A better way...

The plan is in, massive government spending, unimaginable deficits, and a debt that our grandchildren will have to pay if the whole house of cards doesn't collapse before then. After all, you can't get blood from a turnip. All of it is about avoiding the pain our lifestyle is causing us, the consequences of our "who cares about tomorrow, swipe the card today" mentality.

I doubt it will work because in truth its more of the same.

The cure is harder, we don't need a better government or certainly not a bigger one, we need to be better people and until that happens none of the rest will follow. The primary cause of this current financial crisis is moral, people with power and wealth who didn't have the inner fabric to reign in their own desires and a lot of us further down the financial food chain who played the game in the same, but a more limited way. Every day when we go to the bathroom we see the face of this crisis in the mirror.

Of course we probably won't see our politicians calling for a time of repentance at least not in a way that would come close to a call to spiritual and moral renewal. That's for a day long ago, the times are different, change the government and the world will change except that it won't and never has and we're the crazies who think we can do the same thing over and over again but this time get it right. Reckoning is on its way and we are very much less then ready. Our world is still the world of dreams.

I presume, though, that some will sit up in their beds with a start and realize the nightmare which woke them up. And as they rub their eyes and come to their senses they'll think, "That was crazy..." and when they do they'll start on the path to a better way.


Chilling speech...

Follow this link to the story of an African American pastor fined and jailed for peacefully protesting at an abortion facility in California. There are a growing number of incidences in this country where people of religious conscience are being censored, punished, or marginalized simply because of their religious views. We need to be aware of these things without panic or getting wrapped up in conspiracy theories, but also with the understanding that the times are changing and the priviledged position that Christianity had enjoyed in this country is rapidly disappearing. God may be trying to get our attention and help us, as Christians, to wake up and stop taking our freedoms and our Faith for granted. Jesus told us that in the world we would have many troubles but that we were not to fear because he had overcome the world. Now is chance to understand this and act.

The chickadee says...

Saturday morning, 4 inches of snow needed shoveling. With each push and throw the walk cleared and the banks grew. The air was cold and the sky clearing and from somewhere the sound of a chickadee rose. "Sweet spring, sweet spring" of course it was too early but one can't help but admire the hope in the song. I looked to the sky to see where it was coming from but the trees wouldn't reveal their secret. The birds know things we don't, sense things we on the ground cannot. Spring is less then a month away no matter what the snow says.


The numbers game...

Since my arrival at St. Elias I have been telling the people that in the United States in any given area the population can range from roughly 40 - 60 percent unchurched. That would mean that LaCrosse County with a population just over 107,000 could have as many as 40,000 people who for all reasonable purposes have no church home. That's an enormous mission field for such a small area and it certainly means we could find several hundred of those folks receptive to Orthodoxy.

I think some have doubted those numbers and so I've been sending emails with links to the Barna Group and Gallup that provide snapshots of the actual level of church involvement in this country. We have this veneer of Christianity in this country, and even the veneer is getting really thin, but when we press just a little below the surface we find out that regular church goers are a real minority in this country. People, for the sake of casual politeness or to avoid getting into discussing religion, may identify themselves in broad terms as Christian but the actual practice of the faith is quite limited.

Of course we should have picked this up from our culture. If the majority of Americans were actually committed to their faith and their churches would our culture even come close to looking like it does? I don't think so. We are, in fact, a nation of baptized pagans, a society of people who by and large engage in the occasional religious ceremony but hardle ever actually practice the faith they claim. Or better yet we're a country of secular materialists who've added a splash of religion like salt on a hamburger.

Regardless, the mission field in America is open and every church needs to see itself not simply as an organization but as a mission station and be actively engaging a pagan culture with the Faith. In fact, in many Orthodox churches, we must engage our own people with the Faith because, in truth, they really don't know what they believe or why. The first thing that must disappear, though, is the myth that this is a Christian country. It is not, and we believe that falsehood at our own peril. It's hard to be jarred from a sleep to learn your house is on fire, but it will save your life. In the same way the Church needs to wake up from its slumber before it is too late.


This Sunday's sermon in advance...

Sunday of the Prodigal Son
February 15, 2009

When I disobey in ignorance thy fatherly glory, I wasted in iniquities the riches that thou gavest me. Wherefore, I cry to thee with the voice of the prodigal son, saying, I have sinned before thee, O compassionate Father, receive me repentant, and make me as one of thy hired servants.

I watch the headlines flash by on the television and hear the tales of a world gone wrong. And as I do I know why this is so, not because I possess any superior insight but rather because Jesus wisdom echoes over the ages.

We are prodigals, all of us, myself the first, and our pride has caused us to buy into a lie about who we are, what life is about, and the ultimate purpose of things. In our arrogance we, each in our own ways, discarded everything that went before us and struck out into the world full of ourselves and confident of our answers. Our precious inheritance has been squandered on rich living and harlots of our own making.

But now the money is gone and we realize, like the young man in this Gospel, that good time friends stay only for the party and vaporize into the hot winds of famine. When artificial props and false foundations are swept away by the rushing flood we fall and find our ourselves in reality, working hard for next to nothing, our minds coming to sense and longing for what we had selfishly scorned, a home, a place, a relationship, a father.

No, it may not be a pig sty where our heart becomes bereft of comfort and longing for what we have forsaken. It can be our office, our home, that last seat at the bar where we’re buried in our drink, or some moment alone in the small hours of the night when the culture’s anesthesia wears off and we’re finally alone with our pain. But the moment comes, it is inevitable, and face it we must.

Some of us will arrive at that hour and respond with even more of what brought us to that place. We’ll choose to drink more deeply from the squalid well that has caused our stomachs to churn and our life to be poisoned. We’ll hope that even more excess, more money, more of whatever we desire will finally break us through to where we had hoped it would all take us. One more drink, one more party, one more loan on our future, one more fix of whatever we crave, damn tomorrow and full speed ahead. It’s a recipe for death, body, soul, culture and world.

Some, though, will hear those small voices inside and be flooded with light and wisdom gained from pain. They will say to themselves “Why am I living this way?” and as they do they take the first step of the long journey home. Like the young man in Jesus wise story they have returned to sanity and in humility hope there is still a chance for them in the place they had left behind. They fear the worst but hope for the best and are willing to take the chance that even if they cannot be where they once were they still can be closer to home.

What they will discover is that even when they are still far away, when home is a speck in the distance, a welcome awaits. While we often stop caring about God; while we often assert our own wisdom against His and forget that He even exists, He has never forgotten us and what is more He has never stopped loving us and waiting for our return. While we are still on the horizon, covered in rags and smelling of our unwashed folly, God draws towards us and embraces even our filth as He escorts us safely home.

This is why we do battle against our passions and our sins. This is why we live this Christian life. This is why we fast and pray and worship and give alms and seek to be pure of character and filled with a lively hope. This love that God has for us so eloquently portrayed in Jesus holy words calls us out of ourselves, out of our selfishness, out of a broken world and back to our heart’s true home whether we have wandered far or only just around the corner. However we are, whatever we have become, for ourselves and our world there is a way back if we have the wisdom to see it and the humility to take the first step and as we do we begin to possess eternal life.


Musings after Vegas...

I remember looking out beyond the glittering lights of Las Vegas to the desert mountains beyond and thinking "This would be a good place for a monastery." And I can understand how people in days gone by, full up of all the lights and attractions of their time but empty of soul, would choose the desert to find God. The harsh, clean, absence of the extraneous world that clogged their spirit must have had an attraction to souls weary of everything and seeking emptiness as an antidote.


Word from the Desert...

I can't tell you how much I enjoy the blog "Word from the Desert". I'm not sure who the author is but I've always been blessed by reading short quotes from the fathers and mothers of the desert and the Church and this web site is a banquet of them ready for use.In my quest to stop filling my mind with all the cares of the world and replace that with holy things such sites are a welcome relief from the endless screaming voices and indicative of what the www can be for the discerning Christian.


I couldn't resist...

Here's a commercial for the Smart Car that apparently was banned in some markets...

Smart car...

I configured my Smart Car yesterday pending possible delivery in September. I thought this would be the perfect package for the snow and hills around LaCrosse.


Lord, have mercy...

Baby born alive in an attempted abortion is killed. What have we become?


This is wise...

On the last days of his life we met the charismatic Elder Simeon (on Mt. Athos), who had been under obedience to Father Savvas prior to that well-known elder’s repose. Father Simeon told us many things about this virtuous and discerning man and also advised us: “Be afraid of sinning, not of the Devil, for he has no power.”

This is creepy...

Google is offering software that can track you via your cellphone.

Why would a sane and free person want to live under 24 hour surveillance? I understand why Google would want to do this, information is power and money, but it astounds me that people would voluntarily sign up to be tracked like animals. What kind of fools are we becoming?


So far so good...

8 below tonight but heading for 40 in a couple of days. I'm feeling better and learning again about how to take better care of myself. Walking 3-5 miles 3 times per week, eating a lot less in smaller meals, and trying to let the important things matter and everything else fade away; it's all part of the package.

I've got a ways to go but it's a start.