Friday, July 31, 2009

Capital Punishment, Part 2

The Flood is the dividing line of human history regarding capital punishment. The covenant with Noah was not abrogated by Moses. What does that mean? LISTEN HERE.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

A Stray WHAT????

So. The wifey takes the dog for a walk to the dog park every morning about 5:30am before it gets to be 100. She usually comes back with the dog. In the past she's come back with more dogs. Before that, she's come home with cats, hamsters and turtles. (But she could retort I come home with boa constrictors, rats, birds and stuffed armadillos.) Anyway, I was getting ready to leave for work while she was at the dog park. I was brushing my teeth and heard some laughter and doors opening and closing and then silence. Then my cell phone rang. It was the wifey.

"Go look in the back yard and see what I found at the dog park!"

I sighed.. OK

Meet Moo (and Maggie...she's the one on the left). The daughter calls her Moo because she immediately started eating the lawn.

The funny thing is, I was working at a client's home today and told her about finding the tortoise and she said, "WOW!! I used to raise tortoises! HOW COOL!!" She said they are very sociable and will respond to their name. (This one comes out when people are in the yard and likes to be petted on the head.) So she gave me a lot of advice and care and feeding tips and knows about a "Tortoise Society" locally. We did some googling and found out we have an African Sulcata Tortoise. They get upwards of 100 pounds or more. Moo is well on the way.

We were talking at supper. We're the only people I know that have found three turtles in Arizona. I think she's a keeper (Moo and Maggie...)

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Capital Punishment, Part 1

I'm beginning a four part series on "Capital Punishment" on the "Steve the Builder" podcast. Part One is the beginning of my shift from Woodstockian radical pacifism to the reconsideration of the death penalty from my experiences working with emotionally disturbed boys.
What does Bruce Lee and Chuck Norris have to do with it? LISTEN HERE.

Monday, July 20, 2009


Those of you who have followed my blog for a long time know how I feel about Kellogg's trying to jam "Healthy" PopTarts down our throats, and what I think about Food Police . I've always told people that some day they will dig me up and think I'm incorrupt, but it was just the little chocolate donuts.

Anyway, one of my favorite lunch spots has finally stepped up to the plate and gone "Green"...

Taco Bell's New Green Menu Takes No Ingredients From Nature

Saturday, July 18, 2009

What Not to Do When It's 115

A client wanted me to raise the top of their wall to keep coyotes out of their yard so they won't eat their miniature Greyhound dogs. I thought about hiring a fence company, but construction is in the tank here and like almost everyone else, I don't have any work, so I told him I'd do it. It beats sitting at home with no work and not being able to afford ice cubes. (I told someone the other day, whenever I'm broke I pray for money and all God sends me is work...what's up with THAT?)

I've never built a fence before, but I've watched guys do it lots of times. I figured, it's not like I'm building a space lab. It took me a day to jackhammer the decorative top of the old fence off first (I still have another section of fence to do yet). That was manly.
I have a new tool now too. Christmas in July for a contractor. The jackhammer rental was 100.00 a day. A new jackhammer is 400.00. I rented one a month ago for another project...hmmmm. Buy jackhammer, charge clients for rental fee. Yep, that's how its done.

Anyway, I went to Home Depot to buy the block, mortar and concrete and found out I'd need to make about 5 trips in my pickup. Those 8x8x16 blocks and bags of mortar and concrete are dang heavy. And they don't get any lighter when you mix them with water and install it all. Mixing concrete in a big tub with a hoe and putting up block uses a different set of muscles from sheetrock. But what the heck, it all hurts at the end of the day...pain is pain.

One thing I found out the hard way that I discovered when I got home from work.... I didn't pay enough attention to when I was watching those guys lay block is "What Not to Wear". The hat covered my bald spot, but I think this is going to leave a mark. I know that high collared riassa and sub-deacon's outfit is going to be really annoying tomorrow morning.
So, yeah, we always tell people "its a dry heat". But after ten minutes you're drenched in sweat and look like someone just tossed you in the pool anyway, so it doesn't matter. I've lived here since 1966 and worked construction in it for 27 years now. You do get acclimated. For 20 of those years I drove "beater" work vehicles with no air conditioning. I bought my first new work vehicle 7 years ago with A/C. Yeah... its nice.

I remember the hottest day on record in Phoenix back in '92, it was 127 and they had to shut the airport down because the air was so "thin" at that temperature the aerodynamics of the wings wouldn't support the planes. I happened to be working in a 5,000 sq. ft. office warehouse building whose exterior walls were all glass. There was one door into the entire building and no ductwork or air in it yet. It was probably over 150 degrees inside the building. I was doing the taping and spraying texture on the sheetrock adding about 60 gallons of water into the air, so the humidity was high. I could only work for about 15 minutes at a time. I'd walk outside into the vast expanse of blazing asphalt parking lot to guzzle hot Gatorade and wring out my shirt... and it felt like I was walking into a walk-in freezer...I actually got goosebumps. Of course, it MIGHT have been that I am so spiritually advanced I experienced the fiery furnace as a dewy breeze...

...or not.

OK, its so hot (some of these are actually true):

  • the birds wear asbestos socks to sit on power lines or walk on the street.
  • you no longer associate bridges (or rivers) with water.
  • the cows here give evaporated milk.
  • hot chiles work as ice cubes.
  • you have the logo of your car branded on your belly from your seat belt.
  • the temperature drops below 95, you put on a sweater.
  • you've experienced condensation on your butt from the hot water in the toilet bowl.
  • the 4 seasons are: warm, hot, really hot, and hell.
  • you discover that you can get a sunburn through your windshield.
  • hot water now comes out of both taps.
  • at 7:00am getting in your car is like climbing into your oven.
  • the first gallon of water from your garden hose comes out as steam.
  • you realize that asphalt has a liquid state.
  • Chapstick melts into a puddle your glove compartment.
  • a sad Arizonan once prayed, "I wish it would rain - not so much for me, cuz I've seen it -- but for my 7-year-old."
Why live here? Its only for a couple months and in December I don't have to shovel 3 feet of sunshine off my driveway to leave for work. If I want to see snow, I'll google it, thank you.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Drowning Worms

My oldest son and I got up at 5am, loaded up the fishing poles and headed up to Payson to go fishing with my dad. Dad said, "Oh, be here around 7:30, we'll go grab some breakfast then go to the lake." It wasn't about "fishing" if you hit the lake around ten in the morning and don't take the boat.

When we arrived the truck was out of the garage, the extra poles, tackle box, two white styrofoam cups of worms and bottled water were all loaded in the back of the pickup and he met us on the front porch...he'd probably been sitting at the window watching the street.

The whole day was a quintessential "Dad" excursion. We left the house and went to "Tiny's" a mom and pop diner for breakfast. He knew the owners, that they were Greek, how many kids they had, yakked with the cashier about her new baby. When we went to the lake he greeted strangers as if he knew them all their life. "Any luck?" "Nothing for the last couple hours..." But we were there to fish, so we hiked in anyway...

We fished from shore for about an hour. It was just as the guy said in the parking lot, no bites.

So we left the lake and hiked back to the parking lot. We stopped about half way so Dad could catch his breath. The slight incline was too much after three triple and quadruple bypass operations. He drove us around "his neighborhood", the dirt roads of the Mogollon Rim. As we travelled around the back roads he told stories about his scout troop and how the Park Ranger Jim would let him and his scout troop camp anywhere they wanted to, even in the "no camping" areas around the lake. He knew who owned the old ranches and built this and that cabin. He mentioned my brother a few times (who died a drug addict about 6 years ago), the places along the way they hunted and camped together. We stopped at another lake and tried there for about an hour...and again succeeded in drowning a few more worms. Then, we travelled some more back roads and came out in Heber by the post office. We went to "Red's" for lunch there, and he talked to the cook about the chili he'd been watching him making.

We took the highway back to the house and while we sipped iced tea he dozed off in his recliner. When we left he loaded us up with a bag of zuchinni and crook neck squash from his garden. We didn't catch any fish, but I got a hug and a glad smile from my dad. A bad day fishing with your dad is better than a good day blogging.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Going Fishing

To all who left comments on "Past, Present, Future"...thank you for your support and love. I'm humbled beyond words.

As you've noticed, I'm still doing the blog, and I'll probably keep it up since it isn't much work and its how my friends and kids keep up with me (unlike Facebook etc. I don't have to turn down "friends" and have the temptation to check out everyone else's "books".) Its all the other internet stuff that sucks the hours up.

I called my dad this weekend and told him I'm coming up next Monday with my oldest son and we're going fishing. (The lakes in Northern Arizona are a zoo on the weekends, we'll be heading up when everyone is coming home and we'll have the lake to ourselves.) He was happy. I'll be posting pictures.

The wifey arrived home last night and I could tell she was a bit shocked that the house was clean. Yay, men!

Saturday, July 04, 2009

She'll Be Comin' Round the Mountain...

The wifey has been at St. John's Monastery for the last week and a half, and got to be there for their feast day where MP Jonah and Bp. Benjamin celebrated with them and tonsured a few monks and installed Fr. Meletios Webber as the new Abbott of the monastery. (I stayed home because I couldn't afford to miss ANY work at this point.)

So, she'll be home tomorrow night. I have about ten days of bachelorhood I need to hide within the next 24 hours. You'd think after 35 years of marriage (not in a row...) I'd pretty much know what her eyes (and nose) will go to like a ball bearing to a magnet as she walks in to the house through the garage door. OK.

Laundry room...get the pile down below the timber line. ("No honey, that's not snow on top of the pile, those are the whites.") Check.

Garbage can...empty the evidence. Five Oscar Mayer hot dog packages, three Lay's Barbeque potato chip bags, two Captain Crunch boxes, two pork and bean cans, one Spam can, ten bacon packages...a lot of beer bottles. Put in new liner, add empty oatmeal box, banana and orange peels, corn husks with "Organically Grown" label showing, 12 Grain Bread wrapper, fat free turkey lunch meat package, empty skim milk carton. Check.

Kitchen...dump bacon grease out of frying pan, boil some oatmeal, remove half, leave it conspicuously on the stove, power wash stove ( honey, its clean...I bought us a new brown stove while you were gone!) find belt sander in shed to clean countertops, look for sink...googled it, "its under the pile of dishes usually", walk on floor in loose flip flops to see where it sticks the worst, acid wash floor. Check.

Fridge...remove all the green stuff, replace with lettuce, zuchinni and bell peppers, take out beer, replace with 2% milk carton and organic pomegranate juice bottle...pour half out into sink first...throw away pizza, replace with pita bread and hummus, set mouse trap for the stuff that keeps moving around. Check.

Dining room...find table, googled it...I think I see a pattern developing. hmmm...I didn't know we had 37 glasses, 19 coffee cups, 43 forks, 17 knives, 28 plates and 23 assorted pieces of Tupperware. I think all the mail will fit in a lawn and leaf bag. hmmm...maybe I should move my compressor, the lawn mower, the tool box, and screw gun off it too. Check.

Living room...make sure bird and dog are still alive. Clean bird can a 4 inch bird manufacture six inches of crap...especially when it only gets fed once a week? Rake up dog hair. Check.

Bedroom...wash sheets. (What's wrong, honey...YOUR side is clean, just like you left it!) Remove beer bottles, Fritos bags, bean dip and sardine cans from nightstands. Light vanilla scented candle, let burn for 24 hours. Check.

Bathroom...find blowtorch and sandpaper, clean sink plumber to replace toilet. Find some flexible towels and washcloths to put up. Check.

Well... "Welcome home, sweetie! Nah, no problems...everything was great, I did just fine...."

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Past, Present, Future

You'd never guess it, but in reality I'm somewhat of a closet recluse. I don't like crowds of people, parties, new places, new faces, big gatherings, large tables with lots of people sitting at them, conferences, meetings and events. But I have the gift of gab from my Dad and from an early age people told me I'm good at being in front of an audience, (though I wouldn't go out of my way to try to get there), and when I became a protestant Christian at age 17, I discovered I had the gift of teaching. So, to not "bury my talent", I do it if asked. I admit once I'm there I can and do have some fun, so its not torture, but it is exhausting.

This year marks 40 years of being pretty "public" as a Christian in various situations, roles and ministries (even though 37 of them have been as a layman), and 50 years of serious pursuit of God and concious desire to serve Him. I hadn't really thought of it until I wrote this sentence, but 40 (or 50) years is well... a lot of wandering around in front of a lot of people.

My recent trip to St. John's Monastery gave me a lot of time to reflect. Actually, I always have time to reflect, it was just a different landscape and routine which sometimes we need to jolt us out of our familiar ways of doing things that connect to familiar ways of thinking of things which connect to familiar ways of seeing things which connects to continuing to do the familiar things in a familiar way. The series of podcasts I did seemed to take on a life of their own as an extended rumination about life and death. It's not the first time I've thought about death. Death has been a constant underlying stream in my conciousness since I can remember, but it just seemed to bubble to the surface. I've known I'm mortal for a long time, so its not that kind of awakening. I know I'm much closer to my death than I am to my birth at this point in my life.

One of the questions "discussion starters" like to ask is, "What would you change about your life if you knew you only had a year left to live?" (or some variation). In my mind the shallow answers have always been the self indulgent ones: take a cruise, sky dive, have an affair with a bimbo (or gigolo), or even go to Africa and dig wells in the Sahara for the poor. That too is a self indulgent fantasy. The unfulfilled dream, the unrealized false image of my magnanimous self, the egoistic self created image of myself I never had the time or motivation or will to do anything about because deep down we know we're lying to ourselves, its not real. The problem with discussion starters is our answers are still a fantasy and still tied to our current delusions about our selves. But that's another whole discussion...

Anyway, for about 49 years I thought I was supposed to be a priest. It started in first grade at St. William's where I went to a Catholic Parochial elementary school and served Mass as an altar boy every morning with Fr. Wiley for three years. The desire continued through my detours through protestantism, Episcopalianism and into Orthodoxy (though I have the canonical impediment of a divorce prior to Orthodoxy that can be pastorally overlooked if a Bishop decides to do so.) I became Orthodox with little hope of being ordained or ever getting to teach in any public setting due to the clerical nature of the Church. But, without me pursuing it but mysteriously being in the right places and meeting the right people, I've been able to have a lay teaching ministry beyond any wild fantasy I could have ever conjured up even as a Protestant teacher. I know it is a blessing from God.

Because of my wanderings and meeting so many people, over the ten years I've been Orthodox, I've been put before five bishops by laymen, priests, bishops, abbotts and abbesses for ordination, and denied by all for various reasons (not all related specifically to anything about me or my divorce). I saw a pattern developing... I've been told which Bishops in which jurisdictions ordain divorced men, I've been told to move to Greece and spend "x" months at "x" monastery and "x" elder would see that I got ordained...yada yada yada. But I won't play that game.

The last couple years I've been more and more convicted (that's a good protestant term), that I in fact would make a lousy priest and my desire for the priesthood has been a lifelong delusion reinforced by the unwitting affirmation of my public "spiritual persona" by even some very holy (and sometimes goofy) people over the years.

Recently, an old friend I've known for about 25 years who journeyed into Orthodoxy with me, graduated from seminary, moved back here and got a position with a large parish in town. He read me his "job description". I listened, and when he finished, I told him I have no desire to do any of that stuff. Finally, the coffin of "full time ministry" and ordination to the priesthood was nailed shut,(or so I think...I know better than to predict the future.) The realization that I have actually been doing for forty years what I really love and have a gift for truly sank in.

But that isn't the point.

I had dinner with my wife a two weeks ago and told her I've been feeling like I need to disappear. Or in another sense, to re-appear. I need to disappear from the internet and reappear to my family, my aging parents, my kids, and yes, my wife and even my dog. The last couple times I visited my parents (who live about 90 minutes from my house) my Dad has said, "Come up some time and let's go fishing." He's had 3 bypass operations. He's 80. I haven't been fishing with him in over 30 years, because my weekends and down times in construction have always been spent in church activities. I've thought lately, some night I'll be producing a podcast and I'll get a call from my mom... My wife said, yes, that is the good.

The evening we had that discussion over a Chinese dinner, I came home to a couple of emails from podcast listeners..."Your podcasts have helped me so much" etc. The following week I got more "fan" email than I get in a month. Even though I know Orthodoxy on the internet will go on just fine without me adding anything more to it, and my websites and podcasts will still be available, and I will still answer email, I began to waver.

My wife is at St. John's Monastery for their feast day. I stayed home because I had work scheduled and I can't afford to miss a day of work now. I emailed her and told her I was reconsidering. She wrote back tonight (in part):

"Here is my honest reaction: You have such a powerful influence on us all. I don't know if you realize how important you are to your family. You've spent a long time helping the world, and it's been good. I think it would be nothing but positive for you to focus on your Dad and Mom while they're still here...and for you to get a little rest , write a book if you want, and just "be", even if it's just for a few years. Really, that's my heart on the subject. It's not like you've squandered the gifts that you've been given, my Precious. We've all shared you with the world for a long time."

I've always told new converts who are looking for a "clairvoyant elder" to tell them their sins to just ask their wife or family to be honest with them. I think I've been told, and by my saintly wife who has never complained about my ministerial wanderings (one might note that she never mentioned "more time with her" in her response).

So, I have a lot of work to do in the next few weeks. Things to wrap up and close down and leave to others. I need to do some internet things in order to make them self perpetuating (the OLiC website will be redesigned to be more user friendly for new people, but no new content added in the forseeable future). With one click, the delete button will take care of all the bookmarks and links to everything I spend hours a week checking in on. Hopefully in a few weeks I'll be fishing with my dad and sitting on the back porch holding my wife's hand watching the sunset and maybe even praying a little bit more instead of producing podcasts in the basement catacomb studio, reading, studying, moderating discussion lists and commenting on blogs etc.

That said, I'll stick around until I get all this in place and then probably do a final podcast about this decision before I close it all down. I will probably keep my blog since it is the only way my kids and friends know what is going on in my life (I won't do Facebook).

Pray for me. This is a hard decision.