Sorry about the delay in keeping folks updated. In short, I arrived at St. Vlad's on Monday and have spent the past day and half (with the help of the seminary community, who've extended me such a warm welcome and many, many helping hands) trying to make a dent in the way-too-many boxes that now need unpacking and storing...somewhere...
After leaving Arkansas, we went through Tennessee and into Kentucky. The girls, being in a minivan, went ahead of me, and right as I was about to enter my in-laws' little town, a guy pulled up beside me on the highway and did that little wave-and-point bit that is the universal signal for, "Something's wrong with your tire." Upon pulling over, I saw, with a bit of gratitude, that the tires on the truck were not flat, but rather a (smaller) tire on the trailer was. A quick call to Penske brought William, a man off-duty and not on call at the moment, but who was closest to me, and who dutifully and professionally changed the tire. God bless William.
The wait for the tire change, however, saw me in well past dark, so we didn't get to move the trailer and truck until Sunday morning. Consequently, we were too late to go up to St. Michael's in Louisville. We went to my mother-in-law's Vineyard church instead and, really, thought the sermon was quite sound. It was familiar to me, yet it took me aback, however, to walk into a darkened room, illumined only by a screen with the words from the songs, which blared loudly from speakers. It reminded me of the youth conferences and mission trips I'd been on with Teen Mania. It's also very hard to pray the Jesus Prayer in such a venue, but I was grateful, not for some "Orthodox vestige in a heterodox gathering," or some such, but for the reminder that I am, really, the sinner, as the prayer goes in Greek.
I saw a smattering of people that Sunday -- really about the same size as our parish in Ft. Worth -- and I looked at the fervency of the people who worshipped. While I don't want to go back to such a style of worship, it serves to remind me that there is a bedrock idea that somehow, youth must be introduced to a culture wherein those who worship do so out of a heartfelt desire to do so. I'm not advocating emotionalism during the Divine Liturgy, but anyone who's been present in a liturgy where the priest is focused and deliberate, and the people are determined, doggedly focused on what they are there to do -- namely, to offer themselves to God so that He would accept them, change them and the gifts into a Body, a single Loaf to be broken and given to the World -- knows that such a culture speaks the right words to those present, though some may not like what they hear. I know that many youth in the Vineyard congregation have grown up to be youth who, on their own, read their Bibles and sing to God. This is undoubtedly due to the adults in their lives who consistently live out their own, similar desire. Are there those in the congregation who have grown up to go a different way? Yes, for there is no "silver bullet" in raising children, and no amount of youth ministry, children's church, retreats or camps can force the Spirit's hand to keep one's children "in the fold." This is not to say one shouldn't have these -- they can be excellent events wherein kids can encounter God -- but simply that they are ultimately dispensable means to an end.
I'm rambling on about my thoughts in the service. Things I admired about the sermon:
The "debt of sin" was not something owed to God the Father.
The "law of sin and death" was acknowledged to have been replaced by another law (Love). Too many antinomian charismatics out there; this was a breath of fresh air.
The Kingdom of God was acknowledged not only to be "coming" (though that was the main stress of the sermon) but also "within you," now.
Definitely not things you hear normally in many Protestant sermons.
After church, I left everyone in KY and hit the road, sans trailer, for West Virginia.
Oh, my. The hills are alive. One who is used to seeing the curvature of the earth in all four directions when he goes home to meet his family is NOT prepared for the hills of Wes' Virginny. Especially when he is driving a loaded-down Penske truck. My trip took much longer than expected -- as did the portion spent in Maryland on Monday -- due to the truck's only going about 55 mph while going up a hill and my riding the brake at 60 going down (A 70 mph speed limit? In a truck like this?? In the dark??? Shoot....). Most wonderous, however, was the service known as Google Maps. For, in looking solely at my next step, I was waiting for exit 67. Nevermind that I had seen the name of the town with my hotel back at exit 62; I was getting off at 67, for I had time only to focus on one step while riding the WV roller coaster. Having exited, I saw instructions to promptly turn around and return -- on the highway -- to exit 62.
Sometimes you just gotta laugh.
The rest of the trip was, thankfully, flatter and uneventful, due to long stretches of easily mappable highway and excellent directions from seminarians regarding what to do when you get into New York State. I have already met other seminarian families who have made the same mistake we did -- namely, moving a house into an apartment. Consequently I am presently chest-deep in boxes (but, thankfully, there are now rooms in the house where such is no longer the case) and wondering where it all will go. My money's on Craigslist.
I have supped the previous two nights with generous seminarian families; one is a returning family, the other got here at the very beginning of August. Both extremely warm and helpful in my unpacking. Prayed this morning -- for the first time in several days, really! -- and set up our small table with a couple of icons on it (still haven't figured out where to hang it all). It was so good to stop and pray. Prayer, I know, is no longer a way to feel good or excited, but it does seem that a day without prayer has me feeling haggard at the end, even if the day went without incident, while a day filled with activity is usually undergirded with some sort of well-oiled Presence if begun with prayer. Doesn't take away the circumstances, mind you, but rememberance of God tends to make them bearable.
And now, back to unpacking. Thanks to all who prayed. Please continue to do so, as the girls are set to arrive sometime this afternoon. We've still a lot yet to unpack, not to mention the preparation for the upcoming school year. Emmanuel....