Monday, September 22, 2014

Visit #150 ~ Third Day Panhida for Jim Martin

On the day, Jim entered into the Church
My heart has been full these past couple of days. I am very much shocked by the sudden passing of my friend, Jim Martin and I was glad to be able to attend the Third-day Panhida for him. It was right after the Divine Liturgy.  I woke up feeling sick so I didn't make it to my protestant parish for their worship service but only arrived for the coffee hour. While there, I spoke with people who knew Jim (for he had been a member there with me for many years) and everyone was in disbelief.  It was good to share some memories of Jim with them.

Here is the announcement of Jim's Repose at my protestant church; also a prayer for his family

I scooted out of there to make it to the Panhida.  I walked into the Narthex and Tami was standing in the back.  She greeted me warmly, knowing that I had lost a friend. Jim and I go back a long way. Back in our Church of the Nazarene days, we led Children's Church together. He would sing songs on his guitar and lead the kids in singing. He was a licensed minister with the Church of the Nazarene and, for a time, I was pursuing that as well so we would go to "minister's meetings" together.  That was then. Now I can say it has been  a joy  for me to see Jim embrace Christ in the Orthodox Church. I am happy I had a small part in that. (Jim noticed that on Goodreads, which is like facebook for book lovers, that I had been reading the Orthodox Study Bible and he asked my opinion. After I gave it, I directed him to my blog so he could get the full story. Well, he read the entire blog in one weekend and he ended up attending Vespers and the rest, as they say, is history! You can read about Jim's first visit to our parish here)

I arrived at 11:30 and Communion was just finishing up. I stood in the back and I did notice Tiffany was in the back with her husband, Andrew.  Glancing at the Icons that are painted on the wall, I noticed that Tiffany was standing right by the Icon of St. Patrick, enlightener of Ireland. That was Jim's baptismal (or, rather, Christmation) Name.  I don't know if she planned it that way but it was cool to think that she was standing by the Icon of the Saint who meant so much to her father.

Jim's Icon of St. Herman
The service, which lasted about a half hour, was beautiful.  To hear the name James Patrick being prayed for was a bit surreal but I joined in as much as I was able.  It was a bit emotional me when, towards the end, Father Gary chanted, rather slowly, "Let his memory be eternal."  When the service ended, I was, of course, going to greet Tiffany but she was talking to some  people and I waited in the back. I came across Reader John, Tami's husband, who was very emotional and gave me a warm hug, with tears in his eyes. He was especially broken up about Jim's passing because John was Jim's sponsor in the Church.  (I guess that makes him a Godfather, right?) Later on, I greeted other people who were just as much in a state of shock as I was in regards to Jim.  People knew that Jim and I go back a long ways and they were very kind to me.  One person said that he will be very missed. That I know is true. Jim had a presence about him and you knew when he was in a room.

When Tiffany was free, I, of course, gave her a hug and told her how sorry I was. She said, "Come here, I have something for you."  She then took me into the Narthex where she presented me with Jim's Icon of St. Herman.  Although Jim took the name Patrick, he had a special bond with St. Herman because Jim loved Alaska so much!  Tiffany said that her father would want me to have this because I was the one who got him here.  I accepted the Icon, with tears in my eyes and with a full heart.  I was honored to have a small part- and yes, it was small; I just pointed the Way- in Jim's entrance into the Church.

Today, will be the viewing at the funeral home. My wife and I will go.I am trying to make arrangements to attend Jim's funeral tomorrow. Even as I type this, I am in communication with someone who is seeing if she can take my shift. As a Federal officer at the Airport, it can be difficult for me to get time off but I am hopeful.

Jim, Tiffany and Ben on the day they entered into the Church
Becoming Orthodox
Memory Eternal, Jim.

Sorry, but I can't get one line from the movie Ghostbusters, out of my head. Towards the end of the movie when, in order to save the City, the heroes had to risk death, Bill Murray says, "See you on the other side, Ray," 

So I say, "See you on the other side, Jim."

Friday, September 19, 2014

My friend, Jim Martin ~ May his Memory be Eternal!

Jim and Jim!
In the Narthex of our Orthodox Parish
I was shocked when I came home today at 7pm to learn that my friend, Jim Martin, passed away in his sleep.  I learned it by way of  a short message in my Facebook inbox from his daughter, Tiffany.  Never has a one sentence Message stunned me so much! . "My dad passed away this morning," the message said . I could hardly believe it!  It seemed like it was only yesterday that I was talking to him at the Ethnic Fair as he cheerfully manned the Beer Tent. How I enjoyed our conversation that evening, as he talked to me about his love for the Liturgy, his feeling of  peace now that he had found the Church and how unworthy he felt in partaking in the Body and Blood of Jesus each Sunday.  His humility during that conversation was an inspiration to me. 

I will miss him.  May his memory be eternal and may his soul dwell with the blessed!

Jim and his daughter Tiffany being
received into the Church

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Visit #149 ~ Lifting up the Cross of Christ!

It was good to be at Vespers last night! It was also good that my son, Justin visited with me. Today was extra special for him because, before Vespers official started, he got to see the Icon of the Cross (which was adorned with flowers) brought out to the center of the Nave while we sang hymns. Also, later on, he got to see a Litya service for the first time.  Justin admitted to me later that he was a bit distracted during service but I can totally relate to that.  The important thing is to keep coming to the services, enduring the "hard times" when it is difficult to pay attention. I know it is spiritually uplifting when we attend Divine Services and that is why I keep coming back!

By the way, is there a special word for when, before the Vespers service begins, when they switch out the Icons that are in the middle of the Nave? Comment below and let me know, please!
Russian Orthodox crucifix
photo by Jim Forest,
used under the creative commons license
check out more of his work at:

Fr Gary talked about Joy being associated with the Cross. At first, it is not obvious that would be the case because the Cross meant death and pain for Jesus. But Joy is the result of the Cross because our relationship with God is restored. For this reason, we bow before it, worshiping God for the Cross.

Justin and I arrived early because Justin wanted to light a candle and say a prayer before the service began. It turns out that there was a service remembering the repose of a boy who died ten years ago at the age of 12. (Tami told me about it, just before Vespers.) It was so sad to hear how this family had to watch a young boy die because he contracted meningitis and died within a couple of days. How does a family get over that? With Alexandra passing away last week and the memorial service for this boy this week, it certainly does put things in perspective. May the boy's memory be eternal and may God grant comfort to his family. Also, may the memory of Alexandra be eternal!

I had always been reluctant to light a candle. I think I always thought I'd wait until (if ever), I became a catechumen but, I think, I shall light some candles in the near future and let them be as a prayer to God. I spoke with Deacon Alexander with whom I was supposed to meet but, because of our busy schedules, haven't done so yet. He said to contact him next week so we can set up a time.  He also said he is going to grow back his beard! Now, that sounds like a very Orthodox thing to do, don't you think?

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Visit #148 ~ Vespers again with my Son, dinner with my wife and Some Sad News!

a selfie with my son
Justin came back to Vespers with me Last night. But first we stopped for some pizza. What was really great is my wife, who was a work, timed her break so she could join us for pizza.  While we waited for my wife to arrived Justin and I chatted. He is up to to Exodus now in the Bible that I bought for him.I really discourage people from reading the Bible "cover to cover" because most of the time people run out of steam when they get to Leviticus~ all those laws and stuff. Pretty dry stuff for most people. Justin said he'd also like to attend a Divine Liturgy but that would require some "energy drinks" for him because he works the Saturday night before.  We'll have to make sure we go one Sunday.

My wife arrived a bit late because she got stuck at work but it was good to see her. She loves mushroom pizza and so do I.  Now that our children are grown, it is nice for us, as parents, to sit and talk with them around a shared meal.  Karen had to rush back to work and Justin and I went to Vespers. We arrived a bit late (How's that for being truly Orthodox ) and Justin was a bit disappointed because he said "I don't want to miss them swinging the incense around" We arrived at the Kathisma and only missed "one round of the incense.  Justin said he wanted to light a candle. That is something we can do next week. I have never lighten a candle before and I think it can be a bit tricky. I see people lighting the candle and then melting the bottom before they place it in the holder.  I think I'll have to call in Tami for some help next week!

dinner for Karen and I
I got some sad news.  One of the Choir members whom I have talked to a few times, passed away. She is the one whose name I could not remember in this blog post here. Alexandra Kulnyi is here name and I have been impressed by her piety on several occasions. I always observed how when she either sang or led the choir, it would be an act of Worship.  Alexandra's funeral will be Tuesday evening/Wednesday morning and I am afraid I won't be able to attend. I have a class I am taking for my job and it is on Tuesday evenings. I might be able to arrive late but I will see. Remember Alexandra in your prayers, if you will.

One question before I sign off. Tami fed everyone some wheat based "snack" which was blessed and it is somehow associated with the newly departed. Can some one tell me the significance of that? There are so many traditions in Orthodoxy, I don't think I am able to keep up. But I am having fun trying to!

Monday, September 1, 2014

Visit 147 ~ My Son at Vespers again and I have 3 seconds of fame on Sr. Vassa's Video podcast!

Justin, in our protestant church
Vespers was good last Saturday and, not least of which, because my son Justin came with me.  Since he moved out some time ago, I don't see him all that much.  So what he does is come to my house Saturday afternoon and then we go to Vespers. Afterwards, I drive him to work where he is on the night shift. Before Vespers we stopped at Wendy's for a quick dinner and we did a lot of catching up.  He is really enjoying the Bible I bought him last week and said he hasn't been this excited about reading the Bible since he was in high school. (Back then he was a fundamentalist Christian.) He is looking forward to reading all the books that Martin Luther excluded from the Bible. I am just glad he is reading the Bible and I am happy to help him on his journey to God, both by my prayers and my example.

When we walked into the narthex, I asked Justin if he wanted to follow along in a service book. He said no. He said he found himself just looking at the pictures (Icons) whenever he was distracted from the hymns. I guess that's a good place to go in your head. I know for myself, I sometimes don't pay attention to the hymns like I ought but the Icons help me remember the reason why I am at Vespers.

Fr Gary's homily was very good. He talked about the upcoming civil holiday in the United States called Labor Day and talked about how we must labor in our journey towards God. I especially like how he said that the work we do isn't to earn points for our salvation but, rather, is a response to our love for God.  

Because of work schedules, my wife and I don't see each other as much as we used to. That means that every other Saturday, I would spend with her instead of going to Vespers.  Well, it turns out, she has a new position at her job and, new days off. She'll be working every Saturday so I'll be able to go to Vespers every Saturday.

Please remember me in your prayers.  My shift will change in October and I may not be able to get the days off I have now which is good both for Vespers attendance and spending time with my wife.  Pray that it all works out.

I am a big fan of Coffee with Sr. Vassa. At the end of her videocast, she features "selfies" of people holding her coffee mug. My mug is shown below! If you click below, I have it cued up to start right where they start showing the selfies. I took the picture in my protestant parish prayer room and sent the message to Sr. Vassa that "even protestants love to watch Sr. Vassa." She responded to me, via email, "Thanks for watching, my protestant friend!" Wow, I rubbing shoulders with Orthodox celebrities now! :)

You can also watch the entire videocast from the beginning. As always, it is very interesting to listen to.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Visit #146 ~ My Two Sons go to Vespers to Meet the Bishop around a Campfire

A Talisman in my son's pockets?
I almost didn't go to Vespers Saturday because I was really tired but, on my way home from work, I get a call from my son,Justin,  who recently moved out, saying he wanted to go to Vespers with me. I said, "Sure," but it may be a long service because the Bishop is visiting.  The last time the Bishop was here, the Saturday night Vespers included a matins service as well so it went on for a while.Justin said,  no problem. When I arrived home I took a power nap and Justin arrived. When my other son, Daniel,  found out that the Bishop was going to be at Church, he said, "Wow, a Bishop, I can't miss that!"   I don't know what he was expecting to see....being a Protestant, he might have had visions of papal pomp and circumstance surrounding Bishop Michael, along with numerous attendants and, perhaps, angels? :)

In any event, both Justin and Daniel thought it appropriate to bring a chess piece of a Bishop and stick in their pockets to bring along with them to Vespers, since they were about to see a real, live bishop.:)  The service turned out to be an average length Vespers service and I realized they probably didn't have the longer version because Bishop Michael was going to attend our campfire after Vespers to meet and greet his flock.

Worship was great, as usual. My sons decided not to follow along with a service book but just listen. Bishop Michael's homily was very good. He preached about how we, as Christians, must read the Scriptures and live the Scriptures and then he gave St. Cosmos as an example. That Saint's story was very inspirational to listen to.  After service, the Bishop gave the blessing and the Faithful approached Bishop Michael to venerate the Cross. My sons opted out but I went.

We went to the campfire for a while and I talked with Jim Martin about Project Mexico. He said it was a great experience and I was happy to hear his stories. My son Justin roasted a marshmallow for me and it was great to be around the campfire but we couldn't stay long because Justin had to work that night and I wanted to leave before the Bishop began talking. I thought it would be rude to walk out just as he began to speak.

It was great to have my two sons with me at Vespers and I hope they can come again soon. As it turned out they didn't "meet" Bishop Michael (and neither did I, really) but they did get to see him and hear him.  It is something, I think, to listen to a man who can trace his ordination back to the Apostles.  

Bishop Michael and those who served at the altar 
Justin asked if I had an extra Orthodox Bible because he was interested in reading the "extra books." I told him I did not but, the very next day, I ordered him an Orthodox Study Bible from Amazon. It should arrive Tuesday and I will give it to him the next time I see him!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Visit #145 ~ Reflections on Jesus' Mother and Ketchup on my Shirt

ketchup messy photo: ketchup anigif_enhanced-buzz-30763-1340284481-4.gif
It wasn't quite THAT bad....
I had to stop and eat something before Vespers so I drove into Wendy's and got a burger and fries. I thought, I shouldn't get ketchup for the fries on the off chance I miss my mouth and drop some on my shirt. I am, sad to say, a slob.  I figured if I am very careful, I would finish my dinner without a mess. Well, I was wrong and didn't discover it until I was a few blocks away from Church. I contemplated just sitting in the back without any Icon veneration and then sneaking out afterwards and avoiding any contact with anyone. But I figured, what the heck, and just pretended the ketchup stain wasn't there.

Excellent worship as always. It was good to see Fr. Gary back from his trip to Project Mexico. We were, of course, commemorating the Dormition of the Theotokos so she was on my mind throughout Vespers. Sermons I have been listening throughout the week came to mind which highlighted Mary's exalted position. And with all the Icons in the Church, I couldn't help but think about her and ask for her prayers. Fr. Gary's Homily mentioned how he could see how our "non-Orthodox friend," could get the wrong idea and think that we worship Mary. The truth is we don't but other's believe we cross the line. But think about it? Jesus is fully God and fully HUMAN. How could He not but honor His own mother. Should we not do the same? Protestants miss out on so much by not asking for the prayers of the Saints who have gone into heaven.

I chatted with Patty after Vespers. John and Tami were absent and they NEVER were so I asked her about it and she said they were at a celebration up north for a priest who used to be Pastor at our parish.  That's good. I wanted to ask Tami how her week at camp was. (She goes every year to an Orthodox Summer camp and works in the kitchen. It was at that camp that I got Orthodox Jam back in my 8th Visit to the parish.) I also asked about Fr. Sergious who served Vespers last week and this week had to have a pacemaker put in.Prayers for him, for sure!

I think back on my journey towards Orthodoxy and see how much I've changed. When I first started, I began with returning to my Roman Catholic roots and used some of their prayers in my own daily devotions, especially the Chaplet of the Divine Mercy which I still think is a beautiful prayer but I understand how it's not quite Orthodox. In the beginning of this prayer you are supposed to say a Hail, Mary, which, at the time, I could not, in good conscience, do so I would replace the Hail, Mary with the Lamb of God prayer.  And look at me now! I along, with the Church, ask for the prayers of the Theotokos on a daily basis.

By her prayers and of all the Saints, may I be drawn closer to Christ and to His Church.