What is your most annoying commercial?
Don't use Hotwire or Priceline to make reservations. When they lock in that "special" rate for you the contract is non negotiable and they will penalize you for any change in schedule no matter how trivial. Think a hundred times before pressing their buttons.
A Chevrolet Aveo has great gas mileage and plenty of room, but the seats have no support for a long drive. If you want to rent one make sure to get out and stretch every hour or so to avoid, so to speak, a cramping of the buns.
That Orthodox Bishops don't go insane within a year of their consecration proves the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. Bishops are seldom left alone, always overworked, and our Bishop MARK went to his father's funeral on Monday and then was present for the Diocesan convention, and all of us, on Wednesday. I can't imagine the life of a Bishop and every one of them should make at least a hundred grand a year with one month off.
The old saying that everything can change in an instant is true. On our way north into Michigan, in the vicinity of Benton Harbor, there was an accident. Apparently a few minutes ahead of us a car and a truck collided and two lanes were closed. As we passed the scene the fire crew was rolling out a body bag.
I'm not as alone as I thought. When Priests gather together they talk and I was reminded that others are working full time jobs and trying to help missions and small churches get on their feet. I wish it wasn't so. I wish mission parishes had all the financial support they needed and small church pastors would get the tools they need to give new life to their charges. But until then knowing that my lot is shared makes it easier and helps me focus my prayers for my brothers in arms fighting this good fight.
After the service a young couple talked to a church member about joining the church. He hadn't met the husband before, and he asked what church he was transferring from. After a short hesitation, he replied,"I 'm transferring from the Municipal Golf Course."
First, I'm not sure that the world is worse then its ever been, its just that with modern media we know more about it, in fact we're immersed in it. 500 years ago there were wars and famines and all kinds of nasty stuff happening all over the world, just no TV cameras. Remember folks, media is not about the truth, its about getting you to look so they can sell commercials and disasters make you look.
Second, the world is only coming apart if your only hope is in this world. If you were counting on humans things to save you then when they fail so does your heart because, as Jesus said, where your treasure is there will you heart be as well. People of faith need to see hard times as a reminder to put ultimate trust in God and a call, not to panic, but to do whatever is possible to alleviate human suffering.
If they have to advertise, they're not really a psychic. A real psychic would be calling you.
A simple rule: If you want less of something tax it, if you want more subsidize it.
The simplest diet costs nothing: eat less, move more.
Every parish, every assignment, has its strengths and weaknesses. Because we Priests are often the only ones of our kind for miles and because we largely work alone the struggles of our tasks often feel more significant because we have little to which they can be compared. Our problems are our own in a unique way and our isolation magnifies their significance. Everything has to be seen in balance.
I drive a lot but at the same time I work with a dynamic, proactive, and solid Parish Council. There are other Priests who have larger churches and higher incomes but their parishes are in conflict. What can you say? To survive in ministry you have to see the larger picture, not in a dreamy idealistic way, but with reality tempered by hope. You're not perfect, your Parish isn't either. You'll have problems, but then so does the Priest up the highway.
Sometimes realizing this just takes an email from Ohio.
As I traveled around the www myself I began to see a picture of the world that sometimes left me cold. The www thrives on the freedom of speech, the ability of people like you and I to investigate, learn, share, and encounter as journalists in our own right. Yet such freedoms are often under threat. In past times, especially in the West, the idea had been that free speech was dynamic and a good for its own sake, the free give and take of ideas the definition of a free people. Repression of speech was the mark of dictators, repressive regimes, and a backwards past. This is changing.
Across the West there has been a significant contraction of free speech. Whether in the speech codes and blinding uniformity of much of American academia to the human rights commissions of Canada to the hate speech laws of Europe the idea that speech is best encountered with more speech is gradually dying and being replaced by the idea that those in power have the right, for the sake of some notion of fairness or tolerance, to suppress speech in the hope of an elusive harmony.
This, of course, is hogwash. Repression of free speech doesn't produce more tolerance it produces a fascism where the powerful maintain power by denying dissent. Repression of speech doesn't produce human advancement, it smothers it as good ideas die for the fear of expressing them. Repression of free speech doesn't produce enlightenment because it limits the horizons of human thought. Societies that permit the repression of speech eventually decline, the victims of the intellectual, social, spiritual, and political contraction that comes with denying expression.
I believe its time for people of good conscience to begin to get educated about how their rights of free speech are being chipped away around the world. Education means facing the facts and becoming aware of how things actually are. This is not about paranoia, seeing things that aren't there, but about opening your eyes and seeing the big pictures often obscured by the day to day business of living. Too often we find ourselves so busy with the miscellania of our lives that the larger trends of our culture, especially its darker side, can achieve their effect in stealth. We fall asleep and wake up to a different world in the morning.
We need to rediscover, again, that freedom requires constant vigilance. Freedom is messy sometimes, it requires the engagement of the free to maintain it, and sometimes means that we have to live in discomfort. Too often we humans are willing to surrender our freedom in the hope of avoiding the work, the discomfort of what it means to be free. At times we hope, instead of freedom, for a world where we control the puppets strings and achieve our vision of utopia by silencing dissent. Mostly we're just lazy and don't care about what happens outside our own comfort zone. The result is that most precious right, the right to learn, grow, speak, debate, and express ourselves without fear is being, sometimes harshly and more often quietly, eroded and as it does we may find ourselves descending into a long night stunting the human soul for generations.
We need to know what we're up against as traditional Christians. There are movements afoot by certain elements of the gay community to try not just for accommodation by the greater culture but to use the power of law and society to harass and marginalize us. In the same way that gay activists used Christian's natural compassion and unwillingness to close doors to engage in an endless round of "dialogue" designed not to seek understanding but rather to wear down opposition the larger society is now experiencing this skilled maneuver aided by the deep sympathy of many in the media and academic worlds to the gay causes. The goal for these people is victory and we need to understand this.
Knowing that, however, does not mean we must respond in kind. We must be firm, factual, truthful, but also loving and understanding. By this I mean we cannot weaken our Christian vision but we must understand that our vision includes not just the truth but grace as well. Our goal is not social conquest but salvation. Those who oppose us, as harsh and vicious as that opposition can be, are still objects of God's love, persons in His image, and although we believe they have strayed in a part of their life (just as we have strayed in parts of ours) we can never lose the hope that one day they, and the whole world if possible, could be reconciled to God in Christ.
I'm not advocating quietism, the living of our lives under the radar of life in the hope that the world will leave us alone. We can and should be involved in all the processes of our culture. Rather I believe we need to live as revolutionary Orthodox Christians, working out our own salvation and through this bringing salvation to others and then to the larger culture. One person at a time our lights must shine and and the be passed on. In time, as in many cultures of the past, the light of Christ, the light which can never be overtaken by night, will again prevail.
It would be easy to see what is happening in the larger world and grow angry. It would be easy to see our culture so full of flagrant and unhealthy sexuality and grow disgusted. Instead we need to see to our own salvation and as part of that pray. When you see two men romantically kissing in public, pray for them. When the newspapers are full of pro-gay propaganda pray for the people mentioned and the writers as well. When court cases emerge pray for the judges who will decide. Pray for their salvation, not for revenge, and pray for wholeness and healing for them and yourself.
Above all remain confident and do not give in to fear. History remains in God's hands and the end of things will not escape God's love, God's plans, and God's design.
I just put down my deposit on a Smart Car. It'll take about a year to arrive and hopefully I'll be settled in one place. It's a decent car, lots of room for two inside, and should be a great car for a non traveling Priest to use for calls. Mine will look like the one pictured above. My first Pastor car was a Ford Festiva, which I dearly loved, and I hope this one will do as well. The Smart Fortwo has good gas mileage 40/45 by 2007 standards, 33/41 by 2008, easy to park, easy on the earth, and fun to drive. A good little city car.
One of the things people may not know is just because I'm skeptical about the global warming hype doesn't mean I'm not an environmentalist in my own way. I feel that taking care of the environment and living on the Earth in the lightest way possible is about respect for God's creation. I like to think that not consuming as much is a way to promote peace in the world. I believe we have a moral responsibility to, as best we can, leave God's creation in at least as good, and hopefully better, shape as we found it. It's just that I guess I'm not "Al Gore" green so much as "Garden of Eden" green, if that makes sense.
The most visible current case is that of Mark Steyn a conservative columnist who has written a book about, among other topics, the spiraling Muslim birth rates in Europe and the potential demographic fall out. He has been brought before a human rights commission in British Columbia by a Muslim man who claims that he has been harmed by an article in a magazine covering roughly the same ideas as the book even though the facts, figures, and quotes are true and often merely recount what Muslims leaders themselves say. Mr. Steyn will almost certainly lose the case, virtually every one brought up before these commissions does, and will have to spend precious time and money to continue his defense (the government of Canada covers the expenses of the complaintant).
There have also been Christian clergy brought up before these comissions and draconian infringements on the rights of these clergy to speak, especially on the topic of sexuality, have resulted. It looks, for now, that if Canadians themselves don't wish to fight for their freedoms and their leaders stand back that the country will gradually descend into a quasi-totalitarian state where the rights of those who disagree with the current political correctness will be gradually shrunken to the point where they are meaningless.
First, pray for Canada and the handful of brave Canadians that are fighting these travesties in the public arena. Second, as much as possible refuse to do business with Canada. Spend your travel dollars elsewhere and tell the authorities about your unwillingness to support a system of government bent on oppressing traditional religious believers. Third see what has become of Canada and realize that some of the same hate crimes and hate speech laws now being used to suppress religious freedom and dissent are in place or coming soon to this country. Speak now so your rights won't be taken later. Hold your legislators electorally liable for their votes on these matters. Get educated because seemingly benign laws can be used with terrible effect in the wrong hands and when they come knocking on your door you'll discover how.
I think about it from time to time, the idea of having a ticking machine in my chest with a propensity to one day just give up on the spot. I try to exercise, eat right, do good things, but the odds are the odds and with a brother who passed at 44 and a father who died at just barely 60 I'm aware of any bump in my chest in a way that others are not.
Now the tests show everything is okay. I've had pictures taken, wires attached, treadmills under me, and scanners over me. Every once in a while my heart throws in an extra beat or pauses between them but that's normal and so, for my age, is my heart. But its still there, the sense that time could be short, a kind of presence lurking in the background.
The interesting thing is that I'm not particularly afraid. I'm not crazy about the idea of dying mostly because I think of all the stuff I'll miss. I'm that way about sleeping, too, for the same reason. But the whole thing has been clarifying and rejuvenating for me. Knowing I might have a deadline, and not just an imaginary one but one that could be close, has made me better. I try not to idle away the time. I make sure that I give myself to good things. I plan on laughing more, sweating the small stuff less, and enjoying each day. Am I perfect about this? No, sometimes I still just flop in front of the TV and mindlessly scan the channels, but I also went outside yesterday and read excerpts from St. Basil's "On the Holy Spirit" and then just let the evening sun wash over me whenever I felt like it.
I've got as long way to go on all of this, or maybe not, but it's at least a start.
Actually I'm not. I've voted for Republican candidates in the past but largely as a "This one will hurt me less..." vote then "Wow, I'm inspired" vote. Whatever else President Bush is he has appointed judges who are less likely to meddle with my life then others and that, for example, is a plus. Of the two major party candidates running neither sends chills up my spine.
Among the books I've been reading lately is "The Revolution: A Manifesto" by Rep. Ron Paul. The mainstream media have widely dismissed him as a crank but I appreciate his, unfortunately radical in these times, idea that we should govern the country by sticking as closely to the actual constitution as possible. That for those ideas he has been publicly marginalized, although he's a huge "underground" success, says something about the state of things these days. Not many Americans have read the Constitution and I suspect if they did they'd look at it and the current state of things and say "Something's wrong here." I suppose that makes me, in general, a "constitutionalist" because I think as a matter of politics the American experiment has abandoned its origins to its own detriment.
My interest in Sen. Obama, though, is largely as a cultural phenomena. His politics of change is hardly that and by the way neither is Sen. McCain's. Sen. Obama's programs represent nothing new, just a different packaging of decades old leftist ideas but the kind of 'rock star" quality around him intrigues me. Some of this is the media, many of whom see him as the "next big thing" and instead of doing their jobs want to get in on the action. Some of it is his personal style. Sen. Obama has mastered the art of African American preaching and even if don't agree with or understand what he is saying his oratorical skills are lightyears above Sen. McCain's, a man who always appears in speeches with the look of someone at the dentist. Some of it is our American desire for something new in politics and even if his ideas are leftovers his face is not and I suspect some of his support is a way for some Americans to "pay back" for the horror of slavery and segregation.
Yet its a long way to November and we'll see what happens. The greatest political act of all is your own conversion because as it progresses it touches the whole world with truth and light. In four years there will be another set of folks on the television pitching ideas but that truth will remain.
Savvy travelers know you can go north of Hastings to Prescott, Wisconsin, cross the river there and then return to Minnesota at the quaint river town of Red Wing and head south along the river road. Or you can take Highway 52, crossing the river at St. Paul and any number of eastward roads back to the river through the farms and bluffs. And this was our plan, Highway 52 south almost to Rochester and east on 60 through Zumbrota Falls to Wabasha on the river.
As a child I always felt a kind of pity for the kids in Zumbrota and Zumbrota Falls. I have no idea why they gave such an odd name to the towns. Perhaps it was a Native name or about whoever settled the place but it started with a "Z" and that meant whenever the radio stations announced the school closings due to snow and weather the kids in places like Andover learned their fate early while those in Zumbrota had to wait. If you're 8 years old and you really want a "snow day" off from school its a special kind of torture. That being said I've never been to either place and so we turned left on Highway 60 and headed towards the river to find see what we were missing.
The normal course of roads heading towards the river through southeastern Minnesota is a path over rolling farm land with a steep descent to the river through a cut in the bluffs, what people on the Wisconsin side call a "coulee". Like the Ozarks the bluffs along the Mississippi River in this part of the world are not mountains, or even hills, rather they are, as they say down south, "hollows" places where the river has worn down the land on the edge of the prairie. In the bottom of the valley they stand up like mountains but from the sky they look like a giant cut in the land.
This was what I was expecting as I traveled east, miles of nice farms with the first green hints of corn in the fields and then a sharp scenic descent. But for some reason the coulees extended miles back from the river along Highway 60, amazing valleys cut deep into the heart of Minnesota following the path of the Zumbrota river to the Mississippi. Several times I thought, "We're getting close to Wabasha..." as the road traveled down and then we would go for miles via twisted scenic roads with valley walls on either side.
Nestled in between it all was the little town of Zumbrota Falls. One gas station, a few bars, and a church on the main drag with houses on any place of land level enough to hold them steady. The whole thing was hidden like a secret in the river valley, a secret most probably didn't notice as they drove by but one which probably revealed itself to anyone who wanted to stay a while. In my imagination it was a town that felt like those forts we would make out of pillows when we were kids, a tiny safe space protecting us from the world, even if for a moment.
I'd like to think there still are places like that in the world. I'm probably wrong. I'm sure they have dish and computers and all the gadgets required to bring the world into their quiet valley. But hey, it's my dream and I can think what I want! Right? Regardless I plan on coming back, certainly in the fall when the leaves have turned and the air will be cool while the trees are aflame with their colors. I may even may the place my imaginary home town and drop in now and then to watch the river flow. Who knows?
And for some reason I think this all is just the start of the story of Highway 60.