Wednesday, February 29, 2012

"After-Birth Abortion"

[The Telegraph, February 29] Parents should be allowed to have their newborn babies killed because they are "morally irrelevant" and ending their lives is no different to abortion, a group of medical ethicists linked to Oxford University has argued.
The article, published in the Journal of Medical Ethics, says newborn babies are not “actual persons” and do not have a “moral right to life”. The academics also argue that parents should be able to have their baby killed if it turns out to be disabled when it is born.
The journal’s editor, Prof Julian Savulescu, director of the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics, said the article's authors had received death threats since publishing the article. He said those who made abusive and threatening posts about the study were “fanatics opposed to the very values of a liberal society”.*
The article, entitled “After-birth abortion: Why should the baby live?”, was written by two of Prof Savulescu’s former associates, Alberto Giubilini and Francesca Minerva.
They argued: “The moral status of an infant is equivalent to that of a fetus in the sense that both lack those properties that justify the attribution of a right to life to an individual.”
Read the rest.

*I am going to go on record right now and say that if this represents the "very values of a liberal society", then I am absolutely and fanatically opposed to the values of a liberal society. I'm glad the authors of this "study in ethics" managed to nail me so accurately. They have just slid another hundred meters down the slippery slope. A good illustration of taking something to its logical conclusion, except that they haven't finished yet. On the other hand, it's nice to see that they think that killing newborns is no different from abortions. The obvious flip-side to that is abortions are no different from killing newborns.

"The truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it." --Flannery O'Connor

h/t Ad Orientem

Jonathan Jackson's journey to Orthodoxy

I don't follow the Hollywood annals, not at all. Just not interested frankly. Therefore I am woefully ignorant of most big names, much less know where they belong (sitcom, movie, soap opera, sports...).

So when I saw that Fr. Andrew Stephen Damick had interviewed Jonathan Jackson on his podcast Roads from Emmaus I was uninterested. I didn't even know who this was (Technically, I still don't other than what I've read on Wikipedia and heard on the interview. He starred on General Hospital and Tuck Everlasting.). Why did I decide to listen to it? To be honest, I was procrastinating doing my prayer rule. Not a great reason.

Well, despite my not-so-honorable reasons, I enjoyed a very good interview. Mr. Jackson is rather counter-cultural in one very obvious way: he married at 20 and now has three children (he is 29 - I had four children by that point so I feel a connection). I am definitely a proponent of young marriage. Also of intact marriage which is a rather rare thing in Hollywood.

The reason he was interviewed is this: Mr. Jackson and his family are catechumens and will enter the Orthodox Church on Holy Saturday this year. The Orthodox Church doesn't have a whole lot of superstars - people in the public eye - in this country so this stands out. Everyone knows Troy Polamalu, the Pittsburg Steelers football player known for his magnificent hair and his devotion to the Orthodox faith, but other genuine examples are rather thin. But this isn't the reason I would encourage you to listen to the interview.

Orthodox convert readers will probably recognize some similarities between Mr. Jackson's conversion story and their own - sometimes with amusement. One thing I noted was a growing confirmation of my feeling that men and women come to the Orthodox Church differently. Not unequally, just differently. Very reflective of the differences between men and women fundamentally.

Whether you are Orthodox or not, convert or cradle, you will enjoy this interview. Mr. Jackson is a good speaker - he is an actor after all - and his journey is a long and fascinating one. He also discusses the impact his faith has on his acting, something that most people would find hard to reconcile. Try to put aside some time in the next several days for this purpose. I find that listening to the story of someone's journey to the Church is a good boost during Lent, a reminder of why I made my own journey. Now to stop procrastinating and go do my rule.

(Here is the link to Fr. Damick's post on the interview.)

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

29 Day Alphabet Photo Challenge: Y

 Next to last day! I've been adding other letter photos here and there as I find them (just got a few more today). After this is done I might put together a photo collage of my favorite of each letter.

Eiffel tower upside down
Vintage egg beater


Azaleas (blooming!!)

Sufficient Grace

I won't be posting much this week since it's the first week of Great Lent. I'll finish out the alphabet and may post something here and there as it strikes me. I'm trying to cut back my computer time as well. Wild horses couldn't drag out of me how long I sit here and turn into a zombie.

As the fast approaches I always have a hopeless feeling. I admit I don't like fasting. Not at all. It's not that I don't see the use of it, the good it does or the purpose of it, I just don't like to do it. I know there are a lot of people who genuinely like fasting. I'm not one of them. Plus, I am not a cook - I don't enjoy cooking pretty much at all. When I cook for my family it is honestly a gesture of love because I'd rather be cleaning the bathroom. (Not that I don't grumble sometimes - I'm not a saint.) When you add in having to come up with fasting menus I feel all done in. I would be happy to never actually have to think about the process of preparing food. So with all of this, as the fast nears I just want to run away.

Something I forget - and I have forgotten it every single year for the past 14 years now - is that at the last minute I will somehow be given the grace to endure the fast. Sometime between dawn on Forgiveness Sunday and the end of Forgiveness Vespers I realize that I can do the fast and it's not so horrible after all. I actually feel an eagerness to run the race. I am attributing this completely to God's grace because of all I mentioned above. Those feelings clearly don't come from me.

I won't be posting about fasting during the fast. (I may post a fasting recipe if I come across something I'd like to share.) I'm not going to talk about my own fasting rule and I'm not interested in knowing anyone else's. This is one of those weird circumstances where we move through Lent together - it's hard to do this alone - but at the same time our rules are our own. This is between my spiritual father and me and there is nothing to be gained (and a lot to lose) by discussing it.

That said, however, I will wish each of you a blessed Lent and the grace to run the race. Let us move together toward Pascha when we will sing "Christ is risen!"

Monday, February 27, 2012

29 Day Alphabet Photography Challenge: X

 First day of Lent, Clean Monday, so not much in the way of posting (and not a whole lot this week).

From some Civil War playing cards

 This next picture is appropriate to the day for a very funny reason. When we were on our way to church this evening for the Great Canon of St. Andrew, Pickles (very excited) asked, "What color and how big is the cannon?! I can't wait to see it!!" Uh oh...

From an old copy of Treasure Island

Folding table

Detail of chair on porch

Sunday, February 26, 2012

29 Day Alphabet Letter Challenge: W

Father's favorite drink
Architectural detail near window seat

Basket detail

29 Day Alphabet Photo Challenge: V

Sorry, day late and dollar short. Maybe one day I'll get well.



Spinning wheel



Forgiveness Sunday

Please forgive me for anything I have done 
or said or written to hurt any of you.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Storm clouds moving away

No more will you need to skip over "storm stories" with a grimace. No more the obligatory comments on "how can you delight in destruction?" No more confusion.

I am moving the whole kit and caboodle to a new blog, "The Siren's Call: everyone else runs for shelter, I'm on the porch." I will be moving back posts about storms from PWMF to that blog but it is in reality a new blog, not just a shelter for scorned weather-related posts. I plan on thoroughly enjoying it!

If you are also bitten by the weather bug feel free to join me there.

29 Day Alphabet Photo Challenge: U

(If you're thinking you missed T, go back a post - I just put it up.)

Measuring cup handle.

End of mop.

One half of picnic basket lid.

Camera case.

The hurricane lamp again!

29 Day Alphabet Photo Challenge: T

I was dreadfully sick yesterday and got behind. Not feeling a lot better this morning but I've gotta get these letters up here!

Cross made by one of the children a few years ago.

My cross over the sink. 


Hurricane lamp.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Make this Lent a productive one.

Fr. Benedict has a wonderfully succinct post on participation during great Lent so the whole thing doesn't go by "in a purple haze" (and he notes that he wasn't aware of the Jimi Hendrix song of that name and I wasn't either). Here is a short excerpt but be sure to go read the whole thing. It's the perfect length.

Seven ways for Orthodox Christians to participate in Great Lent

0. Before we even begin, we ask forgiveness of any whom we may have offended, and forgive from our whole heart all who have offended us. “If you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift.”

1. By keeping a serious fast. As the Lord kept a fast of forty days in preparation for his spiritual combat, so do we. The fast is designed to cut down on foods that contribute to the passions and to weaken our carnal appetites; to make us more ready for prayer, because it is impossible to pray on a full stomach; and to make us realize more intensely our dependence on God – man does not live by bread alone. 

For adults in good health, the Church generally counsels abstention from all animal products (meat and dairy), with the exception of fish with no backbones. [Shellfish were the poor man's diet in the ancient world. Lobster, far from being a delicacy, was considered poor fare indeed.] When in doubt, consult your spiritual father. Fasting is not a straight jacket. 

Of course, there is no point in keeping a fast from food if we will merely take out our frustrations on our brothers and sisters, and generally have a rotten attitude. We fast from sin as well as from foods.

Oh, and don't forget, fasting does not mean that we scrupulously avoid every trace of meat and dairy, only to gorge ourselves on “fasting” food. Gluttony comes in many forms.

And finally, keep your eyes on your own plate.
2. By more frequent and intense prayer. If we have gotten sloppy in our prayer life, this is the time to get back on track. Daily prayer, in morning and evening, is a good thing for every Christian. Don't have an Orthodox prayer book? Get one! Don't have a prayer rope? Get one! Practice saying the Jesus prayer during the day, while driving, while walking, while sitting, during the night, while standing in front of your icon corner, while lying in bed . . . Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me!

Read the rest.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

29 Day Alphabet Photo Challenge: S

Only one photo today but it's appropriate: an "S" from the auditorium where the regional science fair awards were given out today.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Shrove Tuesday and Dutch Babies

As Orthodox Christians we don't observe Shrove Tuesday and we certainly don't observe Mardi Gras (both names for the day preceding Ash Wednesday), however, pre-Lenten traditions are similar around the world and in different faiths. For those in the West Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, for those in the East, on Clean Monday. "Shrove" refers to forgiveness - people would go to confession and receive forgiveness before Lent began. In the East the day before Lent begins is Forgiveness Sunday in which we all ask forgiveness of each other.

It is traditional to eat pancakes on Shrove Tuesday in many English-speaking countries. Growing up as a Catholic I know we had pancakes many times on this date. In fact, in many countries today is called "Pancake Day".

In Slavic cultures blini (similar to crepes) are eaten during Cheesefare Week, the week before Lent begins. During this week no meat is eaten and dairy and eggs are allowed every day. Beginning with Clean Monday no meat, dairy or any animal products are allowed, so this was one way to both clean out your larder and have one last hurrah, so to speak. This is the origin of eating pancakes on Shrove Tuesday as well since the fasting rules were the same in the West as in the East until not too long ago.

Well, I don't know how to make blini and am not too enthusiastic about learning. Pancakes are common enough. But there is one dish that we consider "special" that fits the bill quite nicely: Dutch baby pancakes. If you've never had this, or even seen it, you are in for a treat. The children love watching it rise, and rise it does!

Dutch Baby Pancakes

(the feed-a-crowd version: use 2 cast-iron pans or very large casserole)
  • 2 sticks butter
  • 12 eggs
  • 3 cups milk
  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • dash of nutmeg

(the more normal-sized version: use 1 cast-iron pan or large casserole)
  • 1 stick butter
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • dash of nutmeg
Preheat oven to 400. Put one stick of butter in each pan and insert in oven to melt. Do not let the butter burn.

In a large bowl stir together milk and flour until just combined. Beat eggs with a fork in a separate bowl then add to the flour and milk mixture. Stir together well - it should be lumpy. Add nutmeg or cinnamon if desired.

Pour into pans and put pans back into preheated oven.

Cook for 20 - 25 minutes or until knife comes out clean. Serve immediately because pancake will begin to fall as soon as it comes out of the oven. Serve with syrup, honey, jelly, preserves, lemon curd, nutella - anything you like. Traditionally this is served with a dusting of powdered sugar and a sprinkle of lemon juice.


The Mystery of Communion

Fr. Benedict posted a wonderful post about the mystical nature of communion - truly the body and blood of Christ. Many people ask, "If this is really the body and blood of Christ, why does it still look like bread? How do you know it's not just bread and wine? It's nothing more than a symbol."
Our father Abba Arsenius told us of an inhabitant of Scetis, of notable life and of simple faith; through his naivete he was deceived and said, "The bread which we receive is not really the body of Christ, but a symbol." 

Two old men having learnt that he had uttered this saying, knowing that he was outstanding in his way of life, knew that he had not spoken through malice, but through simplicity. So they came to find him and said, "Father, we heard a proposition contrary to the faith on the part of someone who says that the bread which we receive is not really the body of Christ, but a symbol." 

The old man said, "It is I who have said that." 

Then the old men exhorted him, saying, "Do not hold this position, Father, but hold one in conformity with that which the catholic Church has given us. We believe, for our part, that the bread itself is the body of Christ, and that the cup itself is his blood, and this in all truth and not a symbol. But as in the beginning, God formed man in his image, taking the dust of the earth, without anyone being able to say that it  is not the image of God, even though it is not seen to be so [in other words, God took dust and endowed it with His own divine image in very reality, even though this image is invisible]; thus it is with the bread of which he said that it is his body; and so we believe that it is really the body of Christ." 

The old man said to them, "As long as I have not been persuaded by the thing itself, I shall not be fully convinced." 

So they said, "Let us pray God about this mystery throughout the whole of the week, and we believe that God will reveal it to us."
Read the rest

29 Day Alphabet Photo Challenge: R

(I may do "S" later in the day to catch up.)

Being sick really takes it out of you so I asked for help today. I caught three children and had them draw "R"s for me. All I said was, "make it big and colorful."

(Found this later and added it:)


Monday, February 20, 2012

Funny, this has never been on my list.

This is amazing:

The Montana Standard reports that a 55-year-old man was charged this week with reckless driving after he led police on a high-speed chase early last Thursday morning. Police said the man tailgated a police car for about seven blocks and then pulled past it and drove away at more than 70 mph. Officers pursued, and after a while the man pulled over. But as an officer approached his car, he took off again and the chase continued, this time at speeds over 100 mph. Officers radioed ahead to have "stop sticks" put on the road. Those punctured the car's tires and the man finally pulled over.

Asked why he had led police on the dangerous high-speed chase, the man replied, "I just always wanted to do that."
 (BTW, if you like this sort of thing Lowering the Bar is a hilarious legal humor site.)

Music Monday: Bill Bailey

Ok, first, this is not one of those instant gratification posts. [groans] Yes, yes, class, you're going to have to work for this one. And there will be a quiz afterward. (:

First, how many of you have watched the Britcom Black Books? Anyone....anyone...? Voodoo economics. Oh no, wait...that was Ferris Bueller, wrong lecture. Ok, scratch that. So, anyone? A few? Good, but not good enough. By the time you finish this post you will learn to LOVE Black Books. Well, ok, that might be a slight exaggeration. You will LIKE IT VERY MUCH.

For the less enlightened of you, here is the basic plot summary lovingly written by me lifted straight from Wikipedia because I'm too tired to type all of this (excerpted):
Bernard Black is the proprietor of his small bookshop, Black Books. The series revolves around the lives of Bernard, Manny, and Fran. A central theme is Bernard's odd position as a belligerent and openly hostile shopkeeper who has a loathing of the outside world and all the people who inhabit it, except his oldest friend, Fran, who initially runs a trendy bric-a-brac shop, Nifty Gifty, next-door to the shop.

Bernard displays little enthusiasm or interest in retail (or, indeed, anything outside drinking, smoking, and reading) and actively avoids having to interact with anyone, even inside his shop, as he has a personal dislike of his customers, treating his bookshop more like a personal library.

Manny is introduced in the first episode as a stressed-out accountant who enters the bookshop seeking The Little Book of Calm. During a drunken night out, Bernard offers him a job as a shop assistant and a room above the shop if he will do Bernard's accounts for him. Sobering up, Bernard realises Manny's optimistic nature is not suited to "this kind of operation". Fran, however, seeing that Manny is good for Bernard, forces Bernard to let him stay.

Many episodes are driven by Manny and Fran's attempts to force Bernard into a more socially acceptable lifestyle.
 [Time out: how many of you are wondering why the heck this counts as a "Music Monday" post? Stay with me.]

 Ok. So now you know the general premise. Well the basic plot (the pertinent part) of the episode I'm going to discuss is this: Fran wants to learn how to play the piano and is sure she can. She's hired a grumpy, perfectionistic blind man to teach her. She has her first lesson in the shop and is, to put it mildly, awful. Manny is relaxed and happy because he's about to have a few days off. Bernard is hoping to get a date with someone he met in a bar. (That last bit doesn't change much from show to show.) Bernard heads out for a drink and Fran, instead of practicing, runs out the door after him. Manny comes back in checking a stock list and see's they've left. He turns the radio on to classical music and sits down on the nearest seat, the piano bench, to continue checking his list. He idly adds a few notes on the piano as the piece is played and then suddenly turns around, flings the papers down, and plays the piano. Well.

Now, everyone has seen shows in which one of the characters plays the piano or some other instrument. Usually that piano is a dummy one and they're doing a nice job miming to a recording. Unless they're pretty talented you can tell right off they're not really playing. When I saw this show the first time I automatically assumed that he was playing to a recording. That assumption was blown to bits about 1 second into it and I realized he's really playing the piano that well. The character, Manny, is of course shocked out of his gourd. Here is the link to that particular bit where he finds out he can play. It's really funny. He does a good job being shocked. [I would embed it but Channel 4 won't let me. :( ] You have to watch it.

Anyway, he comes in the next morning, bright and sunny, to find Fran and Bernard massively hung-over. Their expressions when he starts to play are priceless. The episode actually gets funnier from there if possible because both of them use the hapless Manny to their own advantages. Again, you have to watch it. Here is the link to the first part of the episode. [6:50 is where the funny part starts.]

Naturally I had to do some investigating so I looked up Bill Bailey, the actor who plays Manny. Well, wouldn't you know it: he got an A in A-level music, the only one at his school to do so, and has perfect pitch. Not only does he play the piano, but the guitar, the theremin, the kazoo and bongos. Well, you can't say he isn't versatile. He's also a stand-up comedian. He's become one of my favorite actors. [He's also a Trekkie, but I won't hold that against him.]

One thing I'm enjoying watching very much right now (haven't actually finished it) is Bill Bailey's Remarkable Guide to the Orchestra. Anytime you can combine humor and music is a good time as far as I'm concerned. This is LONG but well worth watching. Come back tonight with some popcorn. (:


[What, you didn't believe me?]

1. What does Manny use to play the piano when Manny and Fran are impressing their friends?
2. What piece does Manny play first for Bernard and Fran?
3. Why should the word "Lift" make you laugh if you watched at least the first five minutes of the orchestra guide?
4. How many people think I should nix the humor attempts and stick to Orthodoxy?

When you are done and have checked your work, please bring your papers to the front and place them in alphabetical order, upside down on the right corner (my right, not yours) of my desk. Have a nice day!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Sunday of the Last Judgment

Also called Meatfare Sunday (as it is the last day to eat meat before Pascha), the Sunday of the Last Judgment is the fourth in a group of five pre-lenten Sundays readying us for Lent.

The first is Zacchaeus Sunday in which we remember that our first move toward salvation is to seek out Christ and invite him in. The second is the Sunday of the Publican and the Pharasee in which we are reminded of how to pray: not in public, full of pride, but humbly, asking God's mercy since we are the last and lowest. The Sunday of the Prodigal Son reminds us that God is always waiting to joyfully welcome us back into the fold, no matter what we have done.

The Sunday of the Last Judgment is celebrated to remind us that this life and world are temporary, that all things come to an end except Heaven and Hell. We will be judged according to our words and works, what we did and failed to do. When I think of standing in front of Christ on the last day I tremble. No one knows how vile a heart I have but He. He knows my faults, my fears, my failings. All I can do is throw myself on my face and beg, "Lord be merciful to me, a sinner!"

Next Sunday, Forgiveness Sunday (also called Cheesefare Sunday, as it is the last non-fasting day before Lent), we will celebrate the rite of forgiveness in which we personally ask forgiveness of each member of our parish (and others, should we be able to reach them). In the parishes I have been in this is done literally: the priest asks forgiveness of the entire parish and prostrates before them. We in turn come up and do likewise, then form a line beginning at his right side, each person prostrating and asking forgiveness of the next until each has asked forgiveness of the other. There is nothing general about it, you are specifically asking the forgiveness of "John" who is standing before you and you prostrate before him. [Those who are unable to perform prostrations make a bow instead.] Children participate as well. It brings tears to your eyes to see your priest very seriously making a prostration before a toddler and asking his forgiveness. None are left out.

In this wise are we readied for Lent. Father pointed out in a sermon a few Sundays ago that you get out of Lent what you put into it. Ask yourself, "What do I want to get out of Lent?" If you don't want anything, you can let it all go by in a purple haze and happily smash a red egg on your friend's head at Pascha. But don't waste your Lent. God's Church has ordained these seasons for our salvation - use them.

Article on the Last Judgment (OCA website) here.