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Monthly Archives: June 2007

What a joy to walk
among your creation,
oh, Lord.
Blooming flowers.
Ants scurrying on the ground.
Birds crying overhead.

Make me as a plant
in this garden.
May I always be a proclamation
of your goodness and providence.
May I bear the fruit of a life
made beautiful by your
unwavering love.
And may I live in peace
with the other flowers
which surround me.

Amen.

When I was in Chicago recently, I was involved in a conversation with a local Methodist lady who happened to decide to come to the ACAAC conference and was asking all manner of questions about Orthodoxy. At one point, a couple of people also engaged in the discussion mentioned the word “feeling.” What it “feels” like to worship in the Church. The “experience” that you have.

I readily admitted that the use of the phrase and the notion of “feeling” and “experiencing” things in the church made me cringe. I saw far too many people get too focused on that aspect in my years as a Protestant. But, I was just as readily reassured that “feeling” and “experience” were meant in a different context. I kind of got what they said, but I guess it was slightly acquiescent for me not to pursue that point further than I did.

Fr. Stephen posted a wonderful reflection on what it means to really want to “know” and “experience” God. I think my befuddlement is fairly defused now. 🙂

Glory to God for All Things: “To Know God”

Ever since this afternoon, the 21st verse of Matthew 6 will not leave me be. It keeps repeating over and over again.

For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also….for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also….

On it continues to swirl in my thoughts…

The last time I had a word or phrase from scripture stuck in my head like this, I ended up becoming Orthodox*. So there’s no telling where this will end up.

*Read my comment (specifically the first point) on Fr. Stephen’s post entitled “Why People Become Orthodox” to find out why.

Smoky Flowers

There is often something transcendent about beautiful days. Today is a perfect example. I wake up at 7:50-something in a room where all the shades are drawn, leaving only a small crack through which a tiny amount of sunlight creeps in and illuminates the carpeted floor. I go directly to the shower and get ready for work, not once passing a window to the outside. However, I can just sense that it is a pretty day. Without explanation or qualification, it is something that I can just feel very deeply.

When I finish getting ready, I grab my lunch and walk outside to the cool of upper-60’s temperatures and a sun that is just beginning to peek over the trees in the back yard. I am greeted by a rush of refreshing summer morning air. I smile as I stroll to my car, thinking back to high school and all the mornings in July and August when I would get out of bed at 6:30 to head to band camp, always delighting in the minor hum of the traffic and expectant busy-ness that the early hours bring.

I haven’t listened to it in a while, but I start singing Switchfoot’s “Golden” as I open the car and place my things inside. I start the car and find the song on my iPod and punch Play. “The green comes from the frozen ground/And everything will be made new again like freedom in spring.” This is a day where life—green trees, sunshine, warm breezes, kind words, Illumination itself—reaches beyond mere concepts to be considered and becomes almost tangible.

It is a new day, and with it, God’s mercies are fresh as well. Let us rejoice and be glad in this.

Blogging An Undivided Life

I am entering an experimental phase. One filled with thought and execution, trial and error, fun and games, arsenic and old lace…

Okay, maybe not that last one.

But, I have reached a point where this blog, as it is, may or may not suit my wants/needs. I like giving my perspective on things, as you can clearly see. I like the way having this blog and reading others often causes me to think differently. Yet, as stated in the Headline, this blog is about my life in Christ. My whole life. Undivided.

Obviously, a great deal of this life includes reflections on my faith, whether I write them here or not. And it will continue to be so. Yet, there are other aspects of this life that make up a great deal of who I am. Music. Technology. Literature. YouTube.

So, as fellow Orthoblogger Seth Earl ponders in his post “Complete Randomness“, I have reached a point where I might have to start another blog. If I went this route, it would be dedicated to just things I enjoy talking about, or things that strike my fancy that aren’t particularly spiritual in nature. Not that I want to compartmentalize my life, as that is not a good practice at all. But, I don’t like the idea of cluttering this mostly spiritually-reflective blog (for want of a better term) with random things about MacBooks, homemade screenprint t-shirts, or the missing pages of Lewis Carroll’s diary.

This wouldn’t be a problem except for the fact that several of you read in order to get my perspective on things (as you’ve told me) as an Orthodox college student. So, as a solution, I may start a new blog and just post links to new entries on that blog here. That way you can tell from the RSS feed if it’s worth your time. Or, I might simply keep everything on here and have indications in the title if it’s out-of-the-ordinary. I don’t know. Personally, I think it’s better to centralize everything, both in writing and in life. If one says he is presenting himself, he should do it wholly. Otherwise, he ends up displaying only a fraction of the man he truly is.

Whatever the case, please bear with me. This blog will always be a place where I will wonder aloud at things I come across while on the path to salvation. It just might begin to include some things outside that scope.


Father’s Day

The inspiration for this blog came, primarily, from Father Stephen Freeman. He demonstrated to me that it was perfectly acceptable to blog about theology and Orthodoxy and icons and Bob Dylan. He’s also my parish priest, and a wonderful man. I’m blessed to call him a friend.

However, this blog would not exist if not for my love for writing. The credit for that is primarily due to my own father, Jerry Bush. A former English teacher of all grades from sixth to college-level, and a life-long educator, he taught me early on that the English language is beautiful when used properly (sometimes even when used improperly) and that writing can be a very satisfying medium for expressing oneself. Thanks to him, I love writing of all types, though some more than others. I love putting thoughts into words, whether poetry or prose (though I can’t write lyrics, which always frustrates me). I also love the quickly-disappearing art of writing letters by hand. (In fact, if anyone ever wants one, just ask me. Seriously! I even have a Speedball pen, a bottle of black ink, and blank stationery, and they’re just waiting to be put to use. 🙂 )

Beyond teaching me about writing, he teaches me about life. He’s also my go-to guy when I have a question about literature or education. I can’t think of anyone else I could randomly call up to have a very detailed conversation about Harvard reviewing their core requirements to see if they should be relaxed in the name of relevancy. (“If they do that, they cease to be a true liberal arts college; they cease to be Harvard,” he concluded.) And I’m very blessed to realize these things now when I’m 25. Mine won’t be a story of coming to understand somewhere around age 48 that my dad was cool and intelligent and would talk about anything that was on my mind, no matter how trivial. Which is good, because he’ll be 80 and senile, instead of just 57 and oddly silly. (Now you know where I get it. 😀 )

So, as Father’s Day winds down, I just want to give credit where credit is due. He was my first teacher, he’s half the reason I exist, and he continues to contribute to my mental instability like no one else. 😉

Thanks, dad. I love you. May God grant you many blessed years.

When I was in 12th grade, I had a friend named April. We only had band together, but we made the most of anytime we got to spend together. Inside jokes were plentiful, as were long rides on the bus to and from band events. I count her among the several people who helped me come out of my shell that year.

One of the ways she contributed to this was with my guitar playing. “Slide” by Goo Goo Dolls was a big hit that year, and I tried my hardest to play it and play it well. When I played it around her a few times, she asked why I don’t sing when I play. (I still rarely do.) She put the bug in my ear, and I began to do sing that song when I played for her. She would often sing along in her almost childlike soprano. She was one of the first people, let alone girls, that ever heard me sing solo.

When I graduated, I hated to leave her behind. I figured I wouldn’t see her that much anymore, but I didn’t know it would be worse than I had assumed.

The next fall, at a football game, I was told by a former bandmate that, the previous week, April had been beaten up by her dad and had been sent back to live with her mom in Oklahoma. I was heartbroken.

The next summer, attempts to connect with her on a trip she took to Knoxville failed. And, that was the last I heard from her for a number of years.

Fast forwarding to March of this year, I find her on MySpace after many tries. Though, she no longer goes by April, but another name which I won’t give. Most everybody is different after five or six years go by. But, she’s almost the opposite of who she was. She doesn’t remember a lot of the past, and she probably would rather not. It’s really sad. I’ve called her April a few times in e-mails, but I almost get the feeling that she would be upset if I did it in a way that would be seen by others.

I used to think of her whenever I heard or played the song “Slide”. But, lately, another song brings her to mind. It’s an earlier release from the same band, and it’s called “Name”. (The lyrics and video are posted below.) It’s a song from one orphan to another about forsaking the past and trying to be someone new. It reveals the truth that those who care about us will always know who we were and will always hold that close. But those people also must accept the now, and this is also pointed out. “I won’t tell no one your name,” the singer says as he closes each verse.

I’m sure many know people in this kind of situation. And, those people always baffle me as to why they would totally distance themselves from their past, however marred it is. Then, I realize that there are things in my own past—even my own present—that I stay away from so that I don’t have to be confronted with ugliness or pain. I could just as easily begin using an alter ego and go along as a person with few problems. I could just as easily ignore my own dark past in the hope of finding newness in the days to come.

But this wouldn’t solve anything. My broken past would still be my broken past. And I would still be a broken person. Reinvention brings with it no amount of actual redemption. And redemption doesn’t mean that everything in the past is over and done with, forget about it, that’s all she wrote, move on. In order to see our past redeemed, we must confront it. Just like Christ does with us. As He redeems us daily, we are confronted with sin and struggles and twisted desires and bitterness and all manner of reminders of our own fallen nature. We are confronted with them so that we can, with His grace, begin to deal with them.

We must do the same as we encounter the painful memories that we want so desperately to run away from. Dealing with them in light of the grace that God gives you is the only way to be released from them.

True redemption is there for those who will honestly seek it. I pray that my friend April will seek it. I pray I will do the same.

“Name”
words/music by Johnny Rzeznik

And even though the moment passed me by
I still can’t turn away
‘Cause all the dreams you never thought you’d lose
Got tossed along the way
And letters that you never meant to send
Get lost or thrown away

And now we’re grown up orphans
That never knew their names
We don’t belong to no one
That’s a shame

But if you could hide beside me
Maybe for a while
And I won’t tell no one your name
And I won’t tell ’em your name

Scars are souvenirs you never lose
The past is never far
Did you lose yourself somewhere out there
Did you get to be a star
And don’t it make you sad to know that life
Is more than who we are

You grew up way too fast
And now there’s nothing to believe
And reruns all become our history
A tired song keeps playing on a tired radio
And I won’t tell no one your name
And I won’t tell ’em your name
I won’t tell ’em your name
Mmm, mmm, mmm

I won’t tell ’em your name…

Mmmmmm

I think about you all the time
But I don’t need the same
It’s lonely where you are come back down
And I won’t tell ’em your name

When I was a child, I watched “Mr. Wizard’s World” every Saturday on Nickelodeon. It was where I learned that you don’t put metal in the microwave, computers were capable of drawing if you knew the programming language, and you could make music with a wine glass, water, and your fingers.

He passed away this morning, which you can read about at Boing Boing.

I was speaking with a friend recently about things past. Failures, successes, tribulations, comforts, the ease and safeness of complacency versus the hard and jarring things that simple questions can reveal to, and about, a person. It’s a discussion I am continuously very grateful for. It was one of those moments that you don’t often experience around friends and family, because either your heart is hard to their observation or their advice is so laced with frustration that it’s hard to distinguish between despair and truly reasonable concern. I had to accept things I’ve denied for a long time, even to myself in my secret moments when nobody is around and I am totally “honest” with myself.

But, are we ever truly “honest” with ourselves? I don’t think we can be. The Scriptures say that only God knows our hearts. Not even we really know ourselves. The deepest perceptible rustlings of thought, emotion, care, struggle, desire—God knows us beyond even these things. And, sometimes, He reveals them to us, in bits and pieces.

It’s the same with dreams. I’m a big dreamer. Sometimes, I dream out of selfish ambition. Sometimes, I awaken to a dream that has been given to me by the Creator who knows me and my purposeful existence better than I will ever be able to fathom. In the awakening, I occasionally find the dream I’ve been dreaming has to be left behind. Maybe temporarily, maybe forever. And this is so difficult, as a person’s dreams often come to define both who he is in their pursuit and who he will be once they are realized. It’s like losing an identity.

School has been a lead weight to me in past years. It has largely been one chase down the Rabbit Hole after another. I’ve been an electronic engineer, a composer, a youth worker, even a businessman. Not that these adventure have been useless or wholly unnecessary. Even now, I see many things I’ve pursued converging in my life, almost as a reassurance that it’s not been a total loss. But, academically, it’s been a great loss. And, now, the state of my scholastic situation is a cross I can no longer ignore or tinker around with. Now is the time. I must pick it up and carry it.

This past weekend I was in Kentucky, surrounded by good friends, old and new. While I was there, my heart was stirred. Ideas and thoughts that I would never have imagined began to spring to life as I read a story about an Orthodox parish in the early stages of a long process of leaving the storefront for a beautiful God-given hillside of 18 acres. These emerging dreams found support from parishioners I spoke with, and even the priest. In two years, who knows? I might actually get to carry them out.

As a result, I feel I can be excited and somewhat certain about my future for once, both the immediate future and the distant future. (I already had plans shelved for the fall and the spring of the upcoming school year). Jamie Tworkowski of To Write Love On Her Arms puts my thoughts better than I could right now, I think:

It’s like playing poker with God, and I’m all in – every last chip. And He had to know that I would be, because he made me this way. And I cry sometimes, but I also have to smile, because win or lose, we’re walking out of here together. And I wonder if it’s rare, this crazy thing always pushing in my chest, the weight also a gift, God always saying “Come on, follow me. Let’s go see this new thing. You have to trust me.” And me with all my questions, always reaching to rewind, that button always broken. And everyone with their stories and encouragement, words about miscarriage and redemption and “this too shall pass.” And God smiling, going “It’s me, you know me, I know you, I’m proud of you, Let’s go, Let’s do this, You’ve never been alone.”

Yet, first is first in the order of things. Jon Foreman says, “In my dreams, I see visions of the future. But, today we have today.” And this is very hard. Naturally, I want to succeed now and realize my dreams now. Like a lot of kids, I never liked cleaning up messes. I was excellent at making them, but awful at un-making them. Though, I have been known to buckle down and restore a pile of mess to a nice and neat collection of whatnot (toys, clothes, books, CD’s, etc.) All it took was motivation.

Motivation is always hard when you feel helpless and lost. But, helplessness is just as scarce in the presence of strength, and it’s hard to get lost when you’re following someone who knows the way.

God give us grace that we may follow, and strength that we may continue in the sight of difficulty.

A timely word (for me, anyway) from Fr. Stephen about not resting on your own abilities to stand up to the tempations and challeneges of life.  May it bless and encourage you, as well.

“On Hope in God Alone and On Confidence in Him”

On Saturday of the ACAAC, I attended a lecture by Nun Katherine entitled “Repentance as a Gate: Will the Prodigal’s Big Brother Enter?”  She was reading from her booklet of the same title.  Toward the end, she went into a territory that would likely unease many of us.

“As always, change begins with self, the only person we can really change. I invite you to think for a moment of one person in your life who seems to be in need of major life healing, of repentance, of a return to the Father.  if this were miraculously happen today, how might that make your life harder as well as easier?  What might it be like to have this person enter as a more equal partner in your shared relationships?  What might you lose in terms of power and status in your group if this person had a more equal voice?  How might you have to focus on your own problems rather than on theirs? What might you see in yourself if free to do this self-examination?”

Hearing this troubled me a great deal.

It got me thinking about my family’s own prodigal son, my older brother. Over the last 10 years or so, he’s sobered up and relapsed time and again.  Each time he sobers up, it’s getting harder and harder to discern his genuineness.  When he says he’s sorry, does he, deep down, really desire or believe in the ability to change.  If the answer is no, then logic follows that he doesn’t want to.  As I say all the time, why try and attain something which you deem to be unattainable?

Yet, what if he were to truly repent and succeed in healing?  How much would that turn my paradigm upside-down?  Would it shake me, or would I simply rejoice?  More than this, however, I wonder if I would be able to recognize the true victory.

It’s been posited that “maybe redemption has stories to tell.”  If he experiences true redemption, he’ll definitely have some stories to tell, I have no doubt.  But, I can’t help but wonder if I’ll want to listen to celebration and joy as he shares them, or if I’ll pass them off as the same fables he’s told before.

I hope I get to answer this question someday.