Monday, April 26, 2010

Book Giveaway

Becoming Orthodox: A Journey to the Ancient Christian Faith by Peter Gillquist, revised edition published by Conciliar Press 1992. Soft-cover, 187 pages.

This was one of the first books I read upon my introduction to the Orthodox Church; it’s a great place to start, especially for those like me who have a Protestant mind-set. I could easily relate to Fr. Gillquist’s journey from his time with Campus Crusade for Christ through his many questions and stumbling blocks in searching for the church of the apostles.

On this quest with his fellow christian friends to discover the New Testament Church, he discovers Orthodoxy and works through issues such as Tradition, the nature of worship, venerating the Virgin Mary, and general history of the church.

This book is an easy read and would be suitable for anyone curious about Orthodoxy or on the journey to the ancient faith.

Just leave a comment here or email me @ heartjoys2002 (at) yahoo (dot) com if you’d like to be entered in the drawing set for Monday, May 3. (Limited to US participants)

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Mocha Smile

Walking into the store that day,

A weary mom found solace in a lonely

Grocery aisle...

Blessed peace of

A quiet space

Did much to ease a throbbing mind.

Funny the things you find

When heartache

Renders emotions raw...

Lifted beyond the great

Clouds of grey,

A stranger beheld

My face

And paused in kindness

Speaking seas of understanding

With the embrace

Of friendly eyes, a benevolent smile

And gentle nod.

I wonder what bewilderment

He saw that day...

Hoping his memory

Holds a glimmer

Of a thankful woman

With mocha smile.

©2010 ALT

This is part of a creative writing challenge from Magpie Tales

Monday, April 12, 2010

Byzantium: The Lost Empire

I’ve just watched the 2 part series, courtesy of Netflix, of John Romer’s fascinating program produced by The Learning Channel (1997). This is the type of documentary I enjoy most, feeling as if I’m not just a passive observer, but intensely engaged in the commentary and scenes opening up before me. And, in the case of Romer, it’s like following a friend along the ancient streets of Constantinople, over 15 centuries ago. A gentle speaking friend who knows the place well and is anxious to share it with you in that most pleasing British accent.

This was the perfect introduction to the ancient empire of Byzantium, which was the center of Christendom on earth for over 1,000 years. I’ve had a keen interest in Byzantium since converting to Orthodoxy... the icons, architecture, the court, including such notable figures as St. Justinian and his beloved wife, St. Theodora. Mr. Romer is so gifted in this work, displaying not only his thorough historical research, but presenting it with such care, ...even poetic at times. His love of ancient peoples and this era of Christendom in particular is obvious throughout the film.

I was amazed to know that the great Hagia Sofia, the famous cathedral of the ancient Byzantines, is still standing. Originally built in the 4th century, after the Turks conquered Byzantium in 1453, it became a mosque and then a museum. The entire history is fascinating; thankfully we still have relics, icons, sculpture and other artifacts to provide a glimpse, a window back into this glorious era.

The music in the documentary is a nice touch, too as we travel from busy, modern day Istanbul (ancient Constantinople) back to the days of Emperors worshipping in some of the most splendid cathedrals our world has ever known.

Five Stars.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

This is what I love about West Virginians...

As many of you probably know, there's a lot of heartache here, right now, in southern WV due to the mine explosion that took 25 lives. The rescue operation is currently ongoing in hopes of finding the 4 remaining miners alive.

In the midst of such pain, the notorious Westboro Baptist Church of Kansas has scheduled a protest at our state capital as well as near the mine site. In case you're unaware, this is the group that protests at US soldiers' funerals, believing that God is punishing the USA because of homosexuality. Here's a shot from their latest hate filled protest:

I was happily surprised... although, not completely, because I know my fellow West Virginians to be some of the most hospitable and compassionate people on the planet, when I read this:

"Charleston Flashmobbers Prepare to outdo Westboro Baptist Church"

In a hastily put-together 'anti-hate' display, hundreds of people were organized at the sites of the Westboro groups in order to counter them, to respond to their hate-filled tactics with love, with celebration and dancing. Yes, dancing.

You've got to see the video:

And, in other areas of our capital city, the anti-hate groups, out-chanted, out-maneuvered, and in essence, shut-out the voices and displays of Westboro Baptist Church.


Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Cat and Mouse

Mr. O'Malley

I am blessed to live at the edge of the forest, I really am. Except for sometimes. Ninety-eight percent of the time I love seeing the wild critters just outside my door, squirrels, deer, opossum, rabbits, turkey, chipmunks, coyote, raccoons...lots of songbirds and an occasional bird of prey, too. I take a lot of joy in our entertaining neck-o-the-woods.

Two percent of the time, however, like today... well, I am forced to face my nemesis: Fear.

It’s just this: outside of my door, the critters are cute, inside my door, they somehow become my enemy and greatest concern. I’m not sure why this is...why I lose all rational thought and can hardly function. You’d think after living here for 8 years, I’d be over it. I’m not.

This morning it seems Mr. O’Malley caught a mouse in our basement and brought it upstairs for sport. We were in our normal hustle and bustle heading out the door for the ride to school and so, I didn’t take notice of the cat’s antics ~ even though wee one said “Mr. O’Malley is pawing at the carpet in a funny way”

I arrived back home to find the cat & dog sitting together in the den, making curious faces at the basket near the bottom step. Upon closer investigation I spot the mouse, trapped - or hiding- behind the basket. I feel the blood drain from my face...

From 7:30 am until 12:30 pm the mouse remained in the same spot. The cat had lost interest and I was trying to figure out how to remove it. Silly, I know. I have no strength in this area...this is a “hubby job” only he’s not going to be home for 6 more hours and I have work to do. And I can’t get my work done until this critter is OUT.

I pray: “Lord, help me not to be such a weak vessel... please give me the strength to move this dead mouse outside”. I am such a coward.

I find the broom and a large box to scoop him into and ...what do you know.... when I move the basket to get at him, he AWAKES. He gathers himself and ambles behind my little bookcase. I freak, calling Mr. O’Malley to PLEASE come and finish the job! “Lord, have mercy!” I cannot believe I am paralyzed by a mouse.

I grab a flashlight and shine it into the dark crevasse behind the bookcase. There he is, sitting in a pile of dog hair and dust, seemingly resigned to his fate. Curiously, my thoughts went to St. Ciaran and his affinity with animals.. a prayer went up and then a strange thing happened -

As I maneuvered the little bookcase out of the way, the mouse didn’t move. He sat there .. so small. He could easily fit into my cupped hand. His ears were laying against his head, little eyes staring forward, feet tucked up under his body. My heart & mind transformed... I had not fear and anxiety, but pity.

I put the dog & cat out of the room, grabbed my box, bent down and said - out loud- to the mouse, “If you’ll just help me and go into this box, I’ll take you outside; I’m sure you’ll be much happier out there.”

He went.

Calmly, I carried him outside to the St. Francis garden at the far end of the yard. I knelt down and to my surprise, instead of scurrying, the little fellow walked out and I could see the scratch on his leg the cat had made. I think he’ll be ok. He settled into the clover, turned a bit into a semicircle, as if readying himself for a nap. And, then, as I watched him, he looked up at me - I kid you not, the little guy looked up at me as if to say, ‘thanks’.

Wonders never cease.

*That is Mr. O'Malley at top; the cute field mouse is not my photo, it was found here.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Pascha 2010

I am so thankful to be feeling better ... well enough to attend the Rush service in a few hours. This is the highlight of our year, the culmination of Holy Week to commemorate Christ’s descent into Hades and his glorious Resurrection! We’ll celebrate with candles, with solemn liturgy and with joyous shouts of Christ is Risen! Truly He is Risen! and with glad company, breaking the fast together with our church family. We are blessed to serve a Risen Saviour, blessed to worship freely in America!

Take a listen to other Paschal greetings from around the world.

Hristos vosskresse ; vo iss-ti-nou vosskresse

Tá Criost éirithe ; go deimhin tá sé éirithe

Christos anesti ; aléthos anesti

Al'Masiah qam ; haqqan qam

Krishti u ngjall ; vërtet u ngjall

Christus resurrectus est ; vere resurrectus est

Christ is Risen; Truly He is Risen!

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