Thursday, July 31, 2008

57 days

On a more lifeblogging bent...it's not often that I go off about topics - greatly enjoy them, though!

Almost finished my theology essays - just have to expand one paragraph, write a concluding summary and a conclusion.
The fact that I'm almost done is both good and bad - as much as I can complain (and, don't worry, I have done), I do like studying theology - I just don't like having to write about it without having first studied it properly. Education, not so much, and the end of my theology essays (for now) means that I have to get stuck into doing stuff for education - the thing that will actually pay money.

I've done a Statscheck up for it - rather elementary at the moment, but since I haven't started anything...
Keeping in mind that I'm doing four subjects - one of them is prac, which means that the other three have to be condensed into, like, 10 weeks (and all before Midsem - thanks, Uni!).
I have two due dates for six pieces of assessment. The first is in 21 days time, on 22 Aug, with a total of 120% (out of 300%) due, with the need to write 4100w. That means that, each day, I need to do 5.7% of an assignment - that is, 195 words every day.
After that, I can breathe a rather small sigh of relief, because the next due date is 35 days later, on 26 Sep, with a total of 180% due, comprising 7900w; meaning that, each day, I need to do 5.1% of an assignment - that is, 226w every day. More words for less percentage, bad deal, but do keep in mind that a lot of those words are basically repetition - lesson plans, for instance, will always have some things just ripped out of the syllabus wholesale.

200 words per day is actually rather standard, particularly knowing previous semesters. The concern is that usually my first two weeks are spent doing nothing. Instead of going from lazy to stressed (or, if you will, from good to bad), I'm going from stressed to moreso (or, from bad to worse).

On another note, I got a shipment of books yesterday and today: Hannah Arendt's The Life of the Mind - which, based on the wikipedia article, looks absolutely fascinating - along with three Orthodox books - Fr Seraphim (Rose)'s biography (which is about two inches thick), the latest Bible study book by Fr Lawrence Farley and the Divine Liturgy study by, again, Fr Lawrence. Greatly looking forward to reading all of these, somewhat saddened that the next time will be in September, when I'll probably have to be studying for what I'm going to be teaching...eek!

57 days...

It's not arrogant to simply be correct

Something that occured to me today...

Orthodox are sometimes castigated over what is seen as sheer arrogance - particularly the audacity to claim that we are the Church that Jesus founded and that we have the lone claim to the fullness of the Faith.

And, I can kinda see where that viewpoint comes from - when you come from a viewpoint that has the truth being like shards in a broken mirror, and when you put it all together you get the whole truth, it's very confronting (or, at least, counter-intuitive) to have someone say 'actually, we've got the whole mirror, unbroken'. I can kinda understand why someone would say 'you think you've got a mirror, nuh, no way.'

But real practise, we don't find Orthodox beating their chest or waving pom-poms saying 'we've got it ri-ight' or anything like that. Surely, though, one leads to the other, so why isn't this the case?

The problem here is that:
IF when you believe that you have the fullness of the Faith, and
IF you know that it's not like you made it (i.e. we believe that we got it passed on, unchanged, from Christ),
THEN any kind of decent self-reflection is going to mean that you don't consider yourself worthy of this; which means that you're going to go 'this is awesome' and love it, but it's not like you can be that triumphalistic about it.

Orthodoxy is fantastic and I love being part of it, but it's not something I can laud over people. It is something, though, that I can, with full confidence, say 'this is the Truth' - not because of me, or anything that I've done, but because this is God's religion.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Responsibility

Oh, and while I can still get in a post and have it count as July:

I'm so sick of hearing girls say 'all guys are the same'.

It runs into a bigger problem, of course - not taking responsibility for one's own actions.

I keep wanting to say 'it's not that all guys are the same, it's that all the guys that you are attracting are the same, and if you want something different, you have to change what you're doing'.

There. And, off my chest.

And, for what it's worth, exactly as annoying when a guy says 'all girls are the same'. They're not, you're doing something wrong, see above and switch the terms.

Monday, July 28, 2008

60 Days until a Holiday

Well, it's all looking official regarding the move - looks slated to happen in the last weekend of August. Very excited - I've wanted to live in that inner-city-ghetto-turned-yuppieland since around the turn of the millenium, so it's fulfilling a long-time dream of mine :)

One more essay is done. Just have a book review to go...four pages and my theology essays are done. Of course, then it's straight back into education essays, so I'm never quite free until, like, mid-September, for a week (which is after all the due-dates but before prac).
I'm particularly worried about that. Quite literally, I haven't had a real holiday since February - the midsemester break isn't a holiday anyway (and that's when I had my surgery), and the combination of problems with my last place of residence, moving and doing theology essays has wiped out a solid six weeks of holiday. I'm really worried that I won't have the right perspective and that I won't be in a clear headspace, nor one able to focus on unit outlines and such things. I'm hoping that I can hold out for the next 60 days, until the end of September.

One other exciting thing - I may be nominated to represent my Toastmaster's club at District level. We'll need to do some things quickly to fit into the rules, but it's looking good so far.
And one disappointing thing - a friend of mine was slated to be ordained soon, but as it happens, well, it's not going to happen. I was greatly looking forward to the event, but I'm taking as my lesson that we can never count chickens before hatching - we can say that something is certain when it has already happened, but until then, things are not entirely in our own hands.

I'm feeling somewhat confident about my Education course this semester. And by confident, I mean 'not a nervous wreck'...hopefully, I stay that way (with reason) through the semester! Today's English curriculum subject gave me some hope that I'd be okay - good lecturer.
I also taught R.E. today, which I enjoyed. We talked about the Liturgy - a very fun activity for me, and since I didn't get that many interruptions (not sure if that's my teaching ability or the topic), I have to assume that I had some success, which is a little encouraging.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Four down, Two to go, Ten days to do it in

Well, I finished that essay. Finally. Two more to go, though - a minimum of 9, 1.5 spaced pages (i.e. six real pages) to write. Let's hope I get it done...

I was listening to a podcast done by re/CALL - it's a podcast done for teens, but I like to listen to it because I figure that they must be doing something right, and it's very easy to listen to. The most recent podcast (listen) is about a very effective means of Orthodox evangelism - to be precise, lifestyle evangelism, or sharing one's faith through who one is. It only works if Christ is genuinely a part of our life...which is good, because if He's not, one shouldn't be evangelising anyway, IMHO.

This time, I decided to take some dot-point notes, which I'm going to share. If you want explanations of these dot-points, listen to the podcast itself and there should be a fuller explanation.


The goal of evangelism is to introduce other people to Orthodoxy, and then to involve them in an Orthodox community, and it is fundamental that Orthodoxy is presented (as it is in actuality) as a living faith, one that creates, forms and shapes lives in Orthodox Christians that others want to be a part of.

Part of our deal is to let our 'light shine in the world' and to be salt and light. Salt has three relevant features - it makes people thirsty (i.e. we should live such that people are thirsty for the Living Water - Christ), it gives things flavour (i.e. that we have communities that support) and that it is a preservative (i.e. against decaying social relationships). Light is in reference to the joy and power of Christ within us.

Christians generally have pretty bad PR - hypocritical and stupid. To show something different, we have to be something different - to have integrity and courage to lead people to glorify God. We can do this in a number of ways, particularly in helping one's neighbour - whether in institutions like soup kitchens or in helping someone who can't help themselves.

Part of lifestyle evangelism is that we need to reach beyond ourselves and those who think like us - it's very easy to stay in Orthodox enclaves, but this, well, isn't Orthodox. Our practise of Orthodoxy should be apparent - visitors to houses can see the icons on the walls, and if they are interested, they will ask, giving us an opportunity to speak about their role in our lives; getting people food can provoke questions about not eating a meaty/dairy food because of fasting, giving us an opportunity to speak about prayer and fasting; people talking about their favourite TV shows can lead to the response that one doesn't watch them because they're in church at vespers (or Liturgy in the evening, in some places), which can provoke questions with responses about the beauty of the church.

In short, be properly Orthodox and don't hide or be ashamed of your Orthodoxy, and you're halfway there.

Friday, July 18, 2008

OT, History, maybe-move.

I'm currently doing an essay on the history of Israel. Or, more specifically, I'm currently doing an essay on Israel between the division between Judah (two tribes, successors to David) and Israel (ten tribes, not successors) and the fall of Samaria to the Assyrians, which is about a third of the way through 3 Kings (or 1 Kings, for those with the Protestant Bibles) to about two thirds of the way through 4 Kings (or 2 Kings, again, for those with the Protestant Bibles).

Not exactly thrilling stuff, I've gotta say. I'm not entirely sure how practical it is, too. It seems that the editors of the OSB agree - having some very sparse notes on the topic - and I'm just not sure how often a person is going to ask 'hey, I was thinking one day and wanted to know why Hoshea had a conspiracy against Pekah'. Because I've gotta say, after writing this essay, I'd probably say '...are you serious??'.

Maybe it's not my cup of tea. Fascinating as history is, of course...well, actually, no. I know, I'm studying to be a history teacher and all, but my interest is in modern history...and really, in events, watershed moments. Talk about the apartheid and I'm interested - talk about all the details in the 70 years (or whatever) between apartheid's institution and it's demise and I'm...well, yawning.

*sigh*. The things we do...

In other news, it looks like I'm moving out from my parents' house, sharing an apartment in the inner-city. I've gotta say, I'm really happy with how things are turning out - it may take a short while for God to step in after a succession of bad, but wait a week, maybe a month, and good things can, quite seriously, just start happening. It looks like I'll be making the move in mid-September...which will make it five places that I've lived in since the start of December. After over 20 years in one place, I think I'm making up for lost time :)

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

My Week and a List of Metrakos Articles

Sunday night, went to the Youth Committee meeting. Not a lot happened, just administration and stuff like that.

Monday, went to a meeting for Religious Education teachers at the school I do R.E. at. The most interesting discussion was when it was brought out that Buddhism and Christianity see a different emphasis in what they're trying to portray to students - Christianity, Christ; Buddhism, basically ethics and conduct. A shock, I know.

Tuesday, went to a careers fair for future teachers. Lots of demand from the UK, which got me thinking about spending six months or so over there. Bit of demand from South Australia, too. Also finished off my third essay...three to go!

Today, I'm going to start working on my fourth essay. It's basically a history of Israel from Jeroboam (the one after Solomon, when Israel is divided) to the fall of Samaria - for those with Orthodox Bibles, that's in 3 and 4 Kings; those with Protestant Bibles, that's 1 and 2 Kings.
(and people ask 'what's the difference'...!)

But, in a bid to procrastinate from that...I've found a few good essays by Fr Aris Metrakos that, well, I found very insightful.
He talks about conceptions of a parish - whether a cruise ship (where everyone is tanned, free of responsibilities) or a battleship (where everyone has a job to do at the best of their abilities), and suggested that most parishes need to get serious about what they're doing instead of being "bloated and afloat".
He talks about his views on what a third millenium Triumph of Orthodoxy would be like - there would be pan-jurisdictional unity on the focus of the Gospel (and, hence, Church life) being on making new Christians and helping the needy, with a knowledge that those who are Orthodox but don't come to Church are, for all intents and purposes, outside the Church (and, hence, the parish); and about priests - that services are the beginning and the end, but in between, there's a lot of pastoral work that needs doing, and also that the laity need to stop whinging about their priests unless there's a serious problem (like, they're immoral or seriously and decisively not doing their job).
He talks about parish composition, and how ethnicity has given way for cultural diversity and religious fervour, but the part I found most insightful (to me) was his view on missions - we shouldn't be starting up missions in the same area, it's just silly.
He talks about mixed marriages (i.e. an Orthodox and a heterodox Christian), and how people can whinge all they like about an Orthodox who marries a non-Orthodox and stops coming to church, but the real problem is usually that said Orthodox was probably not that settled in their Orthodoxy anyway.
He talks about who the lost sheep really are - that they're not the ones who are Orthodox but make the decision to reject church, they're the ones that don't know about the church but that we're not reaching because we spend too much time on the ones that reject church.
He talks about a definable American Orthodoxy - which is pertinant, because that'll probably be Australia in about 20 years.
He makes an argument for a long-term pastorate - as compared to the wisdom of some time back that a pastor should stay for 7 years before moving on to pastures greener.
He talks a lot on what it takes to be in the priesthood, a very good article indeed. He also writes about the odd questions that priests are sometimes asked and good ways to engender good council meetings.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Bringing a whole new meaning to Yes, Minister

Well, it turns out that some things have been happening...stay with me on this one, because the tenses might get confusing.

The parish that I am normally present at on Sundays is a rather small parish, one that I go quite some distance to get to (the second city away, actually). As you may imagine, a pain both to wake up on time and to get there at the right time.

That aside. I'd previously - around the December-January time - said that there was very little utility in my being there, and I was a long way away from the closest church to me (which, btw, is the standard church that one should attend). However, I was all-but ordered to continue to attend this church and to help out where I could, which I diligently and faithfully did. To do so, various people were asked to give me a lift from the train to the parish. Due to a shortage of available people, I asked someone myself.

The one in clerical authority has just returned from a trip to Alaska, among other places, and it seems that this trip has meant that he has come back ice-cold towards, well, anyone who has directly spoken to the one in episcopal authority.
Said one in clerical authority today delivered what was essentially a pre-sermon, summarising Fr Michael Oleksa's letter and being quite sure to emphasise Bp Nikolai's dictatorial style of leadership (which I am utterly certain will have repercussions) on the pretext of keeping the faithful aware of abuses in other parts of the world (despite this having happened three months ago in another continent and under another jurisdiction).
This, btw, is arguably an abuse of the pulpit, but I digress.

Surrounding this, said priest essentially asked me not to be at that parish under these conditions, as there was no utility in my presence and I could just as easily be at the parish in my city.
Both true. But why now?

At some level, I'm somewhat aggreived by how this whole thing has been done. At the same time, I'm relieved that this has finally happened. But it is a sad indictment of the place, and I shouldn't need to refer to certain Eastern European proverbs about fish...

Saturday, July 12, 2008

For Blog's Sake

There's very little further to blog, really.

I've finished another essay - two down, four to go - and am a good way through another essay (note-taking done, just the writing itself to go), which means that I have to do three in the space of as many weeks. Not my most difficult challenge, really.

Presented a speech at my Toastmasters group - my first one. It was about how debating looks similar, but is actually rather different, from public speaking - debating, whether done poorly or well, is about analysis and attack, but a rounded public speaker can entertain, motivate, console, inspire or introduce - quite different again. Ironically, my evaluation was that I sounded like a debater in delivering that speech...

I suppose, though, no news is basically good news.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Breakdowns, moved

Turns out, I've got a few things that I can be annoyed about. Some personal relationships have gone quite sour without any warning, which makes me feel resentful and somewhat self-conscious - not doing me any favours at all. But, some others have just started to open up. I'm not sure, but I think that I've been given what I need to persevere, but I fail to see how this is a good environment...

It is going, in some way, towards illustrating to myself my frustration with those who are ignorant and arrogant. Don't know how I'm going to get around that.

I've settled into my new place. Haven't done much else except, well, settle in. I've got a bunch of essays that really need doing, though - and I'm certainly well behind the page-per-day schedule I'd set up for myself (I'm supposed to be on page 14, when I'm more on about page 6; and I have to do a total of 30 by the end of this month). Hopefully, I can focus more now. Hopefully.

Not much else has been happening.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Moved.

Well, it's official. I've moved.

I'm still kinda annoyed. It's not like I moved because I was deliriously happy, and the way it's been fixed has left a rather sour taste in my mouth...not because of what happened (although I was less than impressed with that), but because it's possibly a pattern. I'm not a big fan of conflict, and my general response ranges between angelism (i.e. acting aloof, or otherwise being above it) and retreat. As far as living in this world goes, that's a definite bad thing - and now I need to figure out if I need to change it, and if so, how. It's not something I'm looking forward to.