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Friday, March 25, 2016

Good Friday Meditations from the Beginning of Lent

In some ways this is a travel diary told in pictures. However, we saw and heard things that very much were lessons found in Good Friday.

As I mentioned before, in January, we were invited to a friend's surprise 40th birthday party. Though we were flattered to be invited, it was in the Bay Area, which is a good 15 hour drive from here and airfare for 10 is not really feasible. So, I told Rich how nice it was that we were included, but that, of course, we wouldn't be able to go. He asked me why not, and suggested that just the two of us go. Then, immediately started looking up airfare. He found a decent ticket price, but I didn't know where we would stay, so asked another friend in the area if she could let us crash for a night, and said to hold off on pulling the trigger on the ticket until I heard back. By the time she got back to me with her yes, the fares had gone up significantly, so I was back to thinking this just wouldn't happen. Rich said that the price of airfare for us would cover driving down with the kids and getting hotels. So, we did it. In four days, there and back.

It was worth it just to see the look on our friend's face, because his wife (who is also our friend) had been planning for a month and didn't breathe a word to him. Also, as you will find out in a minute, we were a little late to the party, so we came in after he'd already been surprised and thought that part of the evening was over.

We had reservations at a little motor inn near Crater Lake for Friday evening, and after driving through Central Washington, stopping at the Monastery of Saint John the Forerunner in Goldendale for linner, we worked our way south through Central Oregon. By this time it was around 7:30 p.m. And raining. And dark. And our van stopped working about 20 miles north of Madras. Which is two hours north of where our motel was. Rich got the van over to the side and tried to call our insurance for roadside assistance. But, even though he had service and battery charged, his phone was not dialing out for some reason. So, we used my phone. Oh, and did I mention that the battery was almost dead and I hadn't charged it because we were so close to our destination that I didn't think it would matter? Now I plug the charger in as soon as I get in the car, no matter what. Anyway, he could still receive calls so we gave them his number if they needed to call back. I told them about where we were and that we thought our alternator had quit (so, I couldn't even charge the phone with the engine off) and she said she could send a tow truck. We said that we'd need transportation, because we had eight children with us. She said they couldn't cover that, but that the tow company might be able to do so. We knew we couldn't get towed without having a way to get the kids somewhere safe, because it was a busy, dark, highway with loads of trucks going by, and we weren't going to have them on the side of the road without some protection.

This is the spot where we were stuck, to the left of the photo around where the mound of dirt and truck are)

Rich was getting perturbed, but God provided for us that night. Rich has a business friend who lives somewhat in the area, and he called him to ask where to get our van towed. It turned out that the man who lived next door to him owned a mechanic shop and was honest and reliable. While we were waiting for the tow truck, Rich grabbed his phone (it could still receive calls and could text), a jacket, one of the kids' flashlights and another's headlamp (they use them for reading in the car) and walked about a quarter mile down the highway, because he was sure that he'd seen what looked like a tow truck just around the bend. Glory to Christ that he has such good eyesight! It was the truckers on the road who alerted the tow truck that he was coming; they didn't see him, but the truckers did and flashed their lights, stopped so Rich could cross and get to them.

Here is where the tow truck was

They were already there, finishing up changing a tire for someone else. After Rich explained our predicament, they had him get in their truck, and just as he did, the call for the tow came from our roadside assistance people. Instead of trying to figure out where we were, they could just go where Rich told them. They called another fellow with a truck, from the company, so we could transport everyone. While this was all going on, we were also trying to find a place to stay that night. Blessedly, there was a place we had stayed during a trip to a funeral last year, and they had the same two rooms open for us, remembered us, and were pleased to give us a place (and a breakfast the following morning). Also, the lady at the place near Crater Lake didn't charge us for our missed reservation, even though we gave her only a couple hours' notice, because it wasn't our fault. So, they towed us to the hotel, we grabbed the suitcases we'd need for that night (we packed a suitcase for each night for all of us, instead of separate suitcases for us, the boys, and the girls, which worked pretty well) and our toiletries and diaper bag, and they took our van to the mechanic's.

The mechanic wasn't even open on Saturdays, but Rich's friend called him, as well as his having the call from the towing company, and he already had a special job to do that day, but because he knew we were stuck and running late, he did our van at 7:00 that morning, and made sure to get it done right away. So, we left only an hour later than we had planned. Though we were still an hour and a half or two north of where we wanted to start.

We crossed into California and meandered around Mount Shasta, all of us dressed for the party that evening, because our plan to stop at our hotel first, unpack, change and then head over was gone now, with our delay. I painted my nails, base coat, two coats of polish and top coat, while we drove down the windy freeway between trucks and other mountain traffic.

Guests were supposed to arrive at the party about 45 minutes before the birthday boy was to be there, but we ended up coming about an hour after he'd already been surprised. At that point, we just wanted to wait long enough not to ruin the surprise.

I found it funny that we ended up arranging the couples Arab, Arab, German, German. That was not deliberate.

We were able to attend liturgy with them the following morning. They attend a beautiful Antiochian Orthodox church, with the service half in Arabic and half in English. It was a moving service and Rich and I so enjoyed worshiping with them, and being able to share in the beauty of the church, of the liturgy and music, and feast our eyes on the icons and iconostasis there. It was wonderful that Arabic was assumed when we came in, people spoke to us in Arabic and people thought I was Iraqi. Our children had a great time with a church full of kids that looked like them (and Nejat taught the boy behind us to bump fists), there was a beautiful community of Ethiopians there as well. You could pick out the different countries of origin and dialects, too. I wish I had gotten photos of the exterior of the church, but we forgot to have family pictures taken of us with our friends. But that was not the church that had been built there originally.

In the time immediately following the 9-11 attacks, some miscreant or miscreants had decided that since all these people spoke Arabic and there was Arabic on their sign, and the building had a dome on it, they must be Islamic terrorists, too. That the sign said that it was the Church of the Holy Apostles in English might have been a clue that they were Christians, at least, but I doubt there was much reading going on. Our friends said that there had been all sorts of fires and vandalism that night, and by the time the fire fighters had come, the building was completely destroyed. Only the things in these two cases displayed in the narthex of the church were left.

This case has a place of prominence. It was what was left on the altar after the fire: The crucifix, and the Gospel book, with the pages burned except for the text from Saint Matthew's Gospel,

"You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two.

The people responsible for arson were never found. This church community, though, has taken that burned Gospel book as a sign and a lesson that they taught themselves, their children and all the people who came to their church. This is what Christ did when He was falsely arrested, falsely accused, falsely punished and crucified. This is what He did when He forgave those who killed Him. How can we do less?

So, like Christ, this church was resurrected. It is beautiful, it is welcoming, it is a place of forgiveness and mercy. And Christ is there. We were blessed to be there for just one day. Rich said that he wished we had a church like that here, both for the spiritual experience, and for the cultural experience for our family.

Here are some interior pictures of the sanctuary.

The iconostasis up front has Christ's life depicted, from the Annunciation to Pentecost.

At the base of the dome are icons of many Old Testament prophets holding scrolls of prophesy referring to Christ.

And at the top of the dome, like in all Orthodox churches, there was an icon of Christ, with angels around Him, looking down and guarding and guiding His people.

Have a blessed Good Friday, a holy Triduum, and a joyous Paschal feast!

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Thank you for sharing, both the lovely story of God's providence and the story of the church - and the breathtaking pictures! Happy Easter (in just two days!)
Thank you Ellen! You are right, it was breathtaking in there. Just a beautiful place that glorified God. It was impossibly not to be joyous and reverent in there.

Blessed Paschaltide to you!
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