Golden Corral

[Ancient Faith Radio; January 16, 2008] This is another one of those times when I’m someplace and kind of embarrassed to say where I am. I’m in the parking lot of an all-you-an-eat buffet restaurant; this one’s a Golden Corral. I’m about to go in and have some dinner. And this is one of my secret techniques at being a writer, that when I have a lot of stuff I need to go through, a lot of paper, like when I’ve gotten the manuscript of a book back from the editor and I need to look at every page and see what all the suggestions and changes are, this is my plan: I go to an all-you-can-eat place and I put the big stack of paper on the table and I’ll get salad and then I’ll read for a half hour. And then I’ll get some vegetables and then read for another half hour. And just stretch it out and make it a little more cheerful than it might otherwise be.

Fair Trade

[Ancient Faith Radio; November 21, 2007] I’ve got a whole box of stuff here. This is tissue paper, it’s wrapped around little papier-mâché Christmas ornaments from India. And they’re all hand painted and there’s so much detail. I’m looking at one, it’s got a band of colors on top and another band on the bottom, and the middle is painted blue, and it’s dotted with—there must be a hundred little stars, and one, two, three, four, five angels, smiling with their wings stretched out and touching each other.

The World and the Grail

[First Things Online; November 6, 2007] For some time now I’ve been reading Bill Bryson’s terrific 2003 book, A Short History of Nearly Everything. (You should interpret “some time” to mean “a pretty long time,” because not only is this a hefty-sized book, it’s about science.) In his introduction Bryson, an entertaining travel writer, explains how he came to write a book about the origins of life, the universe, and everything. He says that when he was in the fourth or fifth grade the cover of his science text showed the earth with a quarter cut away, revealing an interior neatly arranged in colorful layers. Not only did Bryson enjoy the thought of unsuspecting motorists sailing off the edge,

Thrift Shops

[Ancient Faith Radio; October 10, 2007] I’m a big fan of thrift shops. I started going decades ago when somebody told me you can get books there; you can get hardback books for just a couple of dollars. So I went in, I checked it out and it was true. And I found that there were books that I could only afford in paperback, but here were these nice hardback copies with dust jackets, and so I started going regularly. And then my eye wandered a bit and I saw, well, there’s some interesting furniture and even some semi-antique pieces. I discovered in a bin of drapes there was something sticking out and it looked like embroidery. And in fact, it was. It was this giant three-foot by four-foot embroidered piece of folk art that I’ve got framed right here in my office.

Conversation with Doug LeBlanc

[Ancient Faith Radio; October 4, 2007] Frederica: There goes the bell on the door of the Virginia Barbeque, I guess that’s the name, the simple name of this place. We’re sitting here, my friend Doug LeBlanc and I, on the main street leading into Ashland, Virginia where Randolph-Macon College is, really a gorgeous little town. And Virginia Barbeque is set in a house that looks to me like from about 1900; it’s a charming little house with a front porch and an American flag waving out there, and what’s unusual is they don’t do just one kind of barbeque. You can get Texas, North Carolina, or Virginia style. They did not have South Carolina style, which I was deeply disappointed about, because that’s the best. I’m sitting here talking to my friend Doug, whom I’ve known since, I think it was 1991 when we met for the first time, wasn’t it?

Problematic Honor

[Ancient Faith Radio, September 27, 2007] Last May, Father Thomas Hopko gave the commencement speech at St. Vladimir’s Seminary. Somebody forwarded me the text of this, and it’s so terrific. I sent it on to the members of my family, and the subject line I used was, ‘A Hopko scorcher!’ because he can really be pretty scorching, when he gets going. One thing that particularly interested me toward the end of this speech was he started talking about a book by CS Lewis. He says, ‘I think all thinking Christians, surely all seminary students and graduates, should be required to read it, the most incisive analysis of what has happened to humanity in the last fifty years.’ CS Lewis’ book, The Abolition of Man, 1944. It is rather a short book; I think it’s a series of three or four lectures that Lewis gave.

Franchise Row

[Ancient Faith Radio; September 19, 2007] It’s a hot Tuesday afternoon. I’m here at – I’m embarrassed to say where I am – I’m in the parking lot at Taco Bell; I’m just about to go through the drive through and get some lunch. But I just pulled over for a minute to look around this corner. You have this corner where *you* live. At this stoplight I can see there’s Panera Bread, Office Depot, Lowes Home Supply, Walgreens, Kmart, Target, Toys R Us, Best Buy. That just scratches the surface, you know? It’s everything that clusters together, like birds of a feather: these big box stores and these very big standard franchise outlets, all over the country. It doesn’t matter where I go, you know, if I’m east coast, west coast, north or south, this same stuff, this is the landscape everywhere you go.

Dating vs Courtship

[Ancient Faith Radio; August 2, 2008] Frederica: We’re at Five Guys Burgers, which is the best burgers in Baltimore, and everybody is chowing down except me, because I came late, so mine is still on order. These are some pretty hefty burgers. In Pasadena. They just opened one of these in Pasadena; I got the word from the end of the table. Our Pasadena. Pasadena, Maryland. And Jocelyn sent me something she’d written earlier today about dating, and ‘I kissed dating goodbye,’ versus ‘I gave dating a chance,’ versus people should just do courtship. And you’d read an article by somebody who said he’s very much in favor of courtship, but the problem is when people meet for the first time, they want to get to know each other. They’re not ready to jump into courtship. So his solution was parents should absolutely control every moment of their children’s lives, and children should know that their parents are going to choose their mate when they’re grown up. They will have no choice whatsoever. I don’t think that’s completely feasible [laughter] but it does show that even for people who are kind of opposed to the dating whirl, what’s the alternative? So, what do you think? Jocelyn? My daughter-in-law Jocelyn, married to my handsome son Steve. Did you and Steve date?

Victoria’s Secret

[Ancient Faith Radio; July 26, 2007] This shopping mall, Arundel Mills Mall, is one (I think) of a national chain of malls, the Mills malls. All of them are made up of a lot of discount stores. We’ve got a discount Saks 5th Avenue, a discount Neiman Marcus; there’s always an Outdoor World, I can see that over there. There’s a Bed Bath & Beyond, a, what’s it called? Birmingham Coat Factory? That doesn’t sound right. Burlington! Burlington Coat Factory. So it’s a big mall; it’s built in a circular shape so as you walk around it, I think it’s a whole mile if you walk all the way around the circuit. And it’s a great place for people to come with kids because you can walk, it’s air conditioned, it’s warm in the winter. And as you go along, there are different, kind of, themes, as you go from section to section. Right now, you might be able to hear this electronic sound of a cricket overhead. And there goes a loon or something. This section here is supposed to be like, you’re out in a marsh and there are giant dragonflies and butterflies hanging overhead and a bench – a sort of circular thing to sit on – that’s a great big water lily.

The Emerging Church and Orthodoxy

[Precipice Magazine, July 2007] 1.) Can you offer some insight about how the Orthodox Church understands evangelism? Do you feel that, overall, that it is considered a priority when compared with Protestant Evangelicalism? The Orthodox Church has a beautiful history of evangelism — but, unfortunately, it is largely history. A factor we tend to forget, which has made the path of Eastern Christianity so different from that of the West, is that for the most part they have not been free. Many Orthodox lands have been under Muslim rule for over a millennium, virtually since Islam began.