A teachable moment...

Was listening to a radio show on the way to work this morning the focus of which was the current administration's failure to put the threat of Islamic Fascism into concrete concepts that ordinary citizens would understand.

Just a thought on that btw. How about just saying that if Osama Bin Laden and the nut case in Iran win there WILL BE NO BEER!

Anyway, whatever the failings of the government in this matter there is a larger failing in the Church. We have simply not explained our faith and why it matters in such a way that people know, in real terms, what the faith is and how it contributes to our well being as a culture and by inference what could be lost if it disappears.

There are millions of people out there, especially in the "West" who are totally ignorant about Christianity and how it has changed their lives and what benefits have come from Christian culture. They have, as well, no ability to critically distinguish between faiths and observe the impact of the faith in the life of a society. That is why they are basically clueless about the potential impact of the ascendancy this dark vision of Islam is having on the cultures where it holds sway (like Saudi Arabia and Iran) and those it threatens (the epidemic of honor killings and rapes in Europe).

The number of clueless Orthodox is especially disturbing. Coming in to Orthodoxy it was revealing to see the significant biblical illiteracy and profound lack of understanding among so many who were raised in the faith. I literally had young people who had no idea where the book of Genesis was in the Bible in one class and others who had lived in Orthodoxy for decades who had no idea at all why we made the sign of the cross as we do. These people can be easy pickings for cults, secularism, and militant faiths promising peace and order at the cost of permanent discrimination.

Whatever the government does the Church itself must see the rise of Fascist Islam in the West and around the world as a clarion call to reteach those within her walls and explain to those without the nature, value, tenets, and worldview of the Faith. We should have been doing it yesterday.


A little wisdom from Mark Steyn...


Now ask yourself "Who would you rather have as your Master?"

Perhaps the best thing about the resurgence of Islam is that people all over the world will get the chance to compare the life and teachings of Jesus and Mohammed and make their choices.


Sad but true...

A link from the Barna organization (the Barna Update is something every serious Pastor should have) reinforcing what many already knew...the events of 9/11 have had no lasting affect on spiritual life in America.

Sadly we're probably too warped by the materialist illusions of American life for something like SINGLE 9/11 to have lasting affect.

I wish that weren't true.


Traveling blues...

The past couple of days have been slow and tired.

Although I'm normally immune to large amounts of traveling fatigue the transistion between Sunday and Monday was particularly hard this time, sort of like having the hangover without the party. I guess its all about pacing yourself and seven day work weeks stacked together require some pacing.

But we're making headway.

This past Parish Festival was, by God's grace, the best ever and even though I have real problems with the idea of using the community to pay our bills for the time this is a necessity and the money is being banked and we're on our way to breaking free from an old way of doing business. The people worked hard for the love of thier small parish and our future is one giant step closer.

So if they keep on working as hard as they are and being as generous as they have been then I will be more than happy to endure a few bleary Monday mornings. Just take my advice and buy stock in the company that makes SoBe Energy drinks because I'm single handedly keeping them in business.

Oh, and make sure you tithe on the dividend check!


A blast from the past...

Here's a link from the old days in the Western Rite. An article I wrote entitled "Some Advice to Enquirers" which found its way to a Western Rite Orthodox magazine based in St. Petroc's Monastery in New Zealand.

Ain't the WWW grand?


Things along the way...

It's around about my birthday but I don't feel as old as I thought this would be when I was a kid. If that makes sense.

Regardless, I wish I knew what I know now with an 18 year old body but its not the nature of things. Wisdom comes with an older body. I guess its God's way of balancing things out.

So much has changed and I don't think the world is anything like I imagined it would be when I reached my middle 40's. I was, frankly, hoping for something better, maybe something that looked a lot more like the Jetson's but its not working out that way. Technology changes, people don't, and I'm a person just like everyone else.

And some things remain. I still have music running in, around, and through me. Its been that way since I was a kid. I'm still very curious about things and perfer to know a little about a lot rather than much about just one thing. I look in the mirror and see just about the same person I've always seen even though I've noticed that my face has changed. I still like Jesus and trust that he hasn't grown tired of me.

There's a part of me, as well, that still thinks I haven't quite found my purpose and calling yet, that one thing that I was destined to be. I've done a lot of things, some well, but that sense of being in the right place in the right time eludes me. I get frustrated by that sometimes but it could just as well mean that I'm still a work in progress with things to do or maybe just that somehwere deep inside I know I'm a traveler and part of that is never quite feeling at home until heaven.

These days I find myself caught between things. Part of me regrets how fast time has been moving, all the wonderful things that are yet to be experienced, all the good things that are, and how much I want to have them all. Another part of me counts down the days until I can rest. Right now I'm leaning towards the former but some times I see the benefit of the latter. Perhaps I'm moving towards that place where so many old folks are, a place somewhere between earth and heaven and fearing neither. That would be alright.

But tonight is a baseball night, one of my passions, and then tomorrow St. Elias calls again with a morning tour for some Lutheran ladies interested in Orthodoxy, Vespers, Matins, Divine Liturgy, Parish Council, and then home again.

On second thought, that rest is looking better all the time.


The Light of Christ illumines all...

I've been pondering these troubled times.

And for those who've read other parts of this blog you already know that I think humans have a unique capacity for insanity and too often the animals are our moral superiors. I still believe that. There is a primal chaos afoot, sin, as the Scripture identifies it, and it's got a hold on people high and low with a passion.

But equally true is the grandeur of Christ that shines in all of this.

Sometimes I think the depth of depravity, in the world and myself, is even in itself a witness by contrast to the the matchlessness, the purity, the completeness of Christ. In causal times that can be blurred by the convenience and the freedom from want but when feet are placed in the fire a kind of clarity ensues. Because in times of desperation the comparisons are well defined and stark. And this is such a time when ideologies and the people who idolize them are competing with weapons capable of ending planetary life and ruling the world, or whatever is left of it, as the prize.

Perhaps we Christians need to be threatened with militant Islam and secularism and whatever else is out there on the horizon so we can cut through the fog and come to know, again, what precious things have been given to us and how much is at stake if they are allowed to go away. It's been too easy for us for too long and we've grown flabby around the waist, cold in the heart, and forgetful in the soul. Threatened with the loss of all the benefits that have come to us through Christ perhaps we need now to come to know them, and their Source, again before it is too late.


Packages in the mail...

I still like to get packages in the mail, have since I was a kid.

And an expected package arrived today, a mandolin, not the fanciest, but a nice one and good for beginners with a place in my office already set up for it and a case arriving tomorrow.

But it was broken, a piece of the bridge had come loose in transit and left a half dollar size tear in the sunburst finish marring it beyond repair. The folks at the store tell me they can send one out as soon as the other comes back, by ground, to Kansas City. It looks like the middle of next week anyway. I'm disappointed.

It's not the damage, those things happen, but the loss of time that matters. The mandolin was to be a new adventure, a portable instrument with a lonely soul that I could take on my travels. I had ideas about what we could do together and where we could go and plans to sit on the bluffs outside Taylors Falls and watch the water and play whatever I could just for the trees.

Music has been a kind of sanity for me these past months. I play it constantly on XM while I drive and more often than not I can be found upstairs late at night practicing this instrument or that, my own songs mostly, with no one to listen except the open window. When my prayers go dry the music becomes my prayer. It's a passion with me and had it not been unthinkable when I was younger I could have seen myself trying to make a life of it.

Regardless the mandolin will have to wait. I'll get the case Fed Ex tomorrow and perhaps I'll leave it open and waiting, a kind of symbolic thing I suppose, for the time when the mandolin and the music arrive to fill it. And that's okay because I've already been playing it in my heart.


Why am I a priest...

August 14th has come and past and it has been a year since the Church in a fit of what I call madness decided to make a Priest of me.

More often than not I have wondered why I am a Priest. More than a few times I have felt like letting go of this terrible, holy, joyous burden. In truth I was happier as a Deacon, content to keep candles trim, order supplies, handle censers, and stay in the background. I've been up front before, in the lights. It not what it is cracked up to be. Not by a long shot. And I still dislike people kissing my hand even though I know its not about me.

I think I am a fairly odd choice for a Priest. I can think of dozens who are smarter, better versed in liturgics, holier, and more suited for this work than I am. I often feel out of my league, over my head, and hanging on for the ride. I can't imagine ever getting used to all of this, like it would be something normal or routine. I can't also imagine myself as the Priest in charge of some successful million dollar Parish because I'm too rough around the edges and a sucker for stray cats and stray churches.

All I know is that people need Jesus. The world is absolutely nuts and the only sanity, love, truth, peace, hope, health, and salvation is found in him. Period. My path to all of that is messy as hell but I have some idea of my need and I can think of nothing worse than crawling through this bizarre life chasing after meaningless things only to discover that it's a loss and emptiness that could last forever. That bothers me. But being a Priest allows me to do something about it.

So it's one day at a time, now 366 and counting...

A little comment...

The way the world is has stripped all pretense, politics, religion, science. philosophy, art, and literature from me because there is no ultimate hope in any of it. But it has made Christ, all that he is, all that he teaches, all that he asks for, and all that he calls us to envision, more real in thier absence.

I feel more like a stranger than ever before but closer to home then I ever imagined.


Daughters of Abraham...

One day a daughter of Abraham
will meet another of the same
in some quiet place, away from the noise of life.
And it may be in passing that they catch each other's eye
or perhaps just sitting together waiting for a bus.
And they will talk.

Probably pleasantries at first,
the weather or how the garden is doing,
and then perhaps of children, husbands,
family, and home.
And thier eyes will catch again to see, even for a moment,
a secret thing inside.
And they will talk.

Of how it is to lose the life they gave,
and if it matters at all in the larger shape of things.
How the voices seemed so right at the moment
but now everything just goes on and on and on.
Wondering whether it was worth it to make thier
children pass through the fire of Molech to satisfy
an anger that never changes.
And they will talk.

Until the bus comes, or the phone rings, or some other
noise calls them back to the life they have chosen.
Daughters of Abraham, alone and together, givers of
birth and feeders of the fire. The day moves on but in
a moment it comes to them how strange and close they
are to each other, beyond the noise, waiting for the bus,
or standing in line, or any place they can talk.


Christians and porn...

A link taken from "Relapsed Catholic" regarding Evangelical Christians and pornography.

Note: The numbers are startling but I have no information on the way the poll was conducted. I suspect the Orthodox numbers may be higher than we imagine as well.



What would happen if people asked why?

When the government comes and asks us to kill other human beings that simple word "why" cuts through all the patriotic blather and manipulation of baser emotions and asks for a reason, a real reason, why some person must be horribly killed for our convenience.

"Why" requires that those in power show cause, a good cause, a just one, a profoundly necessary one for the killing of others. Surely if the common law says that a person cannot be executed without proof beyond a reasonable doubt it stands to reason that the execution of hundreds, sometimes thousands and millions, should require that same level of conviction.

"Why" is the question that gives people power when asked to kill. Wars cannot be fought by the unwilling and if there is no good answer to the question "why" perhaps there is no good reason to commit to the irreversible action of taking human life, especially when those who are ordering it have taken great pains to immuize themselves from the actual effects of thier decisions.

"Why" requires all of us to really look at the other human being as a person and resist the calls of power to dehumanize the other to such an extent that we feel thier life is expendable because they have determined it to be so.

Now I am not a pacifist. I understand there are times when war happens. But I believe there are too many times when the common people, those asked to kill and be killed, forget to step back before the hostilities commence and simply ask themselves, thier nation, and those in power "Why?". The end result has too often been millions of lives extinguished for silly reasons.

Things will change if people just pause for a moment and ask "Why?"


A different kind of cannibal...

A link to this story documenting the trade in stem cells from aborted fetuses for use as beauty treatements.


Give me a shout...

I have a map at the bottom of this blog's sidebar that tracks the locations of visitors to this site. I frankly amazed at some of the places where this blog has been seen.

I have no idea, of course, about your specific IP address and frankly couldn't care less. But I am interested in knowing, in a casual way, how you found this site and your critique of it's contents would be welcome.

Give me a shout, if you want, via the comments section.

Fr John

Walking forward singing...

My travels take me to Bemidji, Minnesota today for an all class reunion of members of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship at Bemidji State University.

In the college scene of the 80's , IV, as we called it, was part shelter, part club, part dating service, and part home for Evangelical Christians (mostly) on campus. It was sort of our frat. There were other campus ministries, of course, but in IV there was a distinct shortage of tweedy, elbow patch, fading 60's hipster type ministers and that made it special. Praise songs, Bible study, sharing, and then out from the safe harbor to the bumpy ocean of college.

I suspect that my wife and I may be the only Eastern Orthodox Christians there, although I am prepared to be surprised. We crop up in some very unusual places these days. But my gut tells me we will be quite alone and that's okay. It was worth the journey, every step.

So many times people who come in to Orthodoxy feel they have to throw some level of trash back at wherever it was they came. Perhaps they feel a need to decisively break with the past. Maybe they feel that somehow its required. It could be they really are angry and feel deceived and want some sort of payback. And some really have been ostracized by thier families and friends and have trouble expressing that pain.

I just don't feel that way. Everything I went through was for this time and place and none of it is to be rejected. It was important for me to have been where I was so that I could be in Orthodoxy as I am. Twenty years ago wasn't the right time but seven years ago was. It's all in higher hands than mine.

And someone once gave me some very good advice which I remember to this day. Come in to Orthodoxy walking forward and singing and not walking backward and shouting.

Behold I am making all things new...


A thought on the object of life...

"The object of life is not to be on the side of the majority but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane." Marcus Aurelius, Roman Emperor and stoic philosopher, 121-180 A.D.

From an editorial by Tony Blankley in the August 2nd "Washington Times" on the nature of world opinion and the propaganda wars of our time.

Stem Cell Light...

A little light on the stem cell debate.


The older you get...

A little fact of life that's just coming to my attention.

The older you get the less they can take from you.

Think about it for a second, and take courage.

I wonder what I did with my copy of...

An interesting link to "end times" speculators through the ages.

Since the Middle East is in the news again I suspect the usual suspects will be cranking out the prophecies and a little background may be in order.

I wonder what I did with the copy of "89 Reasons why the Rapture will happen in 1989" someone (anonymously) sent me when I was a Baptist Pastor in Milwaukee.