation includes board and room in semi-private, clean, dry, apartment for one month, then board and room in a shared, comfortable NS, ND house with small yard for life.

Sorry, no roosters.

We are interviewing a couple of promising candidates from Cannon Falls this afternoon.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

So We Built It!

Well, actually my brother built it. I just spent the morning holding "this," handing him "that," and finding his pencil, which he couldn't ever find when he set it down. But all in all, I'd say he did a very respectable job and this should provide a fine home for a couple of new girls for a month. All we have to do is find a couple of residents.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

If You Build It

... they will come.

We lost our older two red hens, Ruby and Lucy, during this past year. They were wonderful, sweet, hard-working girls. We rather miss their very sweet little chicken personalities, but truthfully, what we miss the most are the eggs. Our three remaining hens are laying and all, but just not as aggressively as those one-egg-each-day red hens.

Seems Betty and LoisandMarge (still can't tell them apart) have been s-l-o-w this summer. And in a way, who can blame them? This summer's long spells of hot, hot, hot weather, horribly humid weather, and rainy weather haven't exactly made it great to be a chicken in Minnesota. So these days we are getting, oh, an egg or so a day. Sometimes even two! More often we get zero.

Betty is 3 years old, and so we don't expect a lot from her (egg-laying slows down considerably after age 2). But LoisandMarge, just over one year old, are in their laying prime and should be giving us at least 4-5 eggs a week each. They're not. All three of them seem to be very happy and healthy, so we are not sure what the deal is. What we are sure of is that we'd like to be getting a few more eggs. And the only way to achieve this is to beef up our flock a bit.

We've started with chicks the last couple of times we added to our flock. Chickies are beyond cute and all, but they are labor-intensive. And the 22-24 weeks you have to wait for them to mature and start laying turn out to be some of the longest weeks of your life. So this time I'm looking for a couple of pullets, at or near point-of-lay.

Step one: Seems there are a few pullets to be had fairly locally on Craigslist. But all chicken owners know that the answer to the age-old question of which came first, the chicken or the egg is neither: it's the coop. We already have a fine, spacious coop and run, but all new chickens must be quarantined for 30 days before assimilation. So adding a couple of hens means providing temporary housing for them for a month. So ...

Step two: Attempt to build one weatherproof chicken tractor. Items needed: scrap wood, chicken wire or hardware cloth, and the building skills of one brother.

If we are successful at step two, we can go back and pursue step one.

Stay tuned.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

You Gotta Have a Hook

It's no secret to anyone who knows me that I don't like church marketing.

Marketing the church (trying to make it into something attractive for those who are not in it) is, as I have noted elsewhere, trying to sell something that's not for sale. And in many (if not most) cases, these marketing strategies direct us to all the things not needful.

Most church bodies market themselves these days,it seems. As east-coast American folk singer Jon Gailmore once sang, "You gotta have a hook to have a hit." And it seems the "hook" is different for different church bodies. Catholics tend to use guilt as their hook to get folks to come to church (hardly effective in this day and age if you ask me). Evangelicals tend to use "relevance" as their hook. Lutherans like the "Word alone" approach - which as far as I've ever been able to tell is not even Scriptural, funny enough. It seems that the Orthodox gravitate toward either sappy emotionalism or bookish fantasy/mysticism hooks (among other things).

But at least the Episcopalians call it what it is: The Church Ad Project. Anyone who has worked for any Christian church for 25 years knows that they make the best use of witty and clever pop-advertising (though who uses posters anymore? I can only hope that these days they've moved from posters to email ads or at least something people actually see). I still look at their catalogs every once in awhile for a good laugh. But in a way, that's precisely the point - and precisely the problem.

I don't do much blog-reading anymore (or blogging, either, for that matter), but having awakened way too early this morning, I thought I'd have a look at a couple of blogs I haven't visited in awhile - including this one. And I must say that I loved his post about kitchy church signs, most notably, this comment:

"If Jesus were to appear before you in all His glory, you would not greet Him in a relaxed manner. You would not call Him your Homeboy. You would not point to Him and say "there's my co-pilot." And you would not try to make him laugh by exercising some terrible pun as His majesty shone around you.

Instead, you would fall on your face and wet your pants. Because our God is a consuming fire."

Exactly. And if the church - any church - were really honest, that's the sort of thing they'd put on their church signs.

But I'm guessing that's not going to happen any time soon.

Thank you, Pastor Feine, for this reflection (and the entertaining little vid!).

Monday, July 4, 2011

Dog(less) Days

We lost our family dog about a month ago.

Ollie had a nice long life with the Transposzing family - some 12 years - and while it was not as long a life as the farm collie I had growing up, his was a much better life than she had. Collies are caregivers and my childhood farm collie lived as an outside dog in Minnesota, (that alone is a difficult life) caring for 8 kids on two acres of property. In addition to keeping track of me and my siblings, she had a litter of puppies almost every year for much of her life. Once my siblings and I were old enough to be in school, she would go over to our church just a couple of blocks away (where we caught the school bus) and hang out there most days, serving as a greeter for the staff and weekday church office visitors until we came home from school. And she did this for many years.

Our Ollie, on the other hand, lived inside the house with us, never had to endure a very cold day outside in the winter, enjoyed the indoor air conditioning on warm summer days (which we often turned on just for him, especially in his golden years). He was the mellowest and lowest maintenance dog ever. He never left the yard except on a leash, never had an accident in the house, never chased cars, never even barked (except when my sister came over, and even then only after she invited him to play, which she did at every visit), never chewed on anything, was wonderful and attentive company to the cats, never hurt the chickens or any other living thing, and just generally seemed to be happiest when he could be under the feet of his humans where ever they were. He was completely trustworthy in every respect and was a very easy dog to own. Predictable, polite, and a neighborhood sweetheart. Not only was he spoiled, but we got spoiled, too.

Ollie started slowing down a couple of years ago - which worked out sort of well for us, as we are starting to slow down a bit, too. Simply getting up after lying down had become a chore for him, and many nights he was not interested in going for a walk anymore. In his last weeks he'd developed a terrible wet cough, which sounded to me like congestive heart failure. My sister-in-law, (a veterinarian), assured me that it was not and said that in order to properly diagnose him she'd have to do a lot of testing. But she suspected, as we did, he was just failing due to old age. We gave him an antibiotic and let a week go by before asking her to come back and have another look at him, as he was only getting worse, not better. And on her return visit, she said that whatever the cause of his trouble was, she didn't think he would get better. So we decided to put him down (which she did for us here at home, allowing us to avoid that last long trip in the car), before his suffering became acute. It was sad and difficult for us. Only after he was gone did I come to realize what a part of our family he'd become and what a part of our regular routine he was.

So a couple of weeks later, my sister the electrician was on a job site outside somewhere and noticed a neighbor who was at the end of his rope with his adolescent puppy. He was screaming at the pup and was just winding up to backhand him when she hollered over to him to get his attention and direct his attention away from the puppy. She went over to talk to him and calmed him down, giving him her business card. She told him that if the puppy was just too much for him to cope with at this point in his life, he should call her and she'd come and take the puppy off his hands - no judging - and find a good home for him. (she's kind of a saint, really). He called her later that same day. And she went over that same day and picked him up, soon discovering that he was very timid, malnourished and untrained in any way.

Naturally, she thought of us and called to tell me about this puppy. I am, of course, filled with pity just hearing about this poor adolescent pup who had been slapped around and unfed and ignored, so I agreed to at least meet him. I asked her what kind of dog he is and she - deceivingly - said that he was a German Shepherd mix of some sort. One look at him and I knew that wasn't true. "Nice try," I said. "He's a Rott."

And I don't love me a Rottweiler. Any Rottweiler.

I know many people love them and that they have been great family pets for some. I have even met a few who seemed OK. Cesar Milan (an amazing man, really, and sort of a hero in my book) has a special place in his heart for Rotts. No matter - I just don't trust them. (or Dobermans or Pitt Bulls, either). And one who's been abused? I don't think so.

Still, I agreed to meet him and so she brought him over for a visit. And he is cute. And while timid, he seemed very sweet, responsive, and eager to please. But I told her I'm guessing that DearHusband isn't quite ready for a dog yet, and even if he were ready, I'm not sure this puppy would be The One. No worries, she said, we were just the first stop on their tour of dogless friends and she was sure someone would snap him up. She brought him to a potluck at our house the following weekend, where we learned that this puppy doesn't like men (surprise, surprise). At. All. That rather clinched it for DearHusband. Too needy for this family who was spoiled rotten by our last dog, and for whom the bulk of dog responsibility falls on DearHusband.
Happily, another couple from among their dogless friends is adopting him. A happy ending for the puppy.

But I have continued to keep my eyes open, just in case The One is out there and waiting for us somewhere. Perhaps this time we could find a dog who is a little bit smaller (ours is a very small house and Ollie, at 100 pounds, made it seem ALOT smaller than it already is), with a bit less hair (don't even get me started on the hair. It just became a way of life. A way of life which was worth it in every way, but suffice it to say that while we miss Ollie, we don't miss the hair).

I have come to think that it might be the most responsible thing, IF we are going to get another dog, to adopt a rescue. I know that many rescues are a lot of work, like the puppy, but still it seems to make sense to give a good home to a dog who doesn't have one and is less likely to find a home than a cute snuggly puppy. I also know that some rescues aren't much work at all, and easily blend into a new family's life.

Here's one promising candidate from a local agency which fosters and re-homes Golden Retrievers. I suppose she's just one of a million dogs in need of a home right now - and that there will always be others. But still, there's something about this girl that makes me want to meet her.

To say that DearHusband seems unenthusiastic about the prospect of another dog right now would be an understatement. I'm thinking he's not ready.

But who knows? She could be The One.

Maybe if he met her ...

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Reason #951 Why I Don't Belong on Facebook

I saw this silly survey posted by several of my Orthodox friends on FB and was tagged for participation today. I realize that it is meant to be all in fun, yet ironically, there is nothing funny at all about some of the statements which are included. Such things always point to the many things that are NOT needful that folks love to glom onto, it seems. And sometimes it is these non-needful things that seem to become their religion.

I chose not to respond to this on FB, but I will respond to it here (as I did once before with a similar blog-meme) on my own blog because blogs are about opinions and God knows I have them. But nothing is truly black OR white. As my priest once said to me in response to some question I had, "this being Orthodoxy, the answer is yes AND no." So instead of blanket agreement or disagreement with any of the statements, I must have qualifiers (and they are below, in italics).

Stuff like this always reminds me that I don't fit real easily into the stereotypes that American Orthodox Christians - especially converts like me - have created for themselves. But it also reminds me how useless stereotypes are.

According to my survey results, I was either Orthodox before my chrismation, or I am not a very good Orthodox Christian now, I guess. Either way, I'm not losing alot of sleep about it.



You are pro-life

I am pro-life when it comes to the decisions I make about my own body and who is living or has lived in it. I am not prepared to make such decisions for other women whose lives and situations I know nothing about. And I cannot support those who think they should be able to make such decisions for other women ... this includes politicians and bishops. Maybe especially politicians and bishops. And I am Orthodox enough to be a little irked that this is the first statement in this survey, as if it a sort of litmus test of one's "Orthodoxy."

You want to venerate icons when you see them

When I see them at church, yes. When I see them outside of church, it depends upon who I am with and how it might affect them.

You instinctively cross yourself in the Orthodox manner

I instinctively make the sign of the cross, but it took a couple of years to consistently get my directions straight without thinking first. (and I'm not sure whether it matters much to God whether I push across or pull across. Maybe it does?)

It's not a scandal to see your priest drinking a beer or a glass of wine.

A scandal? Good grief. It wasn't a scandal to see my pastor drink a beer or a glass of wine or even a cocktail when I was a Lutheran either. I have enjoyed an alcoholic beverage with far more Lutheran pastors than I have with Orthodox priests.

You can follow the Divine Liturgy without a book.

All except for the propers for the day (troparion, kontakion, etc.), yes, I can. But I could do this as a Lutheran, too. It is not a sign that one is Orthodox, it's a sign that one is faithful in worship.

You know "Christ is risen!" in at least 3 languages

I do, yes. But it is a tradition of the church that I don't fully understand. Rather than "connect me" to other Orthodox Christians throughout the world (just little bits of the world are important for this connection, it seems) it rather smacks of phyletism to me - and it makes me uneasy. So my participation in this Paschal custom is fairly half-hearted. Perhaps I will grow into an appreciation of this tradition someday. I'm not there yet.

You've been to a late night (wee morning) Pascha party

I have - but truthfully, most of the time I'd rather skip the party.

It's Constantinople, not Istanbul

Who cares and why?

You go without meat regularly and for long periods but aren't vegetarian.

I try to - and am more successful at it some times than at other times, it seems. But lots of Orthodox Christians don't ... for the record.

Saint Nicholas comes early to your house and Christmas comes later

We've never had a strong St. Nicholas - or Santa Claus - tradition at our house.

The deacon intones, "Let us complete our prayer..." and there's still an hour to go

Yeah, I was on to this years before I was received into the church, as I have said in a similar post before.

You've learned how to avoid hot wax from candles

Is this to imply that I never held a candle at worship before I was Orthodox? Wrong.

You know birth control pills can end a life

I know lots of things can end a life, not just birth control pills.

You develop a new found appreciation for olive oil.

Have always appreciated olive oil - always.

You know "Lord have mercy" in at least 3 languages

Two actually - but I knew the Greek/Latin long before I was Orthodox.

You've heard you worship Mary

No one has ever told me this.

You get used to standing when you'd rather be sitting down.

Actually, I'd rather stand.

You wake up from a nightmare saying the Jesus Prayer

Really? Does anyone honestly do this?

You buy your Easter candy after Easter

I buy Easter candy when it's available.

You've heard you worship pictures

No one has ever told me this, either.

You know your friend's Saint's day

I know some of them. And not all of my Orthodox friends took a saints name when they were received. Neither did I.

You open your mouth as you would at the dentist when receiving communion


When you have nothing else to do you say the Jesus Prayer

Right. All Orthodox Christians do.
Actually I watch TV, crochet, or surf the 'net. And judging by what appears on the 'net in most of the Orthocybersphere, so do lots of other Orthodox Christians - for many of them (myself included) it might be better if we did say the Jesus Prayer instead of sitting down at the computer.

When you tell people your religion, they assume that you are Jewish

That's only happened to me once.

You over-indulge on meat and milk chocolate at Easter

I over-indulge on these things almost all year long.

You've had a scare involving a child and fire in your church

I was involved in such a scare when I was a very little Lutheran, but not had such a scare since I've been Orthodox that I can recall.

You cease to worry about punctuality for services and meetings

A former colleague once said that "showing up early is a sign of anxiety; showing up late is a sign of contempt; showing up right on time is a sign of obsessive-compulsive disorder." I'm generally anxious, I guess. If I have enough respect for my employer or my doctor to get to work or to a medical appointment on time, then for me this is a no-brainer.

Someone beside you bends to tie their shoelaces and you touch the floor.

Never. But I do make the sign of the cross sometimes when someone near to me reaches up to scratch their head.

You are used to counting out 40 days, backward and forward on your calendar.

My calendar is color counting necessary.

You have carpet burns on your forehead by the end of Holy week

Nope. But I usually have sore knees and a sore back. Rug burns are for sloppy prostrators.

You get asked if you're Greek Orthodox or Russian Orthodox

People usually assume I'm Greek Orthodox. At catechism class shortly before I was received, an exuberant woman in the class asked me why I wanted to be Greek Orthodox. I told her that I don't want to be Greek anything, I just want to be an Orthodox Christian.

You know the difference between evangelism and proselitization.

I do, yes. But it's quite plain to me that many Orthodox Christians do not.

You know what FWO means and are happy when you see it

I have no idea what that means and don't know that I've ever seen it. So instead of being happy to see it, I'm just confused.

Americans have never heard of your religion

Generally speaking, Americans don't know anything about anything outside of their own experience. Sad state of affairs, really.

The term "joyful sorrow" makes sense

It does to me. But I don't generally use it among those to whom it doesn't make sense. In fact, I don't use it much at all except in thought.

You think Santa would look better with an omophorion

I think an omophorion would look stupid over the red jacket with white fur trim and wide black belt. And I think there is a really big difference between St. Nicholas and Santa Claus - and I am glad for that difference.

You've gotten your prostration method down to a science.

I have, but my knees seldom cooperate.

A cheeseburger is the best and the worst thing you could eat during lent

I'm thinking steak would be the best/worst. A cheeseburger is one of the worst things you can eat any time of the year.

March madness refers an inexplicable desire for hummus

I've never had an inexplicable desire for hummus. I suspect that hummus is what manna must have tasted like. It just is. Eat it and be grateful. And I am more grateful for some hummus than other, it seems.

Coming to church late is no big deal.

Disagree. For me, it is a big deal ... just ask my kids (see comment above about being late for liturgy and meetings). Every Sunday morning as we are trying to hurry them up so we can get to church on time, I tell them that "being late for liturgy is for cradles." Then they remind me that they ARE cradles ... Oh, yeah. "Well, then you can be late for liturgy when you are grown up cradles."

Monday, May 2, 2011

Thought for Today

"...the man who thinks with malice of his enemies has not God's love within him, and does not know God. If you will pray for your enemies, peace will come to you; but when you can love your enemies--know that a great measure of the grace of God dwells in you." - St. Silouan.

Upon those who love us, and those who hate us, Lord have mercy.
I may have more to say about this later.
Or I may not.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Reason #802 Why I Don't Belong on Facebook

Dear Beloved Well-Meaning Christian Facebook Friends,

Valentine's Day (and other Hallmark holidays like Boss' Day, Grandparent's Day, and Administrative Professionals Day) isn't really about Jesus.

It's really about chocolate.

Just for the record.

Friday, February 11, 2011

His Voice

From an old post, this time with the music.

His voice, as the sound of the dulcimer sweet,
Is heard through the shadows of death;
The cedars of Lebanon bow at his feet,
The air is perfum'd with his breath.
His lips as a fountain of righteousness flow,
That waters the garden of grace,
From which their salvation the people shall know,
And bask in the smile of his face.

Love sits on his eyelids, and scatters delight
Through all the bright mansions on high;
Their faces the cherubim veil in his sight,
And tremble with fullness of joy.
He looks, and ten thousands of angels rejoice,
And myriads wait for his word;
He speaks, and eternity, fill'd with His voice,
Re-echoes the praise of her Lord.

His voice, as the sound of the dulcimer sweet,
Is heard through the shadows of death;
The cedars of Lebanon bow at his feet,
The air is perfum'd with his breath.
O thou in whose presence my soul takes delight,
On whom in affliction I call,
My comfort by day, and my song in the night,
My hope, my salvation, my all.

(adapted by Larry L. Fleming from a text of Joseph Swain, which was adapted from Song of Solomon. The text of the entire poem is here.)