понедельник, октября 31, 2005


Little pieces of God’s grace falling to earth. Swirling and cold, brilliantly white. Ice floats down in tiny chandeliers and bite with the wind. Leaves no longer burn. Mud freezes. The fire in the trash goes out. God’s mercy is coming down on me today. He covers me like Noah from my loneliness. He covers me like Adam from my shame. A brilliant robe of white I’ve been given to wear until my spring.

воскресенье, октября 16, 2005

Good week

NOTE: Do not include SBTC (Small Business Training Center) on any mail you send me! Just my name. This makes it easier and faster to get from customs. That is all.

What a week. Somehow I had a good week despite the fact I spent much of it teaching grammar. I was recently reminded of the applicability of “Good Morning Vietnam”, when Robin Williams says, “I gotta get to English class, otherwise there’ll be a bunch of Vietnamese speaking in short choppy sentences!” We’re working on writing in class right now. Fragments and run-ons are perfectly normal in spoken English, especially in the sports world. It also makes reading my student’s writing a painful, confusing experience.

Then there was Friday night BS. I’ve already had more deeper conversations with more students in these first six weeks than I had all of last year. We talked about two parables—the wide/narrow gate and the rich fool (as an example of a guy who missed the gate). I love the parables, even for all their difficulty, their still just stories. And everyone can tell a story. Plus, you remember stories better than lectures even if you don’t understand them.

Of course, by Friday night, I’m pretty wiped out because we have BS ourselves that morning. Saturday is my day of recuperation, where I lounge around the house, read books, pretend to study Russian and play x-box.

I have yet to make it through an entire service at the local orthodox church… it’s one of my goals this year. Today is for Alana and I and planning lessons.

I am tired, but it is a deeply satisfied tired.

воскресенье, октября 09, 2005

Double post!

Because the Kaz-net and our phone is so reliable, you get a double post today. This also means I'm really sorry about not replying to people. After weeks of trying, sometimes I forget who I've already emailed. These posts are totally unrelated, but each indicative of my mood at some point in the last week or so. Also, the newsletter is out and I’m trying to put up news pics as well. Stay tuned…
* * *
Ever wonder what a Russian circus is like? Yeah, me neither.

But let me tell you,
It’s part magic show…
Part synchronized swimming…
Part music video…
Part sad animals…
Part twirly ladies way up high in the air…
And part little kids spraying Fanta on my back.

Still, you all should ask Hillary how much she likes her photo with the chimp.
I had a good time.
* * *
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that is may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as Christ God forgave you.” – Paul

Speaking of manning up, looks like I’ve got some work to do.

понедельник, октября 03, 2005


I went to the local Orthodox church yesterday morning. It’s only six or seven years old and the sanctuary is still under construction. Despite the scaffolding, it is quite beautiful. Also, I was struck by how small the sanctuary seemed after seeing the building from outside. Once Brian and I braved the gauntlet of invalids, crossed ourselves and bowed three times, we were in.

The choir was incredible. The liturgy is beautiful. The building is really cool—there’s a lattice door that separates the congregation from the guys in vestments where the power-point screen is in most churches. Behind the doors was a red curtain with the rising sun backlighting it. As it was drawn back and the doors opened… it was really cool. There was a big fancy candle thingy the priest stood in front of for most of the time.

It was confusing at times—I don't know why the Bible gets trotted out and takes a little tour of the sanctuary, along with the elements, but it does. Everyone takes their time. There is no no-huddle option for the liturgy. I liked the part where they spread incense all over the place. Not only was the smoke very pretty in the candle light, it covered the congregation’s BO.

Even though through much of the service much of the symbolism was obvious to anyone who knows their Bible, I was confused as well. All the crossing and bowing. What’s up with that? I accept and embrace crossing as an awesome part of church history and tradition we have with us today… and as long as I’m bowing to God, that’s cool. But it seemed the like the congregation subscribed to the all too common philosophy of, “If one is good, more is better.” Not that I minded—bowing nice and low is a nice stretch in the middle of all that standing.

I’ve learned a lot about the Orthodox church over the years, but nothing really prepared me for how strange and yet familiar the service would be. Maybe I’m filling too many blanks in on my own (After all, I hardly speak Russian, let alone old church Slavonic).

Still, every one of my questions or problems with the Orthodox church has a parallel in the Protestant church. It’s just that I’m comfortable with some and not with others. Mary scares a lot of Protestants almost as much as the Holy Ghost does. Hate those dorks who applaud (or shout “Amen”) every time someone says, “Jesus” or “Calvary”? I know I do. Those are the obsessive crossers (genuflectors? Sounds like a bike accessory.) and bowers.

Worried about the service being in a foreign tongue? Ever think about how much would be communicated by your church service if you couldn’t understand anything the preacher said or couldn’t read anything or couldn’t talk to anyone?

Worried about saying the same prayers every Sunday? Ever get tired of hearing the same damn requests every week? Ever forget to pray for something?

Worried about worshiping icons? Ever get confused whether you were at a concert or a church service?

Worried about wise stewardship of funds (Why waste it on gold leaf when you could help the poor!)? Ever get distracted on Sunday morning by the hideous pastel felt banner thing hanging from behind the pulpit with a dove, or possibly Texas, with an olive branch in it’s mouth on it? Ever wonder why the carpet is blue and the pews are orange?

Worried about accidentally worshiping Mary, the mother of God? Ever hear someone say from behind a pulpit that Jesus wasn’t talking to you or me, he was talking to the Jews?

I now understand much of Church history as attempts to reinvent the wheel. The true church is Orthodox. Enough from me. I very much doubt very many of you actually read all those words. The true church is Orthodox.