Friday, March 31, 2006

Many Years!

Congratulations are in order! Our good friends Zac and Lindsey Wingerd are now the proud parents of the good lookin' fella to your right. May I present to y'all: Joshua Alexander Wingerd, who will, Lord willing, be baptized in May under the name Alexander and have as his patron St. Alexander Nevsky. This birth is even more joyful than just any birth for Audra and myself, for we are to be the young child's godparents! We thank God--and Joshua's parents--for granting us this honor.

Audra and Hope, who is being held here by Lindsey's mom, went to see the family while I was at school today (I'll see them tomorrow, Lord willing), and Hope was apparently puzzled as to why she could not play with her fellow munchkin. It truly does amaze me to look at pictures of babies this small and to think that only nine months ago, mine was (almost) that small and that inactive. Amazing, God's creations...how marvelous are His works; in wisdom has He made them all...

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

I Hate Them Because They're Mexican...

...or so those who protested in Dallas/Ft. Worth would have me believe.

Ridiculous protests like these just baffle me. We had students walk out of my school today (and schools around the Metroplex), joining protests, the purpose of which most of them probably didn't even understand. But aside from those who thought it was just an easy excuse to get out of class, the angry reasons shouted into TV camaras from those who took the protests seriously truly got under my skin...I paraphrase here...

"Man, these people wouldn't have anybody to wash their dishes, sweep their floors, fix their houses if it weren't for us! And now they wanna tell us we gotta leave, man, it's racist!"

"I'm proud of being Mexican! And now they tell me I'm a criminal because I'm Mexican!"

No, dear...we're telling those who completely disregard the rules of this country, who sneak in and take advantage of the free public schools, the health care system, the tax-free wages--all the while contributing nothing in return in the way of taxes--that they are, in fact, criminals, for this is what they are. Last I checked, acting as though the laws do not apply to you was the definition of a criminal. Were I, as a white man, to ignore the dreaded date of April 15th and simply not pay my taxes, I would be a criminal, for I would, in effect, be saying to the government, "I'll take all the benefits that this country gives me, but I'm above all this "contribution" stuff; why should I have to give anything back?"

No, damas y caballeros, all the arrogant slogans, the "Aquí estamos, ¡y no nos vamos!" signs ("Here we are, and we're not leaving," for you monolinguals ;-)), only point to a sickening trend in American thought that excuses an entire personality type--the mooch, be s/he Hispanic, white, black or plaid--from being held accountable for the ungrateful act of taking, taking, taking, and feeling no obligation to give anything back to a country that, wealthy though She may be, can only do so much with such a drain on Her economy.

I, for one, hope that the fence goes up and the border guard's increased. It'll save these guys from doing something the government should have been doing all along. I'll repost what I feel needs to be done (which was originally posted in the "these guys" post above)...and which, thankfully, seems to be in the process of being done! Nice surprise from Congress...
"Like I said, I'm for immigration, but done properly--Properly being comprised of two parts:
  1. Tighter borders to keep out illegals--which apparently isn't (and won't) happen to an effective degree, hence the justification for civilian groups like this one to (for now, harmlessly) draw attention to it like this. Then (to continue in my dream world) once borders become heavily guarded and it becomes very difficult (at best) to come over illegally, we need to move to step two:
  2. Easier, more efficient processes for admitting, registering and naturalizing legal immigrants. The complaint that they're draining the economy? Solved, as we tax their (normalized) wages, which contributes to the economy. The fact that they're stealing "our" jobs? Solved, as now there's a lot more to lose for companies to hire naturalized citizens at pennies a day...not the case when you hire a bunch of illegals who can and want to stay below Uncle Sam's radar. Now one person=one person; an immigrant fills only one position instead of a nameless mass taking over positions citizens would normally fill."

Sunday, March 26, 2006

No Stinkin' Way!

Nothin' new under the sun...I can't believe the name(s) of the saint in the second entry on this page of oca.org.

Just when I thought I was being original...

Saturday, March 25, 2006

A Good Good-Bye

Yeah, I know, ANOTHER post today...last one, I promise...

As some readers may know, we have, for several months, been trying to find a suitable new home for our dog, Brigid--a 90-lb. Lab-Husky mix (at least, that's as near as we can figger) with a sweet disposition. We are just not able to devote the time to her that we should, and she deserves folks who'll be able to run (not walk; she's feisty) her on a regular basis, plus give her a sizeable backyard to dominate and chase squirrels in, unlike us in our zero-lot house.

We finally had some luck with a couple down in Ft. Hood, the military base near Killeen, so after all was arranged, we drove down today after Annunciation Liturgy--2.5 hours--and introduced dog to new owners. Said our good-byes, but it was quite nice: no tears, no sentimentality (though tonight we did miss the familiar "WUFF!" that greeted us every time we came into the house), mostly because we knew that she was in a better place, with folks who not only wanted her as we did, but who would give her what she needed and deserved. She's such a good girl.

So here's to you, Brigid. Thanks for three years of great memories. We love you, sweetheart, and will miss you, but are glad to know you'll be happy.

Love,

~ Daddy (and Mama)

(::sniff:: [swallows lump])

For All (Yankee) Immigrants

Fr. Joseph Huneycutt just posted a great litany of things real Southerners know. Thought I'd share some my aunt-in-law emailed us the other day...

A man who just moved from Southern California to Georgia was, at the state line, given a list of twenty-five things that immigrants to the South should know:

If you are going to live or visit in the South, you need to know these rules.

1. That farm boy you see at the gas station did more work before breakfast than you do all week at the gym.

2. It's called a "gravel road." No matter how slow you drive, you're going to get dust on your Navigator. Drive it or get out of the way.

3. The red dirt -- it's called clay. Red clay. If you like the color don't wash your car for a couple weeks -- it'll be permanent.

4. We all started hunting and fishing when we were seven years old. Yeah, we saw Bambi. We got over it.

5. Go ahead and bring your $600 Orvis Fly Rod. Don't cry to us if a flathead breaks it off at the handle. We have a name for those little 13-inch trout you fish for -- bait.

6. Pull your pants up. You look like an idiot.

7. If that cell phone rings while a bunch of mallards are making their final approach, we will shoot it. You might want to ensure it's not up to your ear at the time.

8. No, there's no "Vegetarian Special" on the menu. Order steak. Order it rare. Or, you can order the Chef's Salad and pick off the two pounds of ham and turkey.

9. Tea - yeah, we have tea. It comes in a glass over ice and is sweet. You want it hot -- sit it in the sun. You want it unsweetened -- add a lot of water.

10. You bring Coke into my house, it better be brown, wet, and served over ice.

11. So you have a sixty thousand-dollar car. We're real impressed. We have a quarter of a million-dollar combine that we only use two weeks a year.

12. Let's get this straight. We have one stoplight in town. We stop when it's red. We may even stop when it's yellow.

13. We eat dinner together with our families. We pray before we eat (yeah, even breakfast). We go to church on Wednesdays and Sundays and we go to high school football games on Friday nights. We still address our seniors with "yes, sir" and "yes, ma'am," and we sometimes still take Sunday drives around town to see friends and neighbors.

14. We don't do "hurry up" well.

15. Greens - yeah, we have greens, but you don't putt on them. You boil them with salty fatback, bacon or a ham hock.

16. Yeah, we eat catfish, bass, bream (pronounced brim) and carp. You really want sushi and caviar? It's available at the bait shop.

17. They are pigs. That's what they smell like. Get over it. Don't like it? Interstate 85 goes two ways - Interstate 40 goes the other two. Pick one.

18. Grits are corn. You put butter, salt, and maybe even some pepper on them. If you want to put milk and sugar on them, then you want Cream of Wheat - go to Kansas. That would be I-40 west.

19. The "Opener" refers to the first day of deer season or dove season. Both are holidays. You can get pancakes, cane syrup, and sausage before daylight at the church on either day.

20. So every person in every pickup waves? Yeah, it's called being friendly. Understand the concept?

21. Yeah, we have golf courses. Don't hit in the water hazards. It spooks the fish and bothers the gators - and if you hit it in the rough, we have these things called diamondbacks, and they're not baseball players.

22. That Highway Patrol Officer that just pulled you over for driving like an idiot -- his name is "Sir," no matter how young he is.

23. We have lots of pine trees. They have sap. It drips from them. You park your Navigator under them, and they'll leave a logo on your hood.

24. You burn an American flag in our state, you get beat up. No questions. The liberal contingent of our state legislature -- all four of them -- enacted a measure to stop this. There is now a $2.50 fine for beating up the flag burner.

25. No, we don't care how you do things up North. If it is so great up there, why not visit a Northern state or stay there? And no, down here, we don't have an accent: you do.

Happy Feastday!


One of my favorites of the year; so glad I don't have to miss work to attend in a few hours! Sprazdnikom!

Epistle Reading
Gospel Reading
Troparion and Kontakion

The Psalms of David -- Psalm 26

I seem to have gotten away from these...today's psalm is a goodie to come back to...

But first, a commercial!

First off--and I'm not sure how many of you will know of this band (I know at least three who read this blog will)-- but there's this Christian band called Waterdeep who put together a praise and worship album several years ago called Enter the Worship Circle, and one of the songs--Land of the Living--is based on this, so the melody invariably starts up when I read this. For those of you raising your eyebrows at an Orthodox Christian who's (still) listening to a praise and worship album, normally, yes, I eschew such things, but these guys are an exception, big time. Most of the songs' lyrics are psalms, almost verbatim, and the artistry--not to mention the singers' mystical leanings and humble hearts--is awesome.

And apparently the site doesn't feel the need to post the lyrics to ONLY this song. Sigh. Here goes...

One thing I ask of you,
This is what I seek
That I may dwell in your house
Feel Your presence wash over me

One thing I ask of You,
This is what I need
That I may hide in Your hand
Feel Your presence all over me

But I am confident
Of this one thing
That my eyes will be blessed
When they gaze upon your beauty
And my lips will be sweet
When they whisper words of praise
And my heart will be dancing
When it knows that You are with me
And I will see Your goodness
In the land of the living
So. Good stuff. Now back to our regularly sheduled program...

I always tend to see--as those of you who read can attest--the opportunity to encounter the Persons of the Holy Trinity in any situation as the ideal motive for anything we do. Seeing such as ideal and actually persuing such in one's own life are two very different things, of course, but it's a start...and I guess that's why this psalm sticks out; Prophet David knew how to encounter God, or at the very least desperately wanted to:
4One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to enquire in his temple.

5For in the time of trouble he shall hide me in his pavilion: in the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide me; he shall set me up upon a rock.

...

7Hear, O LORD, when I cry with my voice: have mercy also upon me, and answer me.

8When thou saidst, Seek ye my face; my heart said unto thee, Thy face, LORD, will I seek.

9Hide not thy face far from me; put not thy servant away in anger: thou hast been my help; leave me not, neither forsake me, O God of my salvation.

10When my father and my mother forsake me, then the LORD will take me up.

...

13I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.

14Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD.
Metr. Anthony Bloom, of blessed memory, wrote that the problem with many peoples' prayer is that they approach God in prayer wanting something other than God (I'm paraphrasing horribly; forgive me)...and this something can be anything from worldly power to healing to even holiness (because we all know how great holiness makes us look in front of other people). No, the Metropolitan exhorts us, none of these ulterior motives are legitimate substitutes for a desire for an encounter with the living God in prayer, a soul-to-soul union with the Godhead. Moreover, these other motives are the reason why some of our prayers are so fervent and others are mechanical and cold: we have moved away from the true object of our heart's desire while in prayer.

David got this. Holy Prophet, pray for me.

A Particularly Excellent Issue...

...of The Lion, the monthly newsletter of St. Mark's in Denver, the (unofficial?) flagship parish of the Western Rite in the Church here in America. Covers missions, fasting, confession. Excellent articles, all three. Read it here.

And may God grant his WR children many years; may they increase in numbers and piety.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

My Conversion Story

If you've got the time, my conversion story from Protestant Evangelicalism to Orthodoxy is finally in electronic form here -- or you can click on the sidebar in the future.

Read it, then comment there (or in this post, wherever you like) if you wanna. It'll be interesting to see if it generates any conversation...

Sunday, March 19, 2006

We're in! (Kinda...)

So Audra and I get back to Ft. Worth last night (at 11:30), and actually get a good night's sleep (thanks, Anza!). We go to the new building for Divine Liturgy this morning, and see THIS beautiful thing to your right!! The photo doesn't really do it justice--even the enlarged version--but the things just looks GOLD. Gorgeous, and what's even better: the A of G megachurch behind us has these two spotlights that shoot up behind it, giving off this kind of [does jazz hands and sings in high-pitched voice] "Ahhhhhhhhh!" aura. Bet they didn't know they'd be advertizing for an Orthodox Church when they did *that*. ;->

It was funny--over the phone Father Basil had said we were going to have a sort of "bare bones" liturgy--makes me think that perhaps, given our (soon to be former) mission status, most of our previous liturgies were "bare bones," as the only real difference I noticed (though this may come from having never served altar) was that today we were sans iconostas, and the rest was much the same, except for the fact that we had LOADS more elbow room.

Fr. preached today on St. Gregory Palamas--he of course, tied it in with the new building by saying that St. Gregory had a great deal of responsibility in the Church; we have a responsibility to take care of what God's given us in this building, etc--but mostly it was about making our whole lives the ceaseless prayer, the constant meditation on and abiding within the Holy Name of Jesus that St. Gregory stood for, about always making ourselves open to the divine Grace of God--which is the energies of God, and therefore God Himself, ultimately--that deifies us, truly making us as He is.


Father, as you can see, is here presenting the gifts, along with the petitions we all have individually, on the Holy Altar to become Eucharist. Was very odd actually seeing him do this, with nothing between him and us. Very western; reminded me of Catholic masses...


All in all, a wonderful Sunday... unfortunately, it was a "one-day pass" courtesy of a financial gift from an impressed contract worker--we had done so much work he wanted us to be "in" by a certain day--and therefore Presanctified tomorrow will be in the old building. Father did say, however, that there is a chance that Annunciation Liturgy this coming Saturday will be in the new facility. Drove by this afternoon and saw the dome--seen here in relation to the rest of the building--gleaming in the sunlight, as opposed to this gloomier backdrop. Quite a sight. Thanks be to God.

Previous Phases:
Phase 1
Phase 2
Phase 3
Phase 4
Phase 5
Phase 6
Phase 7
Phase 8
Phase 9

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Tulsa

Spring Break is finally here, so it was a quick finishing up of mid-term grades, and here we are now in Tulsa, in my aunt and uncle's house. Anza (short for Esperanza, Hope in Spanish) and Audra are both sleeping after a particularly hard night. We got in early yesterday afternoon, and went to St. Antony's before presanctified in order to talk to Father for different reasons. Audra, to ask Fr.'s blessing to be the sponsor of a friend of ours who's a catechumen there and is slated to be chrismated on Holy Saturday (which means a BIG trip for Mommy and Baby come late April, but Audra wants to do it, so...), and I to ask Father's forgiveness for speaking badly of him during my time as a catechumen under him (his way of putting things and my way of understanding things did not always mesh, which frustrated me--a frustration I made known to many people, save Fr. himself, of course). Thanks be to God, both requests were answered positively, so Audra will be a godmother (again!) and I am restored to a clear relationship w/the priest I do owe so much to.

After the talks with Fr., presanctified, Byzantine style. But first, a bunny trail!

I've said it before, but not on here (I don't think), that I converted to Orthodoxy in spite of the Eastern Rite, not because of it, as so many did. Not knowing how the (often rather complex) services ran at the time, the added confusion of the Byzantine tones (which I inevitably tried to dissect while hearing them) made for a stumbling block of sorts, though I still enjoyed the services, more or less. I was eager to join the Western Rite church when Audra and I moved to Ft. Worth, but Audra's clear preference of Eastern Rite led us to join the OCA parish--and I have to say, I'm glad. Not because of any animosity towards the Western Rite (on the contrary, I think it's a cause in the Church whose time has definitely come and through whose presence we as a Church will be enriched), but because I was able to experience Eastern Rite sans Byzantine tones, and this Russian expression of Orthodoxy has become my home. Now that I'm much more familiar with the flow of the Eastern Rite services (much more than I ever was with the Western ones), I can go back to St. Antony's and participate SO much more fully in the services...and now I'm thinking, "Wow, what pretty music!"

Back to presanctified. Father let me chant with Reader Michael and Mrs. Saliba, and I took ison (the "drone" underneath the melody)--gorgeous, eternal music. We seemed simply to rest in the presence of the Gifts which had been prepared for us last Sunday, humbly yet consistently approaching the throne in passionless waves, in ebbs and flows of praise and repentance. Afterwards, a Lenten meal with the few who showed up (including Julie, who showed up AFTER communion--Hi, Julie, if you're reading this! ::grin and wink::). Good food, several people asking me if I've been or am going to be ordained a sub-deacon soon...sigh...must be the cassock. Sepa Dios. God knows. Glad to say that I have absolutely NO desires either to pursue anything further in the ranks of the clergy or to run away from any calling I might feel otherwise. I always tell people who ask about that, "Ask me again when I'm thirty." Why the hell anyone would want to listen to a twenty-six year old kid is beyond me.

Will go today, God willing, to meet a cousin of Audra's who lives in Arkansas and whom Audra hasn't seen in years. St. Patrick's Day party over at the house of some friends from St. Antony's on Friday. Will call St. Barbara's in Ft. Worth on Fri. night to ask about whether or not the permit for occupancy went through; if so, we'll be heading back Saturday. If not, we'll just stay and go to Liturgy on Sunday @ St. Antony's (the thought occurs to me: if we were to move back to Tulsa, I would most likely have to attend Holy Apostles (the OCA mission) or ask for a release from Vladyka if I wanted to attend St. Antony's. Huh. Different world.)

Friday, March 10, 2006

Officially an Orthodork!

Or Geek Orthodox, or whatever else you wanna call me...

Seriously, a thank-you to Stacy, whose invited me to be a contributor to The Orthodork Café. Goin' through Schmemman's Great Lent now, apparently; good sounding board for "all things Orthodorky," as the site claims.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Plowing Ground

Canon of St. Andrew last night--Audra's due to return shortly from tonight's installment of the same, the second of the four which occupy the first four evenings of our Lent--if there's one thing those canon verses remind me of, it is this: I do not take my sin as seriously as it merits being taken.

The constant prostrations, bowing with my face to the ground over and over, serves as an insistent reminder that I, though I have been reconciled to Christ in baptism, am still yet a pilgrim who is working out that reconciliation through repentance, and yet, who knows that that very repentance is wholly insufficient to solve the problem that plagues our race: the glorification of our nature. Were this not a matter of metanoia, but rather simply a matter of "doing the 'right' thing" while "avoiding the 'wrong' thing," we would not need an incarnate Savior. We acknowledge that we are, indeed, sick--the canon points out just how gravely sick we are!--and that, were it not for a divine Savior taking unto Himself our diseased flesh and healing it, thus giving us a passage out of the quickly-rotting world of fallen humanity, all our prayers would be no more than syllables passing through still-decomposing flaps of flesh, all our prostrations merely the creaking of dry bones already bowing to the earth which would forever swallow them.

Because, however, humanity and divinity are reconciled in the Body of our Lover and our Lord, our repentance actually serves a purpose, and what is impossible for man becomes possible--gloriously, miraculously, unfathomably possible!--with God. Our fasting, our abstinence, our alms, our prayers, our countless "Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me"s, now serve to till the ground of hearts who no longer need to wait for the scorching wind of death to bury them, but who will now receive the warmth of Maker's sun as glorious nourishment, the draught of His rain as merciful sustenance for growth into that which His most fanciful of angels might only dream of being possible.

Let us pray, then, keeping in mind both the "the goodness and severity of God" (Rom. 11:22) which surrounds us.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Great Lent

My favorite hymn was sung tonight at Forgiveness Vespers:

"Let us begin the fast with joy! / Let us prepare ourselves for spiritual efforts! / Let us cleanse our soul and cleanse our flesh! / Let us abstain from every passion as we abstain from food! / Let us rejoice in virtues of the Spirit and fulfill them in love! / That we all may see the Passion of Christ our God, / and rejoice in spirit at the holy Pascha!

Have a joyous and fruitful Lenten season, my brothers and sisters in Christ.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Flyin' Over Ft. Worth












"And Be Thankful."

Colossians 3:15: "And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful."
Yesterday had to have been a record high for N. Texas--80-something at the end of February--and today is looking like the same with a high of 87! Sunny, warm weather's bound to put anybody in a good mood, but doubly so* with me because of several reminders...

First, a word from one of my vice-principals which, though they ususally be cheesy and Hallmark Card-esque, hit me right this time...he's a pastor, and from time to time puts these inspirational emails in our school conference email system. Yesterday we were greeted with this:
I am Thankful...

For the wife who says it's hot dogs tonight, because she is home with me, and not out with someone else.

For the husband who is on the sofa being a couch potato, because he is home with me and not out at the bars.

For the teenager who is complaining about doing dishes, because it means she is home, not on the streets.

For the taxes I pay, because it means I am employed.

For the mess to clean after a party, because it means I have been surrounded by friends.

For the clothes that fit a little too snug, because it means I have enough to eat.

For my shadow that watches me work, because it means I am out in the sunshine.

For a lawn that needs mowing, windows that need cleaning, and gutters that need fixing, because it means I have a home.

For all the complaining I hear about the government, because it means we have freedom of speech.

For the parking spot I find at the far end of the parking lot, because it means I am capable of walking and I have been blessed with transportation.

For my huge heating bill, because it means I am warm. For the lady behind me in church who sings off key, because it means I can hear.

For the pile of laundry and ironing, because it means I have clothes to wear.

For the weariness and aching muscles at the end of the day, because it means I have been capable of working hard.

For the alarm that goes off in the early morning hours, because it means I am alive!
Not only did that put things in a better perspective (and prompt meditation on the Scripture verse above), but immediately after reading this I got a call from Audra (and Hope, of course) who wanted to go for a walk in this beautiful weather...so I went home, changed, and we walked--the four of us (large, sweet dog included)--to Sonic for ice cream. Warm breeze in the face; good conversation with a beautiful, giving woman; gigantic, two-toothed baby-smiles and squeals; thick coldness on the tongue (God bless cheese week!)--truly much to be thankful for.

And speaking of cheese week, the slightly modified, just-before-Great-Lent-really-kicks-in diet was just enough to find a connection with God, both through the asceticism of His Church, and in His creation. It's been too long since I've walked and/or run, I realized. The God who shines and sends rain--and, thanks be given to Him, He just gave us a much needed rain this past weekend--is seen every day by those who will drink in His Creation and then turn to Him in thankfulness.

*For an additional meditation on thankfulness (brought on by my use of "doubly so"), read the lyrics to Rich Mullin's song he wrote for Amy Grant called "Doubly Good to You" here.