I’ve taken the plunge.

I’ve had a few sites in the past that I ran, though nothing too too serious. Tonight I decided that I’m going to be purchasing a .com, along with a nice program to generate some traffic by adding the site to about 200 search engines. Of course it will remain a grass roots effort much like Orthopraxis has, getting the word out through friends, advertisements, and other such methods. I’ll be checking in with Death to the World too, to see if they’d like to help advertise, along with AFR, etc etc.

Expect to see dustandashes.net up and running soon! I would also love if any of you would like to shamelessly plug the new forum on your blogs once in awhile too, considering it meets your standards and you’d like to become a member. Keep an eye out, I’ll let you know as soon as it becomes available.

For you techies, I’ll be running it on vBulletin, and I’m more than up for suggestions and help if you’ve got experience.

Pray for me a sinner,

Blake/Isaac

St. Macarius on Prayer

January 12, 2008

“Use the empty, cold dryness of your prayer as food for your humility. Repeat constantly: I am not worthy, Lord, I am not worthy! But say it calmly, without agitation. This humble prayer will be acceptable to God.” – St. Macarius of Optina

Absence.

January 11, 2008

Allow me to begin with the thing of most importance, the realization that we are within the renewed sanctification and blessing of the Jordan, the Forerunner has preached repentance, and One has come to baptize with fire… Christ is baptized! Or as the Slavs say, God is manifested!

Allow me to catch you up on some things.

I had a pretty frightening experience a few weeks ago, which has had it’s ups and downs since then. Considering my family has a history of bleeding ulcers and polyps I’m not sure exactly what’s going on, but I’ve definitely got something going on like that. I noticed one day that I had some blood in my stool, some days were better than others, but it was enough for me to go to the doctor and get checked out. After checking a few things[and finding out my cholesterol and glucose is good plus I had lost some weight so at least that much is good] they couldn’t figure it out for sure, so in a couple of months I have an appointment with a specialist…

Good news about that is, it’s not dangerous enough for me to need to see a specialist as soon as possible. Bad news is, the doctor mentioned a colonoscopy, and let’s just say I’m not too thrilled about that. I’ve asked for humility, but this isn’t exactly what I had in mind. For those who don’t know, let’s just say it involves an enema, a tube, and a flexible light while being so doped up you don’t know what world you’re in.

I’m hoping and praying it just clears up on it’s own… the last few days have been perfectly fine, but the stomach pain is still there.  Pray for me, if you will.

What else…

Well, I found myself back in Church on the Eve of Theophany. It was wonderful catching up with everyone. I ran into my friend Virginia Chryssikos, a lovely English professor at the local College, and let her know that over my little period of absence I had read “A Night in the Desert of the Holy Mountain” which she had helped edit and revise. Please, if you ever read another book, read that one. I can’t explain how amazing it is. The next day of course was Theophany, which is absolutely one of my favorite Great Feasts. I got to catch up with Igor and Giorgi, two of my favorite parishioners who moved here from Ukraine not too long ago. My parish is pretty diverse, we’ve got a Lebanese family, some Greeks, some Russians, and some Ukrainians.

I caught up with my Godfather Subdeacon James, which was awesome too. He was happy to see me but scolded me a little, as a good Godfather should, that I need to “jump back on the saddle” and come back to Church.  Father was much the same, though a little more ‘real’… good word for Father Mark. “Real.”

He told me that I can’t call myself a catechumen if I don’t fast and pray with the Church. He told me that there are no plans for my Baptism at this point, and there won’t be at least until next Pascha, and that’s if I show my initiative and come back as I should. It’s very humbling, and was a little hurtful, but a kick in the pants goes a lot further than a pat on the back and I very much respect him for being honest and direct with me. He did reassure me however, telling me not to worry for the past or even for the future, only worry about being here, and making an effort. He told me, as the Fathers say, give blood to achieve the Spirit… without giving until it hurts you will not acquire anything salvific.

So, I’ve gotten back into my prayer rule, and I’m going to be immersing myself into the Lives of the Saints and other good spiritual reading. My job is going well, a good deal stressful sometimes but, that’s life.

If there is anything I have learned over my period of absence both from here and from the Church, it’s been this: Without grace, without Him, I am a desperate and wicked sinner with no good in me. I love myself more than God, I love myself more than my neighbor, I am an idolater. The catechumenate, I was told, is a battle… and I understand why during those prayers I was regarded as a newly-enlisted soldier of Christ. I took it lightly, I admit that; I tried to follow a schedule, follow things logically, follow things simply, and regard the catechumenate as one small step towards baptism… but it’s definitely much more. It truly is a struggle, and it truly is a battle. When I took that step, I came into His grace, but as St Isaac said… the closer we draw near to the Kingdom this will be our sign: the more temptations that multiply against us.

Please remember me in your holy prayers.

Still alive.

December 14, 2007

Well, I’ve been getting less and less hits lately, and I figured that before people stopped visiting altogether I’d let you all know that I’m still alive and kicking. We’ve got a little over a week left in training and so much information has been pouring in on us at once, we’re basically on our own now, with coaches there to help if it gets too deep for us, so it’s taking all that we’ve learned and slamming it into true to life situations. It’s been an experience! Exciting, dull, nerve-wracking, fun, just a little of everything, and you never really know what to expect next.

For those of you who haven’t visited my about me page, I’m a customer service representative for DISH Network, your leader in HD and DVR services… hey, that’s what they pay me to say. 😉

These past two days I’ve done everything from bust 2 people on credit card fraud, set people up for promotions, connect new customers, cancel services for existing customers, and tonight was especially interesting… I felt like I actually helped someone. This guy had called in wondering why he’s seeing a message on his screen that his services would soon be disconnected and he was wondering why, so I looked it over, the guy had missed his last 2 payments… well, in actuality, his now ex-wife was refusing to continue to pay the bill, and when he tried to pay with the credit card it looked like she had that zapped, too. I felt terrible for the guy, and I empathized with him and worked with him a bit, took his zip code and did a little research and informed him that for $4.95 extra, the Walgreens right up the street would send his payment to us. The guy was thrilled, thanked me profusely, by name no less, and it made me feel like a million bucks. Totally made up for the hour and 9 minutes I had yesterday of dealing with a customer who just couldn’t understand we charged an additional $5 a month for a receiver that he swore up and down he never had… don’t get me started on that guy.

All in all, I enjoy my job. I’ve made some friends, I’ve learned a little patience, I’ve helped people out and get to speak with hundreds of different personalities daily, and not all of them are pleasant, but you win some and you lose some. They pay you well enough and definitely give you enough benefits to grin and bear with the pesky customers, and it’s rewarding in and of itself when your customer shows their satisfaction with you and your company. I kinda like being the voice and representative of Dish Network.

Thankfully, in a couple more weeks I start my new shift, and I’ll have the presence of mind to spend a little more time blogging.

Remember Him.

December 3, 2007

People seem to be in a big diddly about removing “Merry Christmas” from things, and just as much, if not more, about how we’ve got these little golden dollar pieces in the U.S. now that doesn’t have “In God We Trust” written in. I can completely understand why people get mad, sad, furious, upset… whatever strikes them, but honestly, is it all that surprising?

See, a lot of us were raised to believe that this country we live in was actually formed on Christian principles, and our forefathers were the epitome of Christendom. This is laughable, at best. When you stop to consider that this country was so wrapped up, and probably is still so wrapped up into freemasonry it’s not even funny, maybe the perspective shifts just a little. There isn’t any real Christianity in Freemasonry, there was no real Christianity when the country was formed… at least not as far as politically. And to really go out there, let’s consider that Orthodoxy hadn’t even reached America until 1794, during the time of the Alaskan Mission. St. Herman pray for us.

Then, we can stop and consider that today, America has a veneer of Christianity, yet still isn’t Christian at all. America is largely hedonistic. America subscribes to spineless, heretical ecumenism. America is politically correct. America is Zionist. America simply has no backbone today to speak of, spiritually speaking… and politically speaking it’s not much better at this point in time.

If you want to fight for your right to see Merry Christmas displayed in public places, businesses, wherever, you do have that right. If you don’t want to spend any form of currency that doesn’t have God written on it, that’s your right too. However, forgive me for being nonchalant about catch phrases or coins. I don’t see a time when this country was ever Christian, and it was only a matter of time before the government which we gave too much power stepped in and revoked those rights, and we simply let it happen.

I’m aware that it’s part of a much bigger picture. My point is, you should feel the same way. The currency itself means nothing, the phrase itself means nothing, it’s these cold facts that mean it all: America doesn’t want God, and we allow whatever the government brings around to happen. That’s how it is. The people were always supposed to run the government, not vice versa.

Post a picture of Mohammed and get blown to pieces, Muslims get a pat on the back for their religious zeal. Christians pray in public and get looked at as uncaring tyrants who are trapped in the stone age, waving their rights around in people’s faces. We welcome in immigrants, give them the money they need to go spend a few months in their homeland so they don’t have to pay taxes, and send them to college for free, while American-born citizens get the short end of the stick and go in debt for years to get their ride. Ecumenists wail on about how we all worship the same God, the Church is invisible and we are all a part of the body of Christ[doesn’t matter if that body consists of nearly 30,000 parts today], and Apostolic Christians are looked upon as uncaring hateful people because we care enough about the Church of the Seven Councils than to compromise the beliefs of the Saints and Martyrs than to make someone feel good about heresy. The spirit of the age has filled our heads with noise, there is no silence. We deal with the hustle and bustle at work and at home, secularism and godlessness poured into us through the mediums of television, internet and radio. To spend an hour in solitude is to waste an hour of ‘productivity’. To live outside of the “American Dream” is to give up on the only life deemed normal anymore. Where is prayer? Where is Church? Where is life?

… And even so, God is good. I’ll never cease to be amazed at how God can send us comfort from this modern day and age in such simple, true to the soul ways. The feel of the breeze on your skin in the early morning, before the sun rises and wakes nature up with you, everything coming to life. How the ethereal colors of the sky above you seem to paint it’s colors in your soul, and all of creation seems to be moving to give glory to God, the perfect artist. Just you, nature around you, the sun above you, and that otherworldly silence… that peacefulness, that glimpse of the world to come. Oh and especially at night, when the sun’s casting it’s last rays over the watchful mountaintops, the scent of pine, cedar, mild damp earth on the wind filling your nostrils as you watch it carry the embers from the campfire gently into the sky. You feel rejuvenated, as rooted as the trees around you, your spirit reaching just as high. That warm orange sky above you fades to purple, and the stars begin to twinkle into existence, affirming that all creation glorifies Him, all is within His hand, God is in His Temple and the calm of all creation is obedient to His majesty.

When we sing with the angels His praise, when we gather with faithful seen and unseen, to hymn and chant the Lord. The labor of incense becomes fruitful once it emits it’s heavenly scent, a symbol, a prophecy coming to life before our eyes where we offer it in His temple… our unworthy hands lifted as an evening sacrifice. The flicker of the flames dances across the icons, the fire standing vigilant before them, providing us a closer glimpse of the cloud of witnesses. The Priest, censing, praying, the faithful, penitent, pious, all as one in faith and with love, a confirmation of Christian unity in an uncomprehending world, expecting to consume the Lamb who is given in behalf of all, yet never negated.

Of such things we are not even worthy… but God is good. How it would help us all to remember Him in all things, leave the blind to lead the blind and the dead to bury the dead. We are but pilgrims here. We are not home… but if we take the time to truly listen, beyond the noise, and truly look, beyond what’s seen, then home isn’t far away.

Oh God be merciful to me a sinner and cleanse me… all creation glorifies You.

What’s new?

December 3, 2007

I’m a little disappointed in myself. With job training and all, my days and nights have been getting all mixed up — I work 3 to 12, I come home and I stay up half the night, wake up late in the day, eat, shower, and get ready for another day. Waking up early is about unheard of. So I’ve missed Church for 3 weeks now, only reason being, I’m lazy.

I’d say I miss it, but if I really did I’d be getting up and going. I’m really hoping I can get day shift, I’m applying for it this week, so well wishes and prayers would mean a lot to me! I’d get a lot more straightened out and it would make my life much more manageable, believe me. My job pays great and I enjoy it 90% of the time, so that part isn’t bad, but I sure don’t appreciate spending all my day there. I’m just a day shift kind of person, I like to wake up, go to work, come home and have my day to myself. I need that to feel like I have some kind of life going on outside of work.

Anyway, enough complaining. The positives are, for now, I get every Sunday and Monday off, so I will get to participate in Divine Liturgy. It’s good pay. GREAT benefits, including profit sharing, 401k, medical dental vision and all that, discounts from Sprint, Dell, Ford Motors, and a slew of other places, tuition reimbursement, etc… and plus it’s just a big step forward in life. It’s more of a career than a day job, and it could pave the way for the future.

Speaking of future, I’ve got it in my mind to go and visit Holy Cross Hermitage as soon as I can. You can watch the trailer there, which basically sold me. I need that kind of experience and I can’t wait to have it. Reading books like Mountain of Silence and Gifts of the Desert is all good and well, but to have a talk with, get counsel and receive the blessing of true to life men who have died to the world and become more alive in Christ than I could hope to be, that would be a true blessing. A good book by a wise man is worth more than gold, and a conversation with a wise man is worth more than a book.

This Friday I’m going to see about a car, then I’ll be making some arrangements… maybe I’ll drop by and see my good friend Don too.

To suffer, is to learn joy.

November 27, 2007

The deeper sorrow carves our hearts, the more space love can fill. Often we see pain and trials at face value alone, without spirituality we fail to see their worth. Within every heartbreaking moment, every tear that falls, every time of uncertainty we’ve faced where we couldn’t see the beginning or end, there hid a blessing which helped shape our lives.

How can we learn to love selflessly if we’ve never been at the receiving end of hate? How can we relate or even begin to truly sympathize with those who suffer if we’ve not once been in their place? This is the beauty of the Passion of Christ. In every way, He suffered, thus in every way He can divinely sympathize with our own weaknesses. He is a tower and fortress to the oppressed, not only because He is our Comforter, but because He has withstood our pain. Knowing this… knowing that we as Christians should strive to emulate Christ, why do we frown in the face of trials? We should embrace them. We should rejoice in the sufferings of the Cross, knowing that sharing in those sufferings, we will also share in it’s glory, and we will understand the mysteries therein.

This world is not the place of our happiness or complete contentment. Although we are blessed beyond compare, we hardly have a taste of what’s to come. But when we begin to understand that it’s not happiness alone which satisfies, but contentment and rejoicing in every trial we’re faced with, then we can better comprehend what happiness means. I have been shaken and beaten down, I have seen things people should never see, I have felt ways people should never feel, I’ve been hurt and I’ve hurt others, life has had it’s share of tears, frustration, disappointments, darkness, hopelessness, loneliness, every type of negativity possible — and it’s by these miracles, these blessings in disguise, that I am now alive. Before, I only existed. Today, I am alive. Though I still struggle and I still fall, though I haven’t seen the last of my shortcomings or beatings, though I am weak and frail and merely stumbling along that straight and narrow way, I’m alive.

Because of days and nights without a smile I can now appreciate one. Because I’ve understood how it feels to have no one I can be a greater friend. Because I’ve seen the worst in many I can appreciate the best in those who dare to show it. Because I’ve been walked out on I’ve learned to seek out a Presence that’s real. Because I was hurt to the point of holding a grudge for nearly my entire life, I finally came to understand the liberation that forgiveness holds. I smile, I hope, I dream, I dare, I forgive, I look forward, I strive for what’s good, I pick myself up when I fall, I have sight of something with meaning, and for about a year now I feel I’ve lived life with meaning…

… and I owe it all to each and every trial I’ve ever been through, because there is no way possible I could’ve appreciated any of it without them. As silver is purified in fire, so is the soul purified in trials. As a loving father chatizes a son for correction, so too does God chastize those whom He loves. We are pruned to be made fruitful, dead branches severed and cast away. It’s hard to appreciate light without first being immersed in darkness, and sometimes we fail to see the sky until we’ve been forced on our backs. Again, to share in the glory of the Cross we must also share within it’s sufferings. To the carnal mind, a trial is a setback, to the spiritual mind, a trial is an opportunity for growth.

Let’s look patiently to the Cross when we are faced with difficulties. Let’s embrace all that’s thrown at us, in silence, in peace and in prayer, asking and hoping that God gives us the grace to find growth in such an opportunity. The broad road which leads to death is found in ease and in idleness, whereas the road to life is straight and narrow — but often only as difficult as we make it to be. Don’t ask for a lighter load, ask for a stronger back. Seek opportunity in disaster. Consider those who walked the path before you. Just as St. Paul walked in blindness for a short time before his eyes were opened to the glory of God, we should expect to experience darkness before the light. Just as Job lost everything he held dear before it was returned to him three times over, we should never expect to gain anything of value without first knowing loss. As the thief on the cross entered into spiritual life only moments before his physical death, we should be exceedingly thankful that we have been given an opportunity to become alive in Christ while we are yet so blessed. Count your blessings. Our cups are running over. Our Father has met every need and will continue to. God is present. Christ is in our midst and always has been.

Be thankful for every time you were blessed enough to be hurt, and every time you will be hurt again — because pain is only a door to happiness.