The Boilerman

I’m boilerman on a 19th century steam train. I’m shoveling coal as fast as I can into the boiler, trying to get the flames red hot in order to produce more steam. The wheels are spinning as fast as they can, and I’m barreling down the tracks. If I look out the window, I’ll see my own life flash before my eyes. Tree after tree, moment after moment, day after day passes me in the blink of an eye. My fingers grip the shovel tightly as I load more coal into the burner. It’s hot, and there’s black residue covering nearly everything I touch. Steam bellows out the smokestack as we carry along into the night. I’m exhausted. I know I need to keep going, but there’s just so much that needs to be done. My muscles ache and besides the rhythmic loading of coal, there’s not much else outside of this boiler room that I could possibly take care of. Do I need a break? Do I need rest? There must be something I can do that’ll not only give me focus for my tasks, but also reinvigorate me at the same time. I step into one of the observation cars, believing that perhaps a break will do me good. Sitting in the same seat as always is the Syrian priest from Kearney, Nebraska. Father Yanney doesn’t say much to me, but he nods and offers a faint smile. He’s a kind man, with a heart of giving. I see him on this train several times a year. Either going to one parish that needs him or another. It must be tiring being a priest, and having to give so much of your life to others. I stroll past him and into the crew quarters. The boiler should be hot enough to allow me a quick respite, I say. I’m struggling. I know that is certain. Not with anything physical, but just with my ability to branch myself out into other duties. I can burn the coal. I can keep the fires lit. But can I do that, and raise a family? Can I connect with others and reach out to those who need a hand, all the while moving at full speed ahead? There are several projects that need my attention, can I find a way to move forward and still branch out? Father Yanney does it. That man, that kind sweet man does it. He told me tonight he had just left Kearney, after performing six baptisms, and now was on his way to Sioux City, Iowa to perform a wedding in the morning. That man, he hardly rests and yet, there is true grace within his smile. The sudden shrill of the whistle – the alarm on my phone going off, disrupts this Union Pacific midwest dream. The monks of the Valaam monastery, chant their melodic hymn to the Theotokos, which is my cue to get out of bed.

I’m struggling dear readers. I feel like there is so much happening in my life, and that I hardly have enough time to take care of everything that I believe needs to be taken care of. During the week I work my normal job. A recent promotion has only emboldened my desire to do the best I can. Driving a semi truck is a difficult task, and when you are new it can be incredibly overwhelming. My spiritual father has been pushing me as well. “More prayers, more prayers!” He is always reminding me. I have more duties behind the altar, now that I am a sub deacon. I arrive early, and leave late. I need to make sure that the tasks that have been given to me, are taken care of. Light the candles, start the incense, cut the bread. Wax on the altar, with permission I wipe it off. I try to offer myself to the Panagia icon that oversees the entire church. She says nothing, but smiles. Father and I talk about my progression as an unofficial seminarian. He says, maybe we will ask again in two years. My goal for seminary wasn’t taken away, just put on the back burner. I have some prerequisites that need to be met first. First, finish my college degree. That’s not a problem, I’m enrolled at the local community college, and am excited for classes to start next week. That’s right, I’m starting college again, in just a few days. This will be for my Associates degree in Business Administration. My boss has told me that if I can get my education, I may be able to take over his job in a few years. Lord have mercy.

Second, I need to continue developing my own Orthodox outreach. A blog is great, but what use is it if it never gets written in? If I desire to connect again with the people at Ancient Faith Radio, doing nothing will only hinder my progress. Father reminds me of my book list, my ever growing book list. A part from my daily scripture readings, and morning/evening prayers, he wants me to read the liturgikon, to better learn the flow of liturgy. I also need to continue Aidan’s Song, a year in the life of an Orthodox Priest. I’ve also started reading the Philokalia, after picking up all five volumes during a weekend visit to my old North Idaho orthodox church family. In fact my bookshelves are overflowing with orthodox books. A vast collection of wisdom, guidance, and education on the faith, sit patiently waiting for me in my living room. There’s another collection of information and stories floating around in my head. Countless blogposts and podcast ideas and shirt designs that are ready to be picked from the either and put down into reality. I’ve had several blog post ideas that I could’ve written about in the last two months. Sitting on the ocean jetty with the waves crashing all around me, fishing pole in one hand, Jesus prayer in the other… that would have been a good entry. Or even last week when I was told by one of my Muslim students that I was a bad Christian, and I was honestly thankful for him saying that. So many missed opportunities for connection.

Besides this blog, I’ve also started two Orthodox Instagram accounts. One @amazingorthodoxchurches already has over 1000 followers. My second Orthodox account @amazingorthodoxsaints, is also growing at an incredible pace. Emily and I have our own line of custom Orthodox t shirts, hoodies, and mugs that we sell, and perhaps all of these things will be condensed under the Amazing Orthodox brand. A brand idea that is still just a fantasy in my head.

I have a head full of dreams, and the organizational process of a squirrel. There is just so much that I feel I must do, or work on and at the same time, I feel like I’ll never be able to do it all. Father George told me to stop thinking so much. Maybe he is right. I just probably need to stop thinking about all the things I need to do, and instead just do them. Train the students, serve the church, make the Instagram posts, design the orthodox shirts, go to school and not give up on this blog. If Father Yanney could service a parish district that is several states across, while maintaining his family ties back home and servicing his home parish, then maybe I can be a little less distracted and lazy… and with some proper time management, maybe I can actually get all these things done. Lord have mercy!

Alright my friends. That wraps up this post. My evening Instagram post is also finished and now live. My bed is calling me and it’s going to be an early work day. Please check out my other Orthodox endeavors on Instagram @amazingorthodoxchurches and @amazingorthodoxsaints. Maybe someday I’ll be able to tie everything together into one neat little package. Until then my friends, thanks for reading.

– Orthodox Trucker

Seeing the old steam engine train in Wishram is always a favorite family stop.

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