Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Medicare

Item: When my husband went on Medicare, we assumed our insurance costs, now being footed by the U.S. Government, would go down. Shouldn't they? They went UP. It costs us more to be covered by Medicare than by our private insurance alone. Who do you think receives the extra money?

Item: We saw on the news last week that if a patient comes in complaining of having fainted, Medicare pays "only" $7,000 to the health care provider. This low figure has been tempting some health care organizations to instruct their doctors not to call if fainting, but to call it central nervous system something-or-other, because that diagnosis brings in many times more dollars from Medicare.

Fainting is a complaint my husband says can be resolved in less than half an hour at a cost of perhaps $50 to the doctor or practice.

WHO PAYS SEVEN THOUSAND DOLLARS for a fainting fit? You? Forget it. Your private health care insurance? Dream on. Only the U.S. Government.

And why? I defy you to make any sense of it without saying it involves corruption. The answer is, a lot of congressional somebodies are being paid a lot of money to funnel these kinds of dollars to doctors and hospitals.

ITEM: When my husband had his carotid artery operated on in March of this year, he spent one night in the hospital. The hospital's charge for this (not to be confounded with the doctors' charges, which are separate things) was $5,830.00. For one night. Without any particularly complicated care, as all went smoothly enough for him to be discharged the following morning. Medicare paid $3,000, which is still outrageous. And the remainder? The hospital, we were told, would write it off. Meaning it would receive $3,000 but, come tax time, claim a $2,830 loss.

The truth is, a major part of why the cost of health care in this country is so high is the federal government's corrupt involvement in it. Therefore the probability is, we would all, from infants to seniors, have been better off had there never been a Medicare. So yes, in that sense, I am against Medicare.

Does that mean I'm in favor of just dropping it? No, definitely not, because that would leave seniors, largely on a fixed income, defenseless in a sea of sharks. It ought to be dropped, yes, but only in the context of an overall reform in the American health care system. A real reform, I mean, not Obamacare. A reform in which medical charges bear some resemblance to actual costs, in which profits are not outrageous or extortionate, in which doctors and hospitals and pharmacies are paid directly by the patients, without any price-gougers interposing themselves between and dictating treatments. A reform brought about carefully, thoughtfully, and gradually.

We'd all pay less, seniors included, seniors especially.

Oh, and we'd also be living more nearly by the Constitution, which does not accord the federal government the power to set up or administer a program like Medicare.

Twelve Days of Christmas Quiz

By the Twelfth Day of Christmas, according to the carol, how many birds had my true love given me?

May the remaining 8 Days of Christmas be very merry for you and yours!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas Music

Least Favorite

1.) Blue Christmas
Too whiney, not at all in the right spirit.

2.) Feliz Navidad
Annoying tune, plus it tends to get stuck in the brain.

3.) Minor Alterations II
by David Lovrein, heard on NPR. A medley of seasonal songs transposed from major into minor keys that gives the distinct feeling Christmas is being mocked. (That's a feeling NPR conveys in various ways every year.) I wonder how the arranger would feel if someone transposed Hannukah songs into major keys and made them sound like Christmas carols.

Favorite

1.) Hark, the Herald Angels
Retains all the Christmas theology, expressed in rich paradox. He is born that we may no longer die, He is born once that we may be born twice, etc.

2.) Adeste, Fideles
Because of an event in my life with which I associate it, but that's a story for another day.

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

The Heavenly Host

Often at this time of year, when we hear so much about angels, I think of my Guardian Angel, who has actually spoken with me, twice. Aloud, I mean, so anyone could have heard.

That was back in the time I didn’t even believe in guardian angels, or in angels generally. I did sometimes go to the Greek church, but although my angel helped change this, I wasn’t planning to become Orthodox.

What I had tumbled to was that my then-husband’s new “best friend”, who went by the alias of George Homewood, was a con artist. Not that we had any money to speak of; we were very poor, but my mother-in-law had just died and left us a little something for a rainy day. My husband wanted to scrape together and give his "friend" what for us was a huge amount, including my next paycheck.

“George” had a plan (don’t they all!). He had invented a solar food dehydrator. Because it was inexpensive to use and could preserve food, it would be the salvation of the starving poor all around the world. He had already produced it once, spending his entire, vast fortune to distribute it as widely as he could when he had been a missionary in the Philippines. As a result of his over-generosity, he now found himself in need. (Here it comes.) He needed money to begin manufacturing his device again. But this time, having learned his lesson the hard way, he had developed a plan for selling it that would make him – and us, of course – fabulously rich at the same time it helped the starving poor. Oh, and by the way, he also needed some funds for food and a few other necessities, in the meanwhile. Just to keep him going in the short run.

When the realization came crashing down on me that this had all the marks of a scam, I tried to discuss it with my husband, but this possibility was too difficult for him to admit.

So I saw I would have to prove my point, and quickly, before everything we had should go to George Homewood. I took the next day off from work and spent it in my cubicle anyway, and the first thing I thought I ought to do was ask for help from the police, and that’s when I spoke, over the telephone, to my Guardian Angel.

I dialed the regular non-emergency police number and said to whoever answered (the Desk Sergeant, if TV police shows are to be believed?), “I think my husband is being conned, and I need some help to prove it.”

“Just a moment,” said the man, “and I’ll transfer you to Tel Com.” I assumed that was short for Telephone Communications. Anyway, my Guardian Angel came on the line, although at the time I just imagined her as a very large, black woman, from her voice. “This is Officer Childs,” she said.

I had my legal pad and pen ready. “Is that C-h-i-l-d-s?” I asked. She said it was and I wrote it down beside the police phone number.

“I think my husband is being conned,” I told her, and then provided a few details.

“Honey, I’ve been in pursuit of justice for a long, long time, and I can tell you this definitely is a scam. No question. But what you need to do,” she said, gently, “is talk to your husband. Cain’t you talk to him?”

“I’ve tried, but it doesn’t work. He won’t hear it; he just gets mad."

"Listen, you've got to quit playing the avenging angel [how did she know?]and play the victim instead, because that's what you really are in this situation."

"I'll try, but can’t you give me some sort of ammunition, some facts, maybe some criminal record?”

“Well, I’m not really supposed to be doing that sort of thing. But you give me half an hour, and I will call you back.”

Half an hour later, she did phone me back. “What have you got?” I asked.

“He was never a missionary in the Philippines or anywhere else. He isn’t a Mormon, either. Nor a Navy chaplain. His degree in theology is fake and he’s no lawyer. Never even studied law. He was in prison during the time he said he was in the Philippines. You got a pen handy? His date of birth -”

“Thank you! I don't think I'll need need to know his birth date!”

“Yes, you will. You write this down.” So I did.

If I wanted to learn more, she suggested, I should go down to the Courthouse and inquire.

“Okay,” I said, “thank you, thank you, thank you! I’ll check it all out.”

“And when you’ve finished,” she said, “and it’s all over, I want you to call me back at this same number and tell me. Promise.”

Of course I promised! It felt like some sort of a secret pact between us. And I kept my promise, too, or tried to.

First item on the agenda, according to her, was to get all our finances safely under my sole control: bank account, mutual fund, insurance. That took most of the day.

Then, with the help of a private detective, I methodically checked everything she had told me. I called the Church of the Latter Day Saints, and they said they didn’t have any such person in their records. But how old was he at the time? Because they didn’t sent out missionaries older than 25. I had my Dad, who worked at the Pentagon, confirm that George was not a Navy Chaplain. The law college George claimed to have attended turned out to be a correspondence school. He had registered, but never even completed the first course. His theology degree was from a basement diploma mill in California; write your dissertation in 50 words or less on Why Religious Freedom is Important and enclose $25, or $35 if you want your diploma mounted in a handsome frame. I telephoned various prisons nearby and said I needed to confirm the dates of the incarceration and the nature of the charges. The charges were always fraud and/or passing bad checks. One man I spoke to said, “Oh, yes, I remember him. He was quite a piece of work! He used to take on legal cases for the other inmates, cheap rates.”

A week or so later, when I had gathered all my evidence, including photos of the man in prison, and when the big fight was over, and when George had disappeared on a “business trip” to the Philippines, with all our luggage but without any more of our money, I called the police station and asked how to get a flower arrangement to Officer Childs.

There is no such person working here, I was informed.

“Yes, there is! I spoke to her last Monday!”

“No, ma’am.”

“Well, has she quit or been transferred since then?”

“No ma’am, there never was anybody by that name working here.”

“She’s in Tel Com!”

No, she wasn’t. “The only female officers working in Telcom are Officers Evans and Jones.”

“Is one of them black?” Officer Childs had had a distinctly black timbre to her voice.

“No, ma’am, both white.”

The private detective who had helped me follow Officer Childs' leads now tried to solve this new mystery, out of pure personal interest. Maybe someone had given me a pseudonym? But why? He tried every branch of law enforcement: city police, county police, sheriff. But he never solved the mystery. Officer Childs just didn’t exist.

Except that she had given me valuable information, and everything she had told me had proven true. She had given me courage, saved some of our precious little nest egg, and given our badly battered marriage another chance (even though, in the end, it still failed).

Oh, and everyone I had spoken to, every single one of them, had required George Homewood’s date of birth when looking him up.

It was the Greek priest who exclaimed, “My God, have you been talking with your guardian angel, or what?” And I looked at him for a long moment before I finally said, "Yes," with wonder in my voice. "Yes, I have.” Yes, just as almost everybody else including me has given up such quaint and curious beliefs, I told him, I find out this is one thing you have got right after all.

Glory to God, and fervent thanks to you, my own dear Guardian Angel! (Were you among those who sang Christ’s birth?)

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Superego: Wrong Image

Superego, of course, is a concept of Freud’s. It is often made synonymous with “conscience”. The superego is basically an image you have of Who You Are Supposed To Be. This image can be inculcated into you by your parents, your teachers, your religious leaders, and/or can even be constructed by yourself. Wherever it has come from, your heart has accepted it as your ideal.

The trouble is, that’s not who you really are, nor can be. You can’t live up to this ideal. And whenever you don’t, you feel pangs of remorse; you feel guilty and like kicking yourself, because you think you are supposed to be this other thing and you find you aren’t. It’s this phenomenon that gives rise to the “terrors of conscience”, the conviction that in all justice, you ought to be punished.

It happens all the time. I once knew a pious Catholic man who went off to a monastery to become a monk and came back six months later saying, “They wanted me to be someone I’m just not and I couldn’t do it.” He couldn’t be someone’s concept of the Ideal Monk. For him, perhaps that meant defeat, or perhaps it meant liberation, as it should for us. Because – take heart! – in reality, this is a mistake our hearts have made in accepting something not me as “Who I am Supposed To Be”.

Yes, it’s all a mistake. The superego is an artificial construct. Your true conscience is the Image of God within you that protests every time it is violated. Its reaction is sorrow, not guilt.

And you are not meant to be what you cannot be, nor to live up to any ideal. You are not meant to be anybody other than who you are.

And who is that? That’s YOU! You are a unique someone created in the Image of God. You are someone in whom that Image has become tarnished and battered. You are someone in whom God means to refurbish His image and make it brighter than ever.

That Image is the Image of His Son. And it’s not just another form of superego, either, because you aren’t supposed to be Jesus Christ, now or ever; you’re just supposed to try to keep faith with Him as He does His work in you, transfiguring you into your best self, your true self, which is to say, into a glorious but still unique member of Himself, living the life of the Holy Trinity. You are the raw material He takes and deifies.

And unlike the superego, this Image, not merely existing in your head, but as a facet of your own being, is non-threatening. This is the Image of the Creator of all the Galaxies, yes, but Who graciously condescends to be born as a helpless babe in a stable. This is the One Whom all the heavens could not contain, consenting to be wrapped in a human womb for nine months. This is the Timeless One, entering into time, the Immortal One, willing to be killed, the Judge of us all, which sounds so threatening, yet so meek is this Judge that He allows us to judge Him!

It’s the judgment we make of Him that ultimately will reveal most profoundly who we really are. Do you really, really, deep down, want Him or not? His dread Judgment will be:
to reveal this to you
and then to give you what you want
and to let you be who you want to be.

The hopes and fears
Of all the years
Are met in Him tonight.

May you have a very merry and blessed Christmas!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Being Lied to is Something I just Cannot Get Used To


Check out the truth, as explained by Rep. Jerrold Nadler, here.

And the text of the section in question is here

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

One World, One Government, One Religion

There's a program on pulic television airing as I type, explaining why Islam, Judaism, and Christianity have more "commonalities" than differences. Really they are three versions of the same thing with slightly different wrinkles. They all do worship the same God, after all.

Wait, wait - Muslims and Jews have begun to worship the Holy Trinity???

Monday, December 19, 2011

Mysogyny is a Sin

We had a wonderful discussion Saturday night with a group of friends from church, and the subject arose of how it very much appears the Orthodox Church has some sort of a grudge against women. This appearance kept me away from the Church for a while. Consider: women are not allowed to go into the altar. Women in some jurisdictions are asked not to receive Holy Communion during their menstrual periods. And it does seem there are an awfully lot of women saints who before their repentance were prostitutes! Women are not ordained priests, either.

Eventually I figured out that appearances do not add up to any imagined mysogyny, hatred of women. I was treated with great respect, and so were the other women I observed. There must be some other reasons behind these practices.

Going Behind the Altar

The truth is, nobody of either sex is allowed behind the altar screen unless he or she has some legitimate duty to perform there. Men don't usually know this, but they are also not supposed to be there without a blessing from the priest. Women don't usually realize it, but any cleaning lady can tell you she regularly goes there to vacuum and dust and clean up the wax.

Not Reciving Holy Communion During Your Period

This is a pious practice in some jurisdictions of the Orthodox Church (e.g., Greek); others (e.g., OCA) think it perhaps a bit over the top. Certainly it is not a dogma of the Church that a woman must not receive Holy Communion while she is menstruating.

The truth is, men aren't supposed to receive Holy Communion, either, if they have any significant bleeding. The reason, for men and women alike, is, of course, you are receiving the true Blood of Christ and you want to treat it more reverently than to let it seep out of you in undignified ways.

Obviously, men dying on battlefields and dying women, bleeding from anywhere, do receive Holy Communion. The Church exercises wisom and compassion when an exception to the rule seem more likely than the rule itself to support a person's salvation.

Prostitutes

Yes, there are a lot of those in our Tradition! St. Mary of Egypt comes to mind, and the woman who anointed Christ's feet with oil, and the Hymn of Cassiani. Prostitutes are featured so often because sexual sin is such a big problem for human beings. It's also to encourage us, because when we see them forgiven, we understand that so can we be forgiven.

We also note that several people infamous for sexual sin are listed among the Ancestors of Christ in Matthew's Gospel. We have Tamar who had become pregnant by someone not her husband (Genesis 38); we have Solomon, whom King David begat by the wife he had stolen from Uriah (and had Uriah killed in the process); we have Booz, son of Rachab the, um, yes, prostitute. Sinners and scoundrels, yet here they are, made worthy to be accounted Ancestors of God-in-the-Flesh; and as the priest in Fort Wayne once told us, if they could make it, there's hope for all of us!

But guess what? Tradition has at least as many stories of fornicating monks as it does of wayward women!

And when Christ saved the woman caught in the act of adultery, what did He say to the men standing all around ready to stone her? If any of you is without sin, cast the first stone. So He taught them they were not better than she.

Women Excluded from Priesthood

This is a long, complicated topic, but perhaps we can summarize it here. The first thing to understand is that in Orthodox Christianity, "priest" does not equal "leader". Our leaders are men and women who are exceptionally Christlike. The office of priest is that of a servant to the servants of God; where it is adequately understood that we really mean this, it isn't just a matter of words, few feminists will covet the role.

There is no higher status accorded priests; instead, there is a special function, for the sake of which we show a priest respect. That function is to be the living icon of Christ, both inwardly and outwardly, for liturgical purposes. Christ Himself sends the Holy Spirit upon the waters of Baptism or into the bread and wine of Holy Communion, or into the oil for Unction; ministering alongside the Lord is the priest, doing the visible counterparts of what Christ is doing invisibly and being His visible counterpart.

The priest's functions, although indispensible, are not the highest ones in the Divine Liturgy; receiving the Body and Blood of Christ is the most important function, and it is no less available to women than to men.

In short, the Orthodox Church, recognizing that the sexes are not alike (and vive la difference!) has different roles for each, but not different statuses, because in Christ there is no inequality between male and female.

Baby Bat

Bats are so intelligent that some scientists consider them primates, like gorillas and chimps, or at least very closely akin to them. They are warm, furry, very smart, loveable creatures.

They are susceptibble to rabies. One in every 200 bats, on average, has or carries it. For that reason, I'd like to point out that normally, bats are handled with GLOVES! This may be considered an exception because (1) the baby is from a zoo, where it is known his parents were healthy and (2) this is a very young baby, without teeth (and too young to be terribly fearful of humans, anyway).

I hope you enjoy this darling little video.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

What Kids Say!

This summer, Sydney, then still only 5, was sent to Vacation Bible School.  One day she came home and asked her mother, "What does 'accept' mean?"

"It means you believe something is true," replied Erin.

Sydney burst into tears.  "Oh, NO!"  (You have to 'hear' the rest in a Southern accent.)  "I messed up!  I REALLY messed up!"

"Why, what did you do?"

"I told my teacher and my whole class I did NOT accept Jesus Christ as my personal Savior!"

All My Grandchildren

Or, It IS Acceptable to Brag About Grandchildren, Isn't It?



This was Earlier this Summer; Below is
a very recent one of Jackson.  Sydney is
so Thrilled with her Little Brother she
has Been Asking Mom and Dad for Another!
 

On the First Anniversary of the Day
Jackson First Came to Us


Kelly and Her Brothers at Hallowe'en.  Kelly is the
Goddess Athena.  Connor and Ryan are Transformers.
I don't have a recent shot that shows their handsome faces!



Kelly Having Tea at Biltmore House in North Carolina (Vanderbilt
Mansion) and Trying to Look Like a Flapper.
 

From one of our Senators from Virginia; no Word yet from the Other

Dear Mrs. Theodoridis,

Thank you for taking the time to contact me with your views on funding priorities within the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2012. [Funding priorities were not my issue, but of course this is a form letter.]

We have placed great demands on our military in recent years, and the Department of Defense must be granted the necessary budgetary authority to fund essential and effective defense programs while also ensuring that our armed forces are properly equipped, cared for and compensated. For that reason, on December 1, 2012, the Senate passed the National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2012 (S. 1867) 93-7, with my support.

As we consider legislation during this time of fiscal strain, I believe it is important to consider that the ability of our country to field well-trained, fully-resourced and combat-capable military forces is dependent on a healthy, functioning economy. I recognize that addressing our debt and deficit challenges will not be easy; however, I believe it is imperative that we continue to engage in a civil and open debate as to what we need and what we can afford. This will require tough choices, but I believe that addressing our debt and deficit is too important for Congress to put off any longer.

Again, thank you for contacting me. For further information or to sign up for my newsletter please visit my website at http://warner.senate.gov.


Sincerely,
MARK R. WARNER
United States Senator

Friday, December 16, 2011

Photos With Stories, Part VI



Don't have to tell you where this is, just when.  When was 15.  That's my brother with me, on our last vacation in Europe before our military family was to be transferred back to the States. 

I have a guilty secret, shared by Michael and my other siblings, not shown in this photo.  The secret is inside that large handbag you see me holding a bit too carefully.  Where you see the bulge, there's a coffee can inside that bag, lined with kleenex and paper towels to make a nest for my pet rat, Gelati.  Gelati secretly went with us all over Italy and was sneaked aboard the USS Darby when we sailed for New York.  My parents had no idea.

Some kid on ship, um, ratted me out.  I was summoned to the chaplain's office (!) and confronted with the charge that I was transporting vermin.  Well, I had to defend poor Gelati's life, didn't I?  So I lied.  I said I had already tossed him overboard. 

Other kids aboard backed me up.  Yes, said one, I saw her throw it over the stern.  Definitely, said another, I saw her throw it over the bow.  We were with her when she tossed it over the starboard side.  We were with her on the port side.  Etc.

Meanwhile, though, the decision was made, since the rat could not be found, that when we arrived in New York, the USS Darby with all passengers would have to be quarantined there for 3 days.  This was a military transport vessel, full of families who had been stationed abroad three or four years, all very eager to get back HOME.  I was the pariah of the whole ship. 

The decision, because of being so unpopular, was changed.  Instead of quarantining the ship, each and every cabin would be thoroughly searched - and fumigated.  That's when I really did tearfully toss Gelati overboard.  I was relieved, but my parents were more upset than ever.

I could well understand  their distress and fury, but it wasn't until decades later I found out the real source of it.  My parents were smuggling alcohol in their luggage! 

At least that was my understanding until a few days ago, until Thanksgiving.

"No," said Mom.  "We didn't have anything in our luggage.  We weren't smuggling liquor; YOU were!"

Beethoven

"And now," said my then four-year-old niece, sitting at the piano one Christmas afternoon, "I'll play you some music from my FAVORITE composer, Beethoven."  Whereupon she turned toward the keyboard and plunked out a few random notes.  That was 12 years ago now; she's about to turn 16.

Anyway, if Beethoven happens to be your favorite composer, too, or at least one of them, he was born on this day in 1770, so that makes it, um, let's see, 241 years ago. (?)

So Happy Beethoven's Birthday to you!

The Most Radical, Most Inspiring Document ever Written, Other than the New Testament

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.
 The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.--Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in
their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

And then Justice Sometimes Also Happens

Okay, so it always happens, sooner or later. Just in this case, it was sooner.



The Smoking Gun

It's hard to find this on the Web.  It's been deleted from Youtube and therefore from everywhere that embedded the Youtube video.  But here it is... Better view it now, in case it may also soon disappear.

The Bill of Rights

Here is the text of the Bill of Rights, consisting of the first 10 Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

First Amendment – Establishment Clause, Free Exercise Clause; freedom of speech, of the press, and of assembly; right to petition



Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.


Second Amendment – Militia (United States), Sovereign state, Right to keep and bear arms.


A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.


Third Amendment – Protection from quartering of troops.


No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.


Fourth Amendment – Protection from unreasonable search and seizure.


The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.


Fifth Amendment – due process, double jeopardy, self-incrimination, eminent domain.


No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.


Sixth Amendment – Trial by jury and rights of the accused; Confrontation Clause, speedy trial, public trial, right to counsel


In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.


Seventh Amendment – Civil trial by jury.


In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.


Eighth Amendment – Prohibition of excessive bail and cruel and unusual punishment.


Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.


Ninth Amendment – Protection of rights not specifically enumerated in the Constitution.


The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.


Tenth Amendment – Powers of States and people.


The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.



Weirdness Happens

Last night as I was typing the blog post, "The Lesser Evil is Still Evil", a creepy thing happened. I was typing it in Word, although yes, I was also connected to the Internet. Well, I had just finished typing one sentence when, to my astonishment, a voice that sounded synthesized read it back to me.

No, I don't have any voice recognition or any text-to-voice software on this computer. It's true that my finger had slipped while typing that sentence, but I can't imagine what I could have pressed that would cause this to happen.

Any ideas?

(No, I do not "hear vocies"!)

Really, Really Scary Stuff

or, Liberty and Security are not Mutally Exclusive




This man is the author of several articles about the anti-American, unconstitutional provisions of the current National Defense Authorization Act. Read the first one here and then, if you care to, follow links.

The President has just withdrawn his threat to veto this bill. He says certain changes have now made it acceptable. They haven't. The major change is that if your innocent little self is arrested as a terrorist suspect, the power to waive the non-existent charges is now assigned to the President instead of to the Secretary of Defense. After today, would you trust this president to do that for you?

Consider carefully from now on what you say on Facebook or Twitter or on your blog. I can't believe I'm saying this. In America.



"But you must remember, my fellow-citizens, that eternal vigilance by the people is the price of liberty, and that you must pay the price if you wish to secure the blessing. It behooves you, therefore, to be watchful in your States as well as in the Federal Government." -- Andrew Jackson, Farewell Address, March 4, 1837

The Lesser Evil is Still Evil

It isn’t good just because it’s the least evil possibility. It’s still evil. It’s what the Orthodox call “involuntary sin”. This term sounds weird in the ears of Western Christians, but it might perhaps be roughly, loosely, compared with the legal term, “involuntary manslaughter”, which means the defendant did something truly horrible but couldn’t help it. Sometimes the rottenness of this world puts us in situations in which we must try to choose the least awful, least damaging, least wretched thing to do. But it’s still awful, damaging, and wretched! It doesn’t morph into something good. It isn’t even, for those concerned with their moral status, justifiable. Why not? Well, because whose fault is it the world is so rotten that it only presents us with rotten choices? Have we not all contributed to making this world what it is? If we are anything short of perfect, of course we have.

In the coming election, it appears we are going to have some pretty rotten choices. Mitt Romney’s record as head of Bain Capital is at best morally mixed; google it. Newt Gingrich’s record on several things is at best morally mixed. Barack Obama has done nothing whatever to correct the policies of torture or rendition, nothing substantive to correct our broken health care system, nothing to curb our insane drive to secure and consolidate American control of the whole world. (When I was growing up, such an ambition was considered criminal, was associated with Hitler, and was consistently foiled by the likes of Batman or Superman or even – if memory serves, which it doesn’t always – James Bond.) Ron Paul so far appears at least an honest man, to support whom would not be morally objectionable – so far as I know now. Should he be elected (and contrary to popular perception, he is indeed electable), I think we'll still be safe from his more radical ideas, which will remain just that, ideas, because they will be non-starters in Congress.

But if he is not the Republican nominee and we end up having to choose between two crooks, there is another choice, albeit also a flawed one. And that is not to vote at all.

I was brought up to believe, and I still believe, that to vote is my duty as an American citizen, an exercise of a precious right. But that belief presupposes there will be at least one honest candidate. What if there isn't? I'm amazed how many people think a morally bankrupt candidate is in any way qualified to be President of the United States.

If there is no honest candidate, I believe my duty then is to withhold my vote, to refuse to put my support behind any of these white-collar gangsters. (And I do not believe myself qualified to decide which is the worse or which the better. It's like asking whether stealing is worse than lying, or whether avarice is better than lust.)

Would withholding my vote do any good? Probably not. (But if voting won't, either, so what?) On the other hand, just maybe it will. If a certain high percentage of all registered voters don’t vote, then the legitimacy of the election will be in question, which is a good thing. It at least registers our discontent.

As far as I can recall, there is no write-in option on Virginia ballots. But maybe I could just not punch out any of the holes, and write in ink across my ballot, “None of the above”. A lot of people doing that, or writing it in, would also send a message.

Perhaps this would be the least wrong of the available options.

UPDATE: Someone who voted for Ron Paul in the 2008 presidential race has reminded me that a candidate does NOT have to be his or her party's nominee to appear on the ballot, at least in Virginia. Probably everywhere?? 

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Oh, by the Way...

Today I went to the pharmacy to renew a prescription, and while I was there, I inquired about the price of those pills for which, in Greece, without insurance, I paid $2.34 for a month's supply. Here, without insurance, a month's worth of the brand as opposed to the generic version costs $27.99. That's almost 12 times more! (Okay, it's 11.96 times more.)

I don't think my health insurance company pays a cent. Simply the manufacturer "accepts" my $15 co-pay, which, figuring in the pharmacist's profit, is still six or seven times what the manufacturer could profitably sell it for. The drug company accepts 7 times what the pills are worth instead of 12 times. And the health insurance company keeps on charging me for this kind of coverage.

Call it "protection" instead of "coverage" and it begins to smack of racketeering, doesn't it? Pay up or else.

Something to Consider

h/t Fr. Andrew Damick

I am not, or at least not yet, a convinced supporter of Ron Paul, but as I've said before (and will explain in more detail another time) I am unable to consider any of the others. John, over at Ad Orientem, has expressed my thoughts on this candidate very well

This video is educational and sobering and well worth your attention.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Photos With Stories, Part V

On the right, in costume, is our family friend, Clyde Friar, whom we have known since I was little. My sister was once in love with his son Larry, and both families rather hoped they would one day marry.

Anyway, Clyde's hobby was playing bit parts in movies and TV. His all-time "big" role was a one-liner in Hawaii Five-O. Here he is with the then star of that series, Tom Selleck.


Monday, December 12, 2011

Just Busy

Not to worry, kind friends; no news is good news and all that.  We are fine, just very busy getting ready for Christmas. 

Still haven't gotten everything straight with the Dept. of Motor Vehicles, either.  Our letter reached the Commissioner Monday.  If we get no satisfactory results, our representative to the State Legislature will receive the next one...

Once we stopped to think about it, we thought it ought to be rather embarrassing to have someone break into your home and not find anything worth stealing!  (The DVR didn't belong to us, but to our tv/phone/internet provider.)  Oh, well, too busy to feel embarrassed.

It was announced yesterday that our assistant priest will re re-assigned as of 01 January; such short notice!  I do hope our Bishop Evangelios will assign us another one very soon!


 

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Whoa, Did Something Die in Here? Oh, It Was Freedom

h/t to John at Ad Orientem

Congress has just passed a bill that, if if becomes law, will take away all your rights if you are ever accused of having anything to do with terrorism.  Of course you are no terrorist, and would rather die than support any terrorist, so you aren't worried, right?  You should be.  Because it doesn't matter if such a charge is flat-out, obviously ridiculous and outrageous and you have totally been framed; you won't have a chance to defend yourself in a civilian court.  And you may be incarcerated by the military without any charges indefinitely.

PLEASE READ THIS.

http://www.loweringthebar.net/2011/12/whoa-did-something-die-in-here-oh-it-was-freedom.html

P.S.  It will be instructive to see whether Mr. Obama will veto this legislation.  Don't count on it.  Letters to him might be useful, though. 

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Calling all Conspiracy Theorists

or, Ponder this Long and Hard, all ye Lovers of Freedom

Several years ago, when Vladimir Putin was visiting the United States, we were listening to The News Hour with Jim Lehrer on PBS when Mr. Lehrer slipped and said, in an aside to his guest, "Of course, we don't allow Putin access to the Western media anyway..." to which his guest quickly agreed and then moved on, as if not to draw attention to what had just been said.  But you and I should definitely pay attention, because the implications are staggering.


Who is the "we" in that sentence?



My husband and I have been discussing this for years, ever since that show: 

Who has the power to deny Putin access even just to the whole American press  - as in censorship, as in unconstitutional - much less deny him access to all the international, Western news media?????

And not only who, but how?  How is it managed?

And WHY? 

And in what other ways may somebody or somebodies be controlling/manipulating the entire Western press?

Reflections from Fr. John Fenton

Some years after his conversion from Lutheranism to Orthodoxy, Fr. John says his reasons have crystallized. Here are the big four, but do read his whole blog post.

In the final analysis, however, I would boil all the differences down to these main points:
  • The Church is not a Platonic Republic (i.e., intrinsically or primarily invisible); i.e., an assembly of believers. Rather, it is and must be a visible entity, traceable through an unbroken link to the time of the Apostles. (The Lutheran Confessions, in my view, speak with two minds about this doctrine.) 
  • The end or purpose of salvation is not merely to be safe or make it to heaven, but to be in an undying union with God through Christ and the Spirit. That end or purpose is never fully achieved, just as a relationship is never exhausted. (This is a summary of theosis or, what "Lutheran Orthodoxy" called unio mystica.) This leads me to resonate with St Maximus the Confessor's speculation that sin and death did not necessitate the incarnation of the Son of God; rather, the original design, from eternity, was that the Son of God would become incarnate so that man could be in union with God. 
  • Tradition is not a custom nor merely a lens through which the church reads the Scriptures; rather, Tradition is the ongoing life of the Church (the Spirit in and of the Church) which, of course, cannot contradict Scripture but which also amplifies Scripture. (The Lutheran Confessions state that some of Tradition - e.g., liturgy - is indifferent; and insist, for those who take a quia subscription, that it is a lens.)
  • Sin is certainly serious and is inherited; but it is not part of man's nature nor is it the primary problem. Rather, death is the primary problem, as seen by the fact that Christ purposefully took on passable flesh in order to suffer, die and rise. (The article on Free Will [FC SD II], when read understanding the philosophical underpinnings of the language, agrees that man is not by nature sinful.)
But the tipping point, Fr. John says, was something else.  Check out his blog

Sunday was St. Barbara's Day

This feast has a lot of significance for me. Barbara is my mother's name, and the name of my sister who died in 2008. She had been received into the Holy Orthodox Church one year before, on the eve of the Feast of St. Barbara.

St. Barbara is also (at least in the West, not sure about in Orthodoxy) the patron saint of the artillery, and my father was an artilleryman, so I think of him, too, on the Feast of St. Barbara.

Memory Eternal to them, and Many Years to all of you named Barbara!

Happy St. Nicholas Day!

...and Many Years to each Nick / Nicholas out there!

Monday, December 5, 2011

When the Stash Attacks: Creative Techniques for Concealing Your Yarns

What every True Knitter needs to know.  You are not supposed to take this article in jest, but it's okay by me if you do. 

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Ron Paul

We listened to some news coverage after the recent Republican debate (moderated by, um, Donald Trump?) and two things stood out to us.

One was that the "issues" debated were education, the environment, and a couple of other secondary issues. The crucial, critical, urgent ones were not mentioned at all, at least by this report on NPR.

The other striking thing was that there was no mention of Ron Paul. We've noticed this before, how the press snubs him. Never mind he's a solid third in the polls among Republican candidates. The press covers candidates who are garnering much smaller numbers than his, but mention of Ron Paul is avoided.

Is this a clue that the powers that be don't want him? And is that, in turn, a clue that we do?

Could it be we have found an honest man at last? I'm skeptical, having been so disappointed in Obama, whom I thought honest. I don't even care any more if I agree with a candidate or not, so long as he is honest. Because I think it's dishonesty, corruption, that more than anything else is bringing down this country. Honest mistakes we can live with, but corruption can destroy it all.

So I'm going to keep an eye on Ron Paul. He's the only candidate I am even remotely considering so far.

Newt Gingrich

I think Mr. Gingrich stands a strong chance of being the next President of the United States.

We watched/listened to his speech a couple of nights ago, and his oratorical skills match or perhaps exceed Mr. Obama's. (Plus, he's more of a thinker.) He knows how to give a feel-good speech. He invokes Lincoln, Franklin, Jefferson, tells you heartwarming stories about them. He invites us to join him in "rebuilding that America".

Fat chance. That America was two centuries ago; we need a new America that lives up to those ideals. We need to look forward even more than backward.

How to get there? Mr. Gingrich didn't say. There was not a single mention of any of the issues that concern most Americans today. Nothing about the economy or the banking system or Wall Street or the crisis in Europe or jobs or home forclosures or ... well, you name it, he didn't mention it.

I'm all in awe and admiration at such consummate skill in sounding wonderful and saying nothing. He does it even better than Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton and that's saying a lot.

It will be interesting to see if he improves over the course of the campaign.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Of Men and Angels

We are not going to turn into angels in the next life. We have a much higher destiny than that, for angels, although glorious beings, are still inferior to a glorified human being.

The first glory God bestowed upon mankind was to create us, and only us, in His own Image. No angel has that honor.

Again, God bestowed the highest honor upon humanity by becoming one of us. When have we ever heard He became an angel?

The God-Man laid down his own life to conquer death for us. For which angel did He ever die?

When the God-Man ascended into heaven, it was in His flesh, in His full humanity, to “sit at the right hand of the Father”. With which angel did the Father ever share His throne? In the Person of Jesus Christ, our humanity is perfectly united with the Godhead, without compromise to either. No angelic being has that honor.

We become, even in this life, members of Christ, grafted into His Being by Holy Baptism. Are angels baptized? We take God’s own flesh and blood into ours and mingle them together; do angels receive Holy Communion? We share the Body and indeed, the whole Being, of Christ, who is “so much better than the angels, as He has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.” (Hebrews 1:4)

Our destiny is to become deified and to share forever in the inner life of the Holy Trinity. We are sons and daughters of God’s; angels are and forever remain God’s servants – and ours.

For to which of the angels did He ever say:

“You are My Son,
Today I have begotten You” ?

And again:

“I will be to Him a Father,
And He shall be to Me a Son” ?

But when He again brings the firstborn into the world, He says:

“Let all the angels of God worship Him.”

And of the angels He says:

“Who makes His angels spirits
And His ministers a flame of fire.”

But to the Son He says:

“Your throne, O God, is forever and ever;
A scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your kingdom.
You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness;
Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You
With the oil of gladness more than Your companions.”

Hebrews 1:5-9

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

One-Word Summaries

A Catholic friend of ours here attended a several-sessions-long seminar on Judaism. In the last session, the Rabbi asked people how they would summarize, in one word, what it meant to be a Jew. The rabbi's answer: "Covenant." Jews, he explained, are the People of the Covenant. They have this contract with God that nobody else has, in other words, I suppose he meant.

He summarized Islam in the word, "Obedience", which I suppose is fair, as the very word "Islam" means, "submission". I might have said, "Koran".

And then, asked to summarize Christianity, the rabbi said, "Sin".

!

Thanksgiving: Gratitude for So Much

Oh, stuff and bother! I’m not minded to bore you with all the details of our wonderful Thanksgiving. I’ll just say it somehow all came together at last but I was grateful, once we had all been seated at table, to accept Daniel’s offer to take charge from then on. (He’s my brother-in-law, Barbara’s husband.) He organized the transfer of various dishes to everybody’s plates.

Next day, Friday, I drove down to North Carolina with my daughter and her family to visit my son and his family. They’d also had a big crowd, mostly Katherine’s wonderful family, and had celebrated Thanksgiving with – are you ready? – a whipped cream fight! Yup. They chased each other around the house wielding squirt cans of whipped cream, and when they had thoroughly covered some family members with it, those people chased the others around and gave them big hugs.

It’s amazing how quickly whipped cream turns sour and smelly. And gluey…

Anyway, the weekend was full of fun: contests on the trampoline, cooking s’mores over the grill, going to Tanglewood to see the park’s elaborate Christmas lights display, and a shopping trip in which I bought all my 5 grandchildren belated birthday gifts and all their Christmas gifts as well, except Connor’s because he couldn’t find anything in the whole toy store he liked all that well. That was probably because he wasn’t feeling well, but he was better by time I left.

The grandchildren snuggled and sang and told stories and drew me pictures and allowed themselves to be chased and tickled, and the hole in my heart from grandchildren deprivation closed right up. Although it’s already beginning to open up again, God willing we’ll be back together before it widens enough to hurt very much.

Now it’s back home and back to settling in after our long absence. We finally put in a police report on our stolen DVR and we have composed a letter to the Commissioner of the Department of Motor Vehicles requesting justice be done concerning the situation that developed while we were away.

Baby Jackson, 1, needs a Christmas stocking.  My mother used to knit them but doesn't anymore.  Barbara took over some years ago but now that she has reposed, that leaves me.  Okay, yarn all bought.

Everybody in our extended family has some variation of this stocking.  Pattern here.

British Humour

I forgot to tell you earlier about the bus driver we had in London. He was driving the shuttle bus, taking us from our hotel to the airport. As we arrived on the grounds of Heathrow, we heard:

"Ladies and gentlemen, out the windows to the left, you will notice what appears to be an enormous mound of earth. It is not simply a mound of earth; we are building our own volcano. When it is finished we are going to blast it and send all the ash to Iceland. We shall find out how they like it."

Then, when we came to the first stop: "Ladies and gentlemen, this is Terminal 2. For those of you who don't speak English, this is Terminal 2 - por favor."

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

What do You Want to be When You Grow Up?

Once I told my priest I never had deciphered God’s Plan for My Life - to which, I received his usual who-do-you-think-you-are? kind of answer. Not everybody can be a hero, he pointed out; not everybody can lead an illustrious life brimming with world-shaking accomplishments. Just take care of your home and your husband, he advised. Maybe that’s “all” you are called to do, he said. But if and when God deems you have done this well enough, He may add something else, in small increments.

But Sarah in Indiana has another answer. She left it in my comment box when I urged people to read Chloe’s post, “Jesus Does NOT Have a Wonderful Plan for Your Life”.   Sarah passed along what she had heard in that week's sermon, that Jesus IS God’s wonderful plan for your life.

So, so true! In Romans 8:29, St. Paul writes, “whom He foreknew, He also predestined [to be] conformed to the image of His Son…”

In Ephesians, the Apostle prays, “that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. (Eph. 3: 16-19)

“To be filled with all the fullness of God;” or in other words, be conformed to the image of the Son; or in Orthodox parlance, to be deified: this is the wonderful plan for each of us. This is our calling, and it is the most glorious imaginable one.

And that’s a blessed comfort for people like me who never did figure out what we wanted to be when we grew up. This is what every single one of us really, most truly, most deeply wants, the vocation for which we were all created. That's what our lives are all about. 

Yes, THAT is what I want to be someday when I grow up.

Monday, November 28, 2011

I'm Alive and Well...

... and very busy with, well, er, um, real life!

Will post more soon as I can, starting with our wonderful Thanksgiving weekend.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

It's a Scam

Help Needed!!!

Help! I'm sorry to be emailing you like this, but I am in need of some urgent assistance. As you have know, I've been traveling through Europe. But last night in Scotland, my worst fears came true. As we were headed back to the hotel, we were robbed but a crazy man with a GUN. He took our bags, wallets, and phones.

We have no credit cards or cash. Thankfully, we had left our passports in the safe at the hotel. We need to get back home, but we have no way to get to our flight in Germany that leaves for home today.Right now our only option is to fly home from here.

We need some money so we can purchase tickets to get to JFK, and then fly home from there. As soon as we get back home, I can repay you, I just need to get some cash to get there. If you can help, send me an email back, we have internet access from the lobby in the hotel. I'm sorry to bother you, I just didn't know how else to contact you quickly. Thanks! Rachel

Having seen and spoken to my friend Rachel on Sunday, I knew she wasn't traveling in Europe, nor could afford to, nor could drop her obligations at home. So I called her anyway, and she's right here. Someone has hijacked her e-mail account and she can't get into it. Apparently everyone in her address book has received this e-mail.

She says the same thing happened to Vangie (Evangelia) last week. What Rachel and Vangie have in common is, they go to the same church, the Greek church, where we also go.

So if, in the near future, you should see anything similar to this that purports to be from me (or Demetrios) it isn't. We are not in Europe; we are here in Richmond to stay until further notice. The best thing you can do, should you receive an e-mail like this, is to ignore it. Do not reply, lest you annoy the scammer and s/he attack your account next.

Of course, none of the foregoing means you cannot send us money if you like. Post office box number available upon request.

:-)

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Can the non-Orthodox be Saved?

Last year, our dear friend Vasilea, in Greece, raised this question over dinner; for a summary of that discussion, see here.  This year, she did it again, mostly to pre-empt another endless discussion of politics.

The Orthodox Church has never taken a position on this matter.  Therefore, the only correct answer an Orthodox Christian can give is, "We don't know."  We_do_not_know.  Truly.  There is no "official" teaching of the Holy Orthodox Church.   

There is reason to doubt they can be saved; for example, they are not members of the Body of Christ, they do not, so far as we can tell, have truly Life-giving sacraments, etc., etc. 

And there is reason to believe they might nevertheless be saved, if for no other reason than that we have known God, Whose mercy is always endlessly astonishing, His ways, mysterious, His judgments, unsearchable, His Holy Spirit unconfined and unconstrained.

But we do not go by reason; we go according to revelation; and so far, the Holy Spirit has not revealed this to the Church.  So if any Orthodox Christian tells you yes, the non-Orthodox can be saved, or no, they cannot, that person is expressing his own opinion and nothing more.  Nothing more exists on the subject.  We are allowed to hope, but not to proclaim our opinion as Truth.

My own hope, my own belief, my own opinion is a resounding yes.  Yes, it is indeed possible for a non-Orthodox person to be saved.  Extra difficult, but not impossible.  Why do I think this?  Simple:  I have known Carl Harris.  And others like him.  And I think it would be blaspheming the Holy Spirit to suppose Carl did not belong to Christ.

I have known Salmon, too, who is Muslim, and my heart, with wonder and awe and joy, recognizes in him another heart belonging to Christ, even though not conceptually, for fear it would make him a polytheist.  (Yes, I do know my heart can be mistaken.  I just don't think it is, in this case.)

But don't they have their doctrines all wrong?  Sure.  But what are doctrines for?  For guiding our feet into the way of peace, which means into the way of Love.  And Love, be it carefully noted, is what we were created for; in other words, Love is built into our human nature.  Granted our nature has become corrupted.  Granted, correct doctrine and practice are incalculable advantages in overcoming that corruption; but it is not impossible, and indeed appears to me indisputable, that certain people who may not even regard themselves as Christians have nevertheless (not without Grace) found their way back to their true, natural selves, which is to say, back to Love, which is to say, to Christ.  To some extent, that is - just like you and just like me.  And to the extent they have done this, it just doesn't matter about all their mixed-up doctrine.  The purpose for which true doctrine has been revealed has been accomplished in them without it.  (Compare the passage in Romans in which St. Paul mentions that Gentiles who are without the Law [of Moses] can do "by nature" the things that are in the Law.)  At the Last Judgment, we are not going to be given a theology quiz.  We are going to be carefully examined to see how closely we resemble Christ.  It's a tautology to say those who resemble Him are the saved; that's what salvation IS, being made like Him. 

But they haven't been baptized, someone will say.  They aren't members of His Body, aren't incorporated into Him or into His Life, Who alone has immortality.  Well, Christ can baptize whomever He pleases, whenever He pleases, however He pleases.  Who can say He will not admit certain people into His Church, into His Body, on the Last Day, just as He will cut off some of the existing, dead members?

Recently, I caught Santa Claus traveling incognito.  I really do believe Christ sometimes travels incognito.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Lead, Kindly Light

In posting this hymn on Saturday, I meant to honor my dear friend, mentor, and teacher, who loved it so well. Carl loved this hymn because his life's burning desire was to follow Christ no matter what. To him, "th'encircling gloom" symbolized life's trials and sorrows, of which he had his share, or more; and his faith was to follow Christ in spite of them; and his hope, that Christ would bring him safely through them.

But I hasten to add that by posting this hymn, I did not mean to endorse its content, although it's a lovely hymn, emotionally appealing, pretty music, devout-sounding words, quoted below. 

The words were written by John Henry Newman. That's John Cardinal Newman, who so famously converted from Anglicanism to Roman Catholicism. That rather puts a new slant to the words, doesn't it?  He's talking about what followers of the pope so often do:  blind obedience.  Just obey, and if you can't see the sense of it, or where you are going, or why,  your submission is all the more virtuous.  Wanting to choose or see your path is viewed as pride in this hymn.  Cardinal Newman is here speaking of his pre-Catholic days.  But now God (through the pope) will tell him where to put his foot next; mustn't inquire further, simply do as you're told.

What's the difference between surrendering all your responsibility, giving it all over to someone else in blind submission versus simply being led by Christ?  Well, it's the difference between night and day.  It's the difference between walking in the darkness and walking in the light, and that's why this hymn is full of "dark", and "night" and "encircling gloom". 

But blind obedience is no Christian virtue; it's just plain irresponsibility; it's ducking adulthood, and Christ never asked for it.  In fact, the opposite:  "I am the light of the world: whoever follows me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life." (John 8:12; see also 12:46)

In Christ, we can indeed see where we are going.  We can see the whole path because He is the path.  "I am the way," says He, "and the life and the truth."  In Him, we can even see "the distant scene", which is why St. John was able to write the Apocalypse, for the distant scene, too, is Christ, the Beginning and the End of everything.  We do not walk blindly, but with clearer sight than ever before.   We understand where we're going and what is required to arrive there and why. We do not simply go by another's say-so; the Truth has been revealed to us first-hand; we can say, with Job, "I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now my eye sees thee."  (Job 42:5)  We walk by grace and by open-eyed choice (which is to say, by faith).  As St. John declares, "the darkness is past, and the true light now shines."  (I John 2:8)   

Here are a few more wonderful things Holy Scripture has to say of light and darkness.  You can find many more like these.

Isaiah 42:16 And I will bring the blind by a way [that] they knew not [says the Lord]; I will lead them in paths [that] they have not known: I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight. These things will I do to them, and not forsake them.

Isaiah 9:2 The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them has the light shined.

Luke 3 1:78-79 …the Dayspring from on high has visited us;
To give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death,
To guide our feet into the way of peace.

2 Cor. 4:6 For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, has shined in our hearts, to [give] the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

Ephesians 5:8  For you were sometimes darkness, but now [are ye] light in the Lord: walk as children of light:

I Thess. 5:5 You are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness.

___________

Lead, Kindly Light

Lead, kindly Light, amid th’encircling gloom, lead Thou me on!
The night is dark, and I am far from home; lead Thou me on!
Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see
The distant scene; one step enough for me.

I was not ever thus, nor prayed that Thou shouldst lead me on;
I loved to choose and see my path; but now lead Thou me on!
I loved the garish day, and, spite of fears,
Pride ruled my will. Remember not past years!

So long Thy power hath blest me, sure it still will lead me on.
O’er moor and fen, o’er crag and torrent, till the night is gone,
And with the morn those angel faces smile, which I
Have loved long since, and lost awhile!

(We won't bother, here, to deal with the curious idea that human beings turn into angels upon entering heaven.)

Sunday, November 20, 2011

We Caught Santa Traveling Incognito

Yes, there he was, in the same room with us!  Santa Claus walked right into the little pancake house we frequent after church.  He was obviously trying not to be recognized, wearing jeans and sweatshirt, but there was no mistaking who it was, with his fat belly, his white, curly hair, white beard, sparkling blue eyes, wire-rimmed spectacles...

I waited until after he had ordered and then walked up to his table and said, "Good afternoon, Sir!"  (Probably should've said Your Grace or Your Eminence or something, seeing as he's a bishop...)

He smiled up at me.

"I didn't expect to see you here until just about a month from now," I said, breathlessly.

"Well, I got my notice in the mail this week," he replied.  (I've no idea what he was thinking at this juncture.)

I handed him my pen and a clean napkin, which was all I had to write on, and said, "Could I just trouble you for your autograph before you disappear back to the North Pole?"

"To whom shall it be addressed?" he inquired cheerfully.  I hadn't thought of that.  Um, well, okay, youngest grandkid who could appreciate it, Sydney.  So he wrote this note:

Dear Sydney,

Christ Mass is in sight
And I am watching.

Santa

"That should be 'LOVE, Santa'," I protested. 

"That's okay," he reassured me.  "She and I have met before and she knows I love her."

Then I asked whether many people had recognized him in his disguise.  "No," he said, his blue eyes twinkling.  "You're actually the first - this year, anyway."

So I walked back to our table congratulating myself on my astuteness as a detective, but then I re-read the note and began to have some qualms, because as everybody knows, St. Nicholas was/is an Orthodox saint, and, well, does that note sound to you perhaps just a bit Lutheran?


UPDATE, November 28: My qualms about this Santa Claus have proven well founded. Six-year-old Sydney saw through him right away. "He can't even spell!" she said, reading his autograph to her. I hadn't noticed it, but sure enough, he had spelled her name incorrectly.

"And he doesn't know how to spell Christmas, either," said Sydney. And although I assured her "Christ mass" was the original spelling, she didn't buy it. She didn't like the tone of the note, and tossed it aside as a fake.

I thought maybe there was something just a bit seedy about this imposter but I just didn't want to admit it to myself; he did look perhaps in need of a job. Well, maybe my mistaking his identity gave him an idea, at least, for some seasonal employment.

Jesus does NOT Have a Wonderful Plan for Your Life!

Please read this debunking of a persistent contemporary heresy.  I do not know who this Chloe is who wrote it, but it's very well said. 

Thanks to Marsha on Facebook for pointing it out, and also for the warning that the language is just slightly rough.  (Read it anyway!)

Partial List of Things That Happen While You're Gone Six Months

By the time I'd come to the end of typing this, I had to laugh. No comedy script could beat this, I'll wager!

  • Your DVR is stolen.
  • Your driver’s license is suspended.
  • Your vehicle registration is revoked.
  • Your fines accumulate compound interest.
  • Your so-called right to a hearing or appeal expires.
  • Your cars stop working.
  • Spiders take over your house.
  • Your children and/or grandchildren have birthdays.
  • Friends die.
  • The Internal Revenue Service discovers an error on your 2009 tax return, and you owe $300, counting all the piled-up penalties for not having replied by sometime in July.
  • You are summoned for jury duty and are informed there may be an arrest warrant out for you, as you never appeared. (Suddenly, we seem to have become outlaws in every respect.)
  • Your digestive system rebels and you contemplate setting up a cot in the bathroom.
 (Hint from Helen: Next time, you MUST hire some sort of service to go through your mail and notify you of anything that looks important.)
 
These are the issues that have occupied all our time since we came home; we haven’t even had time to begin planning the big family Thanksgiving to be held here. Oh, well, it’ll all come together one way or another, and we’ll still have plenty for which to be most grateful.

P.S.  Although we haven't had time to hook it up yet, our new DVR has arrived.  Things must be looking up, mustn't they?

Saturday, November 19, 2011

His Other Favorite Hymn

I think Carl's choice of favorite hymns shows his character so very well. To be led by God truly was his life's aim, and God honored that deep desire and did it.

And of course, Frank Patterson sings it even better than Carl did! Carl would deeply approve of this rendition. Please listen, in his honor.




Lead, kindly Light, amid th’encircling gloom, lead Thou me on!
The night is dark, and I am far from home; lead Thou me on!
Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see
The distant scene; one step enough for me.

I was not ever thus, nor prayed that Thou shouldst lead me on;
I loved to choose and see my path; but now lead Thou me on!
I loved the garish day, and, spite of fears,
Pride ruled my will. Remember not past years!

So long Thy power hath blest me, sure it still will lead me on.
O’er moor and fen, o’er crag and torrent, till the night is gone,
And with the morn those angel faces smile, which I
Have loved long since, and lost awhile!

Memories of Dr. Carl Harris

You loved him, loved him, from the first day of class every semester, when his lecture was always, “Learning for What?” I sat through 4 of them myself, and took notes every time. He spoke without notes, commenting on how education was not a value in itself, but was for improving virtue – or it could worsen evil. He pondered aloud the Socratic question whether virtue was more caught than taught. ("Virtue" was therefore the first Greek word every class learned, to be followed, in the same lecture, by "moderation" and "justice".) He spoke of “the golden thread” that ran through all branches of learning, uniting them, and urged us to search out and understand that thread. And you sat there feeling sort of radiant inside, even if it was the third or fourth or sixth time you’d heard this lecture.

He taught Greek, but his field was patristics, and he especially loved Origen for his allegorical interpretations of Scripture. He now and then remarked aloud how, when he grew up, the Bible had been something to cherish rather than to dissect. It was something you let judge you, instead of you judging it.

He spoon-fed us Greek, sort of one bite at a time, chew it well, digest it thoroughly, take another spoonful. He made us parse every single verb. Once on an exam I labeled a certain verb form “future subjunctive” and afterward said how idiotic I felt, because there is no future subjunctive in Greek. His comment, beaming, was, “But it’s good this happened, because now you’ll never forget it again.”

Once I had a dream in which Dr. Harris’ mother died and he was departing for home from a train station, and I ran up to him and said, “You are not to worry! Remember that whether in life or in death, there is no separation for those who are in Christ.” When I woke up, I had an incredibly strong urge to go and tell him this dream, but of course that was stupid, so I didn’t. The next night I dreamed it again, and then a third time, and each time, the feeling I should tell him about it strengthened, until finally I did. I found him in his office and I blurted out the dream and I said, “I know it’s just dumb, but somehow I had to tell you.”

He said, “You see this band-aid on my cheek? I’ve had a growth removed. That was done Monday (the day I’d first had the dream) and now I’m waiting for the results of the biopsy. I’ll find out on Friday. But meanwhile, I won’t worry. I’ll remember, there is no separation.”

So we both stared at each other with tears in our eyes.

And from that day, there was this mysterious connection between us. I can’t remember all the ways in which this would show up, but I can remember the peskiest one: I could always tell, even before I saw him any given day, whether his arthritic knees were hurting, because my own, non-arthritic knees would hurt when his did, and only when his did. And I was glad to be there, more than a decade later, when he had the surgery to replace both knees.

He had a good singing voice, so I once asked him to sing at a social event, but he declined. I said I was hoping he would sing, “Balm in Gilead,” and he looked startled and said, “That’s my favorite hymn!” I had not known that, but he sang it after all, and beautifully, too. (His other favorite hymn was, “Lead, Kindly Light.”)

Our class, which had been together for two years by the time we finished New Testament Greek, all chipped in at the end of the year to buy Dr. Harris a full set of The Interpreter’s Bible, and each student inscribed one volume of it.

That was mostly just for love, but also partly to make up to him for pranks we had played. In one of them, we all agreed to sit up and look alert and interested whenever his pacing would bring him to the right side of the classroom, and to slump and look bored and sleepy whenever he moved to the left. Before the class was over, he was standing almost exclusively on the right, much to our amusement.

Like very, very many of his students, I kept in touch with him for many years after I had graduated. Our correspondence only tapered off when Demetrios and I began going abroad every year; that made things more difficult.

All the good things said about him in the obituary are gross understatements. He didn’t just have a “genuine concern for the people around him,” he was madly in love with everybody. He didn’t just have good manners; he was the sort who, before you’d sit down, would pull his handkerchief from his pocket and dust off the seat of the chair. He didn’t merely see beauty and love in his life; he saw Christ, and followed Christ, and Christ shone from him to all those around.

He had some heavy crosses to bear, and he bore them with patience, love, gratitude, and unblemished character.


Refrain

There is a balm in Gilead
To make the wounded whole;
There is a balm in Gilead
To heal the sin sick soul.

Some times I feel discouraged,
And think my work’s in vain,
But then the Holy Spirit
Revives my soul again.

Refrain

If you cannot sing like angels,
If you cannot preach like Paul,
You can tell the love of Jesus,
And say He died for all.

Refrain
Please excuse me now, while I limp off toward Gilead.

My All-Time Favorite Professor, Whom I am so Blessed to Have Known

Retired professor Carl Harris dies
August 25th, 2011 | Faculty News

Professor Emeritus Carl V. Harris (’44), whose gentle ways and love of the classics inspired generations of students, died Aug. 9 in Winston-Salem. He was 88.

A memorial service will be held at 3 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 24, at Salemtowne Retirement Community in Winston-Salem.

Harris taught Greek literature and language in the classical languages department from 1956 until retiring in 1989. He is survived by his wife, Lucille, a retired music instructor at Wake Forest.

A native of Morganton, N.C., Harris attended Mars Hill College before majoring in Greek at Wake Forest. While at Mars Hill, he received a medal for “scholarship, character and manners,” words that just as easily described him 70 years later.

“He was devoted to learning and teaching in an especially commendable way,” said Provost Emeritus Edwin G. Wilson (’43), who met Harris when the two were students on the Old Campus. “He found beauty in the Greek classics, and he believed in the presence of beauty and love in his own life. He was a remarkably gentle and loving person.”

Associate Professor and Chair of Classical Languages James Powell became close friends with Harris and his wife when he joined the faculty in 1988. “He was a gentle man, very thoughtful, with a sweetness of temperament. “There was an extraordinary warmth about him. He had a genuine concern for the people around him.”

Powell said Harris considered himself a teacher first, and a classicist second. “He was very good at teaching Greek, but what really stood out to me was his belief in teaching the whole person and his concern for students as human beings. The level of devotion to his students was quite remarkable. He embodied a lot of the old Wake Forest in that.”

After graduating from Wake Forest, Harris received a Master of Divinity and the Master of Sacred Theology degrees from Yale University and his Ph.D. from Duke University. He taught briefly at Mars Hill, East Carolina University and the University of Dubuque in Iowa before joining the Wake Forest faculty in 1956, the first year on the new campus.

When he retired in 1989, Harris said, “I could never say that I have been bored in teaching my subject, Greek, all these years. I have not been bored because I have had different students and every day presents a new challenge… For me, teaching is not so much an occupation as a way of life.”

- By Kerry M. King (’85)

http://inside.wfu.edu/2011/08/retired-professor-carl-harris-dies/