Monday, December 15, 2008

Use Your Head

This time of year you read about people and families dying or suffering tragic house fires in most cases caused by the lack of common sense than any other cause. Especially around the Holidays it seems more prevalent, and thus a greater sadness.

Our area suffered a major ice storm yesterday leaving many people in the surrounding towns without power. I have heard from some affected it will be Tuesday at the earliest four days from now when power will be restored. Many lost power in the early morning hours on Friday meaning they will be without for five days.

Every year no matter the warnings on television, or radio people always make the same foolish mistakes, it will not happen to me, I know what I am doing. What mistakes are those you ask? The first one is pride I am not going to ask anyone for help I can tough it out on my own. I don't need to go to a shelter for warmth, and running water only wimps and old folks do that. Second, its my house I am staying with it no matter what. This one happens every season not just winter. Third, I know how to survive in the woods I used to, or still camp out in the summer.

These attitudes all though good for some things are not so good when you take risks and use things in away they are not intended to be used. I marveled at the lid on a coffee cup that says "Caution Contents May Be Hot," but in today's litigious society it had to be done. Some moron put a steaming hot cup of coffee between her legs with the lid off and drove off, you know the rest of the story. When people lose power and heat they also seem to lose brain cells.

It is fine to use candles for a romantic dinner or even to help light a room during a black out provided you take the proper precautions. Don't just put up candle sticks over the house so you can see where your going. You should be using the hurricane jar type candle with the proper hood so the glass does not get to hot, and that should be placed on top of a plate designed to hold them. This helps prevent fires from the candle stick falling over, or getting knocked over.

Even more dangerous than fire from candles is when people use items in away not intended to try and stay warm. I am especially talking about those who use camping gear such as propane stoves heaters and charcoal grills in a closed environment such as house. The danger in this is from carbon monoxide an odorless colorless gas you basically fall a sleep and that's the end of life.

People, please use your heads. If you find yourselves
without power and it will be a few days, do the smart thing for your family and go to a hotel or a shelter. Their life may depend on it.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Eventful Day

Well, winter is still not here and we have had one of the biggest ice storms in recent memory. Here in town we were very lucky. very little icing, but a lot of water running off the frozen ground causing wet basements and flooded streets. For once the warning from the National Weather Service was accurate. On Thursday afternoon they reported that the valleys would have little to no icing, the upper elevations would have heavy icing they were right.

Every morning before I leave for work my wife and I say our morning prayers yesterday they came in handy. I work in Worcester and in the 9 years the bank I work for has only delayed opening once and that was after a 22 inch snow storm. As alot of people I have several routes to get to work in the morning some slower than others. Drive times range from 35 to 50 minutes depending on lights and school buses. I knew I didn't have to worry about the buses so I was going to go the way with the fewest hills. I left about 6:30 AM and got about four miles from home into West Dudley were I had to turn around because the road at one point had flooded out scratch that route.

I then decided to go over Dresser Hill in Charlton and just like the NWS said, as I went up in elevation the ice was weighing on the trees and power lines. When I reached Charlton Center I had to slow for a power line down across the road. As I proceeded around that obstacle I noticed the road ahead that leads to route 20 was closed. I turned to go on route 31 that also leads to route 20 but that road too was closed. So I went down the little side street that eventually comes out to route 20 following other cars. I got about a half mile down the little country road when traffic a head came to a stop. In good weather I don't get right up to the next car so on days like this I leave even more space good thing. The tree of on my left about three feet in front of my car, and maybe ten feet behind the car in front of me picked that time to lean its top over the road blocking travel. As I finished turning around on this narrow country road I looked in my mirror and down came the tree.

Just then my cell phone rang it was Laura, telling me she had been listening to the radio and that the roads in Worcester were all ice, and to come home. I got home as soon as I could.
I was home just after 7:30 AM I had gone around trip of 18 miles in one hour.

I called work and found out we were opening at 10:00 AM. Shortly thereafter our phone rang it was our son Bill, saying they had lost power, and Nathan's day care in Sturbridge was closed, could we watch him. Of course grandma would be more than happy to watch our little buddy. I knew I had to get groceries on the way home from work tonight but that wasn't good now. So off to the store to pick up needed items. Once I got back it was time to leave for work.

On this ride in the roads were better but I, still ran into one detour, this time in Dudley. The ride in was uneventful as most people decided to stay home for the day.

Once at work I found our mortgage company 800 East West was there. They had lost power at their corporate site in Marlborough, so some of their sales staff came in to set up shop. To show things happen for a reason we had scheduled four people out and another three called in unable to make it. East West had sent seven sales reps out to set up shop in our area until power was restored and their systems were up and running. They had just completed an updated disaster recovery plan two weeks ago.

Four of our branches were closed for power outages and many others were running. on a handful of staff. Our call center staff were busy fielding calls but all in all it was a quiet day with few people out on the roads it means fewer problems with people shopping and doing business.

By the end of the day the ride home was pretty routine. Much of our surrounding area is still without power and will be this way for days. We are okay here, and hope all those less fortunate take the proper steps to protect themselves and their loved ones especially at this time of year.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Getting Together

In a town of some 16,000 people of whom only 1/2 of 1% claim to be Orthodox, we have three separate churches all within one mile of each other. Two of the churches are less than 1/4 mile apart. Good thing alot of our parishioners come from the surrounding towns.

Over 10 years ago, the parish councils of the three churches got together to begin discussion of possibly one day unifying into one strong Orthodox presence in the community. This discussion led to our churches getting together for name days to start.

On Sunday, two of the three Orthodox churches in town got together again to celebrate the feast day of the host church, St. Nicholas Church. Our parish of St. Michael, and St. Nicholas have been getting together to celebrate each others name day for many years now. Over the past four years we have also been getting together for Presanctified Liturgy during Great Lent, as well as for the days of our annual picnics.

These get togethers over the years have been good for the people of both churches. In the beginning after a presanctified we would have a pot luck dinner, and each week the host church would try to out do the other from the week before. A little foolish, but for those of us in attendance well worth it, food was great. Now when we get together it is for a dinner with friends and family, and food is still great.

During his sermon yesterday, Fr. John surprised many of us from St. Michael when he said it is about time that the two churches begin to seriously talk about unifying, not to save money, but to build one strong church for our grand children and great grand children.

St. Nicholas and St. Michael will be having meetings with their parishioners to find out their thoughts, points for and against as well as fears. Some time in February the two parish councils will meet to discuss our common vision for Orthodoxy in the greater community in the years to come.

Holding to the spirit of the founders of our respective churches, those men and women, who came over to a new land and because of their love for God gave of their time, talent, and money to leave for us not only a place to worship but more importantly the Orthodox Faith. We owe it to them to do the same for the coming generations.

Since my wife Laura, and I converted to Orthodoxy over 22 years ago it has been our dream and goal to have one Orthodox Church in the area that draws all Orthodox Christian regardless of ethnicity. We are after all "One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church".

God knows the path ahead will be full of many questions, and like a child we want the answer yesterday. If we just let go and let God, all will work out according to His will.

It was a great day and the beginning of many more.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Saint Nicholas Day

Nathan my little grandson who is a month short of his third birthday is looking forward to Santa Claus coming in a few weeks. His parents have told him he needs to be good, and at his young age he is doing his best not to get into trouble at day care, or to hit the other children. The name Santa Claus" is itself derived from the Dutch Sinterklass or Saint Nicholas. Few people however know that today is the feast of Saint Nicholas the Wonderworker Bishop of Myra in Lycia. Saint Nicholas is the original Santa Claus.

The true story of Santa Claus begins with Nicholas, who was born during the third century in the village of Patara. At the time the area was Greek and is now on the southern coast of Turkey. His wealthy parents, who raised him to be a devout Christian, died in an epidemic while Nicholas was still young. Obeying Jesus' words to "sell what you own and give the money to the poor," Nicholas used his whole inheritance to assist the needy, the sick, and the suffering. He dedicated his life to serving God and was made Bishop of Myra while still a young man. Bishop Nicholas became known throughout the land for his generosity to the those in need, his love for children, and his concern for sailors and ships.

Under the Roman Emperor Diocletian, who ruthlessly persecuted Christians, Bishop Nicholas suffered for his faith, was exiled and imprisoned. The prisons were so full of bishops, priests, and deacons, there was no room for the real criminals—murderers, thieves and robbers. After his release, Nicholas attended the Council of Nicea in AD 325. He died December 6, AD 343 in Myra and was buried in his cathedral church, where a unique relic, called manna, formed in his grave. This liquid substance, said to have healing powers, fostered the growth of devotion to Nicholas. The anniversary of his death became a day of celebration, St. Nicholas Day.

Through the centuries many stories and legends have been told of St. Nicholas' life and deeds. These accounts help us understand his extraordinary character and why he is so beloved and revered as protector and helper of those in need.
One story tells of a poor man with three daughters. In those days a young woman's father had to offer prospective husbands something of value—a dowry. The larger the dowry, the better the chance that a young woman would find a good husband. Without a dowry, a woman was unlikely to marry. This poor man's daughters, without dowries, were therefore destined to be sold into slavery. Mysteriously, on three different occasions, a bag of gold appeared in their home-providing the needed dowries. The bags of gold, tossed through an open window, are said to have landed in stockings or shoes left before the fire to dry. This led to the custom of children hanging stockings or putting out shoes, eagerly awaiting gifts from Saint Nicholas. Sometimes the story is told with gold balls instead of bags of gold. That is why three gold balls, sometimes represented as oranges, are one of the symbols for St. Nicholas. And so St. Nicholas is a gift-giver.

One of the oldest stories showing St. Nicholas as a protector of children takes place long after his death. The townspeople of Myra were celebrating the good saint on the eve of his feast day when a band of Arab pirates from Crete came into the district. They stole treasures from the Church of Saint Nicholas to take away as booty. As they were leaving town, they snatched a young boy, Basilios, to make into a slave. The emir, or ruler, selected Basilios to be his personal cupbearer, as not knowing the language, Basilios would not understand what the king said to those around him. So, for the next year Basilios waited on the king, bringing his wine in a beautiful golden cup. For Basilios' parents, devastated at the loss of their only child, the year passed slowly, filled with grief. As the next St. Nicholas' feast day approached, Basilios' mother would not join in the festivity, as it was now a day of tragedy. However, she was persuaded to have a simple observance at home—with quiet prayers for Basilios' safekeeping. Meanwhile, as Basilios was fulfilling his tasks serving the emir, he was suddenly whisked up and away. St. Nicholas appeared to the terrified boy, blessed him, and set him down at his home back in Myra. Imagine the joy and wonderment when Basilios amazingly appeared before his parents, still holding the king's golden cup. This is the first story told of St. Nicholas protecting children—which became his primary role in the West.

Sailors, claiming St. Nicholas as patron, carried stories of his favor and protection far and wide. St. Nicholas chapels were built in many seaports. As his popularity spread during the Middle Ages, he became the patron saint of Apulia (Italy), Sicily, Greece, and Lorraine (France), and many cities in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, Russia, Belgium, and the Netherlands. Following his baptism in Constantinople, Vladimir I of Russia brought St. Nicholas' stories and devotion to St. Nicholas to his homeland where Nicholas became the most beloved saint. Nicholas was so widely revered that more than 2,000 churches were named for him, including three hundred in Belgium, thirty-four in Rome, twenty-three in the Netherlands and more than four hundred in England.

Nicholas' tomb in Myra became a popular place of pilgrimage. Because of the many wars and attacks in the region, some Christians were concerned that access to the tomb might become difficult. For both the religious and commercial advantages of a major pilgrimage site, the Italian cities of Venice and Bari vied to get the Nicholas relics. In the spring of 1087, sailors from Bari succeeded in spiriting away the bones, bringing them to Bari, a seaport on the southeast coast of Italy. An impressive church was built over St. Nicholas' crypt and many faithful journeyed to honor the saint who had rescued children, prisoners, sailors, famine victims, and many others through his compassion, generosity, and the countless miracles attributed to his intercession. The Nicholas shrine in Bari was one of medieval Europe's great pilgrimage centers and Nicholas became known as "Saint in Bari." To this day pilgrims and tourists visit Bari's great Basilica di San Nicola.

In Italy, Saint Nicholas is celebrated twice during the year.
St. Nicholas (San Nicola) is the patron of the city of Bari, where he is buried. Its deeply felt celebration is called the Festa di San Nicola, held on the 7-8-9 of May. In articular on May 8 the relics of the saint are carried on a boat on the sea in front of the city with many boats following (Festa a mare). On December 6 there is a ritual called the Rito delle nubili. The same tradition is currently observed in Sassari, where during the day of Saint Nicholas, patron of the city, gifts are given to young brides who need help before getting married.
In Trieste St. Nicholas (San Nicolò) is celebrated with gifts given to children on the morning of the 6th of December and with a fair called Fiera di San Nicolo during the first weeks of December. Depending on the cultural background, in some families this celebration is more important than Christmas. Trieste is a city on the sea, being one of the main ports of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and is influenced mainly by Italian, Slovenia, and German cultures, but also Greek and Serbian.
The city of Gesualdo celebrates on December, 6th the Festa di San Nicola.

Through the centuries St. Nicholas has continued to be venerated by Catholics and Orthodox and honored by Protestants. By his example of generosity to those in need, especially children, St. Nicholas continues to be a model for the compassionate life.

Widely celebrated in Europe, St. Nicholas' feast day, December 6th, kept alive the stories of his goodness and generosity. In Germany and Poland, boys dressed as bishops begged alms for the poor—and sometimes for themselves! In the Netherlands and Belgium, St. Nicholas arrived on a steamship from Spain to ride a white horse on his gift-giving rounds. December 6th is still the main day for gift giving and merrymaking in much of Europe. For example, in the Netherlands St. Nicholas is celebrated on the 5th, the eve of the day, by sharing candies (thrown in the door), chocolate initial letters, small gifts, and riddles. Dutch children leave carrots and hay in their shoes for the saint's horse, hoping St. Nicholas will exchange them for small gifts. Simple gift-giving in early Advent helps preserve a Christmas Day focus on the Christ Child.

This is the true story of the jolly old elf now known as Santa Claus. Happy Saint Nicholas Day.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

War On Christmas Continues

I have been quiet for the past several weeks due to illness , the flu and bronchitis on top of it. I have not had the energy to do much of anything never mind blogging. Now that I am feeling better I am back at it.

Last night on the O'Reilly Factor, Bill O'Reilly brought out that in the state capital in Olympia, Washington Governor Gregoire has allowed a sign to be posted as you enter the building. The sign is sponsored by the group, Freedom From Religion Foundation, and is prominently displayed in front of a Creche and Christmas tree. The sign reads as follows: "At this season of the Winter Solstice may reason prevail. There are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell. There is only our natural world. Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds".

Here we go again. A small radical fringe group of secular progressives have organized and are attacking those of us that believe in and love God. We continue to allow it to happen without much of a stink.

Some will say they have a right to do this because of freedom of speech. OK, using that logic then on Martin Luther King day, it is OK for a KKK member to burn a cross in front of his grave. Somehow, I think that person would be arrested for a hate crime as he should be. What is the difference? One is not politically correct, the other only offends Christians, and who gives a damn about them?

Several years ago, you may remember Wal-Mart, Target, Kohl's and many other major retailers stopped using the word "Christmas" in their ads substituting holiday. They prohibited their employees from saying "Merry Christmas" to customers as they left the store. Several groups including "" (which I belong to), had their members send letters to these merchants urging them to bring back "Merry Christmas" or they would boycott them. It worked. Wal-Mart and Kohl's responded last year, Target this year. If some of the worlds largest merchants respond to letters from ordinary people, what will politicians do with a large number of calls letters, and e-mails?

To contact Governor Christine Gregoire her office phone is 360-902-4111, Fax number 360-753-4110.
Her mailing address is as follows:
Governor Christine Gregoire
Office of the Governor
PO Box 40002
Olympia, WA 98504-0002

To send an e-mail:

If you contact the Governor be sure to be polite and voice your displeasure with this matter.

I received the following email today from a friend at work. I feel it sums this up very well. It was delivered by Ben Stein on
CBS Sunday Morning, Sunday, August 17, 2008, 11:55 AM. I can only hope we find God again before it is too late!! The following was written by Ben Stein and recited by him on CBS Sunday Morning Commentary.

My confession:
I am a Jew, and every single one of my ancestors was Jewish. And it does not bother me even a little bit when people call those beautiful lit up, bejeweled trees, Christmas trees.. I don't feel threatened. I don't feel discriminated against. That's what they are: Christmas trees. It doesn't bother me a bit when people say, 'Merry Christmas' to me. I don't think they are slighting me or getting ready to put me in a ghetto. In fact, I kind of like it. It shows that we are all brothers and sisters celebrating this happy time of year. It doesn't bother me at all that there is a manger scene on display at a key intersection near my beach house in Malibu. If people want a creche, it's just as fine with me as is the Menorah a few hundred yards away. I don't like getting pushed around for being a Jew, and I don't think Christians like getting pushed around for being Christians. I think people who believe in God are sick and tired of getting pushed around, period. I have no idea where the concept came from that America is an explicitly atheist country. I can't find it in the Constitution and I don't like it being shoved down my throat. Or maybe I can put it another way: where did the idea come from that we should worship celebrities and we aren't allowed to worship God as we understand Him? I guess that's a sign that I'm getting old, too. But there are a lot of us who are wondering where these celebrities came from and where the America we knew went to.. In light of the many jokes we send to one another for a laugh, this is a little different: This is not intended to be a joke; it's not funny, it's intended to get you thinking. Billy Graham's daughter was interviewed on the Early Show and Jane Clayson asked her 'How could God let something like this happen?'(regarding Katrina) Anne Graham gave an extremely profound and insightful response. She said, 'I believe God is deeply saddened by this, just as we are, but for years we've been telling God to get out of our schools, to get out of our government and to get out of our lives. And being the gentleman He is, I believe He has calmly backed out. How can we expect God to give us His blessing and His protection if we demand He leave us alone?' In light of recent events... terrorists attack, school shootings, etc. I think it started when Madeleine Murray O'Hare (she was murdered, her body found a few years ago) complained she didn't want prayer in our schools, and we said OK. Then someone said you better not read the Bible in school. The Bible says thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not steal, and love your neighbor as yourself. And we said OK. Then Dr. Benjamin Spock said we shouldn't spank our children when they misbehave because their little personalities would be warped and we might damage their self-esteem (Dr Spock's son committed suicide). We said an expert should know what he's talking about. And we said OK. Now we're asking ourselves why our children have no conscience, why they don't know right from wrong, and why it doesn't bother them to kill strangers, their classmates, and themselves. Probably, if we think about it long and hard enough, we can figure it out. I think it has a great deal to do with 'WE REAP WHAT WE SOW.' Funny how simple it is for people to trash God and then wonder why the world's going to hell. Funny how we believe what the newspapers say, but question what the Bible says. Funny how you can send 'jokes' through e-mail and they spread like wildfire but when you start sending messages regarding the Lord, people think twice about sharing. Funny how lewd,crude, vulgar and obscene articles pass freely through cyberspace, but public discussion of God is suppressed in the school and workplace. Are you laughing yet? Funny how when you forward this message, you will not send it to many on your address list because you're not sure what they believe, or what they will think of you for sending it. Funny how we can be more worried about what other people think of us than what God thinks of us. Pass it on if you think it has merit. If not then just discard it... no one will know you did. But, if you discard this thought process, don't sit back and complain about what bad shape the world is in.

My Best Regards,
Honestly and respectfully,
Ben Stein

Your thoughts about this and the War on Christmas are welcome.