Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Sex is Sacred: the Soft Path of Tolerance

“Christians are so condemning!  I hate their intolerance towards homosexuals and transgender people.  They are supposed to be a religion of LOVE and yet, they are the most critical people in America.  Why can’t they just live and let live?   It is US, the non-religious and open-minded Christians who welcome these souls into our loving embrace.  We care about them.  We understand them.  We want them to feel loved and accepted and we will stand before them with a shield in the face of such ignorant chastisement.  We care about such injustice as shown by narrow-minded so-called followers of Christ.” ~ Spirit of our Age
Fascinating to note that those who prescribe their branded morality appeal to a sense of justice unquestioned. To “love” undefined.   If justice stands as a pillar to a morally sound civilized culture, does it not beg the question of origin? Atheists and secular humanists loathe to contemplate the trivial matters of definitions and paradigms.  
What does it mean to love our neighbor anyway?  Spirit our our Age riding on his black horse says with a swing of the sword, it means to “harm none” (by his definition of harm), to mind your own business , to refrain from judgement (by his definition of judgement) and believe truth is relative. And the only Absolute Truth is that there are no absolutes.  It embraces sinfulness in the name of Tolerance.  Loving means standing for nothing and accepting everything.
How vastly different to glimpse love as defined by God: selfless, patient, kind, long-suffering...true love would lay down it’s life to protect another.  Love upholds Truth.  Jesus Christ is the supreme example of love, as He illustrates time and again in Holy Scripture, when he heals the lame and restores the broken...and yes, even as he condemns hypocrisy and criticizes the righteous.  He showed love when he turned over the money-changing tables in the temple because the sacredness of God’s house was being defiled.  Christ never rejoiced in sin; on the contrary, He came to free people from sin. Remember His words after he healed, restored, forgave?   “Go and sin no more”.
Fast forward some two-thousand years to see the freedom loving culture of America in struggle over what it means to love, to hate and to judge.  Our government has officially proclaimed its love of sin and destruction by legislating morality in the name of “progressiveness”.  Definitions of life, marriage, tolerance and hate are being morphed into products of the state;  how surprising to see the willingness of proclaimed followers of Christ to embrace the Spirit of our Age. My theory is that too few Christians actually know how to defend their faith... fewer still who care.
To take a page out of Ravi Zacharias’ book, I would ask those supporters of same-sex marriage to tell me why it would be wrong to alter a person’s race.  What has one to do with the other you ask?  One idea is “bad” but the other is “good”... What is so inherently wrong about Hitler’s notion to create a super race?  It has everything to do with a little word embracing a cathedral size meaning:  Sacred.

A person’s race is sacred.  To defile that would be akin to blaspheming God, as a person is created by God with His divine Image upon him.  Likewise, to the orthodox Christian, indeed, to mankind, sex is sacred.  It is a blessed gift of God between a man and women in holy matrimony;  anything that deviates from that is to profane a gift of holiness.  The union between a husband and wife in marriage is a rare gemstone in American society; it resides on the opposite end of the spectrum from the grossly amputated sex culture. In all forms --from using long legs and cleavage to sell a product to the deviant and violent porn industry, each semblance of tickling our collective fancy - in reality- serves to deaden our senses, weaken our spirit and lead us away from the purity and blessedness of heaven.  It is the difference between solid gold and a cracker jack prize. The trinket appearing as gold, the soft path seeming right, madness manifesting sanity, these are the ways of malevolent demons.
I wonder, with America’s embrace of the transgender movement, shall we next see surgeons altering bodies to satisfy the anorexic?  Because a person believes in their mind in one way -- the biology must follow, eh?   This is the fallacious - the dangerous- reasoning of our age.  I wonder how far away the medical community is from aiding bestiality tendencies?  and the government from sanctioning the pedophilia populace.   After all, our natural born inclinations provide the grounds for morality, right?   Only where man is god and the soft path of tolerance is walked by those who should be guardians of Truth.
Does it matter to Christians what Christ actually said and did?  Or are we looking for a christianity that fits our own belief system?  Do the souls of our brothers and sisters on this earth really matter to us?  What if I told you that transgendered people have a suicide rate 20 times higher than non-transgendered people?  We need to decide if we are going to proclaim Christ and Him crucified or be accepted by popular culture.
We can justify to ourselves whatever we want to believe... but the real question is, can you defend it rationally, on the bedrock of God, the Author of this world? 

Are you prepared to give a reason for the hope you have in Christ?  1 Peter 3:15

Sunday, April 26, 2015


Crucifixion, 13th century, Athos
Interestingly, in most Orthodox icons of Christ on the Cross
his face is peaceful, not in anguish.  

"Save me from what?" my friend asked when discussing Christ and his death on the cross, some 2,000 years ago.  "Sin" was my abrupt answer, knowing full well what I meant, but not understanding in the least how that answer rested in my friend's mind and heart.

Reading about Christ's crucifixion, having discussions about it and singing those old familiar hymns about power in the blood left me somewhat confused as a teenager.  I accepted that Christ died for me, yet I often envisioned a mad Father, full of wrath being pleased by nothing except the spilling of his Son's blood.   The full story, as told in light of the glorious Resurrection, did little to ease the stomach turning aspect of that ransom-- that human sacrifice to appease an angry Father because of the sin of mankind.   Is this what love looks like?  I wondered.

It was this particular aspect of Christianity that was a continual stumbling block as I tried to share my faith with others.  Reiterating the same lines about Christ atoning for the sin of man did little to answer the particular questions from nonbelievers.  Questions like, "Why did it have to be so brutal?  Couldn't God - in His all powerful way- concoct a scheme of redemption a bit more peaceful?  Couldn't He just open the doors of heaven to those who would believe in Him without a bloody sacrifice?"  or the more poignant, "God desires pain to save us from pain, doesn't He?"

God desires pain?  God's wrath would not be assuaged except by a gruesome crucifixion?
How would I ever be an effective witness if I couldn't wrap my head around this dichotomy of a loving God and the crucifixion of Christ as "payment" to that same loving God?

Years of reading and asking questions about salvation to the wise eventually led to the discovery of ancient Christianity.  Not just the history as recorded in Scripture after Pentecost, but the following early centuries of Christians and their understanding of salvation; in particular, the Celtic people and monastics of the Egyptian desert.  In these early writings, nowhere did I find language that referenced a legalistic framework for understanding Christ's sacrifice.  Instead, I discovered the view of a victorious Saviour in the midst of barbarity;  God incarnate coming to reconcile creation to Himself.  A God who heals the brokenness caused by sin.

I began to see Christ's death as a rescue mission, not a payment for a debt incurred at birth.  Christ came to rescue me from the bondage of sin, not as a legal settlement to ease God's wrath.  God isn't holding us captive, sin is.   That pervading sickness that affects us all... not just the druggies, the prostitutes and murderers, but the liars, the hypocrites, the self-righteous and those who live with lust quietly enveloping their hearts.  No one is free of sin and all need the blessed love and redemption of Christ our Lord.

The brutality of the crucifixion had to be the means by which Christ conquered;  He used the greatest weapon of the enemy -- torture and death -- to defeat the enemy.   Destroying death by death.  It is the greatest story ever told!  He led captivity captive... one of the most powerful phrases from Scripture alludes to the smashing open of hades by Christ; death could not contain Him for He is the source of all Life.  This is the earliest understanding of Christ's redemptive work on the cross and one of the reasons I am an Orthodox Christian.

The image of the Cross -- that implement of death and destruction by the mighty Romans became a symbol of victory because of the Author of Life.  We must remember that Christ was God incarnate -- with legions of angels at His command.  How perplexed these heavenly beings must have been to see the King of Kings willingly hanging on a tree and forgiving the filth of men who nailed Him there.  

We serve a loving, compassionate and patient God.  A God who provided for our broken communion with Him when sin entered the world.  Like the story of the Prodigal Son, God awaits our return to Him through repentance, an acknowledgment of sin and how it wounds us.   Glory to God for all things †  Glory to His third day Resurrection and praise Him for the gift of salvation †

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Friday the 13th

I'm not really superstitious, not in the pure sense, but I did joke yesterday that I was experiencing a day reminiscent of the fabled occasion.  But today, looking back at the events of yesterday in better perspective, I'd like to share with you the many blessings God granted.

When my tire blew out on the way to work in the pre-dawn hours, it was merciful that I was located very near to a Go-Mart where I could safely call for help.  And Susan, the manager at the convenience store could not have been more helpful.  She sympathized with my situation and helped to make a connection with the tow truck that would arrive later in the morning.

My co-workers, too, are a kind and loving bunch of people and quickly made a plan for someone to pick me up...even though this meant a 30-35 minute out-of-the-way trek.  My delay also meant my 7:30 a.m. patient would have to reschedule for a later time;  he was most understanding.  In fact, when I was able to see him later that afternoon, he said with a smile, "it was no problem at all [to reschedule] I am just glad you are ok."   How's that for a blessing?!  Such a generous heart.

At noon, when the tow truck brought my vehicle to our office, I quickly realized I would need to purchase a new tire.  The do-nut spare would not be sufficient to make the hour and half trip to my daughter's basketball tournament after work.  I had to scramble during my lunch hour and was dismayed to learn the first two tire stores I called were so busy they had no time to help.  And then I spoke with Wayne - at the tire store closest to our office - who was very calm and understanding.  He told me that although he didn't have my exact tire, he was certain they could find something that would be suitable- and most importantly, in a time frame that allowed me to make it to my daughter's final game of the tourney.

All told, three different colleagues drove me around yesterday, getting me to and from the tire store, waiting on me, going out of their way ...and all with a smile and patience.  I am so blessed to work with these people.

By 6:30 pm I arrived at the basketball tournament to see the Patriots in full defensive mode just before the end of the first half.  My daughter was on the court, face red and eyes alert -- giving it her all.  I sighed with delight just to be there.  After only 10 minutes or so, my bliss was interrupted when I realized I didn't have my car key.  It wasn't in the usual place in my jacket pocket nor in my purse.  Maybe I left it on the table when I paid my admission?  I quickly walked back to that area and asked the attendants if I had left my key.   They said they hadn't seen it, but the warmhearted gentleman offered to help me look for it.  I felt panicked.. did I drop it somewhere in this packed stadium or dark parking lot?

Retracing my steps to the front door, within minutes, I saw my key laying on an empty table by the entry.  Someone obviously found it laying on the ground and put it there where it might be discovered.   The gentleman smiled and we both chuckled at Providence granting this mercy.

The girls went on to win a very hard fought game and I was there to see my girl make two baskets!!  Worth the struggles of the entire day.

Coming home that night under heavy rain, I was thinking of the many people who brought compassion and a measure of God's grace to my trying day.  And, it isn't lost on me that these petty struggles are nothing compared with the suffering of others that involve much more serious life events.  That perspective is a gift from above.  And one that sustained me through the night... even when I was nearly run into the side of a bridge by a speeding tractor-trailer.

I have never been so happy to see the cozy interior of my home and receive the unconditional love of our fur-kids.  My anger, too, was short lived when I saw the trash strewn all over the kitchen floor by those same two faithful companions.  C'est la vie.

I will recount my blessings and remember the important stuff of life, like relationships, how we treat one another, patience and knowing that God bestows grace through those that love Him. Behold the rose, not the thorns.  Thank you Alicia, Bob, Jamie, Sherry, Wayne, Della, Susan, Amy, Melody, Eric, John, Kindhearted Gentleman for lifting me up on a day that was pulling me down.  May God shine His face upon you!

Glory to God for all things †

Monday, March 9, 2015

A Review of John Howerton Honda in Beckley, WV

John Howerton has been our "Honda home" since 2012 when we purchased a 2012 Odyssey van.  We had a good sales experience then and more recently, in January of 2015 when the van needed some repair work on the piston rings.  Thankfully the repairs were covered under warranty.  The service staff was excellent.  From the first time I called to make an appointment for the problem I was having, I was met with professional courtesy.   The issue took longer to repair and test than I expected (nearly a week in the garage) and even though I grumbled about having to rent a vehicle, the service department did everything within their power to explain what the trouble was and to offer a helping hand in renting a car and giving me a ride to Enterprise-Rent-A-Car.  

I picked up my van on a Saturday and by the following Monday, my service engine light was flashing again.  I immediately took it back to J. Howerton Honda.  Once again, the service department was courteous, moving me to the front of the line and taking my van in right away to evaluate the problem.  Since it was going to be more than an hour wait, they also offered a vehicle to me to complete my errands that morning.   That considerate gesture went a long way to make the extended wait worthwhile.  Upon returning, it was discovered that I had a loose wire related to my fuel emissions.  It was fixed and I drove away without further issue.

February 2015 brought heavy snowstorms to our area and I revisited the idea of trading the Odyssey for a 4WD Honda Pilot.  I was happy to learn that a white Pilot was available at another dealer and that John Howerton Honda could obtain this for me.  I spoke on the phone with the sales rep several times over a week to work out a deal agreeable to both of us and exchanged text messages to confirm it.

On a Monday morning I went first thing to the dealer to check out my new ride.  It looked great and as promised.  We spent a long time going through all the preliminary paperwork such as settings for the vehicle, license and insurance info, etc.  I'm sure you know the drill.  After nearly an hour I was presented with the legal financial documents which did not show the agreed upon purchase price.  I stated the amount was wrong and showed them my text messages with the sales rep.  Thus began a 30 minute or more haggle over the price and down payment.  I should have walked away, but I didn't.  I took the offer closest to the originally agreed upon purchase price.  I paid more than what was promised.

I filed a complaint with the BBB, not just because they did not honor the previous agreement, but because they attempted to place the "misunderstanding" on my shoulders rather than acknowledge their fault in promising one thing and delivering another.

So, all in all -- if you need service for your Honda, I highly recommend John Howerton Honda service department.  If you're looking to make a purchase, I suggest you deal elsewhere.   I hope my experience can help you.

"Good judgement comes from experience.  Experience comes from poor judgement."

Monday, February 2, 2015

A Blessed Visit

Yesterday my daughter and I did something I've wanted to do for several years now -- we finally made a visit to St. Nicholas Orthodox Church in Beckley, WV.  What joy!   Except for the beautiful gold onion dome and cross, it is an inconspicuous brick building tucked between other brick and stone buildings in the older section of Beckley, near the courthouse/ historic district.

St. Nicholas Antiochian Orthodox Church, Beckley, WV
Photo from

We arrived just before the 10:30 am Divine Liturgy and upon entering the front door, the lovely waft of incense filled our senses.  I am home  I thought as I took a slow breath to inhale that familiar fragrance. We walked up the steps toward the sanctuary and became aware of melodic voices chanting in English, both male and female.    I stopped at the narthex to light a candle, say a prayer and venerate the icon of Christ and the Blessed Theotokos. This is the area of quiet preparation for entering the nave, the place where the faithful gather to worship God.  Joining the congregation, we found the space full of peace and the walls graced with numerous icons.  A soft visible blanket of incense hung in the air, making the iconostasis with its vigil lamps seem otherworldly.   It truly is heaven on earth.

St. Nicholas Antiochian Orthodox Church, nave
Photo from

As we stood at our pew, I took in the numerous icons on each wall and large stained glass windows- some of which were donated by people I knew from our St. George family.  A sense of warm welcoming came over me as I noticed many familiar icons, such as St. Mary of Egypt , St. George the Trophy-bearer  and the enormous Christ Pantocrator adorning the ceiling.   Kind of like peering into a photo album and seeing familiar faces, it gives a sense of belonging - of knowing- that I too am part of the family of Christ.

I had met Fr. Samuel Haddad on several occasions in years past, but never had the pleasure of hearing his homily until yesterday.  It was the Sunday of the Pharisee and Publican and Fr. Samuel spoke about these two men and their prayers as found in Luke 18:10-14.  Interestingly, he pointed out their prayers from the viewpoint of God... Is God pleased with one prayer over the other?  Is it a matter of behaving in a certain way so as to appease our Father in heaven?  The reality is, as Fr. Samuel went on to say, is that God knows exactly what we need -- humility that begets repentance.  A "heart cleaning" in other words.   When we pray, and ask forgiveness, it is not that we are trying to please God by our actions, it is that our inner sin and darkness needs to be swept clean to allow humility, forgiveness and love to take root and grow.  

The choir gathered in front, on the right side of the church and we were blessed to hear their sweet voices praising God and offering responses during the Liturgy.  There were children, teenagers, young adults and some older adults too completing this dedicated group.  I quietly sang along with them a few times.

The people at St. Nicholas' could not have been more welcoming to us.  It was a perfect way to usher in the Feast of St. Brigid, my patron saint.   Radiant faces and pleasant greetings met us upon dismissal and we both knew with certainty that we would be back to visit again very soon.    If you are in the area and interested in the Orthodox Church, please stop for a visit sometime;  I'm sure Fr. Samuel would be delighted to meet you.   You can read more about the church and their service schedule here:  St. Nicholas Antiochian Orthodox Church

Glory to God for all things †

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Unbroken: A Book Review

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption                
By Laura Hillenbrand
Paperback, 528 pages (2014)
Published by Random House                                                                         

My daughter gifted me with this book for Christmas and as soon as I opened it’s pages, couldn’t put it down.  What an incredible and inspiring life Louis Zamperini lived!  Hillenbrand’s meticulously researched story was years in the making; her rigorous efforts and gifted writing style have resulted in a national treasure.   She has brought to light not only one man’s journey through WWII, but raised a nation’s awareness of an often hidden reality: POW camps, the depth of man’s depravity and the inner battle to overcome the lasting effects of traumatic experiences for men at war. 
This book is liberally sprinkled with wonderful photographs and illustrations to document the tale; it’s easy to be swept up in the sunshine and sand of the Pacific Islands in the 1940’s... equally thrilling and heart-pounding to be aboard a B-24 with Louis and crew, so skilled is Hillenbrand at her craft.   I laughed, I cried.. I was awestruck reading Unbroken.  As a Christian, I found the complexities of war, of evil and suffering to bolster my faith.  Maybe it’s because when honor, strength, miracles and sacrifice are contrasted against such a bleak canvas, truth and light are most clearly seen.   
Stories of survival have always piqued my attention, and this one is no different.  It’s the essence of man at his most extreme moments that fascinates me.  How does one respond physically and mentally in history’s bleakest hour?  What drives one to survive under extreme conditions?  And how does man cope mentally to overcome his witness to horrific crimes...?  Answers and insights are given to these types of questions by sharing in the life of Louis Zamperini.  The reader is truly left feeling amazed, inspired, even empowered by learning the life lessons this man has to offer.
Skip the movie, read the book.
Five stars.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Happy New Year!

My goodness, time does fly.  Eight months since my last entry, yet various posts still seem to get attention here and so, I'm inspired to blog on!  Since I've just finished reading "Unbroken" by Laura Hillenbrand, I'll have to share my thoughts on the book and movie soon.
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