A little grave shopping…

This Saturday my wife and I will be going grave shopping.

No, nothing’s up, at least not that I know of.

It’s just time, what with all the potential moves we may make and having no children, to take care of these things. Once it’s handled it’s handled and then we can just get on with life.

We’re going to be buried, some day, outside of a little town called Vilard in western Minnesota. Vilard is a few miles from Osakis, Minnesota, where my wife’s family is from and by coincidence one of her friend’s family has a smal cemetery on a hill by a lake out in the country. The plots are inexpensive, a bonus these days, and the pictures of the site are, well, picturesque.

So off we go this Saturday on a road trip through the prairie to see our new and simultaneously last earthly home. It’ll be a whole day thing, seeing the site, seeing the sights, driving past my wife’s family farm, and then, perhaps a treat at the Tip Top Dairy Bar in Osakis, one of the last places around these parts to still serve a chocolate and vanilla swirl cone.

Now we never somehow got around to having a family plot. We were busy, and distant, and never that close to each other to ever get together and decide where to be at life’s end. So we’re on our own for these things. Mom and Dad will be one place, brothers and sister somewhere else, and probably some stranger with a lawn mower to look out after things in the years to come.

In a way that sounds kind of lonely and I think about that sometimes. There is a romantic in me that would wish to have someone come and drop by every once in a while and plant some flowers or say a prayer or light a candle (after all I am Orthodox and we go for that candle thing). That probably won’t happen and my guess is that people coming to see thier loved ones will look at our plots and wonder what kind of strangers would pick that place, a town where no one knows thier name, to rest. So I’ll probably just sink into the ground with my gravestone following after me and one day the letters will be worn off by the prairie wind and the world will have completely passed me by.

That would be a kind of hell if I didn’t believe. But I do and even those moments of reflection where I understand that all things pass, myself included, are somehow changed. I will be apart from friends and family when my time comes and yet I do believe in the communion of saints and the resurrection of the dead and so I also presume some sort of togetherness in that life which is to come and know that wherever I finally rest will be, in eternal terms, just a moment.

So its on to Vilard in just a few days to be with family and friends and buy a pair of graves. Life is full and very busy and I imagine that someday I’ll need the rest. And what better place to let the rest of the world go by then out on the Minnesota prairie, on a hill, by a lake, waiting beyond time for an angelic call.

Pray for the peace of Lebanon…

Like many in the Antiochian Archdiocese I have parishoners from Lebanon whose families still live there. For them these are very anxious times. The pictures that look to us like impressive fireworks displays or the pyrotechnics of Rambo movies are thier life and death. Really, as in done and gone and buried and never to return.

War is always an affront to Christianity, to its purposes and its calling. Even as it is sometimes a necessity it is deeply grievous and represents the depths of our brokenness. The Orthodox Church has historically expressed this in many ways not the least of which is to impose a penance, a denial of the Eucharist, to those involved in the taking of human life in war, even those who participated in a lawful, as much as war can be described in such a way, conflict. Priests are held to an even higher standard, a commitment to never take human life, even acidentally.

It is true that war will be the lot of human beings until Christ returns. We’re broken and so often unable to settle our differences without trying to extinguish the people that embody them. It is also true that Christian people may need to cross that line and take a stand, even violently, to defend the good because it is not a righteous thing to simply let evil do its work without standing for the victims.

But we need to think first. Think really hard. When wars happen people really die and not just the people we’re supposed to hate but others as well, regular folks trying to live thier lives, people with “no dog in the fight”. We call it, from the safety of our lives, “collateral damage” but that is small comfort to those get hit. And the world changes, valuable things are lost, relationships between people are permanently scarred, and the fix of war is always only temporary because the cause is deeply entwined with the very core of our being and will always find new ways to mutate.

I’m no utopian. I know bad things happen and, this side of Christ’s return, always will. But as much as my country or the media or this side or that wants me and mine to commit to this terrible conflict or that I choose to hope for a better way, to approach it all with seriousness and not simply emotion, to work as hard as I can to still the voices of hate and war inside of me, and always be ready to quickly work for peace and barring that to struggle to heal the wounds, repair the damage, and help find a better path.

So now I pray for the peace of Lebanon…

Baby, it's hot outside…

As I’m writing this the temperature outside is scurrying towards the middle 90’s where it’s been for most of the last few weeks. And it should be that way for a while yet.

We haven’t had a warm one like this for a while but temperatures this high are not unusual here in Minnesota. They were worse in the 30’s. Regardless, though, the hysteria is at least as high as the temperature and therein, as they say, lies the rub.

We’re different now, we’ve just gotten so used to having everything air conditioned that temperatures our grandparents simply accomodated are now horrid to us. It causes us panic when we can’t live full time in a climate controlled environment and God forbid we would even have to be outside and work in such a world. Simple physical endurance has left us and we’ve become fragile.

And its at this point where the fear mongers come in, entrance stage left, and start thier path to power via fear.

I remember the 70’s and the titles of major magazines breathlessly warning us about the coming global ice age. Ice age you say? Yes, that was the fear back then and now its flopped over to global warming although there are some who have been saying that global warming is responsible for some place’s colder winters, unless, of course, the winter is not actually colder and that’s also about global warming.

So I’m kind of skeptical about it all because frankly scientists can be just as irrational and political and agenda driven as anyone else. A simple question helps to clarify things. Who is getting what out of the latest claims about the weather? Who gets power? Who gets money? Who gets influence? Who gets control? Ask these things and start following the paper trail. You may be suprised at what you find.

In all of this Christianity presents a remarkably calm and consistent vision, unswayed by the latest sirroco winds. We are called to live simply, naturally, and with a view to stewardship of the Earth because it is God’s creation and we are temporary caretakers of it all, born owning nothing, departing the same, and accountable for everything in between.

We are environmentalists not out of fear, unswayed by hysterias, and desiring no power but out of love for the Creator and His handiwork and rejoicing in the priviledge of living on this unique blue orb in the middle of light years of space. Broken as it has been by sin our island home is still full of the presence of God and reflects the unmatched artistry of the One who holds all things together over the eons. To live in harmony with nature as simply as possible, and to return as much as we can is, in its own kind of way, an act of worship, a recognition of the Creator’s greatness and our response of gratitude for all this world has given us by its Framer.

Next year, perhaps, there will be a new set of headlines warning of this or that new potential catastrophe. But in the end it will be the memory of Eden and that primal call to care for this garden that will endure and we who have been given that vision would be wise to remember it always.

You didn't see this one coming…

Thanks to getreligion.org/ here’s a link to a story in USA Today about a woman who claims she is a living descendant of the marriage of Jesus and Mary Magdalene.

She doesn’t have any actual hard evidence of course, either about Jesus being married or her actually being a grandchild many generations out of such a union but she has had some visions and her publisher (I bet you were surprised she’s writing a book!) believes her.

That a lot of other people will believe her as well gives us an idea of how much work we in the Church still have ahead of us.

Thankfully we can settle this, except for the hard cores, in about a week or so with a DNA test.

Quotes and Such…

“Dorothy Sayers, the great English writer, said it best: ‘In the world it is called Tolerance, but in hell it is called Despair, the sin that believes in nothing, cares for nothing, seeks to know nothing, interferes with nothing, enjoys nothing, hates nothing, finds purpose in nothing, lives for nothing, and remains alive because there is nothing for which it will die.'”

Good stuff from Relapsed Catholic

It's all about the benjamins…

A most interesting phone call last night from a political party.

It seems they want me to file as a candidate for the State House of Representatives in my district. They tell me that there is a pool of money waiting for someone to step in and take but if I don’t the other party will get the money and they wouldn’t like to see that happen. They tell me that someone recommended me for the job. They didn’t say who.

Now the opposite party has controlled this district for years, in fact they basically have run St. Paul for decades. And the election is only a few months away and how do they think that a person who has never run for office can prepare and effectively present themselves to the 36 thousand plus people in the district (yes I did check the demographics) in a few months.

That’s not to say I haven’t ever thought about politics. I most certainly have. There is a great need for change and a greater need for a new mentality in the arena of government. There are many of us who are sick of the baby boomer selfishness and perpetual adolescence that has come to dominate the political discourse of this time. The 60’s generation is fighting all their old battles again and this time THEY are in charge and have all the money. Quite frankly the results are, in my opinion, extraordinarily poor and too many people go to vote with the same feelings they have when they are told to schedule a colonoscopy…and the same results.

And that mentality showed itself in the call. It was not about running to make things better, or running to serve the people, or running to bring new ideas and energy into government. It was about running so even if I lost, and I almost certainly would given the time to prepare, the other side wouldn’t get their hands on that pot of money.

Oh boy, what a motivation, I can hardly wait.

That can be my campaign slogan “Show me the money…”

Only sadness remains…

There is no joy in reading the headlines coming out of the convention of the Episcopal Church.Only sadness remains.

In my painful departure from the Baptist world I found rest, peace, and a place of healing in a local Episcopal Church, the Church of the Messiah. Evangelical, liturgical, charismatic, it was a haven for us and allowed us time to recover after the vivesection of life as a Baptist pastor.

But it was not to last.

For a while everyone could pretend and stay sheltered in the cool comfort of Messiah’s walls. Yes we knew that there were problems in the larger church, serious problems, but we were here
and they were there and can’t we all just get along. Yet the sad empty feeling grew stronger as each day the realization that the wolves were at the door and they played for keeps increased. The claimants of diversity and tolerance would brook no dissent and had no problem with silencing those who strayed from the new order.

It was time to go.

Now some can say that the Episcopal Church is just reaping the seeds it has sown. After all a good argument can be made that the chaos of American mainline Protestant life is simply the completion of the process set loose when the Reformation detached a whole section of Christianity even further from its roots. The gap between there being no Pope to everyone being their own Pope is not that far at all.

But it doesn’t make it any easier.

A great community of faith has been desecrated at its very core and no longer can seriously claim to be Christian in any historic sense of the word. It has de-evolved into a society of people ruled by their feelings and understanding the life, the faith, the sacraments, the dogma, and the rituals of Christian life as a means to the satisfaction of their urges and not the upward lift of man to God. Bluntly it is a church ruled by its crotch.

And time will take care of the situation. Some day in the near future when the endowments run out and the membership rolls sink even further the problems will be solved by the extinction of the organization that nurtures them. After all if a church proclaims that it really doesn’t matter what you believe or do (except for some vague kind of social work) people will get the hints and decide to do something else besides hear a well dressed pagan tell them what they already believe. Its already happening.

But what a cost. What a loss of good that could be done. What souls will find no rest either in this life or the one to come! And for what? A fleeting passion? A passing urge? The worship of the moment? So much is being given away for so little in return.

And that is why, in the end, only sadness remains.

On collars and holding hands…

It’s an interesting thing to show up at an event or place in my clerical gear (you know the black suit and collar thing) and holding hands with my wife.

I love to do it not just because holding hands is a good thing if you’re married but sometimes I like the reaction. Most people aren’t quite sure what to do with the guy in the collar and the woman. Am I some Roman Catholic guy running amok? Is there some kind of wierd fetish thing going on? Some of it surely must be the fact that the media portrays clergy as old, sort of shriveled, smiling placidly, and in some sort of asexual netherworld. So the sight of a Priest holding hands with a, gasp, woman must be quite a sight. Actually my wife, raised a Roman Catholic, felt that way too and for some time would not kiss me if I was wearing my collar! That’s changed of course, thank God, but the illusion does run deep.

I am glad that Orthodoxy allows its clergy the natural and sanctified life of marriage. I would be a horrible celibate and its not about the sex at all. Its about having a companion, a complement, a partner, a confidant, a soul mate, a love, a wife. Although I respect the Roman Catholic ideal in these matters there is a sadness inside of me that good men would have to choose between Christian marriage and Christian ministry. With all its challenges I would still prefer to live on the edge and balance between them. Being husband and Priest enhances both and love for one increases love for the other and service to one increases service to the other.

I would be lost without my wife and all that we share together. It would be like half my body and soul were removed. I can endure because of her and wherever the twists and turns of life take me it will be okay as long as she is near. Such a great gift has been given to me and from that gift comes a stability, strength, humility, and love that allows me to flourish in my service in ways I could not if I were alone.

And its just nice to have somebody to hold hands with too!

Romeing around…

Every once in a while you will see something Roman Catholic on this blog, some content, or perhaps a link or two.


Well for one thing there are some really great sites and blogs out there from the Catholic perspective that are worth reading. Especially on the traditional end of things the web has given
well read, technically skilled, extraordinarily bright, and sometimes very funny people a voice they would never have in the “normal” media.

You should read www.splendoroftruth.com/curtjester and www.relapsedcatholic.com because they are just plain good and link you to a whole world of high quality stuff from the intellectually stimulating world of the observant Catholic blogosphere. There are important things being said that Orthodox Christians need to hear and signs of a resurgent life that defy the stock media headlines about wacko nuns and fringe groups portraying themselves at the heart of Catholicism.

And while we Orthodox do have legitimate differences with Roman Catholics we need also to understand that they remain our closest allies and we share much and can do much together even as we seek to deal with the big issues, like the Creed, that continue to keep us apart. We Orthodox sometimes gloat over the struggles of the Catholic Church but that is hardly Orthodox in either spirit or letter and is basically no practical good as well. If you do not grieve over the chasm between East and West the heart of the Faith is still distant from you.

I am at home in Eastern Orthodox Christianity in a way that I have never been in any other community of Christians. But I do, from my experience of the stories of searchers like myself who chose to become Catholics, understand that the hunger that led me East leads others West and is a point of contact for both as we reach across history and misconceptions and just plain stereotypes to honestly and truthfully relate to each other in a world where are finding out how much we, despite our real differences, need to know and care for each other.

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