"Never confuse the person, formed in the image of God, with the evil that is in him, because evil is but a chance misfortune, illness, a devilish reverie. But the very essence of the person is the image of God, and this remains in him despite every disfigurement." -St. John of Kronstadt
Friday, November 28, 2008
Thursday, November 27, 2008
It just so happens that hubby & I watched Seabiscuit last night; what an incredible story. Laura Hillenbrand's book, "Seabiscuit: An American Legend" has been on my 'must read list' for a while. Much to my surprise, I found a clip from the actual match race in 1938 between the small underdog, Seabiscuit (1933-47) and War Admiral (1934-59), a Triple Crown Winner, on YouTube this morning. Even if you aren't a horse racing fan, I think you might find a wee treasure of inspiration from this "little horse that could" by reading about him and how he encouraged a nation during the years of the Great Depression.
I wish you all joy and inspiration this Thanksgiving Day!
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Our little girl has been under the weather and so, on Sunday, I stayed home with her while hubby took our son to church. Even though she stayed near the couch, we made good use of this quiet time together.
Praying before our icons of Jesus Christ and Blessed Mary, Josie took pleasure in lighting her own prayer candle. I read the story of St. Benedict and his twin sister Scholastica to her and then suggested a project she might enjoy while resting with her comfy blankets. “Why not make yourself a booklet about St. Ita, your patron saint?”
Her face glowed and I could see the creative juices flowing behind her smiling eyes. I helped to find images and stickers she could include as well as a few facts about her saint. She put it all together ...and then made two more books! She spent at least 2 hours liberating her imagination - cutting, pasting, drawing, coloring - while paying tribute to three family saints: St. Ita, St. Patrick and St. Brigid.
She can tell you that St. Ita was born in 475 A.D., that she was a teacher and is also called “the foster mother to the saints of Ireland”. She knows that she settled in Killeedy and we celebrate her feast day on Jan. 15th.
I think the most beautiful aspect to this project is that after Josie made her booklet about St. Patrick, she carefully wrapped it up, included a card and presented it to her brother for his birthday.
Thank you Lord for our precious treasures, those You have entrusted to us, our children.
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Saturday, November 15, 2008
"I saw the snares that the enemy spreads out over the world and I said groaning, "What can get through from such snares?" Then I heard a voice saying to me, "Humility." (St. Anthony the Great)
In the 7th century, a young man raised by monks on Iona, faced a tough decision. He had resolved to march south, determined to unite Northumbria after the death of his brother. The battle was to be fought at Heavenfield and his Welsh enemies were far superior in number. Having converted to Christianity at a young age, Oswald decided to raise a large wooden cross on the soon-to-be battlefield and asked his soldiers to gather near to pray with him.
The battle was decisive and Oswald became king, uniting Northumbria under his banner. As Oswald’s popularity grew, many in this pagan land were curious about the new deity, the God of the Christians who had won their king’s obedience.
History tells us that King Oswald was concerned not only with the restoration of Northumbria, but the spiritual state of those within his realm as well. His sainthood is traced to the fact that he re-introduced Christianity to this northern kingdom, sending for an evangelical Bishop from Iona to help with the task. When St. Aidan arrived to preach the Gospel and win converts, it was the king himself who often acted as interpreter since Bishop Aidan only spoke Gaelic.
This noble king served Christ by serving his people. He fed the hungry and brought the light of Christ to many lives. It is said that when he lay dying on the battlefield, slain by the pagan King of Mercia, he prayed for his bodyguards who had fallen with him, the salvation of Northumbria and his enemies.
May our world leaders endeavor to follow in the footsteps of Oswald of Northumbria, ever seeking the way of the cross.
Lord God almighty, who so kindled the faith of your servant Oswald with your Spirit that he set up the sign of the passion in his kingdom and turned his people to your light: grant that we, being fired with the same Spirit, may ever be found faithful servants of the Gospel; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
written by James Kiefer
*prayer found here.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
As the leaves fall and the fog swiftly rolls down the Gauley River most mornings, I feel blessed to live in this neck of the woods. Very often, as I take the kids to school, we are greeted by the morning sun playing peek-a-boo through thick blankets of mist above the confluence of the New and Gauley Rivers. And, every morning for the past two years, I’ve been on the look out for blue herons.
Autumn typically brings migratory birds through our area on their long journeys south. One December day in 2004 I spent nearly an hour photographing a large flock of Ring-billed gulls playfully darting through the air and then resting on the quiet river. Those large white gulls brought a highlight to an otherwise bleak and gray winter day.
Recently the kids and I have spotted a Whistling Swan on the Kanawha River. We’ve seen her every day for the last 2 weeks; apparently she’s found a prime feeding spot. Whistling swans usually make an appearance this time of year, but it’s unusual to see only one since they migrate in flocks. Whatever her story is, she seems quite content to swim and feed alone. In the evenings sometimes we’ll see her with the resident flock of Canada geese.
It was on November 3rd this year that I finally had the opportunity to photograph a blue heron! I’ve been “chasing” these birds ever since I first noticed them stalking frogs and fish along the New River near Beckwith. I’ve been out time and again with my camera but usually leave in disappointment as I watch it fly away or move to an area just out of reach. I’ve had to laugh at myself in all the failed attempts; being out of breath with a heavy backpack strapped on, fumbling to grab the right lens and then to watch the heron gracefully fly away, deciding that the fishin’s better half mile downriver.
I’ve developed a great admiration for wildlife photographers; they are among the most patient people in the world, waiting hours, days or even weeks in secluded areas behind blinds to capture a raw view of God’s creation.
"Grab your coats; let's go!!" I shouted to the kids on that Monday afternoon. They think I’m nuts to chase after the herons, but I told them it would be time well spent. It was. For roughly 40 minutes, my son enjoyed the fishing on the opposite bank from the blue heron while my daughter and I hiked about 80 yards down river in order to sit and photograph this thoughtful bird. I guess we were still far enough away not to cause a disturbance, probably 50-60 yards, because he didn’t seem to move for the longest time.
I snapped frame after frame, thanking God for the opportunity in between. The sun felt warm on our faces in spite of the cool fall air and I realized too, how good - how important- it is to be still and behold God’s creation.
These golden moments are epiphanies of the eternal. Thank you, Lord, for every living thing, for Your light in this world, for moments to be still and know that You are God!
Monday, November 10, 2008
I remain optimistic about our nation, even as I see Valerie Jarrett, of Barak Obama's transition team, proclaim that he will be ready to "Rule" on day one. This is fitting language for one who is hailed as "The messiah" of the liberal lunatic fringe. And, even as I begin to understand the motives behind the Fairness Doctrine and why it is anything but "fair", I smile at the future.
Thursday, November 6, 2008
Ghouls and ghosts, mummies and vampires, that’s what haunted houses are made of? Or so I thought. I’m really not too sure because I don’t endorse them. I can recall years ago when our church youth group - yes, a church youth group - visited a popular one, only I was the odd duck out.
It puzzled me then and it puzzles me now as to how being scared is “fun and entertaining” let alone the idea of a church sponsoring a haunted house ...or field...or trail..or whatever other place might be used to spotlight fear and death.
And then I read about Hell House.
Hell House is a violent haunted house sponsored by the Pentecostal Trinity Church near Dallas, Texas that attracts over 13,000 people every October. “The Church hopes to scare the hell out of them” according to their website. The church is using this modern media as part of an evangelical outreach, affecting a haunted house to serve as a pulpit for the ultimate fire and brimstone sermon.
Visitors to Hell House are led room to room by “demons” to view scenes of school massacres, teen suicide, date rape, drunk driving, drug use and botched abortions. The idea is to shock and overwhelm visitors, who may not be church goers or believers at all, into examining the realities of life and the choices they must face. The phenomenon of Hell House has been so popular it was made into a documentary film some years ago which you can find on Amazon; I found an interesting online film review here.
Reading abut Hell House immediately took me back to my days at Calvary Baptist Church as a preteen and being made to watch “Will You Be Left Behind?” a movie that preceded the evangelical world’s infatuation with the Left Behind series by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins. This movie scared me and was the source of subsequent nightmares. Which brings me to the question, does our culture need to be scared into following Christ? Do the world news headlines everyday not serve this purpose?!
According to the reviews I read, at the end of the Hell House encounter, visitors are taken to a “decision room” where they learn about Jesus and the alternative path in this world. There they are pressured into accepting Christ and praying the sinner’s prayer, hopefully invoking an emotional conversion experience.
As an Orthodox Christian, I have mixed feelings about Hell House. On the one hand, reading about it left me with thoughts of C.S. Lewis and his Screwtape letters, depicting a demon’s view on sin and spiritual warfare. A book which may ‘shock’ the complacent person into a new perspective on sin and yet, Hell House presents theological problems that I didn’t find evident in Lewis’ writings.
Coming from an evangelical background, I can testify that there is a problem for many new converts who go through an emotional conversion experience only to drift for a few months or years wondering, “What next?” “How do I follow Christ? What does it mean to be a disciple?” “Does gaining knowledge equal spiritual growth?”
There is an insightful review I found on Amazon while reading about the Hell House documentary. It allegedly comes from a former cast member and he writes:
“I spent ten years working various scenes at the Trinity Church Hellhouse. Yes, it is a bit campy, and yes, it is often over the top, but I can say that the people are well intentioned, just a bit off target. I attended Trinity Church from birth until I was 22 years old. I do not attend their anymore because of the close-minded attitude that is prevalant in this documentary. I stopped doing HellHouse when they added the decision room my last year. I just felt it was an un-biblical scare tactic. I now feel that way about the entire operation. The worst feeling I get is knowing the young teenagers are blindly following the leadership without doing any research themselves. I know because I was once one of them. I have found that a growing number of former Trinity Youth Group members my age do not attend there for the same reasons I listed above. This movie will open your eyes to the way teens are herded like cattle in fundamentalist Christian Churches.”
My concern isn’t so much with the vivid scenes based in reality recreated in Hell House, my concern is for the kids who are being pressured into “decisions for Christ” while not being granted an accurate view of the nature of Christ or how to participate and grow in the life of Christ. They are trying to grow fruit without water.