New video on my hand-painted rocks!

I have just uploaded a 2nd video on my hand-painted rocks.

Click here to go to my YouTube Channel, and enjoy this contemplative moment:

New book blog

I’ll stop posting about books here.

Go now to:


The Journals of Father Alexander Schmemann, 1973-1983. p.228 (End)

This is my last post on this great book.

I have to say it was an eye opener, almost shocking, to hear this great man’s conflicting thoughts. But eye opener on the deep reality of Orthodoxy in the US.  Sounds like not much has changed since his time, unfortunately.

His constant reminder that the deep characteristic of the Church should be JOY, the Joy of the Kingdom, was refreshing, and highlighting what it should be in my life and the life of the Church today.

Fascinating and very familiar to me to see how much he communed with his God more in nature than in some hyper clerical circles.

a great man!

It is sad that people do not see
what is most important,
which is not one’s occupation,
but its transformation,
its crowning in life
and in the fullness of life.
September 20, 1979


Message from Lin Wellford, THE best American rockpainter!

Rock Art News- Summer 2010
The annual Rock Party
Easy rock patterns for kids
A special offer!

How do bloggers do it? That’s what I ask myself every time I realize too many months have passed since my last newsletter. My mother always says that time passes faster and faster as you get older. Seems impossible that it could spin by with more velocity than it does right now, but I think I recall saying the same thing a few years back, at a time that, in retrospect, seems like a much calmer, gentler time.

This past June I was once again among those celebrating the 11th annual Rock Painter’s Get-together at Wandra and T.Joe’s place near the shores of Table Rock Lake, not far from Branson, Missouri. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again; each year is different, but every one of them has been a great time of fellowship, laughter, creativity and friendship. This year people came from as far as Georgia, Kansas, and even Chicago

The weekend starts off on Friday when we create a convoy to trek down to the Little Buffalo River, near Jasper, AR. There’s a low water bridge that crosses the river, and the riverbed is paved with water-tumbled rocks of every size and shape. Imagine a cobble stone street, but one where it’s acceptable to pick up any stone that speaks to you.
It’s especially exciting for people who usually have to visit a rock yard to buy their raw material!

After everyone has loaded up rocks to their heart’s content, we climb back in our cars and move en masse to the Ozark Café in cute mountain town of Jasper, to enjoy their award-winning burgers. Someone always has to get an order of fried pickles! After lunch, we work our way back to Golden, Missouri. Some of us camp at nearby Viney Creek, a Corp of Engineer’s campground on the lake. Others stay at a small family-run resort called Fisherman’s Haven. Still others roll out sleeping bags or squeeze a cot into one of the Dee’s porches or extra rooms.

The next morning we start painting as soon as we’ve finished admiring the sunrise over the lake and had enough coffee and breakfast. T. Joe transforms his boathouse into a studio for the weekend, and we all grab our brushes and an inspiring rock, and get to painting. While we paint, we talk among ourselves, exchanging information about paint brands and colors, brushes, sales tips, or sharing photos of rocks we’ve painted. This year we were all in awe of Emma’s stained glass inspired pieces, as well as her wonderful color sense. Susan and Jan wowed us with their creations, as did Phil and sweet Kathleen, who also moderates the webclub on Yahoo that brought so many of us together ( Patsy managed to get some painting done, despite spending much time circulating among us, spreading cheer and telling stories. Several `newbies’ joined us to try their hand as rock painting as well..

Summer is a perfect time to introduce the creativity and fun of rock painting to your kids or grandkids. To facilitate that, I want to offer some easy painting patterns that are perfect for new painters. Feel free to download and print these patterns to help young people in your life discover the joy of creativity.

Since the last newsletter, I got the happy news that Painted Garden Art Anyone Can Do is now available at Lowes Home Improvement Centers. Since they sell many of the concrete landscaping elements used in the book, it’s a great place to have it on display.

Speaking of Painted Garden Art Anyone Can Do, I have gotten some scratch and dent returns of that book that I can offer exclusively to readers of my newsletter. These are books that are basically in great shape other than having a bent corner or slight scuffing to the cover. The damage is so minimal that they would make fine gifts, and they sell for $22.99 retail, but I am offering these copies for $12.00 a copy, including postage. If you’d like a signed copy, send a check or money order for $12.00 to:

ArtStone Press
9328 Hwy 62 E
Green Forest, AR 72638

In the meantime, I hope the rest of your summer is full of wonderful rocks to paint, and wonderful memories to savor. Feel free to share your painting stories and photos with me (small files, please)


The Journals of Father Alexander Schmemann, 1973-1983. pp.107-207

More excerpts form Schmemann’s Journals:

In unity,
distinctions do not disappear
but become unity, life, creativity.
Feb 11, 1976 – p.107
I wish I could apply this to unity between Christian Orthodox jurisdictions, but these past few months do not seem to point n that direction, alas – and that would make Schmemann so sick!

What I say does not come from me,
only how I say it.
All creativity is to make sure
that the how corresponds to the what;
that is the cooperation of man with God,
the mystery of human freedom.
Feb 18, 1976 – p.108
I like applying this to my painting.

Does not what is most important in our life, the divine,
happen to us, so to say, not without our knowledge, no,
but when we completely give ourselves up,
almost die for a while?
It’s strange.
Nov 4, 1976 – p.133
Strange and so true… It won’t happen unless you die to your false self.

The power of sin
is not in being tempted by obvious evil,
but in the imprisonment of the heart
in all sorts of little passions
and in the impossibility
to freely breathe and live.
Dec 26, 1976 – pp.139-140
Even so much more true today than at Schmemann’s time, I would think. Let’s take only as example time people spend in Farmville…

The uniqueness of Christianity is
the “immanent character of the transcendent,”
and the “transcendent character of the immanent.”
Feb 5, 1979 – p.207
I could use this to prepare for weekly confession:
What attention have I paid to the transcendent manifesting itself in my daily life, encounters, activities?
Have I lived these encounters and activities merely on the immanent level, or have I touched to their transcendent dimension?

The Journals of Father Alexander Schmemann, 1973-1983. pp.32-65

I realize I haven’t taken time to share on my readings since last Great Lent.

Among other things, I am now in the process of reading Schmemann’s Journals.

This great man impresses me here by his self-honesty and humility. It is also quite reassuring to see this great man dealing with lots of inner struggles. It is besides beautiful to see how in his 50s, he starts seeing some kind of synthesis in his life. I guess this is the beauty that comes with age.

Here are a few passages for today:

A strong faith attenuates the intensity of problems.
In those rare moments
when through religion one manages to reach God,
there are no problems,
because God is not part of the world.
In those moments the world itself becomes life in Him,
meeting with Him,
contact with Him.
The world does not become God,
but life with God, joyful and full.
This is God’s salvation of the world.
It is fulfilled every time that we believe.
The church is not a religious establishment,
but the presence in the world of a saved world.
Feb 16,1974 – p.32

The meaning of religion consists only
in filling life with light,
in referring it to God,
transforming it into a relationship with God.
Feb 21, 1974 – p.33

‘The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want…’
The strength of prayer,
when I say to God:
I cannot but You can;
help me;
when with all my being,
I know that
‘Without Me, you can do nothing…’
March 12, 1974 – p.35

Poverty does not consist always of lacking something
-that is its ugliness-
but in being content with what there is.
Oct 8, 1974 – p.50

The mission of the Church is
to carry to the world
the experience of the Kingdom,
not to reduce the Kingdom of God
to anything in the world.
Dec 20, 1974 – p.59

One has to accept each day and everything in it
as a gift from God,
and transform each day into joy.
If all the details of my life
(talks, students, meetings, correspondence)
are not giving joy
but are only a burden,
then it is really my sin,
my selfishness,
my laziness.
Feb 26, 1975 – p.65

Books I read in May 2010

This past month, I read 4 books and listened to 2 audiobooks.


Katherine ELKINS, The Giants of French Literature [interestingly, this is not available on amazon right now, you have giants of Irish or Russian literature, but not French!, so this link is to a public library catalog]

I found this audiobook totally by chance: another library user had left the catalog open to this item. It sound interesting and the person had not checked it out, so I did!
It’s part of the
Modern Scholar Series, an interesting series of lectures on all kinds of topics, by excellent teachers.

This teacher focuses on Balzac, Flaubert, Proust, and Camus.
She highlights what’s specific to that author, presents some of his major works, and draws interesting parallels between these 4 novelists.
I have to say, though I read and studied most of the works presented here many years ago, these classes were better than most of the classes I received by French teachers back in France!

Madame Leon GRANDIN,
A Parisienne in Chicago: Impressions of the World’s Columbian Exposition

This book was one most fascinating. She came to spend 10 months in Chicago, as her husband was working on a big fountain for the Exposition.
She goes everywhere, looks at everything, and has funny and to the point comments between American and French life style and characters of the time. review:


“An excellent foreign traveler’s account of Chicago, the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, New York City, and travel by ocean liner and train. The book provides wonderful commentary on gender relations and the contrast between Americans and the French.” –Perry Duis, author of Challenging Chicago: Coping with Everyday Life, 1837-1920

Product Description

This fascinating account of a French woman’s impressions of America in the late nineteenth century reveals an unusual cross-cultural journey through fin de siècle Paris, Chicago, and New York. Madame Leon Grandin’s travels and extended stay in Chicago in 1893 were the result of her husband’s collaboration on the fountain sculpture for the World’s Columbian Exposition. Initially impressed with the city’s fast pace and architectural grandeur, Grandin’s attentions were soon drawn to its social and cultural customs, reflected as observations in her writing.

During a ten-month interval as a resident, she was intrigued by the interactions between men and women, mothers and their children, teachers and students, and other human relationships, especially noting the comparative social freedoms of American women. After this interval of acclimatization, the young Parisian socialite had begun to view her own culture and its less liberated mores with considerable doubt. “I had tasted the fruit of independence, of intelligent activity, and was revolted at the idea of assuming once again the passive and inferior role that awaited me!” she wrote.

Grandin’s curiosity and interior access to Chicago’s social and domestic spaces produced an unusual travel narrative that goes beyond the usual tourist reactions and provides a valuable resource for readers interested in late nineteenth-century America, Chicago, and social commentary. Significantly, her feminine views on American life are in marked contrast to parallel reflections on the culture by male visitors from abroad. It is precisely the dual narrative of this text–the simultaneous recounting of a foreigner’s impressions, and the consequent questioning of her own cultural certainties–that make her book unique. This translation includes an introductory essay by Arnold Lewis that situates Grandin’s account in the larger context of European visitors to Chicago in the 1890s.

David KING,
Finding Atlantis: A True Story of Genius, Madness, and an Extraordinary Quest for a Lost World

Another very interesting book, found on the month display of weird things at my public library.

It’s the life and work of Olof Rudbeck, a Swedish genius and eccentric character. Beyond his madness, there were some interesting parallels between civilizations, and you can also see that there’s danger at trying to absolutely find what you look for, pushing things a bit too much…

From Publishers Weekly

Few lives are as sadly instructive as that of the dreamer who, by reaching for the stars, falls crashing to earth. Such is the tale of a 17th-century Swedish polymath and gifted eccentric, Olof Rudbeck. Univeristy of Kentucky historian King relates how Rudbeck, trained in his youth as physician (he discovered the lymphatic glands), mastered fields as diverse as architecture, botany, shipbuilding, etymology, musical composition and mythology, among others. It was an ancient Norse saga that set him on the path to what he believed would lead to his greatest triumph. Enchanted by circumstantial evidence and supported by his own breathtakingly inventive archeological and etymological research, Rudbeck in 1679 astonished his Uppsala University colleagues with the announcement that he had discovered Atlantis—in Old Uppsala. Fiercely disputatious and uncompromising when it came to his own genius, Rudbeck had previously poisonously offended many influential colleagues; his work was ridiculed and he died in obscurity. King is marvelous at elaborating Rudbeck’s theories and his heroic defense against charges of forgery and “foul-ugly fraud.” One wishes, however, that King had dealt definitely with the forgery charges. His trust in his own subject despite the evidence is honorable but perhaps misplaced. Still, King tells his tale with the pace and appeal of a classic whodunit. 20 b&w illus. Agent, Suzanne Gluck.(June 14) –This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

Center stage in this history of a history book is the rollicking, fantastical figure of Olof Rudbeck (1630-1702). After reading Rudbeck’s monumental Atlantica (1679), historian King unpacks its plausible but reckless chains of reasoning and reassembles the mass into a marvelous account of the Swedish scholar’s obsessions. Rudbeck was a professor of medicine at Uppsala University, and his restless mind seems to have seldom been idle. Rudbeck switched from physiology, in which he made his name as discoverer of the lymphatic system, to the study of the Viking sagas, just then coming to scholarly light. Connecting the sagas with the gods of Norse and Greek mythology, and with Plato’s lost continent of Atlantis, Rudbeck proposed an astounding theory: Atlantis was located in Sweden! Odd though the idea was, King explains that Rudbeck’s protomodern research methods in archaeology and etymology gained acceptance for his theory. Restoring this colorful eccentric to life, King reveals his talent for narrative flow and portraiture in a biography that will thoroughly inveigle history readers. Gilbert Taylor

Orthodox Prayer Life: The Interior Way

This year for Great Lent, I asked my husband to pick up a book for me to read, and this is the one he chose.
It’s an excellent ook, presenting all facets of prayer, with lots of excerpts of the Fathers at the end of each section.
I loved it a lot, and copied lots of excerpts in my blog, you can find the posts in the 2 previous months.

Product Description

Saints who experience the power of prayer say it gives them wings to fly: wings of elation from being in proximity with Jesus Christ and relief from the burden of a sinful conscience. Once engulfed in the grace of the Holy Spirit, the person in prayer experiences death to sin, resurrection in the Spirit, and mystical ascension to the Father. The visible touches the Invisible, and joy wells up in the human heart. This volume evolved experientially: the fruit of fifty-five years of solitude by a contemporary desert monk besieged by prayer. Father Matta’s prayer life initially was formed under the direction of the sayings of the Russian Fathers, and later expanded under the direction of other Fathers, both Eastern and Western. He spent whole nights in prayer, reciting one or two passages from these luminaries and begging these saints to enlighten his understanding. Father Matta discloses: Whenever physical hunger turned cruel against me, I found my gratification in prayer. Whenever the biting cold of winter was unkind to me, I found my warmth in prayer. Whenever people were harsh to me (and their harshness was severe indeed) I found my comfort in prayer. In short, prayer became my food and my drink, my outfit and my armor, whether by night or by day.

About the Author

Father Matta El-Maskeen (Matthew the Poor) is a monk in the Monastery of St Macarius the Great, Wadi El-Natroun, Egypt.


Philippa GREGORY, The Constant Princess

This is my 2nd or 3rd audiobook by P. Gregory. I thought I would read the whole series, but this time I have enough.
It’s basically always the same thing, same style.
I should really always be careful with popular authors…

Here is a more positive presentation:

From Publishers Weekly

As youngest daughter to the Spanish monarchs and crusaders King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, Catalina, princess of Wales and of Spain, was promised to the English Prince Arthur when she was three. She leaves Spain at 15 to fulfill her destiny as queen of England, where she finds true love with Arthur (after some initial sourness) as they plot the future of their kingdom together. Arthur dies young, however, leaving Catalina a widow and ineligible for the throne. Before his death, he extracts a promise from his wife to marry his younger brother Henry in order to become queen anyway, have children and rule as they had planned, a situation that can only be if Catalina denies that Arthur was ever her lover. Gregory’s latest (after Earthly Joys) compellingly dramatizes how Catalina uses her faith, her cunning and her utter belief in destiny to reclaim her rightful title. By alternating tight third-person narration with Catalina’s unguarded thoughts and gripping dialogue, the author presents a thorough, sympathetic portrait of her heroine and her transformation into Queen Katherine. Gregory’s skill for creating suspense pulls the reader along despite the historical novel’s foregone conclusion.

Sharan NEWMAN,  The Devil’s Door

Here is another series I started some time ago.
Also historical novel, this time on the Middle Ages, but at such a better level than Gregory’s books.
Sharan, whom I met at Kalamazoo Medieval International Conference, does really her homework about theological debates of the time.

I was very disappointed when I finished the last book in the Brother Cadfael series, but this one is a very good replacement, with Sr Catherine.

From Publishers Weekly

Countess Alys of Tonnerre, victim of a brutal beating, is barely alive when her husband Raynald brings her to the Abbess Heloise at the convent of the Paraclete in medieval France. Young Catherine LeVendeur, who helps care for Alys, is disturbed by scars that attest to the woman’s prior mistreatment. Upon the Countess’s death, the Paraclete inherits a small piece of unimpressive land, which sets off a furor: Raynald claims the convent stole the property, and the prior of a nearby monastery makes a handsome offer for it. Catherine maintains her intense curiosity about Alys’s unhappy end even through the arrival of her betrothed, Edgar of Wedderlie, with Peter Abelard; after Catherine and Edgar’s wedding, the pair travel to Troyes and, at Heloise’s request, search for information on the mysterious bequest. Catherine soons stumbles on another mystery: the discovery of a headless corpse that may ignite the anti-Semitism that is running high during this Easter season of A.D. 1140. With this meticulously prepared work, Newman ( Death Comes as Epiph any ) adroitly crafts a puzzle in which the intriguing medieval material, providing much more than mere background, informs the entire novel with a vivid sense of past and guides the responses of the engaging, lively cast.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. –This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Kirkus Reviews

Fresh from her sleuthing in Death Comes As Epiphany (1993), 12th-century novice nun Catherine LeVendeur will leave the convent of Abbess H‚lo‹se and marry Edgar, student of the now frail Peter Abelard. The pair will take on dangers with derring-do to solve the curious murder of a young countess named Alys, whose death has something to do with property bequeathed to the convent and the tangled fortunes of a particularly nasty family. Among the puzzlements: Alys’s sister, a silent nun presumed dead to the world, and her bitter secret; the death and dismemberment of a mild gossip; an assault on a convent nun; the tangled motives of the dead countess’s horrid mother, who has lethal plans for snooping Catherine. Throughout, there are congenial chats with kin, the like-minded, and the high-minded. Catherine’s father, a “Jewish apostate,” has ongoing problems, as does the beleaguered Abelard, headed for condemnation by the Council of Sens. With richly satisfying settings, this smooth mystery is tight as a tambour. Top-notch sleuthing, classy with Latin saws and observations.

Books I read in April 2010

In April, I read only 3 books, but one them was 22 CDs long…


I finally read Foulcault’s Pendulum, by Umberto Ecco.
This guys know how to write. It was helpful though to know some Latin, Hebrew, Greek, and a few other things. Sometimes it was kind of reading Ulysses.
here is a review posted on amazon:

Student of philology in 1970s Milan, Casaubon is completing a thesis on the Templars, a monastic knighthood disbanded in the 1300s for questionable practices. At Pilades Bar, he meets up with Jacopo Belbo, an editor of obscure texts at Garamond Press. Together with Belbo’s colleague Diotallevi, they scrutinize the fantastic theories of a prospective author, Colonel Ardenti, who claims that for seven centuries the Templars have been carrying out a complex scheme of revenge. When Ardenti disappears mysteriously, the three begin using their detailed knowledge of the occult sciences to construct a Plan for the Templars[…] In his compulsively readable new novel, Eco plays with “the notion that everything might be mysteriously related to everything else,” suggesting that we ourselves create the connections that make up reality. As in his best-selling The Name of the Rose, he relies on abstruse reasoning without losing the reader, for he knows how to use “the polyphony of ideas” as much for effect as for content. Indeed, with its investigation of the ever-popular occult, this highly entertaining novel should be every bit as successful as its predecessor. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 6/1/89. — Barbara Hoffert, “Library Journal”

The Historian, by Elizabeth Kostova
I actually listened to it, 22 CDs, not boring one second.
She writes so well, and have you travel all over the world, in time and space. fascinating, very well researched.
I rigth away read her other available novel in English, see in the upcoming post of books read in May.

Here is an excerpt of a review posted on amazon. I don’t think any of their reviews really honor this book enough though.

The marketing campaign is underway and Elizabeth Kostova’s debut novel is already being hyped as the “Dracula Code” or some similar slogan. I disagree with that approach, not just because they are quite different in more ways than just storyline, but because “The Da Vinci Code” was a good thriller with elements of history mixed in, but it is not even in the same league with this book.

“The Historian” is an epic work of historical fiction that sweeps across Europe during the four decades between 1930 and the mid 1970s. It just also happens to involve the Dracula myth and a good dose of suspense. Now, some people may object to me calling this novel a work of historical fiction because it is mostly fiction and contains very few real characters. That is true, but Kostova does such an amazing job of making the Dracula myths come alive that you can’t help feeling that the legends and the story are real. Her research is stunning in its attention to detail and the wide range of topics Kostova must’ve studied. A previous reviewer slightly criticizes Kostova for spending too many pages describing the pilgrimage routes of monks hundreds of years ago. While sections like that do slow down the pace of the novel somewhat, they don’t distract from it.


Now, I start hearing so much about 2012 that I wanted to read something about it, to have an idea what this Mayan calendar was about.
So I read:

The Everything Guide to 2012, by Mark Heley
I think the author does a great job of presenting things impartially, at all levels, and telling you when some ideas are honestly gooffy.
The Mayan calendar explanation was inofrmative, but that was not at all the scary part of the book, rather it’s all the more natural events in our planet system, current and supposedly upcoming. Not to read if you are depressed!

Here is amazon presentation:

The winter solstice in 2012 is the end of the current Mayan calendar cycle. There are lots of theories about what will happen on this date. Will all life on Earth end? Will humans reach a higher spiritual plane? Will visitors from another planet arrive? Noted Mayan expert Mark Heley leads you through all the theories and debates surrounding this mysterious event. He takes a reasoned approach to the subject, relying on astronomy and climate changes, rather than myths and stories.

This book features fascinating information, including:

  • The Mayan cyclical view of time
  • Modern interpretations of prophecies and predictions of rapid change
  • Galactic alignment and Mayan theories on the origin of the universe
  • Earth changes, the fall of civilizations, and apocalyptic theories

You will learn about the possible cultural and social impacts of the predicted events. The author also shares his ideas on what life might be like around and after 12/21/2012. This guide also includes an easy-to-use Mayan calendar date conversion chart. With this chart, you can use the calendar as a personal predictive and astrological tool as you prepare for the quickly approaching date.

About the Author

Mark Heley (Glastonbury, England) has been a pioneering researcher of Mayan culture and the theories surrounding 2012 for nearly a decade. He is the producer and director of the 2012 documentary called Frequency Shift and has spoken at events and conferences across the United Kingdom, Canada, Europe, and the United States on the subject. He has been a professional journalist for twenty years and has an honors degree in philosophy from Cambridge University.


Matthew The Poor, Orthodox Prayer Life, pp.284-287

This post concludes my reading of this amazing book by Matthew The Poor. It was my Lenten book this year, and tomorrow is Pentecost! Just in time!

“…They are so enflammed by the Spirit
with such joy and love that,
if it were possible,
they could gather every human being
into their very hearts,
without distinguishing the bad and the good.”
St Macarius the Great, Homily 18.8

“What, succintly, is purity?
It is a heart that shows mercy to all created nature.”
St Issac the Syrian

“What is the sign that a man has attained to purity of heart?
When he sees all men as good
and none appears to him to be unclean and defiled.”
St Issac the Syrian, Homily 37

Matthew The Poor, Orthodox Prayer Life, pp.227-231

One of my favorite quotes from The Ladder:
“The man wearing
blessed, God-given mourning,
like a wedding garment,
gets to know the spiritual laughter of the heart.”
St John Climacus, The Ladder of Divine Ascent, 7.44

We may liken fasting to a burning coal
and prayer to frankincense.
Neither has value without the other,
but together,
the sweet savor of their incense fills the air.

“When a man begins to fast,
he straightaway years in his mind
to enter into converse with God.”
St Isaac the Syrian, Homily 37

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