Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Incorporating Orthodoxy into hobbies

My very Roman Catholic friend and I brew beer together. We have toyed with many recipes in the past, and we're presently in secondary fermentation on batch 26 and 27.

One of things we decided to do was incorporate our shared Christian faith into our brewing. Our brewery became Seven Councils Brewing Company, and our beers are all named after Saints. We have brewed beers named after St. John Chrysostom, St. Columba, St. Moses the Black, St. Christopher, and our newest beer, St. John the Dwarf.

Quite by accident, in the choosing of these names, I've learned more about these saints and their amazing witness. In particular, the story of St. John the Dwarf, a desert father of Lower Egypt, deeply affected me.

From The Prologue:

"John is numbered among the greatest of the Egyptian ascetics. "Colobos" means 'small one' [dwarf] for he was of short stature. Together with his brother Daniel, he came to the Scete and with the greatest of zeal devoted himself to such asceticism that his brother Daniel had to urge him to moderation. John was a disciple of St. Pambo and later, the teacher of St. Arsenius the Great. His co-disciple with St. Pambo was St. Paisius the Great. Once, when he and Paisius conversed about what kind of asceticism to undertake, an angel of God appeared to them and ordered John to stay where he was to instruct others and Paisius to enter the wilderness and live as a hermit. In order to test John's obedience, St. Pambo ordered him to water a dry stick embedded in the ground until it turned green. Without hesitation and doubt, John watered this dry wood for three whole years, day in and day out until, indeed, by the power of God that wood became green and brought forth fruit. Pambo then gathered the fruit from this tree, brought it to church and distributed it among the brethren saying: "Draw near and taste of the fruit of obedience!" John Colobos had many disciples. Some of his wise sayings have been preserved. He entered into rest peacefully and took up habitation in the joy of his Lord."

The most important thing I saw in this story was not the miracle, but the actual fruit of the miracle. I immediately recalled the story of Jonah, which we hear every Holy Saturday as part of the Old Testament readings. In the story of Jonah, God calls forth a calabash to provide shade for Jonah, and then causes a worm to wither the plant, kindling Jonah's wrath for the loss of the shade. God explains to Jonah that Jonah was aggrieved for the loss of the plant, which he had no part in its creation and growth, but God's mercy for Nineveh is a sign of God's mercy for the whole world, which God made.

St. John in obedience (contrary to Jonah) waters a dead piece of wood for three years that it would bear fruit, and the fruit is shared with the brethren of the monastery.

Thursday, September 5, 2013


Everyone has their baby stories. Fortunately for me, I lack the good sense to be embarrassed by mine so I'm going to tell you one. I am a LEGEND where I come from because of this.

First I've got to tell you about people and places, since you're not from around here and all that.

The family land is eighty acres divided by a road. My dad's dad got half, and my dad's dad's brother got the other half. My dad's dad gave my dad's dad's brother's son an acre of land on my dad's dad's side facing my dad's dad's brother's house. My dad's dad's brother reciprocated by giving my dad (just my dad this time) an acre of land on my dad's dad's brother's side facing my dad's dad's house. Then, in a time barely remembered by my dad's daughter, my dad's dad's dad (Pa) and his wife (Ma) died. They had lived catty corner to us next to my dad's dad on my dad's dad's land. Since they had a house and my dad's dad had an old trailer parked behind a concrete porch, my dad's dad and his wife (Granny) moved into the house. Since there was now a concrete porch across the road from us, we eventually parked a trailer behind it because we were on our third porch, all of which were made of wood.

So now, tell me, why did the chicken cross the road? Because he was movin' on up; that's why. Concrete porch, baby!

Y'know, if my dad read this, he might think the family revolves around him.

Oh, I forgot to tell you, my dad's dad's brother also reciprocated with my dad's sister-- with the land gifting. My dad's sister married Uncle Mickey, and they had my first cousin. Then Uncle Mickey exited stage left, and I had an Uncle Timmy. Then, Uncle Timmy and my dad's sister and my first cousin got run into by a drunk guy. My dad's sister valiantly threw herself over my first cousin, and he was the only survivor.

So we were going to this church called Faith Chapel which is now located behind a trailer functioning as a karaoke bar. *le gasp!*

Karaoke? --for Baptists??!??

Hold on! It's okay. They only serve tea and cokes.

So guess who Uncle Mickey's dad was?

No, really. Guess.


PLuuuuuurrrreeeeeezzzzz GUUuuuuuueeeeeeesssss.....

Mickey was Faith Chapel's red-faced preacher-man's son. I wasn't too much a fan of men or red-faced preacher-men, but his wife was really nice. Her name was Miss JoAnn.

So my first cousin called Miss JoAnn Mamaw and lived with her and the red-faced preacher-man. Oh, get this: The red-faced preacher-man had really high blood pressure, and years later his doctor prescribed a beer a day for him so he had to take back every thing he ever said about alcohol being sinful.

There. That ties everyone together neatly; I think!

So if I was being good and my first cousin was being good, they'd let us sit together in church because, obviously, we needed an opportunity to stop being good. One time, he was chewing some gum in church (Is that allowed?) and stuffed a handful of my hair in his mouth. Little booger. We were the kind of friends who fought all the time.

*sigh* Now, we need to agree on something: Potty training is HARD, guys. REALLY....




Not only did I go through my potty training, but I went through my brother's potty training. If you were an only child, you missed out on so much good learnin'.

I was at this... transitional we'll call it... stage of potty training. I was going to make this work, though! So I had to go to the bathroom during the sermon. I still needed my mom to walk me to the bathroom, which she did. Then, there was the decision: Do I go in alone or with her? I went in alone. "Are you sure?" she asked. "Yes," and like the willful little brat I was, I shut and locked the door.

Things were going great! Until they weren't. I didn't know I had to poo! Shock! A little warning next time, body?

I quickly got frustrated with the mess. "Momma, come wipe me off!"
"I can't. You locked the door. Unlock the door."
"But I can't! I'm on the potty!"
"Well, you'll just have to wipe yourself off."
I tried, but I was a cranky baby. Finally, I waddled over to the door. "It's unlocked."
"No, it's not."

Now, I was a cranky dirty baby frustrated with a doorknob above my head. I fiddled. She faddled. Fiddle, fiddle, fiddle, but that door wouldn't open. So I started wailing at the top of my longs, "Moooooommmmmaaaaaa! Moooooommmmmaaaa! Dadddddddyyyyyyyy! Come wipe me off!!! Pleeeaaaaaseee.... *sob* *sob*" Gosh, I know I made 'em proud that day!

"Be quiet! I'm gonna go get Daddy. Be quiet! Hush! They're tryin' to have a service."
"Doooon't leeeeaaaaave meeeee!"
"Quiet. I'll be right back. Stop hollering."

"Doooon't leeeeaaaaave meeeee!"
"I have to leave you to get Daddy. I'll just be gone a minute."

After a moment's consideration, "Doooon't leeeeaaaaave meeeee! You can't leeeeaaaaave meeeeeeee! Nooooooooo, Momma! Noooooo! *sob* *sob*" Now I was a dirty cranky baby all alone, locked in a bathroom. I waddled back and hopped up on the toilet to cry some more. After a moment, I knew they'd forgotten me. Everyone would go home, and they wouldn't find me until next week. So, I screamed bloody murder, "I'm IN HERE! Don't GO HOME! Dooooonn't leeeeeeeave meeeeee alooooone!" I promise; it all made perfect sense at the time.

So then the doorknob started rattling, which was really scary. I mean, they were coming to get me! "Who is that?!?" No answer. "Who are you?! Go AWAY! Daaaaadddddyyyyy!!!!" Babies are so rational.
"It's Daddy. Now be quiet!" And like that, the storm passed. No more tears. No more hollering. I had complete confidence that Dad would fix everything. He always had.

So I just listened to the whispering: I can't... it's not... Is the key somewhere? No. I'll go see if someone has a screwdriver in their truck.



"Are you still there, Daddy?"
"No, Daddy went to get a screwdriver."


"Daddy's here now."

You won't believe this, but the only person in the whole church who has a screwdriver is Bro. Red-Faced Preacher-Man (RFPM)... No... I know, just our luck... He stopped the sermon and asked the congregation. It kinda caught me off guard. I didn't expect him to do that. Everyone just looked at me.... He said, Well I do so I'll go take care of it. He's going out to his truck.... It's gonna be okay. This has to happen to other parents, too. All of those people in there have raised kids so they know. Don't cry. Here, don't cry. Here come some folks.

'This has to happen to other parents, too.' LOL Wishful thinking, Dad. Wishful thinking.


"Are you still there, Daddy?"
"No, but I'm here... with a few people."
"Who? Who's there?"
She named a few ladies names... "and some other people." I liked them all so I said, "Hi!" They said, "Hi!" I said, "Thanks for coming. I'm locked in the bathroom, and I need Momma in here to help me. Daddy's gonna get me out."

These ladies reassured Mom and possibly drew the rest of the crowd back there. Dad had gone to RFPM because he was so embarrassed to try to convince him to let him take care of it so RFPM could finish his sermon.

RFPM: So she locked herself in there? She can lock it, but she can't unlock it? Tina, come unlock this door right now.
Tina: I tried. I can't.
RFPM: Well, you locked it; didn't you? Try again.
Tina: I can't!
RFPM: You come unlock this door, or I'm gonna come in there and get you.

That spurred some action but no success.

RFPM: Well, what're we gonna do? Lemme try this.
*fiddle* *fiddle* *fiddle*
Dad: Can I help?
RFPM: This isn't working. I'm trying to see if it's going to be easier to take the doorknob off or the hinges. I guess the doorknob.
*fiddle* *fiddle* *fiddle*

Mom: We're going to take the doorknob off, Tina.
Tina: Don't let the men see me! Mom, when they take the doorknob off, you come in and tell them to look away and close their eyes.
*laughter from outside, laughter by many*
Mom: You better be covered up, because they're coming in, and there's nothin' I can do about it. The whole church is out here, and they're all waiting to see you.

"Ok. Give me a minute! Don't come in yet!" Never has a child completed a potty training transition so quickly. *flush* I even climbed up onto the sink to wash my hands and make sure I looked okay, "I'm ready!"

The doorknob fell on the floor. "Pee-pie! I see you!" said RFPM. "Hey! Can I come out now?!" I clasped my hands in front of my chest, so full of hope. "Jus' a minute. I gotta get one more thing out.... Alright. You can come out!"
They were lining the walls down the hallway to the bathroom. A cheer rose up. I received applause. How about that for some positive reinforcement???

Meanwhile, my parents, especially my mom, were apologizing to RFPM, "I'm so sorry. We didn't expect you to end the service. I'm sorry we had to pull you away in the middle of the sermon. We should have waited until the end. Do you want to restart your sermon?"

RFPM: Nah... We could never get everyone back in there, and it's dinner time. (<--SEE? Food. Nom.)
Mom: I am so sorry. This will never happen again. I'll always stand in the doorway so she can't lock it.
RFPM: Don't you worry about it. It's like scripture says: there was an ox in a ditch. Do you know the story?
Mom shook her head. Dad nodded, "Go on..."
RFPM: There was a sick man that the Pharisees wouldn't heal. Jesus asked them why not. He said even if there was only an ox in a ditch, every one of them would get it out on a Sunday so why not heal this man. A man is worth more than an ox. So when somethin' needs to get done, you do it. God understands where your heart is. Some things are more important than church, or my sermons. Getting a little girl out of a locked bathroom was more important.

At this point, they were kinda relieved, perceiving they might not be social outcasts for the remainder of their lives.

RFPM: Besides, no one could hear my sermon over all her hollering!

Their hearts went *kerplunk*, and they were doomed to exile.

RFPM didn't see any sense in putting the knob back on until I grew up a bit, either. Months or years I don't remember, but I affected every person's bathroom experience in that church. Eventually someone taped some paper over the hole. When he did reinstall the knob, he made me demonstrate locking and unlocking it and promise that I'd never lock myself in the bathroom again.

I only tell you this so that if your kid locks him/herself in the bathroom during church and starts screaming at the whole congregation for someone to come wipe them off, you know they're not the first. They're the second.

May this missive reduce if not eliminate any shame you've ever felt regarding children, bathrooms, and churches,

A Chick Who Not Only is Potty-Trained But Can Work a Doorknob (on a good day at least)

PS: This is one story that I can out-tell Dad on.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

OW Response: Grocery Shopping is HUGE

Like with any post of Alex's that I know anything about-- There's SO MUCH MORE TO IT. So I'll leave him to the "lesson" and bring you into the reality of details!

Our two hours of grocery shopping is generally pretty fun! We may meet a few people Alex knows. I sing songs. (I kid you not.) We joke. We hug and kiss and make faces at babies in line. We talk about the quality of customer service and try to give the cashiers a pick-me-up. (--or sometimes, when it's awful, we identify why it's awful. It is my profession.) I have my favorite Sam's Club samples lady that I always wave at. I am weak, but I try not to sample unless it's vitamin water (calorie free) or fruit-- which is how I found this AMAZING thing called Honey Kissed Cantaloupe!

At Winn-Dixie-Which-Used-to-be-SaveRite I always read the receipt out loud, "Today we spent $13.75. We saved $7.31, and our cashier today was Jasmine. Our savings to date on this card is $434.82." I hope I don't freak the cashiers out. I read it as I'm leaving and just don't look back.

You should always say, "I hope you have a good shift/day/evening," whether or not they say it. I am also kinda taxing on cashiers because I bring my own bags and use cash. Since I'm in customer service, I know it's a time game. If I take more time, the person behind me gets more pissed. Plus, I don't think they train them enough on bagging-- at all, especially with reusable bags-- and experience with cash is limited, just because that's how it is these days. I get that if your drawer is over or under... not good. So rub those bills and let them take their time counting.

Oh, and it was a process, a transition. I've won him over to my method of grocery shopping. He didn't always like how long it took. Used to, two hours was too much. Not anymore. I started out just... in shock at all the stuff available because I had such a minimalist life before marriage. Ain't nothing wrong with that, but marriage changes a lotta things. So I'd agonize over thirteen cents in the beginning. He spent money like it was toilet paper in the beginning. We've come together toward the middle of the road, something sensible. I used to walk into Wal-Mart, and it'd turn... Technicolor. Think of that Wizard of Oz moment. It's worn off a bit, but that's the best way to describe it.

Periodically, we do a lot of browsing in addition, too.

Also, I really like to browse things that I shouldn't (wouldn't for the most part) buy. There's a higher end grocery store called Corner Market that is part of the Roberts' Family company that sells discounted "manager's special" produce... that's right next to The Kitchen Table which is run by a cheerful lady with really bad arthritis in her hands (though she's young) and this tall bald dude who is fortunate enough to be married to this lady... --and who orders bizarre, wonderful stuff. I don't know him, but if what he orders is any indication, we're both nuts.

Well, it's stuff that I couldn't afford, could afford, can't afford again. To let you know how awesome this place is, allow me to mention this-- which needs a bullet:
Some things are just funny. It's like Ripley's Believe It or Not!. There's such crazy stuff in there. Avocado slicer, anyone? A spoon with slots like ;) or a plate modeled on Wooly Willy? I'm not going to spoil it; you have to go.

Anyhoo, I wanted and wanted and wanted... AND WANTED this silicon ice cube tray that made ice that looked like a ship and an iceberg called Gin and Titonic. I don't drink gin more than twice a year, if that, but I'm a sucker for wordplay. So it took like fifty thousand visits, and then I got that and the large block ice mold (mostly Alex wanted that one) and just a regular silicon one (for work, I like ice and straws and water) for my birthday. One time, before we had this kind of money, I really really wanted some cheese knives with rubber grip handles for Easter, and they were on clearance already, but it was like $20 so I just kinda walked around and thought and thought... Then when I went to check out, Dude's wife found out suddenly that it was discounted. I kid you not.

Or I shit you not. I made a decision.

I cuss all the time. No lie. I go cuss-cuss a cuss the cuss cussy cusser cuss! (This entry not sanctioned by my better half.)

"So why am I talking about food on a blog about Orthodoxy?  Why not?"  Um, because you have a cacophony of strange food requirements; that's why. THERE ARE PRACTICAL CONCERNS. WHY NOT, indeed. Someone should start a blog. Any volunteers?

Food is good. God made it a requirement for life. Think on that. Yeah. I totally just dropped a practical rational idea on you. Catch!

Oh, and like Orthos aren't people. *poke* Yes. He's flesh and blood. For any doubting Thomas's, you have my permission to poke him next time you meet. *poke* *poke* *poke* I can also confirm that he eats. He's a people, just like me. Just like you. We're all the peoples. Even the non-Christians. God made non-Christians?!? Whoa! I just dropped another practical rational idea on you. Catch!

Food is also a social part of church. That was a big part of Baptist church, for me. Food is a gateway drug to old ladies. Vegetable soup!!! I will put a link here later to a post about Miss Vera whose favorite hymn was #89 (in Elvis's hymnal) Take My Hand, Precious Lord. I learned to sing it and performed many "specials" for her. It's a Baptist thing.

I send food to Alex's church now, and I taught, hilariously, foot stomping crying coughing funny, a bachelor from his church how to cook some broccoli. He's my big baby, now. --and he's moving within walking distance! I may venture out. Maybe... He wanted to "have dinner," and I was all like, "So I can teach you another hilarious, foot stomping crying coughing funny bachelor dish, right?" Caught like a deer in headlights he is.

Back to grocery shopping-- You didn't know it could be this interesting, right? One of the things I learned from my Mamaw, and to some extent my Mom, and greatly by growing up living thirty minutes from a store is that it saves time, money, and frustration to get what you're running out of, what you need, and what's on sale once a week. If you don't have something you want on Wednesday-- and we live in town, now-- you make do until next weekend. Tomatoes were a thing to start arguments when we began this. My man Alex is attached to tomatoes. I make sure he has them now, but there was a time when, if they weren't 99c/lb, he didn't have tomatoes for the week. He had tomato withdrawals.

I'm a little guilty about the Farmer's Market.... It's good food, but I count the extra money as a hobby expense because I write recipes (and take photos of dishes!) for the Farmer's Market. ...and they publish me... and maybe that's prideful, but I could totally use the pick-me-up. I could call it a mental health expense even. I just don't want to be penny pinching in that particular area. I could never see spending $20 so that's the limit I set to keep me in check. A little bit of your budget should go to happiness!

Some Chick Married to Alex,

A Lady Who is Wishing You Happiness and Success in Matters of Cooking, Raw Ingredients, and Budgets

The beginning of the liturgical year

Today we celebrated Indiction, which is the first day of the Orthodox church's liturgical year. It is also the feast of St. Symeon Stylites, one of the great stylites of the church.  Stylites are anchorites on a pillar, basically.

The designation of the 1st of September is a somewhat arbitrary beginning of the liturgical year, but it fits nicely into the chronological narrative of Christ's life.  The last great feast celebrated was the Dormition of the Theotokos, on August 15, and the next feast is the nativity of the Theotokos, and these feasts bookend the chronological story of Christ's life.  September 1 roughly coordinates also with the lunar calendar of the Judean kingdom, and the Roman calendar of some of the provinces, although in Rome, the new year began on the Kalends of Januarius.

So today we sang many hymns and said many prayers asking God to bless the coming year, and we read from the Gospels when Christ read from the prophecy of Isaiah in the synagogue in Nazareth.  The prophecy concerned the acceptable year of the Lord being made manifest in Judea; let this year be for each of us the acceptable year of the Lord.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Leftovers and wasted food

Wasted food is a wasted opportunity, or at least that's the thought process that Tina and I go through whenever we have to throw away food.  Typically, we throw away very little food- usually, it's spoiled dairy products.  We have tried over the years very hard to cook all our own meals and remix the leftovers- last night's rice makes great fried rice with Tuesday's pork chop remains, and so on.

But one food that almost never provides us leftovers is homemade pizza.  We in fact have pre-cut bell peppers in the freezer for our pizza, and rarely a week goes by that we don't eat a pizza.

So why am I talking about food on a blog about Orthodoxy?  Why not?

But actually it's about stewardship.  Official Wife Tina and I have a massive food budget of $62.50 per week for groceries.  At present, we've saved about $40 over the past three months of groceries, which means that the current food price spike is basically not a problem.  This is great for us.

Food economics are home economics.  And the way we do it is time consuming, but it's a useful practice- we spend about five minutes per week perusing the sale papers, and about 2 hours every Saturday shopping.  And that's it.  We don't go to the store otherwise, and that is how we do it.  A purposeful approach to food purchasing has led us to engage in purposeful purchasing of all kinds.  We make a list, we price it out, and we go in prepared.

Of course, no plan of battle survives contact with the enemy.  The enemy, of course, is the consumption-driven world we live in, for we are in the world, but not of it.  To that end, we do have one thing we don't do with our grocery budget: the farmer's market.  The farmer's market, when it's in season, gets up to $20 per week, and no more.  And we do not bank it.  Each week, $20.  Most weeks, we don't even come close to spending it.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

OFFICIAL WIFE: Saints Freak Me Out

I got some recommendations on some Ortho books by Ortho women because I made a remark that everybody that was anybody had a beard. I've started on them. Go ahead and be scared.

Just take a moment; think about gremlins or something. Be scared. Now you can worry about upcoming OW Reads posts! (Don't really worry. Just plan to get the books. You have to read the entries alongside the books.)






Anyway, it lead to thoughts and discussion(s) that have helped me understand better why saints (and by extension icons, which I just pretty much ignore at this point) freak my shit out.

[Sidenote: No words should be prohibited. You shouldn't be mean or ugly, but your vocabulary should not be limited. That's a dangerous road. I'm taking a stronger stance on that these days. Still hurts to do something that might result in someone yelling at me, but I'm goin' with it. Upcoming post with thoughts I hope you will consider.]

Short story with saints and icons: All the glory to God.

Fact#1: The saints are humble. --elsewise, they wouldn't be a saint, right?
Fact#2: Human beings only perform miracles through the grace of God. We do not have the power to perform miracles. Whatever good we do is due to God. He did create humans.

Conclusion: I am NOT COOL with praising people for what God did. The people that God worked through almost always (all instances that I've seen) are NOT COOL with people praising them for what God did. They also say the glory is for God.

*sigh* Figuring this out is really relieving. I was honestly just terrified. Terrified. Bad.

How do Orthos reconcile this? Don't know. I'm just glad I've got it right enough in my brain, for now. Understanding and acknowledging what I don't know--it seems like nothing, but I promise, understanding what you don't know is a thing.

I leave you with poetry---

I have eaten the plums that were in the icebox and which you were probably saving for breakfast Forgive me they were delicious so sweet and so cold - See more at:
This is just to say

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

William Carlos Williams

Love and Ham/Cheese Bites (for selected few in a certain geographic area),

just the me that's got a might bit o' protestant left in me left leg

PS: Reading, thoughts, and discussion... You know that leads to dancin', right? So be careful, because you know what dancing leads to.


I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold
- See more at:
I have eaten the plums that were in the icebox and which you were probably saving for breakfast Forgive me they were delicious so sweet and so cold - See more at:

Monday, August 19, 2013

OFFICIAL WIFE: Recent Drafts

In chronological order of first draft since

Men and HillsJust a couple of memories, one from Baptist land and one from Ortho land, I see symmetry. Both were well-meaning guys that scared me bad.

Fasting (or not) Through the YearsTime to 'fess up; thangs ain't how they used to be-- and there's a twist.

Kinds of PrayingNot anything new as ideas in the church world but could be offensive

OW Reads: The Scent of Holiness
I've convinced myself that I'm going to offend people with this one so it may not get published. This is the opposite of "comments not welcome" should I get up the courage eventually. In fact, it'd be reassuring. I think the idea of OW Reads kinda thoughts on books posts is good, though, so I'm not empty handed for the time I put in.

Favorite Churches
I started this tonight, and it's nice light happy reading. This will definitely get published. Nothing to do with architecture, for people who might be confused.

Shout out to my Ortho Loot Droppin' Lady!



Monday, August 12, 2013

A year through the Twelve Great Feasts of the Church

Thursday marks the Dormition of the Theotokos (or I guess the Dormition of the Theotokos marks Thursday), and hopefully my successful conclusion of my year-long quest to attend Divine Liturgy for each of the Great Feasts of the Church in one liturgical year.  I had originally planned to post after attending each service, but I decided against it, since I already have sufficient pride.

I am  blessed that I have the opportunity to attend these festal services.  It hearkens back to the village life of the Russian peasant whence I have come, and recalls the more integrated life of the previous centuries.  Curiously, though, by being more atomized, I have found integration in a more dispersed community of Orthodox Christian.

In reading some of the more popular Orthodox blogs, I have learned a great deal about the struggles of other American Orthodox Christians.  Our struggles are the same as those that have always confronted Christianity; church attendance, proper attitudes towards Christ, how to treat others well when we feel badly, and rearing children.  These are the problems of humanity, and the problems of Christians, and, therefore, the problems of the Church.

By concentrating on attending the great feasts, I have been working on my salvation.  My major role, aside from singing and reading in the church, is driving the carpool vehicle, which I enjoy very much, not just because it saves others the effort, but for the genuine joy of helping others come to church.  Coming to church has become to me a joyous thing, because I no longer spend the time traveling from home to church worrying about the time I'm spending getting there.  I'm going to church with my fellow Christians, who are all depending on me.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

OFFICIAL WIFE: The Cookies Are More Than They Appear

--and the tomato pies.

The intertubes are not as commenty as I'd like. People are still learning how this works. People are scared, and I guess rightly so. "People are scared," is almost a mantra at this point. I wish there were less cause for the phenomena. The internet is no worse than real life, really. I wish people understood that. Wishes for fishes?

Still, I had a remark about some cookies. Evidently it meant something to someone so that's good.

I made these cookies again today because it's a holiday. I only baked three and put the rest of the dough in the freezer because we're fat.

--and I thought about --I guess-- my church family. You'll have to forgive me, just a bit, a tiny bit. I'm not Ortho. I even hope not to be Ortho, although I continue to consider it, and a child will make it very hard to deny. Still, I'm gonna call you my church family. I may not be on the roll, but there's names I could name who I call friends. It's more than rules as much as it is more than a building.

I am confident I know what Church is.

What is little c church? [and if you quote a saint, and they are less than genius in this particular quote, you are immediately disqualified in a made-up competition.][[but all responses will be gladly accepted]][[[And living people's opinions are favored]]]

Thursday, June 6, 2013

OFFICIAL WIFE: Superstition

People change. I delighted in most school transfers growing up. I could reinvent myself. I worry now that my bosses still see in me the twenty-one year old girl that they hired while now I pretty much am the one to tell them how things (procedurally, not policy) work.

I am not Orthodox. Loud and clear. Don't claim it. Am very adamant when someone says I'm Ortho because Alex is. (We all know that's not correct.) I am also not Baptist because my father was Baptist. I'm not one of you, with your 'one of us' chant, which isn't all of you lumped together but a disturbing quality of every denomination ever. However, converting is not the only way to grow towards other groups of Christians.

I think my post about going to the church in Alabama, the first one, where I was so ashamed that I bowed to another person and saw a lady pray to an icon and was so scared I thought I might go to Hell-- yeah that post-- I think that scared some very normal people who happen to be Orthos. It shouldn't. That's how it looked to me. You don't have to convince me. For better or worse, as the saying goes, I'm stuck. And I chose this life. Still there's no reason not to be honest. And it was scary.

Tonight, while I was examining holy rolls to see if I could guess which one Alex would most prize (pretty radonkulous, I get you want to offer your best, but also people's best is different and that is SO important to note for me), I realized, that, while I thought a lot of times that Orthos are superstitious, in particular that night where the lady laid a tinfoil bound bouquet of fake flowers to a picture and prayed to it, I was the one superstitious. Scared honestly so I wouldn't confront me then, but scared for no reason. I wasn't doing it, and I should have faith in God to protect me. Alex said it brought her comfort. It did. She was praying for her husband overseas in war. He was right. While I don't think human beings can answer prayers or even that dead people can influence our omnipotent God, there's no reason for me to be afraid.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

This is the Sabbath

Right now is the Sabbath, the glorious day of the Lord's rest after creating the world, which is commemorated on Holy Saturday.  Pascha occurs just after midnight, when we impatiently greet the Risen Lord after finding His tomb empty.

Today is my Sabbath, and right now I am enjoying the liturgically prescribed wine and bread in the form of a beer, the great glorious combination of wine and bread.  Everything in the house is ready for tomorrow morning, when I will return, bright, tired, cranky, rejoicing, and above all, at peace following the celebration of the Resurrection.  Our pascha basket is prepared, filled with a combination of fresh fruit, cured meats, kulich, cheeses, salt, and butter.  We are prepared to recognize the glory of the Lord.  In my mind, I am pacing my restoration of the temple to its traditional layout following the procession.  I can usually manage to finish it by the second time the parish makes it around the church.

This morning we enjoyed the beautiful apprehension of anticipation, reliving the promise of the restoration to paradise and life eternal through the fifteen Old Testament readings, punctuated by the Song of Moses and the Song of the Three Youths.  This evening, we will meet the Messiah in Jerusalem.  Glory to Thy Resurrection, O Lord!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Adventures in Lent

Attending the Mississippi Prosecutors' Association Annual Spring Conference in Biloxi.  In a casino.  The temptations abound.  Had a nice shrimp po-boy for lunch.

As well as the frustrations of having your serpentine belt slip off your car engine.  Luckily, the belt appears to be intact.  I anticipate that, God willing, I'll be mobile again tomorrow.  In time for firearms training.  Huzzah.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Lent in the third week

The third week of Lent this year, and already the Feast of Annunciation is behind us.  The Sunday of the Cross, perhaps the most solemn Sunday of Lent, awaits us.  After that, the Mid-Fast.

Morning prayers in Lent are especially useful.  Nothing focuses me on Lent so much as the Prayer of St. Ephraim, coming as it does towards the end of my morning rule.  Not only is the prayer a physical exertion, but it is a mental workout.  I keep coming back to Fr. Alexander Schmemann's analysis in his text on Great Lent.  I thoroughly recommend it, reproduced here..  Like all short, seemingly simple prayers, the Prayer of St. Ephraim contains great depth and pith.

We must consider not just the surface meaning of the prayers, but also the deeper connection within the prayer practice of the Orthodox life.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Morning prayers

This morning I was a little distracted, and by the time I realized it, I was sitting down to coffee before my morning prayers.  So I stopped drinking coffee, and started praying.  My preferred morning prayer rule is from the Jordanville Prayer Book, which was the first prayer book I ever purchased.  I paid $3.00 for it in 1982, which was probably all of my money for the month in which I bought it (I was six).

About the time I reached the first prayer of St. Macarius the Great, Birdie (our younger female dog) came into the room with a squeaky toy in her mouth.  This was not a problem, since she immediately dropped the toy and began watching me pray.  Usually, the dogs are not up and about when I am in the morning, so I think this was the first time she's ever watched me pray.

After a while, she became bored, and lay down next to where I was standing.  Until, that is, I began the prayer of St. Ephraim.  She began responding to the prostrations and metania, and for the last three metania I made during the prayer, I got licked on the side of the face.  Great way to greet the morning.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Signs of the Lord

Witness the sign that occurred at the wedding in Cana of Galilee, as famously recounted by Rowan Atkinson.

The Triumph of Orthodoxy

This Sunday of Great Lent, the first, commemorates the restoration of the icons to the churches of the faithful. Perhaps the greatest debt the Eastern Church owes the Western Church is the preservation of icons and religious art, for it was the Popes of Rome who preserved the true faith of the fathers and upheld the veneration of holy images for the edification of the faithful.

As we heard today in church, "This is the faith of the Apostles, this is the faith of the Fathers, this is the faith of the Orthodox, this is the faith which has established the universe." We do not worship the icons; we worship the reflected grace and glory of God, which shone forth through the saints depicted in our icons, and the religious truths depicted therein. We venerate the icons, as we venerate our beloved family members long gone before us, whose photos and portraits we preserve. As Father Benedict preached in his sermon today, we are all called to be icons in the world; we are summoned to live a Christ-like life as an image of God's grace to us. If we are blessed, we may inspire other Christians; if we do not hew to our faith and duty, we may drive others to sin. Let us all strive to be true images of the grace and glory of God. Let us all be icons to one another.

The previous two paragraphs were a Facebook post made earlier today.  Tomorrow is the Feast of Annunciation, and I continue my personal quest of attending Liturgy for each of the Twelve Great Feasts of the Church this liturgical year.  Fortunately, my schedule of teaching at William Carey University allows me to attend the vesperal liturgy tomorrow night, because I had an exam scheduled for tomorrow night, which will go forward.  It is a blessing that my lesson plan fits the year so well.

Holding the icon of my patron saint, Saint Alexander Nevsky, I was reminded of the harshness and persecution experienced by the faithful, and the great fortune we enjoy in America living and worshiping freely.  Saint Alexander could not live freely even in his own country, and the Russian faithful suffered horribly under the Mongol yoke.  Today, we processed around our church, singing the Troparion of the Triumph of Orthodoxy, no doubt presenting a bizarre spectacle to the neighborhood, but free and joyous and blessed by God to worship Him in the fullness of the faith.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Lenten preparation

For Lenten preparation, I, for the first time in my life, subscribed to Schmemannism* and purchased from the parish bookstore Fr. Alexander's Great Lent: Journey to Pascha.  Together with that, and the Triodion (which I read every year- thanks be to God, Met. Kallistos and Mother Maria), and some few other works (The Master and Margarita, War and Peace, Fear and Trembling), I have my Lenten reading.

*I have been present at a service where a priest intoned the following phrase: "and quenched the flames of Schmemannism,"** so this is a big step for me.

**This may not be entirely true.^

^But it sounds good.

Monday, March 4, 2013

My journey to Orthodoxy, Part 2

Hattiesburg, Mississippi, is a strange place.  It's a university town, defined by its relationship with the University of Southern Mississippi and to a lesser extent William Carey University.  It's the county seat of Forrest County, named for Nathan Bedford Forrest.  And it's been my home for the past ten years.

I knew when I moved to Hattiesburg that there were no Orthodox churches for at least an hour's drive.  In 2003, I still drove to Jackson about twice a month to attend Liturgy at Holy Trinity Church.  The hardest thing was the discipline to attend divine services.  Once I slacked off on divine services, I slacked off on prayer.  I was caught in a world of hedonism and despair.  This really qualifies as my wasted youth, even though I was 27 at the time.

I found a ROCOR mission in Semmes, Alabama, and I attended sporadically.  It was a difficult thing to drive from Hattiesburg to Semmes, passing along US Highway 98 eastbound through the most depressing slog of two-lane garbage I'd ever seen.  But the church community was warm and welcoming, and Fr. Alexander and Matushka fostered a great Christian spirit.  During this time, I recovered some of my youthful interest and involvement in the church, and most of all, my interest in something other than the world.