Theosis In Our Time

“Once I gave a talk about theosis at a theological school, and afterward a student came up, pen and paper at the ready. He asked me, ‘Are there any case histories?’ I couldn’t figure out what he meant, so he said, ‘Has anyone every actually tried to do this?’

“It hit me how difficult this is to visualize, if you don’t have an example of how it works out in practice. It’s the saints who are our ‘case histories.’ They give us an opportunity to see how multitude of people, from all background, ages, and stations of life, ‘did it.’ We put their icons in our homes like a boy who dreams of being a baseball player and puts up posters of his heroes. We gaze at the saints so we can learn how to do what they did.

“Being a saint is not a private attainment, a kind of spiritual mountain-climbing. Its goal is not simply to accumulate more spiritual experiences. As spirituality gained popularity in recent years, I’ve sometimes felt that there’s an unpleasantly narcissistic edge to it, as if it’s a spiritual makeover project. The real mark of a saint is, instead, that his transformed life overflows for others. The Christ-filled person acquires nothing for himself, he dies to self. In that dying he receives life, and gives it to all.”
–– Frederica Mathewes-Green, Welcome to the Orthodox Church: An Introduction to Eastern Christianity

Time For Some Tech: Communication Apps

Okay. I believe I’m more than overdue for a blog about some tech. I don’t want anyone getting the impression that I’ve lost my love for it. Nuh-uh. Not even close. I’ll start off with something I’m pretty sure everyone knows a little something about: communications apps. Specifically, I’ll be referring to my favorite 5 communications apps.

There are specific criteria I look for in communications software: 1) Is it free? By free I mean the software should cost nothing to download and install 2) I also expect all forms client-to-client (e.g. Skype-to-Skype, Facetime-to-Facetime, etc.) communications to be free as well 3) The ability for live-chat. This is pretty much a given nowadays 4) The ability to make phone calls internationally 5) Video conferencing 6) File exchanging capabilities.

My favorite 5 apps of choice, in no particular order, are Skype, FaceTime and Messages, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and Viber.

Skype Normal

Skype is still a powerhouse and fantastic for everyday use, in both the business and private world, and I can’t think of a person I know who travels on business or pleasure who doesn’t use it. I use it for all of the criteria I wrote about above. It costs nothing to download; chatting and phone calls with other Skype members is free; they have very competitive rates for international calls, and even allow one to have a Skype Number. This allows me to have a local number in another geographical location. In my case I have a local number in New York that my family and friends there can call and are charged the local rate. I can also video-conference multiple Skype members at no cost. This is a nearly unbeatable way of staying in touch and coordinating events with family in different locations. I was tickled to bits to when my mother-in-law started using it to keep in touch with her sisters, one in Paris and the other in Helsinki. I can also use Skype to exchange files. All for free. :)

FaceTimeMessages

Next up are FaceTime and Messages. These are two native OS X and iOS (for some this is geek-speak that simply means they only work on Apple devices) communication apps that are separate, but not totally. FaceTime pretty much stands on its own and is excellent for video-conferencing and making phone calls to other Apple devices. The quality of both modes of communication are rather phenomenal comparatively to the competition. Messages is a chat program that allows FaceTime integration. For example, if I’m chatting with someone using an Apple device and we decide a phone call or video conference is a better option, I can simply click on “Details” in the top right-hand corner, and then select either the camera or the phone icon.

Screen_Shot_2015-05-01_at_15_54_25

Clicking on the video camera icon will activate FaceTime, and clicking on the phone icon gives you the option of making the call with FaceTime audio or uses your iPhone subscription if it’s connected to your local network. Something I’ve noticed with with FaceTime is the video and audio quality are excellent compared to other communication apps. If I know the person I wish to contact has FaceTime or another app, I’ll choose FaceTime. The difference in quality is such that I would even suggest switching after learning they have FaceTime instead of whatever communication app the contact was initiated in.

There are several other things I really like about FaceTime and Messages, but I’ll save that for another time.

Facebook Messager

Next up is Facebook Messenger. If you’re a Facebook user, then you know about Facebook Messenger. To some for better or for worse. Personally, I think it’s a pretty handy little app! After all, besides chat it also offers free video-conferencing and phone calls to anyone of your Facebook friends regardless of geographical location (though I have my questions about China). That’s a pretty good deal. I’m willing to be each of you reading this has a a Facebook account, and that you have plenty of Facebook friends as well. Did you know you could call them for free through Facebook Messenger? Well you do now. ;)

WhatsApp

WhatsApp is a player that’s been around for a long time (in the IT industry, that is). It was founded in 2009 by Brian Acton and Jan Koum. It was what I consider my first real messaging app. They have certainly come a long way since then, adding telephony to their robust little app. They also managed to survive among the Skypes, Facebooks, and other huge players in their market. According to a November 2013 OnDevice Research article, WhatsApp surpassed Facebook Messenger as the leading messenger app. What did Facebook do? They did the same thing other multibillion dollar companies like them do. They turned around and bought them for $19 billion [Facebook (FB) said it will pay WhatsApp $4 billion in cash and $12 billion in stock. WhatsApp’s founders and staff will be eligible for for another $3 billion in stock grants to be paid out if they remain employed by Facebook for four years]. For the WhatsApp team that’s quite a feat to pull off in 6 years. Nevertheless, even after the purchase, they remain constant in offering one of the best messaging apps with phone service available. I still use it, and highly recommend it to anyone who’s looking for a pretty plucky and reliable app that delivers.

Viber

Last, but not least, is ViberViber has been around since 2010, and is an app I’m finding I use more and more among my European friends. It is both chat and VoIP capable, and they’re even offering calling plans for those interested. It’s a more than decent communications app, and I must confess I at first installed because it was the choice of a group of folks I associate with a bit more regularly; however, I certainly don’t regret it. Especially since they have a desktop version for OS X. Check it out for yourself and see what I mean.

Something I should to point out is that all of the apps I write about above, with the exception of WhatsApp, offer both a mobile and desktop version. This is becoming the standard nowadays, which I think is a very good thing for us consumers. WhatsApp does offer a web version but it’s not quite the same thing in my book. I also want to point out that all of the communications apps I mentioned, with the exception of FaceTime and Messages, compatible with the latest Apple, Android, Blackberry , and Windows devices.

So now you have options for staying in touch with most people you know, at little cost, if not downright for free! Just in case you’re wondering, with the exception of my parents – who are a bit older and not at all tech savvy – I don’t pay anything to keep in touch with my friends and family around the world. And I’m wiling to bet your friends and family are using at least one (if not more!) of the communications apps I mentioned above. This means you too can stay in touch for free. If they’re not, you now at least have the means to tell them how they can.

Laterz.

Stanley Hauerwas: “No unbiased viewpoint exists”

Harlemite:

Something to ponder with this morning’s coffee.

Originally posted on Dover Beach:

hauerwas

“If postmodernism means anything, it means that the comforting illusion of modernity that conflict is, can be, and should be avoided is over. No unbiased viewpoint exists that can in principle insure agreements. Our difficulty is not that we have conflicts, but that as modern people we have not had the courage to force the conflicts we ought to have had. Instead, we have comforted ourselves with the ideology of pluralism, forgetting that pluralism is the peace treaty left over from past wars that now benefits the victors of those wars.”

– Stanley Hauerwas

View original

Greeks. It’s Hard to Not Love Them

DISCLAIMER: I am baptized Panagiotis in the Greek Orthodox Church since 1992, on the lovely island of Mytilini. I lived in Greece for nearly 5 years of my life, and have Greek family. I love Greece and always will.

There is much fun that can be made of Greece and the Greeks nowadays. Their government is a mess, and it was the people who elected the government. I couldn’t tell you what makes them tick, and I believe those who think they have the Greek people figured out are only fooling themselves. Heck, I don’t even know if the Greeks know what makes the Greeks tick! Greeks are prone to waves of emotion that can rival the waters off the Cape of South Africa. That can be either absolutely terrifying, or incredibly exhilarating.

I came across this story at the The Guardian web site today that captured the very best of the Greeks. It was about how Greeks on the island of Rhodes, witnessing the migrant boat tragedy, dropped everything, jumped in the water, using whatever means available, to save those they could. This doesn’t shock me one bit. Not even for a second. For me I just smiled and thought immediately, “That’s the Greeks.” Really. They’re wonderful that way. There’s a depth to them you don’t really see at first, but then if you get the chance to be with them over time you see something you’re not likely to encounter in many other places. One that helps you to understand why they’ve survived for so many centuries.

Btw, yes. I know they are not a perfect people. I know that in spades. Likely more than most. But as I wrote earlier, my experience with them – not their government, mind you! – is certainly more good than bad. If you’ve spent any time in Greece, you already know what I’m talking about (if you haven’t then WHAT ON EARTH ARE YOU WAITING FOR???). If you know any Greeks well, the same. They’re the kind of folks that are hard to not love. :)

On Madonna’s Latest Antics

“The truth of the matter is, juvenile sexy just doesn’t work when you’re old—not because you’re not sexy anymore, but because you have a mature sexiness. And not only that, your sexiness is just one dimension of your character. Your beauty is so much more. You have other advantages, and you don’t have to rely on the batting eyes, the tight skirts, or, as in Madonna’s case, the random creepy kisses—and whatever else she’s willing to do—to exercise power or to express yourself.”

–– D.C. McAllister

The Faith That’s Tried, Tested, True, and Still Standing

Greek Orthodox Cross

I have been Orthodox since 1992. That was WAY before modern-day issues like this were even conceivable. So much has happened in so little time.

That said, I am more glad than ever that I am Eastern Orthodox. Why? Because it’s nice knowing the Orthodox Faith has dealt with worse dust-ups (i.e. Great Schism, Arianism, Fall of Constantinople, and more) than this in the past. I don’t know if I’ve ever been as grateful as I have been lately for the history of the Orthodox Church. I’ve heard of persecution of the Christian faith before, but I never really imagined it would get to where it is nowadays. Certainly not in my lifetime. However, that is my own fault. History changes when it wants to, and we’re not always paying attention when it happens.

I pray very much for my Protestant brothers and sisters who have no idea where their churches stand doctrinally today or tomorrow. I cannot imagine what that must be like. Truth be told, I never thought about it as much until recently. I’m sure modern times have caused many Christians to consider more than a few things lately.

May God grant us all wisdom in the decisions we make.

****************************

NOTE: I personally don’t believe the upcoming Ecumenical Council in 2016 is coincidental. I believe God is absolutely in control of it all. I really do. But that’s just me.