Icon Progressing

2014-10-23 12.15.15As I mentioned before, when a group of us wrote our icons a month ago, the weather was very humid and our icons were taking too long to dry. As a result, we were not able to finish the icons in the one week allotted. This being the case, those who desired to finish their icons needed to make arrangements to travel to Fr. Mefodii’s icon studio (click on photo to the right) near Palmyra, VA.

This past week, I drove to his studio and spent three hours working on my icon. In a morning of work, I was able to get much done and my icon is looking very nice, I think. It will probably take another one or two trips to finish but I am getting close. When done, it will have been about 50 hours of time spent writing the icon. It is satisfying to know that I am almost done.

The studio is provided by a benefactor and is located on a beautiful Devon cattle farm. The farm was, during the Civil War era, a plantation. The studio was built and used as a one-room school for the slave children of parents who worked the plantation. With a few upgrades since then, the little building is a cute and comfortable place for studio work.

But beyond working on my icon, being able to visit the studio in the morning and, at Fr. Mefodii’s invite, being able to visit St. Maximos the Confessor Skete near Palymyra later made for a special day. Below are some pictures of my progressing icon and several from inside the studio and from inside the skete. (Click on the photos to enlarge.)

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Inside the small but cozy studio.

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Inside the beautiful and sunny skete.


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Library Remember

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(Click on photo to enlarge.)

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Oh Cheryl

My friend Dave was telling me recently that he had insisted that his wife Cheryl put a certain epithet on his headstone someday but that she was pushing back. She didn’t think it was appropriate plus she felt he was being a bit too humorous and, perhaps, even sarcastic. And besides, she felt it reflected poorly on her a bit so she really didn’t like the epithet at all!

My friend is trying to figure out a way to make sure the epithet gets put on his marker somehow without making his wife uncomfortable. (Or, as he said, maybe even without her knowing!)

So here is the epithet.


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Gay Tolerance

guysgirlsSo what do you think about gayness and self-described gay individuals?

Am I already offending you and are your personal defenses already up with your moral bastions rigged and armed?

Here’s the thing and I can say this with much anecdotal experience and evidence – many in our younger generations see and have very little issue with homosexuality.  It seems many in younger generations have the idea that – basically – if two people care for or love each other regardless of their individual genders then what is the problem with two people getting together as intimate friends or marriage partners? And besides, they aren’t hurting anyone (which is its own discussion, of course) by publicly professing and demonstrating their love for each other so what is the big deal?

I am not going to defend or condemn homosexuality here or anywhere. I am way beyond the right and wrong of this thing. So far beyond… Frankly, the rightness and wrongness of homosexuality doesn’t concern me too much anymore. My motivation behind the way I choose to deal with this issue comes from my personal understanding and realization that I live in a real and tangible world where I work with, have worked with, have friends who are, have friends who have friends who are, and spend time in counseling and listening situations with people who all completely acknowledge and, likely, live a gay lifestyle.

So what I have asked myself many times over the years is – what am I going to do about whatever the problem is? Get angry, stand on a box and cast accusations, attempt to deprogram and convert gay people to another form of supposed normalcy, or what? What is my end game by casting aspersions at people or does my end game have a conscionable and morally honorable, decent, and true end? Which works better – bare-knuckling this issue or being patiently understanding? Honestly, I am more inclined to listen and converse and attempt to be a friend with anyone without harsh and unmerciful judgment, being prejudiced, or otherwise being meanly intolerant.

Here’s where I am at and have been for a long time. There are enough angry, thumping, “principled” people out there making various argument points about homosexuality (whether the points be correct or not). I’m not one of them. Rather, I choose to be a friend, I choose to take the time – as much as possible – to listen, and I choose to invest myself in either a straight or a gay person as long as our relationship can be as honest, open, respectable, and tolerant as possible.

That’s where I am.

(After initially writing this article, this came up in my news feed. It is worth the read.)

· 2 Comments. Posted in daily goings on.

Fire Confessional

2014-10-17 19.28.56It was a few evenings ago.  We sit by a comfortable fire together on a cool, fall evening. We’re situated around his fire pit out on the back side of his property. We are hidden by covering trees and heavy bushes so it is a nice, private place but what makes it really special is that it feels like we are sitting isolated out in the mountains somewhere and not in the middle of a busy subdivision. It’s a very unique spot.

We’ve done this, actually, on quite a few occasions through the years. It is something he and I try to do several times every fall. As time goes by and as our lives are further seasoned, I think we both relish the good times we spend together around the fire pit.

I take my lawn chair and a mug of chai over to his house. My friend sits in his chair or on a bench sipping his mug of coffee. His dog pads between us – back and forth – all evening for an occasional ear scratch or friendly tummy rub from each of us. As the dusk turns into a starlit night, we move closer to the crackling, warming fire. Our conversation becomes less animated and more intimate.

We talk about relationships, concerns, things that make us happy and sad, and hopes and dreams about the future. We wonder aloud why God does the things that he does and how we need to react to God’s direction and care. We are amazed at how God has set us down life-paths that we would never have imagined.

Our conversation is spotted with silence as much as it is populated with conversation. Our ideas and emotions need to be said – but felt, too. We are comfortable enough with each other that we don’t fear silence. Sometimes what needs to be said can best be said with silence.

The fire pit is our confessional. It is a safe place.

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Avoiding It

The holidays (and my anniversary) are coming up. This is not a particularly nice time of year for me – or at least it hasn’t been for the last two years. It’s not your problem and don’t worry about it but as much as I like the lights, colors, and sounds of Oct, Nov, and Dec, I kind of wish I could skip through to Jan 1. But, I know it is a special time for others so I wouldn’t deny them their enjoyment.

I’ve felt the last few months that I might decorate up and try to get into things this holiday season but I’ve about decided that it wouldn’t feel right yet so I think I’ll forgo the festivities again this year. I have some concert tickets that I will enjoy and a few other plans with some friends and family, but that will about be it.

I was at a restaurant yesterday with some friends. I knew the waitress and she knew me. Our group was rather large so the waitress was getting the bills organized and sorted and, somehow, I was the one she had missed in her head count. She, without thinking, looked at me and said, “Oh, you’re the one alone and by yourself.” As she said it, she knew what she had done (she knows my story) and she became pretty apologetic. Of course, it wasn’t a big deal but for a few moments there, and for her and me, it all came rolling back. We worked it out and things were fine but…

This is how it is now. I guess I prefer to continue to be an avoider.

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Thank You

mountainsFor friendship  For patience  For listening  For not judging  For telling it like it is  For caring  For pushing  For getting out of the way  For challenging  For laughing  For crying  For teasing  For touching  For hugging  For eating a meal  For drinking some coffee  For having a joke  For being spontaneous  For being honest  For having emotion  For being solid  For giving space  For pushing in  For your example  For getting my back  For giving direction  For adventures  For reading  For music  For texting  For being tolerant  For leading  For reaching  For empathizing  For coming along  For sharing  For needing me  For anticipating  For fixing it  For sitting  For recommending  For waiting  For nurturing  For making it not matter  For surprises  For reminiscing  For wondering  For questioning  For conversing  For trusting  For being along side  For the fire  For wanting to talk  For consistency  For consolation  For wisdom  For intelligence  For fun  For the cloudy days  For the sunny days  For advice  For keeping up  For taking charge  For saying it differently  For summing it up  For finishing it off  For getting it started  For mattering  For cooking it up  For good ideas  For being real  For relaxing  For compliments  For being crazy  For trying it once  For saying no  For saying yes  For explaining  For rolling your eyes  For teaching  For being a pal  For being a mentor  For backing off  For being in my face  For watching movies  For sarcasm  For being witty  For praying  For comforting  For loving

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Driving Home

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Old Vets

We-Honor-VeteransBig plans for Veteran’s Day in a few weeks. I was called up and will be working with hospice staff and chaplains at two of our local facilities – one in the morning and one in the afternoon – to “pin veterans.” This is part of a national effort called We Honor Veterans. Our hospice coordinates pinning at many local facilities with our staff on Veteran’s Day and it’s neat to help out.

I did this last year and it was nice for the patients – many of who, sadly, don’t remember their service. But it’s okay. We have some nice pins to stick on their lapels and and we’re able to serve some drink and punch. Usually the vets are all brought into a common area where we call out their names, tell the service they served in and the years of their service, and thank them for their service. We then walk over to each person, shake their hand, pin their ribbon – and give them their cake.

Lots of good war stories from some of the people. These are WWII and Korean vets, of course, but last year, there was a Viet Nam vet, too. And there was one interesting person – he was a vet of both the Army and Navy. Not sure how he did that but he was proud of both and had stories from both.

And of course, the old Marines are all ooo-rah the whole time. They are funny.

Some of the patients are unable to make it to the common area so we visit them in their rooms. I remember one gentleman who was asleep – not to wake up – but we pinned his pillow and thanked him. Stuff like that is special to me.

They are all good people and I am glad we can spend a few minutes with them. I look forward to Nov 11.

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Cleansing Dirt

MushAs I write this, I am grimy, sweaty, and mostly filthy. Want to come join me? Figured not. No one does. Oh well. Thought I would ask.

Of all the things to cleanse the soul, though, dirt is the best. It’s about the most honest remedy for fixing a hurt, smoothing over difficulties, and making things feel not quite as bad as they seem to be. Mix in some sweat and aching muscles and now you have a cocktail that heals almost anything. The perfect solution. The absolute pill. The best remedy.

Hard, honest work is what can keep a person headed in the right direction. Lazing around, nomming on frou-frou delicacies, being glued to a TV or phone screen, and interacting with the world in 140 or 160 bursts of words is a recipe for physical, mental, and spiritual disaster.

I think it has something to do with focus. Working requires focus – all your senses work together to accomplish something. Hands, eyes, brain, ears, breath, and everything else is working together to make it happen. There’s unison, harmony, and rhythm. It works and feels good when it is over – something has been accomplished.

On the other hand, sitting around is all about not having any focus. Eat this, think that, text this, feel that, watch this, listen to that, and so forth. Bumming around certainly doesn’t take any physical effort so your body is being wasted. Thinking isn’t required. Some call it multitasking – I call it being a mushroom.

Liven up! Instead of wallowing in your pity and angst, try putting on some healing dirt and sweat.

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