Friday, May 14, 2010

East Texas tour of memories

I took a trip out to Omaha today to look at the site where the old house burned. Well, it's gone for sure. Burned all right, burned slap up and down to the ground. There's nothing left... no trace of anything except part of the brick foundation, some crumbled concrete, a few bits of porcelain, and some broken glass.

Turns out it's been burned for about a year, although when Leah and I drove down here last spring to visit and do some sight seeing, the house was still standing. I forgot what month that was... probably about this time last year. So, the house was still standing last May, and it probably burned down some time very soon after that. All I could find in the ashes that I recognized was a charred doorknob. And that's really all that remains of the house, so I took it.

About a quarter mile down the road is my grandma's old house, which I decided to check out next. My mom and brother and sister moved to Leesburg when my mom got married in the middle of my 8th grade year, and I didn't want to leave in the middle of the school year so I lived with grandma and grandpa in that house until the summer of '85. Then I moved to Leesburg that fall and had to start high school as a new kid. It really sucked, having to leave all of my friends who I had grown up with, and being super shy made it even worse. I wound up making some good friends there, though, and the Pittsburg High School Band was really good; we actually made it to the state marching contests three times while I was in high school. What made that particularly awesome for me was that I was the 'highlight' of the marching drill at the state marching competition. I got to stand on the sidelines while playing a really complicated, cool euphonium solo with all of the cute majorettes posing in front of me, on either side, and behind me, forming this sparkly halo of sequined bodies, rays of silver batons thrust outward in all directions to accentuate the star attraction, ME! That kind of treatment worked wonders for a 16 year old ego, let me tell ya. Anyway, I really digressed there for a minute... where was I? Oh yeah. Here are some pictures of grandmas house.

Here's the living room, where I took my piano lessons. The piano is still there, as well as grandma's organ, but I lifted the key cover to play something and was disappointed to see that it's all stuffed with what looks like some kind of animal nest.

Here's the kitchen. The microwave and toaster ovens are still there, which kind of surprised me. Somebody had stolen the air conditioners a few years ago.

Grandma's front room. This was my bedroom when I lived here.

So that's a tour of the family land in East Texas. Lots of memories there, but I think it's over now. I wonder what will happen next?

No trip to East Texas is complete without visiting the old Methodist church. This is the church I attended when I was a little boy, and my dad was the choir director there until about 1980, I think, and my grandma played the organ for years. My brother and I were the 'candle boys' or something, I forgot the official title. We lit the candles at the beginning of the service and put them out after. I have good memories of that church, which I think is the reason why I never completely gave up on the idea of God. My idea of church was always pews, stained glass, a choir, an organ, and candles in a real, bona fide church, not some civic center or warehouse with a stage and a rock band and folding chairs for the congregation. I didn't like those 'new wave' churches with rock bands and stomping and clapping. Something about the lack of order didn't seem right to me. I always knew that if I ever had a church again, then my kind of church would have to be conservative. This church, the Methodist church in Omaha, is the type of church I always pictured myself attending if I ever 'got right with God'. Taking that into consideration, it makes perfect sense that the Orthodox church appealed to me so much, almost instantly. So anyway, yup. Here's the Methodist church.

Now we have some pictures of the drive from Omaha to Pittsburg, going the 'Cason-way'. That's the scenic route. Observe the sign that says 'Cason'. See? I'm giving an authentic tour.

More scenery between Cason and Pittsburg.

And finally, right turn on Highway 11 towards Pittsburg.

After I got into Pittsburg, I hit an oil road and took this picture. I used to like driving on oil roads just for the hell of it in the spring. It's always prettiest in the spring. I feel painful nostalgia for East Texas when I'm there at this time of year.

So, moving on. Next on the tour is a railroad crossing where I was almost killed late one night when I was about 22. What happened was this: I was heartbroken over some girl (a recurring phenomenon for me throughout my life, you'd think I would learn, right?) and I was driving very slowly out in the country with Pearl Jam's 'Black' playing at full volume (that's the perfect song for indulging in self pity that comes with a freshly broken heart). I was so absorbed in my weeping and drinking (I had a quart of Busch beer between my legs) that I didn't hear the train at all, or even notice that one was coming. So, about - lets say, half a second, to be safe - after I crossed those tracks, a train blew past right behind me. There was probably about a foot of clearance between the rear end of my car and the train as it whizzed by, and let me tell you, that jolted me right out of that little episode of 'poor me' I had been indulging in. I can imagine the article in the newspaper describing how I bought the farm:

"Local man ends own life over unrequitted love by driving in front of a train."

Yeesh! And it wouldn't have even been true! But that's how I would have gone down in history, as some schmuck who parked his car in front of a speeding train because some chick didn't have the same googley eyes for him as he did for her.

By the way, the reason why it's all half upside-down and weirdly is because I took two photos, one from each direction, and didn't know what to do with them, so I just connected them there in the middle.

So, anyway... lastly I stopped by the prayer tower in Pittsburg. The prayer tower was built in the early 90's by Bo Pilgrim, the chicken guy. You know, Pilgrim's Pride chicken. Anyway, it's his prayer tower, and I always felt a certain amount of contempt for it through the years because Bo built it, and if you were young and non-comformist in East Texas in the early 90's, you were obligated to hate Bo Pilgrim because he represented 'the man'. So, anyway... yeah, kind of an idiotic reason to hate a prayer tower.

There's a statue outside and I'm assuming it's of Jesus washing somebody's feet. I don't know my New Testament well enough to know who's feet are getting washed, but maybe somebody reading this knows and can comment about it. Here's the statue.

I went inside and somebody was prostrated on the floor, praying. He was a Catholic Mexican, and of course I disturbed him when I entered. He jumped up and smiled, waving goodbye to me as if we were long lost friends who would never see each other again after this brief reunion, saying "See you later," over and over with a stilted accent, almost apologetic. I guess maybe I embarrassed him when I walked in on him obviously in deep prayer about something. Anyway, here's the inside.

I approached the altar and opened the bible to my favorite passage, Psalm 102...

...and was surprised to see that Psalm 103 is the one we sing every Sunday at the beginning of Liturgy. I'm still a noob at church I guess. I know I've finally found where I belong, and there has always been somebody by my side since I started down this new and wonderful path, sharing it with me. I just assumed it would always be that way... I never thought I'd have to go it alone.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

God's Mercy

Today I was driving to East Texas. As I started out, I was still feeling residual guilt for the horrible things I've said and felt recently, directed towards one whom I love. Saying it was residual is a little generous... full blown guilt is more like it. I've felt horrible ever since that episode, and I can only hope that I will receive her forgiveness. I'm not going to beg for it anymore though, I'll just let God handle it.

So, I'm driving along and breaking down into tears periodically, but at the same time I'm saying the Jesus Prayer. Over and over I say it, interspersed with other personal prayers of forgiveness, enlightenment, prayers of thanks, prayers to make me worthy of God's love. This went on for about an hour... crying, praying, feeling numb, crying, praying, until finally I let it all out in one manic weeping episode. Once that was done, a sense of calm fell upon me, and I continued with my prayers. I put an icon of the Theotokos that Nancy had given me on the dashboard and prayed for the Holy Mother of God to offer me comfort and to pray to her son Jesus Christ for me. I prayed to my saint, Saint Elias, whom I have finally decided upon, to pray to God on my behalf.

Slowly, I began to notice things around me. Trees, clouds, people in other cars, people in their yards playing, dogs, even dead animals on the road. They were all beautiful to me. I began to smile just a little... and I redoubled my prayer efforts. I began to feel joy. Happiness. I prayed more and more fervently, until I began to feel that beginning of a pain in my heart. It grew, faded, grew again, subsided into a dull ache, grew again... this went on for a while, as I wept tears of joy that God had seen fit to bestow me with mercy again.

This joy persisted for a short while, and I found myself sinking back into a state of calm lethargy... it wasn't despair or pain, but it wasn't joy anymore. I thought that I had achieved all I would achieve today through prayer, that God had a limit to His mercy, and I had reached it. I picked up a novel I'm reading, 'Moving Mars', and started to read it while I was driving... kind of giving up on prayer for the moment. As soon as I picked up that book and started reading, PAIN in my heart, sharp PAIN. Pain and joy again, doubled, tripled from before. I put that book back down. I prayed for God's forgiveness at giving up so soon. God had once again bestowed His mercy upon me, an unworthy sinner, when I was about to give up.

I continue to be amazed at the mercy I receive from God, so undeserving a sinner as I am.

What a story...

Oh boy, what a conversion story I'm going to have when this is all over with... I can't wait to write it. I'll bet I could even turn it into a short story, or maybe a novella. Or possibly even a comic book. A graphic novel? Hey, a screenplay. For a CGI movie! A science fiction Orthodox conversion story, rife with the latest CGI special effects, set in the future and with the fate of a futuristic Denton... no, the entire Earth... at stake. Ash gets baptized, saves the Earth from the invading demons from the 11th dimension, and gets the girl in the end!

Man, this is gonna be good...

Taking it easy

I wonder if anybody ever reads this blog? I read it. I read these blogs that I post over and over, and I edit them relentlessly. Am I the only one? Who reads them, I mean. I know that I'm the only one who edits them.

Nobody ever comments. I have five followers; three strangers who I have no idea about, and then two people from church... Pam and Leah. I think Leah used to check in now and then. Maybe she still does but I doubt it. Pam probably forgot all about it centuries ago. So, I've started talking to myself a lot on this here blog, which is actually the way I prefer it anyway. I mean, I post a lot of stupid shit here. Do I really want everybody reading my innermost retardation? I don't think so.

Tonight I took a long walk. I was on a mission. I had a letter that I had to deliver. Rain, sleet, snow, hurricane, tornado, typhoon, earthquake, ice age, asteroid impact, supernova, black hole, gamma ray burster, big bang... nothing was going to stop me from delivering this message. I was a one man postal service. I can put that on my resume now... I have letter delivering experience.

And I delivered it too, so that's always a plus when applying for a job. I also think I'm on record if I'm not mistaken, because I was questioned by the authorities. I was very smooth. I said, 'The mail must get through,' and those authorities said, 'Yes sir, sorry to interrupt you sir,' and I've never seen authorities scuttle away so quickly with their tails between their legs. Yes sir, they saw a man on a mission, and they knew not to ask questions. I'm dead serious here.

So anyway, after blazing a few new trails for the public good and then backtracking and doing some ranger things, I found my way home. What, you say? Blazing and backtracking? Yes, I say. I am badder ass than Aragorn. So anyway, my sense of direction is pretty much flawless so I got back to my cave with no trouble at all.

So here I am now, at home in my dry cave, protected from the elements, safe and sound and with the sound of my own wheels putting me to sleep. They definitely don't drive me crazy.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


Ugh. I feel like I'm a stranger in my own body. I've been just so hateful and angry lately, and I am not like that... it's not who I am. My God, what have I done.

I don't think I would have reacted this intensely and vehemently if my soul weren't at stake. Spiritual warfare is hard, and there are a lot of casualties. I never thought I could be so hateful. I think back to the past couple of days and it feels like I am in somebody else's head and experiencing their memories, not mine.

So, this is what it feels like to finally let it all out. It's not a relief like I thought it would be. It's just a permeating sadness accompanied by the realization that I've hurt someone I love and added even more pain to this situation, all for the sake of my selfish pride. I will not allow this to happen again. I probably wouldn't have learned this any other way though... but what kind of damage have I done for the sake of a lesson in humility, love and forgiveness?

I promise to make up for it somehow.

Goodbye to my childhood

The old house where I used to live in East Texas has burned down. Nobody knew about it until my cousin Melissa called my dad from Omaha while she and her husband were down there. We don't know when it burned or how it happened, only that it's gone and nobody said anything to us about it. My dad's grandparents built that house in 1950. My brother and sister and I all lived there when we were little, with my mom and dad when they were still married... from December of '76 until the spring of 1984. I have good memories and bad memories of living there, it was in that house where I spent my childhood. In 1990 my grandma and I spent the summer renovating it, fixing it up, painting it, laying new ceiling tile, making it livable again so it could be rented out. That was it's last breath of life. It's gone now, and nobody will ever make any new memories in that house ever again.

I don't know exactly how to feel about this. I remember joking once about how I'd like to just burn the place to the ground. Now some stranger, infinitely removed from our connections to the place, connections forged by family and feelings, both good and bad, have robbed us... I'm not sure what was taken, but something beyond wood, glass, brick and concrete is definitely missing. I can feel it.

I'll be in East Texas this week. I'll go take a look at it. I'll probably grieve a little. I wonder what that will be like.

The date of the picture, July 24th 2005, was one of the last times anyone attempted to take care of that land. That's me mowing the lawn. Goodbye old house.

Logismoi - the thoughts that evolve to sin through the stages of desire, action and passion.

God forgive me for succumbing to the enemy and falling into despair. Help me, strengthen me, make me an instrument of thy will. May I be forgiven for my weakness in letting the enemy corrupt my love. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon me, a miserable sinner.

It's the logismoi that make this so horrible, that trigger the collapse of my composure. They say that logismoi are attacks by the enemy to keep people off balance, to weaken them so that it is harder for God's love to be accepted. Well, that's the damn truth for sure. The dreams are even worse than the waking thoughts, because I can't just stop what I'm dreaming or will the dream to go away. Sometimes when I'm dreaming I will actually believe it's real life, and then I'll wake up so relieved. Maybe all of this is really a dream, and I'll wake up soon. Just a bad dream. A nightmare. I haven't woken up yet though, so either I'm in a coma and I'm having the mother of all dreams, or all of this really is happening. I really am going through this... but it just seems impossible. I still have a hard time believing it sometimes.

I've forgotten what it's like not to hurt constantly, to not have to fight anger that is constantly threatening to surface, to feel like goodness, acceptance and forgiveness are all the characteristics of a natural state of mind. How easily we forget, right? I feel like all of the substance which makes me a good person - all of the qualities which I had learned to trust without question as being integral to my spirit and immune to corruption - I feel like they have all been violently ripped away from me and splashed to the four winds, leaving a festering wound infected with feelings of anger, betrayal, and injustice. I feel all of this, but I know that the enemy is responsible for causing these feelings to surface. I need the cure for this infection... please God, heal this hurt in me. Help me to remember the hope You gave me.

I'm going to East Texas tomorrow to house sit for my mom while she's across country at my cousin's graduation. I'm looking forward to being all by myself, alone, away from familiar things that remind me of the past year and a half. Maybe I can use this time to heal this hurt, to just pray constantly and come to terms somehow with what has been happening, to be able to believe that my love isn't worthless.