More wisdom...

The problems go farther. Man is social, and community requires the common goods liberalism denies. If I say that I am American the claim is insignificant unless Americans are united by something that they recognize collectively as good. In liberal society, however, the only thing that can be recognized in common as a substantive good is the goal implicit in all individual desire, the ability to get what one wants. That ability is most readily recognized in the form of money, power and success, and liberalism therefore turns society into an assortment of individuals related by those things. Under such conditions men lose substantive connection to others and with it their sense of who they are; personal identity becomes a matter of bank balances and shifting private fantasies, and the individual, for whose sake liberalism was invented, evaporates.

Read more here


A little wisdom...

A great article about the latest studies showing the demise of Christianity. Worth the reading.

This past Sunday...

This past Sunday was a good day.

My wife, bless her, came down in the early hours of the morning to lead the choir as a replacement for the person who was replacing the actual leader who was with family. Apparently the substitute was sick but it all worked out. When you have a church where a good Sunday is 30 people a few families out or off can make a big difference. A flu bug can wreak havoc.

In that light I suppose of all the things I could change at St. Elias it would the casualness that sometimes pervades the place. There are a core of people who work extraordinarily hard but there are others who just seem to fade in and out. In a large parish this could be absorbed but in a tiny church, a small mission really, the effects are significant. In the almost four years I've been there I've been waiting for the spark, that light that turns people from spectators to participants. I see it in some, its needed in others, and I hope it comes before time and the economy take their toll.

These are good people, but I wish I had that special something to help some of them see how they need to make the church a serious and central part of their lives. Years of being a backwater in the Archdiocese with no help and no leadership and then the posting of Priests without a strategy for growth have taken their toll. The parish is nearly a century old and still hanging on. I keep trying to tell them that they could be something special, and they could, but sometimes I don't think many of them believe it and my heart breaks even as I admire their tenacity. I think about that a lot on the way home. Years ago I would have despaired but this is not in my hands, never was, and so I pray and wait and hope. God is still God.

Yet it was a good day. The drive home was safe and for some reason I never tire of the scenery. The hills and trees and wide winding river have not lost their fascination or their charm. There's always something new around the bend and I could see myself retiring in one the small river towns to finish out my life with cats, reading, writing, and music.

It was music, by the way, that made the day. I've been playing the bass for some years now and discovered a group meeting near my house for an informal Sunday night jam. It's mostly folk and blues with a smattering of three chord rock and home grown tunes presented by the writers in the group. It's all acoustic so I didn't know if they were going to let me and my electric upright bass in, but they did.

I didn't know what to expect. Were these folks professionals? Was I going to be in over my head and doomed to spend the rest of the night picking up the scraps of tunes? Well, the truth is that they were good players, serious hobbyist guitar players who needed a serious hobbyist bassist to round out the sound. I didn't get every song right but I flowed in nicely and when the night was done I was invited back. Both the music and the affirmation were good. The older I get the less afraid I am of stepping up and playing. If I'd have been a teenager I would have been scared stiff but nearly 50 I'm just going to go for it and let the chips fall where they may.

I really enjoy the bass, it's not the splashiest instrument but its a lot of fun if you let it fulfill its calling. If you're a bassist you'll probably never be the star but you almost always find a place to play because things don't sound right without that steady low thump holding the "stars" in the sky. No matter how the bass has been electrified and modified there is, as well, something about playing it standing up, full neck no frets with the clean woody sound people need to dance. I had an absolutely great time and wish I could do it every night but once a week is good for now.

I've been blessed with a lot of good things, more than I can count on my fingers and toes and probably yours as well (although that sounds kind of wierd). Among those gifts is music of all kinds, music that almost constantly flows in my head, music that comes out on paper, music I play without thinking at all, and music I play with people. My IPod has everything from the Ramones to Orthodox chant, George Jones to Mozart and the Andrews Sisters. Presuming I make it, by the grace of God, to heaven I surely would like to think about holding down the low end in whatever orchestra is constantly praising the Almighty (Can you imagine the absolutely sublime music of heaven?). If I don't get the songs down the first time I'll be okay because a few thousand years of practice and I should be awesome.


The Pope is correct...

The studies are starting to trickle in and it appears that the Pope, much maligned for his statements about condoms and AIDS prevention, is actually right, they aren't the panacea the activists would like you to believe.


I went to bed early last night and so I woke up in the wee small hours and decided to do some writing.

Yes, the world is a mess. We're reaping what we've sowed. We've wasted our inheritance on riotous living and now the accounts are due and we have no money. We've ignored everything that matters for everything that doesn't and so we're unable to cope when life turns hard. This is the way it is. Rub your eyes and wake up. The time for dreams is past and the morning is cold, gray, and bitter.

Some say you should plant a garden. Some say you should start storing food now. Some people are picking through Revelation like a fortune teller looking at tea leaves to see wisdom. There are a ton of practical things, I suppose, a person can do as the rules are changing and things are going to be different, but one thing is certainly important. Cling to Christ.

Those who have wisdom in these times will understand that the idea of Faith being a convenience we can indulge as a hobby are over. In the days to come being rooted deeply and firmly in Christ will be among the most practical things we can do, the key to survival in an age of turbulence. It matters to take practical and wise steps for food and housing and all the needs of life but what is more desperately needed is a cohesive framework through which we can understand ourselves, the times, and the future and that comes with drawing our lives and all that we are towards Christ.

Am I a perfect example of this? No. But I do know, if only from my lack, where the substance is. I know from my thirst where water can be found. I know from my struggle where peace is and in moments of despair I have discovered where hope resides. It's all in Christ and wise people looking for the call of God in these times will understand.


Some time ago...

Some time ago I received an invitation to the wedding of one of the young adults I baptized when I was a Baptist pastor. Now there's a sign you're getting old!

Anyway, I just had a passing thought of her and hope her life is full of all good things. One of the things about being a Priest is that you have to realize your work is often beyond your horizon. It would be nice to have production reports where you could say "This past year I made so many thousand of this or that" but when you serve the Church its rarely that way. That's probably why so many Priests focus on numbers and programs, it allows them to think about their own work like most of this culture thinks about theirs.

To be a Priest is to be a link in the chain. You add to what has gone before and someone else adds on to you when you move on. You have no control over the before and after, only your section is as good or strong as you can make it, or better still as God makes it. But I do hope I didn't let her down, that young woman buried and risen in new life, and that during at least my watch and hopefully all the others she'll be okay. I'd like to think that if I never meet her again in this lifeat least I'll meet her in heaven.

So Michelle, if you're out there know that Pastor, now Father John, remembers you and will say a prayer for you today. I hope everything is okay and that you, now in your 20's or dare I say early 30's, are enjoying the bloom of your life. And if you think about me every once and so often I'd appreciate the same. I'm nearly 50 now, with gray hairs coming in but I haven't forgotten.

Ahhhhhh spring...

I know spring isn't officially here until later this week and winter here can come back well into April but it was 60 degrees outside today (farenheit) and as I drove north from LaCrosse I saw people emerging from their dens and taking those first few steps into the sunlight.

What a joy to open the windows!

More things Antiochian...

As I've pondered what''s been happening in my Archdiocese I've noticed something.

On one side there are the official news items about the recent decision returning our diocesan Bishops to auxiliary status, but that process doesn't work in our 24 hour a day everything always on world of information. So in the absence of official information we the people provide our own content in various on line forums, each of us a pundit, each of us trying to fill the void with our own thoughts.

One of the great things about the www is that the stranglehold of an elite class of professionals called journalists has been broken. Because of this people who are actual experts in their fields and not simply experts at writing or reading copy have a say in a story and often provide valuable insights. But the problem is also that anyone with an axe to grind can broadcast their thoughts to the world even if they have nothing constructive to say at all. That's the price of freedom I guess.

I think the worst part is the anonymity of the www. It's not an actual anonymity of course because if I wanted to I could track the IP addresses of everyone who visits this site and any site can do the same and perhaps more. Rather its the perception of anonymity that allows people to speak to each on other online in a way that they would generally not do, at least I hope, in person. That makes problem solving and true consensus difficult because the score is kept not by how you reach insight and consensus through wisdom but on how many cuts your words can inflict on those who disagree with you.

On some of the blogs discussing the recent decision from the Holy Synod of Antioch that spirit was very much alive. There were a lot of people calling each other names, demanding that someone repent, calling for Priests to be deposed, and saying things about fellow Christians that were just plain nasty. I know the www can be rough sometimes but I was disappointed that things could sink that fast in forums discussing an issue in the life of the Church. I understand it, there's a part of me that can fall into the trap of thirsting for verbal combat and the power it can give me when I strike a verbal blow, but I know, as well, that if we're going to live together we have to be temperate with each other or risk adding the hurt of words to the process of coming to agreement.

So I hope if anything else happens in all of this we'll come to the realization we need to keep things Christian in all of this. Yes we can disagree. Yes we can make our points. Yes we can present our information. But everything should be done with a mind to the fact that the person across from us, whether they are in person or across the world typing into their computer is a person for whom Christ came to earth. I think we'll get to where we need to be faster if we do.


Things Antiochian...

In late February a decision came down from the Holy Synod of Antioch regarding the status of all Bishops in the Patriarchate. The effect of that decision has been to reduce every Bishop not currently a Metropolitan to "auxiliary" status. This largely affects the Bishops in the United States, who, according to the agreement for self rule, had been enthroned as diocesan Bishops and now are faced with returning to the status of being functionaries for our Metropolitan.

The fallout has been passionate where discussion is occurring and there are many questions being asked as people are trying to make sense of the implications of this with little official information to use as sources. Some deep disagreements have been exposed. Personal issues that have simmered for some time are bubbling to the surface. And there are lot of anonymous www posts floating through the blogosphere. Feelings are hurt and people are confused. It may be a rough few months before the Archdiocesan Convention this summer and the convention itself, who knows?

The hardest part for me is that I still don't have something I can tell my people that has any substance. I know what happened but I don't know why. There seems to be a fog of byzantine intrigue in all of this and some cryptic statements neither of which help when I want to guide my own heart and those I care for through these times. It matters when you change the structure of a whole archdiocese and I wish I knew the facts behind the actions from an official source and didn't have to get information from blogs and personal contacts.

That being said it looks like I'll just have to sort it out like everyone else. One thing is certain, I'm not letting this stop me from being Orthodox. I'm here for the long haul and if things get nasty in the Antiochian Archdiocese I'm not giving up my Faith. I'm going to pray always, take a stand when I need to, take my hits if I have to, and ride it out. If you're Antiochian and you're reading this I encourage you to do the same. Scars may come be we will make it through.


I couldn't resist...

A scientist has apparently found the answer to belly button lint...

Hey, folks, that's why I put the word "miscellania" in the header!


The President and conscience...

President Obama has been working behind the scenes to revoke the legal protection for health care professionals who refuse to perform or assist in abortion as a matter of religious conscience.