Saturday, February 28, 2009

Drywall Helpers to the Rescue!

The drywall hanging began in earnest today. About 10 people came today and helped put up about 50 sheets of drywall on the ceilings and walls in the lower parts of the nave while Javier and I did the more complicated and difficult parts (being trained professionals and all that). God bless those guys, most of them tap keyboards and click mouses for livings... and even I was sore after today, so I can imagine how they felt at Vespers tonight. But the "Glory to God" and "WOW" factor of building a Church is worth the pain.

This is the ceiling above the altar and we're beginning the sheetrock the area behind the altar between the windows where the Platytera Icon will go (not the one in the link per se)

This is the area behind the altar viewed from up high from the back of the nave, the dome is not quite finished being plastered yet.

And this is the dome and high window on the back wall of the nave viewed from the altar area.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Dome Plastering Begins

I had a job reschedule yesterday so I had a chance to go to the Church and do the wire lathing for the dome. This is a fine meshed "diamond lath" that is very flexible but when stretched and installed well, holds its shape and holds plaster very well. It is also razor sharp. It is stapled to the ribs. I used about 2000 staples to attach the lath (with a compressor and air stapler...not one of those you squeeze by hand.) At the end of the day you usually have a dozen or more tiny cuts and gouges all over your hands and arms from working with it (waaah)....
(For those new to blogs, you can click on the pictures to enlarge them to see the details better).

Today I had another job fall through. Javier and I and Fr. Damian hung the rest of the ceilings in the nave and our City Construction Inspector showed up and gave us a "green tag" on the lathing, so I was able to begin plastering the dome today (yay!). I'm using a product called Structolite. It is a lightweight but strong interior plastering system which doesn't weigh down the lathing and stretch it out of shape like heavier cement and sand based stucco would do. However, it will still take over 600 pounds of plaster to get the basic shape of the dome and get it ready for the final smooth coats.

This is the initial "scratch coat" which you push through the holes in the lath and it fills in the lath and provide some rigidity to the entire structure. After this is done and cured, there will be 2 more coats of plaster then two smooth coats of drywall joint compound over that.

I'm lovin' it!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Fairy Tales and Science

Science and Fairy Tales have one thing in common...
myspace layouts

but only one is telling you the truth. Steve the Builder tells you who it is.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Faceless Book

JamestheThickheaded has a hilarious post about his recent dive into social networking that is told in his inimitable stream of conciousness and Rorschachish mixed metaphorical way.

To me, setting up a social networking page is kinda like buying a fixer upper house... Oh, it has so much potential to be such a beautiful place, look at all the neat features and wonderful things in it...and you spend all this time fixing up your "house", in fact it starts consuming you...and hey!...look at all the people from the past that ummmm... come out of the woodwork to visit you. And it ends up being kinda
like THIS

So, I think I'll take the advice...I'll "get out" before I get in and before I need an exorcism to remove my Facebook site. And I will continue to have the freedom of not sitting for hours trying to figure out who someone is and if my wife might care if the woman with the Elvira avatar is my "friend", having to decide which total strangers or casual internet aquaintances to befriend or not, and I won't spend my evenings turning down invitation after invitation by the same to be someone's "friend, contact, significant someone, casual aquaintance #3,764, mutual admirer, network associate, buddy, or long lost grade, junior high, high school, college, religious or business chum".

If you're my friend, you probably have my email address or phone number. Good 'nuff.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

I'm Really Too Old for This

We got our inspections and started drywalling the ceilings today. In order to not have to put fire sprinklers in we had to hang the building with 5/8" fire code sheetrock. It weighs about 130 pounds a sheet. Getting them 14 feet in the air is a challenge. A couple Mission members and some men from the Shelter helped lift the sheets. It's looking like a Church!

Monday, February 23, 2009


Father James (who has a great Bible study podcast on Icon New Media Network) had an interesting post on his blog about a 170 foot cross erected by a Church in Houston.

As always the comments are interesting to follow.

I happened to be at St. Anthony's Monastery in Florence today working on the guest quarters. As I strolled through the grounds showing my helper around we came across this.

Is there really a difference?

Friday, February 20, 2009

Dome Update

Today I finished putting the "ribs" in the dome of the Church. It is ready for wire lath and plaster after our rough framing and electrical inspections next week. For perspective on size, that is Anthony, one of the men from the homeless shelter that Fr. Damian and I pray daily Vespers and teach Bible study at on Thursday nights. (He's not that tall, he is standing on the deck of the loft that will be removed after I do the plastering.) They sent four men over to help with insulation and electrical work today.

Javier started on the framing of the altar area. There will be a 6' high by 9' wide wall that will go up to the 14 foot ceiling behind and over the altar for an icon of the Panagia. The blacked out areas are large windows that the wall will cover. The side windows that angle upward will be on either side of the altar and will stay for natural light into the Church.

Homeless, Hungry, God Bless

The expanded podcast version of "Who Do You See" is now available at Ancient Faith Radio.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Building St. John's Church, Dome Update

We're continuing construction on our Mission's Church building. As Javier and I were framing the ceiling last week I decided we had enough height to build a dome inside the ceiling structure. Fr. Damian was at the OCA Western Diocesan Mission's Conference for the week so I was just going to do it as a suprise, but decided I probably should call Fr. Damian and discuss it with him. When I called he was in a session with the Bishop about the necessity of beauty in our ethos of worship and had talked to an architect about our building design... and they were discussing changing the structure to reflect a more traditional Church. So, I got the blessing to proceed.

The disk is the top of the dome structure at the center of the nave.

This is the bottom rim of the 10 foot diameter dome. We cut and build it on the floor then hang it from the rafters.
This is the bottom of the dome being installed and levelled. The bottom rim of the dome will be the ceiling height of the building at fourteen feet.

This is the roughed in structure. We will design and cut about forty arched "ribs" that will be the actual shape of the dome.

This is us ( installing the "ribs" for the shape of the dome. These will hold the wire lath for the plaster.
Javier is framing loose ends in the dome area for backing and support for the dome and the ribs.

This is Father Damian, our priest, who has quite a bit of experience in construction. He spent most of the afternoon cutting the ribs while Javier and I framed and installed them. We got about one fourth of the ribs done today.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Thursday, February 12, 2009

On Becoming a Saint (Please scroll down line by line as you read)

We become saints by living according to what God has given us, nothing more, nothing less. We often live in envy or jealousy of someone else's life and in doing so miss our own life and vocation.

St. Paul in I Corinthians 12 talks about the "unseemly members" of the body being the more necessary. In Romans 9 he talks about the Potter and the clay and that God fashions some vessels for honorable use (Ming Vases) and some for dishonorable use (toilets), but in the end you can live without a Ming vase easier than the other and in a pinch you'd use a Ming vase for dishonorable purposes.

I told the men at the Shelter, the reality is that more of us are toilets than vases and our purpose is taking crap from life and other people gracefully, like Christ who took all the crap Satan and humanity could dump on Him as God. "Dishonorable use" doesn't mean "going to hell" it just means we are perhaps blessed with a greater and more needful purpose and therefore will have greater temptations and trials in life. Those who have it "easy" don't often become saints.

It is those who fulfill their purpose and are willing to take the crap and do the "dirty work" of being holy, who go to and associate with the lowly, the dirty, the dregs- and yes, even the assholes - who are the ones who are saved and who save those around them. The saint in this icon is the one you can't see... like most of the saints in this life.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Last Chance

As Lent looms large on the horizon the Orthodox blogosphere is ripe with posts about fasting, food and anticipatory fear of the 54 days of spiritual discipline. So I'll join the parade and just in case there is some prodigal Orthodox person who only reads my blog, I'm putting you on notice: Meatfare Sunday is upon us! Last chance for a corn dog pizza...
...or my favorite: The Big-Bacon-Cheese-Mac- Three bacon grilled cheese sandwiches as buns, 2 all beef patties and, of course, bacon.... hold the sesame seeds, lettuce and pickles, please.

If it wasn't for the services and hymnography and beauty of the season, Lent would be hell.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Orthodox Celebrities


OK, sure, I live in Arizona. The Cardinals lost. Yeah, I was disappointed. But the Superbowl was probably the fourth football game I've watched in my life. Its the third one I've watched in the past year including the last Superbowl that I watched with my son who was from Boston. (The last one before that was when Bart Starr lept over the top of the Dallas defense in the final seconds to win the AFC championship in ... ummm, 1966?) So, all that to say, this isn't sour grapes.... I'm not that invested in "my hometown team".

Anyway, I've probably gotten a dozen or more emails and seen as many blog posts about.... (I had to stop here to look up his name) Troy Polamalu, the Orthodox football player for the Steelers, who frequents St. Anthony's Monastery and talks to the Elder for spiritual direction. I guess that makes him.... what? Either an Orthodox Christian who happens to be a football star, or a football star who happens to be Orthodox.

If he's an Orthodox Christian who happens to be a football star, he's no different than any other Orthodox Christian. I know Orthodox Christians who happen to be secretaries, cable installers, CEO's, cooks, janitors, tile setters and recovering this and thats. All of them are serious about their faith, some of them even go to St. Anthony's and talk to the Elder. All of them are kinda screwed up in their own unique ways and are struggling to become like Christ in their private arenas. Whose spiritual warfare is harder, Troy or the cable installer or the cook? We don't know. But I do know no one sends around emails about them.

If he's a football star who happens to be Orthodox, he's no different than any other Orthodox Christian. The question we have to ask is "Why does his stardom (or anyone's stardom) add anything to our regard for him as an Orthodox Christian?" The answer to that question is probably more about us than about him. His icons are already all over the internet. His hagiography is published in blogs and emails. I'm sure that if it could be aquired, relics of his hair and Superbowl sweat and threads of his grass stained jersey would be coveted by many. But in reality he's a Steeler, not a Saint. Perhaps by the grace of God he will be a saint one day, but until that day the fact that he can tackle someone is no more a plus or minus to the work he has to do to attain sainthood than cleaning a toilet well, troubleshooting a cable connection or grilling a burger medium rare.

I think we would do well to temper our enthusiasm for Orthodox celebrities. Worldly accomplishments are admirable within a small set of parameters no matter what anyone does. I can't tackle Larry Fitzgerald, Troy probably can't frame a barrel vaulted ceiling. It just happens that if you can tackle Larry you can make 7 million a year and be watched by 3 billion people missing a tackle. But what does that have to do with being Orthodox? What makes us both Orthodox is the inner life and the spiritual warfare in the context of our unique lives within the Church. The spiritual warfare is just as intense and just as hard for the cable guy in a one bedroom trailer with a minimum wage job and a child on the way as it is driving home from the locker room of the Superbowl champions in a Ferrari.

OK, I do think its cool he's Orthodox. If I see him at St. Anthony's I might be tempted for a couple seconds to ask for his autograph or at least say hi to him so I can tell my kids I said HI to Troy. I'm still human. But so is he, and we should hold him in the same regard and with the same awe as the person who is standing next to us in Liturgy: both are seeking the Kingdom and both are in the arena in mortal combat with the devil for the salvation of their souls. And perhaps some day both will be Saints.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

We Have a Building Permit!

Our Mission recently moved to a two acre
plot of land that used to be a model house
display for "True Value" manufactured
homes that has basically gone out of business. You can see an arial view on our website's home page (click "more information" next to the thumbnail picture). The building you see here is in the upper left of the picture. The owner has rented us the land and 4 buildings for 3,500.00, less than what it would cost us to rent one piece of commercial space that would barely house our current Mission's needs. The land is two blocks off the freeway, fronts University Drive, main thoroughfare, and is one mile from Arizona State University. There is an unfinished mountain chalet that we are going to remodel as a Church building. (The land is a park-like setting with paths between the houses and a gazebo in the center that you can see.) We are currently holding services in one of the other houses in the living room. Once we move in here, the other three buildings will become offices, classrooms, and parish hall.

This is part of the interior that we are reframing
for the altar area. My helper Javier is putting up the header for the royal doors, to the left in the picture is one of the deacon's doors. The staircase he is standing on goes up to a loft that will eventually be removed to open up the area for the nave. To the far left where the windows are will be remodeled and become the narthex and the choir and chanter's area. (Editor's note: this eventually changed, but in later posts you will see how the building took on a "life of its own" and ended up far more beautiful than we imagined at this stage.)

Here we are bracing up the high A-framed ceiling in order to remove the weight bearing wall and put in new headers to hold up the up the building. This will allow us to remove the loft and the bedroom wall to open the entire area to become the nave.

This is the wall removed and new headers
installed. The loft will be removed after
we install the electrical, ductwork and
insulation in the ceiling areas above the
loft. We're doing 90% of the work with volunteers and on my "down days", which there have been a lot of lately with the economy. We have a budget of about 12,000.00 to do the remodelling, and we've managed to find a few really good deals on materials on Craig's list. One person whose electrical contracting business went bankrupt gave us almost all the electrical supplies we needed as a donation. If all goes well, we hope to hold Holy Week and Pascha services here instead of our living room.