Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Snow, Glorious Snow: A Spiritual Metaphor

What can be more perfect, more pristine than a layer of fresh snow? We've had lots of new snow lately here in Rostov-on-Don and I love to walk through the magic. Its perfect whiteness reminds me that our Holy Father longs to transform our personal landscapes, covering up the ugliness with His sparkling perfection.
Two weeks ago, a mama and her boys enjoying fresh snow, using the sled to transporting the little guy. (Click to enlarge.) Thanks folks for being such willing models.
Here in southern Russia, snow is beautiful a few days before a thawing and refreezing cycle begins. Soon the winter wonderland is reduced to a sloppy, slushy mess and, once again, the litter, cigarette butts and doggy business are on display. 
And that's where the spiritual analogy breaks down. When God cleanses us, He deep-cleans the whole way down. He does more than sprinkle some pretty over the muck and yuck. 
Well, here's the same spot ten days later after warmer temperatures: Significantly less enchanting.

Friends, here's a glimpse into of Russian winter, both pretty and ugly. I'm sharing lots more of the pretty, because after all, we are encouraged to think about the good stuff  We read . . . whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things. (Philippians 4:8, NIV). I'd say that applies here too.

Anything sweeter than a baby? His whole life is ahead of him.

A car heading home from work, north on Semashka Street.

Willing models, these girls. Happened upon them as they were taking their photo together. Grabbed my camera to capture them but a bit late. They were still laughing about our encounter when they were halfway down the block. See, Russian girls can be giggly too. 

Almost dusk on Voroshilovsky Street near the Central City Hospital.

Pyshkinskaya, a pedestrian-only boulevard some 16-some blocks long, is a quiet oasis in  the heart of the city.

Pedestrians on a side street heading home, probably thinking about dinner. And that's probably be sausage and potatoes. Or pelmeni. 

This fellow's heading north on Semashka, passing МЧС, the Department of Emergency Services, administrative headquarters for southern Russia.

Two ladies catching up with each other. Perhaps they were once co-workers, now retired and have lots to discuss.

Hold on, here's some slop and slush.

Voroshilovsky Prospect looking north. There is one spot of beauty, one redeeming bit of loveliness in this photo: A vendor is selling roses at the red table there, barely visible under the billboard. And that brought some sunshine to the bleak view.

Here's ugly on Gazetney Street: Snow trickling down toward the Don River, about one kilometer to go. One visitor to Rostov, an architect in New York City, pointed out the lack of drainage culverts on the streets. Aha! So that's why these streets can be such a mess. 

How about something special to wrap up. Here's a winter view that's made me laugh. Last month in Ternopil, Ukraine, I looked out the church building window after worship and had to grab my camera. Do you see anything unusual?

Someone's being pulled on a sled and that's a common sight. But only for children. Let's zoom on in because that person doesn't look like a kid!

Sure enough, this energetic fellow is pulling a woman up the hill. I'm guessing it's his grandmother. Perhaps they're going to the little grocery store just up the street. Now that's is true devotion!

Dear Blog-reading friends, wishing you the most beautiful of layer of pure whiteness in your landscape, in your heart and in your soul this winter! And tell me, what do You think about snow as a spiritual metaphor? Does it work. . . . or am I all wet? ;)

Monday, January 14, 2013

Happy Old New Year!

Today is Old New Year's Day and in kitchens across Russia, many a cook has been busy making vareniki.

Vareniki for the Old New Year are filled with mashed potato with little surprises thrown in a few -- a coin, some salt, a button -- all of which are said to tell a fortune for the new year.

Homemade vareniki are the very best, of course, although in this era of convenience foods, prepared vareniki ( var-EN-ee-kee) await in the frozen food department.
This nice lady was happy to demonstrate the fine art of vareniki shoveling.

In recent years, our congregation celebrated the Old New Year in a major way, mostly because it is the birthday of Igor Egirev, our beloved preacher then, before he and family relocated to another city. So it was to celebrate both occasions that several sisters met one January morning and cranked out dozens of vareniki, or, as expressed in Russian, they made tens of vareniki. Here's the scoop on all that.

Then on a recent visit to Ternopil, Ukraine, two dear Christian sisters, Valya and daughter Anya, make vareniki for our Sunday lunch. Vareniki are popular year round but only the Old New Year's variety have the little surprise fortunes.

Mother and daughter fun in the kitchen. Love their being so practical: cutting dough circles with a cup.

Confession: These might be something other than vareniki. If not vareniki, they're oh so very close.
Vareniki tend to be a bit smaller and are usually boiled and the dough is less puffy than that pictured. So I might need to be corrected on this. Whatever, these were so good, served hot and with sour cream, just like vareniki.

In case you're inspired to head into the kitchen and whip up some vareniki for your family, here's a helpul video. The narration is in Russian but you'll understand from the visual.

Interesting that the cook here is using a upright mixer. She might be in a commercial kitchen whereas most home cooks would be mixing this by hand. Wooden spoons are lots more common than are upright mixers.

So those are some highlights of the Old, New Year celebration. Whether there's a coin in your vareniki or a bean in your dumpling, here's wishing you and yours a splendid new year, indeed!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Karl Marx: Insider Information

Here in Rostov-on-Don, Karl Marx Square is a well-known hub of transportation and retail just east of the city center. Karl Marx Square happens to be between my bus stop and our church building so I see the Karl Marx statue in weather fair and foal. (Time out while I check that word. I know it's not fowl weather...although birds do enjoy perching atop his head.) Okay, make that foul weather. And, moving right along. . . .
Karl Marx Square: Captured with cell phone during a steady snow. 

On a recent afternoon, I had a look at Karl Marx' backside, or rather, at the back of his statue, and noticed that he's holding something. It's likely that this has been a secret. Until now.  And I figure that You have a right to know this: Karl Marx is holding a snowball. And we photographic evidence.

Karl Marx and his secret snowball. (Click to enlarge.)

Can only imagine what plans he has for that snowball. So he was really into politics, economics, sociology, class struggle and such, according to Wikipedia. And now we know. . . the rest of the story. He could be a prankster. 
What sort of fun have You had with snowballs? Today a snowball helped me scare the socks off my neighbor boy, Vova, running into him on the sidewalk with his head in the clouds.

Monday, January 07, 2013

Merry Christmas, Russian Orthodox Style!

Today is Christmas Day here in the Orthodox world. Thanks to RussiaToday for the following video with coverage of midnight mass at Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow and a concise explanation the calendar issue, allowing fascinating insight into the Russian culture.

You might also enjoy my blog post, Merry Russian Christmas... An Old, New Holiday.   So here's wishing you and yours a lovely Christmas. It's quite a paradigm shift, you know, saying Happy New Year! Merry Christmas!