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Jul. 25th, 2008 | 11:49 am

 Over here now: fourthfindingsociety.blogspot.com

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I'm Moving

Nov. 8th, 2006 | 05:59 pm

Acting on a whim, I've created a new blog, thus ending my relationship with Livejournal.  Come, join the Unmitigated Nonsense.

For those that still stumble across this blog, I've created a timeline of my roughly four year history here:

May 2002 - January 2003: Oregon; Highschool; Debauchery; Heartbreak
March 2004 - September 2004: Conversion; Growth; Sweden
April 2005 - December 2005: Oregon; Christian Exploration; Volunteer Corps; Minnesota
January 2006 - November 2006: Chrismation; Minnesota; Engagement; Hope

It's been a pleasure.

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In Honor of Today's Civic Duties

Nov. 7th, 2006 | 04:27 pm

"In my many years I have come to a conclusion that one useless man is a shame, two is a law firm, and three or more is a congress." 
-John Adams

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Give Meaning to Our Prayers

Nov. 7th, 2006 | 02:25 pm

Sin brings us to the danger of compartmentalizing our lives, our actions.  We consider ourselves "decent, earnest Christians" save for the strange and flagrant outbursts that take place in secret, in the dark, and thus "don't really count".  But it is in concealment that ugly and unhealthy things fester.  One cannot compartmentalize any part of life- especially the Christian life, which is a call to nothing less than union and wholeness.  Our first step is to completely rid ourselves of the notion that we are actually "decent, earnest Christians".  The words Lord have mercy have no meaning for us until we do.

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An Error

Nov. 6th, 2006 | 04:49 pm

Alastair is a wonderful writer with many good things to say, and has written a fine piece on the error of the enthroning of the "rational mind" as the place of Christian worship.  Allow me to qoute him in some length:

From Worship and the Cartesian Mind:

Operating with a rationalistic definition of the human being, the worship service must downplay the body and focus on addressing itself to the mind. Candles, incense, clerical vestments, kneeling, processions, silence (except as a time for thinking), fine church buildings, and even in some cases music itself, are seen as distractions from rational worship, which should be removed. Elements of worship such as the Eucharist become increasingly treated as affairs of the mind. The Eucharist is reduced to a sign to be verbally explained, mentally interpreted and reflected upon.

Significant changes in my anthropology and in my view of worship over the last few years are by no means unrelated. Study of the Scriptures, self-reflection and engagement with others have progressively disabused me of any belief that I once held that we are primarily rational creatures. God addresses us at levels far deeper than our rational consciousness. I also believe that the idea that Scripture chiefly addresses us at a rational level should be questioned. The idea that Scripture always speaks first to our minds just seems wrong to me. This does not mean that the Scripture bypasses our minds altogether. However, it means that when the Scripture commands, exhorts, rebukes, comforts or encourages us, our minds are not the primary part of our make-up that God wants to engage with what is being said. God’s Word often addresses itself to our chests, before it ever speaks to our minds (or even to our hearts)...

In understanding the fact that man is not primarily a rational being, it is helpful to remember that most human communication is non-verbal. This is why liturgical training of the human body in posture, gesture and vesture is so important. As human beings we were designed to communicate with the entirety of our bodies and to receive communication with every part of our make-up. Much of the communication that we give is pre-conscious, as is the manner in which we receive much that is communicated to us. Often the most significant truths that we communicate or receive are the ones that we communicate or receive without even knowing that we are doing so, or without even thinking about it. Good liturgy can train us to communicate in Christian ways subconsciously, not just consciously. It can also communicate powerfully to the youngest person present in a way that a rationalistic service cannot.

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A Poem to Gregory

Nov. 6th, 2006 | 04:17 pm

I am reading John McGuckin's St. Gregory of Nazianzus: An Intellectual Biography, tracing the life of Gregory's thought, from childhood to old age.  The author, who teaches at Union Theological Seminary in New York, and happens to be an Orthodox priest of the Romanian Archdiocese, composed an interesting poem at the beginning of his work, elaborating on his personal affection for this very human saint.   (For those that are unfamiliar with St. Gregory, his work in the 4th century is a standard of orthodox Trinitarian and Christological theology). I found the poem interesting and thought I'd share:

St Gregory Nazianzen

Of all the ancients,
You I think I could live with
(some of the time)
comfortable in you
like an old coat
sagged and fraying at the back,
(its pockets drooping with important nothings
like string, and manuscripts of poems)
perfect for watching you off your guard,
rambling round your country garden,
planting roses, not turnips,
contrary to the manual
for a sensible monk;
master of the maybe;
anxious they might take you up all wrong;
shaking your fist at an Emperor,
(once he had turned the corner
out of sight);
every foray into speech
a costed regret.
Your heart was like a spider's silk
swinging wildly at the slightest breeze,
too tender for this tumbling world
of mountebanks, and quacks and gobs,
but tuned to hear the distant voices
of the singing stars
and marvel at the mercy of it all. 

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Neither Black nor White

Nov. 6th, 2006 | 02:25 pm

There was a man laying face down on Abby's back porch on Saturday afternoon - I thought he was dead.  I had walked out her door to find him laying below me, arms tucked under his body, head hidden in a baggy, blood-stained coat.  He was missing a shoe.  He was just lying on the porch.  I shouted at him, trying to rouse him.  I prodded his bare foot with my own foot but he didn't move.  I was convinced that he was dead.  We had only been inside for an hour.  How does a man come and die on our porch without us noticing?  Abby came next to me and together we stared at his back, eventually discerning (praise God) the slight rising and falling of a breathing man.  We continued to shout "Hello!" to him, and he continued to lay in silence.

Our options were ambiguous at best.  There was a good chance that his strange inability to awaken was a result of some form of intoxication - making him a potential danger, especially if it were drugs.  There was also a chance that he was in a coma.  More yelling, more noise-making, but no rousing.  Should we leave food for him?  Can we leave him?  Should we call an ambulance, especially if he's in a drugged-out state?  We called an ambulance.

They were able to wake him up: they tugged on his ears.  Our poor friend was immensely intoxicated and had no idea how he got to the porch or where his shoe was.  They took him to detox to spend the night; it appears that he was homeless.

The entire episode has left me with flagging questions:  Did we do what was right?  Were we taking care of the sick and clothing the naked?  The ambulance fee was $1000, and since our unexpected guest caused the ruckus he would  be charged (though in reality, the bill is probably a formality, being that the homeless can't usually pay for these things).

We felt strangely like failures as we watched the ambulance drive off.  Where was the Gospel in this situation?  Did we give in to fears?  Were our fears okay?  Our phone calls brought him to detox, but not on our money, and not on our time.

The medical workers and police officers were amused and casual: they do this type of thing many times a day. 


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A bit of sarcastic wit with your truth

Nov. 3rd, 2006 | 05:43 pm

Fundamentalism, New and Improved

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Nov. 3rd, 2006 | 05:21 pm

The morning prayers begin guided by the sunrise.  It is fifteen degrees outside while inside, gentle candles warmly dance before warmer icons.  And lo and behold - miracle of miracles - I am given a taste of hope and peace.  Only a taste, but it is a gift and it is enough.  My God!  Nothing else matters!  Realize, realize, realize.

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The challenge of belief

Nov. 3rd, 2006 | 03:08 pm

I am really enjoying Fr. Stephen Freeman's new journal.  Allow me to qoute a large portion of his current post:

There was a time in my life that I thought belief in God was easy, and that those who did not believe in God were just obstinate or wrong-headed. As years have gone on, I’ve come to think that belief in God is a very hard thing - perhaps the hardest thing of all.

Much of my change of mind has to do with my understanding of belief in God. The more belief has become a matter of the heart (of “willed knowing” to use a Hebrew concept) and not a matter of the intellect, the harder it has become. At the same time, it seems to me that everything has become much clearer. Ninety-five percent or so of America says it “believes in God.” Given the life of our nation, it must mean that the phrase is fairly empty.

In The Pilgrim Continues His Way, the attached sequel to The Way of a Pilgrim, the little anonymous gem of Russian spiritual writing, there is something of a model confession. It begins simply:

Turning my gaze at myself and attentively observing the course of my interior life I am convinced, through experience, that I love neither God nor my neighbor, that I have no faith, and that I am full of pride and sensuality. This realization is the result of careful examination of my feelings and actions.

The guide goes on to detail each of these observations.

I do not love God. For if I loved Him, then I would be constantly thinking of Him with heartfelt satisfaction; every thought of God would fill me with joy and delight. On the contrary, I think more and with greater eagerness about worldly things, while thoughts of God present difficulty and aridity.

This model confession continues in this manner for several pages - absolutely spot on.

He writes more here

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Fighting Words?

Nov. 2nd, 2006 | 04:01 pm

Fr. Freeman writes with sobriety about the danger of turning liturgical praises into apologetic weaponry:

Being Orthodox means living with words like "pillar and ground of truth." Or singing gleefully in a liturgy, "We have seen the True Light, we have found the true faith." In the wrong hands such words can be dangerous indeed. They are true enough, but such truth can be uttered well only as praise to the Living God, rarely as apologetics or as "war words" in our confused scene of Christianity. Uttered in "battle" if the little dust-ups that occur hither and yon can be called such, these words take on the fearful character of "that by which we will be judged" (Matthew 12:36).

Read more here

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Lifting Up

Nov. 1st, 2006 | 02:20 pm

I found myself in the midst of a moderate amount of angst and depression the other evening. As no distraction seemed appealing or even possible, I sat down on my bed and focused on the nagging chaos that danced about my heart and mind. I realized that if there was a place to be - a place of healing - it was in a sanctuary, during liturgy. I pictured the vested minister, raising the elements high above his head, and as Christ was lifted up I knew that I too would be lifted up with him.

There is a lifting up, an exaltation in the liturgy that pulls a person out of himself and ushers him into the throne room of the Father. It is a salvation, a liberty from man's own inward and downward pull. At the little entrance the Gospel book is elevated in the hands of the priest and proceeds about the room - always above our heads. The Gospel is then proclaimed, shouted from the rooftops, if you will. What we experience here is not the gazing down of the head to study, but the lifting up of the head to receive the One Who Is To Come. It is the necessary cry of good news.

Likewise, the elements of Holy Communion are lifted high, presented to God.  The Son is offered up and we are offered up in the Son.  For in baptism the Father made us little Christs, and we offer ourselves in the Son because our identities are no longer viable apart from his.  The Father accepts the Son, and in his Son, he accepts us.  "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me", lifting us up with him as well.  We need only recognize our unity with the Son of God, a unity most severe.

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The Stent in My Body

Oct. 31st, 2006 | 10:14 pm

(images found here)

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Alive and Improving

Oct. 30th, 2006 | 03:44 pm

By God's grace, here I sit! The procedure went well and my body is getting used to carrying medical equipment inside of it, and the pain is manageable. Thank you for your prayers.

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Surgery Friday

Oct. 25th, 2006 | 09:13 am

Prayers would be appreciated as I undergo surgery this Friday morning.  I'll be put to sleep and the doctors will work to retrieve a kidney stone.  Essentially, the procedure involves passing a little laser and basket up through the ureter and into the kidney, where the stone will be shot at with the laser to break it apart, and then pulled out in little pieces by the basket (thank the Lord I'll be sleeping).  A stent will be left inside of me for a week or two.  This stent is somewhat of a tube, running from my kidney through the ureter and out...well...the rest of me....which is designed to help with drainage and urination.   All in all, the procedure is not very serious, but it will be uncomfortable, and prayers for patience, endurance and quick recovery would be wonderful.  I'll post again next week with an update.

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Oct. 24th, 2006 | 08:45 am

(Forgive me for expounding on a very common theme as of late.  I'm in the midst of a new understanding of my own failures, and writing about them seems fitting).

Our hearts become hardened by sin and we begin to neglect that each person around us is our salvation, that Christ is everywhere, filling all things, and that he gives himself to us in Holy Communion so that we might recognize Him everywhere else.

Ultimately, the immense curse and spiritual danger of our sin is that it blinds us.  In our gluttonous self-absorption we cannot see others as Christ.  For if we were willing to admit that God was so near, so physically present as our neighbor, then we wouldn't have the courage to keep on sinning.  If we were to realize that as vessels of Christ, our neighbors are holy, then we could not ignore them.

It is our selfishness that isolates us from others; our hearts harden; Jesus is ignored and once again placed into the tomb as the resurrection is forgotten.  There does not anywhere in this world exist a merely "personal" or "individual" sin - all sin is a denial of God, thus it is a denial of every human being.

Whatever you did to the least of these, you did to me...

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