Whose Time Is It Anyway?

We have this funny idea about time.  Let me give you an example:

booboofluffmuffincatbox1The alarm goes off, playing a cheesy song on the radio.  I roll over, turn it off, and dress for work, thinking about how I need to begin my morning prayers.  I walk out of the bedroom door and a cat has puked on the living room rug.  Stumbling over to fetch some paper towels, I am greeted by a horrendous smell: the litter box needs to be cleaned…again.  Ugh.

Disgusted, I pull on the paper towels and knock over a glass on the kitchen counter creating another mess, this one composed of glass and water.  The birds hear the clanking of the glass and get excited: “Feed me! Feed me! It’s morning!  Whoopee! Feed me!” they sing with their usual morningtide gusto.

Seeing me stump back into the room, the cats roll around on the rug playfully, never mind the pile of puke next to them.  I grumpily begin wiping and cleaning, petting and feeding, all the while thinking, “It is time for prayer and I’m stuck out here cleaning messes.  I don’t have time for this!” or even worse: “God, if you really wanted me to pray, you wouldn’t have allowed all of this to take up my time!” Continue reading

Our Hope in Death, Part 2

by Joukuu3In my prior post, I discussed the significance of the Garden of Eden, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and why and how death entered into the world.

In this post, I will attempt to answer the question: if Christ has come to renew our nature, why do we still die? Also, we will discuss the hope we have through death.

THE INCARNATION

A solid understanding of the significance of the incarnation will enable us to understand it in relation to our own death. When God saw that His creation that was formed in His image had fallen into death and decay, He took action. Continue reading

Our Hope in Death, Part 1

Dormition of the Theotokos-smallerThis past week, many people were shocked to learn of the suicide of the popular movie star and comedian Robin Williams. In the Orthodox Church, we have been preparing ourselves for tomorrow’s feast day: the Dormition of the Theotokos (that is, her falling asleep in the Lord). Death surrounds us every day; to the vast majority of it we remain ignorant. It is also the one certainty in each one of our lives: we will die.

These things can bring up questions: What is death? Why do we die? What is the purpose of death if we have a resurrection to come? All of these questions I will attempt to answer, but I will start at the beginning… Continue reading

Receiving Material Grace

prophet moses iconI am often confronted with the reality of a divine mystery.  This all-powerful, all-knowing God whom we serve chooses to “work in mysterious ways.”  (Isa 45:15).  The particular “way” that I have in mind is His working through material people and objects rather than doing everything Himself.

Even God’s greatest intervention in the history of humanity, the incarnation of the Logos, was completed through the willingness of a pious young virgin.

BIBLICAL EXAMPLES

When God wanted to free His people, he called Moses to confront Pharaoh.  How much more efficient would it have been if he had simply sent an angel to Pharaoh in a “shock and awe” sort of method? Continue reading

Prayer of the Heart and Humility

St Catherine's Orthodox ChurchIf one enters into the prayer life of Orthodoxy, you will find a great emphasis on keeping Christ on your heart and mind at all times.  The monastics and many laypeople strive to attain “prayer of the heart,” in which their heart speaks the name of Christ or what is known as the Jesus Prayer “Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me” at every waking and sleeping hour.

Entering into this realm of life is exciting and transformative.  It requires two things: first of all is grace from God.  Without His grace, everything else is worthless.  Secondly, it necessitates a readiness on our part to receive him.  If our hearts and minds are full of the cares, attachments, and desires of this world and our flesh, then there is no room for grace within us.  Of course, it takes the grace of God to remove these things, but we must make ourselves available and take the tiniest step of effort toward Him.

Releasing the desires and attachments of the flesh is a slow process.  The more we dig around inside of us, Continue reading

Working the Land Within

Farmer in Indonesia by JayantaraHe who works his own land will be satisfied with bread,

but those who pursue vain things are in need of discernment. (Prov 12:11)

WORK YOUR OWN LAND

The “land” which we are advised to work is our heart.  Those who plow their heart, making it ready for the seed of the Logos and pulling the weeds of passions, will be satisfied with “bread.”  Bread here can be understood in two ways. Continue reading

Why do the Orthodox pray to saints?

Below is a letter recently written that I felt may help others out as well.

http://www.ssppoc.org/In regards to praying to saints, it is one of the most difficult things for Protestant Christians to understand.  I wrestled with it for a while.  The old English word “pray” means to ask.  As in, “I pray thee, Ezekiel, could I suffer you for cup of water?”

In the modern English Christian world, the word has come to mean “to ask God for something.”  So, when we mention “praying to the saints” it seems horrible because we’ve been trained that the word should only be used in regards to praying to the god of whatever religion one adheres.

As you are finding through the Jesus Prayer, true prayer is much more than simply asking for something.  It is communing, that is connecting with the Divine in a deep way…establishing a heart to heart connection.  Continue reading

God Speaks Through Pink Shirts

The Embarrassing Pink Shirt Incident

MikeRossPhotography

Trimming the rapidly growing weeds and grass on the steep section of our yard is not one of my favorite activities.  I used to wear shorts, but got stung several times by yellow jackets  — once they flew up my shorts and that wasn’t much fun.  So, I reluctantly began wearing pants when trimming.

This year it has been poison ivy.  Nearly every time I would trim I would have itchy bumps pop up on my arms after a couple of days.  I’m a rather spoiled person and enjoy my air conditioning in the summer time, and I really don’t like being hot (hence the shorts and t-shirt when trimming).  I moved to the mountains of North Carolina because I’m not fond of sweating, not to mention Continue reading

Babel Upside Down

Pentecost iconIn the prehistoric times, mankind decided they would force their way into heaven. The biblical narrative explains they built a large tower with the intention of walking right into heaven. Their plan was destroyed when they found themselves speaking in diverse tongues and no longer able to understand each other.

Pentecost, which was celebrated today in the Orthodox Church, could be considered Babel upside down. The Holy Spirit descended among us and the diverse tongues that once divided mankind acted to unite.

Now, we no longer build towers to reach into the heavens because the heavens have come sweeping down into our world.

As one Kondak goes,
“When the Most High came down and confused the tongues,
He divided the nations, but when He distributed the tongues of fire, He called all to unity, and with one voice we glorify the Most Holy Spirit.”

Heaven within

1013261_10200815667388812_1403043136_nOn several occasions, I have written about heaven not being a physical place, but rather a state of being.  I ran across this quote recently in my readings and thought I would share:

You, then, O reader, hasten to sell your possessions and give to the poor. Possessions are, to the wrathful person, his anger; to the fornicator, his disposition for debauchery; to the resentful person, his remembrance of wrongs.

Sell these things and give them to the poor demons who are in want of every good thing. Return the passions to the creators of the passions, and then you will have treasure, which is Christ, in your heaven, that is, in your mind which has been exalted above this world. For he who becomes like the heavenly One has heaven within himself.

It comes from Blessed Theophylact’s commentary on Matthew in regards to chapter 19 and the rich young ruler’s encounter with Jesus.

The Lord’s Prayer, Part 6

Ladder-cropped“LEAD US NOT INTO TEMPTATION, BUT DELIVER US FROM THE EVIL ONE”

I can think of few things as dangerous as a lack of forgiveness. Harboring a grudge completely destroys the soul. I wrote about this quite a bit in my last post, but in order to pray this part (lead us not into temptation…) in truth, the former phrase regarding forgiving others must be fully lived. We cannot even begin to pray if we have not forgiven everyone.

The Elder Porphyrios writes,

For Christ to enter within us when we invoke Him with the words ‘Lord Jesus Christ,’ our heart must be pure and free from all impediments. It must be devoid of hatred, egotism, and malice. We must love Him and He must love us…

On every occasion when something happens to you, place the blame on yourself. Pray with humility and don’t seek to justify yourself. If, for example, you find yourself the object of enmity, pray with love so that you pour love over the enmity. If you hear a slander against you, then pray and be careful, because the noise of murmurings shall not be hidden. The slightest murmuring against your neighbor affects your soul and you are unable to pray. When the Holy Spirit finds the soul in this state it does not dare to approach.”

Continue reading

The Lord’s Prayer, Part 5

“FORGIVE US OUR DEBTS AS WE FORGIVE OUR DEBTORS”

Baby__s_First_Steps_by_Shadyslady1219REPENTANCE

Salvation is the therapeutic process of healing and oneness with Christ our God.  We begin our journey toward God and healing with the first step of repentance.  As a child taking their first steps excites parents, so too the angels and our Savior rejoice when we begin our baby steps in repentance.

As we mature, our steps become stronger and our strides take us further, but we never mature beyond taking steps.  In the same way, we never mature past repentance.  We do not reach a place on this side of heaven in which we no longer need to repent for wicked thoughts, words, and deeds.  Rather, as we mature spiritually, we know ourselves more fully and our repentance deepens. Continue reading