Thursday, December 5, 2013

Being Good vs. A New Creation



 "...that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness 
and holiness of truth. "

Ephesians 4:22-24

So, isn't Christianity all about following rules and being good to people?  Do unto others and all that jazz?   


If that were the case, we wouldn't need the christian church at all;  we'd be like the atheists building their churches across America to worship themselves because they are good people.  As we were reminded at church recently, Christ did not die on the cross so that we could belong to a special group, nor did he die so that we could be good and follow a set of rules for living.  He died so that we could be restored to our likeness of God, our Creator!

It is only by the grace and mercy of Christ that we can "put off the old self"  as St. Paul describes above and be renewed in our spirit.  In the most simple terms, think of the difference between showing kindness to someone who has showed you the same and showing the same warmth and love to someone who has wronged you.  It's a conversion of the heart.

It's the kind of change that brings people to their knees at the foot of the cross... that restores human beings and allows them to see their own sinfulness and need for salvation.  That brings peace and healing to shattered souls.   Souls like Brian Welch, of KORN fame, who shares his profound transformation as part of the I AM SECOND ministry.  



In his own words: Brian Welch

It's a transformation that the darkness cannot comprehend. 
IC XC NIKA  

Monday, December 2, 2013

Mysterious Visitor




Yesterday at church we had an unusual guest.  He appeared scruffy and tired, wearing dark, worn, ill-fitting clothes.  His hair was disheveled, refusing to stay put even after his repeated attempts to pat it down.  His face was creased with lines of care, the brown eyes tucked under a heavy brow.   I believe everyone noticed him, not necessarily because of his appearance, but because he brought so much baggage with him.   
He carried a large black backpack slung over his shoulders and another duffle bag in tow - the kind that maybe you’d pack to spend a summer away.   It took him a while, but he made his way down the long aisle in order to sit in the front pew before the altar. Another man from our congregation came to his aid after a few moments,  helping to seat him and find space for his gear.  
I have to admit, there was a bit of quiet buzz before worship, with several of us wondering about the unusual man.  He seemed a little disoriented; maybe he was drunk?  Maybe he is ill?  I started to silently pray for the man in the front row pew.  And I’ll admit something else... something shameful.  Fear crept into my thoughts as I began to wonder, what exactly does he have in those bags?  
Images came to mind of our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ in the middle east...of terrorists and Boston and innocent people being killed.  Lord help me with my fears in this world.  I glanced over at our guest.   He was kneeling in prayer with his arms extended over the pew railing, his hands clasped.  I felt ashamed to be doubting this man and asked God to take captive my thoughts... to purify my heart.  And very soon my thoughts did a 180º, stirred by the remembrance of St. Matthew 25.  Jesus Christ has told us to love others, to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked... to show hospitality to strangers.  Lord have mercy on me, a sinner.  Have mercy on our church and allow us to respond to this man in a Christ-like way.
God blessed Khouria Eva to sit beside our guest yesterday.  She is always hospitable to our visitors and this man was no exception.  I noticed as she moved closer to quietly welcome the man, to guide him through our service book.  His face seemed to soften in gratitude as he looked at her.  
Our guest seemed very pious..humble and prayerful.  He was thoughtful and giving, too.  I saw him actually wave down the tray collector, who had passed by, in order to give his coins.  Only God truly knows what led him to worship with us yesterday.  Some said he mentioned being in the military, in the gulf war...something about friendly fire and seeking forgiveness.  I wish our guest had stayed to fellowship with us afterwards at our coffee hour.  But he left after communion... he left before we could ask about his needs.  
As they were so near to us, I watched the gentleman from our church help our guest again with his large bags.  I don’t know what was said, but just from observing their body language it seemed to me that our church member was asking our guest if he couldn’t stay... if he really wanted to go.  Our guest smiled and patted his heart, as if in assurance, and then he departed.  
Maybe he had received exactly what he came for.  The Church is a hospital for our souls... the wounded, the weary, the self-righteous, the judgmental, the broken... all of us sinners.  Maybe he wasn't there to receive anything at all...  

...perhaps he was a gift to us to remind us what it is to love our neighbor.  †  
Only God knows.


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Unstoppable by Kirk Cameron: A movie review




Earlier this month I took the kids out of school in order to see Kirk Cameron’s documentary, “Unstoppable”, at a theater not-so-near to us.  My sister and niece joined us to make the three-hour round trip because we had seen the trailer (watch it above) and thought it would be worth the time and expense.  It was.
Kirk Cameron has said of this film, “this is the most personal project I have ever made regarding my faith”.  It was prompted by the death of a close family friend and in it, he seeks to tackle the monumental questions, ‘Why do bad things happen to good people?’ and ‘Why does God allow evil in this world?’  The kind of questions all people of conscience ask at some point in their lives.  Kudos to Kirk for his integrity, inspiration and strength in creating a documentary that rips across the current of feel-good, shallow secular humanist films that are typical of Hollywood.  
The film wasn’t exactly what I expected, but yet I wasn’t disappointed either.  I had expected more interviews and insights from others, but this is very much Kirk Cameron’s take on Holy Scripture, beginning with a recreation of Adam & Eve in the Garden of Eden.  This was well done, discreet and thought provoking;  I was given pause to consider how Adam may have viewed the earth in those first days.  The depiction was even more beautiful as Eve beheld Adam for the first time.  As a side note, I thought how this imagery is missing from modern films -- the notion of subtlety vs. explicit images, of male, female and agape love.  
The youngest of our crew is in 6th grade and, although this film is unrated, it does contain some graphic scenes relating to Eve’s creation and the murder of Abel that may be disturbing for a young audience.    In fact, the brutality of Cain is my only criticism of the whole documentary.   I thought the scene of Abel’s death was too long and gruesome... but then again, perhaps the idea was to emphasize the life force in the blood. 
Cameron isn’t seeking to answer these tough questions in a simple, concise manner.  Rather, he utilizes story telling from modern experiences in view of God’s Word to prompt the audience to consider God’s response to evil since the creation of the world.  It worked for us;  we’re still talking about it four weeks later.  The soundtrack is stirring, too.  I was introduced to Warren Barfield’s, “The Time is Now” and my daughter has added several of the songs from Unstoppable to her ipod.  
The highlight for me was being allowed a glimpse into the humanity of Kirk Cameron.  It takes an enormous amount of strength to live our Christian life in this world-- maybe even more so for those who command a spotlight based on American pop/entertainment culture.  The insight I gained  into his humility leads me to believe that he is a genuine Christian man with a fierce love for God. 
If you’re just hearing about Unstoppable for the first time, it’s too late to see it at the theater.  It showed only twice (and grossed $2 million on 700 American screens ~ wow!) and will be made available in January 2014 on DVD for home use.  I’ll be purchasing this as well, as it really is a very thought provoking, useful way to share our Christian faith and promote discussion about the tough questions of life and death.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

the Facebook Fast

I used to feel THIS way about Facebook:



You know, all warm and fuzzy and sipping my cup o joe and looking at the photos posted by my friends...laughing, ooing and ahhing at peeps who are venting anger, "tellin' it like it is"...clicking my "likes" to let others know 'hey!  I agree with you!'...  or finding those rare gems of theological discussion/debate that I could put my .02 into.  


Lately, I feel THIS way about Facebook:




 You know, icky and disturbed at the plethora of statuses  - stati? , the images and news shared.  The news that makes me spend countless hours reading related articles to determine the veracity.  The constant ads (why does facebook want me to hook up with singles in my area?  don't they know I'm married?)...the waste of time and then to realize that - I - am a part of that at some level.  I mean, don't I post stuff to boost my ego?   to see how many peeps will "like" what I say?    Ugh.      

The longer I stay away, the less I want to return.  So, I'm doing the Facebook fast.   It's having a positive effect on me spiritually -- and, by turning my attention here, where I can sit quietly and pound out my thoughts in a therapeutic way, that beneficial effect is doubled.    

I've been checking in every few days to see if I have a private message on FB, but that's it.    So, for the few peeps who read this, you know where to find me ; ' )   

Blessings to you as you find your own peace and resources for spiritual growth! 



Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Spiritual Fitness

Ever since Fr. Olaf, our priest, delivered his homily on spiritual growth a few weeks past, his words have remained with me.  I wish I had the quote from the desert father he used to share,  but alas, I didn't make note of it.  The essence of his sermon was this:  when we spend years on our education, grade school through high school and then embark upon college and graduate years in order to obtain the knowledge and skills we need to begin a career, why do we think that spiritual growth/education comes without study?  

 "Do we assume this education comes to us by osmosis?", Fr. Olaf asked. 

You could also liken it to an athlete.  Why do we easily see how endurance training and eating properly and lifting weights contributes to a fit body and successful competition, but we fail to see how training in the spiritual realm benefits our soul?

We could spend a lifetime training for spiritual fitness.  Reading Holy Scripture, praying, fasting,  and reading the lives of the saints are great places to begin.  Making these things a part of every day, whether we feel like it or not, has great benefits for the soul!   Who doesn't want to be stronger in this regard?  To be a great oak that others may lean on in times of trouble, or an anchor among friends going through traumatic circumstances... being a source of peace and able to share the light of the Kingdom of Heaven.

And something I've noticed about myself:  the more time I spend on strengthening my spirit, the less inclined I am to succumb to temptations.  It takes EFFORT, just like training for our business, academic or athletic goals.  An effort that, toward the end of our days, will prepare us to share in the sentiments of St. Paul when he said, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith."



Thursday, October 10, 2013

Unlike the Whitewashed Tombs...



We, as Christians are called to be full of Truth so that our outward appearance of serving Christ matches the inner reality of honestly serving Him.  We have a high calling in this life!  We, the Church, are the Bride of Christ and called to holiness, to be light in this world... to be a beacon on the hill. (St. Matthew 5)
I am feeling very blessed today, very humbled and profoundly grateful for the events that have come my way in the past three weeks.  For more than a year, since learning about human sex trafficking, I have felt compelled to do my part in stopping this horrific crime - to raise awareness, to pray for captives and encourage others to do the same.     At times I’ve felt despondent, even angry with God for not showing me what to DO with all the STUFF welling up in my heart.  
There are so many lessons to learn in our journey with Christ on this earth, not the least of which is from Isaiah 30 - to wait patiently upon the Lord.  All things come to us for our salvation and He grants us blessed freedom in how we respond to all situations.  We have a God of justice and he hears our cries, he works all things for good according to his purpose for those who love Him. (Romans 8) 
Sometimes I understand the answer to a particular prayer through a gradual unfolding of events... the words of a friend or certain passage in Holy Scripture or other spiritual writing.  Sometimes I understand answered prayers because of healing or joy --  but in this recent case, the answers came like a BOLT of lightning to my soul:  resources that I needed came abounding, people came into my life (very unexpectedly) who have the same desire of heart, and doors have opened... hearts have opened; prayer warriors have come forth.  I am renewed in my faith and that’s why I’m sharing this with you.

Tree of Life, Bahrain



Do not be weary, do not give up ~ you will reap a harvest when the time is right!  (a paraphrase from Galatians 6:9)  Like a tree during seasons of drought, the roots are made stronger by digging deep for nourishment... so is our faith made stronger by waiting upon the Lord.  Be faithful to Him Who created the world and holds us in His mighty Hands, do not fail the test given to you.  
Know this:  when you are doing something to advance the Kingdom of Heaven, be prepared for attack from our enemy.  It is precisely those who are on God’s path that the enemy wishes to strike down; be prepared for battle.    Yes, that whole Ephesians 6 thing.   The spiritual armor spoken of there isn’t literary eloquence, it’s quite literally the shield of the human race.  Remember this when doubt comes... when your ideas are opposed by mediocre minds..when depression seeks to rob your joy.  Remember that the enemy wishes to overwhelm you, to render you numb and voiceless.  Remember the flaming darts of the enemy are extinguished by faith in our risen Savior, Who has overcome the world. 
Higher ground in the spiritual life is not achieved by comfort, when life is sterling.  It’s achieved by digging in, by doing what’s difficult, standing firm in your faith when  prayers are dry and answers seem hidden. .. it’s achieved by seeking humility amid anger, discouragement and fear.    It’s achieved by obedience to God.

      Whatever your struggles are today, may the God of peace be with you.



Sunday, September 22, 2013

Amos 5:24

"But let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream"  
Amos 5:24


It's a message no one wants to hear, few want to talk about..
but one I'm called to deliver.


Please pray for me.







Tuesday, September 3, 2013

An Open Letter to Dana Brunetti, E.L. James, et al

To Dana Brunetti, E.L. James, cast members and supporters of Fifty Shades of Grey, both in print and film:


I am just wondering if you are the same people who responded to the national news when Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight were freed from slavery?  Did you shed a tear over the inhumanity or did you pull up a seat, grab the popcorn and take notes for your thriller?  Are you aware that Ariel Castro was addicted to porn and sought to live out his sex fantasies on his victims?  

You represent the moral sewage of this nation, among others, who seek to glorify the dehumanization of our culture, our race.  Are you aware that we have over 200,000 American children being exploited through pornography and prostitution?  Are you aware that your "work" fuels the demand for men who pay to rape women and view children being sexually abused?  *

Perhaps you think the mighty dollar can cushion you from the ill effects of this global crime. Perhaps you do not have children that are "throw-aways", who are preyed upon by your fans.   Maybe you think it's simply giving people what they want -- that, after all, removes any moral conscience from you, eh?  

What a shame, Mr. Brunetti, that along your career path from Covington you chose to prostitute yourself to the world, giving to men what "they want to see" without any regard to those whose lives and spirits you are destroying. 

I hope your efforts fail.  I can only hope that sadism, sexual torture and all the vile images you wish to bring to the big screen will be rejected by people of conscience .... people who wish to bring light into this world.







* Shared Hope International




Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Women Who Want to be Devoured


All news of Miley Cyrus aside, I’ve devoted a lot of hours reading about women who have been saved from the porn industry and prostitution.  Their stories fascinate me on a psychological level, wondering how it is that they could ever rationalize selling their bodies -  over and over and over -  and the toll that must take on them emotionally and spiritually.  What happens exactly when a person’s spirit is broken?  And how can they be healed?  How do you help a person whose sense of “normal” includes abuse and drugs?  and how can you let them know they are valuable beyond the scope of this fallen world?  I plan to devote future posts exploring these questions.



Their stories fascinate me on a spiritual level because many of these women are now followers of Christ, after encountering His love and holiness for the first time.  Some christian organizations have as their evangelical focus, porn conventions.  And many women are brought to Christ through their efforts.   Shelley Lubben is one such example, a former hard-core porn star now Christian activist speaker.  She  works with her state legislature on measures to tax the porn industry and has spoken to members of the US House & Senate on the brutal effects on the body and mind from her years in the porn and adult entertainment industry.   She describes the making of hard-core porn films as “mechanical and beastly” as men do “degrading acts” to the women.   She reiterates a common theme among others who have former porn-star status:  the industry is rife with drugs, alcohol, porn addictions and suicides. 

So one may ask, what woman would ever do this to herself willingly?

I believe there’s a percentage of women who go into the industry with eyes open, thinking themselves on the road to fame and fortune, only to encounter a prison a short time later.  I can’t help but think of the words of George MacDonald describing the nature of immorality:  “All wickedness tends to destroy individuality and declining natures assimilate as they sink.”    

There’s an even larger percentage of women & children who are coerced into this dark underbelly of American culture.. but that’s a whole other post I plan to write soon.

Brittni Ruiz is another former porn star who has found God.  In several online articles I’ve read, she describes her descent into drugs and alcohol as a way to cope with the personal chaos and emotional emptiness she felt after filming multiple sex scenes per day.  In The Blaze article, Brittni states: 

“I never found love in my life and was looking for it in all the wrong places … I have finally encountered the unconditional love of God, and I will never go back.”

Brittni Ruiz


I have a compassion for these women... I wish they all could encounter Jesus Christ and feel loved and whole.  I hope they can someday know the beauty and worth of their soul.  For all of them desire love - genuine love - and acceptance above all else.  Isn’t that the fiction of fame?  Isn’t a promise of lights and cameras and adoring fans, photo opts and cash that sell these young girls?  They are convinced that their only worth is the dollar their flesh can be traded for.  It’s not too hard to convince young girls of this; the media beast delivers a constant barrage of these messages every second of every hour...on television shows, films, advertising, social media, make-up, fashion/design.. the list goes on ad nauseam.  

Isn’t it truly a yearning for love that makes women want to be devoured by the world?  to give over their body and every intimacy gifted to them by God?

What a grand deception of our enemy!  Isn’t it time for the Church -across the board - to speak up on these issues?  to educate our young generation about love, sex and purity of heart according to Christ, our Saviour?  

Exposure to pornography and the "adult entertainment industry" doesn't just happen "over there" in another location of the village...in a strip club in the red light district.  It's here.  It's IN the church, it's a click away on your child's iphone.    

God have mercy on Christians everywhere who stand against this destruction of humanity and minister to those ensnared by it.


Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Jar of Earth

The idea has come to me from several pious people, the notion of keeping a jar of earth on my desk to remind me of my eventual death.

Morbid?

I don't think so, even though our western minds are conditioned in such a way.  Consider how you might live if you knew your time was up tomorrow.    Would you not make the effort to correct a wrong? to seek forgiveness or to grant it?  to make peace in a challenging relationship?  

Would you not speak loving words to your family and friends?   Have you ever heard the painful plea of someone who has abruptly lost a loved one and wished for just one more moment to speak to that person?

Viewing our lives through the prism of death, knowing that our time on earth is just temporal, can give us a much needed perspective in this noisy modern age.  And what's more - so much more- is knowing that through our lives, that soul-filled garden,  God may nourish others by his abundant grace.

 *A related post.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Yay! Izzy's Book Moves Forward

Some of you who have been reading here for some time know that I lost my niece, Izzy, to a cancer called rhabdomyosarcoma in 2012.  Since that time, I have written a children's book to tell her story of love and  perseverance to share with the world.  This project was held up for a time because we could not find a suitable illustrator, that is, a person who not only could depict Izzy in a real-life manner, but a person who truly has a heart for this story.





God answered our prayers.
Today, I am THRILLED to announce that we have found an illustrator, Mrs. Hilary Clement!  Hilary brings to this project a wonderful artistic talent, but more than that, she has a heartfelt desire to share in our story -- and THAT is something hard to find!

We are blessed to be sharing in this adventure together!   Please check out Hilary's website to see her creations.  And, just in case you are new to Izzy's story, go to the search bar at the top left of this blog and type in "Izzy".  I've written quite a lot about this remarkable little girl!  Love & miss her so much... but believe in the words of St. Paul that to be absent in the body is to be present with the Lord.  I know we'll see Izzy again!


Glory to God for all things! 

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Voice of Those Who Keep Festival




Prayer of Thanksgiving After Communion: 

"I thank Thee, O Lord my God, that Thou hast not rejected me, a sinner, but hast vouchsafed me to become a communicant of Thy holy things. I thank Thee that Thou hast vouchsafed me, the unworthy, to partake of Thine immaculate and heavenly gifts. But, O Master Who lovest mankind, Who didst both die for us and rise again and didst bestow upon us these Thy dread and life-giving mysteries for the benefiting and sanctification of our souls and bodies: Grant that they may be for me also unto healing of soul and body, unto the averting of everything contrary thereto, unto the enlightenment of the eyes of my heart, unto the peace of my spiritual powers, unto faith unashamed, unto love unfeigned, unto increase of wisdom, unto the fulfillment of Thy commandments, unto growth in Thy divine grace and the attainment of Thy kingdom, that, preserved by them in Thy holiness, I may ever remember Thy grace and henceforth live not unto myself, but unto Thee, our Master and Benefactor. And thus, when this life is ended in the hope of eternal life, I may attain unto everlasting rest, where the voice of those who keep festival is unceasing and the delight of those who behold the ineffable beauty of Thy countenance is boundless; for Thou art the true Desire and unutterable Joy of those who love Thee, O Christ our God, and all creation hymneth Thee forever. Amen."   - Anonymous


Just wanted to share one of my favorite prayers from the ancient faith.  This is a prayer to say after receiving Holy Communion.  The first time I ever read this prayer, the line, "Grant that they may be for me also unto healing of soul and body" really struck me.  Until I entered the Orthodox Church, it never occurred to me that the Lord's Supper was anything more than a reverent symbolic way to remember Christ's sacrifice.  But in truth, according to church history, the Eucharist (meaning, giving thanks) has been celebrated as a sacrament (a way in which we receive God's abundant grace) since the earliest centuries and is still recognized as such in the Orthodox, Catholic and some Protestant churches.    

Now, some years later, another phrase stands out to me, "...and thus, when this life is ended in the hope of eternal life, I may attain unto everlasting rest, where the voice of those who keep festival is unceasing and the delight of those who behold the ineffable beauty of Thy countenance is boundless.."  Can you even imaging that?!   What a heart-warming image!  

I've been thinking so much of Izzy, my young niece who was reborn to the Kingdom of God in 2012, and her last days on this earth.  I often contemplate what she must have seen as she reached her arms up to that receiving angel who carried her to the dwelling place of God.  The Kingdom of Heaven is so near to us, only a thin veil away, as my grandmother would say.   I know Izzy's voice is added to  those "keeping festival" with great joy and thanksgiving, giving praise to the Creator!  Perhaps she is praying for my soul, too. 



   What beauty awaits us... what light and love does God provide for His children.  
Glory to Him for all things!



Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Father Tryphon



For the past few mornings, my son & I have included the wisdom of the Very Rev. Father Tryphon in our morning routine of homeschooling.   

Listening to his podcast, The Morning Offering, on Ancient Faith Radio is a nice way to open the day by kindling love in the heart and setting our minds on life in Christ.

Father Tryphon's podcasts include numerous topics (over 400 entries) and are brief, providing a short story, quotes from the saints or a reference to Holy Scripture.  I like the fact that he provides a nourishing thought for the day and I especially enjoy the introductory and closing chant that accompany his recordings.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

A Change of Headlines

I have a tendency to read too much.  I'm an info-junkie at heart, a true nerd who could easily spend a day at a library or book store.  The same is true when online, perusing the headlines of the day and reading way too much for far too many minutes hours.  
As so, it's little surprise that I am once again at a breaking point of overindulging on American media.  

*sigh*


People like me who are Type-A personalities, control-freaks, who rant and rave while pointing fingers at the injustices in this world,  who lay awake at night with thousands of anxious thoughts darting about,  well... Lord have mercy... we need to spend more time in prayer, meditation and reading Holy Scripture or the lives of the saints.


And even though I know this, have even written about it several times on this blog, my enemy still finds a way to probe my weakest points.  


So, I'm putting this out there for anyone else who overindulges on the web and has to unplug from time to time. (And to keep me accountable!)  Starting today, my headlines are changing.


No longer will I be indulging Yahoo's news headlines, the Drudge Report or even clicking on the news stories that my friend's post on Facebook.    My day will begin by reviewing the headlines at
Pravmir.com  and  Orthochristian.com   because my soul needs nourished and my brain needs some peace.


Our media is constant, immediate and sensationalized and with the effect that can have on our emotions , thought process and behavior, the question was put to me, "Is our exposure to all this information normal or natural?"


I don't think there's anything natural or healthy about consuming a steady stream of news that reminds me of how depraved humanity can be.  

God have mercy on me a sinner...Grant me O Lord to discipline my thoughts and guard the images and words that I put into my mind. 

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Why Fast?


 Matthew 6:16
Whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites do, for they neglect their appearance so that they will be noticed by men when they are fasting. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full."



Jesus did not say if you fast... he said "whenever" you fast.  He fully expected us to follow His example and fast.  In fact, Jesus says, as recorded in St. Mark chapter 6, that some things may not be accomplished except by prayer & fasting.

So why don't all Christians fast?

I've had conversations with Christians from different denominations on this topic, even people from different belief systems.   Did you know that atheists sometimes maintain a fast?  Satanists are familiar with fasting, not only as a means of detoxing the body, but as a "spiritual enhancement" in connection with their rituals.  Ramadan is one of the major fasting periods for Muslims.  

So, with people of many faiths observing a fast, why does it seem illusory to many Christians?  

"What is so different about the Christian fast?  And, why should we deny ourselves anyway?  I don't see how that gets me any closer to God", I hear people say.


Matthew 16:24  
"Then said Jesus unto His disciples,  if any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. "
...emphasis mine.


Fr. Olaf, our priest, has said on more than one occasion that the first sin in the garden of Eden centered around pleasing the palate.  How fitting is it, then, for us to exert some struggle in disciplining this need, which for a lot of us becomes an indulgence every time we sit down to a meal.



Some things I've learned about fasting:

-  Every day I eat way more than my body requires to function. 
An average day for me includes a breakfast of fruit, bagel or a bowl of cold cereal.  Lunch might be a sandwich (PB & J!) , granola bar, yogurt and water.  Dinner may be a salad with spaghetti and bread.  And, considering that I'm not an athlete needing to consume x amount of calories per day, my intake is more than I need.


- Fasting, for the Christian, must include a focus on prayer and reading the Scriptures.  Otherwise, it's just a body detox or a requirement for blood work... or a recipe for grumpiness.  Fasting includes mental exercise, a training of our thoughts and focused nourishment.  


- Denying yourself palatal pleasures has spiritual rewards.
When spending a day in fasting and prayer, the intensity of the passions are subdued.   Whether you are consumed with anger, fear, resentment, bitterness, pride, jealousy...all the many pleasures and weapons of demons are shattered by prayer & fasting.


- I feel better physically, mentally and spiritually when I fast.
Once I get over that hump, that intense desire for chocolate or carbs or my favorite burger from Wendy's, I know I'll make it.  That intense desire DOES go away.  When I feel hungry, I've started asking myself, "do you want to eat an apple? a carrot?"  If not, then I'm not truly hungry, I just have a desire to please my palate.


-Fasting nourishes the new man.
St. Paul talks about the "new man" in his epistle to the Colossians (chapter 3) as compared to the "old man" and his deeds such as blasphemy, anger, wrath, and malice.  When we continually indulge in everything the flesh desires, whether it be food, tv, sex, drugs, money... we are nourishing the old man and remain weak spiritual infants.  Fasting, on the other hand, closes the door to passions so that the spiritual, or "new man" can become stronger.


-I've learned not to give up on a fast just because I slip up.
Occasionally giving into temptation is no reason to abandon a fast altogether.  The saints fall down, they get up, they fall down, they get up...
We must always begin again. 





Monday, April 22, 2013

A Thought on Dzhokhar Tsarnaev

With all the headlines and discussions on the Boston Marathon bombings, the joy in capturing someone dangerous to humanity, the speculation about the legal battle to follow... all the many questions we Americans have, I'm finding myself contemplating one thing: 

Does the saving of a soul save multitudes?

I'm finding myself praying for the salvation of this young man, believed to have wrought such wickedness, alongside my prayers for the victims of devastation.    Now, lest you think I'm showing softness and mercy where none is due, consider this: 

If it's true that this wicked event was played out because of radical Islamic belief, what can we do to dismantle that power?   If Dzhokhar Tsarnaev faces the death penalty, do we give radical Islam another martyr to fuel their fire?    What happens to people at large when the heart of a militant Muslim converts to Christ?


By the power of Christ, hearts can be remade... we see evidence of that in the former murderer, St. Paul.  We see it in the conversion of Roman soldiers who witnessed the miracles of Christ, people who were formerly wicked and without concern for life.  

What happens in the militant Islamic world when one of their own converts to Christ and follows his commandments?  What would happen if nurses and doctors at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center show an uncommon love of Christ in their care of this man?  How interesting to note that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's life is in the hands of an institution founded by Christian and Jewish brothers & sisters...

My prayers are for the mercy of God to grant healing to the mind, body and soul of all those who are injured in Boston, for comfort & peace for the families who lost a loved one that day...

and for the salvation of Dzhokhar Tsamaev, believing always that
 the power of God is greater than the power of wickedness.






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