February 23, 2009

This Means War

I had a very frightening experience Saturday night. I was up late thinking about Lent and reading about Sunday of the Last Judgment. My wife has been ill and on some nights I sleep in my oldest daughter’s bed (she is away at college) so she can be more comfortable (I tend to thrash around a lot). At about 1:00 a.m. Sunday morning I went to bed and dozed off.

Suddenly the blankets caught fire, a blinding conflagration quickly consuming the bed with me in it. I could feel the deadly heat, smell the burning cloth. I jolted awake, extremely glad it was nothing more than a bad dream. After a few moments I eased back into a troubled sleep.

Then suddenly there were three heavy claw hammers on the blanket holding me down. It was clear these were hammers of destruction and would be used on me (I have seen what a claw hammer will do to a skull and it is extraordinarily gruesome). Again I jolted awake and was profoundly glad to be back in this/our world. I crossed myself several times and asked our Lord to protect me and give me undisturbed sleep.

Again I dozed. Then knives, a frenzy of blades of all sizes jabbing at me, slashing into the bed, the blankets and me. Finally I surfaced out of the nightmare gasping for breath, really glad for the comfort of the known. Again prayers then sleep. Again a nightmare followed by a brief time awake. On and on until there was no asleep or awake, just pure terror.

A deep dread set in. I was aware enough to know that this had to stop or I would be in a very bad situation. I tried to get up but some force, some presence held me down. It was like being in the grasp of an immensely heavy and talented wrestler. Every move I made was countered. I struggled forever just to get my hand to the edge of the bed. My heart was pounding from claustrophobia but the fight just would not end. I was trapped. Finally I screamed three times for my wife to come help me. This seemed to cause the grip to ease up just enough for me to finally get up. I ripped every blanket off the bed and ran to find my wife (she never heard any scream). The struggle had gone on for 90 minutes.

I am a former U.S. Marine, and a former deputy sheriff. I have had about five years of martial arts training. I am about 6’3” and 240 lbs, a big gnarly guy not easily spooked. I was terrified. I know this sounds crazy but I have never been more aware on a visceral level of the evil in our world.

I have some idea about what may have led to all this but I’ll wait until after talking with Fr. Ted before going into any of that.

February 18, 2009

My Unbelief

Forgive my unbelief. I know that the reasons for believing or disbelieving in God are almost as varied as all those who pose the question. This is not meant to be an exhaustive discussion of the most important of all possible questions. Below are just a few of the myriad ways I see and feel the presence of the Eternal and His energy in my life.

As an example. I was doing laundry earlier this week and folded a big pile of towels and left them on the bed. My wife at the end of the day when she is tired will set the towels aside and they’ll be put away later. Well I found myself deliberately leaving them there (I could just as easily have put them away) for her to move so I could have one more grudge to hold against her. This flash of insight floored me. Am I really that kind of guy? That kind of husband? Was my old traveling companion Mr. Passive Aggression back in town? I was ashamed of myself for setting up my beloved wife this way.

What was the spark of my insight? Certainly knowing myself better as the years go by may partially explain it. But it was in reality the energy of our Father there shoring up my feeble attempts to love in all things, to lift another’s burden, to show the love He shows to me. It is through these moments when despite my fallen nature I step up and do the right thing that I know God exists. My desire says, Me! Me! Me! Our Lord says, Others. Others. Others.

When I am on the throne in my life my belief waxes and wanes. I find myself full of questions that I’ve pondered innumerable times before. How could there really be creature that created this unbelievably large universe? How could any creature guide the lives and destiny of billions of people? How can an omnipotent God hear the dogs of war, the scream of murder, the slap of abuse and not rise up in righteous indignation? Why? How? I want answers. Again it’s me, me, me. I’m just looking for ways to wiggle out of walking by faith, by seeing God where I know He will be found.

And on a deeper level it is sometimes the deep sadness of the existential dilemma, the fear of the void. There is no hope of reward. Death is death. Then I remember that if anything this life is a type of death with the true, full life to come later. The impetus to keep walking, that small silent assurance that all is well is my Lord saying be patient.

When I want to listen to some creepy, old, loud, Black Sabbath and I remember what goes in affects and flavors who I am that I see the change, the indirect proof that our Lord is there quietly prompting me to behave. The urge to self indulgence is muted, the prompting is there to get back to the journey, the quiet walk toward salvation.

Lord forgive me even sometimes during the divine liturgy when my back is hurting I find myself wondering why it takes sooooooooooooooo long? But then I feel/know we are ascending into the heavenly places, we are joining the unending praise resounding through time and eternity and I am undone. Lord, I believe. Forgive my unbelief.

February 17, 2009

Midnight Musings

It is a quiet evening. I am in the study having just returned from taking the oldest daughter back to college. Wifey and youngest daughter are safe, warm and sleeping. The lethargy/depression of the past few weeks seems to finally be lifting. I actually slept last night. Just a few nights ago I was up at 3:45 a.m. wide awake.

Today I was in the yard with my daughter painting one of my old sculptures and constructing a new one in the front yard. I wonder what the neighbor will think of that. I've been watching the Ovation channel on TV and they have some very interesting shows about artists (thankfully) outside the mainstream “ART” world who do some of the same type stuff I’ve done over the years. I’ve made mobiles and sculptures out of coat hangers and other assorted wire, I’ve made sculptures out of post-it notes and cardboard, I’ve painted several decent painting (my wife loathes one of them and it is doomed to living behind the door), I have made a piece that tries the bridge the gap between painting and story telling, I’ve taken lots of photos and I’ve done a little writing. I guess seeing these other artists and how they are treated with respect shone a little light into my dim brain. Forgive me if it sounds like I’m boasting. I’ve always felt a need to create and it just manifests itself in many ways.

Too late to write more but next up will be, Lord I believe. Forgive my unbelief.

February 15, 2009

Unemployment Benefit

I discovered one benefit of being unemployed. Last week I was very blessed to attend the divine liturgy at my parish presided (I’m not sure that is the right term) over by His Beatitude, Metropolitan Jonah and His Eminence, Archbishop Dmitri. They were both in Jacksonville for the Diocese of the South’s Annual Pastoral Conference. There are some wonderful photos from the conference Here.

I attended an ordination presided over by His Eminence a few years ago when I was just learning about Orthodoxy, but I did not fully understand and I could not take communion. This was a wonderful, memorable experience of a higher order. Both men demonstrated their great love and warm sense of humor and the respect they hold for each other. Being there was the best possible place I could have been in all the world that morning. At the risk of sounding hyperbolic I felt as if I was at the axis mundi. When we are led by such fine, humble, wise, practical, men we are in the best possible hands. The Lord has answered many prayers and we in the OCA and in the Diocese of the South are very blessed.