Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree

When we moved into our house about 15 years ago the yard was bare dirt and monster ant hills with big red ants that could carry small pets and children away.  We bought a live Christmas tree that year and planted it.  It is now about 30 feet tall and shades the pond.  We bought another live tree the following year and planted it on the other side of the yard.

 We ran out of pine tree room in the yard so we went with the conventional trees for a few years.  Money was tight for a lot of years with a lot of kids at home.  I've never been a big "Christmas begins on Black Friday" kind of person, and I usually wait until Christmas Eve to do my shopping.  I used to tell the kids, "That's why Circle K is open on Christmas Day."  One year I wrapped all their gifts in Circle K napkins.
We'd also wait until Christmas Eve to get our tree.  About 6PM the Christmas tree lot down the street from our house tosses all of its left over trees on the sidewalk for the taking.  So we'd take one.

One year we decided we wanted a tangerine tree for the back yard, so instead of a live Christmas tree we bought a 5 gallon tangerine and decorated it then planted it after Theophany.  This year we will probably get 50-60 tangerines.

With my construction business dropping over 50% this year and having no work the last couple weeks, the Wifey and I went down to the Christmas Tree Lot this morning and picked up our free tree (after she went to the Electric Company and put a few dollars on our "pay as you go meter" so we could cook Christmas dinner...we got home last night from Midnight Liturgy and had $5.00 worth of electricity left)

Fortunately she is of the same mind as I am...Christmas begins on Christmas Day.  There was a very nice selection of trees left in the parking lot.

 There was a beautiful 9 foot Noble Fir but it was too tall and even if I cut it down, the trunk was too big to fit in our stand so we opted for a nice 6 foot Something.

The dogs are probably thinking we're like the coolest people on earth for buying them their own personal indoor tree now. 

The wifey makes an Arizona centerpiece for the table....

And the finished tree with a happy dog, happy wife, and the Twelve Days of Christmas begin. All of our kids and the grandson will be here in a few days for a trip to Northern Arizona to spend a Christmas day with my parents.  Life is good.

Nativity 2009 at St. John's Mission

   Beginning of the Great Compline

Matins, Priestly Prayers at the Six Psalms

  The Joyous Antiphons of the Divine Liturgy

The Reading of the Gospel

   Blessed Nativity to all my readers.  
Christ is Born!  Glorify Him!

Today He is Born

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Ortho-Graph #9 - Paley Passions

Thank you to Gentleheart for suggesting the "Paley Graph".  I flunked Algebra 1 in 1967 and never heard of one of these, but it looked like a cool idea. So, this is my first of a series on "The Seven Deadly Sins". The Desert Fathers always saw the passions as inter-related and resulting in various behavior.  Of course having a monastic understanding of the depth and multitudes of manifestations of the various passions helps one to see the interplay among them (not that I have such an understanding but I have read some books and been on the internet...yeahhhhh).  Anyway, I'm sure the graph isn't exactly correctly mathematically represented, but the concept is the same.  Enjoy.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Orthograph #7 - Monastic Advice

Orthograph Archives

Ortho-graphs are simple diagrams of the illusions, delusions, pitfalls and manifestations of ego and goofiness in the spiritual life of Orthodox converts, of which I am one. Been there, done that, looked in the mirror and illustrated it.

...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

#2. Teachers

#3. Get to Know the Real Thing

#4. Judging Plates

#5. Prayer Ropes

#6. Ordination

#7. Monastic Advice 

#8. Fasting 

#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 

#38. Recipe 

# 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

#71. Piety

#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 

#75. Aspirations 

#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"

#87. Super-something 

#88.  Liturgical Worship Leaders

#89.  Pray unto the Lord, ye catechumens

#90. True Confessions #4 

#91. Hidden Tiger, Prostrating Dragon

Curmudgeophan on Ponytails

#92. Separately...

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

Ortho-quiz #1

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

Orthoquiz #2

Follow Your Dream

The Glass

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

S-P Spill

Lectionary Jokers

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

Russian Olympics

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

Black Hole

Orthograph #118 Martyrdom

Orthograph #119 Cost of Discipleship - Orthodox

What Cannibals Eat for Lent

Orthokitsch Mall: Lenten Glasses

American Martyrdom

Orthograph #120 Games Men Play

Orthograph #121 Taking the Bait

Beefcake Sunday

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

Solomon Sez 

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

Summer Vacation

Transferring Bishops

Orthograph #141 Testimonies

Lilliputian Liturgies #1

Old Country Parades

Ecumenical Loaded Questions

Pious Architecture

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

Clergy Lineup

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Christmas Feast - Gary Update

About the time Gary was admitted to the hospital he was in the middle of the push and planning for his Interfaith Ministry homeless/shut-in Christmas dinner.  A month ago a board of past participants from various Churches took over the planning, but Gary's spirit was truly the energizing force behind the event.

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. 
A local Mexican restaurant (El Penasco) closes on this day each year and donates his kitchen, staff and dining room for this event. The owner's name is "Angel", and indeed he is.

Our Mission was the 5 AM prep crew.  We started the dozens of gallons of green beans and corn, and began warming the tens of pounds of mashed potatoes and turkey.

At about 9 AM the rest of the donations of desserts, turkeys and the volunteers to pack and drive loads of dinners to the homeless all over Phoenix and serve the poor in the dining room began arriving. This is the production line for dishing up and boxing up the thousands of "to go" dinners to be distributed over two hundred square miles of the city.

The men from the Shelter/Rehab came at 5 AM to help set up. I talked to the House "lead man" and told him if there was any way to get the nursing staff at the Home to set Gary up and let him out for a few hours, try to work it out and bring him here...this is what Gary has lived for these last few weeks.  A few hours later they arrived with Gary in a wheelchair and an oxygen tank.  This is me, Gary and Fr. Damian, the priest of our Mission.

The Spirit of Jesus attracted the kiddos. The spirit of a man can be seen reflected in the eyes of children around him.

 Gary gathered the strength to stand up and survey the work of his hands in the vineyard of the Lord.

He sat in his wheelchair for about four hours and watched his dream fulfilled.  Thousands of meals went out the doors of El Penasco in the name of Jesus by those who love Him, hundreds came to the restaurant for a Christmas feast... because Gary had a heart for his Lord and Saviour and the ones 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."

Gary wept.

At the end of the day, Gary rejoiced.  He is, as he said, "God ready."

 Yes, Gary, you have been good. Far better than I in my dogmatic correctness.

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.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Prayers at The Banquet

Today's Gospel: "Go out into the streets and lanes of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame." And the slave said, "Lord, we have done what You ordered and there is still room." And the Master said, "Go into the roads and highways and compel people to come in that My house may be filled." Luke 14:15-24

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

Renaissance Festival Business Attire

Last night I had to go to a somewhat formal meeting that was not Church related. I can't remember the last time I did that. My basic life's wardrobe consists of three things. A cassock or a gold dress. Work jeans and t-shirt. OK, four things... I have my flannel Grinch pajamas that I wear around the house. Five things... For special occassions I have a Hawaiian shirt.
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...

Nothing happened.

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

Happy Holiday, Podcast Version

The spiritual politics of giving to the undeserving poor. On Steve the Builder HERE

Click Here

Excellent Quote

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.

The entire lecture can be heard HERE and the QandA HERE

H/T to Jamey

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Happy... Holiday!

Associated Press Posted on December 1, 2009 at 1:15 PM

HOUSTON -- Happy holidays — now where's that immigration paperwork?

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

Decisions, Decisions: Pop Tart Redux

Those who have followed my blog for a long time know my affection for Pop Tarts and junk food,
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