Saturday, December 15, 2012

Random Thoughts on the School Massacre

A compilation of my posts and comments on posts on a common social media outlet:
"In Ramah was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and she would not be comforted, because they were not."   Jeremiah 31:15, quoted in Matthew 2:18-20.
The slaughter of innocents goes on.... We're no better than our predecessors, just more efficient. Lord have mercy.
Even if we had a utopian weaponless society, one asshole would figure out that if he is the only one with a weapon he could rule the world.
We can't let random insanity drive our lives or public policy... if we do, the crazy people win and we are crazier than they are.
I listened to talk radio on the way home from work about the "massacre" and I wondered how Middle Eastern country talk radio deals with suicide bombers and triple or quadruple the dead and weekly or monthly occurrences instead of once or twice a decade. Our news coverage of this kind of event on our soil goes on for weeks but 80 people dead and dozens more injured in a suicide bombing overseas gets a 10 second blurb at the top of the hour for less than a day even though we all know both perpetrators were nut-cases in one way or another. #newsdrivenbyratingsandadvertisingrates
 Even if you armed every citizen and put detectors at every doorway in the world there would still be murders. We can't let rare random insanity drive our lives.
The unfortunate reality is, even if mental health care and guns were equally accessible to crazy people, there will always be a crazy person who will choose the guns. There's always more that could have been done and can be done, but evil and nutcases will always wreak havoc. Death was introduced into the world in a perfect environment and the first murder happened just east of Eden.
Strange how our individual lives go on even in the face of inconceivable evil and sorrow. I still had to unstop my kitchen sink after work today. A very small thing comparatively, but still consequential in my reality. I never know how to feel about that.
 Let's get this f*cked up world over with. Maranatha!

Monday, December 10, 2012

True Mission Work: Why There are Few True Converts

Peter France, a BBC reporter who did a weekly program on religion for 12 years, asked Abbot Amphilichios of The Monastery of St. John the Evangelist on Patmos a question in an interview (briefly paraphrased here):

"We are a modern tribe of people who reject Christianity, not because we know too little but because we know too much. We know the human mind and the conscious and unconscious and we know religious emotionalism, that it is all void of reality, we find your philosophical arguments for the existence of a God unconvincing, linguistics and archeology show your Bible is flawed, science shows no need for a Creator... so we reject your "Truth" because of our truths. What would you say to us if you were a missionary to our tribe?"

The Abbot simply smiled and said, "I would not say anything to you. I would simply live with you. And I would love you."

St. Isaac the Syrian said, "God is reality. The person whose mind has become aware of God does not even possess a tongue with which to speak, but God resides in the heart in great serenity. He experiences no stirring of zeal or argumentativeness, nor is he stirred by anger. He cannot even be aroused concerning the faith."

Perhaps it because of the lack of true love that there are so few true missionaries and few true converts to any modern "faith" (including my own).  After seeing and hearing the Bible and its commentators quoted and proof texted for over 40 years I've come to the conclusion that intellectual conversion is easy compared to being drawn to Love, and being demanded by it to a life of true love.  And those who cannot learn love truly will move on to the next syllogism of their new faith and missionize accordingly because it is, in the end, easy.

H/T Fr. Silouan

Monday, November 26, 2012

The Transcendant Ordinary.

A seasonal re-post.  I still wept. 

Why I Wept...

It comes unannounced. It has no warning signs.

You may be driving and you find yourself miles from the last remembered intersection. You realize at odd times that you have been staring through someone, the bank teller, the cashier, or your spouse sitting across the dinner table. You may be washing your hands and look up into the mirror. For a moment you see someone else, a stranger with your face. You may be holding a half-ripe tomato at the produce counter, and somehow, somewhere inside you go empty, empty as a beggar's plate. There comes a disquieting want within you. It leaves you hollow for a moment and then is gone. You make the turn, cash the check, dry your hands, and you shake off the feeling like a cat-nap and go on, distracted by a magazine cover, a familiar tune, a hastily engaged shallow conversation.

This feeling, like all inexplicable feelings, weaves itself into the fabric of your days. It may be a brief sigh, a momentary sadness, sometimes a deep weariness of the heart. It is not quite darkness. It is not truly light. It is not quite despair, it is not hope. It is not quite fear, it is not peace. It is a vague notion that you once possessed something precious and it is now missing. Or perhaps that you were once possessed by someone precious and it is you that is missing. It is a twinge of homesickness, a feeling that you belong somewhere but are not there; or that you belong to someone but have lost touch. This fleeting melancholy is easily dismissed in the frenzy of the day because it does not paralyze you or cause you to break out in uncontrollable weeping. It can be evaded by turning up the radio, finding a conversation, making the phone call or searching for the perfect tomato.

But in the night, when there are no distractions, no tasks, when there is no one but yourself and all that is in you and all that is missing within you, it is then that the feeling is no longer a vague notion but a troubling and persistent void. It is then that even if you claim to know no God you have within you an empty and hungering place that you fear to name because to name it would be to know to whom it belongs and for whom it hungers. You know with fearful certainty Someone precious is missing. You almost know for whom it is you are longing. It is a lover whose face you would know if you saw it, whose name you would recognize if only you could hear someone speak it, whose heart you know is longing for you.

In perhaps such a night the night the Shepherds, wearied from the ordinariness of thousands of days walking the same hills, lay staring, like thousands of nights before, into the vast familiar sky. And in the night comes one who is unfamiliar, whose presence is at first strange and fearful. But it is an Angel and the fear breaks into wonder.

And the stars begin to sing.

"Hallelujah!"

From somewhere in the ordinary, familiar sky breaks forth Angels, Archangels, Cherubim, Seraphim six winged, many eyed, soaring aloft on their wings singing "Hallelujah!" for into the vast ordinariness of our existence the One for whom we long has come to take a face, to have a name, to be bread to fill the hunger, to be light to shine in the darkness, to be wine that makes glad the troubled heart of man. "Hallelujah!"

There is one born who lies among the lowliest of all, unremarkable, indistinguishable from ten thousand other humans born in the same night. And yet the angels sing, Hallelujah, Glory to God in the highest!

The transcendence of the ordinary breaks forth from within the ordinary. The glimpse of eternal heaven shines forth from the mundaneness of the earth. Peace and goodwill among men is both within each and in the face of every human.

It is for this we are preparing. We prepare for the transcendent by attending more closely to the familiar and ordinary things of life, to food, to the hungering, dirty face of our neighbor that is before us every day, to our own inner longing for peace and joy. And perhaps on one ordinary day, in an ordinary place, among ordinary people there will perhaps come one who cries "Hallelujah!" and the heavens will break open and all that is ordinary around us and within us will stand up and sing in wonder and glorious unexpected joy.

I think that is why I weep when I watch this.
(For full screen video click HERE)

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Dodging Bullets, Jumping on Handgrenades, Etc.

Well, it has been a while.

I've been pretty much still working 7 days a week, day job and side jobs on nights and weekends to try to make enough money to pay off the IRS. (On a side note, an "Our Life in Christ" listener sent me a very generous "thank you for what you did for me" that put a significant dent in the IRS ding. I'm still flabbergasted and grateful.)

A couple weeks ago our school district "riffed" about 1/3 of the office staff and some teachers. The Superintendent called an impromptu meeting one afternoon because the cat had gotten out of the bag and he told everyone the rumors were true and within 48 hours we would each know if we had a job or not. It really didn't bother me because I had six jobs lined up that I couldn't get to. But, I didn't get laid off. So I called the waiting clients and told them I wouldn't be able to do their jobs. There were just too many jobs and not enough hours in a week or weekends in a month for everyone. This weekend I'm finishing up a big painting project I've been working on every weekend for 8 weeks that should pay off the IRS (or get me REALLY close to it.)

After the dust settled from the layoffs I talked to the Principal of my school and told her that I knew sooner or later, with all the layoffs, that new positions would come open as things progressed. I told her that, at my age, this is not a "Career" for me, I'm way past needing a title, a new business card and a small raise to validate myself. I like what I do, I like having a finger in the pies of curriculum, technology, special education, marketing and staff development but I don't want to run any of it. So basically I'm willing to help out, be on committees and "teams" but I'm not looking for a promotion or a raise especially since I can make what they would give me in a annual salary raise in a couple weeks in the summer. It is nice to have freedom from ego and financial need. She was very understanding and grateful for the conversation.

We took "Thanksgiving" to my parents' house so we wouldn't have to go to the Casino again for Thanksgiving supper.  It was a gift this year.  Every time I visit my parents they look older and weaker.  It used to be years or months between visits, now it is weeks and the changes are obvious.
They put in one of those "staircase chair escalators" for my Mom. I've been trying to talk them into it for a year and they finally did it.  They said, "We're not moving out of this house..." I think they are facing their realities and limitations squarely now. 

So, all in all, life is going on.  When I get home from work sometimes I think, "Hm, maybe I'll record a 'Steve the Builder' podcast"... but I never do.  Maybe some day I will again.  But it's just not a "career" for me and I'm way past needing to talk or be heard these days.  But on the other hand, I still have some latent Protestant guilt for not "fulfilling my ministry" (the parable of the talents thing, you know)...  And frankly, I'm not sure if that is real or not, the jury is still out.

Oh, and the other thing that has happened, and I'll probably write about it later, is the Wifey and I are "Empty Nesters" now.  At age 60, our last one flew the coop.  It is a strange life now.  More on that later.

Thanks for checking in.  Not much Pith here, but it's late, it's been a long day/week/month/year/life.





Thursday, October 25, 2012

Tour of My Cubicle

This is the eight square feet of real estate I occupy in the hallway at work.
Mr. Yellow Ninja Birthday Balloon has stayed inflated since August 9. He guards the cubicle at night.


This is the back wall, slowly getting populated with stuff. At the left is my "POGONOPHOBIA FREE ZONE". Then "Mr. R's Brain Gym", and "Semper Gumby Always Flexible".

This is "Parade of Neon Frogs" the top of the left wall. No cubicle wall is complete without "Chattering Teeth" to remind everyone it is a "BLAHBLAHBLAH Zone".

This is my reading glasses holder. I had to get a separate pair of glasses for my computer screen. I made Alfredo Carbunza in 1967 in ceramics to hold my glasses on my nightstand. He's been dropped a few times over the years and needs a nose job. Of course, a real cubicle desk always has a Big Gulp (or coffee) and snack food on it.

This is the right wall of my cubicle. My "Greeting Gumby", "Hello Hand" and "Friendly Frog" say "HI!" to visitors.

This is the right wall's posters and pictures. Monkabee Moo, The Moo King, Groucho Bunny, drawings by my students, etc.

This is my "dual screen monitor" set up I finally figured out how to do last semester. How did I live without it??? I found a Thomas Kinkade Godzilla picture that makes a dandy screen saver. Of course NO ONE can live without post-it notes and neon frogs even with two monitors.

It's still a work in progress. I might need a shelf for stuff. I thought about bringing my stuffed armadillo but it might make people think I'm weird.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Juggling Masters

Those who have been following the blog for a long time know I have a soft spot for juggling.
I learned to juggle three things in high school but never got good at it so I can appreciate a good juggler.

THIS is an old post that showcases two amazing jugglers.

I didn't know there was such a competition, but an online friend, Mary, posted this on Facebook. THIS is amazing!  Contact juggling at a new level.

And if you liked the "contact juggling" video, THIS guy is amazing.

Take a break from juggling your life and just enjoy!

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Does God Have a Wonderful Plan for Your Life?

Last month I posted an Old Man's rumination about "the will of God for my life" (HERE)

John (late twenties) asked in the comment box: "...my question then is, how does the Orthodox Christian then decide what to do when a decision regarding a life path does come up? Simply pray for God's blessing and then make the choice as best as I can, without having to see the "hand of God" in it?"

There are so many aspects to this question that need fleshing out, but let me see if I can hit some high points, tell some stories and then distill some principles that make sense to me here and now.

1. "Life path". Although I don't think John meant it exactly in the way I'm going to talk about it,  I will address it in several ways.

Our "life path" is rarely divinely revealed.  Even St. Paul revised his "divinely ordained life's purpose" after his encounter on the road on his way to kill Christians. My "life path" from age 6 was to be a priest. I interpreted twists and turns and opportunities and conversations and coincidences through that lens for almost 50 years. I finally was able to admit to myself I was self-deluded.  

A "life path" often carries the baggage of defining my life by what I do, or constraining it in some significant way that means I fore go something that could have been"better" in some significant way. The issue is the self-definition of "significance".  I often think of the Prophets who spend decades of their lives herding sheep, picking figs or loving whores before any thought of "significance" entered their radar, and then only because of incontrovertible proof of Divine intervention in their lives.  We get it backwards... we ASSUME divine intervention and significance then look for something to fill in the blank.

I spent 30+ years of my life doing construction, not by my choice, though I still believe it was the providence of God that put me in the place to go there, but ultimately I "chose it" because I, at the time, was constrained by circumstances and need. Over the years I managed to turn it into and frame it for myself as a "street ministry" of sorts and thereby spiritualize it so it wasn't a complete affront to my self-discerned "will of God for my life". Sure, there was some ego involved. Sure, there was some true virtue involved. Sure, I did some good. Sure, it led me down some dark alleyways.

I look back on it now and wonder if I would have done better by making it a "real business" and making money to donate to legitimate charities and organizations who actually did better at helping people than I did.  But I didn't... I did what I did in my mix of ego, idealism and desire to be a Christian.

I recently got a "real job" and work in a "real office environment" with real people.  I found that I can be a Christian there too. 

Here's how I see "Life path" and decisions now:

A. Don't "spiritualize" your life path unless you are contemplating becoming a pimp or paid assassin.  The old AA/Country Music line "No matter where you go, there you are..." is true. You won't be a better or worse Christian in any environment.  If your work environment dictates your spiritual life, you don't have a stable spiritual life and you need to work on that, not your resume.

B.  Provide for your family. Take a good paying job.  There is no virtue in poverty.  But, neither is there virtue in riches.  No matter how much I've made (below poverty level and "rich" by many definitions) I was always "just getting by".  Virtue is in learning to live simply, guilt-free and generously.  Give away more than is comfortable no matter how much you make.

C. Don't confuse "career" with "spiritual life" (see #1).  If you love computer programming and are good at it and can make 185.00/hr., don't be fooled into thinking you're a better person by becoming a cashier at a Goodwill Thrift Store for minimum wage because you are "sacrificing".

2. "The Hand of God".  Honestly, I still vacillate about this one.  As I mentioned in the GPS post, I firmly believe the providence of God has been a part of my life from day one. It is MY INTERPRETATION of when, how and the results of that providence that is the problem.  We can see "success" as blessings and "failure" as sin or delusion, but they could very well be the opposite.

It is easy to see good times as "blessings".  And they just might be... or they could just be market forces and good financial planning that even Judas could pull off blindfolded without an abacus. There's whole heresies and denominations built around that notion.  There is another side of that coin that is equally potentially delusional:  I had a friend who used to say, "How come every time God works in a mysterious way, I get kicked in the ass?"  Sometimes God's servants get crucified, and it is His will. The trick is to not develop a "martyr complex" and see the hand of God in bad times when it is really a consequence of you being a total idiot.

I can't tell you how many times I've seen "the hand of God" in something in the short run and now 20, 30, 40, 50 years removed from it have re-interpreted the providence and outcomes.  The fact of the matter is, providence is cumulative and consequences flow down for decades not just weeks or months.  We have no clue what is being "set up" or how things will work out in the long run.  I am VERY wary of interpreting recent events as "the hand of God" or seeing blessings or outcomes in them.  I really don't know what is really a blessing or merely an event within the fallen order that God will have to re-define, work within, do some magic or merely let it play out to its logical end and hopefully I will learn a lesson from it.

That said, I think we just need to make the best decisions we can with what we have and where we are spiritually (whether it is delusional or truly spiritual because in some ways in the end they are both pointed toward God in a round about way).  

3. "Simply pray."  Yes. If you can.  Usually when I prayed about something I was looking for an outcome and saw circumstances and events as "the hand of God at work" that supported that outcome.  To truly pray "Thy will be done" without an ego agenda behind it is harder than it looks.

In the end, no matter where you end up it can be for the glory of God and your spiritual growth.  I don't know how to say "don't obsess about things" when it is our tendency to do so because we've upped the ante of consequentiality because we've spiritualized everything in our lives.  If we could just see the present moment as the "spiritual event" we've been given and not concern ourselves with big pictures and end games and outcomes that are prognostications, illusions and hopes and dreams I think we would find a lot more peace even in the "big decisions" of life.

Anyway, that's my two cents for today.  I don't know if it would have made any difference to me at 30 if someone had told me this stuff then, but, here it is.  Caveat emptor.  :)



Sunday, October 07, 2012

Bacon Brown Sugar Squash

I'm not turning the blog into a full fledged "Food Blog", but I loved to cook long before the "Food Channel". My Mom is Chinese and my Dad is Arkansan so it made for an interesting cuisine in our house. My Mom is an intuitive cook, I don't recall anything bad she ever made, including Arkansan food. I learned to cook intuitively from her and rarely measure anything so I usually have to guess at portions when giving a recipe.

My Mom and I lived with my paternal grandparents for a summer while my Dad did sea duty. She learned to cook Arkansan and showed my Grandmother some tricks herself. I recall my Grandmother getting up at 4:30 to start breakfast. Home made biscuits, pork chops, bacon, eggs, pan fried potatoes, white toast made from Rainbow Bread and home made plum and pear preserves. There was always a quart mason jar of bacon grease on the back of the stove that got used to prepare various dishes for breakfast, lunch and dinner and was replenished each morning. The other staple was a can of Crisco in the cupboard. I don't recall ever seeing a bottle of "oil". My Grandparents both lived well past 80 and probably never touched an ounce of olive or canola oil in their life.

One of my favorite childhood dishes was, and still is, bacon brown sugar yellow squash.


This has converted vegans to bacon drippings and "EWWWWW SQUASH!" kids to vegetables.
It is the perfect blend of vegetable and animal.

So here you go:

4-6 medium yellow crook-neck squash sliced into half-inch discs.
Boil the squash for about 3-4 minutes or until just barely getting tender.
Drain in a collander and let as much water drain out as possible.

Prepare a skillet (I ALWAYS use cast iron to cook). Get it hot (high heat) so a drop of water dances in it. Throw about a tablespoon of bacon grease into the pan (if liquid, if you keep in the refrigerator a slightly mounded teaspoon will do).

Pour the squash into the frying pan and spread it out. Let it fry for a while then flip it over with a spatula. Keep the heat high.

Add some sea salt (a couple sprinkles), about 2 good tablespoons of brown sugar, a teaspoon of coarse ground black pepper and a heaping tablespoon of butter. Stir it up. Keep cooking on high heat.

There will usually be a lot of liquid from the squash. A lot of it will evaporate while cooking. Once the squash is done (soft but not total mush, even though it is still good as squash mush), you can remove the squash and reduce the liquid on high heat (boiling and stirring) until it is syrupy then add the squash back in. You can leave the squash in the pan and just let the liquid boil off but the squash gets cooked more and mushier. Either way, you don't want to pour off the liquid, it has all your flavor in it.

If I leave one "food legacy" to the world, I think this would be the one I'd opt for.
Enjoy!






Thursday, October 04, 2012

Pork Tenderloin and Sweet Potatoes


I've always been into "one pan meals", short prep time, and tasty (OK, two pans if the dish requires mashed potatoes, rice or a side veggie). If I can do the veggie and meat in one dish, so much the better.

I found small pork tenderloins on sale, perfect size for dinner for two and maybe one "leftover" lunch or snack... (now that we're empty nest, I have to learn to cook smaller). I usually do a barbeque kind of thing with pork so I wanted to try something different.

So, here is the concoction:

Split the pork tenderloin down the middle (not all the way through), lay it open. Fill it with scallions, olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt and sage and then lay a couple sprigs of fresh rosemary down the center. (We have rosemary growing in our front yard).

Peel and slice a couple of small sweet potatoes and arrange it along the tenderloin in a baking dish.

Drizzle the entire arrangement with balsamic vinegar. Then sprinkle some brown sugar on the sweet potatoes. Then drizzle some maple syrup over everything (including the pork).

Cover with foil and bake for about an hour at 325. (Check the meat, depending on the size it may cook quick). The potatoes will come out firm but cooked. I didn't want mushy "baked sweet potatoes" so if you want the potatoes softer I'd say you might have to boil them for a few minutes before putting them in the baking pan.

The other option (that I prefer, but it takes another pan that you'll have to wash)...
Remove the roast and set it aside to let it rest before you cut it up. Pour off the liquid into a frying pan and reduce the liquid (boil it over high heat, stirring regularly, until it becomes like syrup). While you are reducing the liquid, re-cover and return the potatoes to the oven to bake a little longer.

Drizzle the reduction over the roast and potatoes. Reduced meat liquids are like nectar.

I paired it up with a $2.99 Walmart Argentinian Malbec called "Lucky Duck". Not bad.

Two tongues up. Tasty!


Monday, September 24, 2012

My Mom's Fried Rice

Of course no one makes it like Mom, but here's what I do after watching her for years growing up.

First a lesson on how to cook rice.

1. Wash the rice. Three times. Add water to cover the rice, swish it around with your hand then pour the water off, repeat. Repeat.

2. Add water to the rice. How much? Put your index finger in the pot and barely touch the top of the rice. Add water up to your first joint. Really.

3. Add a little salt, bring to a boil, stir occasionally. Turn the heat down to the lowest setting and cover and let it sit for about ten minutes. Stir then turn off the heat, cover and let it sit for another 30 while you make the rest of supper.

OK, now you have perfect rice and there is almost always leftover rice.

The next morning, fried rice for breakfast!

You will need:

A little oil (any kind, sesame adds some flavor).
Chopped veggies. Green onions, carrot (finely sliced or shaved), onion, a little garlic, celery, bell pepper, be creative.
Chopped meats: Spam is the best! I've used leftover pork chops, roast beef, fish, shrimp, hot dogs... thin slice or fine cube the meat.
Eggs. 2 or 3 scrambled up with a little milk and garlic salt in a bowl.
Soy sauce.

Put the oil in the pan, add the meat and veggies and saute for a couple minutes (keep the veggies a little crispy at this stage, they'll cook more).

Add the eggs. Scramble until they just start cooking but are still a little soft and runny.

Add the rice and stir it all up. Douse with soy sauce and stir fry until the eggs are all done.

Eat and sigh.


Saturday, September 22, 2012

Pineapple Ginger Chicken

I made this up when I needed a quick meal. 5-10 minutes of prep. It is amazing!

4-6 Chicken thighs (depending on family size).
1 can crushed pineapple (in regular juice, not heavy syrup).
1 bottle Korean sweet chili sauce (or hoisin... any oriental sauce will work).
3 tablespoons of chopped fresh ginger.

Mix the ginger into the pineapple. Lay the chicken thighs on top of it. Pour some chili sauce on top. Bake at 350 for about an hour uncovered. Serve over rice (that you cook while the chicken is baking).


Thursday, September 13, 2012

No GPS for "Life"

I've come to the conclusion that most of life is managed by "muddling through".

I've made plans, gone to school to prepare, predicted the future based on data, prayed about it, felt the "Spirit" move, saw the "hand of God" in events and coincidences, made educated guesses, worked my ass off for a goal or a dream and rolled with the punches.  In the end, I can't say that any of it really mattered in the end.  But, the reality is I hadn't done any of that I wouldn't be where I am (for better or worse). 

The "will of God for my life" and the "providence of God" are mostly either delusions that I've poured my efforts into or amounts to spiritualized retrospectively revisionist history.  But that said, I still believe I am where I am by some kind of grace of God that accommodates my virtues and sins (regardless of my awareness of the difference) even as I write this sentence.  The fact of my faith (however small or great in anyone's estimation, including my own) is evidence of that grace.

I think most things in life are motivated by some tinge of virtue and compromised by some tinge of sin.  But, yes, sometimes sin becomes the motive and virtue is vestigial.  I'm not a "new age" Romanticist, I've looked long and hard into my mirror too many mornings to think I've always been evolving in a spiritual journey upwards.

At sixty I'm finding that I don't have any more clue about what I'm doing or where I'm headed than when I was six or sixteen.  In fact I think I had more of a clue back then, or at least thought I did. Of course the realization of that in itself gives me pause to pronounce that "where I am now" is all that good of a place either. 

For good or bad, the difference between six, sixteen and sixty is I have more history now.  The other difference is, because of history, I find that I don't NEED to have a clue now, nor do I really want to have a clue.  I'm perfectly OK with letting life play out and just being in the present moment. Uncertainty, unknowability, unpreparedness... they aren't tigers and dragons lurking under my bed ready to eat my arm dangling from the bedside.  I sleep comfortably with them.

So, for today I do what the day demands (to some degree of competency and with some degree of passion and commitment) and I go to bed tired.  I don't get too concerned about "big pictures" of things, predicting the future, spiritualizing the past, aggrandizing the present.  The only important thing to me is the word I speak to the person I'm talking to, the kindness I show to the person I encounter, the peace I bring into a room of people, the fulfillment of my duty to the person who pays for my time and talent so I can eat. Yes, even that is "spiritual".

I may not have "it" down, whatever "it" is.  I just know I'm not as concerned with making a difference as much as I am with just making it through the present moment with some kind of integrity and a sense of what is really before me rather than what is ahead of me.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Biopsies, Roasts and Weddings

Sixty is how old your grandparents are when you are a child.

Sixty is how old your parents are when you are "finding yourself" and perhaps in the middle of your first permutation of real job/career/marriage/children and you don't have much time for them.

Sixty is when you start talking about colonoscopies, noticing spots on your skin you think look "iffy", and your doctor wants to do biopsies and take enough blood work to have an open bar at a vampire wedding.  My life insurance rate is more than my first house payments... all these are flashing warning lights that the road not too far ahead is indeed closed. 

At sixty I also know beyond a doubt I'm leaving a legacy, a lot of which is carved in stone by an amateur.  I see a bigger picture than I could at thirty or forty. I kind of knew a big picture existed when I was twenty, but when you've only lived less than 20% of your life conciously you don't really know what "big" even looks like.  So now I see the wrong colors chosen, the errant brush strokes, the unbalanced composition of everything I've done and everyone I've touched. So now, if nothing else, I will spend my days trying to re-shape and erase and incorporate all the indelible strokes of my past with the goal of leaving something somewhat beautiful in the end.

Sixty is how old you are when you bless your kids as they pursue their own lives, even if it means getting less of them than you'd like.  That is not a bad thing.... Sixty year old doting, guilting, controlling parents is an ugly thing.  The helicopter has to run out of gas at some point, and looking back on six kids, the sooner the better.

The Wifey had a "Roast" of me for my 60th birthday.  I wish I could post the speeches, but I guess I'll just say that if I died today, I would die a happy man that everyone knew me so well that they could point up my faults and goofiness so clearly, and yet in spite of knowing me so well, still showed up and brought me gifts and honored me by being there to mark the event with me.  I am a blessed man, even if the Synod of Orthodox Bishops decreed that my birthday never be commemorated in any Orthodox Church henceforth and forevermore.   (It was a joke... kinda.)

And now I am in Montana for a week.  I can "telecommute" in my job. So I came up for my sister's wedding.  She asked if I would say some things at the wedding. Considering a "prophet is without honor in his own country" I considered that one of the biggest blessings of my life.

I gave the "wedding sermon" and basically talked about why be "married" after being "engaged" for eight years. I talked about being created in the image of the Trinity, "being as communion", and what it means to live eucharistically "in love" rather than just "sharing stuff legally because the State gives you a piece of paper".  I talked about wheat and wine and how they are transformed sacramentally by grinding, crushing and work... much like human beings in marriage. The highlight of the evening for me was when, after 80 people consumed over fifty pounds of bratwursts and burgers, 60 bottles of wine, two kegs of beer and sundry other adult beverages, my sister and brother in law's HARDCORE atheist friend who had downed more than a few and had been in a heated discussion with a couple of evangelical wedding guests earlier in the afternoon, sat down at the table next to me. He kind of tipped/leaned toward me, opened his mouth and pointed before he made any words (like drunk people do) and said, "I gotta say... I don't believe ANY of that Christian shit you were talking about,... but you sure made sense, that was really beautiful what you said. I'm gonna have to think about all that s'more. Thank you."

It was a perfect day in their back yard.


May God grant Todd and Lani many more years.




Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

The Ten Month Marathon Begins...

I'm back to "work"... well, my job that pays a regular paycheck with benefits. 

Annual checkup.  I hate it when the doctor plays Queen when he's doing my prostate exam.

Two biopsies that got infected.

Admin at work decides to migrate email servers and reconfigure and update all of our computers the week before school starts... one of the most email/website/software intense times of the year.  #yeahiknowfirstworldproblem

Finishing construction projects the day before school starts. 

Dead battery.  My third "Die Hard" that died under warranty.  Free replacements. Yay.

Discovered I'm allergic to neosporin/triple antibiotic... after 3 visits to the doctor, which would also account for four other "infections" I've gotten and spent over 2000.00 to cure in the past 15 years.

The joints of my fingers actually hurt from cutting and pasting Excel spreadsheet data my first day back on the job.  I guess that beats a back injury from cutting and lifting sheetrock.

Sushi with Daughter #1 for the first time in ages.  I don't know where she got "workaholic" from.... Hm.

Biopsies were negative.  Still not sure how I really feel about that.

Cholesterol is up to 285. I'm supposed to eat oatmeal instead of Sausage McMuffins for breakfast and fish instead of pulled pork from now on. Um... yeah....

A busy last couple weeks.  

Long day tomorrow.  Again.

Good night. 










Thursday, July 19, 2012

Happy Belated Blog-birthday

On July 16, 2004 I wrote the first "Pithless Thoughts" blog post.  "Blogging" was the hot new thing back then.  (Well, not "new-new", but new to me... in 3-4 years I might start "tweeting", who knows). I went back and read the first post tonight.  It seems to have weathered eight years of blogging and reading blogs.

"...we go for the anonymous screen dump of our "self" and hope someone out there really cares what we think about artichoke dip, the Middle East, J-Lo, our "personal journey", or even more mundanely, how our day went.  
 
So, I join the blog.  I guess it goes like this: I'll post a thought then check anxiously to see if anyone acknowledges  my digital presence.   How many times a day I check is inversely proportional to either my narcissism or loneliness, yes?
 
Fishing for existence.  Facelessly shedding anonymity.  Baring what little soul I have, hoping that with the addition of another bit of someone else's fragile soul I, we, might become slightly more of a human being.  Even if its only zeros and ones and pixels in a darkened room, it has meaning because it came from flesh, dirty fingernails, (or maybe manicured), tapping out the sum of an existence.   Who is capable of grasping, much less embracing, even a paragraph of another human being? 
 
I'll think about that while I'm fixing dinner."


Eight years, a few high and low spots, 873 posts and over half a million page views later I'm still hanging on.  A big part of why I hang on is the comment box.  It is indeed a slight embrace of my existence, a grasping at a shared experience and an affirmation that there is a "we" to the world even if "we've" never met.

Thank you to all my friends and readers who have checked in, read and sometimes commented for these eight years. You've all made my life a bit richer and funner. 




 

Monday, July 16, 2012

I Guess It's Not Too Late to Start Again...

...at the very hour of his death, he said to the holy men who were standing near him, "Since I came to this place of the desert and built my cell and dwelt here, I do not remember having eaten bread which was not the fruit of my own hands and I have not said anything for which I was sorry later, even to this present hour; and yet I am going to God as one who has not even made a beginning in His service."  Abba Pambo

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Hm. Probably Not

"So, do you think if someone posted a blog that said "so and so doesn't love God with all his heart, soul, mind and strength and doesn't love his neighbor as himself (the two greatest commandments)" that it would generate thousands of comments and weeks of heated discussion?"
H/T Weekly Sunday phone call with our monk son.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Of Life, Death and Love


Now that The Wifey and I are both on "teachers' schedules" with our new jobs we got a chance to travel because money magically appears in our checking account every two weeks through the summer. It is the first time in 30+ years I could take a vacation and not have to think about how I was going to cover jobs, pay for it and then make up lost wages because of the "down time" while we were gone.

I've always preferred driving places to flying to them. Long stretches of highway and endlessly retreating horizons have a mystical affect on the soul. The driver's seat is almost like a hermit's cell, it is not very demanding except in short spurts and leaves enough of your mind free to wander into your self.

We were on our way to visit kids and grandkids. Grandkids...

I remembered driving the stretch of I-40 we were on. The last time was in the summer of 1982 in a 1962 VW cargo van with no air conditioning. It would make 50 miles an hour on flat road and drop to 25 at the hint of a hill. It had no seats and I built a crib for my infant son in the open cargo area. We were taking him to see his grandparents in Arkansas. I was young, younger than he is now, with my life a horizon that I would eventually arrive at and settle into. My smooth hand was firmly on the wheel.

Thirty years later the horizon is still in front of me and I know there is more beyond it that the maps, whether Rand Nally fold-ups or GPS cannot define. I still have not yet arrived. My hand is still on the wheel. It is no longer smooth. It has lost its youthful strength, its grip is not as firm nor confident, though certainly more cautious.

We stopped at St. Micheal's Monastery to visit my step-son for a couple days. I think I prayed for the first time in over a year at Vespers. Fr. Andrew looks weaker, a mirror of my own looming mortality as I face sixty years next month.

While talking to the fathers, a visitor about "Orthodoxy", being in the services, and walking around the canyon I realized that, after over 40 years of trying to be a Christan, not only did I still not know how to pray, but I really didn't know how to do much of anything (except paint, which I did at each of our kid's new homes).

We then went to visit the kids and grandkids.  We did our best to spoil them as quickly and thoroughly as we could in four days.   It is sobering to know you were once holding your own child, once this young, who has now given you this new life to hold.


On the way to the Ozarks we stopped in Tulsa to have dinner with one of my wife's high school best friends that she has not seen in many years. "Holmes and Watson" they called each other. They shared stories of each other, stories that one or the other did not recall but defined some part of their mutual bond for each of them. They caught up on failed marriages, kids, growing old and their respective parents passed that each of them remembered in some fond ways.


We went to the Ozarks to visit the "newlyweds" (nearly) on their first anniversary. We visited Eureka Springs and hiked some beautiful country. We came across an old cemetery, some graves dating back to the Civil War. There were many "Infant Son/Daughter" headstones, some in consecutive years. There were newer graves also, generations of families buried together. There were also graves marked only with a small piece of sandstone, unhewn, set upright with no engravings. This one, a red brick with "Denny" written in Magic Marker was an enigma. We speculated that perhaps it was a family pet laid next to its master, or perhaps a hastily dug grave of a miscarriage with the blessing of a name that will be sunwashed away and known only to the parents in a few seasons.


We hiked a couple miles into the wooded hills past the graveyard. Perhaps this is the blessing of having an old, tired Grandfatherly hand that has no frenetic energy left in it that would frighten young children and animals.


From there we stopped to see my Aunt Jo, my Dad's younger sister, who is in a nursing home because of multiple strokes. Even though it added almost an extra day of driving it was as close as I would be to her before she passes away. She is half of her former self, physically. She moved in and out of reality fluidly, and sometimes would catch herself doing so. We took a picture of us together but I cannot bring myself to show it to anyone, especially my Dad. Death and its spectre is sad. I held her hand while we said goodbye, while she cried thanking us for visiting her. She reached up with her withered hand and pulled my face to her and kissed me on the cheek. "Thank you..."

I don't know how long she will remember that I was there. But I was. Even though things are forgotten they still shape our humanity and our relationships. And when we are facing the autumnal years, like a once vibrant leaf now withering, wrinkled, veined and trembling in the stinging, chill wind of winter, we realize that our distant horizon, now upon us, is to hope we will be remembered, that we shall be remembered in love by those we have loved.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

How Do You...

Random questions asked, encountered, thought of and pondered while visiting kids and grand kids... so far.



How do you stop being paralyzed?

How do you know when to quit?

How do you paint over wallpaper?

How do you stop relating to people in old, familiar ways?

How do you begin to pray, really?

How do you see a person and not your illusions?

How do you discern but not judge?

How do you know when an action or thought is from self delusion rather than "true spirituality"?

How do you stop?

How do you keep brush strokes out when you paint?

How do you know when to shut up?

How do you know when to speak?

How do you make your mind stop for one minute?

How do you stop believing that God has more in mind for your life than what you have?

How do you gain conciousness?

How do you get rid of cigarette smoke smell in a whole house?

How do you reconcile?

How do you find time?

How do you do good without an ego agenda attached?

How do you tell the truth?

How do you laugh like a baby again?

How do you give up hope?

How do you stay out of fruitless discussions?

How do you know?

How do you quit being self destructive?

How do you stay hopeful?

How do you trust?

How do you say goodbye?

How do you know if it is fear or reality?

How do you be truly humble?

How do you stop wanting?

How do you shop at Walmart and not feel....... ?

How do you give a damn?

How do you not "take it personally"?

How do you say "How do you do" and mean it?

And you... ?

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

City Lights

If you have never seen Charlie Chaplin's "City Lights" you are impoverished.

It has been deemed one of the ten best films of all time, the best romantic comedy of all time and the best silent film of all time. Chaplin made it as a silent movie when "talkies" had become all the rage.  It took him nearly three years to make the movie, sometimes filming literally hundreds of takes of a single scene, including the ending.  It is genius story telling, humanity, slapstick comedy, pathos and one of the most emotional endings... some critics have claimed it is THE finest ending, in film history.  I had a betamax copy of it years ago.  I just found it on youtube... watch it for free!

If you have a dry eye at the end, you are not human.


Sunday, June 10, 2012

Sketchbook Pro

I've had Sketchbook Pro for a couple months but kept defaulting to GIMP because it is what I knew for the past 3 years of Orthographs and Curmudgeophan. I spent a couple hours today watching youtube videos on Sketchbook Pro and decided to give it a semi-serious workout.

I still have a lot to learn, but I'm thinking I could get used to it.


Saturday, June 09, 2012

JigSaw-17

The funniest thing I've heard in a long time.
Of course my brain immediately tries to figure out an "Ortho-version" of this with bishops....

Thursday, June 07, 2012

bu·reauc·ra·cy

My truck failed emissions because it has a "service required" light on.

I know what it is: Nissan had a recall of the fuel guage sending unit issued when my truck was 20,000 miles over the warranty period and they wouldn't fix it.  It is a $1,000.00 fix (650.00 for the part).  It has nothing to do with emissions.  However in Arizona you can't pass an "emissions test" with a repair light on.

I had to take it to emissions twice. The first time is free.  The second time you pay 30.00 and when you fail they give you the computer read-out.  It said "fuel guage sending unit failure".  Duh. 

They give me the paper and a brochure and say, "You can get a waiver for one year if you can't afford to repair the vehicle.  You have to get an estimate that shows the repair is over 450.00. Then go to this State testing place and they'll give you the waiver."

I get an estimate and I go there.  I show the guy the computer read out and the estimate to repair the problem.

This is our conversation virtually verbatim:

"Where's your receipts?"

"What receipts?"

"You have to spend 450.00 to try to fix the problem."

"The person at the emissons station said it had to be over 450.00 to fix."

"No, you have to SPEND 450.00 to try to fix the problem first."

"But the problem costs 1,000.00 to fix... and besides it has nothing to do with emissions. It's the gas guage."

"It doesn't matter. You have to spend 450.00 to try to fix it."

"But the part alone is 650.00.  Anything they do for 450.00 will be a waste of money that I already don't have."

"It doesn't matter, you have to spend 450.00 to TRY to fix it."

"So I have to spend 450.00 for nothing."

"No, not for nothing. You have to TRY to fix the problem to get the waiver."

"You've got to be kidding."

"Why would I kid about that? We can't give a waiver to everyone who walks in here and says they can't afford to fix their car."

"I guess that's true.  Thanks."

"Come back with your receipts and we'll run it through for you."

Yeah.... the air will be cleaner when I get my gas guage fixed.

That's what makes this country great.


Saturday, June 02, 2012

World History Trailer

I made this short 30 second video for an intro to the new online World History class being designed this summer by our new curriculum developer.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Our Life for Eight Months

Extra work is a mixed blessing. The money is nice, especially when you are facing near-bankruptcy, but to get to the "money" you have to do the "work". The Wifey puts in 16-18 hours a day teaching second grade and doing lesson plans and non-classroom teacher stuff for her fixed salary that probably will come to about 6.00/hr. at the end of the semester. She's a trooper and earns every penny of her wages. I hope she makes it to the end of the semester.

Me, I put in a very honest eight (and a half, I work through lunch) at my school for my fixed salary and I leave. I'll stay late and take care of education emergencies or critical paperwork, but for the most part I rarely leave my work cell phone on or check my work email after I leave the office. Instead, I go to my "phone booth home" and change into my Superman jeans and T-shirt and do construction for a few hours after work and on weekends. At pushing 60 it is harder than delivering pizza or working at McDonald's graveyard shift but it pays better.

There's very little energy left at the end of the day for all the stuff I'd rather be doing. Just sitting down and staring at the wall is a luxury. But there is food on the table, the lights (and internet) are on and we're actually paying off creditors instead of avoiding them. This about sums it up: I got all the ****ing work I need.

Thank God.



H/T Och

...and my hero from 1959, Maynard G. Krebs (yes, that is Gilligan) on "work".

Sunday, April 29, 2012

New Bishop's Image for American Orthodoxy

I think we need to replace that Old World intimidating "old grumpy man with a stick" image with something more American and happy.

And it's "Trinitarian":  Three scoops, individual flavors in one nature.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Love is as Strong as Death


My parents have become my teenagers.  They are independent, but not.  They are discovering more and more that they are becoming more dependent than capable of being on their own. They are facing a stage in life that they don’t know much, if anything, about and they are scared. Interspersed in the bravado are intimations and hints of asking for help, advice and permission. 

They are in their mid-80’s.  After several bypass operations, aneurisms  and various illnesses, they have squarely faced their mortality several times over.  They know their days, as the Psalm says, are as the grass of the field, their flowers have flourished, the wind has passed over them, they are withered and dry and waiting to be plucked up and be pressed into memories.  They will soon become a picture hung in the hallway, the remembrances of better, more beautiful days will eventually be less and less frequently invoked at family gatherings. Eventually there will be a generation that knew them not.

I think it because she has no illusions of immortality that my Mom has decided to quit chemo.  The first week she spent nauseous and exhausted. The second week they adjusted the dosage. She spent an early morning in the ER dizzy and unable to remember how she got there.  When they got home in the light of dawn she barely made it up the flight of stairs. Dad had to carry her to their bed where she slept for the rest of the day.  They talked it over and they decided neither of them were able to endure their mutual and individual pain due to chemo for another three months.  I am sure it was a hard conversation between them.  My Mom is probably more concerned about the toll it is taking on my Dad as the toll it is taking on her. I think he reluctantly has to admit he is probably not capable of dealing with it either physically or emotionally.

“At my age, what is the point? I’ve had a full life,” my Mom said to me, a thinly veiled request for permission from her children.  “I might live a year or ten years with or without the chemo.”  Of course my sister and I gave her permission to make her own decision about her own future.  We agreed the crap shoot odds weren’t compelling enough to us either.  She will continue with a mild "maintenance" type of chemo if she can tolerate it that may keep the cancer at bay. But the doctor says either way there are no guarantees.

Indeed, what is the real point? In one way it is not only about life and death, it is about letting go, something we have to learn to do both for the living and the dying whether we are parents or children. For now it is letting my parents make decisions that I might not want them to make. Stopping chemo addresses the short term pain but may result in something worse later, a slow lingering death in Hospice that I have seen before. 

But the reality is that The Psalmist is correct, “if we be in strength our years may be fourscore years, but what is more than these but toil and travail?”  It really does come down to enduring three months of chemical poisoning now or three months of making her as comfortable as we can while we gather and wait for her last breath later.  The reality is at her age we will wait for that last breath with or without chemo sooner or later.

It is not so much the pain or avoidance of pain nor the length of years added or subtracted but it is the waiting that is important at this point.  It is that Mom is surrounded by her husband, children and grandchildren who wait on her.  Death is inevitable.  Having people who love you and wait with you is not.  Death is the curse.  Being “gathered to your people” who are waiting is the blessing. 

So for we who wait there is the pain of being involved in the decision to die and there is the comfort of being involved in the decision to die.  To be invited into such a private and sobering decision is a weight of blessing I suppose some cannot bear.  But “love is as strong as death” and it bears the burden gracefully.

And so, we begin keeping an indeterminate vigil that is more real now, more intensely focused on the final benediction while attempting to attend to the present moment of blessedness. 

“Love is as strong as death”, and indeed, in death love is perfected and like the flower of the field that withers and returns to the earth, love will blossom forth life anew in the Eternal Spring.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

DING DING DING DING!

At 8:36pm the blog hit 500,000 page views. But who's counting.... and why?


Thanks for keeping it real, 'Mudge.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Pithless Products Presents...


Holy Friday, 15th Antiphon

The departed Bishop Job of blessed memory sings the 15th Antiphon of Holy Friday.




Today He who hung the earth upon the waters is hung upon the tree,
The King of the angels is decked with a crown of thorns.
He who wraps the heavens in clouds is wrapped in a purple robe of mockery.
He who freed Adam in the Jordan is struck on the face.
The Bridegroom of the Church is affixed to the Cross with nails.
The Son of the virgin is pierced by a spear.
We worship Thy passion, O Christ.
We worship Thy passion, O Christ.
We worship Thy passion, O Christ.
Show us also Thy glorious resurrection.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Just in Time for Holy Week... Again.


Our Mission found a new place.  Of course, nothing is "turn key" for an "Orthodox space", but in the grand scheme of stuff we have looked at over the past 7 years it wasn't overwhelming.  I started the demolition on a Sunday afternoon. 
(clikon'em to embiggen'em)

We had to remove a couple walls that opened up 3 spaces into one long space for the sanctuary.

The problem was, the electrical panel was in one of the walls and had to be moved.  No matter how we designed around it, it would block too much view of the altar. Fortunately the ceilings of the two rooms were laid out on the same grid and at the same height so I could eventually join the two ceilings together after the center room was removed.
We bought a lot of stuff at Stardust, the Habitat for Humanity construction thrift store.  We got these two 8 foot french doors for 150.00.  It took a day to fabricate the jambs and hang them, but it gave us a "dramatic entrance" into the sanctuary area.  Much nicer than an office door.
The panel took the electrician 3 days to move and re-wire.  This is "panel artistry".

Once the panel was moved I could repair the drywall and paint. We built the platform for the altar area then some of the members came in during the week and installed the "Pergo floor". I took "Western Good Friday" off and finished repairing the ceilings and started on the iconostasis. The one from our old building fit almost perfectly across the room with very little tweaking.
On Lazarus Saturday, the choir moved all of their stuff from the old building, we found all of our icons, we finished assembling and painting the iconostasis and pre-painted all the baseboard.  We were about at this stage when Fr. John Erickson, our visiting priest, showed up for his weekend with us.  I had just finished cutting the new top for the altar. He and our altar servers started putting the altar area together while we continued to work on the nave.
At about 5:00 we installed baseboards, icons, moved tools and materials out, swept the floors, the choir set up their area in the back.  We assembled an Ikea cabinet for the chanter's area and located the hanging lampadas for the iconostasis. The altar servers found all of the necessary cups, plates, oils and supplies for Lity and Vigil.

At 5:45 we had a functional Church building for the Vigil of Palm Sunday and Holy Week.


This is our first Sunday communion.


Our congregation seated during the homily of Palm Sunday.
Outside of the entry doors we still don't have a narthex because the entire fellowship area is still under construction.

We didn't have an extra icon stand so we put St. John on the Ladder for people to venerate as they entered.  He's been around this kind of thing a lot with this group....

This Lazarus Saturday was the 13th anniversary of our reception into the Orthodox Church. It was a good way to spend the day.  I've always really enjoyed the "down to the wire" Church buildings I've been involved in over the years. Even Fr. John commented on how exhilarating and amazing it was to see all this come together even in the hour and a half he was there while everyone was doing the finishing touches.  As Silouan said, "Instant Church, just add sweat." 

Then, I ended up with a "cough" on Sunday night during Bridegroom Matins. I never get sick and my pain threshold is really high, but by Monday night I felt like someone had beaten me with two by fours.  I was hoping it was a 24 hour thing, but I've spent the last 4 days in bed and finally went to urgent care today.  3 scrips, rest, plenty of non-alcoholic liquids (but codeine and beer are SO good together and my wife won't let me drive the bulldozer in our bedroom anymore anyway....)

I wish I could say that I at least spent the time I've been sick meditating on the nature of suffering, pain and resurrection of the body or something really "spiritual" but I was too busy coughing, blowing my nose and eating and drinking massive quantities of over the counter drugs to try to get some sleep.  I didn't even try to pretend  to convince myself I was "suffering with Jesus".  I was too miserable to even want to pretend to be enduring anything nobly or quietly.  If someone offered to martyr me on the spot I might have taken them up on it Wednesday night. Sigh.  Even a quick death can be self serving.

Well.  I intended to make good for at least Holy Week but I guess God had other plans.  As my friend Joe used to say, "How come every time God works in a mysterious way I get kicked in the ass?"

Maybe it is the fitting end to this Lent.

No matter what, Pascha is tomorrow.