Stewardship pt. 1

coal terminal

Last night I did our weekly grocery run and in doing so I have to pass over a bridge that goes over a Norfolk Southern rail yard. These rail lines supply the Newport News Coal Terminal with a steady supply of coal. Hampton Roads is the largest coal terminal exporter in the United States and one of the largest in the world *. This coal goes over seas to many different countries for various reasons but I can’t help but think of the mountains this coal came from as I see them passing by in mile after mile of railroad cars.

This coal is blasted out of the Appalachian Mountains in mountaintop removal surface mining. In this form of mining, as the name implies, the top of a mountain is literally blasted and hauled away. The veins of coal are so small that a traditional mine would not be able to economically get to the coal. So in the interest of economics and efficiency companies blast a mountain away just to get the coal. What is left is the discards of rock and soil and those tend to just get pushed into the valley and left. This allows dangerously high levels of toxins that were once trapped forever to be released into the rivers and streams and then into the drinking water. Killing plants, animals, and even people. I’m not going to go into the details of the mining process but you can read more here.

Why do we go to such great lengths to extract this coal and suffer the consequences of the process?….is it worth it?…does the benefits outweigh the cost? The first question is easy really…profit…plain and simple coal is big money. It always has been big. With the industrial revolution coal drove the “progress”  of this nation. Now as we have moved into a more technological revolution coal is still used to generate power but not as much as it once was.  We have seen how unsafe it is and have found other ways to generate our power.  As other countries are growing and going through their own industrial/technological revolutions they are demanding more and more coal. China comes to mind but there are others for sure.

The next 2 questions I suppose are all in one’s perspective. In my opinion no it isn’t worth it. We are taking a limited resource from our land in an unethical way and selling it to other countries that use it to facilitate the making of goods that they then sell to us. It would be one thing if the coal was removed in a more ethical and holistic way but it is not. We are poisoning our people and nature to gain money. Money that only a few really see or benefit from. Somewhere along the way the social responsibility has eroded away and been replaced with greed. Wendell Berry said:

“In the loss of skill, we lose stewardship; in losing stewardship we lose fellowship; we become outcasts from the great neighborhood of Creation. It is possible – as our experience in this good land shows – to exile ourselves from Creation, and to ally ourselves with the principle of destruction – which is, ultimately, the principle of nonentity. It is to be willing in general for being to not-be. And once we have allied ourselves with that principle, we are foolish to think that we can control the results. (pg. 303, The Gift of Good Land)”

― Wendell Berry, The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays

In Genesis 1:28 you find “And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.”  (KJV).  This passage, often to referred to as the dominion mandate, has been used to almost justify our right to do things like mountaintop removal mining. This passage is interpreted in a God says I am to “rule” over nature therefore it is mine and I can do what I want. The problem is that this passage is one of a charge to responsibility. Just as the parable of the talents in Matthew 25 14:30 the master (God) is charging his servants (man) to take care of and be responsible for his property (creation). In this parable the master expects the servants to be good stewards of his property.

Stewardship is greatly lacking in this world. In the quest for bigger and better…we have lost our understanding of stewardship and how to take care of what is given to us. When something breaks we throw it away and get another instead of repairing it. We choose cheap and poorly made goods over those that are well built and will last a lifetime. We would rather buy a $25 axe from India, that was made with most likely US coal, with a fiberglass handle that can’t be repaired if broken with steel that is brittle and cheap; over an axe that is hand forged from quality steel with a fixable hickory handle. Sure the quality axe will cost you $120 but your great grandchildren will be using it when the cheap one has had to be replaced 20 times. (Can you tell I was looking at axes last night)

Going back to the coal we are whoreing away out natural resources and destroying the land for the sake of money to buy cheap disposable goods that came from overseas and made (at least in part) with the coal we sold to make the money. The icing on the cake as it may be is we are disposing of these goods into landfills and they are harming the land and those around it. I am not saying that coal is evil but the way it is mined is foolish and will cause irrespirable damage in the long term. Yes there are better ways of mining…even better sources of power (some just as harmful if not more however)…the bottom line is we must become better stewards of the land and resources we have been given. If we don’t take care of what we have we will lose it one way or another.

Hobet-Before

Hobet MTR Location before **Hobet-afterHobet MTR After **

* http://www.odu.edu/content/dam/odu/offices/economic-forecasting-project/docs/2013SOR%20Coal.pdf

** Images from website http://www.ohvec.org/galleries/mountaintop_removal/019/index.html

*** Image of coal terminal at beginning of post from the Dominion Terminal Associates website http://www.dominionterminal.com/Blending%20Options.htm

Record Cold Weather

The weather across the nation is down right cold. I awoke this morning and crawled out from under my warm electric blanket to freezing cold floors and howling winter winds outside. The fire had long since died out in the fireplace and left me wishing we had a wood stove instead. Definitely a day for warm clothes so on went my thick canvas pants and my plaid shirt (after a slight warming in the dryer) and a fresh fire to warm the house.

Over breakfast I looked at the temperature outside and the thermometer read 18 degrees. Chilly for sure but no where near as cold as I am used to this time of year. So I decided to look what was it at home anyways…oh -3 degrees…wow I ain’t gonna complain about my 18 then. But none the less it was still cold here. As I sat there eating my buttered sourdough bread and wishing the fireplace would hurry up and heat the house a video I had seen the day before popped into my head (shared below).

We live in an old home…built in 1918 to be exact and aside from the plaster (which I am sure has asbestos) there is no exterior insulation. We have new double pane windows an most of the doors are newer but there is still a draft. As the wind howled you could feel the cold air pushing its way under the french patio doors and the trash bag covered dining room window (because the massive window AC is bolted to the house on that window) and I begun to think about those that had even more issues with the cold.

Across this country there are people cold this very night. In cities and in the country there are people in uninsulated homes/trailers or no homes at all. Countless homeless are on the cold streets this night and others have the hard decision to make to eat or heat their home. As heating costs have skyrocketed over the years more and more are having to make this decision. It was then I said a short prayer for those in need and a thanksgiving for what I had then left to go to work. As the day went on and I saw the masses of people bundled up in the libraries in which I work I couldn’t help but wonder….how many of them are hiding from the cold in one of the few places they can. Help someone if you can or at the very least say a prayer for those freezing tonight.

Peace on Earth

My boys love looking at the stars and dreaming. They love all things space, as most boys their age do, and they love to watch NASA videos. Like them I too was enamored with all things space and wanted to become an astronaut…or at least an astronomer. Of course the closest I ever got was an astronomy 101 class in college to know that I was not cut out for that. It has always struck me though the view of the Earth from space. From up high all is beautiful and peaceful. It is truly the closest to “Peace on Earth” we will most likely ever see. From space you can’t see the fighting in the Middle East, or the torture and martyrdom of Christians in Syria and elsewhere, or the gang violence in the urban streets of America. From that lofty view you see the World from a different perspective. Even the hurricanes and thunderstorms look beautiful. You look at an image of the Earth and you realize just how small you are compared to everything…and you see how great God truly is.

The sad thing is the Earth is not as it appears from space. There is anger and violence, natural and man made disasters, and many more sinful and evil things going on down there. However up high in space looking back on the Earth you see it as intended…a beautiful place of peace. This Christmas season many of us are going to be going out into this world traveling and meeting people. We will be standing in long lines after long lines… fighting traffic and crowded parking lots… we will be getting frustrated with the insanity of the Christmas season that has turned from love to consumerism. During this time lets make the conscious choice to take a deep breath and stay calm. Remember the world as it is from space and do what we can to bring peace to our little corner of the world. It isn’t easy I sure struggle with anger and frustration I know… but for the sake of other and to the glory of God lets be the icon of Christ to the world.

 

Missing

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August 8th has rolled around another year. For our friends a joyous and happy time…an Anniversary of their marriage… the day they began their life as one. We were there that day…my wife a bridesmaid just as the groom had been a groomsman in our wedding. Fitting for their friendship…a bond like family more than friend. On this very day…at the very same time…in the very same spot a child we never knew was there was lost. The days following were wrought with first confusion…for we knew not the source of the extreme pain my Beloved was going through…then fear…for there were almost 2 more angels in heaven had it not been for the skillful hands of an amazing surgeon…then sorrow…sorrow for the loss. That sorrow still lingers… for it never really leaves us. There are times when we are all out and I am counting heads… even though I count to 6 [and sometimes 8 if we are watching the cousins]… there still feels like there is one missing…there is. I have subconsciously laughed at that and ignored the real meaning… I suppose not wanting to admit the pain. We go on…day by day…and year by year. Never really forgetting. I know that God had a reason for this…a reason I do not know. Admittedly I have been angry at Him for it in the past…now I rest in the fact that there was a reason and one day…God willing…we will be made whole again.

 

 

How Once, You Were You

© Cassi
Would you wear pink or would you wear blue?
I’ll never know
or hear your sweet coo
or see those tiny little fingers,
how the thoughts of you just linger

Does the pain ever end?
Where do I begin to mend..
this broken heart..
from the all pain that it has felt?

All I can ask is why
Why were you given wings to fly
When you had feet to walk,
And a sweet little mouth to one day talk.

How I still fell you,
knowing there is nothing else I can do.
But just remember,
How once, you were you!

Source:  http://www.familyfriendpoems.com/poem/how-once-you-were-you#ixzz2bOrOQRAM

Searching for Meaning

A few years ago our world went topsy turvy. Things went crazy…lost a child…lost a job…etc. During that time something happened. Among the survival of putting one foot in front of another something inside was lost…slowly and unnoticed at first. I lost who I was.

I am to this day wondering who I am really. I mean I am James…I am an Orthodox Christian…I am a husband and father…I am a geek…but what lites me on fire…What drives me…What interest me? I am having to figure all that out. I feel like I’m going on a first date with myself some days but the problem is I’m too shy to tell myself anything I suppose.
Here I am 30 almost 31 grown up adult and I’m not sure about myself. Kind of embarrassing. I lived in the same area for 30 years and now I have moved far away from that place. Intentionally I might add. I am in a new place…a place to reinvent myself. I have no idea where to start or where it will lead. I feel most sorry for my wonderful beloved who has been at my side for all these years and now in some ways lives with a stranger. I’m sorry my beloved as soon as I know who I am I will introduce you…I’m sure you will love him…he is sure to be a good guy…if I say so myself. 🙂

Courageous Chivalry

chivalry

Everyone wants that Disney storybook life. That life with one real trial that ends in finding ” prince charming” and living ” happily ever after” with the world right and easy…. but anyone in our near adulthood knows this never happens. Life is full of trials and pains… full of good times and bad. The luckiest of us find that ” price charming” (or in my case lovely princess) to spend our days with. Those not so lucky either brave life by themselves or share it with someone who is not an equal “partner” in life.

The thing is it is in us all to be a Prince Charming or  a Lovely Princess. Everyone has the capacity to be the great husband/wife they are called to be. The fact is we are all princes or princess…we are all children of the King and made in His image. The unfortunate thing is we let the stress and clutter of life cloud our lives. As a society we are so busy and so stressed…constantly running around and living a complex and stress filled life.

Science has proven that when a person is in a state of constant stress they have a tendency to revert to their most quirkiest behaviors. This means is you are an introvert and tend to avoid conversing in social situations under constant stress you have a tendency to basically shut down and not talk. You will basically shut down and simply go through the motions of life. If you have a tendency to be outspoken and opinionated under constant stress you have a tendency to become overbearing, bossy, and hateful. We all have this tendency and at times these bad traits come out in all of us but when this behavior becomes constant and continuous there starts to become problems (been there,done that,got the T-shirt…trust me not a good place).

We must guard ourselves and our families against the threat of constant stress, clutter, and busyness. These constant pulls to be constantly connected, to always strive and work for better stuff and “keep up” with the best leaves us tired and spent. There is some stress we can’t control or have at least little control over…these are situations to give to God and trust in Him (still working on that myself)…but creating stress by busyness and excessiveness (if that is even a word) is dangerous to our lives.

The science is there to show how stress affects our health and relationships…but this has been know for centuries. It is not a new problem…it has been there since the beginning and warnings are even in the Bible. There are warnings to not stress about the future (Luke 12:22-29)…we are told to take all cares to the Lord (Philippians 4:6)…we are even advised to lead quiet simple lives (1 Thessalonians 4:11).  It has always been know that constant stress can affect our physical and mental health negatively yet we do it anyways… believing the lies of the demons that if we only did more things would be better…happier…more fulfilling; and sadly some people believe this their whole life and wake up near the end of their days and see what was missed.

And now a specific word to the men out there (myself included because I struggle with this as well)

It is time as men of faith to stand up for our families…time for us to make our wife and children our priority. It is time for us to be an Ephesians 5 husband (Ephesians 5 25-29)…to love our wives as Christ loved the church. Sacrificially putting aside our own selfish (and childish at times) wants and desires for what is best for our family (1 Corinthians 13:11).It is time to not take the easy out and escape to work when our wife and kids are sick…it is time to stay and hold the puke buckets and nurture our love ones as best we can.

The hardest thing of course is knowing what to do…what is really best for everyone…that is where we must pray and seek wise council. It is imperative that we have that wise council. It took me years to find that wise biblical council and was not till I began attending the Orthodox church and met Fr. Steve and Sdn. Ephriam that I found this (but that is a whole other post). As husbands and fathers we must do right by God and our wife and children. Trust in the Lord and he will lead…It is scary I know…I have days I get scared of the future too. As I said earlier this is something I struggle with to this day…I am in no ways have it all figured out…If I said or thought I did I would be lying to myself and you. It is only by God’s grace and guidance and the  forgiveness and steadfast love of my wife that I even come close to doing what is right.

If you are married strive to be that husband you are called to be…if you  have yet to meet that special woman study and learn…learn what you need to become…stay pure and whole for that soul mate God has made for you…prepare yourself for the time you become married. Be the man you are called to be no matter what situation you are in. Those times where you are uncertain of the future…when you are scared of what is going to happen…pray to the Lord with the confidence that He will guide and deliver you from any evil. Pray to Him knowing his truth and know that nothing can really keep you from His love and truth. Here is a prayer I use during those times; I did not write it (not sure who did) but here is where I got it. There are many prayers there that I have found helpful. Maybe you will find them as helpful.

O Lord, You who steadied the hand of Peter as he began to sink on the stormy sea, if you are with me, no one is against me. Grant to me the shield of faith and the mighty armor of the Holy Spirit to protect me and guide me to do Your will. The future I put into Your hands, O Lord, and I follow You to a life in Christ. Amen

 

Casting off (not a knitting tutorial)

As today is the first and everyone is putting up the things they are going to take up this year I am not… I have decided this year I need to cast off more than take on. I am going to cast off many things about myself that I either don’t like or is completely unhealthy. Here are a few that I am willing to share.

– Fear: I am going to cast my fears aside. The fear of the future…where I will live next…where am I going to get the things my family needs…what is going to happen to me. I am not going to harbor that fear anymore. My life is the Lords and he will guide and take care of us. It is not my place to be concerned with the future only to trust in the Lord.

– Anger: I am going to put aside the anger inside of me. Not even really sure why this anger is here but it is. Anger is not healthy to anyone and it is time it packed its bags.

– Pride: I was raised in a home where pride was king. It wasn’t until recently that I realized how much unhealthy pride I had. How it was so normal that i never saw it for what it was. Pride is the root sin and is thus the most dangerous.

– Evil Thoughts: Everyone has them…they are those nagging thoughts in your mind saying you are a failure…you are ugly…you are fat…you are never going to do anything right. Those evil thoughts that the demons use to bring you down. They use them to try and separate you from God. They have always been there in my head telling me how much of a loser I am and how I will never amount to anything really worthwhile. They are lies…they are dangerous evil lies. God loves me and has a purpose for my life. And I have a loving wife and 6 loving kids that believe in me and encourage me.

These are a few things that I know I need to change. Casting off of the old and forming anew. Scarry proposition for me to be honest but then again I am casting fear away. 🙂 

All Wibley Wobley Timey Wimey

***Geek Alert Ahead~Dr. Who References in this post. If you have never seen Dr. Who…I’m sorry you have missed a lot of good TV.***

Doctor-Who-Rose

This last day of 2012 I find myself looking back on the past year. Some good things… some bad… happy times… sad times. Turning 30 and joining the Orthodox Church has meant this has been a big year for reflection on the past. There has been a good bit of growing up this year and that will continue onto the next year and year after year. This has been a year to shed the past…to shed the regrets…to shed the pain…to shed the lies of Satan. It has been a year of embracing…embracing myself and who I am …embracing my Beloved…embracing my kids…embracing God…embracing His will.

This next year looks like it may be a big one with some big changes…good changes. Whatever God wills this next year I know it will be good. I choose to move forward…to not let the weeping angels zap me back into the past. To keep the faith and hope in the future…to not let the Dalek’s exterminate who I am. No matter where God takes us on this wibley wobley timey wimey adventure I know all will be well and good. It won’t be easy at times…it will be an adventure after all…but in the end all things will work out for the glory of God.

I am grateful to God that I have such a wonderful companion to go on this adventure with. My compassionate and loving Beloved encourages me and makes me want to be a better man. I am thankful for the grace of God…for without that there would be not real future. I am grateful for my kids who encourage me to do better for their sakes. I am grateful for the past because it has made me who I am today. Here is to the future…whatever it may hold. May God bless it and us as we move forward…and may God bless you and your families this new year. May our futures be bright and full of grace. Allons-y

Park

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ICXC

Growth

Since my last post I have been in some deep thinking. Examining my life to this current point and looking back at my decisions with the 20/20 vision of hindsight is interesting and disturbing all at the same time. As an only child who was sheltered I was definitely a child in the ways of the world. In many ways I was not taught how to make a good decision or how to take the leadership role (which is kinda ironic since my father owns his own business and is a politician).

There were moments in high school that I should have noticed the gap there. Like when I was on an exchange trip to Germany and began drinking heavily and smoking. I had no idea how “hold my own” and take charge of myself. I was “trained” to be a follower. My father required obedience and my mother always did what he wanted and never stood up to him for fear of rocking the boat. And I can recall a few times we both should have stood up for ourselves. This is not to say that my father or mother are bad people but it is the way it is.

This issue of not knowing myself or following my own path continued into college and my marriage to the woman of my dreams. I am still not sure how someone so caring, so intelligent, so lovely, so beautiful, so wonderful would fall in love with me. It still amazes me to this day and I thank God for her daily. She has been an absolute blessing to me more than words could ever express.

I am recognizing these shortcomings in my behavior now. I am noticing where I have been selfish. I am realizing where my indecision has caused unnecessary pain and strife. I recognize where I have not followed Christ’s example and loved with my whole heart. I see now, ever so clearly, how my actions or inaction have caused others pain. Some wounds are deeper than others but I never meant to do them. and I thank God for His forgiveness and the forgiveness of others.

I am realizing all of this as we are entering into the Orthodox Church. I have attended churches my whole life but never felt at home. Never felt comfortable with the theology…Always felt like something was missing. Coming into Orthodoxy has shown me what I was missing and has really pressed on me the importance of what Christ has done for me and how it is important to follow Him closely. It has taught me life is a journey and what matters most in life is my relationship with God and my family.

This journey of “growing up” has been a scary experience. It honestly is scary to realize that I have not been who I should have and that I need to move on and change. The uncertainty is what is scary and yet exciting. Putting my trust in God and His guidance is all I can do. I need to change, I will change. With the Lord’s help I will walk closer to God, I will love my Beloved the way she deserves, I will be the father my children deserve, I will make wise decisions, and I will grow into the man God wants me to be.

Here are some verses that have been on my mind:

When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. ~ 1 Corinthians 13:11

I am my Beloved’s and my Beloved is mine. ~ Song of Solomon 2:16

Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; ~Ephesians 5:25

Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh ~Genesis 2:24

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; ~ Proverbs 3:5

He that walks with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed. ~ Proverbs 13:20

Κύριε ἐλέησον

Kyrie Elison…Lord Have Mercy…

Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner

My desperate call to the Lord my God. I find this call on my heart more and more. Through trials and tribulations I know the the Lord will never leave me. It is still difficult…almost impossible most days…to make it one more day. Can’t really explain why…you would think I could handle it all. However there is no way that I can. It takes divine intervention to get through the day sometimes. I swear my guardian angel has its hands full. Mistake after mistake…through anger and frustration…from east to west…Christ is with me. Admittedly I don’t hear sometimes… probably because I am not listening.

As frustration grows to the point of an embolism I reach in my work bag and find my red prayer book and the Theotokos…a reminder to breath and pray. Oh how I need that reminder. I always need prayer in my life…unfortunately I don’t spent the time I should in prayer. Definitely a habit that must change.