Thursday, December 31, 2009
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Sunday, December 27, 2009
Saturday, December 26, 2009
Friday, December 25, 2009
Thursday, December 24, 2009
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Monday, December 21, 2009
...And now made it into a book! Order your copy of "Orthographs - An Un-orthodox Primer on the Spiritual Life for Converts" 100 Orthographs, Curmudgeophan, Magazines and cartoons: CLICK HERE
And these are the Orthograph Archives in order of appearance on the blog:
To Do List
#1. Internet Catechism
#3. Get to Know the Real Thing
#4. Judging Plates
#5. Prayer Ropes
#7. Monastic Advice
#9. Paley Graph -1
#10. Paley Graph - Famous Spiritual Father Name Droppers
#11. Famous Spiritual Father Name Dropper Corollary
#12. Making the Sign of the Cross
#13. Reality Check -1
#14. True Confessions - 1
#15. When Convert Priests Meet
#16. Let Us Complete Our Prayer to the Lord...
#17. Internet Orthodoxy #2
#18. Men in Black #1
#19. Beginners #1
#20. My Journey
#21. Signs and Wonders
#22. Toll Booths?
#23. Calendar Issues Part 1
#24. Calendar Issues Part 2
#25. True Confessions, 2
#26. Haiti and Pat Robertson
#27. Does God Speak to Your Heart?
#28. Assessments, Critiques and Prognostications
#29. Experience and Priorities
#30. Better Discussed Over a Beer
#31. The Value of Opinions
#32. The Potter and the Clay
#33. Ye Are the Light of the World
#34. Can't Get No...
#35. True Confessions, 3
#36. The Bar is Open
#37. Living in the Present Moment
# 39. Another Convert Sighting
#40. Orthodox Miscalculations
#41. My Favorite Place for Lent
#42. Lent 1
#43. Lent 2, Let the Self Conciousness Begin
#44. Lent 3, Image is Everything
#45 Lent 4, Judging Plates
#46 Lent 5, Have You Noticed?
#47. Lent 6, Cheeseburger
#48. Warning Labels 1
#49. Prostration Tutorial
#50. Lent 7, Anatomy Lesson
#51. Lent 8, Prostrations
#52. Lent 9, What I Want
#53. Warning Labels 2
#54. Man in Black
#55. Lenten Morning Routine
#56. Speaking of "speaking of"
#57. Lent 12, Yo No Quiero Mas
#58. Tradition "Handed Down"
#59. Lent 13, Devouring...
#60. Instant Blog Stat Generator
#61. Because I'm Special
#62. Life, in general
#63. More My Speed
#64. Know It All?
Orthodox Men's Magazine Prostrate Issue
Introducing Curmudgeophan the Recluse
Curmudgeophan on Vestments
Be Nice to Your Choir Director
#65. Fifth Week of Lent
#66. Lenten Family Outing
Curmudgeophan the Recluse - On Fasting
Delusion Tours - St. Mary Experience
Pick a God
#67. Living in the Present Moment #2
#68. Yummy - Feast of the Annunciation
#69. Annunciation and Abortion
Curmudgeophan's Catechism #1: Paschal Greetings
#70. Stock Prices
#72. The Remnant
#73. Apostolic Pedigree
What's Your Position on .... Controversy
#74. Can't Get No... #2
Monkabee Magazine #2 Monastery Issue
Curmudgeophan on Ortho-blogging
Covered Girl Magazine #1
Curmudgeophan - Subdeacon Barsanuphius Vestments
#76. How Prayer Rules Work
#77. How Prayer Works
#78. Life of an Orthodox Blog
Transcript of My Real Jesus Prayer
#79. Refutation or...
#80. Damn Klingons!
Curmudgeophan on Bowing
MONKABEE Magazine #3 Hair Theology Issue
OB (Orthodox Burnout) Magazine #1
#81. Speaking of Burnout
#82. When the Lord speaks to someone's heart...
#83. Handy Excuse
Why You Should Meet Your In-laws Before You Get Married
Curmudgeophan's "12 Things You Wouldn't Know if They Bit You on the Butt" #1
Curmudgeophan's "12 Things" #2
Curmudgeophan's "12 Things" #3
Curmudgeophan's "12 Things" #5
#84. Serving with Visiting Priests
#85. Birds of a Feather
When Instructing Others
#86. Beware of New "Theologians"
#88. Liturgical Worship Leaders
#89. Pray unto the Lord, ye catechumens
#90. True Confessions #4
#91. Hidden Tiger, Prostrating Dragon
Curmudgeophan on Ponytails
MONKABEE #4 Digi-doxy Online Piety
#93. Personal Testimonies
#94. Personal Testimonies, Orthodox Version
#95. Don't it Always Seem to Go...
The American Orthodox Unity Bandwagon
Parts of an Orthodox Church
Curmudgeophan's "12 Things" #4 Greet One Another With a Holy Kiss
Curmudgeophan's "12 Things" #6 What to Kiss and When
Curmudgeophan's #12 Things" #7 Truth
Curmudgeophan's "12 Things" #8 Deception
Chill, Dudes... Perspective on Change
Congratulations! 100th Follower
Follow Your Dream
Mirror, Mirror on the Wall
The Finger, Why Theology Matters
Curmudgeophan Comics #1
Curmudgeophan Comics #2
Curmudgeophan Comics #3
Curmudgeophan Comics #4
Flying by the Seat of Your Pants
Full of Wisdom Or Full of....
Please Don't Feed Them
Monkabee Issue #5 Dress for Succession
The Ladder of Orthodox Convert Ascent
Orthodox Demotivator #1 Ding Dongs
Orthodox Demotivator #2 Clergy Meetings
Orthodox Demotivator #3 A Dog is Better Than I
Orthodox Demotivator #4 Ortho-bling
Orthodox Demotivator #5 Sore Thumb
Orthodox Demotivator #6 Old Country and Western
Orthodox Demotivator #7 Orthodox Time
Overheard Conversation #1 Am I a Catholic?
Overheard Conversation #2 Patriarchal Beards
Overheard Ecumenical Conversation #3 I'm Your Father....
Orthograph #96 Contentment
Orthograph #98 Journey
Orthograph #99 Changing people's minds
Orthograph #100 Politics and Religion
Orthograph #101 WWJD?
Orthograph #102 Believing Your Own Press
Orthograph #103 The Send Key
Orthograph #104 Time and Benefits
Orthograph #105 Certainty and Delusion
Orthograph #106 Savior Complex
Orthograph #107 Aspirations and Silence
Orthograph #109 Authenticity and Distance
Orthograph #110 McRib and Nativity Fast
Orthograph #111 Apostle's Fast
Orthograph #112 Judging Plates
Orthograph #113 Thanksgiving: Don't Ask, Don't Tell
Curmudgeophan on Awards
Orthograph #114 Fake Fasting Food: No Picnic
Orthograph #115 Logismoi
God Hates Figs
Curmudgeophan on Phronema
New Year Resolutions
The Perfect Christian
Orthograph #116 God Told Me to Tell You...
Curmudgeophan's Catechism #2
Orthograph #117 Orthodox Marital Fantasies
Orthograph #118 Martyrdom
Orthograph #119 Cost of Discipleship - Orthodox
What Cannibals Eat for Lent
Orthokitsch Mall: Lenten Glasses
Orthograph #120 Games Men Play
Orthograph #121 Taking the Bait
Orthokitsch Mall: Relic
Orthograph #122 SNL
Orthograph # 123 Whodathunk?
Orthograph # 124 Less is More
Truth in Labelling for Lent
Curmudgeophan on Homilies
Parking Lot at Chalcedon Elementary
Lenten Warning Sign
Orthograph # 125 In and Out
An Orthodox View of Salvation
Your Brain on Lent
Monkabee Magazine #6 Lenten Issue
Orthograph #126 Because I'm Special
Orthograph #127 Homilists
Orthograph #128 No Place Like Home
Orthograph #129 Lenten Disasters
Orthograph #130 Guilt Free Zone
Unknown Bible Stories #1
Delusion Tours #1
Wearing the "My Elder is..." Badge
Orthograph #131 Christ is Risen
Orthograph #133 Bad Symbiosis
Orthograph #134 Zeal
Orthograph #135 Footwear
Orthograph #136 Bible Number Crunching
Orthograph #137 Babel
Orthograph #138 Rewards
Orthograph #139 Quoting Them....
What They're REALLY Thinking
Orthograph #140 Internet Orthodoxy
Orthograph #141 Testimonies
Lilliputian Liturgies #1
Old Country Parades
Ecumenical Loaded Questions
Orthograph #142 How to Do Lent
Following Too Closely
How to Speak Orthodoxese #1
How to Do Lent #2
How to Do Lent #3
New Image for American Bishops
Orthograph #144 Fasting Flowchart
How to Speak Orthodoxese #2
How to Speak Orthodoxese #3
How to Speak Orthodoxese #4
Pithless Products: Orthogeekometer
Orthodox Convert Evolution
Orthograph #145 Superheroes
How to Speak Orthodoxese #5
How to Speak Orthodoxese #6
How to Speak Orthodoxese #7
Sunday, December 20, 2009
Saturday, December 19, 2009
His intention for the Christmas Dinner was to feed the poor and disenfranchised. His agenda was to gather Christians together under the call of the Gospel and bring unity among the Christian community in service to the lowest and least of these. Over the past weeks I've sat at Gary's bedside keeping vigil into the night while he was in a morphine and dilantin induced delirium and listened to him mumble and weep in his sleep about how many turkeys and cans of green beans and napkins and styrofoam boxes were yet to be donated to feed the 5,000 he hoped to feed this year.
Gary is now in a nursing home, probably living out his last months, perhaps weeks. His constant conversation when I've visited was about The Dinner. I saw him Thursday evening and he talked about the dinner again. He said the beauty of it for him was seeing people who claim to love Jesus but never see or acknowledge each other all year coming together to do something for those whom Jesus loves.
I sat beside him and whispered in his ear: "Gary, do you remember what Simeon said when he held Jesus in his arms? - Lord now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace according to Thy word. For mine eyes have seen Thy salvation, which Thou hast prepared before the face of all people. A light to enlighten the Gentiles and the glory of Thy people, Israel."
At the end of the day, Gary rejoiced. He is, as he said, "God ready."
May God grant you a peaceful ending of this life and your good defense before the fearful judgment seat of Christ is a far better one than I have today.
Friday, December 18, 2009
Thursday, December 17, 2009
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Sunday, December 13, 2009
O God, I've heard enough sermons to know you have called me to repent of my distractions. It is right that I claim to be the one who makes all manner of excuses for rejecting Your gracious invitation to Your banquet. It is proper to say that I am trapped in the world and by its fascinations, I am distracted by the world's shiny objects of security, of stability, of a peaceful and profitable present, of a bright future. I am the "Excuse Maker", I reject Your banquet because I attend to my land, my house, my work and not my soul. So in false humility I claim the parabolic label before You and before men. Yet I truly have not repented of my worldly attachments and concerns. Have mercy on me a sinner, O God. (And I know from what I have read and heard, this is the right thing to say.)
O God, I've read enough of the "Sayings of the Desert Fathers" to know You have called me, the outcast, to repentance. I know it is even more spiritual to claim that I am the poor in virtue and faith, that my limbs are broken and my hands do not stretch out toward You, my arms do not embrace Your commandments, my lame body has no strength to resist sin, my legs cannot dance with my Beloved to the Song of Songs. I have read that the truly humble man claims a darkened soul, to resist the Light, to walk in the way of perversity and sinners. It is a finer thing to be seen in the eyes of spiritual men to be known as one who was further from the light than they. So in greater false humility I claim to be the poor, the cripple, the blind and lame of Your parable. But it is not my faith that claims to have no virtues, but my ego. It is not a vision of the Light that blinds me, but looking at my self. I am crippled yet I can run perfectly toward the praise of men on legs strengthened by my vainglory. I present myself to the world as broken that I may be seen as healed. It is not true humility that makes me stand beside the broken, halt and blind Publican and imitate his downcast gaze and mimic his accent of whispered penitence, but my pride. Have mercy on me a sinner, O God. (I know it is the right thing to say, but I am saying it anyway, with a dim awareness of my counterfeit sincerity.)
O God, You have called to all of my sins, yet there is still room for repentance. Send Thou Thy messenger of grace into the darkest alleyways of my heart, to my most remote and dangerous highways, into the narrow paths uncharted and untrodden by even my own conscience and call me, compel me, drag me the outcast into the blessed feast, the Light of Thy countenance, to Isaiah's Dance. Have mercy on me a sinner, O God. (I know it is the right thing to say, but I ask that you bless my willingness to say it even as a vain exercise. And when You bless it by your Appearing, when You have filled me with Yourself, give me the grace to taste the feast of true humility.)
Friday, December 11, 2009
This was a "special occassion" so I was about to put on my CLEAN jeans and my Hawaiian shirt. My wife said, "I think this is beyond the Hawaiian shirt stage." Dang. NOTHING is beyond a Hawaiian shirt. But I knew what she meant.
I trudged down to the basement and opened the door of the storage closet. I inhaled the smell of dry cleaner's plastic, dust and the musty cloth. I flipped the switch and the single dim bulb lit the racks of clothes that haven't been moved for literally years. Way, way back in the 80's, in my protestant days, before an expensive divorce and the downward spiral of my construction company I bought "really nice" clothes. 180 bucks for wool pants? Sure. 80 bucks for a cool tie? Why not? I wasn't into "labels", just "really nice".
Now, the reader has to understand THIS was the guy buying these clothes.
Hippie art major, anti-establishment, you name the 60's cliche... I was it. The problem I discovered with being a former art major is that I had developed an eye for "nice". I could walk into the men's department of a store and see something that caught my eye. It was always ungodly expensive. But I had the money and more often than not, I bought it. What happened to me (besides having more money) in the intervening 15 years between thrift store embroidered over-alls and silk blend sport coats from Goldwaters? Well, dear reader, really...
I was the same person. I was a poser, a chameleon. In the 60's the accoutrements of hippiedom were cheap. I could afford to be one. Because I was an art major I could even make cooler clothes than some people could buy at "Clothes for Beautiful People". The subculture was the particular Renaissance Festival of humanity I chose to join. I wore the costume, assumed the posture, spoke the language, I did it well enough to impress people with the act, and I belonged.
I gave up just barely enough of that to get through Bible college. I cut my hair when Crosby, Stills and Nash were singing about almost cutting theirs. But it was cool to be one of the few "hippie guys" at a Texas Christian College. I gave up even more to get hired by a Boy's Home, and laid aside my overalls and T-shirts for J.C. Penny slacks and shirts. It was a pragmatic move, I knew I had to dress the part of a social worker and administrator to be taken seriously. I took it as maturity.
In the 80's when I got fired from my ministry job, one of the elders at my Church told me, the senior pastor and youth minister in a meeting that we would not get raises because we should be glad that we even have jobs. He said ministers are a necessary evil in order to have a church and the only reason a man becomes a minister is that he can't do anything else, and if we could be something else we certainly wouldn't be preachers. The gauntlet was thrown.
For a lot of reasons, I stayed at the Church after I was fired. I believe most of the reasons were good even to this day, mainly I didn't want to cause another schism by leaving in a self-righteous huff. But the elder's words rang in my ears. I taught Sunday morning adult Bible class and eventually was drawing 80% of the adults of the congregation. I was a successful preacher. But I was also now a "successful businessman". I changed my costume, spoke a new language, had a new attitude. My literal posture, even how I walked changed. I had joined a different Festival. By '85 the hippie thing was old anyway, and I didn't run in that circle anymore, there was no one in my life from that Festival left to impress. And, I was sticking it up that elder's ... Anyway, I still have a few pieces of clothing left from those days in my closet, but more on that in a minute.
Fast forward to Orthodoxy. It was a whole new Festival. And it talked about "the goodness of the material" and the role of the material changing the "person". It was counter-cultural, but within its culture there were levels and layer upon layer of new costumes and personas and attitudes. There was even a new language that, if you mastered it and spoke it with the proper inflections you'd look smart, spiritual AND humble. It all validated the life of a chameleon... and no one could accuse me of being a poser because, well, I was "being Orthodox" and for them to suggest that was being judgmental, which the Fathers condemn. Only your nous knows for sure.
The materiality of Orthodoxy and the evidence of personal transformation (or assistance toward it) for the individual is often judged and viewed by their attire and personal grooming. (I am getting to the dark, dusty closet here... trust me.) They say "clothes makes the man". I'd say yes and no. Yes, it influences how we act, and no, that's not always good because what we wear is usually more about what we are than what we think we're becoming. I don't know of any male convert who, when they first encountered Orthodoxy, didn't experience a twinge of "cassock lust" or envy. There's no two ways about it, there's just something cool about looking like Neo.
So almost back to the point, as I was nearing graduating from Bible college, I remember visiting my friend Harry. He was an old hippie heroin addict who had "sold out" to the establishment, but was (and still is) the most Christian person I think I've ever known. I was at his house (in my jeans and t-shirt) and out of the blue he went to his closet and pulled out a long cape. I think it was his wife's actually. He said, here, put this on and look in the (full length) mirror. I thought he was nuts, but I did. I remember looking in the mirror and my posture changed, I stood up as if I was regal and grinned. Harry, said, "See? See what happened?" I knew what happened. Clothes made the man. The change of costume changed me. I knew what he was saying. I was a poser. My hippie costume was dictated by my weakness of person, not conviction, not a true sense of my self. Whatever I was dressed in became who I am, "I" filled the clothes, the clothes did not adorn who I "am". That was 1975.
It was 30 years after Harry's object lesson and 7 years after I first experienced "cassock lust" that I was tonsured to wear one. I freely admit there is still a bit of "cool to be Neo" aspect to it. I honestly wear the gold dress because I "have to", I was conscripted into service and it is a spiritual discipline for me to serve altar in it. I accepted it because I didn't want it, and no one else would take it on.
So, finally, back to my basement storage closet... that was the point.
I pushed aside some of the old coats and suits and found a sport coat I haven't worn in probably 20 years. Yes, it still fit. I put it on and...
That is the point. It wasn't a badge. It wasn't a statement. It wasn't a podvig or a selling out. It wasn't to impress anyone or to get accepted. It was what was fitting for the occasion at hand. I didn't change. I didn't react. I was still, Me. I had realized a milestone standing in my closet that only took 57 years to reach.
When I went to the folk's house I was riding with (from Church), their daughter looked at me and said, "WHOA! I've never seen you like this before!" I said, "You better take a picture because you might not ever see it again in your lifetime." So she did.
Is it " GQ-SP"? "Bearded-Orthodox s-p in a worldly clown suit"?
Nah, just s-p.
Thursday, December 10, 2009
This should be included in every inquirers and catechism class:
"This process of becoming Orthodox is not something that you can do just after 6 months of catechesis and a little bit of chrism on your forehead. It's a life-long process, because it's being transformed into Christ. And if we can keep our focus that coming into the Orthodox Church is not about joining a new organization; it's not joining 'the right church'; it's not 'joining the historical church or the apostolic church'; or it's not 'joining the right church instead the wrong church that I was in.'
"But rather, it's an entrance deeper and deeper into the mystery of Christ. Then I think we're on the right track. Because otherwise all we're doing is getting stuck in our heads and caught up in judgment and condemnation. In other words, we're just stuck in our passions and we might as well have not converted anyway, because we still haven't left the world behind.
"Our task is to incarnate that life in Christ that is not of this world. We have to be in the world, but not of it."
- Metropolitan JONAH, "Baptizing the Culture"
From his lecture at the 2009 Missions and Evangelism Conference.
H/T to Jamey
Wednesday, December 09, 2009
Thursday, December 03, 2009
Associated Press Posted on December 1, 2009 at 1:15 PM
Several programs providing Christmas gifts for needy children are checking immigration status first, requiring at least one member of the household to be a U.S. citizen before handing over toys. The Salvation Army and a charity affiliated with the Houston Fire Department are asking for children's birth certificates or Social Security cards.
What the f--ilioque is going on with Christmas? I think we've finally gotten what our politics and even many Christians have hoped for: It looks like "immigration policy" has finally trumped Jesus Christ as the "reason for the season".
It seems to me that the birth of Christ is exposing the truth about the state of the world, just as it did 2000 years ago. Many claim America is a "Christian nation", yet at the season of the greatest Gift, the birth of Christ, we politicize the celebration of His Incarnation by legislating the boundaries of unconditional charity and grace in His honor because of the "politics of the aliens among us".
When Jesus came and threatened Herod's kingdom, Herod killed the children to protect his political status and nation.
When the Jewish leadership met to discuss Jesus they determined it was politically expedient to kill Him "lest the Romans come and take away our status and our nation."
When Pilate was confronted with the person of Christ, he delivered Him to be crucified to save his political ass.
The illegals threaten our status and our nation. They threaten our lifestyle because they threaten our economy. They are a burden on our society.
The Jews were commanded to welcome the sojourner among them. They were to leave a tithe of their fields for the alien and the poor to glean. As Christians we are to exceed the righteousness of the Pharisee. As a "Christian nation" do we exceed the demands of the imperfect Law or do we follow Herod, Pilate and the High Priest and his council and trample under foot the gift of God to preserve our comfortable kingdom?
Jesus did not come to rule the world. He already ruled it. His coming made manifest the meaning of the Psalters words, "Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we will call on the Name of the Lord."
Jesus came to expose the world for what it is, what it has become through sin, and to save it through an Unspeakable Gift given without regard for citizenship and politics, morals and religion, power or wealth. We are all equally aliens on the earth, sojourners and strangers, we are all poverty stricken, hungry and destitute, all enemies of God and enemies of one another. It would seem that once a year The Gift of unconditional love could be emulated by those who claim to be giving in the "spirit of the season".
I get spam every year at this time about the politics of "keeping Christ in Christmas". And given the politics that surrounded the Gospel of the Incarnation 2000 years ago, in a way it is a fitting irony that Christians are using the legal and political arena and economic pressures on retailers who eschew using the term "Christmas" to get their say in the culture. It is indeed, in one sense, truly "Christmas" because Christ is finally doing in our culture and kingdom what He did the first time: exposed the politics of religion, power and our trust in the chariots and horses of economics and the imaginary stability of our temporal kingdoms and preservation of our lifestyles. But alas, indeed, in another sense it is no longer "Christmas", it is Christlessmas because in the political killing of the Gift to innocent children we have followed in the footsteps of those religio-political leaders who killed our Christ... or at least have tried to.
Herod, the Elders and Pilate... where are they and their economies and kingdoms now in spite of their political machinations, policies and rationalizations to save their status and nations?
Yes boys and girls, Santa is checking his list to see who is naughty and nice. And apparently his list is now the Census. (Hmmm... didn't someone else take a census when Jesus was born?)
May we find His truth in this Advent season, not in ACLU lawsuits, Christian websites identifying "Christmas approved retailers", email spam about Christmas trees, Kwanza and even apologetics about the baptism of the solstice, but by being called in the simplicity of our daily work by angels' voices to come and adore Him who was born rejected, a stranger to His people, outside the city, away from the shops, the palaces and yes, even the churches.
Blessed Nativity to all.
H/T to Barry Young KFYI
Tuesday, December 01, 2009
and my admiration for celebrities that know its value.
I've worked in construction for nearly 30 years now. I know the location of every Taco Bell, Burger King, McDonald's, Denny's, and AM-PM with two for a dollar hot dogs in the Phoenix metropolitan area. If I ever retire and stop eating lunch on the road I'll let you know so you can dump your stocks in those companies.
Sometimes its hard to decide where to eat. I've finally found something to help me out: A flow chart. (Click on the image to embiggen, then when it opens, put your mouse pointer on it and click on the little + magnifying glass...I know, its a lot of work, but look at it like you got a cyber-work out.)
A "Breakfast Cereal" flow chart can also be found HERE
H/T to RYAN
Monday, November 30, 2009
Fr. Jonathan's post "Mimeograph" is worth a read and a few minutes of reflection. You might even want to post it on your Facebook page and Tweet it to your followers.
Sunday, November 29, 2009
Joe is in charge of the house at the Rehab. Gary picked him up off the street two years ago. For 30 years from age fourteen Joe lived in refrigerators, behind dumpsters, on the street and in the bottom of a bottle. No home was his home. He had the social skills and cynical savvy of a loner street person. "Pastor Gary", or more exactly they would say, Jesus Christ has transformed Joe into a human being.
Joe is fiercely protective of Gary. One morning two weeks ago in the former hospital, Gary didn't get his breakfast tray. Joe tracked down one of the orderlies. The orderly came to the room and said Gary got his breakfast. Gary said, "No, I didn't". The orderly said, "Yeah, you did," and walked out. Joe walked out right behind him, got in front of him and instead of slamming his head into the wall, just said, "I never want to have to come out here again and tell you to not call my Pastor a liar. If he said he got no breakfast, he didn't get it...do you understand?" Gary got his breakfast and the orderly didn't have to go to the emergency room.
Gary lay in the emergency room gurney wracked with pain. Until they knew its source they wouldn't prescribe anything. Joe looked on his Pastor going in and out of conciousness and crying out in agony. His prematurely old eyes that have seen decades of indescribable human suffering in the streets, glistened with helplessness.
"This is probably a new experience for you, isn't it? Its hard to just sit and watch and know there's nothing you can do," I said.
"You probably never thought you'd be taking care of your Pastor like this."
"You know, this is probably how he saw you spiritually when he found you. He took care of you, now you are returning the grace."
As the night wore on, I told the attending physician the neglect and lack of attention to Gary's real symptoms at the former hospital and at the nursing home. They ran the typical emergency room tests and again ruled out a heart attack, and again the source of the crippling pain was a mystery. I convinced him to admit him to the hospital to do more tests. After eight hours of vigil they finally arranged to move him. Joe and I followed him to his room, we talked to the head nurse about his bed sores that no one has treated, how to move him because of his torn shoulder, then we left. It was midnight and it was raining.
In the parking lot Joe asked, "Will you be here in the morning?"
"Yeah, I'll be here by 5:30. I want to be here when the attending doctor makes his rounds to be sure he knows what is going on."
"Cool. I have to make sure the guys get to Church in the morning. Pastor Gary will kick my ass if I don't take them. I'll be here after Church."
"No problem, Joe. I'll tell Pastor Gary you took the men to Church. You guys pray, I'll come sit."
Love does not need a lot of words. Sometimes love just sits in helpless pain and prays. If we are capable of learning to do that, we are capable of salvation.
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Monday, November 23, 2009
Gary has led quite a, ahem... colorful life but has spent the last 13 of his 64 years in Christian ministry. A lot of his dreams and goals are almost coming true. His Christmas "homeless and shut in dinner" will feed over 6000 this year if all goes as planned. His shelter and rehab has gotten some attention and interest from a couple localities to open similar programs in their cities. We were talking today and he said, "In one way if I die I know I am "God ready" and I look forward to being with Christ. But in another way I think, WHY God? ... I'm at the verge of seeing all my ministry dreams come true and You're calling me home before everything great happens. If I could live seven more months I could accomplish SO much more."
I asked Gary to name me one person in Scripture that died thinking they had accomplished EVERYTHING God wanted them to do. I asked him to name one person who, if they had lived another month or year, would not have done even greater things for Christ. I told him that perhaps his one true purpose was to turn one particular person from the street to Christ and THAT one person will be his link to even greater things than he even imagined. I told him the geneology of Christ was full of no-name, obscure people who accomplished nothing more than getting a mention in Matthew's Gospel, but through them salvation came into the world. I told him greatness is not in accomplishment but in faithfulness, and according to the biblical record, "faithfulness" is often not very pretty or laudable in polite and "spiritual Church society".
The reality is, we who aspire to serve the Church in some "significant way" usually self assess according to our self referenced accomplishments and goals. But as James the Thickheaded said in a recent blog post:
"Do we really do ourselves any good by our ambitions to be a “somebody” in the Church? Moreover, do we do the Church any good, or those around us? I’m not convinced. And I’m certainly not convinced that ambitions of this sort – if we are candid with ourselves – necessarily amount to more than adopting a posture unconducive to our professed aspirations. Sainthood as an aspiration for ascension could perhaps be more clearly understood as a path of descent… not into nothingness, but from the sinful false images we erect of ourselves and toward real personhood."
Indeed, there is a temptation to what amounts to a desire for a place at the head of the table disguised as "service at the table". Subtle ego fulfillment is a leech on our "aspirations" that is contrary to the true path to "ascension". It is too easy to adopt the "posture of humility" with the agenda to be elevated to a higher place in the future rather than learn to serve with true humility in the place we've been called to in the present moment. The shiny cross worn around the neck is a glittering temptation, a distraction from ascending the true cross of accepting all God gives us, including dashed hopes, thwarted dreams, unrealized aspirations and even humiliating failure. God does not "need" our ministries and false humility, nor even our greatness. He works best through the horror of the Cross, and in the lives of those who willingly or even grudgingly accept the death it offers to each of us. He needs human beings to die to themselves and the world in Christ and thus to live as a witness to the resurrection of true personhood, and to be willing to be an obscure, no-name person in someone's distant past who, because of a glimmer of faith, did one small thing in the name of God that, generations later, saved the very cosmos.
No... I ain't so great.
Saturday, November 21, 2009
This is me and Sdn. Matthew from the local Antiochian Church preparing the Bishop's vestments. They are folded in a certain way so when we vest the Bishop they go on in the right order and easily.
This is the beginning of the service and vesting of the Bishop. This is what Metropolitan Jonah refers to when he says, "Its no wonder Bishops have big heads...when they enter a Church people dress them like a Byzantine emperor and sing to them that they hope they live forever..." One of the things you don't want to do is get nervous and get started on the wrong button, like I did last year when I assisted at Sts. Peter and Paul.
Sdn. Johann and I finish the vesting without any glitches.
The Bishop is vested and gives his blessing...he also blessed our new building this morning. (Yes, that is me...without the candles.)
One of the hardest things to learn as a sub-deacon is which candles go in which hand and when. I know the three branched always goes to his right hand. Depending on the part of the liturgy we either hand the two and three branched candles to the Bishop facing the altar or the congregation, so they are placed on the altar accordingly (and depending on where we are in the liturgy they are either lit or not. ) Sdn. Matthew and I got this one right.
The Bishop consecrates and serves communion when he visits. The parish priests are his "hands", so when the Bishop is present the priests are wallflowers and the deacons and subdeacons do most of the liturgical work with the Bishop.
And he gives the final blessings.
For the full pictorial go HERE. Thanks to Paul aka. Bagwhan Dos for his fine photo journalism.