Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Getting Healthy = Podvig?

Right, so, first, I can hear you asking, 'What's a 'podvig'?' Well, it's a Russian term that has no direct translation into English. The most common definition I've come across is, simply, 'spiritual struggle' - a means of drawing nearer to Christ as we travel on the path to salvation.

As Anna put it in a recent video, podvig is 'understood as the ascetic struggle. As a path that you take that is almost unique to you. I mean there are certain things that people have done over the ages that are similar but every person- Okay, let's put it like this. Since we view sin, in the Orthodox Church like a terminal illness. Not terminal illness, but an illness, and that one needs Grace to over come it. The means of getting to that Grace is your podvig. It's- It's the specific medication that you need to get better. To overcome sin. So not everyone needs the same medication. The same way of handling their sinful temptations.' (I've transcribed this as best I can.)

So, we all know that I have a weight problem. Yes, I do have a thyroid disorder, but that's not why I weigh too much, or at least it's not the whole, or even *main* issue. The fact of the matter is I love to eat. I eat too much, of things that aren't good for me. I indulge. I *loll* in it. It's not even sugar or candy or things like that. Meat, potatoes, gourmet meals. Mmmm....Food. I love *food*. I love the taste of it, the feel of it, the sensation. I love going out and eating, or staying in and cooking. I love to drink, pretty, sugary, 'girly' drinks, or doing shots to drink the boys under the table (that being said, I haven't had an alcoholic drink in months. My lack of 'portion control' with alcohol is more worrisome to me, so I've stopped all together. Though to be honest, I've 'stopped' before, and slipped back, but never to the degree I did prior to stopping, so it's kind of gone in stages. But I can go out to dinner now and *not* feel like I *have* to get an alcoholic drink. I still *want* to, but I *don't*.). Clearly, I'm a glutton. I mean that's just...that's just clear? Right?

I'm *not* saying that everyone who is overweight is like me, or is offending God, or something. I'm saying, for me, I've finally realized that my weight is because I indulge my every whim when it comes to food. I have trouble going, 'No, I don't need that food, I'm not hungry.' It's a personal issue, got it?

I've started with a personal trainer today. My parents got me, for Christmas, ten 45 minute sessions with her. Along with the exercise she'll be directing what I eat, and how much. I'm determined to *obey* her, no matter how much I don't want to. And I'm thinking, I'm thinking, honestly, that this, this learning and obedience to her is a part of my path, a part of my podvig - to learn to stop giving my flesh whatever it wants, even when it's not good for me.

Numbers 6:5

All the days of his vow of purification no razor shall come upon his head; until the days are fulfilled for which he vowed to the Lord; he shall be holy. Then he shall let the locks of the hair of his head grow.

2009 Meme

I am a lemming. Susanne had this meme, and, well, *lemming*. I mentioned that, right?

1. What did you do in 2009 that you’d never done before?

Taught kinder. Went to an Orthodox church. Bought a brand spankin' new car.

2. Did you keep your new years’ resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

No and no.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

Not *yet*. Though I do know a couple people who're pregnant.

4. Did anyone close to you die?

Yes. My dog Buddy. Humans? No, thank God.

5. What countries did you visit?

Canadia. It's an imaginary place, where gumdrops rain from the sky. :)

6. What would you like to have in 2010 that you lacked in 2009?

One million dollars! *is smacked* I'd like to have 2010 be the year that I got control over my body. Also a boyfriend. ;)

7. What date from 2009 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

Date? Specific date? Like I'll always know *exactly* the date this event happened? None. My brain doesn't work that way. I'll remember the event, but not the date. So, event wise, Buddy dying, buying Myrddin, and my visit to the Serbian church.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Going to the Serbian church and not passing out/vomiting from panic.

Also, not beating the crap out of people who annoy me. (There's a *lot* of them!)

9. What was your biggest failure?

*Wanting* to beat the crap out of people who annoy me. I need to move beyond that level. The problem is not *necessarily* with the other people, but rather with me and my ability to accept them and move on.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

Had a cold or two. 'Biggest' injury was the stick in the foot incident, which led to the Genocide of the Shrubbery.

11. What was the best thing you bought?


12. Whose behavior merited celebration?

Dad. For reasons that I cannot go into on the blog.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?

My sister. Again, reasons that cannot be gone into.

14. Where did most of your money go?

Probably books.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

Star Trek. Holmes. Iron Man 2 (which is not out yet, but that doesn't lessen my excitement, okay?)

16. What song(s) will always remind you of 2009?

"Poker Face"

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:

i. Happier or sadder?

ii. Happier

iii. Thinner or fatter?

iv. Fatter.

v. richer or poorer?

vi. Same.

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?


19. What do you wish you’d done less of?

Work. *gives work the stink eye*

20. How will you be spending Christmas?

I spent it the same way I do every year. Sniping insults back and forth with my Grandmother.

21. How many one-night stands?

Oh, half a dozen or so.

22. What was your favorite TV program?

Do I have to pick *one*? If I can only have one, Supernatural.

23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?

Nope. I only, really, truly hate one person, and I've hated them for *years*.

24. What was the best book you read?

Hah. What? Umm...Good Omens. But I read that book at least once a year, because of it's awesomeness. If we're going to go with nonfiction, I'd have to say my favorite was Bread & Water, Wine & Oil.

25. What was your greatest musical discovery?

'When I Ruled the World' - Coldplay

26. What did you want and get?

Books. More books. Also, Sanctuary Season 1 on dvd. And the complete Rome series.

27. What was your favorite film of this year?

Star Trek.

28. What did you do on your birthday?

Went out with my best friend. We share the same birthday (I'm older by a couple of hours.)

29. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2009?

demi-Muslim, but leaning back away from that now.

30. What kept you sane?

My sense of humor.

31. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

Robert Downey, Jr.

32. What political issue stirred you the most?

Homosexual marriage.

33. Who did you miss?

Nobody. No one's left me...

34. Who was the best new person you met?

LK, Heather, Achelois, Sarah (Wrestling), Anna, Alana, Sanil, Ahavah, Stacy, Michelle, Athena, M, Susanne...(though I'm not sure you count, since I'm pretty sure we met each other in 2008, but I include you anyway!)

35. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2009:

I don't know everything, I'm not always right, and I don't need to be either of those things.

I'm not tagging, but if you want to, feel free. :)

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

22 Years (And Still a Pain...)

Today is Baby Sis' 22nd birthday.

She's the annoying blonde pumpkin in the picture. :)

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Matthew 19: 10

Susanne, I blame you. I was just goofing around, and then a post of yours made me *think*.

Stop that!

Right, so...

I was looking up the passage I remembered about men being 'eunuchs' for God, and I try to remember to pull up the entire passage, not just the one verse, to get the context for what's being said. So, I pulled up Matthew 19:1-12 :

1When Jesus had finished these words, He departed from Galilee and came into the region of Judea beyond the Jordan; 2 and large crowds followed Him, and He healed them there. 3 Some Pharisees came to Jesus, testing Him and asking, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason at all?" 4 And He answered and said, "Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning MADE THEM MALE AND FEMALE, 5 and said, 'FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER AND BE JOINED TO HIS WIFE, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH'? 6 "So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate." 7 They said to Him, "Why then did Moses command to GIVE HER A CERTIFICATE OF DIVORCE AND SEND her AWAY?" 8 He said to them, "Because of your hardness of heart Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way. 9 "And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery." 10 The disciples said to Him, "If the relationship of the man with his wife is like this, it is better not to marry." 11 But He said to them, "Not all men can accept this statement, but only those to whom it has been given. 12 "For there are eunuchs who were born that way from their mother's womb; and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men; and there are also eunuchs who made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to accept this, let him accept it."

I bolded the relevant passage to my thought. So, I'd long thought that this verse was saying, 'If this is the way marriage works, it's better to *not* get married.' Buncha bachelors, saying, 'see! women are *trouble*!' Or the ancient equivalent thereof.

However, the thought occurred to me: What if, what if what they're saying is, if you're in a marriage LIKE THAT, that it'd have been better to never marry at all? Or, if a man divorces his wife because...oh...she's a redhead and he prefers blondes...that it's better to not remarry, as opposed to committing adultery, which is what Jesus just told them would be what's happening.

Any thoughts? Am I the last one to notice this, again? (Cause it's totally happened before...) Or am I reading the 'wrong' tone into the disciples?

That's happened before, too. For instance, when this hadith was pointed out, (for some argument I don't even recall at this point, or even what I was *supposed* to get out of this hadith being brought up) my thought was, 'Even Aisha thinks Allah's revelations to Mohammed are suspiciously timed. She's being *sarcastic* about it, and no one noticed...' but I was told I was reading too much of what *I'd* be doing, and not the 'real' reasoning. Which, again, I've forgotten what I was told that was...

Bukhari - Volume 6, Book 60, Number 311:
Narrated Aisha:
I used to look down upon those ladies who had given themselves to Allah's Apostle and I used to say, "Can a lady give herself (to a man)?" But when Allah revealed: "You (O Muhammad) can postpone (the turn of) whom you will of them (your wives), and you may receive any of them whom you will; and there is no blame on you if you invite one whose turn you have set aside (temporarily).' (33.51) I said (to the Prophet), "I feel that your Lord hastens in fulfilling your wishes and desires."

Saturday, December 26, 2009

I'm Too Nice

So, ya'll're gonna get a run down of my day. Be patient, it has bearing.

I'm house/zoo sitting at a friends, which happens to be about 5 minutes away from my work. For those of you playing the home game, I do legal advertising (I run all those notices required by law - foreclosures, divorces, etc.) for a newspaper. We have to keep our records for three years. A year of legal notices is a *lot* of paperwork, by the way. But, we don't typically every actually need to look anything up past the last couple of months. Still, keep the stuff we must. So it gets boxed up and stored in the Closet Under the Stairs which is the place where stuff we have to keep, but rarely need to get to lives. Thus, at the end of every year, we have to haul the oldest boxes out, mark them 'Recycle' (because placing them next to the giant blue recycle bin isn't clue enough for the cleaning crew) and put the latest year in. It's a lot of shifting, in a small, cramped space. (My job is *such* fun!) See, the Closet Under the Stairs, by necessity, follows the *shape* of the stairs, so it starts out tall and gets short. (We actually had one lady knock herself out in there years ago, she forgot the ceiling was so low, stood up, and *wham*. She was okay though.) So. This is nothing I want to do during the work week, when I'm dressed nicely for my lovely desk job. :)

My friend goes away every year, for Christmas. Her kids and grand kids all live out of state. So this is the great 'Tour'. Since I'm here, every year, every year, I go in one day on the weekend and do all the shifting. So now, all we have to do is pack up the last box from the last week of December and put that away. *Much* easier. So that's what I did today. I was in there about six, and said 'hi' to H2, who is part of the weekend customer service crew. She looked ill, so we chatted a few minutes, and she said her stomach had been upset since yesterday. I made sympathetic noises, and told her where I'd be if she needed me (the Closet Under the Stairs is around a corner in our big, open office, so I could hear her if she called, but we couldn't see each other) and went about my business. A little later, MK, the other half of the weekend crew showed up, we said 'hi' on her way to the time clock, and I proceeded to shift heavy things around in a small space. (Fun!)

It took me a little less than an hour, I went and clocked out (I clocked in just in case I hurt myself. HR'd *kill* me if I was working and not clocked in and happened to trip or something. Kill.), then I decided to take a minute and clean up the Drawer of Sharpies. (I like Sharpies. I need a whole drawer in my desk for my collection. There's nothing wrong with that. But it needed cleaned, since I'd been tossing other stuff in there all year.)

I sat down, and MK asked me how long I could stay, because H2 had apparently had to run to the bathroom 12 times in the 45 minutes since I'd seen her, and MK wanted to send her home. I made more sympathetic noises and said that, assuming Boss okay'd it (overtime...) I could stay H2's whole shift. H2 called Boss & got the okay, so I clocked back in, logged into my computer and was there until noon. (I also did more of my work in the mean time, I need to get ahead for New Years, and my 'in pile' is about four inches high at this point...) H2 still had to come back, because she also does the obits on the weekends, but that takes a lot less time, and she got to go home and lay down. When H2 got back, she still looked off, so I told her that I was still going to be in town tomorrow, and, assuming Boss said it was okay, if she was still feeling sick tomorrow, I'd come in and work her shift again.

I left at noon to run over to *another* friends house. She lives just down the road, and had a snake problem. *sigh* So, about two weeks ago, she calls me to tell me about the pygmy rattler that she'd found in her living room. She'd sprayed it in the face with roach spray and dropped a pot over it. Then piled bricks and cement pieces on the pot so it couldn't escape. I wanted her to call animal control, but some idiot at her job told her that animal control would get her for animal cruelty for the roach spray (I wouldn't have *told* them about it if that was really a concern, which *I* don't think it was...), so she refused. Her plan was to leave the snake under the pot in the middle of her living room until next winter. *headdesk* So....I told her Thursday that I would be showing up today and we would get the snake out of her house. I went over, we cleared the throw rug that it was sitting on of all other things (chairs, etc, etc) and dragged it out of the house, still under the pot, with a brick sitting on it. Just in case.

We got it outside, got a shovel (I had the shovel. She went for more roach spray...) and flipped the rug, gently, so that the pot and the snake tumbled down her front steps. That way, should he still be alive (so very unlikely I can't even describe it...) he'd be down there, she could spray him *again*, and I could cut his head off. Snake fell out, very, very, very dead. I cut his head off, to make her feel better, and we threw away the evidence corpse.

In the mean time, H2 had called my cell and said that Boss said it was okay, if she was still sick tomorrow, for me to cover. So H2's supposed to call me later tonight, or tomorrow morning, early, if I need to go in.

So...I may or may not be going to the Orthodox church tomorrow. I *want* to go, so I'm praying that H2 feels better, but I couldn't *not* volunteer. Most of the time I'm too far away to come in to cover, so H1 gets called in, which is great, because she has two kids and needs the extra money, but she and her fiancee have *his* son over this Christmas, which they never get, and if I can, I'd like to let them have the whole weekend to just be together. So. I'm going to go to the 5pm Mass, just in case.

And look, I feel bad for H2 if she's really sick, but there's a pattern here. She *knew* I was going to be in today, because I said I'd see her Saturday when I saw her on Tuesday. And somehow, magically, whenever she *knows* that someone is going to be in the office for some reason on a weekend that can do customer service, she *somehow* just *happens* to get 'sick'. God forbid, she really is sick this time, and I'm suspicious of her, but I can't help it. You can only cry wolf so many times, people. So I'm fairly certain she'll be calling me to go in, because that gives her most of the weekend off. *sigh* But then, I couldn't *not* volunteer, because again, H1's family needs time together, and H2 could really be sick. So.

I'll let ya'll know tomorrow, of course. And even if I don't make it tomorrow, my next 'day off' from class I will definitely be attending. I *want* to go, but I also can't not try and be helpful for H1, who I like.

Isn't there some quote about giving people the benefit of the doubt? Offering help even when you suspect you're being take advantage of? I suspect there is, but I can't think of it.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

The Nativity of the Lord
Midnight Mass

Reading 1

Is 9:1-6

The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom
a light has shone.
You have brought them abundant joy
and great rejoicing,
as they rejoice before you as at the harvest,
as people make merry when dividing spoils.
For the yoke that burdened them,
the pole on their shoulder,
and the rod of their taskmaster
you have smashed, as on the day of Midian.
For every boot that tramped in battle,
every cloak rolled in blood,
will be burned as fuel for flames.
For a child is born to us, a son is given us;
upon his shoulder dominion rests.
They name him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero,
Father-Forever, Prince of Peace.
His dominion is vast
and forever peaceful,
from David’s throne, and over his kingdom,
which he confirms and sustains
by judgment and justice,
both now and forever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this!

Responsorial Psalm

Ps 96: 1-2, 2-3, 11-12, 13

(Lk 2:11) Today is born our Savior, Christ the Lord.
Sing to the LORD a new song;
sing to the LORD, all you lands.
Sing to the LORD; bless his name.
Today is born our Savior, Christ the Lord.
Announce his salvation, day after day.
Tell his glory among the nations;
among all peoples, his wondrous deeds.
Today is born our Savior, Christ the Lord.
Let the heavens be glad and the earth rejoice;
let the sea and what fills it resound;
let the plains be joyful and all that is in them!
Then shall all the trees of the forest exult.
Today is born our Savior, Christ the Lord.
They shall exult before the LORD, for he comes;
for he comes to rule the earth.
He shall rule the world with justice
and the peoples with his constancy. Today is born our Savior, Christ the Lord.

Reading II

Ti 2: 11-14

The grace of God has appeared, saving all
and training us to reject godless ways and worldly desires
and to live temperately, justly, and devoutly in this age,
as we await the blessed hope,
the appearance of the glory of our great God
and savior Jesus Christ,
who gave himself for us to deliver us from all lawlessness
and to cleanse for himself a people as his own, eager to do what is good.


Lk 2: 1-14

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus
that the whole world should be enrolled.
This was the first enrollment,
when Quirinius was governor of Syria.
So all went to be enrolled, each to his own town.
And Joseph too went up from Galilee from the town of Nazareth
to Judea, to the city of David that is called Bethlehem,
because he was of the house and family of David,
to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.
While they were there,
the time came for her to have her child,
and she gave birth to her firstborn son.
She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger,
because there was no room for them in the inn.

Now there were shepherds in that region living in the fields
and keeping the night watch over their flock.
The angel of the Lord appeared to them
and the glory of the Lord shone around them,
and they were struck with great fear.
The angel said to them,
“Do not be afraid;
for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy
that will be for all the people.
For today in the city of David
a savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord.
And this will be a sign for you:
you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes
and lying in a manger.”
And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel,
praising God and saying:
“Glory to God in the highest

and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

God is a consuming fire (Heb. 12:29)

Right, so, I've basically boiled this down into small words. For *me*, you understand.

If you want the grown up version, I'm going to include the links to the articles that I read at the bottom, so you can get all the juicy details (which are many, and this post would be *huge* if I tried to encapsulate, which is what I started to do, and then realized the length, and said 'meh')

So, this is just a rough 'smooshing'. If I've stated anything wrong, someone who knows more than I, please let me know. I was just trying to get a rough idea of the theology across, with links to longer, better articles included.

God is described, many, many times in the Bible as fire. For a small sampling, Gen. 19:24, Ex. 3:2, 9:23, 13: 21-22, 19:18, Num 11: 1-3, 4:24, Ne 9:12, Ps 66:10, 104:4, Is 66:15, Matt 31: 10-12, 25:41, Mark 9:49, Luke 12: 49, Acts 7:30, 1 Cor 3:15, Heb 1:7, 12:29, Rev 3:16. It's a metaphor, of course, and helps to illustrate that when we encounter God, here, it's not His Essence, but His Energies. Think back to the sword in the fire from my deification posts.

The Bible tells us that all people go into the presence of God after they die. The difference, the key difference, is how we experience His Presence. Because God is everywhere, and fills all things, there is no place apart from God. So the concept of Hell as a place lacking the presence of God makes no sense. Rather, Heaven and Hell are the same 'place' (keeping in mind we're not speaking physically, but spiritually) - before God, basking in His Divine Energies and Presence, for all eternity. For an illustration, see Daniel 3 - the three youths were tossed into the fire and unharmed, but the warriors burned up at the entrance. Same place, different reactions. Why? The youths were in God's grace, they were righteous. The warriors were not.

We see from the story of Lazarus and the Rich Man (Luke 16: 19-31) that both the righteous and the unrighteous go to the same place after death, 'Hades'. Lazarus was comforted, while the rich man was in agony. (Note that it doesn't say he was *being* tortured, poked by devils with pitchforks or what have you, but that he was 'in agony'). There's no description of any outside force *doing* anything to cause his pain.

An interesting aside, one of the authors posits that Satan and his demons cannot be in 'hell' tormenting sinners, because hell is in the Presence of God, and so they too would be suffering because of His presence (since they are not 'with' Him.)

'all people come into the presence of God in the afterlife. Some will bask in joy because of that infinite love, glory, light, power, and truth that is Almighty God. Others will cower in fear and be in torment DUE TO THAT SAME PRESENCE.'

When we die, no matter what, we will all go to God. Because He's all that really IS. However, due to our choices, this will either be joy and light for all eternity, or fear and despair. But either way, it was our choices that led us to that reaction - not God sitting up on a throne somewhere and choosing heaven or hell for us. Our choice to obey or not. Our choice to accept God's love and grow in it, or reject it for the things of this world.

Links that do a much better job at this than me:

Heaven & Hell in the Afterlife

Chapter 3: Salvation

Paradise and Hell According to Orthodox Tradition

Leviticus 6:5

So the fire on the altar shall be burning; it shall not be put out. The priest shall burn wood and put the whole burnt offering on it; and he shall burn on it the fat of the peace offering.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Thoughts on Atheists

I actually thought this week was going to be a quiet blog week, because I'm still working on the relics post, I kind of want to write about the book I'm reading, but I'm dog sitting, so I haven't been able to concentrate on it to really do the material justice, and Christmas, so, crazy family stuff. And yet, here I am.

So, atheists. Every so often you'll get one who spouts a line about how, 'if you need religion to tell you right from wrong, there's something wrong with you!' or 'if you need God to tell you that murdering/raping/stealing is wrong' or 'if all that's keeping you from doing X, then you're a sociopath!'. And, to a certain degree, I agree with them.

If the *ONLY THING* keeping a person from committing some sort of heinous crime is fear of God's punishment, then there *is* something wrong with them. And I'm not talking about things that are considered a moral wrong, but not a violent crime, like adultery, for example, (it's bad, and adulterers should be dragged over sharp glass and then dumped in the ocean, but it's not - to my mind - as bad as murder or rape) but *crimes* - if the only thing keeping you from walking over to your neighbor and stabbing them is fear of God, seek help. You have ISSUES, and possibly a psychosis. On the other hand, if the only thing keeping some nut job from doing this stuff is fear of God, then thank God for their fear of God!

And another thing:

So many atheists will ask, 'what if you die and discover you've been wrong, and there was never a God? Won't you feel you've wasted your life? What about all the things you didn't do because of God?'

To which I say, 'Well, if you're right, when I die I'm not going to 'discover' anything, because I'll be *gone*, and have no consciousness left to discover anything at all...' But also, so what? Let's just say, theoretically, that we're *all* wrong, and the atheists are right, and there is no God. This whole, existence thing is just a mistake of the universe. So? Does my believing that there is a God and that He wants me to do a, b, c, and not to do x, y, z, make the world a better or a worse place? (And I know some atheists will say *worse*, but I don't care. I think atheism makes the world worse, so there you go.) If I die, and I've 'wasted my life' obeying a Being that doesn't really exist, so what? It makes my life better. It makes me strive to be a better person. So...I see no down side.

What's the Best Way to Meet A Spouse?

I'm reading through the back posts of this blog, and I just finished reading the series that she did on how she met her husband. It's cute, and if you like stories like that, you should go read them. Plus, it's a very interesting blog all on its own. :)

Anyway, because she's Muslim, she wound up meeting her husband through a series of marriage interviews. So, I'm naturally curious, and thought I'd ask ya'll.

What do you think is the best way to meet a spouse? And I don't mean, 'go clubbing'. I mean, for a lasting marriage, what do you think is the best way to go about finding a husband(/wife)? And why? Why do you think that's best?

No particularly pressing reason, of course, for the question. I promise not to take your thoughts and run off and try to bag myself a husband that way. ;-) I just found the whole 'marriage interview' thing interesting and wanted to see what other people think.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Gratitude is a burden

Men are more ready to repay an injury than a benefit
because gratitude is a burden and revenge a pleasure.
— Tacitus (56-120 AD)

The Kinder Report Day 14


That is all. :)

We had fun, cake, cookies, crafts, utter chaos.

We're off next weekend, and I intend to go to the Greek Orthodox church next Sunday.

For now, I'm off to go see Avatar and probably squeak embarrassingly at the screen.

Also, next week, HOLMES! *convulses in joy*

Friday, December 18, 2009

Elisha's Bones

20 Elisha died, and they buried him. Now the bands of the Moabites would invade the land in the spring of the year.

21 As they were burying a man, behold, they saw a marauding band; and they cast the man into the grave of Elisha. And when the man touched the bones of Elisha he revived and stood up on his feet.

The whole passage of Elisha's death is 2 Kings 13: 14 - 21. random picking of your brains!

What was it about Elisha's bones that brought the man back to life?

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Moses and the Burning Bush

Hi there, and welcome to today's edition of, 'Amber picks your brains!' (and doesn't tell you why...)

I want to know, do you think that (in Exodus 3: 1-5) when God told Moses that 'this is holy ground' the *ground* was *actually* holy, or just that God wanted Moses to perceive it as such?

Here's the passage:

1 Now Moses was pasturing the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian; and he led the flock to the west side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. 2 The angel of the LORD appeared to him in a blazing fire from the midst of a bush; and he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, yet the bush was not consumed. 3 So Moses said, "I must turn aside now and see this marvelous sight, why the bush is not burned up. 4 When the LORD saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, "Moses, Moses!" And he said, "Here I am. 5 Then He said, "Do not come near here; remove your sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground."

And, on a related note, what about Moses having to veil his face after having spoken to the Lord? (Exodus 34: 32-35):

32 Afterward all the sons of Israel came near, and he commanded them to do everything that the LORD had spoken to him on Mount Sinai. 33 When Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil over his face. 34 But whenever Moses went in before the LORD to speak with Him, he would take off the veil until he came out; and whenever he came out and spoke to the sons of Israel what he had been commanded, 35 the sons of Israel would see the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses' face shone. So Moses would replace the veil over his face until he went in to speak with Him.

What do you think it means that Moses' face shone? Why did it do that? Does it have anything to do with God's interaction with the physical world?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Exodus 6:5

"I have also heard the groaning of the children of Israel, whom the Egyptians keep in bondage, and I remembered My covenant."

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Spiritual Fathers

I'm beginning to get an appreciation for one of the (many, I'm sure) benefits of having a spiritual father.

Let me explain:

I was listening to another edition of Our Life in Christ, and one of the quotes they used was this: "St. Pachomius once met some people who were carrying a corpse, and saw two angels in the funeral procession. He asked God to reveal to him the mystery of the presence of the two angels at the burial of this man. What especial good had he done that two angels should escort him to the grave? Then, by the providence of God, the two angels came across to Pachomius and explained to him: One of us is the angel of Wednesday, and the other the angel of Friday. As this man fasted every Wednesday and Friday right up to his death, we are giving his corpse a solemn escort. As he kept the fast up to his death, so we are here to glorify him."

And I thought, yeah! I wanna do that! I mean, who wouldn't want an angelic escort at their funeral? (Or any other time for that matter...) So I went off (in my head) planning to find out *exactly* how the Orthodox fast, get myself an Orthodox calendar, and do it. And thereby get angels at my funeral. Seriously.

I didn't get *too* far in my planning, though, when I was listening to *another* episode, this time an interview (I believe) with a man called Papa Demetrios. It was about the healing of the nous. And he told the story (which I am paraphrasing from my memory) of a man who was doing hundreds of prostrations a day, and feeling very good about it and himself. He went to a his spiritual father and told him what he was doing already, and asked for a discipline to bring himself even closer to God. The father told him his discipline was this, to do only *ten* prostrations a day. The man sort of scoffed, after all, he was doing much more than that already, ten was nothing.

He came back in a few days, begging for a different discipline. Ten was too hard. Before, he'd been doing his hundreds with pride. Doing ten, in obedience, was too difficult.

So, that stopped me. I mean, why did I want to do the fast? Because I wanted the angels. I wanted 'bragging rights'. *sigh*

*That* sort of stuff, for me, makes it clear why having a spiritual father is an *excellent* idea. And, to be frank, it makes more sense to me than that whole, 'headship' thing I was trying to fit into my brain a while back. After all, again, what about me? Under the 'headship' plot, I'm s.o.l. And married, what if my husband goes off the theological rails? What if he's not the same faith? (No, we're not supposed to marry outside of our faith, but what if I married Orthodox and he later on became...Evangelical *hackspit*. That's not grounds for divorce, but still his spiritual advice, 'headship' would become useless.) On the other hand, the priest is separate from our marital issues. He's devoted his entire life to his faith, and to leading others in the faith, and his advice would be best. He wouldn't be subject to my pride or whims, but rather what is actually best for my soul and spiritual growth.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Five Thousand Two Fed

Okay, so it was three tilapia fillets and some rice, not five loaves and two fish, but whatever. I'm working at a disadvantage here! :)

I, have baked fish. It turned out *perfectly*. Not dry, undercooked, burnt, nothing! Yes, yes, it was a very simple recipe, but I refuse to allow you and your 'reality' to infringe upon my victory!

Just in case any one's wondering, here's what I did:

1. Preheat oven to 400

2. Wash fish and pat it dry

3. Brush lightly on both sides with extra virgin olive oil

4. Season with a little salt

5. Season with Season-All, Onion, Garlic, and Oregano

6. Bake for ten minutes


Really easy, but tasty!
Plus, my sister *hates* fish. And she wanted to try it. I'm not going to lie, she didn't suddenly love fish, but she said it was good. :)

The Kinder Report Day 13

Next week is our Christmas party. :)

This week, we read the Annunciation (Luke 1: 26-38), and then one of the girls wanted to read the Magnificat (Luke 1: 46-56) so we did that as well. For those unfamiliar with it:

46 And Mary said: "My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
47 my spirit rejoices in God my savior.
48 For he has looked upon his handmaid's lowliness; behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed.
49 The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.
50 His mercy is from age to age to those who fear him.
51 He has shown might with his arm, dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart.
52 He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones but lifted up the lowly.
53 The hungry he has filled with good things; the rich he has sent away empty.
54 He has helped Israel his servant, remembering his mercy,
55 according to his promise to our fathers, to Abraham and to his descendants forever."
56 Mary remained with her about three months and then returned to her home.

Our word of the day was 'pope'. *eye twitches* I had to spell it on the board because the kids kept insisting that I was saying 'pulp'. *headdesk* Anyway, I explained that he was the Bishop of Rome, and a little about the progression from deacon to priest to bishop. I left out the technical stuff because, well, they're six. It can be confusing. *sigh* I let Debbie teach the whole, 'the church was founded on St. Peter' bit. It was a cop-out, and I know it. But I'm not going to teach something I'm not convinced of, however, it is a Catholic class, and it needed to be said. So. There you go.

Most of the day was spent making Christmas cards for the St. Vincent de Paul society. They're going to deliver the cards with meals to the people that they serve. We thought it was great, and the kids had lots of fun. :)

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Twilight Series

Okay, I'm going to say this once, and then WE WILL NEVER. SPEAK. OF. IT. AGAIN. *glares around* I mean it.


I may have been wrong about the Twilight series, before, when I said it was the worst thing ever written in the history of ever.

I had to buy the entire series in hardcover for my sister for Christmas/birthday (she was born on the 29th, so I try to do presents that go together...), and I got them all so early that I, uh, read them. I just finished the fourth one, Breaking Dawn, today.

Now, don't get me wrong. I still don't find them particularly well written, the plots are...meh. I've seen them all done before, in varying forms, and done better. They *are* written for teenagers, and it shows. (And, it actually hurts my brain that this is the level of reading that young teenagers are at. When I was a preteen/teen I was reading Dostoevsky, Twain, Austen, the Bronte sisters, Alighieri, Shakespeare! Okay, I also read teenybopper stuff, but I at least had a rounded taste set!)

So, having finished the whole series, it *does* get better than the first book. Bella is still a freaking moron, and annoys the ever living crap out of me 90% of the time with all her, 'oh, I'm so worthless! He's so much better than me! I don't deserve him! Wah! Wah! Wah! Oh no, I did something dumb! Edward! Jacob! Come save meeeeeeeeeee!' :p I prefer my women with, oh, I don't know, a brain and a spine. Also a personality that doesn't remind one of a doormat. All that being said, I retract my whole, Edward is a creepy stalker and controlling bit. He's not. Really, you kind of realize that, if Edward *wasn't* watching out for Bella, she's wind up walking in front of a car. She's that dumb.

Here're two things that, for me, make the series worth having read it:

Be warned: Spoilers! If you haven't read the books, and don't want to know what happens, go away. I don't give away everything, but I do give away two things from the last book.

I mean it. If you read this, it's on your own head!

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Thing the first: A proper understanding and respect for the sanctity of sex. Edward insists on marrying Bella before making her a vampire, and he insists that they wait until after they're married to have sex.

"How did people do this - swallow all their fears and trust someone so implicitly with every imperfection and fear they had - with less than the absolute commitment Edward had given me?"

Seriously, that was the line I read, and I thought, 'Huh. Well, this whole series was worth it.' The author, and therefore the characters, treat sex as something special and sacred, as it should be. To be shared only between husband and wife.

Thing the second: Bella refuses to abort her baby. Her baby who is, in fact, killing her slowly, and painfully. Edward, who didn't realize he could get her pregnant (what with being a vampire and kind of dead and all...), wants to remove the fetus, and almost everyone else agrees with him, but Bella *knows* her child, and refuses, and enlists the help of the only other vampire who understands, and would be willing to help her. She fights for the life inside her, even to the point of risking her own life, because there's no guarantee she'll survive long enough to be turned into a vampire after giving birth.

That's it. Really. Those two things made the approximately 1700 pages of this series worth it for me.

Oh! PS: I had read people complaining about the 'damage' that Edward does to Bella when the have sex. Um...clearly, you people did not *read* the books. Does Edward bruise Bella? Yes. Is it a lot of bruising? Yeah. But, uh, that does happen, even in normal human sex (Not, it must be said, to the extent that Bella gets bruised. It's really a lot. But...*vampire*. Edward *was* holding back. A lot.). And if you've *never* gotten up after sex and found a new and interesting bruise, then you've been doing something wrong. All the damage people were blaming Edward for? Happened because of the Loch Ness Baby. Which makes sense, given the set up of the author. Was it bad? Oh, yeah. But Edward didn't do it, and the baby wasn't doing it to be evil, it was just...a half-vampire, rapidly growing baby in a human womb!

So. It's been said. We need never speak of this again.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Cults of Personality

I just had to explain who Jim Jones was to someone at work, which reminded me of this thought I'd had.

There's is always a danger of idolizing a personality to the point of worship. Whether it's a charismatic leader, like Jim Jones, or Charles Manson, or David Koresh, or Warren Jeffs, or *insert the name of any cult leader, ever, here*.

They're (often) handsome. They're engaging, they seem to *know* things, to *understand* things on a level that we don't. They seem more evolved, more 'enlightened'. They come preaching peace and love and unity, or doom and destruction for those who do not follow the 'path' that they are being revealed. And, they use our religious texts. They use the frameworks that we are raised on, just changed, ever so slightly - they *interpret* them 'correctly', and get to the 'true' message that's been lost for 2,000 years. And people believe. They *want* to believe. They *want* to be in the 'right' group. They *want* to work together for a better world. They're tired of fighting and struggling and dealing with prejudice and hate and the foibles of the fallen world. They're *desperate* for a leader, like the prophets of old, to come and *help* them. And they flock to these men, and will, eventually, follow them in whatever they command. Even murder.

These are, of course, the extremes. But even at a far less destructive level, we all have our favorite writers, don't we? Our 'pet' scholars? I myself am fond of Servant of God Fulton J. Sheen and his work. I'm quite fond of Kallistos Ware, as well. When I was a kid, I honestly thought Pope John Paul II was actually in charge of *all* the Christians (and I wasn't Catholic). I like Pope Benedict XVI.

On an even lower level, we all have bloggers/vloggers, people with converse with that we're fond of. That we look to as paragons representative of their faith. We look up to them, to one degree or another. We get attached. But then, how well do you really know the person whose blog you're reading? Unless you actually know them IRL, the answer is that you only know what they choose to publish. You don't know if, inside, they're chaffing under the restrictions of their faith. You don't know if they're ill. You don't know if there's trauma/drama going on in their personal life. You don't know if they're even sincere in what they say, or if they're merely doing it for attention. We become attracted to those who *seem* pious. Who *seem* to know what they're doing. And we follow them. We feel attached, and protective of them.

And then, what happens when this person that you feel like you know, changes? Sometimes so radically that you look at them and wonder who this is. (I think, without saying the name, we all know who I'm thinking of, here. I don't want to spell it out, because I feel like it's giving more attention to someone who (in my opinion) is seeking it for childish reasons.) And there's this tremendous upheaval in the community of followers for this person. People react with anger, sadness, fear, incomprehension, doubt of their own faith!

*This* is the danger of pinning your own faith on a human being. At the least, when they're proven to be 'only human', and flawed, you may be shaken. At the worst, you wind up written in the history books for murder and mass suicide.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Heaven or Glory?

Explaining how I came to this question would take too long, and it's not really important. Suffice it to say I was reading a thread on OrthodoxChristianity and this was a topic that was raised.

So, I put it to my readers (pokes Susanne):

Do you do what you do, religiously and otherwise (because I'm assuming that all readers are religious and therefore their faith informs their 'secular' actions), because you believe it will get you in to heaven, or because it brings glory to God?

*puts on Trans Siberian Orchestra while you think*

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Genesis 6:5

So, in my last Kinder post, I mentioned a 'game' of sorts that we played with the kids, where they had to find their 'birthday verses' in each of the Gospels, write them out, etc. And, in discussing it in that post, Susanne came up with the idea of making a meme out of it. I thought it was a good idea, so that's what I'm doing!

Every Wednesday, I'm going to post the fifth verse of the sixth chapter of a book of the Bible, starting with Genesis and ending at Revelation. What am I going to do when I hit a book that doesn't have six chapters? *shrug* I haven't decided. I may reverse it (do the European date form) and do sixth verse, fifth chapter, or whatever. But there will be a post from every book. I'm not looking for hidden messages or anything, just...picking a random verse and posting it. I will also be posting any footnotes attached to that verse, should there be any, because I find the footnotes in my Orthodox Study Bible very interesting and worthwhile.

I'd like to just post the verse, without saying what, if anything, it says to me, and then, if it strikes a cord with anyone, we can discuss. That's the plan, anyway. So here we go:

Genesis 6:5 - Then the Lord God saw man's wickedness, that it was great in the earth, and every intent of the thoughts within his heart was only evil continually.

Footnote: Without the grace of the Holy Spirit, man is easily overcome by the devil, for his willpower alone is incapable of resisting the devil's temptations. Furthermore, his will was weakened through his disobedience and expulsion from Paradise. But he willfully refused God's helping grace (every intent...was only evil continually).

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Sayings of the Fathers 1

New, random blog feature!

Every so often, I come across quotes from the Saints, Church Fathers, Church Mothers, that I really, really love. I'm trying to make myself a notebook of them, but I also want to share! So, on no particular time table, or in any discernible order, every so often I'm going to do one of these posts. :)

Today you get two quotes, both from St. Gregory Nazianus:

"That which was not assumed is not healed; but that which is united to God is saved."

"What then is Procession? Do you tell me what is the Unbegottenness of the Father, and I will explain to you the physiology of the Generation of the Son and the Procession of the Spirit, and we shall both of us go mad for prying into the mystery of God. And who are we to do these things, we who cannot even see what lies at our feet, or number the sand of the sea, or the drops of rain, or the days of Eternity, much less enter into the Depths of God, and supply an account of that Nature which is so unspeakable and transcending all words?"

Monday, December 7, 2009

Book: The Face Behind the Veil

My latest non-fiction read has been The Face Behind the Veil by Donna Gehrke-White. It's a collection of 2 - 6 page stories of American Muslim women. There's a total of 50 stories, and I think that the author did an excellent job of getting a fairly broad cross-section of women. She breaks the book up into five sections, The New Traditionalists, The Blenders, The Converts, The Persecuted, and The Changers.

In the first section, The New Traditionalists, the women are usually second-generation Muslims in America, people whose families immigrated. Many times, they're the first women in their families to wear hijab. One of the women tells the story of how the murder of her uncle (he was a cab driver and the crime was unrelated to religion) prompted her to take the 'plunge' as it were to wear her hijab. It was something she had wanted to do for a while, but the painful hammering home of the fact that life could end at any moment gave her the strength to go ahead.

In The Blenders, the women are those who do not wear any form of hijab, for one reason or another. Most don't believe that it is required. They say that the veil was only for the wives of Mohammed, and so long as they dress modestly, the don't believe in the hijab (in the sense of head covering). A few don't wear it because they are afraid of how they will be treated, of harassment and loosing their jobs.

In The Converts, there are, of course, the stories of American women who choose Islam for one reason or another. Two of them, one a black woman, and one of Asian descent, became attracted to Islam because they saw it as inclusive, and anti-racist.

The Persecuted, of course, are the stories of women who have had to flee their homelands and seek refuge in America. Most from political strife, but one or two from abusive husbands. The one I remember best (or worst), is a woman with three children who fled Afghanistan (under the Taliban) after her husband was shot in the store he ran in town. Other townspeople dragged his body home. There was no reason, no explanation. She still, years later, has no idea why her husband was murdered. Or the Afghan woman whose husband and oldest son were 'arrested' for unknown reasons. She fled the country with her remaining children, making it, eventually, to the US, where she has forged a life for them and is (thankfully) awaiting her husband and son to join her. For some reason, why, she doesn't know, they lived.

The Changers are women who are working to change (duh) the way Muslim women are treated, within their own faith. They all agree that the problems are cultural - that the degradation and abuse of women is not a part of Islam, but something that has become so entrenched, that many people wrongly treat it as though it is. They're working to change the conditions of the women's sections of mosques. Some of them have prayed side by side with Muslim men, some work as judges, social workers, politicians. They're working to prove that their hijab, their faith, doesn't keep them from doing what they want.

So. The stories range from heart rending (I'm thinking of a women whose husband gained custody of their children, after abusing her and them, and has taken them to Egypt. An American judge thought he was 'better suited' to care for them.) to happy and uplifting. I think the authors point, her idea, was to show that they're 'just like us'. Their lives are neither wholly horrific or shiny and perfect. They have their ups, their downs, trials and joys. But in the end, they're just women of faith, struggling through the world.

Just like us.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Didache

I actually finished this a few days ago, but I've been trying to decide what to write.

On the one hand, the text of the Didache itself is fairly short. It takes up 18 pages of the book, and many of those pages are maybe half to three-quarters full of text. So, it's by no means a huge work. In fact, here's a link that Ahavah gave me to the entire text online. And it's an interesting work. It's nice to get a glimpse into the life of the church in the first century, to see what they thought was important, what they wrote down, a bit of what they were passing on and teaching to the new converts.

On the other hand, it's a translation, with commentary. The author does keep all his commentary in a separate section, so it's not footnoted all over the text. However, in reading his commentary, you do get the strong sense of his own bias. Let me just say that any author that uses the term, 'the Jesus movement' kind of gets tarred with a suspicious brush in my mind from the beginning. And, the author did not improve my opinion of him. I understand that all authors have a bias, his just happens to run counter to my faith, and, as far as I'm concerned, he's been seriously misled. Which does, at least to me, also throw shadows on his translation itself. It is possible to translate to ones own bias. I've seen it done with versions of the Qur'an, and the Bible. I know this is why it's recommended to read the original languages, but that's not always possible, so I try to read multiple translations. It's the best I can do for myself.

I did find it interesting that some of the 'dont's' listed seem to be specific to the training of Gentiles. For instance, in a list of things that one 'will not' do, 'murder offspring by means of abortion' is mentioned. The impression being that it needed to be spelled out, because in the time this was written, it was a common form of 'family planning' (and I'm using the phrase ironically) to use abortificants, or even to commit infanticide, if the child was born deformed, or unwanted. Another 'you will not' was 'corrupt boys'. We all know pederasty (I know, Wikipedia, but I glanced over the article, and it's accurate to what I learned as far as I can see) was an accepted thing back in the day, don't we? If we didn't we do now. The ancient Christians felt the need to spell this stuff out to their converts, because given their cultural backgrounds, not coming from Jewish society, it might not have been obvious, to them, that these were prohibited acts.

Another thing is the instructions on how to perform Baptisms:

7:1 But concerning baptism, thus shall ye baptize.
7:2 Having first recited all these things, baptize {in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit} in living (running) water.
7:3 But if thou hast not living water, then baptize in other water;
7:4 and if thou art not able in cold, then in warm.
7:5 But if thou hast neither, then pour water on the head thrice in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
7:6 But before the baptism let him that baptizeth and him that is baptized fast, and any others also who are able;
7:7 and thou shalt order him that is baptized to fast a day or two before.

Sound familiar to anyone? Eh?

I do like the rundown, too. First choice, baptize in running water. So, a river or a stream, like Christ's Baptism in the Jordan. If you can't do that, then cold, standing water. If you can't get cold standing water, then warm (not heated, I assume, but just standing water, like a tub, perhaps). And if you can't do that, *then* you can pour. But *immersion* baptism is the first, second, and third choice.

So, really, that's all I have to say about that. I'm reading The Face Behind the Veil, now, which is a collection of brief stories about the lives of American Muslim women. So far, an enjoyable read. Most of the stories are 2 - 4 pages each, it seems.

The Kinder Report Day 12

Ah, back to the grind stone.

We had an 'easy' day today, because last week they were off, and we're off the weekend after Christmas too, so...

Anyway. We had them all look up their 'birthday verses' in the Gospels. So, you take the month you were born for the chapter, and the day for the verse, and that's your 'birthday verse'. *shrug* I don't know, it was an activity Deb came up with. So we had them look them all up, and write them out. Then, they chose their favorite, and they made cut out fish and wrote that verse on one side of the fish, their name on the other, and decorated. :)

That took up most of the class.

Our word was 'Sacraments', so we briefly went over all of them.

Then, we read the Gospel, which is Luke 3: 1-6 -

'In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar,
when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea,
and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee,
and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region
of Ituraea and Trachonitis,
and Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene,
during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas,
the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the desert.
John went throughout the whole region of the Jordan,
proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins,
as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah:
A voice of one crying out in the desert:
“Prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight his paths.
Every valley shall be filled
and every mountain and hill shall be made low.
The winding roads shall be made straight,
and the rough ways made smooth,
and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”

And now, I'm going to go watch Ninja Assassin. Because sometimes, you just need to watch people kicking each other in the head.

Friday, December 4, 2009

You Know You've Been Bad...

...When Santa Slaps You

Okay, so, one of my favorite saints, is Saint Nicholas. (And I'll explain why, a bit later. It's not why you think.)

Since his feast day is December 6th, I thought I'd make a post. I need no other excuse. :)

So, we all know him as 'Santa Claus'. You know, the jolly guy who sneaks into your house at night and leaves oodles of presents for the kids. It shouldn't surprise anyone that St. Nicholas was not, actually, a supporter of rampant commercialism and turning your children into spoiled brats.

St. Nicholas was born in the Middle East, it's believed he was born in Patara (now known as Demre in modern day Turkey) between AD 260 and 280.

His election to the position of Bishop of Myra was a little...unorthodox. :)

After the death of the bishop of Myra, other bishops came together to select his successor. During the conclave the wisest bishop heard a voice in the night, telling him to watch the doors of the church the next morning at matins. The first person to enter, named Nicholas, was to be the new bishop. He did so, waiting at the door while counseling the others to be at prayer. When the time came, the first person to arrive was a young man. When asked his name, he replied, 'I am Nicholas.' The bishop addressed him, 'Nicholas, servant and friend of God, for your holiness, you shall be bishop of this place.' They brought him into the church and placed him in the bishop's seat, where he was consecrated the new Bishop of Myra.

As Bishop of Myra, Nicholas lived the qualities that caused his fame and popularity to spread throughout the Christian world. His vigorous actions on behalf of his people and in defense of the Christian faith reveal a man who lived his convictions. Nicholas was not timid—he did what was necessary and was not easily intimidated by others' power and position. His concern for the welfare of his flock and his stand for orthodox belief earned him respect as a model for bishops and a defender of the faith.

For example, Myra experienced famine in AD 311 and 312, and again in 333. Crops had failed and people were hungry. Bishop Nicholas learned that ships bound for Alexandria with cargoes of wheat had anchored in the harbor. The holy man implored the sailors to take a measure of grain from each ship so that the people would have food. The sailors said, "No," as the wheat was "meted and measured" and every bit must be delivered. Nicholas replied, "Do this, and I promise, in the truth of God, that it shall not be lessened or diminished when you get to your destination." So the sailors took a measure from each ship and continued on their way to Alexandria. When the wheat was unloaded, the full amount was accounted for and the tale told—all the emperor's ministers worshiped and praised God with thanksgiving for his servant Nicholas. Throughout the famine people came to Bishop Nicholas for wheat. He gave it to all who had need and the grain lasted for two years with enough remaining to plant new crops.

- In the time of Emperor Constantine, all was not peaceful in the empire. When unrest would break out, soldiers would be sent to restore order. Some such soldiers were on shore leave in Andriaki, the port which served Myra. As they were in the marketplace, disputes began and there was some disturbance and looting. Bishop Nicholas went to the port to help settle the trouble. On his way back to the city, he saw people crying and saying, "If you had been in the city three innocent men would not have been handed over to death, as they have been ordered beheaded." Nicholas ran to the place, asking if the men were still alive. The three men were in position-faces covered, hands bound behind, expecting death. The executioner's sword was up and ready to fall. Nicholas fearlessly grabbed the sword, throwing it down. The freed men went on their way while Nicholas sought to have the charges against them cleared.

- The people of Myra begged Bishop Nicholas to ask the emperor for relief from the high taxes which were causing much hardship. Nicholas went to plead their cause with Constantine. The emperor granted a large reduction, giving Nicholas a copy of the order. The bishop immediately put the document on a stick and threw it into the sea. Soon afterwards it was found and taken to the authorities in Myra. The order was immediately put into effect, substantially lowering the taxes. Meanwhile Constantine, whose finance ministers had convinced him that this lost revenue would seriously harm the royal treasury, summoned Nicholas to return the document for revision. Nicholas reported that the order was already in effect in Myra. Doubting this, Constantine sent a runner to determine the truth. When Nicholas' words were confirmed the emperor allowed the reduction to stand. A century later Myra still enjoyed low taxation which the people attributed to St. Nicholas.

- After Galerius, and later, Constantine, declared tolerance for Christianity, the Christians who had been imprisoned under Diocletian returned home. Nicholas, the Bishop of Myra, was one of them. He found many idol shrines still present and they harbored disturbing demons. So by the power of God, Nicholas set about with great force and zeal to destroy these shrines, drive the demons away, and bring calm to the land. The most supreme deity of the pantheon of Myra was Artemis and her temple was the most stunningly beautiful and impressive structure in all Lycia. Nicholas attacked this temple with great might and vigor, causing its total destruction. So complete was its fall that the foundation stones were on top and the pinnacle was driven into the ground. The evil demons then fled, inspiring the people's awe of God.

Details of Nicholas' death are not known, but early reference is made to the manna of St. Nicholas, a liquid that formed in his tomb and was renowned for its healing properties. For 750 years St. Nicholas' tomb in Myra was an ever-increasingly popular pilgrimage site as reverence for the saint grew and spread throughout the Christian world.

As a bishop, Nicholas, servant of God, was first and foremost a shepherd of the people, caring for their needs. His active pursuit of justice for his people was demonstrated when he secured grain in time of famine, saved the lives of three men wrongly condemned, and secured lower taxes for Myra. He taught the Gospel simply, so ordinary people understood, and he lived out his faith and devotion to God in helping the poor and all in need.

The story of the three impoverished maidens is (likely) where the whole, Santa Claus delivering presents got its origin: There was a man, once rich, who had fallen on hard times. Now poor, he had three daughters of an age to be married. In those days a young woman's family had to have something of value, a dowry, to offer prospective bridegrooms. The larger the dowry, the better the chance a young woman would find a good husband. Without a dowry, a woman was unlikely to marry. This poor man's daughters, without dowries, were therefore destined to be sold into slavery, or worse.

Word of the family's misfortune reached Nicholas, who had the wealth inherited from his parents. Coming in secret by night, he tossed a bag of gold into the house. It sailed in through an open window, landing in a stocking* left before the fire to dry. What joy in the morning when the gold was discovered! The first daughter soon wed.

Not long after, another bag of gold again appeared mysteriously. The second daughter was married. The father, now very anxious to know who the secret benefactor was, kept watch during the night.

A third bag of gold landed inside the house and the watchful father leaped up and caught the fleeing donor. "Ah, Nicholas, it is you!" cried the father, "You have saved my daughters from certain disaster."

Nicholas, embarrassed, and not wishing to be known, begged the man to keep his identity secret. "You must thank God alone for providing these gifts in answer to your prayers for deliverance."

And *this*, *this* is why I have a great deal of affection for this Saint: In AD 325 Emperor Constantine convened the Council of Nicaea. More than 300 bishops came from all over the Christian world to debate the nature of the Holy Trinity. It was one of the early church's most intense theological questions. Arius, from Egypt, was teaching that Jesus the Son was not equal to God the Father. Arius forcefully argued his position at length. The bishops listened respectfully.

As Arius vigorously continued, Nicholas became more and more agitated. Finally, he could no longer bear what he believed was essential being attacked. The outraged Nicholas got up, crossed the room, and slapped Arius across the face! The bishops were shocked. It was unbelievable that a bishop would lose control and be so hotheaded in such a solemn assembly. They brought Nicholas to Constantine. Constantine said even though it was illegal for anyone to strike another in his presence, in this case, the bishops themselves must determine the punishment.

The bishops stripped Nicholas of his bishop's garments, chained him, and threw him into jail. That would keep Nicholas away from the meeting. When the Council ended a final decision would be made about his future.

Nicholas was ashamed and prayed for forgiveness, though he did not waver in his belief. During the night, Jesus and Mary his Mother, appeared, asking, "Why are you in jail?" "Because of my love for you," Nicholas replied. Jesus then gave the Book of the Gospels to Nicholas. Mary gave him an omophorion, so Nicholas would again be dressed as a bishop. Now at peace, Nicholas studied the Scriptures for the rest of the night.

When the jailer came in the morning, he found the chains loose on the floor and Nicholas dressed in bishop's robes, quietly reading the Scriptures. When Constantine was told of this, the emperor asked that Nicholas be freed. Nicholas was then fully reinstated as the Bishop of Myra.

The Council of Nicaea agreed with Nicholas' views, deciding the question against Arius. The work of the Council produced the Nicene Creed.

(Amber's mental image of the event)

What's the first rule of Ecumenical Council?

We do not *talk* about Ecumenical Council! *rofl*

Okay, okay, *wipes eyes*. In all seriousness, I love this. Look, if Arianism had persisted, we'd all believe that God created Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, and that they were subservient to Him, as opposed to being equal parts of the Godhead. We'd be polytheists. So...St. Nicholas punching Arias...just kinda works for me. That's how serious this was, a normally nice person got so pissed at the heresy and evil he was hearing, he had to hit the guy. :)

Thursday, December 3, 2009

One Ring to Rule Them All...

Okay, this is just a really awesome picture from Hubble.

Eye of Sauron anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

Shush. I'm getting my geek on over here.

So. I have nothing intelligent to say, but I'm gonna post anyway. Because I *can*.

I've been hanging out on the OrthodoxChristianity forums, just picking topics and reading. I *was* going to do a post on the whole, leavened vs. unleavened bread for Eucharist, but then, in reading, I realized that all those people who make a *huge, freakin' deal* out of it, are just not bothering to read. So, nyah. *makes raspberry sound at them*

My mother has almost found a 'personal trainer' for me. Yes, I am 27, and yes, I should be able to do this myself, but the truth is, I won't. I know (now) that I need to, that I can't do it myself, but I *won't* call and help myself. Why? Who knows. I just know if it's left to me, it'll never happen. And that's no good. So. My mommy's doing it for me. :p

On the subject of health and exercise, I almost went off the back of the treadmill last night. I don't even know how it happened, I was slowing down, at the end of the workout, and all of a sudden, my left foot slipped! Very scary!

Also, I have developed on oval shaped bruise, directly between my shoulder blades. I have no clue how that got there. None.

I finished Anything Goes, which is the first autobiography of John Barrowman. It's a fun book (he's a fun guy!), but unless you're a fan, probably not interesting to you. (And yes, yes, I am a fan. Him and Gareth David-Lloyd. Hmm.....)

I pulled my new book out of the hat, and at first I got the Bible, which I'm already reading. (PS: Finished Leviticus and am in Numbers. *headdesk* Is it just me, or are these the most boring chapters in the history of anything? The footnotes are what interest me here, honest. At least it's not KJV, with all the frelling 'begats'.) *glances around* Nope. No lightning. Still, probably going to the special hell for finding part of the Bible boring, yeah?

So, I pulled again and got the Didache. Cool. I have this copy: The Didache: Text, Translation, Analysis and Commentary by Aaron Milavic. I've just started on the introduction, so I can't really comment on it yet. I do want to say, though, that I'm not sure this particular author's commentary is going to be helpful, and may, in fact, contain heretical teachings. Why? Just...some things he's said in the introduction, and the way he's said them. We'll see. Regardless, I bought it because I wanted a copy of the Didache, and, honestly, it was cheap. :)

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

'We Don't Split Up the Church' - OLiC

In listening to the Our Life in Christ Archives, I'm up to a bajillion nine part series on the Divine Liturgy. They take you through the *entire* thing. Things that happen *before* people start to arrive for the 10 am service. They start with the priest vesting, and go (so they say, I haven't finished the series yet - I'm only up to part four) through the entire thing.

Anyway, an interesting thing that they sort of mentioned, in passing, was that there is only one Divine Liturgy celebrated per day in a given church.

They didn't really go into any sort of detail as to the reasoning, just that 'we don't split up the church'. I've been thinking about this, and I'm trying to find out more information about the reasoning.

But, just from a practical point of view:

In the Catholic church, on Sunday, there are three to four Masses celebrated. (For smaller communities, this may not hold true) And, since the late Saturday Mass 'counts' for Sunday, I guess there're four to five services a person can attend that meet their Sunday obligation. Judging solely from my own parish, having only one Mass on Sunday wouldn't work.

There's just no way to fit everyone into the building. Maybe, *maybe*, on the 'off' season, but when the snowbirds come down? It'd be impossible.

I mean, I kind of *like* the whole, 'there is no early service, no late service, no charismatic service, only the Divine Liturgy' mentality. And, certainly, Orthodox churches don't have (that I'm aware of) problems - I assume that they build their spaces large enough for their needs, knowing that everyone will be there at once.

But, let's just imagine, for a second. Imagine that the Schism is healed, and (theoretically) Rome realizes it's been wrong this whole time and moves back toward the historic (Orthodox) way. Do they have to drop all the 'extra' Masses? Or is that a 'Western rite' tradition that could be kept? I suppose it really does depend on the actual reasoning behind having only one Divine Liturgy a day.

Priests are already limited as to how many Masses they can perform in one day - a priest can only perform Mass twice in a single day. And before anyone asks, I don't really know why that is either. I *think* it might have to do with the fact that a person is not allowed to receive (in the Catholic church) Communion more than twice a day, and at every Mass he performs, a priest takes Communion. So...*hand wavey*. It's one of those things I just learned the 'rule' for, and the reasoning behind it didn't really matter.

These are thoughts I think when I'm sleep deprived.

EDIT: Okay, so this is a possible, plausible, sense-making reason for one Divine Liturgy per day: "The Divine Liturgy can be celebrated only by a Bishop or a Priest, and neither can celebrate more than one Liturgy in one day. This is because they must partake of the Holy Gifts, having, of necessity, prepared themselves beforehand by fasting, prayer, etc. [If the Holy Gifts would be consumed before another Liturgy, the fast would therefore be broken!]" This answer is from here. Pardon me whilst I go 'duh' at myself. Also, in a related theme, this isn't a barrier to multiple Masses being performed by a priest in the Catholic church because the fast prior to Communion is only an hour. So, Fr. A celebrates the 7am Mass, Fr. P the 9am, then Fr. A can celebrate the 10:45 Mass, and Fr. P can do the 12:15 Mass.
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