Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas, Happy Nativity -- and again in 13 days! :)

Just wanted to wish everyone out there a VERY Merry Christmas and blessed feast of the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Not sure what everyone else thinks, but this Christmas season has been one of growth, turmoil, and blessings -- I admit, that I haven't gotten to slow down and enjoy the season as of yet, but seeing as how the feast doesn't technically start until tonight, maybe that isn't such a bad thing.

Lots of stuff has happened in my life, the lives of my family and friends and in the world. But the one constant is the reminder to love my neighbor as myself. I'm not very good at it. In fact, I can be a jerk, but I'm trying. Perhaps once the feast is underway I'll be able to reflect upon this last year. Who knows? All I know is that right now, I hope that everyone out there -- including all my "adoring fans" who'd like to see God take me out to the woodshed for a good old fashioned straightening out -- spends the next 12 days with family and loved ones. Have a very Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving

The month of November, for me, has been more than hectic -- it has been a whirlwind of chaos. Good chaos, but even good chaos is still, well, chaos.

I've been working on several writing projects: I've begun, what I hope will be, a series of articles on Orthodoxy and -- well, perhaps I'll just wait until I'm finished with them. I think they'll speak for themselves. I've been doing research for a new book and am anxiously awaiting the moment when I can make some announcements about it. But I can't, just yet.

Anyway, in my attempt to become a better blogger I just wanted to post something to wish everyone here in the States a Happy Thanksgiving. Yes, I'm Orthodox and I celebrate Thanksgiving! Does this make me a "bad" Christian? A heretical, leftist, liberal who has been ensnared by the ways of the world? Maybe it does mean that, but I'm going to celebrate the "evils" of Turkey Day and will enjoy doing it. If I have to sit through "Greek Independence Day" every year, then I'm going to celebrate Thanksgiving. Don't like it? Then you might just be an Orthodox Traditionalist!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Crazy Side of Orthodoxy has been reviewed!

 Greetings all --

Just a quick post (at the moment) to let you all know that an editor at Greek Orthodox Christians for Truth and Reform has reviewed my book The Crazy Side of Orthodoxy

This was a complete unsolicited review and really does illustrate the power of word of mouth recommendation in the publishing world. So I want to thank the editor for reviewing my book, and all the people at Greek Orthodox for Truth and Reform for posting the review on there website.

Oh yeah, and one more thing -- obviously the people at GoTruthReform "get" the book -- unlike so many people who once flocked to this blog insisting that Orthodox traditionalists do not exist. Funny, for a movement that isn't supposed to exist, there are an awful lot of people out there (other than myself) who think they do.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

My article now up on Go Truth Reform

just a quick note: my article, Scott Nevins: a voice crying in the wilderness has been published by the Chicago based website, Greek Orthodox Christians for Truth and Reform.

With two Ephraimite "watchdog" organizations, in two completely different parts of the country, will people finally begin to admit that there is a problem with Orthodox fundamentalism? Or will they continue to shrug it off as a non-existent problem? I suppose only time will tell.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

George R.R. Martin -- write like the wind

I realize that not everyone is going to "get" this video. I'm sure that list of people who read my blog for religious and or political issues, AND who are readers of epic fantasy may not be very high; however, this video is way too good to pass up.

For those unfamiliar, George R.R. Martin is the author of the "Song of Ice and Fire" series of novels: the first being A Game of Thrones. Yes, the same Game of Thrones that HBO has turned into a hit epic cable series. Now, A Game of Thrones was first published in 1996. It is now the year 2012 and it was only last year when book 5 (A Dance with Dragons) came out. As of the moment, Martin plans on the series being 7 books. But it originally began as a Trilogy. The in joke (some fans would say torturous joke) is that Martin takes FOREVER to write the next book. So, with that said, here is a YouTube video of a song encouraging Martin to finish his series. Non-readers of the series might not get all of the in-jokes, but for those of us who do read the series (or are waiting for the series to finish before continuing) it is downright hilarious.

So please, George R.R. Martin, Write Like the Wind.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Scott Nevins, a Voice Crying in the Wilderness

One of the reasons that I have not been blogging in recent weeks, and months is because I have been reflecting upon some of the serious issues that have taken my Church hostage. One of those issues is -- as my book The Crazy Side of Orthodoxy points out -- the rise of a subset of Orthodox Christians known as "traditionalists." Now, traditionalists do not like that term. They claim that there is not such thing as Orthodox traditionalists. So from this moment forward, I will no longer use the term which these non-existent traditionalists find so offensive. From now on I will just call them what they actually are: fundamentalists.

Yes I know, there is "no such thing." Well, I -- and thousands of other Orthodox Christians -- disagree.

The sad thing is that among fundamentalists, there are unique subsets and disputing factions. One of the most dangerous of which are the Ephraimites. Up until now, I have not written much about Ephraimites -- well, that is about to change.

Right off the bat, let me say that like ANY religious faction, not all adherents of any one worldview are all bad. Some people, who might consider themselves supporters of the twenty some Greek Orthodox monasteries run by Athonite monk, Elder Ephraim, are good people. In fact, Elder Ephraim may be a good person. I have no idea. I have been told that he is. And I have been told that he is a con man. I don't know which is true. What I do know is that his monasteries are extremely controversial -- for all of the wrong reasons.

Many of the abbots and monks/nuns in these monasteries offer "spiritual advice" to Christians which include harsh penances, the teaching of the gnostic doctrine of toll houses (an ancient belief which says demons can prevent dead Christians from reaching heaven after death), and advocating that married couple abstain from sexual relations -- because sex is sinful.

Now, there is much more to the Ephraimite movement than that. But that is a very brief introduction for my non-Orthodox readers.

One of the other controversial things that recently happened at one of these Ephraimite monasteries was the death of a young man, named Scott Nevins. Nevins was a convert to Orthodoxy, and six years ago joined St. Anthony's Monastery in Florence Arizona. But, fifteen months ago he fled the monastery in the middle of the night, and spent the better part of a year revealing many of the cult like practices and teachings that he experienced during his time in the monastery.

Sadly, in June 11, 2012, Scott Nevins died by a self inflicted gunshot wound, near the grounds of his former monastery. There is much controversy involved and the details remain very sketchy. In fact, the Greek Orthodox Archdioceses has still not addressed Nevins' death, nor acknowledged it in any way.

If you would like to read more about this, the Orthodox organization, We Are Orthodox has just published a piece I have written titled Scott Nevins, a Voice Crying in the Wilderness.

If my non-Orthodox readers would like to get more information about Orthodox fundamentalist, and the Ephraimite movement in particular, you can check out the links page of the  Greek Orthodox Christians for Truth and Reform website. Or you can check out The Rick A. Ross Institute's page on Elder Ephraim.
 Rick Ross is a leading expert in cults, helps people escape from cults and has documented the cult-like practices of the Ephraimite Monasteries. 

That's all for now,

take care, and blessings to all

Breaking the first commandment of the blogging gods!

By now, I'm sure I've lost most of my regular readers because, well, I haven't been blogging (even though I said I would.) There are numerous reasons for this -- some of them good, some of them not so good. One of the reasons is because I've been listening way too much to those who proclaim that the first commandment of blogging is that your blog must be about one particular topic. And since I cannot determine what I want my blog to be about, I do not blog.

I suppose the best option would be for me to create multiple blogs, and who knows, I may do just that. But is this really a rule that bloggers must ascribe to? If so, why? Does it not pigeonhole people into "groups" which bloggers are trying to reach? Why can't bloggers just reach people?

If I write something about politics, does that mean I am forever a political blogger? If I write about religion, does that mean from that time forth, I must always write about religion? If so, which religion? I am an Eastern Orthodox Christian -- does that mean I always have to blog about Eastern Orthodoxy? Many people blog about Eastern Orthodoxy, and they have successful blogs, but why do I have to conform to their particular blogging structure?

Supposedly, the experts say bloggers must "focus" and pin point our "market," as if people's interests were limited to nothing but religion or politics.

On the other hand, maybe my previous posts have been too broad. After all, I do not have a "successful" blog. I do not have hundreds, let alone thousands of followers. I do get lots of people sending me hate mail -- although this has slowed down in recent months, I guess all the "true Christians" got tired of coming here -- but that hardly makes me a successful blogger? So what am I to do? Should I "conform" to the "rules" which the blogging gods have set forth from on high? Maybe. On the other hand, maybe I won't. Whatever I do, I will try and blog more often, whether anyone reads my blog or not. Why? Because I am a writer and writing is what I do.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Massive Flooding Hits Duluth Minnesota

On June 19 and 20, the city of Duluth MN. received over 10 inches of rain in less than 36 hours. Yes, for those who don't know, that is a lot of rain. Streets are flooded -- some streets are simply missing -- businesses are closed, and the rivers have still not crested. Bridges are washed out, sewer overflow fills the streets, sinkholes the size of houses swallowed up automobiles, and all this warrants ten seconds on the ABC's World News Tonight.

What is it about Duluth MN that makes its 100 year flood disaster less special than a hot day in New York City in the summer? Guess what, it's New York City and it's summer -- it's going to be hot. What is unusual is 10 inches of rain and people canoeing down the STREETS of Duluth MN. Yes, canoeing is a north woods pass time, but most of our canoeing is done on lakes and rivers, not down the streets.

I get it. Duluth MN is "way up north" and most people think anywhere north of Chicago is somewhere off the face of the earth, but come on. 10 inches of rain in a day and half?

The moment someone sneezes in Dallas, or a drop of rain falls in St. Louis brings out news reporters from all directions. But Duluth is washed away like Pharoah crossing the Red Sea and it's "Oh by the way, there are floods in Duluth, now onto something important -- like the Royal Family"?

Yeah, the news media really has their priorities in order, don't they? Next they'll be reporting about how a comedian called the GOP apes while ignoring the fact that a major GOP members claims to have evidence that 80 Democratic members of Congress are Communists. Oh, right. Oops!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Vatican Shocker! Pope Betrayed!

Beginning in January of this year, a mysterious figure leaked "secret" Vatican documents along with personal letters to Italian news agencies. These documents reportedly contain vital information that exposes corruption within the Vatican and in particular the Vatican bank.  According to the New York Times, the documents also "included letters by an archbishop who was transferred to Washington after reporting what he saw as a web of corruption and cronyism, a memo that put a number of cardinals in a bad light and documents suggesting that there were internal conflicts about the Vatican Bank."

 Who was to blame for leaking these documents? Who was betraying the institution of the Church and the nation of Vatican City by shedding light on corruption? Who could be so callous and "un-Christian" as to think Vatican City and the Vatican bank should be held to financial accountability? Well this week we finally know whodunit -- the Pope's butler. That is right; the man who would dare to expose corruption was the butler. 

The Pope is said to be deeply "pained" by this act of betrayal and rightly so. I mean, the Pope's most trusted butler has done something unthinkable -- gone public.  I mean, the butler should have known better. It is much better to sweep problems under the rug than to expose them to the light of day. After all, what people don't know won't hurt them -- right? Who doesn't know this?  Apparently, the butler doesn't because he just had to stick his nose where it didn't belong. Why couldn't he be content to wait on the Pope hand in foot? Why couldn't he be content to fetch coffee for the Pope?

Wait a minute --  the itinerant preacher from Nazareth "has nowhere to lay His head" (Luke 9:58, NASB)  but his Vicar on earth has a butler? What's wrong with this picture?

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Writing is a good addiction

For the past few days I've been writing like crazy. Every chance I get I'm writing something new. I think I'm addicted to writing which is probably a good addiction to have -- if one is going to have an addiction. It encourages one to reach beyond themselves and hopefully gives a bit of insight into a new world. Of course thinking outside the box is not something everyone appreciates but it is something I appreciate. And so I will continue to write and feed my addiction and maybe -- just maybe, some good will come of it.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Interview on The Crazy Side of Orthodoxy this Sunday!

I recently did an interview with Morgen Bailey's Writing Blog (based in the UK). The interview covers a variety of topics on the art and craft of writing, the writing business in general, my experiences as a newly published author and of course we tackle The Crazy Side of Orthodoxy as well! I touch on a few topics about the Crazy Side which I've not really written about before so I think you just might find it interesting.

The interviews on Morgen's website appear in written form via a “blog interview” format and goes “live” on Sunday May 13th.. So if you're a writer, like books, like The Crazy Side, and want to see what I'm up to now (just a few hints) check out the interview starting this Sunday.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Lesson number 1: SAVE YOUR WORK!!!!!

After spending about fifteen minutes writing my next blog post, guess what happened to me? The power went out. Guess where I was writing my piece? That's right, like a complete idiot I was writing in the Blogger "new post" box instead of in my word processor where I could actually save my work every couple of minutes.

I figured, "what's the big deal? It will only take me about 15 or 20 minutes to write this -- what could possibly happen in 15 minutes?" Murphy's law came back to bite me in the ass!

The funny thing is that when I write  I almost ALWAYS do so right in my word processor. I am obsessive about saving my work. In fact, I will literally click the save button every minute or two. (save) But today I had decided to just write a quick blog post right online. After all,  there are no storms. There is no wind. In fact, the sun is now coming out and it looks as if it's going to be a pretty nice day. But then, just as I was about to start my final paragraph -- without warning -- I hear that horrible power sucking sound that some of us are so familiar with, and the screen went dark! (save)

Why did the power go out? Well, I can't say for sure. After I confirmed that power was out everywhere I stepped outside and through the woods I could hear a big truck of some sort out on the road. (save) I guess they are doing line work today: for no apparently reason!

Funny thing is they waited until I was 90% writing and while it was only a short piece I actually had something to say!!!!! (save) But now all I can think about is how the power company obviously had conspired against me. Someone -- or something -- didn't want me to get my piece out there in the public eye. But this will not stop me! I will write that piece again. No question about that. I should be writing that piece right now, but I decided to wait until (save), I'm more prepared to fend off this subtle attack on my freedom of speech.

Well, okay maybe I really just wanted to remind MYSELF of one thing: SAVE YOUR FRELLING WORK MORON!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Overcoming writer's block

I've just recently discovered a writing podcast called writing excuses. One of the hosts is fantasy author Brandon Sanderson. For those who don't know, Sanderson is the guy who is concluding the late Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series. (Jordan passed away before concluding the series.) In other words, Sanderson is a big deal in the fantasy world.

The podcast is limited to roughly 15 minutes each and so far, I have to say that I LOVE it. I'm going through the season one podcasts at the moment. It is fun, witty, and very educational. You also get the impression that Sanderson and Co. are "regular joes" who really do want to help other people become successful writers.

Probably the most important piece of information from season one that I've gotten is how to overcome writer's block! This is the "big" question for anyone who ever writes -- whether for fun, for art, for work, for both or none of the above. Writer's block is the 900 pound gorilla in the room which we don't know how to get rid of. What is the advice that the hosts of Writing Excuses gives? BICHOK!!!!!!!!!!!

What the does THAT mean?

It means "Butt In Chair, Hands On Keyboard!"

In other words it means that if you have writer's block then you should WRITE!!!!!!!!!!!!!

So guess what -- I am taking their advice!

I don't always know what to write on this blog -- call it writer's block, call it whatever, but it ends today! I'm going to begin blogging at least twice a week. They may not always be "profound" articles they may not even be interesting to anyone but me -- but I'm going to write! After all, who am I to disagree with the likes of Brandon Sanderson who is managing to conclude the Wheel of Time series in a way which seems to make most Robert Jordan fans happy.

Is this profound? Probably not -- but then, I'm not that smart! (listen to the podcast and you'll get the joke!)

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Ted Nugent is a bad ass -- in his own mind

The last vestiges of civil discourse have recently been thrown out the window by washed up rock and roll star and Tea Party favorite Ted Nugent. At a recent NRA convention the singer, in a disgusting and vile rant, compared the President of the United States to a coyote urinating on your sofa which should be shot. The rock star then proudly declared that in a years time that, if the President were to be reelected, he (Nugent) would either be dead or in jail.

These comments were so clearly a threat against the life of the President of the United States that the Secret Service is actually going to question Nugent and ask him to clarify what it was that he "really" meant. Of course as we all know, Nugent is a celebrity (or former celebrity) and will almost certainly be let off the hook without even a slap on the wrist. Yet if you or I made such public threats against the President we'd probably be labeled a public menace and arrested on the spot -- and rightly so. In case you didn't know, threatening to assassinate the President is a serious matter.

Now, I'm sure Nugent's supporters will argue that their favorite washed up rock star was "only joking" about killing the President. As if making treasonous threats against our nation was "all in good fun." But the reality is that such threats are not all in good fun. Don't believe me? Just imagine a leader of a foreign nation (say Egypt) making those same comments. Wouldn't all of us be taking those threats very seriously?

Most rational people realize that Ted Nugent is -- well, not rational -- nor a real threat. He's simply a celebrity and an entertainer with a bully pulpit. The real problem as I see it is not so much his outrageous threats on the President's life, but the fact that so many Americans seem just fine with them. Even Democrats and the so called "liberal media" haven't really made that big of an issue of them. In fact, the April 18th edition of NBC's Today show didn't even mention the most important part of Nugent's tirade: the I'll be dead or in jail comment. They treated this story in a "aw isn't that cute" sort of way -- well, it isn't cute.

More than anything this sorry episode illustrates that the art of public discourse is truly a lost art. Americans no longer disagree with each other, we demonize each other. If you don't agree with me, you're not only wrong (which is a perfectly fine to say) but you are in fact "evil" to the core: an enemy of God, country, and are doomed to burn in an everlasting torment. And worse than that, you are nothing more than an animal that must be eliminated from the face of the earth.

All of this is big talk for someone who has never actually served in the military. Oh yes, he does use automatic and semiautomatic weapons to hunt and kill defenseless furry critters. But apparently even he doesn't feel as though that's "macho" enough and so he resorts to "bad ass language" to get in good with his NRA buddies. Of course "bad ass language" is usually a sign that one is not a "bad ass" at all, but someone whose experience of death is limited to comic books where no one is truly dead as long as the artists live.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Voice of Orthodox People

This will probably be a brief blog post; however, I wanted to draw attention to a new Orthodox website titled We Are Orthodox. It is a upstart website based out of Atlanta Georgia which hopes to address many of the same problems which many that Greek Orthodox across the country are being confronted with: namely, the  creeping fundamentalism which has begun to infect the Orthodox Church.

Since the initial publication of my book The Crazy Side of Orthodoxy, I've been told that "Traditionalists" and fundamentalists don't exist -- well, there are an awful lot of Orthodox Christians who do think they exist and feel that there is a very real problem which must be addressed. We Are Orthodox is the latest, but not the only website out there which confronts these sorts of issues. The website Greek Orthodox for Truth and Reform  is a Chicago area based website which has been around for some time now. Both of these website openly question the orthodoxy of the creeping fundamentalism and radical traditionalism which people have begun to see within the Church. I am not the only person out there who feels that fundamentalism does exist within Orthodoxy, nor was I the first to write on the topic -- and I hope I will not be the last.

A few weeks ago the folks at We Are Orthodox asked me to write an article for their website. I was of course honored that they asked me and I was happy to do so. The article titled The Necessary Mighty Voice of Orthodox People has been posted at their website and I hope everyone will check it out -- as well as support what it is that they are trying to do.

Those of us who "criticize" the Church are not out to "destroy" the Church or faith for we love the Church. We only hope to ask questions -- though tough questions -- and make our voices heard. I know a great many people have a problem with that, but that's too bad. As the folks at We Are Orthodox says: We are Orthodox Christians. We have concerns. We are not going away.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

A Game of Thrones: casting aside expectations

About 6 months ago -- inspired by the hype -- I decided to give George R.R. Martin's "epic fantasy" book A Game a Thrones a read. Everyone claimed that Martin is the "American Tolkien," that the series is the "next The Lord of the Rings" and that he has given new life to a "predictable and tiresome" fantasy genre. Of course, I don't believe that the fantasy genre has become predictable or tiresome, but the rest of the hype surrounding the book I swallowed hook line and sinker -- and guess what, I hated the book. I found it tedious, boring, and nothing more than The Sopranos set in the dark ages. In fact, I only managed to get through 100 pages before I put the thing down, disgusted with the whole thing.

That's not to say that Martin is a bad writer. He's not. In fact, he is a superb writer. Technically speaking he is one of the best modern writers which I have ever read. He knows how to craft a sentence and does it better than most fiction authors alive today. He is brilliant, but I felt that he was a poor story teller. Yet, the hype for the series "A Song of Ice and Fire" (of which A Game of Thrones is only the first book) remained in the back of my mind. Did I have something wrong? Maybe the thing was good at it was just me?

Well, after asking myself these questions for the last 6 months, I decided to give A Game a Thrones a second try -- and I must say this time I actually "enjoyed" the book (if one can enjoy something which contains so much violence.) In fact, once I was aware of what I was getting myself into (a story about Byzantine styled politics set in a fantasy world) I found a new appreciation for the story -- which I initially felt was non existent. The story is actually quite compelling. So why did I hate it so much the first go around?

I think the real problem lies with a person's expectations. As I said, everyone kept telling me that this is the next The Lord of the Rings. Well, people should STOP saying that! This is nothing like LOTR and Martin writes nothing like Tolkien. Sorry they just are not the same. This doesn't make one better or worse -- just very, very different. To make such comparisons only gives readers of epic fantasy a certain impression about the book. If you're expecting "High Fantasy" well, this isn't it -- at least not in book one. It is fantasy -- but it's not what most people expect in fantasy.Of course I now realize that this fact has been crafted by Martin quite deliberately and not because he is a poor storyteller. He has a specific purpose in mind and (hopefully) a specific story which he wants to tell. (Though some of his fans have begun to question that with the release of book 5).

The comparisons to Tolkien and The Lord of the Rings however is completely unfounded and I believe turns some readers OFF to a book which they might otherwise enjoy. The fact that it is "gritty and realistic" as so many fans say has nothing to do with my initial dislike of the book. The fact that it is ultra violent and that main characters die had nothing to do with my initial dislike of the book. Yes, some of it is uncomfortable to read, but not any more uncomfortable than some of the violence in Terry Goodkind's Sword of Truth series. And people seem to forget that main characters  die in The Lord of the Rings too, so that's not the issue.
The real issue, for me anyway, was expectations which were based largely on hype. Once those expectations were cast I said, I found that I really enjoyed the book. I still feel that it does drag in places but I almost wonder if it is not deliberate, who knows?

If you're a fantasy fan, a fan of medieval and byzantine politics, or even a fan of The Sopranos -- I think A Game of Thrones is definitely worth a try. Are Martin's fans right in saying that he is reinventing the fantasy genre? Probably not.The desire and love for true "High Fantasy" will not go away. Will people be taking college classes on Martin the way people today take courses on Tolkien? Highly unlikely. But it IS a very good book with a very compelling story. I don't think it will have the lasting power which Tolkien or even Terry Brooks' novels have had -- but it is none the less a fantastic read and I'm looking forward to book two!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Does kindness matter?

Does being kind really matter? We all know that there are an almost limitless number of ways in which any single individual can be kind – a smile, holding the elevator door for someone, inviting a friend over for dinner – but do any of them really make a difference? Of course people may seem appreciative of one's kindness, but that's not the question. The question is, whether or not a moment of kindness, even if forgotten, changes a person in some profound manner. Does a gesture of kindness give a person something which they didn't have before? Or are these merely questions we ask ourselves in order to give our lives some existential meaning in a meaningless world?

One of America's favorite movies for the better part of fifty years, has been Frank Capra's It's a Wonderful Life. While we typically identify it as a Christmas movie, the message of the film reaches beyond a single holiday. We're all familiar with the story and the character of George Bailey. He touched so many lives without ever knowing it. Yet how many of us dare to ask ourselves: “Am I a George Bailey? Does my life have even a fraction of the impact that George's did?” After all, sometimes it's difficult, if not impossible, to be kind to people. Health, finances, or one's own internal state can hinder us in our efforts to be as kind and giving as George Bailey -- and even he broke down and needed cosmic intervention to see that his kindness truly mattered.

Unfortunately, no one in the real world is granted such cosmic intervention, which leaves us guessing as to whether or not our acts of kindness make any real difference in people's lives. For the most part, the only method which we have for determining whether or not kindness matters, is our own personal experience with those who have been kind to us. When someone has been kind to you, has it made a difference? It has for me. When I recall those who have been kind to me, I do so with great fondness. From those who have simply listened to me in my pain, to those who've encouraged me to push forward, acts of kindness have truly made a difference in my life, and for that I remain eternally grateful. Not just for the acts themselves, but especially for the people behind the kindness.

The frustrating part of being kind is never knowing if kindness will do for others, what it has done for us. People may say “thank you” for holding the elevator door, and surely they'll eat that meal which we've cooked for them, but will that kindness really mean anything to that person? Will they be profoundly changed from a single act of kindness? Or is being kind to others merely an act of vanity to comfort us in our quest for immortality?

The more I live and experience the world, the more I come to believe that kindness probably doesn't make much of a difference to most people. After all, how many times have we been kind only to have it thrown back in our face? The hope that kindness will change someone is no real hope at all. There is no real chance that being kind to someone will benefit them – or us. Yet, I will continue to be kind to others. I will continue to say good morning, and good evening. I will continue to smile at people on the street. I will continue to be kind to those who don't ask for it, and I will continue to treat people the way in which I want to be treated.

Does it all matter in the grand scheme of things? Is there even a grand scheme of things for it to matter to? I don't know. What I do know is that kindness has made a real difference in my life, and while there may be no “real” chance of it making a difference, there is always that slim chance that it will matter to someone, somewhere – and so I will continue to struggle to be kind, in an increasingly unkind world.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Catholic Church proves that being anti-abortion is not synonymous with being pro-life!

Just when you thought it was safe to give the Roman Catholic Church the benefit of the doubt, it once again has given believers and non-believers yet another reason to ask: “What the f***?”

A Roman Catholic diocese in England has, believe it or not, turned away a seven year old boy from his first Communion. Why? Is the boy a hoodlum? Is he the Omen? No, nothing like that. In fact it's all very simple really. He was denied his first Communion because he has Down's syndrome!

According to the BBC News, a letter sent to the boy's parents claimed that their son, “had "limited concentration" and was not prepared for the experience.” And in a later television broadcast (which can be viewed on the Huffington Post) a spokeswoman for the Diocese of Leeds kept telling the boy's mother that she needed to do everything in her power to “meet his learning needs” before he would be allowed to partake. Talk about blaming the victim! "Your kid has Down's syndrome -- but if you were a better Catholic, teacher, and mother, someday he may be allowed to partake of the body and blood of Jesus Christ." How nice!

Many people have come to the defense of the Church and argued that this is normal procedure for dealing with anyone who doesn't understand the Catholic faith. According to these people's interpretation of the Catholic faith, one cannot partake of Communion until one understands what it is one is doing in the act of partaking. Of course this raises a problem. Just how many seven year olds actually understand the complex philosophical explanation of the Eucharist known as transubstantiation? How many adults understand it? Oh, that's right – practically none of them! Is "understanding" the faith now the criteria for determining who can and cannot become full fledged members of the Church?

What others have found so unbelievably hypocritical about the parish priest's position – which by the way, is fully supported by the Diocese of Leeds itself – is that the Roman Catholic Church is supposedly “pro-life.” Church leadership rails against abortion, threatens political leaders who are pro-choice with excommunication, and is even against contraception. In current American politics, we even have a presidential candidate named Rick Santorum who once promised to repeal all federal funding of contraception, and even claimed that states should have the right to outlaw contraception. And guess what? Santorum just happens to be a member of the Roman Catholic Church. The same Roman Catholic Church which just told a seven year old boy with Down's syndrome to buzz off, because Jesus doesn't tolerate inattentive and unprepared Church goers who don't have the mental capacity to “understand” or “enjoy” their time in Church.

Of course, if that is now the Church's standard in determining one's “worthiness” of receiving Communion I have to ask just why is the Church allowing anyone to partake of Communion? I also must ask why does this one diocese feel this way, when in fact all of the Eastern Rite Catholics (along with the Eastern Orthodox) allow infants to receive Communion? Do infants have more understanding than this seven year old boy? Hardly.

The parent's have accused the Church of discrimination and to be honest, I don't know what else to call such an unmerciful act. Perhaps, spiritual abuse? Maybe evil? Or as some have argued, merciful for not indoctrinating a kid into a faith which still allows such medieval thinking? I really don't know. Obviously this is just one diocese in one country, but it is still disturbing, especially to those of us who have watched the TV interview and seen a boy who, though disabled, really loves life -- is he inattentive? Sure! Did it even look like he wanted to moon the camera? Perhaps. But then life should be joyous and a bit silly -- especially when you're seven!

If religious people stopped worrying about being "anti-abortion" and even anti-contraception (like Rick Santorum) and started being pro-life in the same manner in which this boy is, perhaps Christianity would begin to regain a bit of the credibility which it has lost due to its past insanity and wickedness. Of course, that would mean Christians would have to stop worrying about man made regulations, doctrines, and even certain Biblical texts and admit that the Church makes mistakes. Will Christian do this? Nah, its just easier to prevent handicapped children from taking Communion and then justify one's evil actions in one's own eyes!

Friday, January 20, 2012

20 below

Well, my prediction was wrong. We stopped at "only" 20 below zero F. :) Keep in mind these are actual air temps and not wind chills. That's all for now, until something more profound . . . .

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Winter has finally arrived!

I know, I know -- I've not been blogging as much as I should have. In fact, I'm going to try to make more of a habit out of blogging even if the posts are short are about the weather -- like this one!

It's not that I have nothing to say, it's that I never seem to find the time to say it. Yes, that's a terrible excuse, but hopefully my absence will make more sense to all my readers in the coming weeks. 

Anyway, those of us in the northwoods of Wisconsin have been waiting all winter for -- well, winter. It's finally arrived, at leas the temps have. Still skimpy on the snow. This morning the air temperature was -20 F, with a high of -2 F. Right now the temp is -10 F and I'm predicting a low temp. of -23 below! We'll see how accurate I actually am. It's cold but it is January in the northwoods. Of course, we still desperately need more snow so winter activities like cross country skiing, snow shoeing, and snowmobiling are possible. Right now, it's hard to find enough snow to even go sledding, but I think we may have "just enough" for that now.

So, that's it. Not my typical religious or politically centered post, but then again it is cold -- and that's sort of news worthy to those of us who care about such things.

That's all for now,

Stay warm everyone!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Latest blog in Superior Telegram

My latest blog post was published by the local newspaper, The Superior Telegram and will be available to read for free on their website for one week.

Monday, January 2, 2012

New Year's resolution or life resolution?

It's that time of year again – a time when millions of people make their New Year's resolutions, keep them for three weeks, and then forget all about them. Personally, I never make New Year's resolutions. I never have. Even as a kid I always thought, “shouldn't we be making resolutions every single day?” New Year's Day is just another day like any other, why bother picking THAT day to make a promise to one's self which one doesn't really intend to keep?

Well, this year I actually did make a New Year's resolution -- sort of. Actually I made it a few days before Christmas. Right in the midst of all of the Holiday hustle and bustle I decided that I wanted to “make more time” for the important things in life, namely being with and doing things for people I care about and love. Perhaps this Holiday season made me overly emotional. Or perhaps I just wised up and realized that things may not always be as they are. Or perhaps I concluded that doing something for someone, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant, may help make a difference in their life, as well as mine.

Unfortunately we're sometimes too poor, too busy, and even too ill to do things for and with others. All are valid excuses, but it is far too easy to turn a valid excuse into a reason to procrastinate. We tell ourselves that there's always next week, next year, or the worst excuse of all, “I have time.” But do we? Do you? Do I? To be honest, I don't know and neither do you! Yes, most of us know that “time is short” and that we have but one life to live, but knowing a bunch of facts in our head is totally different than actually putting that knowledge into practice.

Due to a chronic illness I've suffered with for the last four years, I haven't always had the physical stamina to do certain things at certain hours of the day –and I fear I may have used that as an excuse to not be there for people. Sometimes it was a valid excuse, but was it always? I do not know. Fortunately, my health is improving and my stamina is returning. Will it stay? Who knows. Will it be there each and every day? Probably not, but what was not possible two years ago is becoming possible now. And when it is possible I'm going to take that opportunity and do my best to be with and do for those I care about and love.

Now, I may not be able to do “big” things for people. I may not be able to spend days and weeks sacrificing my time and loose change for everyone I know. That of course is not the point. One need not cook a huge meal, spend loads of money, quite one's job or ruin one's health to do something for your loved ones. It's not about the “big” things because it only takes one small thing to make a difference in someone's life. We must not fall into the trap of deciding that since we're incapable of doing something “big” for someone, that we won't do anything at all. That's a cop-out to give ourselves permission to do nothing.

People always say that, “if I had a million dollars I'd help them out!” but the people who are worth doing for in the first place don't want your money – they want you! They want you to be with them, to spend time with them, and to be there for them in their good and bad moments. Of course I would love to be able to do the “big” things for people – and if I had a million dollars I'd do just that. Unfortunately life is too short to wait until you have that million dollars because chances are you'll never have it.

Don't wait until you have that spare million. Don't wait until next Christmas to be nice to your neighbor. Don't wait until someone's birthday to greet them again. And don't wait until you (or they) are too old to appreciate the time which you spend with them. Do not torture yourself – emotionally, financially or physically – but at the same time don't wait for a better day to be with and do something for someone, for there is no better time than the here and now.

This is my life resolution – may it be one which I practice till the end of my days.