Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Apostle Saint Andrew

Today is the Feast of St. Andrew, one of the 12 apostles, also known as the first-called.

He was from Bethsaida, never married, and worked with his brother, Peter, as a fisherman. He was a close disciple of St. John the Baptist, so is thought to be an ascetic and a vegetarian. When John said, "Behold, the Lamb of God", Andrew became Jesus's first disciple. He then told his brother about Jesus and Peter also became a disciple. He was known to be tall and carried a large staff with a cross carved in it. He had the habit or erecting large stone or iron crosses wherever he went. He did not preach to large crowds like Peter and Paul, but gathered small groups wherever he went. After Pentecost he went on four missionary journeys that let him as far east as China and as far south as Africa. He was the "first-called" but was likely the last of the Twelve to die at around the age of 90 between the years 95 and 105 AD.

St. Andrew first preached in Judea to the Samaritans and in Gaza. He then went to Lydda in Palestine, to Antioch, and then to Ankara and Edessa, which is today's Urfa in Turkey. Edessa may have been the first Christian kingdom on earth, perhaps as early as 35 or 36 A.D. After Edessa St. Andrew went to the Greek town of Byzantium (later Constantinople) in 36 A.D. and appointed the first bishop, St. Stachys, who was one of the seventy disciples of the Lord. Then he preached in Bythinia, Cappadocia and Galatia, up through Greek Pontus, which today is northern Turkey. Then he turned to Georgia, Armenia and the Caucuses. This was the first trip, after which he returned to Jerusalem.

His Second missionary journey started off the same, but after getting to Georgia, he passed down to Parthia (Persia) through Kurdistan, and then further on to the Cynocefaloi people in the desert of Gedrozia (now Balochistan) near the coast and the present Pakistan-Iranian border.

This Cynocefaloi bit is pretty fascinating stuff as the name means "the dog head people". It seems that Alexander the Great and Marco Polo both had run ins with this tribe. George Alexandrou theorizes they were a tribe in the area known to, "Cut their cheeks from mouth to ear, filed the teeth, cropped the ears, and reshaped the skulls of their babies so that they would grow into a very ferocious aspect." This is also a likely explanation of the Saint Christopher icon who has the head of a dog as he said to have come from this tribe. In the Syriac text of the story it is said that after meeting St. Andrew and converting they were transformed into normal human beings. Alexandrou interprets this to mean that after their baptism they stopped mutilating themselves as that would be against Christian beliefs.

From here St. Andrew went back through Pakistan and Afghanistan following the Silk Road to Sogdiana, now Samarkand and Bokhara in Uzbekistan, not far from the border of western China all the way into Russia. Some of the churches in these areas are dedicated to and named in honor of St. Andrew because of this journey. He then headed back to Jerusalem.

The Coptic Orthodox tradition tells of a third journey St. Andrew made in Africa. He went somewhere near Ethiopia than headed to the sub-Saharan Africa, between modern Rwanda and Uganda where there was a people known as the Anthropofagi who were cannibals. The description of the people and location appears to describe what we know to be the Bantu people who lived in Mirmadona, "the place where men are food". While he was there he is said to have defeated a demon named Amayel. After this many of the people became Christians and ceased their demonic practices. Though there is no evidence of St. Andrew being in the sub-Sahara, the people living in the area, when describing demonic entities, call them Amayebe. Also, a guerilla warfare group who believes that they must eat people to receive their power call themselves Amayei-Amayei. St. Andrew would have returned through Ethiopia, then taken the road to Meroe, up the Nile and back to Jerusalem.

After the dormition of the Mother of God, St. Andrew began his final journey from Jerusalem. He went back to Pontus, then to Georgia, to the Caucuses, and to the Sea of Azov in southern Russia, on to Donets, and then to the Crimea. At Crimea he established some well known Christian communities. From the Crimea he would have gone up the Dnepr River, a river trade route, to Kiev and to the Scythians of the Ukraine and on to Valaam. He may have traveled from Valaam to Solovki with the Lapp reindeer herders and then to the Baltic Sea. From there he may or may not have gone to Scotland, (he is the Patron Saint of Scotland). He made his way to Poland then on to Romania where he lived for twenty years. He spent most of his time living in a cave at Dervent, Dobrogea in southern Romania. His cave is still honored as a sacred place and many people have gone there on pilgrimage for 2,000 years.

George Alexandrou thinks the reason St. Andrew stayed in Romania so long was because he had a great affinity with the Romanian people. They were monotheists, their clerics were like Essenes (celibate and strict vegetarians), and they didn't keep slaves. They converted to Christianity and considered the previous religion a foreshadow of their new one. It is likely after years of traveling and being unwelcome and beaten in most of those places, the environment in Romania was a welcome retreat. After leaving Romania, he went to Epirus, to Thessaly, to Lamia, to Loutraki-Corinth, then finally to Patras.

St. Andrew performed many miracles there, even healing Maximilla, wife of the governor of Patra, and his brother Stratokles and many people were added to the faith there. However, the prefect of the city, Aegeatos, wanted nothing to do with the Christian faith, and gave orders to crucify the apostle. St. Andrew was tied to the cross in the shape of an X rather than a T. For two days he continued to teach those who gathered around him. It is said that a large mob marched on Aegeatos's castle and forced him to order a reprieve, but Andrew would not allow it if Aegeatos was not truly repentant. The crucified apostle, gave glory to God saying: "Lord Jesus Christ, receive my spirit." A ray of light illumined the cross and when the light faded, St. Andrew had already given up his soul to the Lord. Maximilla, the wife of the prefect, had the body of the saint taken down from the cross, and buried him with honor.

A few centuries later, under the emperor Constantine the Great, the relics of the Apostle Andrew were solemnly transferred to Constantinople and placed in the church of the Holy Apostles beside the relics of the Evangelist Luke and St. Paul's disciple St. Timothy.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Acts 29 - Part 3 (The Synagogue)

There is a common assumption that worship in the early church was spontaneous, but it is clear from Scripture, archealogical evidence, and history that early Christians retained the pattern of worship inherited from the Jewish faith. Early on on the book of Acts it is evident that the Apostles were continuing to worship in the Temple amongst other faithful Jews. And why wouldn't they? They were good Jews who had found the Messiah. They wouldn't be known as Christians till they reached Antioch.

By this time, worship in the synagogue had been well established since the captivity in Babylon. When the Jews were in captivity, there was no Temple in which to worship and offer sacrifice, so they assembled around the elders to hear the Hebrew Scriptures and perform the daily cycle of prayers. When the Jews returned from captivity, they rebuilt the Temple, and retained the worship in the Synagogue. Synagogues would later become ornate houses of worship as we know them now, but early on would have been in someone's house, usually someone wealthy with a large house to provide space for all the worshipers.

A typical synagogue building was an open hall, with no seats for the standing congregation (many Orthodox churches still retain this feature). At one end (facing Jerusalem if possible) there was a centrally located raised platform called the bema. At the back of the bema, there was the seat for the ruling elder or rabbi, with seats on either side of him for his council of elders. These seats collectively representative the "seat of Moses" in the Temple which Christ refers to in Matthew 23:2. In the middle of the bema was a table upon which sat the ark and before it burned a seven-branched candlestick. The ark would have a copy of the Scriptures, spiritually pointing to the Ark in the Temple. The focus of worship in the Temple was towards the Holy of Holies and the focus of worship in the synagogue was also towards the Holy of Holies, so whenever possible, synagogues are orientated towards Jerusalem.

Worship in the synagogue would be performed at the same time as it was also going on in the Temple. It would focus on the reading of the word of God, and communion with God in the form of prayer and praise. There were 6 major components: The Litany, the Confession, Intercessory Prayer, Scripture Readings, Preaching, and the Benediction. "As was his custom", this is the pattern that Jesus would have followed when he read from Isaiah in the synagogue (Luke 4:16-30). Jesus would have ascended the bema and begun the service with the following two prayers:
Blessed be Thou, O Lord, King of the world, Who formest the light and createst the darkness, Who makest peace, and createst everything; Who, in mercy, givest light to the earth, and to those who dwell upon it, and in Thy goodness, day by day, and every day, renewest the works of creation. Blessed be the Lord our God for the glory of His handiworks, and for the light-giving lights which He has made for His praise. Blessed be the Lord our God, Who has formed the lights.

With great love has Thou loved us, O Lord our God, and with much overflowing pity has Thou pitied us, our Father and our King. For the sake of our fathers who trusted in Thee, and Thou taughtest them the statutes of life, have mercy upon us, and teach us. Enlighten our eyes in Thy Law; cause our hearts to cleave to Thy commandments; unite our hearts to love and fear Thy Name, and we shall not be put to shame, world without end. For Thou art a God Who preparest salvation, and hast in truth brought us hear to Thy great Name that we may lovingly praise Thee and Thy Unity. Blessed be the Lord, Who in love chose His people Israel.
After this would be the Shema (what could be considered the Jewish Creed), which consisted of three passages from the Torah. He would have then taken His place before the Ark and would have said a benediction. Then He would have added formal prayers suitable for the day. The chief rabbi would approach the ark and bring out the Scriptures. On the Sabbath, seven portions from the Law would be read, then a section from the Prophets. In this instance it was Isaiah, which was read and was immediately followed by Christ's sermon. There would have been a benediction, but according to Luke, the congregation wasn't very happy with Jesus's sermon.

This is the structure of worship Jesus and the Apostles were born into. They grew up worshiping in the Temple (where the sacrifices were offered) and in the synagogues of Israel (where "services of the word" were celebrated). After the Resurrection they continued to worship and keep the hours of prayer as they always had in the Temple and the synagogue, but on Sunday they went to their homes to celebrate the Lord's Supper on the Lord's Day...

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Acts 29 - Part 2 (Pattern of Heaven)

The author of Hebrews tells us that the instructions given to Moses in Exodus were a pattern of what Heavenly worship is like. After the completion of Christ's sacrifice, which was the fulfillment of all needed sacrifices, Christians still kept to this Heavenly pattern, with the unnecessary sacrifices removed.

What did this Heavenly pattern look like? After the instructions were given, the Isrealites built what was called the Tabernacle. The Tabernacle was made to be an elaborate tent-like structure that was portable enough to go with the people of Isreal wherever they wandered. The Tabernacle was always placed in the center of their encampment and thus was the center of their worship.

By the time of David, the Jewish were people more or less unified and living in one location. They had moved from living in tents and started living in permanent houses. So it was time for a permanent Tabernacle: the Temple. It would be built to the same pattern as the Tablernacle, but on a larger scale and used the famous cedars of Lebanon. It was completed by David's son Solomon in 957 BC and survived for about 500 years. The Temple was later destroyed by King Nebuchadnezzer of the Babylonians in 586 BC, and the Israelites were put into captivity.

During their captivity, the notion of Synagogue began forming. Synagogue means "the place for meeting together" and they usually met at someone's house-the bigger the better. At the Synagogue, Jews would gather to pray and to hear and be taught the (Old Testament) Scriptures. While there could be only one Temple, there could be Synagogues in every town. Many Jews would later worship in the Synagogue daily then make a pilgrimage to the Temple once a year always keeping a connection the central location of their faith.

When the Isrealites had returned from captivity, construction for the second Temple began 48 years later in 538 BC and was completed in 515. This second temple would later begin to be completely renovated in 19 BC by Herod the Great. Herod had it torn down piece by piece and rebuilt on a larger scale to leave as a legacy among other pagan temples he was also rebuilding, but it was done in such a way that sacrifices were able to continue daily. The temple itself was made from white marble that was a sharp contrast to all the other stone, making it quite a site for visiting pilgrims. This is the Temple Jesus and His Apostles would have known. Later this temple, as predicted by Christ in the Gospels, would also be destroyed in 70 AD by the Romans in "The Siege of Jerusalem".

The structure of worship from the time of the Tabernacle up until the destruction of second Temple remained, for the most part, unchanged. This is generally what took place:
When entering the Tabernacle, you would be in the court area which would contain the Altar of Sacrifice, the Laver, and Holy Place. The animal that was being sacrificed would be taken into the Holy Place after the priest had washed his hands and feet in the Laver. The Holy Place was the inner court and only a priest was allowed into this section. Inside the Holy Place, on the right (north side) would be the alter of Showbread which was 12 loaves of bread baked daily as an offering to God and on the southside was a 7 branched lampstand. The priest would walk between the two and approach the alter of Incense. A coal from the altar of sacrifice would be used for the incense as prayer and worship. Past the altar of Incense was a heavy veil dividing the room. Behind the veil was the Holy of Holies in a perfect cube of 15 feet. This is where the Israelites physically directed their faith because over the Ark was God's presence. Inside the Holy of Holies was housed the Ark of the Covenant which contained the 10 Commandments, a jar of manna, and Aaron's rod. Only the high priest was allowed in the Holy of Holies and then only once a year on the Day of Atonement to offer annually the blood of a sacrifice.

The church adapted this pattern to retain the Jewishness of our faith and reflect the light of Jesus onto our worship service. The structures of early churches are clearly modeled after the pattern of Heavenly worship given to Moses. The court area symbolizes the created universe and corresponds with the Narthax of the church. Prior to entering the Holy Place (which corresponds to the nave of a church and symbolizes the people of God) are the Altar of Sacrifice, (which is Christ) and the Laver (which is baptism). And since we have been made priests by Christ, we are allowed entry to the Holy Place. The altar of showbread represents the Eucharist. Incense would have filled the Holy Place as it does in churches worldwide. The Holy of Holies corresponds with the altar of the church where we mystically offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving.

It was this pattern of worship combined with the fulfillment of Christ's sacrifice that provided the foundation for the early Christians transformation of synagogue worship...

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Acts 29 - Part 1

The book of Acts tells the story of what the Apostles did after the resurrection up until Paul's imprisonment at Rome. There are 28 chapters in the book of Acts. What happens after that last chapter? A relatively new movement, the Acts 29 Network, has popped up in Protestantism that claims to embody the answer to that question. The name would imply that they are in touch with the roots of the early church that continued on from Acts 28 till this day. And because of the rather quick success of the Acts 29 Network, it would be safe to assume that many people are very interested to know what happened after chapter 28. Would this new movement hold the same beliefs that those Christians in the book of Acts held? Does there exist today a church that would be recognizable to a Christian from the book of Acts? What do we know about church life in and after Acts?

The Jewish faith was a liturgical faith and the Christian faith that followed remained liturgical. In Judaism there was a cycle of prayers, blessings and meals that took place daily, weekly, monthly and annually. This included daily hours of prayers and the annual High Feast Days. Meals included the "breaking of bread" and the "blessing of the cup", which we see Jesus doing with his Apostles in the Gospels. Sacrifices took place in the Temple. All of the other liturgical practices of prayer, scripture reading, and teaching took place in the synagogues. This combination of liturgical services in both the Temple and synagogue was part of the daily life of Jesus and His disciples and is the foundation for Christian worship.

In Acts 2:46 we read that the disciples met daily in the Temple. They were not just hanging out, they were participating in the Jewish service after Penetecost. In Acts 3:1 we learn that Peter and John were going to the Temple at regularly scheduled times of prayer. Not only were they partcipating in Jewish worship practices, but they were keeping the daily cycle of litugical prayers. It becomes clear when reading through Acts that after Pentecost, Christians still held to the Jewish form of liturgical worship.

But hasn't Christ's sacrifice done away with all that? I suppose that depends on what you mean by "all that". There are two parts of Jewish worship: Sacrifice and Communion (the daily life of the liturgical cycle). Christ's sacrifice fulfilled all the sacrifices required of the Jewish people. It was complete and no further sacrifice is needed. But what of the rest? What of communion? What of the liturgical patterns?

Instructions were given to Moses to build the Tabernacle (Exodus 25-27). These instructions are detailed information about the nature of Temple worship, including its physical structure and dimensions, instructions for the Ark, the internal decor of the Tabernacle, details of the priests' vestments, the use of incense, the presence of an altar, the daily offerings, the use of anointing oil, and the use of images. Hebrews 8:5 refers to these very detailed instructions and we are told they are a pattern of worship in Heaven. Since these instructions are a pattern of heaven, which is timeless, why would expect these instructions to be altered? Part of these worship patterns were fulfilled by Christ's sacrifice, but the rest remains Heavenly worship.

There are a few other places in Scripture where we see examples of Heavenly worship. In Isaiah 6, the year King Uzziah died, Isaiah is given a glimpse of worship in the Heavenly Temple. The Lord is on a throne, six-winged seraphim are repeating, "Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of hosts", the Temple is full of smoke (incense), and there is an altar. From this altar the seraphim takes a coal, touches it to Isaiah's mouth and says, "Behold, this has touched your lips; Your iniquity is taken away, and your sin purged." The church has always understood this to be an image of the Eucharist.

In Revelation 4 and 5 the Apostle John is given a vision of Heaven. Revelation 1:10 informs us that is occurred on the Lord's day while he was in the Spirit. The church has always took this to mean John was in the middle of celebrating a liturgy. In this vision of Heaven he sees the Lord on a throne. Twenty four elders sit on 24 thrones surrounding the one throne, wearing white robes and golden crowns and in their hands are bowls of incense, which are the prayers of God's people. In front of the throne is a lamp stand with seven branches. In the center of the throne, surrounded by creatures with six wings which repeat, "Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty", is a lamb looking as if it has been slain.

From Exodus to Isaiah to Revelation, heavenly worship follows a pattern. This pattern, though only a shadow of the Heavenly pattern, was followed by the Jewish people and continued to be followed by the early church to this day. The Heavenly Temple in Revelation resembles both the Jewish synagogue and later Christian churches. The worship service depicted there includes liturgical components still universal in the Orthodox Church — a throne, white-robed elders gathered around the throne, seven burning lamps, prostrations, incense, and more. "Holy, Holy, Holy..." is sung in every church and prayed by the faithful every morning and night. You can enter any Orthodox church around the globe and you will see this liturgical pattern of worship on Earth as it is in Heaven...

Friday, November 26, 2010

Pure and Undefiled Religion is this...

Why have we fasted, and Thou seest it not? Why have we humbled ourselves, and Thou takest no knowledge of it?

Behold, in the day of your fast, you seek your own pleasure and oppress all your workers. Behold, you fast only to quarrel and fight...Fasting like yours ... will not make your voice to be heard on high.

Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness...to let the oppressed go free…is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them...

Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you, the glory of the Lord shall protect you. Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; then you shall cry, and He will say: Here I am.
(Isaiah 58:3-9)
Though the outward form of fasting is important, its inward form is the more important. More than just restricting oneself from certain foods, in the words of St. John Chrysostom, "The fast should be kept not by the mouth alone but also by the eye, the ear, the feet, the hands and all the members of the body': the eye must abstain from impure sights, the ear from malicious gossip, the hands from acts of injustice."

Bishop Kallistos Ware states, "The inner significance of fasting is best summed up in the triad: prayer, fasting, almsgiving." Fasting without prayer leads to pharisaical attitudes, rather than joyfulness it leads to pride. In both Testaments, fasting is always associated with prayer as an aid for a closer encounter with God. Remove prayer and all that remains is a human soul that is hungry and body that is thin. We already have fad diets for that. With prayer the hungry soul is filled, if we are to take the words of Jesus seriously, "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God."

Prayer and fasting should lead to and be accompanied with almsgiving. Shepherd of Hermas states that the money saved through fasting, "you will give it to a widow, or an orphan, or to some person in want" which James would consider "pure and undefiled religion". Fasting done well ought to lead to this pure and undefiled religion. Almsgiving has a wider definition, of not just handing over cash to those in need, but giving time and giving of oneself to others. Fasting done well ought to move beyond only opening our wallets, but opening our lives and homes. How easy is it for us to hand over cash and put a checkmark in the good deed column. The difficult part is participating in the needs around us. And as I write this, it is painfully obvious how short I fall. Why is it so difficult to give up a Saturday of "taking it easy" at home? Why are movies whose titles and plotlines I can't remember more important that calling up a friend or family member and actually having a conversation? And I am sure these realizations are quite small in comparison to the potential of what I could be doing.

One aspect I enjoy about the fasting season, is just that-it is seasonal. Four times a year the church creates an environment which causes me to reevaluate myself. When I was not participating in a church calendar cycle, I would only reevaluate life when life came crashing down. When the catastrophe already occurred. Years could pass by without me reflecting on if or how my life had changed. And if the fasting season was all year, I think it would easily be taken for granted. So four times a year, the church asks, like God in the garden, "Where are you?" and it seems looking back that many times I, like Adam, was found hiding. So I go through the fasting period, checking myself, denying my wants, reducing what I think are needs, making room to be in a position of listening, and as in Isaiah, God replies, "Here I am".

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Come, ye thankful people...

I am just going to post a prayer today and enjoy Thanksgiving with my family. I hope you are able to do do the same.

This prayer was prepared with the blessing of Saint Tikhon of Moscow in 1901.
Come, ye thankful people, and let us raise a hymn of grateful praise to God, our Benefactor and Creator, the bounteous source of all our blessings, the riches of our earthly life, and the glory of the world to come, for in His great mercy and love for us His children, He has granted us salvation.

Come, ye thankful people, and let us praise the Father, who in His goodness created heaven and earth, and all that is in them, endowing us His creatures, with reason to worship Him, who in His great mercy and love for us His children. has granted us salvation.

Come, ye thankful people, and let us praise the only-begotten Son, who for our sakes did clothe Himself in mortal nature, deigning to suffer and die for us, trampling down death and raising us with Himself, who in His great mercy and love for us His children, has granted us salvation.

Come, ye thankful people, and let us praise the Holy Spirit, who descended upon the Apostles, making them fishers of men, through whom the earth has received, the knowledge of the Holy Trinity, who in His great mercy and love for us His children, has granted us salvation.

Glory to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, now, and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen

Come, ye thankful people, and let us raise a hymn of grateful praise to God, our Benefactor and Creator, the bounteous source of all our blessings, the riches of our earthly life, and the glory of the world to come, for in His great mercy and love for us His children, He has granted us salvation.

More information about this Thanksgiving service can be found at the following links:
Vespers Service for Thanksgiving

Matins Service for Thanksgiving

Divine Liturgy Prayers for Thanksgiving


Wednesday, November 24, 2010


We fast because the Old Testament faithful fasted. We fast because Jesus fasted. We fast because the Apostles fasted. We fast because Jesus did not say, "if you fast" but, "When you fast..." So we fast.

But what good does it do? What does the denial of physical food do for one's spiritual soul? The answer lies in the idea of training coupled with the Paul's desire for us to "glorify God with your body". It is not always easy to deny certain foods. I for one think most everything can taste better with cheese on it, but I am allowed none of it this fasting season. For others, this might be no big deal, for me it can be very annoying. But compared to denying negative thoughts I have about people or putting someones needs before my own, it is relatively simple. So I work on the smaller things of food, learn to say no to things I want, and be conscience of times I can apply that in my dealings with people.

In both testaments the faithful used prayer and fasting as a time for preparation for an event, and that event was usually an experience with God. The Nativity fast is the same. We are preparing our hearts, starting with the way we eat and live, to create in us an ever increasing desire for God. And that is what happens at Nativity. God shows up.

For myself it is also a constant reminder of what is coming. With the Nativity fast it is not so evident since images of Christmas pop up around town before Halloween, but with Easter it a completely different story. Before Orthodoxy, Easter just kinda showed up on Saturday and I would remember to "wear something nice" on Sunday. During the Lenten fast before Easter, I would daily be reminded of the reason for this fast. I would remember because I was hungry, and I was hungry often. When I realized how hungry I was, it would cause me to think about why I was hungry. So there was rarely a day during the fast when my mind wasn't on the Resurrection. That in itself is enough reason for me to participate in the fast.

Eating less takes your energy levels down and you do things slower. You do life slower. And in the craziness that can overwhelm Christmas, taking life slower is a welcomed feature of fasting. During the fast you try to watch less TV, read more, go outside, say hi to your neighbor, things that most people want to, but rarely accomplish.

Fasting is not done alone. The family, the church family, the Orthodox Church globally fast together. Doing so brings us together and together we draw closer to God. Matthew Gallatin is fond of pointing out that Orthodox believers all know what you mean when you utter one word: beans. We have already had too many of them and there is more to come. We all struggle to get through them, and at this foundational level are looking forward to the feast. Fasting is better understood collectively.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. How does that work? Well for me, I will be enjoying turkey, yams with marshmallows on top, and pumpkin pie. I hope to enjoy all those things, converse with my family, and look forward to Nativity. We try not to parade the fact that we are fasting around for all to see (which is ironic, since I am writing about it on this blog), so when someone asks us to dine with them, we do. We provide no list of dietary restrictions. We eat what is put before us and we thank God for blessing us. I think it will work just fine.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Take 40 Days and See Me on Nativity

“Four periods [of the year] have been set aside as times of abstinence, so that over the course of the year we might recognize that we are constantly in need of purification, and that amid life’s distractions, we should always strive by means of fasting and acts of charity to extirpate sin, sin which is multiplied in our transitory flesh and in our impure desires.” - Saint Leo the Great (5th Century)

“…the Nativity Forty-day Fast represents the fast undertaken by Moses, who, having fasted for forty days and forty nights, received the Commandments of God, written on stone tablets. And we, fasting for forty days, will reflect upon and receive from the Virgin of the living Word - not written upon stone, but born, incarnate, and we will commune of His Divine Body.” - Saint Symeon of Thessaloniki

The Church in Her wisdom has prescribed the Nativity fast as well as the three other great fasts to aid us as we develop as Christians. The term "prescribed" is often used as it implies that that there is something ailing us that needs healing or medication. The fast is one of the church's medicines for us. Also, since it is prescribed, it is in some sense, optional. Many participate at different levels, some observing that fast for all 40 days strictly, some less days and less strictly. Those new to the faith are often told not to "jump in" to the fast for there first year, but wade into the waters slowly. Some do not participate and remain the way they are with medicine always within reach. Though sometimes difficult and trying, though sometimes the medicine does not go down, it is always for our betterment.

Fasting has at its foundation, the denial of certain foods, but that is only the impetus for the true purpose of fasting which is the denial of self. If one was to keep the fast perfectly in regards to food, but does not love his neighbor, then he has not kept the fast at all. Fasting is to lead us contemplation about the season of the fast, in this case the birth of Christ, to more prayer, to more time reading the Scriptures, to more thankfulness, and to caring for the poor (what we call almsgiving). But even when doing those things, one has not truly kept the fast if it is not coupled with a denial of self. Choosing to bridle ones own tongue, to resist pride, to consider another more valuable than yourself, to pursue humility, to become Christlike.

Father Stephen on his post, "The Nativity Fast – Why We Fast" at his blog, "Glory to God for All Things" states:
Fasting is not dieting. Fasting is not about keeping a Christian version of kosher. Fasting is about hunger and humility (which is increased as we allow ourselves to become weak). Fasting is about allowing our heart to break.

He also tells an interesting story about fasting and death, which I will end this post with:
I worked for a couple of years as a hospice chaplain. During that time, daily sitting at the side of the beds of dying patients – I learned a little about how we die. It is a medical fact that many people become “anorexic” before death – that is – they cease to want food. Many times family and even doctors become concerned and force food on a patient who will not survive. Interestingly, it was found that patients who became anorexic had less pain than those who, having become anorexic, were forced to take food.

It is as though at death our bodies have a wisdom we have lacked for most of our lives. It knows that what it needs is not food – but something deeper. The soul seeks and hungers for the living God. The body and its pain become a distraction. And thus in God’s mercy the distraction is reduced.

Why do we fast? We fast so that we may live like a dying man – and in dying we can be born to eternal life.

An excellent podcast on fasting can be found at Ancient Faith Radio by Michael Hyatt called "At the Intersection of East and West". Micheal is the CEO of Thomas Nelson Bible Publishers as well as a deacon in the Orthodox Church.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Nativity Fast (Just the Facts)

So, I just reread what I wrote below and it is super boring, but they are the "just the facts" of the Nativity fast. Apologies. After this we discuss the whys and benefits of fasting.

To help you make it through this post I have added the option to hear some orthodox chanting from Ancient Faith Radio below.

Or to go the other way and just completely embrace the pain, I have added an mp3 of the infamous "Hamster Dance" song.

Choose wisely.

The Nativity fast starts November 15th and ends December 25th on the day of the Nativity. It is sometimes called the advent fast, winter Pascha, or St. Phillip's fast by those in Russian Orthodoxy (the fast starts the day after St. Phillip is commemorated, November 14th). The apostle Phillip is the apostle who said to Nathanial, "Come and see", and we also are invited to do so as we anticipate Nativity.

The Origin of the Fast

The Nativity fast has been prescribed by the church to help us prepare for the Birth of Christ. The first known examples of churches observing a fast in preparation of Nativity begin sometime before the year 367. The Lenten season (40 plus days of fasting before Pascha or Easter) had already been well established and much of the structure and services are mirrored after the Lenten services. The birth of Jesus has always been closely tied with Theophany (the baptism of Jesus) but over the centuries was split into two separate feast days. Nativity is the beginning of His life and Theophany is the beginning of His ministry.

Bishop and St. Hilary of Poitiers sometime before his death in 367 attests to a 3 week preparation before Theophany.
The council of Saragossa remind the laity to attend church daily from December 17 to January 6th (Theophany).
Monks in Gall were prescribed a fast from 4 to 6 weeks before Nativity.
The synod of Macon decreed that every Christian should fast three times a week (Monday, Wednesday, Friday) from November 11th till December 24th.
The Council of Constantinople decrees the fast as we know it now. A 40 day fast from November 15th to December 25th.

Important Dates During the Fast

November 21st - Feast of the Entrance of the Theotokos to the Temple
The Virgin Mary is presented by her parents Joachim and Anna into the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem as a young girl, where she lived and served as a Temple virgin.

November 30th - Feast of Saint Andrew
St. Andrew is also known an the "First-called" and in the hymnology declares, "Come, for we have found the One whom the world desires!"

December 6th - Feast of Saint Nicholas of Mira
Yes, this same man who slapped Arius in the face for heresy is where our modern interpretations of Santa Claus originate.

Second and First Sunday Before Nativity - Feast of the Forefathers and Feast of the Fathers
These services have a lot of hymns honoring Old Testament saints looking forward to the Incarnation.

December 20 to 24
During this period there are services every day. They are patterned after Lenten services especially Christmas Eve which is very similar to Lent's Holy Saturday.

Fasting Guidelines

The fast is split into two sections. The first section is from November 15th to December 19th and the second section is from December 20th to 24th.

November 15th to December 19th (No meat, dairy, fish, wine, and oil)
  • Exception: wine and oil on Tuesday and Thursday.
  • Exception: wine, oil, and fish on Saturday and Sunday.
December 20th to 24th (No meat, dairy, fish, wine, and oil)
  • Exception: wine and oil on Saturday and Sunday.
December 24th is typically a day where no food is eaten till the evening. There are also exceptions throughout the whole fasting season for fish, wine, and oil whenever a feast day is celebrated.

As you can see, it gets pretty complicated, and within different Church traditions there are slight variances as well. So, when you really get down to it, the best thing to do is talk it over with your priest, and do what he suggests.

And now you know.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Entrance of the Theotokos into the Temple

Mary, the Theotokos, meaning the God-bearer, had the glory of the Lord within her womb, just as the glory of the Lord filled the temple. God both spiritually and literally dwelled inside her and this feast day points a little "further up and further in" towards the focus of the Nativity fast: the Incarnation of the God-man, Jesus Christ. This is exemplified by a hymn known as "The Prelude" that is chanted today which directs us to majesty of the Nativity.
Today is the prelude of God's goodwill and the prophecy of the salvation of men. The Virgin appears openly in the temple of God and foretells Christ to all. So let us cry to her with loud voices: Rejoice, thou who art the fulfillment of the Creator's providence.
Church Tradition tells us that Mary was born to Joachim and Anna. Anna was barren, so Joachim and Anna prayed that if they would have a child it would be dedicated to the service of God. Their request was granted and they were given a girl who they named Mary. True to their word, when Mary reached the age of three they took her to the temple on November 21st. She was led to the temple by a procession of temple virgins and her parents, fulfilling the prophecy of Psalms 45:11-18:
"Hear, O daughter, and see; turn your ear, forget your people and your father's house. So shall the king desire your beauty; for he is your lord, and you must worship him.... All glorious is the king's daughter as she enters; her raiment is threaded with spun gold. In embroidered apparel she is borne in to the king; behind her the virgins of her train are brought to you. They are borne in with gladness and joy; they enter the palace of the king. The place of your fathers your sons shal
l have; you shall make them princes through all the land. I will make your name memorable through all generations; therefore shall nations praise you forever and ever."

When they arrived at the temple, her parents placed her on the first step. She ran to the top where she was greeted by the High Priest Zachariah, who would become the father of John the Baptist. Zachariah "was outside himself and possessed by God" and led Mary into the Holy of Holies!

Mary lived in the temple for 12 years till she reached the age of 15. She lived in the quarters around the temple with others who had dedicated themselves to God and prayer. When she had come of age she was betrothed to Joseph and we are all familiar with the rest of the story.

On this day, three scripture readings from the Old Testament are read in the Church. Exodus 40, 1 Kings 7-8, and Ezekiel 43. All three mention the glory of the Lord filling the tabernacle. The epistle reading is from Hebrews 9 which also refers to the tabernacle of the old covenant. The church is pointing to Mary as being a fulfillment of the physical temple by becoming a living temple. When we contemplate Mary on this day and what has happened in her, our thoughts are directed to all humanity and that we are purposed to be living temples of God.

Though the Nativity fast has started a week ago, today is the first time we hear the Nativity canons in the church. Fr. Alexander Schmemann says, "With these words something changes in our life, in the very air we breathe, in the entire mood of the Church’s life. It is as if we perceive far, far away, the first light of the greatest possible joy — the coming of God into His world! Thus the Church announces the coming of Christ, the Incarnation of God, His entrance into the world for its salvation."
The Nativity Canon
Christ is born, glorify Him.
Christ is come from heaven, receive ye him.
Christ is on earth, be ye elevated.

P.S. In Discourse on the Feast of the Entry of Our Most Pure Lady the Theotokos into the Holy of Holies by Saint Gregory Palamas, Archbishop of Thessalonica, he asks if we know a good tree by its good fruit and Mary gave birth to Jesus (the firstfruits), what kind of tree was Mary?

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Why I Want to be Orthodox

Fr. Wayne the priest of St. Barnabas in Costa Mesa, asked us to write an essay on why we wanted to become Orthodox during catechism. A year again December, I posted that essay on Facebook. Today I am going to cheat a little bit and repost that essay below. Some of it you already read from my previous posts, but...

Why I Want To Be Orthodox

When I first left an Orthodox service I wanted to have nothing do with it. I told my friend who introduced me to Orthodoxy that it was "superstitious nonsense". But the months that followed did not let me get the service out of my mind. I started to research the church and discovered the concerns I had were perhaps unfounded. And perhaps, my beliefs were more on the nonsense side than those of the Church. So I opened up closed doors and went to another service, and another, and another, until here we are. Catechumens in the Orthodox Church.

During the time of that first service until now Laura and I have asked many questions and received more answers with much grace and patience. We have had many, "Can this be?" and "What do we do now?" moments.

Do I want to be Orthodox? In some ways, I do not want to be Orthodox. My parents. My family. My friends. I, like many converts to Orthodoxy, come from a long line of Protestant heritage. I in no way want to dishonor that history nor am I ashamed by it as I found Christ through my church family and friends and they have nurtured the character and personality that I possess today. But I fear that some of my family and friends will see this as a rejection of those things they have instilled in me. I fear that for some it will cause unnecessary pain and worry. I fear that some of my friends will perceive this change as flippancy when it comes to faith, rather than progression. But I find that, despite these concerns, I can not go back without lying to friends/family, myself, and God.

I find that some of the ways I don't want to be Orthodox are becoming the ways I do want to be Orthodox. I don't want to have any authority over me. I don't want to be accountable to anyone else but God. I don't want to be guided by the Church in scriptural interpretation. I don't want to follow a structured form of worship. But encountering the Orthodox Church has caused my wants to change. It has changed my perspective on authority, accountability, the Scriptures, worship, and more.

Do I want to be Orthodox? In some ways, I must be Orthodox. I must be Orthodox because I can't be anything else. My thoughts on core doctrines like Sola Scriptura and Sola Fide have changed. The Scriptures never say it, the Church never taught it, so why should I believe someone who says otherwise, 1,500 years removed? My thoughts on authority have been shattered. Why should I trust what someone 2,000 years removed tells me what Paul truly meant, over a disciple of Paul himself? I simply can’t go back.

I want to be Orthodox because I am convinced, though I still have many questions and some practices remain uncomfortable. I am convinced this church is the Church Jesus established and the one that was built by His Apostles. This goes against what I am accustomed to. Like many Christians, when choosing a church to attend, it ends up being the church I am most comfortable in and requires little change. Essentially, a church that looks the most like me. This is the first time I am choosing a church that makes me uncomfortable.

I want to be Orthodox because this is the first time I have felt church is good for my soul. Sacraments that I had been taught were purely symbolic, I now know were never understood that way by early Christians. I desire the sacraments that have been missing from my life and that were given to the Church for my sanctification.

I want to be Orthodox because it is the Church Christ established.
I want to be Orthodox because it is the Church the bible came from.
I want to be Orthodox because the bible tells me so.
I want to be Orthodox because God is revered in this Church like I have never known.
I want to be Orthodox because I don’t have to keep up with Christian fads.
I want to be Orthodox because they have not forgotten the martyrs.
I want to be Orthodox because Mary is honored.
I want to be Orthodox because it is the Church I was always apart of but didn’t know.
I want to be Orthodox because Christ is risen and they celebrate it.
I want to be Orthodox because I want to be a better person years from now.
I want to be Orthodox because I want to dance with God.
I want to be Orthodox because I must.

Friday, November 19, 2010


Now what? We are convinced of a faith that is familiar to what we have known and at the same time incredibly different. Our paradigm had been shifted. Reading the bible and discussing theology is like watching The Sixth Sense for the second time. A lot of, "That makes so much more sense now", "How did I miss that?", "I think I always knew that", but mostly just, "Wow". Of course, that is where the analogy breaks down. I mean who wants to see The Sixth Sense three times?

We left California, started making our way north, and, you know, mulled things over. At this point we have already been saying Orthodox prayers, crossing ourselves, and observing fasting guidelines. Catechism was on our mind and some point we just decided to get on board. After we arrived in Oregon we made plans to go back to California by September to make it in time for the start of catechism.

I had thought that we would go through catechism, become Orthodox, and hit the road again after Pascha in April. However, I learned that particular plan didn't make much sense in the Orthodox ethos. In Orthodoxy, you have a spiritual father who gets to know through conversation and confession and you are also a part of your church community. Both require a connection to be maintained. It doesn't make sense to become members of the church and then a week later, split with no intention of coming back for 3 years. That being the case, our priest at St. Barnabas advised that we not join the church until we were ready to settle down.

Now what? This part was a hard decision for us. We loved the church. We loved traveling. We came to the realization that church was a priority, so we decided we would stop traveling, but we didn't want to live in Orange County. Maybe we should continue to travel after all? We could find a place where we wanted to live that had an Orthodox church, but how long would that take? Would we be years on the road before we found that place? We were prepared to stop traveling and live in Orange County, despite the fact that we don't like it at all and couldn't afford it.

Then we remembered Prescott, Arizona. There was an Orthodox church there. They had trees, and lakes, and four seasons. It had a large artist community with a small town atmosphere. It is only a 6 hour drive to St. Barnabas so we could visit from time to time. And they had an In-N-Out! We could live there. We might not stay forever, but we could be a part of the church there and honestly not intend to leave.

So we finished catechism at St. Barnabas and watched our fellow catechumens become Orthodox. We very much wanted to be joining with them, but it was not the right time. We stayed for Holy Week and Pascha and shortly after left for Prescott with no money, jobs, or a place to live. We left dear friends behind in hopes that we would fine new ones.

And we have. We love our new church home, St. George Orthodox Church of Prescott, its parishioners, our two priests, Father John and Father Bill, and the Prescott community. We plan to not travel for a year and then later travel during non-fasting seasons and maintain Prescott as our hometown. We started catechism right away with Father John and in less than 40 days we will officially become members of the Orthodox church.

We are blessed.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Learn, Unlearn, Relearn

When we returned to California we started looking for Orthodox churches in the area and lo and behold there was a Greek church in walking distance from where we were parked: St. John the Baptist in Anaheim.

We went expecting much of the same, and we did get that, but a lot was different too. The church was huge, white, and spread out. Holy Resurrection was small, woody, dark, and a bit claustrophobic. Holy Resurrection was in English. St. Johns was all in Greek and everybody but us was Greek. There is one service a month that is in English, but we were obviously not at that service. We did a lot of staring and reading of pamphlets. So our second go around wasn't that great.

The discovery of the services not being in English led me to research churches that were in English. That is when we came across St. Barnabas Orthodox Church. St. Barnabas immediately caught my attention because the priests were a part of a group of Christians that were key people in Campus Crusade for Christ. This group went looking for what the early church was really like and to their surprise they found it already existed in Orthodoxy. A bunch of them became Orthodox and some of them were now at St. Barnabas. Below is a video of their story.

So the next Sunday we went to an business office park in Costa Mesa and there on a glass door was marked, "St. Barnabas Orthodox Church". You could have mistaken it for any other business in the area. And then we went in. Again, like at Holy Resurrection, many of my senses were assaulted, but this time, not overwhelmed. Inside the main room, the service had already started and the choir was singing and to my surprise, I was holding back tears. At this time, I had a lot of questions and was nowhere near getting on board with Orthodoxy or even knew what it meant to do so. But none the less, that is what happened. I was weepy. That joyous type of weepy one gets when something amazingly good, unexpected, and undeserved is happening in your life.

After the service ended we went outside and struck up a conversation with some college age parishioners who let us ask all the questions we wanted. This led to lunch and more conversation that continued for over four hours. This happened every week for months. Sometimes after Wednesday night service we would stay up till 1 in the morning talking about all things Orthodoxy. The things we heard, we both liked and disliked. Somethings were wonderful to hear and others were very difficult. But we kept coming back every Sunday. At first, I kept coming because for an hour and half, once a week, I could be in a place that regardless of what I was comfortable with doctrinally, I knew God would be revered. But slowly, overtime, I simply fell in love with this church.

Rather than leave California in February to do some more traveling we decided to stay till April for Pascha. We participated in Lent and the fasting that takes place during that period, we observed Holy Week which took me to new heights spiritually, and then Pascha itself. Pascha was awesome! Laura said so herself and you can read all about it here on the post she wrote which does a much better job at describing it than I can.

From time to time, I still get that kind of weepy I mentioned before, but now I know I understand better what is resonating with me. After a long journey through mountains and valleys, both spiritually and literally, we were coming....


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

the First Encounter

We were first introduced to Orthodoxy in the Spring of 2008 (or so it would seem, but that is another story for another post) by a friend (Forrest) who had recently spent a year hoofing it through Mexico, and Central America, and back again. During that time he came across an Orthodox monastery and was baptized there. Laura and I were able to meet up with him in Tucson after he had returned from his amazing adventure. Forrest had attended the youth group at a church in Arizona where I helped lead for a time. He had also taken over a bible study that I led during the lunch hour at our high school. Over the years, we had had similar journeys regarding our faith, and I have always felt a kinship with him. It had been over 5 years since I had last seen him face to face, so I was naturally very excited to be able to meet up with him.

He invited us to join him for church at Holy Resurrection Orthodox Church, and since one of our goals was to explore different churches, we happily attended. I was immediately uncomfortable. There was so much going on. Bells were being jangled. Incense filled the room. Everything was chanted. Everyone was standing. Then everyone was bowing. Pictures of saints I didn't know where all over the walls. Priests were walking up and down the aisle carrying crosses and more pictures of saints I didn't know. Mary was mentioned a lot. Too much. And no one except us had a bible!

I hated it.

Whatever that was, I didn't want any part of it. And I told my friend the same. So putting that experience behind me, Laura and I continued on our merry way to see more of the USA. Summer 2008 brought fuel prices to an all-time high and forced us off the road for a while. We stayed in Oregon with Laura's parents, Donn and Michelle, to wait it out. During that time memories of that church kept slipping into my mind, day after day, until finally I started researching it. And to my surprise most of my concerns and objections were met with reasonable answers. Things that I thought must have been foreign to Christianity and surely added at a later date by unscrupulous leaders with a lust for power were in fact part of an authentic ancient form of Christianity that I was shamefully ignorant of.

There was one aspect that I took to immediately: Pascha, or what I would have called Easter. I came across a short video on Youtube about how Orthodox Christians celebrate Pascha that made me want to visit an Orthodox church again. I had always been annoyed that we celebrate Christmas so joyfully with vibrant colors, and plays, and music, but with Easter (Pascha), the day of the resurrection of our Lord, we just wear something nice. The video does not do justice to the splendor that is Pascha, but it gives you a taste of the symbolism and celebration that is more fitting the occasion.

We decided when we got to California that Fall, we would be looking more into this thing called Orthodoxy.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Beginning of the Beginning

Before I start, I want stress that this is by no means a rejection of the faith that was passed on to me by my family as a Protestant. For every pastor that cheats on his wife, there are thousands more who will only love one woman. For every church that is fraudulent with their money, there are thousands more who more that give more than they are able to feed the hungry and clothe the poor. There is much that I can not agree with anymore, but there is much that I still hold very dear.

3 years ago, Laura and I, sold mostly everything we owned, bought a Airstream motorhome, and hit the road. The intent of this journey was to find out where we wanted to live, what we wanted to do with our lives, and figure out what church is. So we set out with those three things always on our mind and amazingly enough we found answers. Answers we never expected, but answers none the less. Details of our adventures can be found at www.ouramericanlife.com.

Some time after Bible College and probably during, Laura and I began to become dissatisfied with Christianity as we knew it. During Bible College rather than go to church on campus we started going to a different church every week in the Temecula area. So many churches, so many different viewpoints, all saying that they knew the correct way to interpret the bible. One pastor would say, "Just read the bible. It's all there", or "We are a bible-believing church", or "In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity" and so would another pastor and another pastor and another pastor.... But what one pastor read in the bible would be different than what another pastor preached and what was essential for one pastor was ignored by another. This was reinforced every week and it is truly by God's grace that we remained Christians.

After college we tried to find a "good church" and we had some luck here and there, but then we would move, or the pastor would move, and then we just started floating. Every other week turned into once a month. Try as I might, I couldn't help sitting in a pew and think, "Is this it? Is this was Christ died for? Am I closer to God by being here?" So, I eventually turned my devotion to God into a "me and Jesus" thing. I studied and read theology on my own. For a time I was happy with this arrangement, but eventually I realized the truth, I had exiled myself. A more favorable outlook would be that I had a "desert experience", but that remains to be seen. I could have embraced another church, but that would have only been the difference between exile and starvation. It was during this time that I began to long for a church I could call home, and not just a church I liked and was comfortable at, but a Church that was home ipso facto. Again, by God's grace, I remain faithful.

As mentioned earlier, there is still much I hold dear. Examples of love, faith, grace, and devotion to God are plentiful in the church in which I was raised and especially by the example of my parents. Despite all the cracks I saw forming in the faith I knew as a teenager, it was those very examples of the faith expressed by my parents that impressed in me an unshakable devotion to God and motivation to keep "carrying the fire". For the amount of grace that has already been given to me in my short life, it would be absolute blasphemy, no matter what the future holds, to consider myself anything but blessed.

And grace will lead me home...

Monday, November 15, 2010

40 Days of Blogging - Day One

Father John, our priest at the parish we are going to in Prescott has started a 40 Days of Blogging event at his website, The Preachers Institute, to coincide with the 40 days of fasting that lead up to Nativity (Christmas) which is commonly referred to as the Advent Fast. I have decided to participate in this event made up of Orthodox bloggers who are both clergy and laity. So you can expect a lot of great stuff from them, and from me... just cope.

Nativity has always been a special time for Laura and I, but this year the event carries with it ever increasing excitement. On Christmas Eve at 6 PM Laura and I will be baptized, chrismated, and become members of the Orthodox Church! This is the main reason for me deciding to be part of the event. When the 40 Days of Blogging has ended, Laura and I will beginning our life in the Orthodox church, and perhaps this might be an interesting read for those who are curious about the direction our life is headed.

I hope to post about the history of our "journey east", issues we have had to face both doctrinally and personally, and little tidbits about Orthodoxy and specifically the Advent season. There has been alot we have learned along the way and a crazy amount more to learn and experience. As Laura is fond of saying (courtesy of Ken Olson) about the paradigm shift we had in discovering Orthodoxy, we have had to "Learn, Unlearn, and Relearn." And it has been great. Difficult, but great as well.

Ok, so... 40 days of Blogging. I'm on it. Will there be 39 more posts? Man, I hope so. I can probably get away with posting youtube videos when I have nothing to say, so it is likely that this blog will consist of one post and 39 videos! So, if anyone does read this and has questions, please send them my way so I have something to write about.