Sunday, June 28, 2009

Father John's dreams

Father John at dinner

Sunday, June 28, 2009
During our fellowship discussion after Liturgy at St. Dimitri's this morning, Fr. John eagerly shared with the parish participants two vivid dreams he'd had last night. Both were powerful, amazing and puzzling. One appears to be anticipatory and we look forward to discussing them on Wednesday. The first dream he shared contained every single Parish Council member. The second addressed issues with the world-wide Christian Church. In both dreams he plays a key role.

His CREEI scores are:
1. Diplomatic Mission: +++?++//?++/++? Motivational
2. I Told you So!! : +?+-??//+++/+++ Anticipatory
[See for the standard 12 CREEI Process questions.]

Friday, July 10, 2009
On Wednesday, July 1, we began the Creative Deep Listening (CDL) process on his two dreams, focusing on the second dream. It turns out that the sequence of the dreams was opposite to what he had shared with the parish. This was a significant detail, but appropriate to the circumstances.

The CDL process typically begins with a CREEI analysis of each dream. Then the dreamer can choose to go deeper into any aspect of it by applying Joseph Dillard's DEEP LISTENING interview technique. Fr. John elected to interview the character called "Uncreated Light" and on July 8, we finished that interview. It was an enlightening experience for us both!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Grand Canyon Baptism

(Click on image to enlarge)

Yesterday (June 26), in reflecting on pivotal life events, I recalled my long ago baptism by John Howard in the icy Colorado River. I telephoned John at his home in Portland to ask if he still had a photo from that trip and if he would send it for my blog. We reminisced about those eventful days and our many conversations about "the important questions". Yes, he said he had the photo and would send it.

Photo by John Howard of Eugene at the Colorado River in May 1975

That baptism is the event that Orthodoxy accepts. It happened in mid May 1975 at my request during a 12-day river raft float through the bowels of the Grand Canyon. Earlier that spring John R. Howard, then president of Lewis & Clark College, invited me to share this adventure with him, his wife Ruth and a dozen or so college-related friends. At one particularly inspired moment during those days of earnest conversation on the river (when we weren't in the rapids!) and awesome nights under the stars on the river bank in the vast quiet of the canyon, the Presence came into and over me to prompt my request. John was surprised and reluctant at first, but seeing my earnestness he joyfully accepted. It is an event I will never forget.

This event is the one that Orthodoxy would honor 33 years later when I applied for membership in the OCA on September 19, 2008. A legalistic Mormon baptism later that same year (by 17-year-old son Nick on July 25, 1975) didn't count.

When first attending St. Dimitri parish to enjoy singing the Divine Liturgy two years ago, I joined the fellowship discussion afterwards. At one point I lamented "How many times must one be baptized?!"

"Only once!", Fr. John declared. And with that, the memory of this Grand Canyon moment flooded my mind. Ironically, it had occurred between two encounters with Mormon bishops that same year. Allow me to explain:.

After the collapse of my Northwest-Soviet Liaison Corporation in June the previous year in Moscow (1974), I felt lost. John Howard had helped me launch that exciting enterprise and served as its board chairman. Having what appeared to be a promising new career suddenly cut short, I was disoriented and confused. I had believed that the enterprise had been divinely directed, but now I was not sure. I supposed John's invitation to join the river expedition was a kind of consolation.

It turned out to be just that.

In light of my disappointment and disorientation, I had felt the need to be re-baptized. John does not know this even today, but before his invitation for the trip, I had felt prompted to return to the Mormon Church. Because of my business experience with Soviets in Moscow and becoming aware of surprising similarities between Soviet and Mormon attitudes and behavior (they even referred to their high level leaders as "the Brethren"), I began wondering if it had been my pride that had originally precipitated my excommunication years before. So, I decided to move toward reconciliation with the Mormon system.

In those days, for an excommunicated Mormon to return to Church membership, he was obliged to return through the same ecclesiastic door he had exited. For me that door was the Laguna Beach Ward. I made an appointment with the Laguna Ward bishop, who was then Stanley Kimball. Interestingly, Spencer W. Kimball was Church president at the time. (I do not know if they are related.) Without revealing the purpose of my meeting, other than to get acquainted, I had formed a critical test question for him in my mind. I asked, "Bishop, if President Kimball were to order you to shoot me, would you do it?"

"Without question!" was his immediate response.

"This is not the time", I thought to myself, and ended the meeting.

It was shortly after this that John Howard invited me to join the river adventure.

In June following the Grand Canyon trip I still felt prompted to return to the Mormon Church and was surprised to learn that the Laguna Beach Ward bishopric had just been reorganized. The new bishop was Rondel Hanson. I made another appointment and came with the same question.

"Absolutely not!" Hanson declared, aghast that I should even ask such a question. "First, he would never say such a thing. Second it isn't right. Third, I wouldn't do it."

"It's time", I thought and applied for readmission to Mormon Church membership. Bishop Hanson was delighted and made immediate arrangements with Stake President Ferren L. Christensen to present my petition before the stake high council.

That is another story.

August 3, 2009

A few days ago I asked the local Mormon stake president Russell T. Pack to review this story, because it was he who had put a fine point on the issue of baptism in an earlier statement where he had said, "The issue is not history. The issue is who has authority to baptize and have it recognized by God." Now he wrote:
“You already knew that your baptism in the Colorado River was null and void. That is why you were rebaptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints after that.”

To which I replied,
"On the contrary, that is an experience I treasure and can never forget. What I did know then, however, was that there was unfinished business between me and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 
"The nature of that unfinished business became clear 17 years later during Ventura Stake President Richard S. Bryce’s late night secret call to the stake Relief Society president on March 17, 1992 (just after my last public singing concert for the Church, which the stake RS president had asked me to present to her sisters) and his subsequent 6-hour KGB-like interrogation of me on June 6, 1992 (now in the public record). This unfinished business has become even clearer to me during your and my recent communications..."

Comment from John R. Howard June 4, 2008:
June 4, 2008 email from John R. Howard:
To whom it may concern:
I write re: Gene Kovalenko............a friend these past 35 years, a gifted singer, and a deeply committed seeker after the truths that define and guide the human condition.
In 1975, in the company of 23 other friends, Gene floated the Colorado River with my wife, Ruth, and me. 
In the enchanted confines of the Grand Canyon, it was my pleasure to baptise Gene. 
Although not a minister, I was at the time deeply involved with the Presbyterian Church, as an elder in my own church and as a delegate to the Presbyterian General Assembly. 
While I make no claims for my own Christianity, I feel confident now - as I did then - that Gene is a devout Christian. 

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Great Granddaughters Kaylee and Emma!


Says granddaughter Tina:
Kaylee and Emma absolutely love each other. A week or so ago, Emma started calling Kaylee "Dee Dee," and any time Kaylee is not around, Emma will go around the house saying "Where's Dee Dee?" until she finds her. They are so cute to watch. Last night, Kaylee helped Emma brush her teeth. She loves taking care of her little sister-at least until Emma wants to play with her toys!

1917 Council and Tomos: St. Tikhon's Vision then and now

"I stand before you, gathered here, in great humility, as the 'least among equals', the youngest head of the smallest and youngest autocephalous Orthodox Church in the world."

So said recently enthroned Metropolitan Jonah on June 20, 2009, to an OCA conference on the future of Orthodoxy in America.

This remarkable young leader is a man to watch. His remarks in "1917 Council and Tomos: St. Tikhon's Vision then and now" captured for me the essence of the current world-wide Orthodox Christian movement, both its struggle and its message. He spoke simply, clearly and candidly, not once attempting to sugarcoat the difficulties many Orthodox institutions are having with hierarchical conflicts in this country and abroad.

God bless you, Brother Jonah, and may God grant you many, many, many years!!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Best Fathers Day ever!

Jim and Dad at Jim's construction site

I would never have supposed Fathers Day would turn out so great! Son Jim called me the day before from Santa Fe to ask what I was doing that day, since I am batching it while wife Birgitta is with her family in Sweden for the summer solstice. I thought Jim intended to come up here to Los Alamos, but when I learned the opposite, I begged off with some lame excuse about housework. He did not argue, but signed off with a simple, but clearly disappointed, "OK".

Afterwards I felt awful. It didn't take long to realize I'd let my lazy ego take over, so I called back an hour later, having changed my mind. We agreed to meet at his place after I attended Liturgy at St. Dimitri's.

I was not sure what to plan for, but then realized this would be a great time to address his most important issue. This he had disclosed a few days earlier in a dream he had sent the family, which included his deceased brother Ivan. Clearly an unresolved emotional issue since Ivan's death in 1996. It turned out to be a perfect opportunity to apply the Creative Deep Listening interview process to his dream. I'll not mention details here, but something transformative took place during the interview. We began to discuss the CDL process at a local specialty cafe that he had wanted to try. I think my friend Mac Freeman would say that we had visited The Church of the Holy Restaurant!

Santa Fe sunset by Jim on Fathers Day 2009 at the end of a perfect day.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Voices Under Berlin

A week ago I received a letter from a guy who writes fiction under the name T. H. E. Hill. Col. Bob Browne had referred Hill to me after Hill had read Bob's new manuscript, which contains my contribution to the manuscript in an appendix.. [See Col. Bob's book, posted on May 3, herein.] Hill wanted me to review his recent book Voices under Berlin, a tale of a Monterey Mary, a novel about the notorious Berlin tunnel of 1955-56. Since he is 15 years younger than I, he had to rely on archival stuff to add to his own Cold War Army experience in Berlin.

What I'm finding interesting about Hill's book, which he had sent, is that it's fun! At first I experienced a bit of cognitive dissonance, since my own participation in those years was somber. But this book is loaded with hidden names, jargon and good humored jabs at the old days. Hill has reminded me several times (when I complain about any discrepancy between his tale and my on-site experience) that it is fiction and supposed to be funny. I suppose this is healthy

In exploring other Amazon reviews of this and his other books, with and without his pen name, I've tapped into a mother load of ex-spook authors! No sooner do I contact one (with one exception so far) with a reference to my story and an appreciation of theirs, do I get a generous reply. These guys take one another seriously! They don't back off from responding clearly, candidly AND compassionately. Refreshing! Looks like I've found a fraternity!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Johnny's birthday party

On Monday, June 8, my youngest son John turned 25. He called the Thursday before to invite me to celebrate with family and friends on the Saturday before. The celebration was held at the family "cabin" [read "chateau"!] in a magnificent forest near the Sundance resort off Provo Canyon.

The photos: 1) John and brother Mark accompanied by mother Barbara; 2) guests enjoying the concert; 3) Johnny and Dad (Note similar noses!); 4) Festive kitchen (Mark's daughter Lauren listens attentively on couch in far left of photo.)

Earlier that day, guests enjoyed hearing the CD gift I had brought for Barbara and John. It was the Rusian Divine Liturgy sung in old Slavonic by the Russian Orthodox Church Novospassky Monestary Choir in Moscow. "Better than the Tabernacle Choir!", someone remarked.