Five Years

Yesterday was the fifth anniversary of the passing of my father, עליו השלום. He is sorely missed. Even more so since I visited my mother this year in Arizona. She’s having a rough time, and at one point she mentioned that she couldn’t go into her room because Jim was in there sleeping, and she didn’t want to bother him. It was very sad indeed to hear her speak like that. She’s 85 now. He would have been 89 this August.

My father was preceded in death by his parents Theodore and Olive (Taylor) Floyd, and his Sister Barbara Parsons-Smith. He is survived by his Wife of 33 years, one Sister, his five Children (of whom I am the only son), his four Step-Children, 31 Grandchildren, 52 Great-Grandchildren, three Nieces and numerous Cousins.

Jim was born on August 25, 1928 at Midian, Kansas. He grew up in Rock, Kansas, graduating from Douglas high school in 1946. He joined the Army soon afterward. He is a World War II veteran spending over four years in Germany as a forward observer prior to being honorably discharged in 1952. He retired from Cessna Aircraft with 45 years of service. He passed away May, 9th 2012.

 

Today I received a very nice email from Chabad.

Yahrtzeit Reminder

Dear Mr. Floyd,

Here is your reminder for the following upcoming yahrtzeit:

James Floyd
Shabbat, May 13, 2017 – Iyar 17, 5777
Passed away, Tucson, AZ May 9, 2012 / 17 Iyyar, 5772

The yahrtzeit begins with sunset the night before, when the yahrtzeit candle should be lit. (See below for details on when to light if the day before is Shabbat or a holiday).

A Note Regarding When to Light Your Yahrtzeit Candle

The yahrtzeit candle is customarily lit at sunset the night before the yahrtzeit. However, Jewish law forbids the kindling of a flame on Shabbat, and there are some restrictions regarding fire on major Jewish holidays. Therefore:

If the yahrtzeit is on Shabbat, be sure light the yahrtzeit candle before the Shabbat candles are lit on Friday afternoon. If the yahrtzeit is on Sunday, light the candle after the conclusion of Shabbat.

If yahrtzeit is on a Jewish holiday, light before the onset of the holiday (using a 48-hour candle for yahrtzeits on the second day of the holiday) or make sure to light it from a preexisting flame that was kindled prior to the start of the holiday.

How to observe a yahrtzeit

It’s the little things that people do that make a big difference. Even if this was an automated message, it was still very heartwarming to receive. May my father’s soul have an aliyah!

Understanding the Nature of “Idolatry”

The following is informative only. It is not intended to damn the practitioners of any faith, nor to prove that any practices are correct or are incorrect. Please read objectively, and do not read into what is written, read only what is written and take it at face value. What I DO encourage, is you to do your own, independent research into the matter. Learn as much as you can, and draw a well informed, logical and intelligent conclusion.

Idolatry in our day and age is completely misrepresented and misunderstood. Those who “worship” idols of stone and of wood and of metal and of gems no more believe that the representation of a god fashioned by their hands is a god than you believe a picture of a person is an actual person. From the most developed society to the most primitive, it is understood that these creations are representatives of the divine.  What the God of the Judeo-Christian books says seems confusing, and indicates that people are in fact, worshiping statues.

“You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them…”

“Do not turn to idols or make for yourselves any gods of cast metal…”

“The idols of the nations are silver and gold, the work of human hands. They have mouths, but do not speak; they have eyes, but do not see; they have ears, but do not hear, nor is there any breath in their mouths. Those who make them become like them, so do all who trust in them!”

“A tree from the forest is cut down and worked with an axe by the hands of a craftsman. They decorate it with silver and gold; they fasten it with hammer and nails so that it cannot move. Their idols are like scarecrows in a cucumber field, and they cannot speak; they have to be carried, for they cannot walk.”

“Cursed be the man who makes a carved or cast metal image, an abomination to the Lord, a thing made by the hands of a craftsman, and sets it up in secret.”

“And you have praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood, and stone, which do not see or hear or know…”

“Woe to him who says to a wooden thing, Awake; to a silent stone, Arise! Can this teach? Behold, it is overlaid with gold and silver, and there is no breath at all in it.”

Many people, reading such things in the sacred books of the Jews and of the Christians are left with the idea that the people actually believed that their creations WERE gods, and that the people were in fact serving the hand-crafted idols themselves. This simply isn’t true, and never has been. Even the ancient story of Abraham, (Midrash Bereishit 38:13) the father of the Jewish faith, makes clear that the idols were nothing more than statues.

“One time a woman came with a basket of bread. She said to Abraham, “Take this and offer it to the gods”. Abraham got up, took a hammer in his hand, broke all the idols to pieces, and then put the hammer in the hand of the biggest idol among them. When his father came back and saw the broken idols, he was appalled. “Who did this?” he cried. “How can I hide anything from you?” replied Abraham calmly. “A woman came with a basket of bread and told me to offer it to them. I brought it in front of them, and each one said, “I’m going to eat first.” Then the biggest one got up, took the hammer and broke all the others to pieces.” “What are you trying to pull on me?” asked Terach, “Do they have minds?” Said Abraham: “Listen to what your own mouth is saying? They have no power at all! Why worship idols?”

Now then… This story makes clear that Terach, the maker of the idols, and Abraham, the one who took offerings to the idols were both aware that the idols themselves were not gods. So we are again left baffled at why the Divine would be so upset about these little statues. Clearly the Jews were extremely concerned with the practice of idolatry to they point where they exclaimed:

“Whosoever recognizes idols has denied the entire Torah; and whosoever denies idols has recognized the entire Torah” (Midrash Sifre, Deut. 54 and parallel passages)

“As soon as one departs from the words of the Torah, it is as though he attached himself to the worship of idols” (Midrash Sifri, Deut 43)

It was forbidden to look upon images (Tosefta to Shabbat 17.1), and even thinking of idolatrous worship was prohibited (Berakhot 12b); if one saw a place where an idol had once stood, he was commanded to utter a special prayer (Berakhot 61a). Sacrifice to an idol or anything which in any way might be associated with idolatry was forbidden. It was even insufficient to reduce an idol to powder and scatter it to the winds, since it would fall to earth and become a fertilizer; but the image must be sunk in the Dead Sea, whence it could never emerge (Avodah Zarah 3.3); nor might the wood of the “asherah” be used for purposes of healing (Pesachim 25a).

Indeed, even in his The Guide to the Perplexed, I:36, the RaMBaM (Rabbi Moshe Ben Maimon / Maimonides) holds the view that in the original form of idolatry, no one actually believed that their idols were gods; he states that idol-worshipers understood that their idols were only representations of a god, or G-d Himself. Idols are “worshiped in respect of its being an image of a thing that is an intermediary between ourselves and God.”. The RaMBaM, however, goes further in defining idolatry than other Jewish thinkers before or since; he states that it is idolatry to believe that G-d is subject to any affections at all. Not only believing that God has a body, but merely believing “that one of the states of the body belong to Him, you provoke His jealousy and anger, kindle the fire of his wrath, and are a hater, an enemy and an adversary of God, much more so than an idolater.” The RaMBaM spends the first one-third of the Guide attempting to show that a literalist understanding of the metaphors, idioms, and homonyms in the Torah are idolatrous in this regard. For the RaMBaM, and other philosophers in the neo-Aristotelian mold, it is idolatry to believe that God has positive attributes. The RaMBaM’s negation of positive attributes to God reaches its epitomes in the Guide I:56, where he states that “the relation between us and God, may He be exalted, is considered to be non-existent.”

“Know that likeness is a certain relation between two things and that in cases where no relation can be supposed to exist between two things, no likeness between them can be represented to oneself. Similarly in all cases in which there is no likeness between two things, there is no relation between them. An example of this is that one does not say that this heat is like color, or that this voice is like this sweetness. This is a matter that is clear in itself. Accordingly, in view of the fact that the relation between us and Him, may He be exalted, is considered to be non-existent – I mean the relation between Him and that which is other than He – it follows necessarily that likeness between Him and us should also be considered nonexistent.”

Now, we find ourselves even more confused than before. We see the RaMBaM explaining that no one ever believed they were serving a created object, rather they were using it only as a representation of a god or as an attribute of the One True G-d, and yet he goes further than any Jew prior and indeed further than our modern sensibilities and equates even believing that the Divine actually possesses an arm with idolatry. So we are left with the understanding that idols were never worshiped, people never believed in them, and that they were merely “windows to the Divine”.

Let’s look at modern examples of this very same (in explanation) practice which exist within the oldest existing Christian faiths: Catholicism and Orthodoxy. Catholics erect statues of saints, and decorate them with flowers, lighting candles in front of them. The Orthodox adorn their churches with icons of saints, and pray before them, bowing before the icon and kissing it. “You shall not bow down to them or serve them…”. So, how do they explain their creating of statues and writing of icons, as well as their bowing to, kissing, lighting candles and incense before and veneration of these items of wood, stone, metal and jewels? The same exact way that the Hindus and the Buddhists and the tribesmen and any other conceivable faith inclusive of statues, and indeed the same way the RaMBaM described the ancients whom G-d Himself in the Torah accuses, describe their act of creating statues/paintings.

They create these items as a focal point. A focal point of worship. A window into heaven. The created object places their mind onto the Divine or the ascended god/being/human being represented by the manufactured item. The item becomes a representation of the Divine, much as a photograph reminds us of our loved ones dead and gone, or separated by miles. How many people believe that they are engaging in idolatry by printing a photo of their mother to hang on their wall? The same is true of idols. No one in their right mind believes that a shaped and created object, embellished with gold and with jewels, is a god. It is merely a reminder of things divine. A focal point – comparable to a telephone receiver by which they may contact the divine. Ask an Orthodox child about an icon, and he will tell you that he talks to the saint pictured therein, while gazing at the icon. Ask a Catholic who prays while gazing at a crucifix, and they will tell you that they are praying to Christ Himself, while gazing at a reminder of His suffering.

It is no different in any faith. All of these images, statues and shapes made, are representative of a divine being. They are conduits by which the divine may be reached through focus and prayer. But they, themselves, are not gods, nor are they being worshiped. So the question is still not answered… If the assumptions we have made about the ancients, and the explanation given by those engaged in the same or similar practices in the modern world are true, why is the Divine so upset about these little statues and paintings? Are stained glass windows, paintings, statues, even carvings of animals – idols? Are the modern Jews, Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, Aboriginals and others all guilty of idolatry?

Interestingly enough, the Talmud states (Yoma 69b) that the Men of the Great Assembly managed to remove the idolatry component of the Satan (Evil Inclination) from Jewish life, and it ceased to be a problem. The Talmud also records (Sanhedrin 102b) that Rav Ashi had a debate on Jewish law with idolatrous King Menashe of Judah, and lost. When asked by King Menashe in a dream what the halacha is when eating bread, Rav Ashi responded that he did not know. When Menashe responded with the well-done part first, Rav Ashi, surprised at his knowledge, responded: “As you are so learned, why then did you worship idols?”. Menashe replied: “The drive for idolatry was so strong in my time that, had you been there, you would have lifted your robe to run after me and do the same!”

Happy New Year, 2017!

My dearest friends and family; I wish for you nothing but the best in this new year. May it be filled with happiness, prosperity and success. May none of you experience pain, neglect or sorrow. But most of all, my wish for you is that you will grow in faith, good deeds and in your prayer life. The world isn’t getting any safer, better or more secure. There simply is no better time to decide to make the change. If not now, when? And if you are not for yourself, who will be for you? May the Almighty Creator and Master of the Universe Himself, bless each and every one of you, and give you the strength to serve Him and your fellow man with mercy and with true love.

New Year’s thought:

“When we begin to form good resolutions, G-d gives us every opportunity of carrying them out.” – Ioannis Chrysostomos

My youngest, wishing you a happy new year!

 

 

A Final Goodbye

It is with great sorrow that I attended funeral services for a very dear and close friend, the Reverend Father Archimandrite Seraphim Graham Turland following his long battle with cancer. He entered into repose on the evening of December 25th, or early morning of December 26th, 2016. Seraphim was a kind soul, and a man of great consideration for all of creation. A man who would do anything for anyone and not think twice.

His final funerary liturgy was held Tuesday (12/27) at Saint John’s Orthodox Church, 20043 Highway 36, Covington, LA. Services took place at 11:00 AM.

My daughters and I took the very long (13.5 hrs.) overnight drive, to celebrate the life of one of the greatest men I’ve ever had the honour to know. With his death, I lost a very dear friend. A kind soul, a man of great consideration for all of creation. A man who would do anything for anyone and not think twice. He was much like my father, and I feel as if I’ve just lost a second father. May his memory be eternal. My loathing for cancer continues to grow.

Burial took place at 2:00 PM at Memorial Gardens Cemetery located at 2618 MS 43, Picayune, MS. May his memory be eternal!

Below is his Funerary Liturgy Service Booklet:

Father-Seraphim-Turland-Final-Liturgy

To those who knew my father Seraphim Graham Turland, he passed away sometime last night. He’d been suffering with cancer for several months and was in a lot of pain; it’s likely that he died in his sleep and did not suffer in his final hours. He was able to get his affairs in order and designate a family friend as the executor of his estate before his passing. I know he requested funeral services and that he be buried in his vestments, but no arrangements have been made yet. I will post more information as I receive it. My condolences go out to all who mourn him. Thank you for being part of his life in his last years.

Matthew Turland

I wanted to say something during the final moments we were with him, but the sleep deprivation coupled with the overwhelming emotion and tears prevented me from doing so. So, at the very least, I wanted to say it here. Firstly, thank you everyone who attended the proceedings and thank you to those that could not physically attend but were there in spirit. My father wasn’t a perfect man…none of us are perfect people. He was stubborn, sometimes argumentative, occasionally a grouch…but those things pale in comparison to how much joy he brought into people’s lives. He lived a very colorful life. Some things that we were so proud of, and other things he was so ashamed of that we will never know as he took with him with his passing. We are all like that, we have our proud moments and our shameful ones. But that goes back to the very moving sermon given by the Bishop during Divine Liturgy. He spoke about aspiring to be more like Him. That is indeed quite the impossible task, but…He knows that. All that He asks, is that you try. That is something my father did in spades. He reached out to many people, helped them with anything that they asked. Whether it be assembling a deck, making Orthodox icons or rosaries, or just transporting someone to a destination. He was there for people he cared for most. Sometimes he didn’t know how to express it, but if you knew him, you knew he always meant well in anything that he did. The joy that he had, wasn’t just joy that he enjoyed on his own, but joy that he shared with everyone around him. If there was a problem, he would mull it over in his head until he had a solution to it, and would also help you fix it…no exceptions. He wouldn’t give up, he was bound and determined to take care of it. And he didn’t give up on being here in this world with us, until he couldn’t go any longer. I thank everyone who surrounded my father, and shared in that very joy that he embraced wholeheartedly. Please pray for him, and cherish every memory that you have of him. Thank you so much for all the support everyone has given to the Turland family, and thank you for allowing my dad to take part in your lives. I hope that he touched you as much as he touched us. God Bless.

Josh Turland

His dog Lucky, is with Laurie (Jim’s daughter I believe) and is doing well.

His Facebook profile has been established by his son Matthew, as a memorial and may be veiwed HERE.

Google Allo and Me

Well, Google is changing things up again. Whether for the good or for the bad remains to be seen.

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I downloaded Google Allo to give it a go, but none of my contacts appear to be using it. From initial toying about, it seems to be nothing more than a Googlized Kik with Google Now assistant integrated. It is essentially an advanced Google Hangouts with SMS and a host of other features.

I have for a while, used Google Hangouts as my exclusive SMS solution (though Google provides an exclusive SMS/MMS app Google Messenger), and was very disappointed when the extremely useful in decluttering Hangouts and SMS merging feature was taken away. Additionally, video conversations have moved to Google Duo, while text + stickers + photos etc has moved to Google Allo. I assume Hangouts will remain as a Facebook Messenger competitor for Google+, though with Google’s track record of killing apps and features that people love, it may be in the hot seat. For now, the web site and the app still offer Video Call, Phone Call and Message as options, and if you have a Google Voice number, it still works to call to and from as well as text to and from using Hangouts. It’s very disappointing that they aren’t just bundling all of these features into a single app, if for no other reason than to save space and reduce confusion. Several other companies allow video, photo, SMS, MMS, stickers, drawing etc all from one app, so Google’s reasoning remains unknown.

Their features as touted on the Allo site areas follows:

Respond without typing, in your style.

Smart Reply lets you keep the conversation moving with a single tap by suggesting text and emoji responses based on your personality. For example, it learns if you’re more of a “haha” or “lol” person so the more you use Google Allo, the more “you” the suggestions become.

*Feature only available in English.

Shout, or whisper it, to get your point across.

Add more meaning to your words by adjusting the size of your text. When you need more than ALL CAPS to get your point across, simply slide up to shout, and down to whisper.

Turn any photo into a work of art.

Get creative with the photos you send by doodling on them or adding text. Draw a smiley face, turn your friends into memes, and mix in some color.

*Feature only available on Android.

Say it all with the perfect sticker.

Stickers in Google Allo are designed by independent artists and studios from around the world. From Drama Llama to Food Party, add some fun to the conversation when words aren’t enough.

Meet your personal Google Assistant.

Allo brings you the Google Assistant, preview edition.

Get help from your Google Assistant without leaving the conversation.

Your Assistant can suggest restaurants nearby or movies to check out, right in your conversation. Find videos to share, get directions, and seek answers together with your friends. Just add @google, and your Assistant is ready to help.

Chat one-on-one with your Google Assistant, whenever you need it.

Get the latest scores from the game. Find out how far you are from the airport, and when your flight leaves. You decide what to share with your Assistant, and the more you use it, the more useful it gets.

Say it privately in Incognito mode.

Start an incognito chat to send a message with end-to-end encryption. Incognito mode also comes with expiring chats so you can control how long your messages stick around and private notifications to help keep your chats more discreet.

And of course, the partner app, Google Duo for video calling. Their features as touted on the Duo site are as follows:

Be together in the moment. Get closer to everyone you love with simple, high-quality video calling on iOS and Android.

Face to face with just a tap. Simple one-tap calling and super smooth switching from cell to Wi-Fi make it easy to check in from anywhere.

See what’s up before you answer. Preview incoming video calls from everyone in your contacts with Knock Knock. So whether it’s your mom’s first skydiving trip or your friend’s shiny new ring, you’ll never miss a moment.*

Common Homonyms/Homophones Most Often Abused

Basic words to remember, with their meanings. There are many more less common homonyms/homophones, but these are the most often abused. These words and their meanings are taught in school from second to fourth grade, and reviewed from sixth to eighth grade. Adults really should know their correct usage by now.

Accept – Receive
Except – Exclude
Affect – Impact
Effect – Impression
Allude – Hint
Elude – Evade
Bare – Unclothed
Bear – Endure/The animal
Cite – Give credit
Sight – Vision
Site – Location
Farther – Measurement of distance
Further – Promotion of growth or progress
Pray – Entreat a diety
Prey – Victimize
Precede – Come before
Proceed – Come from
Then – Point in time
Than – Method of comparison
Their – Belonging to them
There – Location
They’re – They are
Two – Number
To – Indicative of motion
Too – Also/Excessive
We’re – We Are
Were – Past tense of are
You’re – You are
Your – Belonging to you

19th Century Guide to Letter Writing

Because of my new pen pal relationship with a Facebook friend, my interest in proper letter writing has been renewed. As a result, I researched a great deal prior to penning a response to the letter I received from Phil. The result is an absolute gem that I discovered which is from the nineteenth century. Below is a public domain version of the manual “How to Write Letters: A Manual of Correspondence” published in 1883. A great resource for anyone that simply wants to do things “the old way”, and re-establish a long forgotten tradition of actually connecting with others on a personal level.

How to Write Letters