I'm moving...

to another place on blogger. Find it here


It's been very dry...

in May and June and we're over 5 inches below the average rainfall. Grass is going brown and lakes and ponds are shrinking from their banks. It's the day before Pentecost and we need rain.

So it is with the world and myself as well. We both need water from heaven and the rain of the Spirit to come and touch our dryness. The winter was cold and long and spring has been stingy with her fruits. We, I, need rain to soften the ground, to give life to that which is in us, and to quench our thirst.

Let the clouds roll in, even if they are only the size of a man's hand, and let the first drops fall. Whatever falls will be taken. Whatever comes will be absorbed. Each drop will have value.

It's the day before Pentecost and we, I, need rain.


These past months...

since February have been some of the hardest in my decade of being Orthodox.

The decision of the Holy Synod of Antioch to change the status of our Diocesan Bishops to auxiliaries has ignited a firestorm in our Archdiocese. Leaders are troubled. People are asking questions. Old wounds have been opened and new ones inflicted. Speculation abounds and people are still struggling to understand. Why was this necessary? What does this mean? What are the grounds for this decision? Many, including myself, hope for the best but answers, at the present, are few and far between.

There is a kind of fear among us as well. Some are afraid to speak because they imagine the consequences. News and rumors float about on competing websites. Angry words are being written and spoken. The future seems uncertain. The rationale behind this change, according to official sources, was the unity of the Archdiocese but the result has been exactly the opposite as people are divided and hurt and trying to make sense of it all. I can't imagine what the diocesan and national conventions will be like if this is not resolved.

When I was first a Baptist Pastor I was given these words of advice, "God leads, the Devil stampedes" and I feel we're being stampeded in many directions in the aftermath of this decision. Satan is creating havoc among us and God is allowing us to be challenged. Wheat and chaff are being separated and fire is in the process of burning out impurities. Yet while this happens people will be lost, people who will grow tired and disillusioned and give up and walk out the door and people who, looking at us from the outside and seeing this shameful mess, refuse to step in the door. Hard lessons are being learned.

This is wrong. This is sad. We need to be better.

So many, myself included, were hopeful that our new dioceses and self rule would be the seeds of a united American Orthodox Church, another step towards a correct canonical status and a shared Orthodox voice in this country. We hoped that disunity and chaos would someday end. We thought our leaders wanted this too but one day it was there and the next it was gone. Who can we trust? What set of events would require such a change? I feel confused, sad, and perplexed.

I love the Orthodox Faith so I could never walk away but I despair for all this has brought. Whether the Holy Synod's decision on the status of our Bishops stands or is changed there will be a great silent undercurrent of fear, hostility, and lack of trust that will cripple us regardless of the proclamations and documents that follow. The things said and done in this time will hobble us and scandalize both the faithful and those who are searching for the Faith. We need trust to work together and that trust has been terribly strained.

I'm just a Priest from a small church on the western edge of Wisconsin, what I have to say doesn't matter much. But I do pray for our Bishops, our Metropolitan, and our Patriarch and hope they see the sad results of what has happened and think deeply and spiritually about all of this. I especially pray for Bishop Mark who has endured so much before and after this and Lord knows what he may have to face in the future. All of our Bishops, agree or disagree, should be in our prayers. As we see what is happening we need to be prayerfully, respectfully, involved, seeking out the truth and acting on it as best sinful people can.

Yet in all my struggle with these things I have hope as well. I've seen men and women rise to the occasion and thoughtful people stand and be counted. That this is all worth fighting over says something about how we value it. If the weeks past are any indicator we may be in for a difficult journey but I have confidence in God. Somewhere in all of the shouting we will hear the still small voice.

And as part of this I've already expressed my opinion on this to my Dean and Bishop and they know that I believe that for practical, spiritual, and canonical reasons we need to retain our diocesan Bishops. Beyond the pastoral and canonical issues it just makes sense. I say this with no malice, no disrespect, and no anger towards anyone who may differ from me. Future events may reveal this opinion to be wise or I may have to be accountable for it. Regardless I will stand here and trust that God will care for me and the Church as needed.

That is where my hope is. I would like amicable resolution, the reattachment of sundered bonds, a Christian way to work through disagreements, and a drawing from the deep well of our Tradition for wisdom in troubled times. Our world needs the truth of Orthodoxy. But if those fail I still believe in the power of the Holy Spirit to take even these hard days and make something holy of them. Somewhere on the other side of this all is where we need to be and God will help us find our way home.

For that I wait, and pray, and hope.


I've wondered sometimes...

about the ascension. What was it? How did it happen? Let me explain.

The Scriptures tell us that Jesus' body lifted off from the ground and at some height disappeared into a cloud and left his follower's sight. As an act of God by faith I can understand the "why" of it. Jesus was returning from where He came. But the how of it has intrigued me for years.

If it were a direct ascension, Jesus simply lifting off the ground and being elevated in a straight line, our Lord would still be traveling through space even if He were moving at the speed of light. But Jesus Himself told His followers He was going somewhere, a place where He would later have His followers join Him. By the natural laws as we understand them He, unless this place was on some distant planet, would not have yet arrived.

My own thoughts, and I am definitely not a physicist, are that what may have happened is some kind of dimensional shift. Perhaps there are more layers of reality then we know. Perhaps what we understand as "heaven" is not as far away from us as we think. We understand that angels walk among us unseen could they be on a plane of existence that is very real but for the most part just out of our sight? Could Jesus have briefly ascended and then, by the power of God, returned to the dimension from which He had been from eternity, His disappearing out of sight being the mark of that shift?

I don't know and I am certainly speculating, guessing even. Yet the mechanics of the ascension have intrigued me and if you're browsing through and have an idea I would like to know what you think as well.


Has anyone else...

been dealing with this cold that's been floating around. Sinus, deep cough, loss of voice, seems to hang on forever? If that sounds like you what have you been doing to deal with it?

Please remember to...

pray for all the Bishops of the Antiochian Archdiocese. They begin their travels today and will arrive in Damascus shortly for conferences with our Patriarch regarding the decision to change their status from diocesan to auxiliary Bishops. Metropolitan Philip will not be with them but please pray for him as well.

The time before...

you wake up is often the most fertile for dreams and this morning's dream was interesting.

I was back in Lindsborg, Kansas, and the normally small town in the center of the state was larger, changed, with hills and many shops. I sensed my family was with me, including my father who has been asleep in the Lord for over 15 years. My quest was to get to First Baptist Church where I had served and get inside.

Like many dreams the task was frustrating. I knew where the building was but kept weaving in and out of streets and shops. Lindsborg is a tourist town that celebrates its Swedish heritage and so I was traveling through one gift shop to another trying to find my way. Normally I would have awoken from sleep somewhere short of the goal but this time I made it.

The church itself had changed, there were additions to the building and as I walked up the stairs I noticed the name had been changed to Grace Church and the change must have been recent because the new sign was on the top of the stairs and next to it were icons in that sort of Greek / Catholic style so prominent years ago.

I made it inside and found that everything had changed but there were two older ladies left from the church that I knew. I asked them about what had changed but they made no reply. And while I was speaking with them and watching the service I woke up.

Now I know what some of it means. I had a hard time at First Baptist Lindsborg and I've had dreams about getting to the church and getting inside. That was about trying to make peace with what happened there. But the presence of my father, has he been praying for me in these past years that I would find healing and rest from those days? I think I know what the name is all about and the icons. I already had an icon of St. John the Forerunner with me in Kansas and it calls to mind the journey God had planned for me because it was in those days that I began to search in earnest for the Church.

There's more to contemplate, of course, but I wonder why this and why now? Perhaps, after all these years, I am being released.


Filed under "I couldn't resist..."

I think about the future...

a lot these days, I've always been a person with an eye to the horizon. I often feel that if I have a goal then I have life, movement and possibility. Yet there's a difficulty in that.

I still haven't developed the ability to know the moments along the way. I suppose on one hand this helps to avoid pain. Why "live in the moment" if that moment is awful? But the side affect of that medication is a diminished ability to live in the joy of any given moment as well.

It seems they come together, to pause on the speeding train to the future means you must risk being in the moment however it presents itself. I would like the moments of joy to be forever and the moments of struggle and pain to last less then a second but to be open to one is to be open to all.

Perhaps the key is Faith, the ability to observe, or at least accept the possibility of, the hand of God in all things. Its not Faith as a kind of anesthesia but rather Faith as a framework, an interpretive grid. When the moments, good or ill, cause you to pause on the run to eternity Faith allows you to make sense of them, find their balance, or at least endure.


Amost home...

It's getting close to the time to stop traveling and find a home. It's one of those things you just know, a combination of people, places, and events all working together. The question is always about finding the hand of God in it all.

Sometimes that hand is present and apparent. We read the sacred texts and listen to the commands and so we know what to do. Love God, love your neighbor, the direction is plain even if the outworking isn't always so precise. But other times the leading of God is more nuanced. How do I know when a job is ending and God is moving me on to another place? Is this person sitting across the restaurant table from me the one I should marry? When that happens the answer is that mysterious combination of the principles we've learned, our experience, our instinct, and that thing we call the "heart".

And that can be a scary thing because of its lack of precision. When the light is red you stop. When its green you go. Sometimes the door closes hard behind you and other times the door you must exit and the one you must enter are only slightly ajar. The best path seems to be to use your insight, presuming that grace has illumined it, stay true to the larger principles, and step forward knowing that God cares for you and has the ability to weave the fabric of your life from whatever threads we have.


Just got back...

from a rehersal of some blues and folk music with a guitarist from the acoustic jam I attend on Sunday nights. It was a good time but of course we were a bit rusty not having played as a duo before. Oh well, in music as in things spiritual practice makes perfect.


Just a note to say...

that the "Fr John" posting on theantiochian.com is not me. I hope my writing is better and I always sign my full name. Just for the record.


There's more fuel to the

fire at a www site entitled theantiochian.com, a site apparently designed to counter what it sees in the content of ocanews.org regarding the decision of the Holy Synod of Antioch changing the status of our Diocesan Bishops to auxiliaries.

Like many www sites, including at times www.ocanews.org, it has its share of venom and name calling. That's probably the worst thing about having an internet "discussion", the anonymity that allows people to take pot shots at each other. Please note, though, that no one is truly anonymous on the www. If I had the time and inclination, and I do not, I could track the address of every person who visits me here and so, by the way, can every site on the www from the ones selling books to those selling flesh. Be careful where you visit because somebody knows even if you're all alone with your computer at 3 in the morning. Anyway, the new site is revelatory in that it exposes the cultural gap that's adding fuel to this fire.

On one side of the gap are people who essentially saying "Metropolitan PHILIP is a great man who has done much for us and so he is be respected with loyalty for all that he has accomplished." On the other are people who say "We have canons and rules in the Church which are binding on us all." As I stand back and look I see these strains emerging and wonder if there is a way out. The first seems to be very "old country" for lack of a better term, people living as Christians in a hostile sea and a culture where strong leaders are expected as essential to the survival of the group. The second is very American, the sense of no person being above the law and decisions being made in compliance not with personality but with larger principles.

This is, I think, reflective of what has been happening in the Church throughout history. At times the very fabric of the Church has been shaped by individuals of great charisma, in the best sense of the word, and holiness, people who's personal attributes have affected the larger group. We still have, for example, the Paschal Homily of St. John Chrysostom as the single required sermon of Pascha (Easter) centuries after his death. Yet at times there has also been the appeal to consensus and the rule of Tradition. No one person made up the Creed and then forced it on everyone else and there have been times when the people themselves have risen up and said "No!" to their Bishops when they perceived the decision was outside of the Tradition.

These two interwoven strains have always been a part of the Church and will probably never go away. In the current situation these strains, the appeal to a person and charisma and the appeal to the larger canon and tradition, are active, present, and "in play" in all of this. Perhaps knowing this will help us find our way home.

One can hope, anyways.


Hanging with the Comets...

Hangin in Branson with the original remaining members of Bill Haley and the Comets rock and roll group and the original rock and roll bassist. Cool.


It's been on the news...

that former Green Bay Packer quarterback Bret Favre is meeting with the head coach of the Minnesota Vikings about possibility signing with the team. Pathetic.

Had the opportunity...

to see "The Original Comets" yesterday at the Andy Williams Theatre in Branson.

Before his death in 1981 Bill Haley (Rock around the Clock) included many musicians among his "Comets" but the three who appear in Branson were the members of the version that recorded such hits as "Crazy Man Crazy" and, of course, "Rock around the Clock" in the early 50's. Now in their 70's and 80's the three surviving members do six shows a week and still bring the house down.

Virtually all the shows in Branson are well done (Please avoid, though, the "Hank and Patsy" show at the Owen Theatre it's so bad its surreal) but it was just great to see some rock legends playing their hearts out even in their Social Security years. The drummer, Dick Richards, is 85 and played a ten minute drum solo and was in top rockabilly form for the whole show. It gives a little bit of hope to this nearly 50 bassist.

And yes, I did get the autographs and beyond that I now have an 8 x 10 picture of myself with Marshall Lytle, the original bassist of "Bill Haley and the Comets". What a treat to have my picture taken with the very first rock and roll bassist of all time still going strong at 75! When I get the USB cord for my camera I'll post the shots.


A little wisdom...

from the NY Times, of all places, on science and religion and the meanings of things.