Thursday, July 31, 2003

The Hoods of Man and Father
John from Sunday to Sunday forwarded this article to me from Touchstone Magazine. It is a striking examination of the current generation’s loss of touch with Christian manhood and ultimately Christian Fatherhood.

With the birth of my son looming and eminent as it is, I was forced to reflect upon my own state as a Christian man and father. I’ll spare you the details and keep this simple.

The first thing that came to mind was my own experience with my father. He is a beaming example to me of Christian fatherhood. He had his own struggles and faults as any man does, but overshadowed it all by his gracious love and deep desire to see me grow in godliness.

Two icons of my father are deeply embedded in my memory. As far back as I can remember my father would arise each morning as early as 3am to read his Bible and pray. He would be at this for sometimes hours deep in thought and prayer. I would often awake as a child and noticing the light coming down the hall way would slip out of bed to find my father hunched over his Bible in prayer. The habit has remained, even in my early 20’s returning home at the wee hours from “youthful frolic”; I would discover him in the same posture. Upon noticing my arrival he would say, “it’s kind of late don’t you think?” Finally, during my junior year of high school when I was particularly willful and rebellious he began a most annoying habit of coming into my room when he had finished his prayers, sit on my bed and begin praying quietly for me. After about three months of this occurring each morning, I awoke both physically and spiritually with a longing to return to the path from which I had strayed. I took hold of my father’s hand, a gesture to demonstrate the breaking of my strong will.

With my own son I have no hope of becoming such a great man and father, but by God’s grace. Basil has a wonderful grandfather awaiting his arrival!

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Wednesday, July 30, 2003

Prohibited Marriages
FIRST GROUP: Parents with their own children, grandchildren or great-grandchildren, or godchildren of the same godparents.
SECOND GROUP: Brothers-in-law with sisters-in-law.
THIRD GROUP: Uncles and aunts with nieces and nephews.
FOURTH GROUP: First cousins with each other.
FIFTH GROUP: Foster parents with foster children or foster children with the children of foster parents.
SIXTH GROUP: Godparents with godchildren or godparents with the parents of godchildren.

At this point in my life the prohibition of Godparents marrying godchildren makes profoundly more sense.

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"The Son"
By Pablo Neruda

Ah son, do you know, do you know
where you come from?

From a lake with white
and hungry gulls.

Next to the water of winter
she and I raised
a red bonfire
wearing out our lips
from kissing each other's souls,
casting all into the fire,
burning our lives.

That's how you came into the world.

But she, to see me
and to see you, one day
crossed the seas
and I, to clasp
her tiny waist,
walked all the earth,
with wars and mountains,
with sands and thorns.

That's how you came into the world.

You come from so many places,
from the water and the earth,
from the fire and the snow,
from so far away you journey
toward the two of us,
from the terrible love
that has enchained us,
that we want to know
what you're like, what you say to us,
because you know more
about the world we gave you.

Like a great storm
we shook
the tree of life
down to the hidden-most
fibers of the roots
and you appear now
singing in the foliage,
in the highest branch
that with you we reach.

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Tuesday, July 29, 2003


Dear Friends,

I learned today that a friend of mine went in for surgery yesterday to remove a growth in his lungs. When the initial prognosis was given the doctors believed it to be a carcinoid as opposed to carcinoma. However, upon opening him up they discovered it to be much more serious in that it had spread throughout his entire upper body. As you can imagine this has been rather terrifying for his family and friends. He and his wife have two young children, ages two and four.

Please keep Devron, his wife Michelle and his children in your prayers.

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Saturday, July 26, 2003


Fatherhood seems to be the topic as of late that has taken every thought captive. I talk about it, dream about it, read about it, pray about it, and of course blog about it. The following is taken from Architect of Middle Earth, and is Tolkien’s son Michael.

“My earliest memories of him—I am his second son, and was born in Oxford in 1920—was of a unique adult, the only “grown-up” who appeared to take my childish comments and questions with complete seriousness. Whatever interested me seemed invariably to interest him more, even my earliest efforts to talk. Not many years ago he showed me a battered notebook in which he had carefully set down the words I applied to every object I saw. As a philologist he was fascinated by the fact that all words I used ended in –ng-: for example, lalang (light), gong (lampshade) papang (pipe), this last uttered as I removed his pipe from his mouth and inserted it in my own.

“His bedtime stories seemed exceptional. Unlike other people, he did not read them from a book, but simply told them, and they were infinitely more exciting and much funnier than anything read from the children’s books at the time. The quality of reality, of being inside a story and so being part of it, which has been, I believe, at least an important factor contributing to the world-wide success of his imaginative works, was already apparent to a small, though already critical and fairly imaginative boy.

“Inevitably, he was not a super-human father, and often he found his children insufferably irritating, self-opinionated, foolish and even occasionally totally incomprehensible. But he never lost his ability to talk to and not at or down to his children. In my own case he always made me feel that what I was doing and what I was thinking in my youth were of far more immediate importance than anything he was doing or thinking.”

Oh, to mold and shape my children with true love and Godliness!

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Jack Davis, Britain’s Oldest WWI Veteran Dies at 108

L.A. Times Wednesday July 23rd
He bowed to six monarchs over three centuries, and lived to mourn almost all of the 5 million Britons who fought with him in the war to end all wars, from 1914 to 1918.

In the biography of Tolkien that I’m currently reading, the author goes into great detail on the horrors and grave impossibilities the soldiers of WWI faced. As many as 57,000 British soldiers were slaughtered in a single day. The “strategy” employed is known as attrition or more bluntly, wearing down your enemy’s resistance by killing more of his soldiers than he killed of yours. Perhaps the bloodiest war Britain ever fought, resulting in over 1,000,000 dead British combatants. I imagine the town I live in completely wiped out, dead, vacant, empty.

Mr. Davis’ words are stirring, “They shall grow not old as we that are left grow old; age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them.”

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Friday, July 25, 2003

Looming on the Horizon…and there ain’t a thing I can do about it.

As many of you already know Sara and I are expecting our first born in less than a month. The prospect of this eminent arrival is dazzling and terrifying all at once. Dazzling for all of the wonder and awe that new life invokes. The “Lewisian” joy that the trauma of labor and the birthing experience taunts us with. To hear his first cry as this bright new world takes him by force. To hold his tender body flailing in my arms. For Sara to suckle him for the first time, his first lesson that no man is an island. Oh and the eighth day when the Fathers come and give spiritual care to all of us, but especially Sara and Basil. I could go on with the Churching of Sara and Basil. Of course Basil’s baptism in the midst of all the faithful. All of this wonder unfolding just in the first few months of his life!

But for all this beauty there are some terrifying prospects and deeply comforting assurances. What I’m addressing as terrible and beautiful is the idea that we do nothing alone. We are born into community; we will live and die in community. From day one we are at the mercy of others, and ultimately at the mercy of God. This idea brings up a whole powder keg of issues. When I hear news reports about a neglected 9 month old little girl dying of starvation because police went to the wrong address to remove the girl, at the least it brings angry tears to my eyes. The “how and why” of suffering is something that will remain unresolved on this side of eternity. And now I will have one of these precious ones dependant upon me being dependant on God’s grace to enlighten my dark and selfish heart. But it doesn’t stop there; he will depend on the whole community of the faithful for good and proper upbringing. Well, I think you see what I’m getting at. An eternal soul is entering our world, and we’re all going to share some responsibility for him. Whether you’re his godparent or dad’s friend from the blogosphere, you also will impact his world.

I’m afraid I’ve hardly scratched the surface. My intention was to share some of the rapid fire thoughts bouncing around in my head. I ask your prayers for the coming days.

May the Church be his true mother, and God be his true Father.

Pray unto God for my son, O Holy Saint Basil, well-pleasing to God: for I turn unto thee, who art the speedy helper and intercessor for his soul.

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Thursday, July 24, 2003

Everybody Loves Tolkien!

Reading constantly is a habit that sadly was only recently acquired in the last couple of years (Marriage rules!). At the present I am reading a bit of sci-fi by Orson Scott Card, Ender’s Shadow. This has turned out to be an excellent follow up to his classic Ender’s Game. I just finished a new edition of Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues under the Sea, which has ¼ of the original French edition restored. Slowly, but surely I am getting through Mountain of Silence. Another great read, but I have been too distracted with Ender. Finally, I am devouring a fantastic biography J.R.R. Tolkien, Architect of Middle Earth, by Daniel Grotta-Kurska. Obviously, written in the 70’s complete with psychedelic caricature of “Tolk” adorning the cover (I have a strange predilection for anything from the 70’s…pray for me). Anyway, as I’ve mentioned the book is great and I’ve decided to share a bit of Tolkien’s humor that truly caught me off guard. Tolkien wrote this to one of his classmates while at Oxford:

A young man wished to purchase a birthday gift for a lady friend. After much meditation and consideration he decided upon a pair of gloves as being appropriate. As his sister had some shopping to do, he accompanied her to a ladies wearing apparel shop. While he was selecting the gloves, his sister made a purchase of a pair of drawers for herself. In delivering the parcels that afternoon, by mistake the drawers were left at his sweetheart’s door with a note as follows:--

Dear Velma:--This little token is to remind you that I haven’t forgotten your birthday. I didn’t choose it because I thought you needed them, or because you hadn’t been in the habit of wearing them, or because we go out evenings. Had it not been for my sister I would have gotten long ones but she says they are wearing the short ones—with one button. They are a very delicate color, I know, but the lady clerk showed me a pair she had worn for three weeks, and they were scarcely soiled at all. How I wish I might put them on you for the first time! No doubt many other gentlemen’s hands will touch them before I get a chance to see you again, but I hope you will think of me every time you put them on. I had the lady clerk try them on and they looked very neat on her. I did not know the exact size, but I should be capable of judging nearer than anyone else. When you put them on for the first time put a little powder in them and they will slip on easier. When you remove them blow in them before laying them away, as they will naturally be a little damp from wearing. Hoping that you will accept them in the same spirit in which they are given and that you will wear them to the dance Friday night, I remain,

Lovingly yours:--

P.S. Note the number of times I will kiss the back of them in the coming year!

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Wednesday, July 23, 2003

How the Munkee Got its Name

When I was a boy I often suffered from what some would call an overactive imagination. This imagination led me to envision myself in “great” roles I had seen in the world around me. I was the ride operator at Disney Land, pushing other kids around in a box on a skateboard. I was Ponch from “CHIPS” as I launched my BMX off the ramp made of bricks and plywood. I was a scientist as I experimented with the most basic of chemistry (a.k.a. dirt and urine in a mason jar). When I was 8 years old, I bought my first pair of “Camo” pants. I walked down the street with my chin in and chest out thinking, “I wonder if people think I’m in the Army?” I don’t know who I thought I was when I jumped off of the roof with two parachutes I mean umbrellas in my hands.

Today, I see the same problem still manifesting itself, but when “grown-ups” suffer from this problem we use a different term: delusions of grandeur. More recent examples include smoking a pipe my senior year of high school and imagining how sophisticated and “Lewisian” I must look. I still smoke a pipe from time to time, but do so now knowing just how silly and clumsy I probably do look, and you know I enjoy that tobacco times more having stripped away the false pretense.

When I came to Holy Orthodoxy, I learned about concepts such as hesychasm and the means to pursue it, once again the curse of my imagination overtook me. I began to imagine myself as a humble, patient, and vigilant monastic, emanating uncreated light with ease. A term I once read in a Greek Orthodox book was “Violent Monk”. That is, a monk who was truly waging great and intense spiritual battle. “Wow,” I thought to myself, “Maybe, I could hope to one day attain such spiritual depth.” Well, as I realized just how silly I was for imagining myself thusly, it struck me what the name of this blog should be. Where I’m at now as a new Orthodox convert I definitely have more in common with a monkey than I do with a monk.

In light of the aforementioned, I hope the title will serve as a reminder to myself and keep me grounded and coherent in the sharing of experiences here. I’m no monk and hardly any semblance of ascetic rests in my bones. But I’m on the road journeying with many great people who hopefully will have enough pity on me to at least drag me along by the arm. I guess this blog is really about seeing ourselves as we truly are, and not losing sight of what we may one day become.

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Friday, July 18, 2003

Just testing to see if my blog works.

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