Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Is There Any Limit?

What is the outer limit of the human mind? What do we trade out for being "normal"? Would you trade "normalcy" for a gift? Is this just God "messing with us" to keep us guessing? They call them "idiot savants". Well... They tell me I'm halfway there.

H/T to Sophocles

Monday, June 29, 2009

A Prayer

When I was a Protestant I did this song and changed the words to "Holy Father". Now that I'm Orthodox, I'd keep the words but now I can't play it... One of the best Clapton songs and solos of all time.

Friday, June 26, 2009


Work hurts, physically, emotionally and spiritually sometimes. Why do men often feel like a "paycheck"? Listen HERE.

Monday, June 22, 2009

All Dogs Go to Heaven

I knew it was inevitable even when we let the veterinarian talk us out of it. I lived with Duke, she didn't. "He was fine with our male staff", she said, "I think that is a good sign he is trainable." Yes, he was fine with people who deal with skittish animals for a living. I see him with people who are afraid of large barking dogs. I see him lunge at people who he perceives as invading our home. I see him cower and growl at people who live here. But we hoped against hope. We talked to the trainer. She said six home visits and we'd still have to board him if we ever had our grandkids visit, just to be safe. (What about other people's kids? I thought.) I scoured the internet for "Dog Whisperer" tips and tricks. Abused dogs who fear bite are basically incurable, even with the best help a re-trained dog can never be fully trusted. Don't give them to a shelter and pass your problem on to someone else, they all said.

Today we took Duke back to the vet. The one we first saw refused to do the euthanasia. Another one did it for us. He told us of a childhood friend who had half her face bitten off by a Saint Bernard because she reached for its bone. He said this is the hardest decision to make with a pet, but the right one. We thanked him.

I sat on the floor with Duke, my arm around him. He licked my hand as I petted him. I remembered the first year after we brought him home from the dog pound. He would not come near me. Every inch he got closer over the months was a victory of trust, love, gentleness and patience with him. It almost brought me to tears the day he jumped up on the couch with me, laid his head in my lap and let me pet him as he dozed off.

Today he was in a strange place. His tail was down, between his legs. His head was down and his back haunches quivered. He hung close to us. I got down on the floor and he came up and sat next to me. I was his comforter, not his feared abuser. I put my arm around him and scratched behind his ears as the vet inserted the needle with a sedative into his front leg. Duke looked up at me then slumped down and laid his head in my lap. The vet inserted the next needle. As I petted him, Duke went to sleep.

We took him home and buried him. I read Psalm 103/4. "O that sinners would be consumed from the earth and that the wicked be no more". O that the person who beat this dog would be consumed. O that the sorrow and anger I have at the fallen cosmos be consumed by the love of God. O that the damage I have done in this world be consumed by forgiveness and mercy. O that all things will be well, O that all will be well.

Rest in peace, Dukie. Be at peace. Some day, all of us will be well. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. Even in dogs.

(A podcast here)

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Monasticism or Marriage?

What happens when a married man spends 3 weeks at a monastery? Sometimes delusions set in. Who is more holy, the monk or the wife (or her husband?) Listen HERE.


A Slovenian Acappella Choir replicates an African thunderstorm and reinvents Toto's hit song. At least watch the first two minutes. Very cool!
(If you like the "vocal instrumentals" and want to see how the Orthodox Church (and the churches of Christ) could do "acappella praise bands" watch THIS amazing group.)

Monday, June 15, 2009

Duke Gets a Stay of Execution

We had an appointment today to have Duke euthanized. We couldn't do it earlier because we found out there is a required ten day rabies quarantine waiting period after a dog bites someone. This morning Duke and I shared his "Last Breakfast". I sat on the back porch with him and fed him the crusts from my peanutbutter toast.
While I spent time with Duke and contemplated life and death, Psalm 103 and whether animals go to heaven, my wife finished digging his grave in our pet cemetery in the corner of our yard.
We took him to the vet and Kristi asked us if we'd be willing to look at other options. She knew of a dog rescue that takes biters and difficult dogs but because they are hard to place the shelter didn't have any openings at this time. While we waited for an opening, in the meantime the vet was willing to send a dog behavioral therapist to our house for two free sessions to evaluate Duke for his potential for rehabilitation. She said the trainer would be honest about whether he needed to be put down or not. So, we came home with our dog, and a little hope that the fallen world perhaps has not yet claimed another life.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Man as Meat

The deserts of Nevada were filled with death, they are also filled with sex for sale. Sex and death are at the core of the human struggle with isolation and the death of union. At the edge of the desolate parking lot of the "Playmate Ranch" was a row of yellow flowers. No matter how far from God we run, no matter how desolate and dry our existence is, there is always a sign of Life. Visit a whore house with me HERE.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Silent Monks Sing Hallelujah Chorus

How do monks under a vow of silence perform one of the most glorious hymns in church history?

Our Life in Christ Sighting

Someone snapped this picture this morning. I think seeing me and Bill together is almost as rare as an Elvis sighting these days. Last month Bill and I thought we could get together and start recording some new programs for Our Life in Christ (after a 6 month hiatus). But "as usual", it turned out I got the short notice call to go to St. John's and he went on a business trip, and the day I returned he left for a week for a family reunion. I'm heading back up to St. John's Monastery in a couple weeks for a retreat, to record some more interviews with Abbott Meletios (I have a couple I'm producing for broadcast from my last trip), and to work on the insulation on one of the guest houses.

Anyway, this is proof that we're still alive and feeling guilty for not putting up anything new lately. We're old and gray and tired, but we're planning a reunion tour soon. Stay tuned.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

We Have Icons!

We finally got our icons (printed on canvas, museum quality ink) and they are every bit as beautiful as advertised. The Platytera is 4 feet by 6 feet, and the Pantocrator is five feet in diameter. We had to take one of the chains off the chandelier and tie it up aside then set up a scaffold for the Pantocrator installation.

A good friend I've worked with for years is an expert wallpaper installer (designers fly him to New York to hang 300.00 a yard silk hand printed wallpaper...yeah). He donated his time to us.
It was a tricky install because the ink is water soluble and even sweat from your hands will smudge it. We had to be extremely careful to not get wallpaper paste on our fingers, or sweat while we handled the icons. (The next time we'll seal them first before installing them rather than afterwards.)

This is Terry trimming the Pantocrator border and finding the 90 degree positions. We dropped a plumb bob from the top of the dome and measured 4 directions to be sure we had the true center, then snapped chalk lines and ran a framing square to get the 12 and 3 o'clock positions on the ceiling. We had an interesting discussion about the nature of the Incarnation while he was prepping the Platytera.

This is the installation of the Pantocrator, it took 3 of us to position it so the 90 degree noon and three o'clock marks on the icon matched our marks on the top of the dome, and then a couple trips up and down the scaffold to make sure it looked right before he did the final smoothing. Sometimes what "IS" right doesn't "LOOK" right.

This is Seraphim, our resident chandelier expert. It took three of us, two ladders and 50 feet of rope to do the removal and now the reinstall.
This is a view of both icons from the back of the nave.
This is the Platytera over the altar.

And the Pantocrator with the chandelier back in place. We'll probably do some kind of border and gold leafing around the icon and the bottom edge of the dome later.

Friday, June 05, 2009

How Could This Happen?

This is a news story today from my city, Mesa. Mesa is known as a conservative community, it has a Mormon Temple and probably more Mormon Churches and other Churches per square mile than any place else in Arizona. So, how does something like THIS happen here?

Has our culture, even in a city with a pervasive presence of "Christians", really come to a place that the influence and impact of Christianity (in the loosest definition of the term) is unfelt and unconsidered in such a fundamental decision regarding the definition of a human being?

Lord have mercy on us all.

Slots, Sin, Church and Death

As I was driving through Las Vegas on my way to St. John's Monastery, I saw two billboards, one for a new casino and one for a new church. Both were saying the same thing. Listen HERE.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Dog Ruminations

I sat at supper late tonight. Wifie was conducting choir practice. I made ribs, mashed potatoes with carmelized onions and garlic, and corn on the cob. Duke is licking my elbow, panting with his crazed anticipation of a bone as usual. I hug his neck and scratch behind his ears and hand off the bone. I know I am handing him his last meals. He takes it as a sign of love. He runs outside with it, I hear the flapping of the dog door. He is dog happy. I feel like I am betraying him.

In the back yard the sprinkler is running to soften the ground in the corner where all of our dogs, cats, mice, hamsters and fish are buried. Sixteen years of pets. Some time in the next couple days I will dig Duke's grave. He lays on the grass in the yard gnawing his bone, oblivious to the meaning of the sprinkler running at ten o'clock at night.

The last dogs we buried were old. They lived out their days and had strokes or some calamitous seizure and euthanasia was a merciful end. They lived long with us and we could not imagine life without them, but the fallen order and death separates not just human beings, but human beings and all creation, including our animals. Like Adam, we named our animal and called him "Duke" when we got him from the Dog Pound, and he learned his new name. But even with a new name it did not renew his nature; he is a victim of the fallen order and the alienation of creation and humanity, and it will result in death that not even love can overcome in this fallen cosmic order.

Can dogs repent? I don't know. I know they can learn. I also know they can "feel guilty". But Rahab showed more "guilt" slinking off the couch when we came home than Duke does for biting a friend of the family. His nature and nurture are too overpowering, he cannot but bite and defend some dog boundary that we cannot unravel. The fallen order forces us to choose between a loyal part of the family and the safety and wellbeing of future strangers, friends or family who may come into our home. It is not a choice we were intended to have to make, either for dogs or human beings. But we do. And it is hard. And it hurts like hell whether it is a dog or a husband, a brother, a wife, a friend or an employee.

So for a couple more nights I will pet my dog. I will let him lick my elbow at the supper table to get my attention. I will feed him table scraps. I will enjoy the annoyance. Soon I will miss it.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Duke the Fallen Dog

Tonight is a sad night.

Duke is one of our "No More Dogs Dogs" after we had to euthanize Rahab.

Duke has lived with us for over three years now. It became obvious after we adopted him that he was severely beaten as a puppy. After three years he still barks at me when I enter the house and, depending on what I'm wearing and how I stand, will growl at me, and cower and run out the dog door in my presence. But he has gotten to the point that, in certain circumstances, he will also sit in my lap and lick my hand and nuzzle me. Every sign of dog affection has been a landmark event with him.

Today he bit one of our friends (that he had met very recently and was fine with) and we had to take her to Urgent Care. Its not the first time he's nipped at someone recently. It seems in the process of getting "well" he's become less fearful of strangers and even people he's met before that he fears for some reason. I have to believe he means well, if I can project human reasoning on a dog.

I tend to go the second, third and fourth mile with people. I know we are all broken. I know human beings do strange and sometimes aggressive things because they have been broken.

But tonight, my wife and I have decided we need to put Duke down. We have too many people in our house, including children. As much as we love Duke, he is dangerous. If we take him to the pound and disclose his history, they'll "destroy" him anyway. So, in the next day or two, we'll take him to the vet and we'll be the last human beings he'll see... two human beings who didn't beat him, and cared enough to make his last breath among people a painless one.

I hate what was done to him that made him fearful and aggressive. I hate the person who beat him and broke him. I hate what was done to that person that made him beat a dog. I hate that he is a dog and is only being a damaged dog. I hate that I have to make this decision.

Tomorrow after work, I'll dig his grave in our pet cemetery.

Damn it. He's my dog.