What I should absolutely expect is resistance. This old will of mine will not be assaulted without a vicious fight. Those devilish thoughts, pesky as flies, lethal as bullets, are swarming, I tell you:
“You’re so pious -so consistent.”
“You’re such a fake.”
“You’ll be burned out by next week.”
But they cannot make a home in my head if I refuse to entertain them by calling ceaselessly on the name of Christ.
And it’s terribly hard, attempting to extricate yourself from slothfulness and gluttony. Like trying to resist the urge to plop down on the couch with a bag of Fritos when you know you should be jogging, but jogging takes too much effort and energy and I’m tired and sitting on the couch is way more comfortable, and everyone else is sitting on their couches….
God, please don’t let me settle for atrophying muscles and a weakened heart.
I need fuel to keep on keeping on. Here is what has girded and inspired me today:
I have become an idol to myself, and in passions have I injured my soul. But accept me now in repentance, O Lord, and allow me to behold Your presence. May the enemy never possess me; may I never fall prey to him. O Savior, have mercy on me.
- Hymn from the Canon of St. Andrew
This is the way we should see Christ. He is our friend, our brother; He is whatever is
good and beautiful. He is everything. Yet, He is still a friend and He shouts it out, “You’re
my friends, don’t you understand that? We’re brothers. I’m not…I don’t hold hell in my
hands. I am not threatening you. I love you. I want you to enjoy life together with me.”
Christ is Everything. He is joy, He is life, He is light. He is the true light who makes man
joyful, makes him soar with happiness; makes him see everything, everybody; makes him feel
for everyone, to want everyone with him, everyone with Christ.
Love Christ and put nothing before His Love. Christ is Everything. He is the source of life,
the ultimate desire, He is everything. Everything beautiful is in Christ.
Somebody who is Christ’s must love Christ, and when he loves Christ he is delivered from
the Devil, from hell and from death.
- Elder Porphyrios
Trying to pray repetitively is an inner asceticism. According to St Ignatius Brianchaninov, trying to pray without ceasing is a “hidden martyrdom.”
…Prayer requires super-human courage, given the atmosphere of the world today. The whole ensemble of natural energies is in opposition. So says Sophrony.
Lions may not eat us for the sake of the Gospel. Rather, our call to martyrdom takes the form of being attentive to the present moment, relying upon God’s power always, and doing His will. Our call to martyrdom may not be any easier than death by violence.
“Like any of us living at this time, a time in which images of horrific tragedies are ubiquitous, I was tempted by the demon of desensitization to not let my heart be broken just a little bit; to whisper a prayer of thanks that it was not my home, my possessions, my clothes, shoes, coats, my precious memories extinguished and left as ashes on the earth; to dismiss the suffering of this family by allowing their heartache to exist merely as casual conversation. I was unclear why my mother even mentioned the R— family to me, this family I do not know, that I don’t have any personal connection to, but she did and because she chose to tell me, something within told me to listen. “
- My dear friend, Beth, writing about taking action when tragedy strikes one’s neighbor, in her most recent blog post
Keep up the good fight! So much love to you!Read More
Click HERE to listen to this post as a podcast on Ancient Faith Radio.
I know its kind of cliché, but right now comparing my participation in Great Lent with the cleaning of my house is the most relatable analogy I can muster. And I need me an analogy, because that’s how I roll. See, I can’t just dive into Lent all willy nilly without examining first my expectations and intentions. It’s too tempting to go hog wild (er…I mean, tofu wild?) stocking my pantry with dried beans, looking up yummy vegan recipes and making intricate lenten meal plans – to make that part of it an end in itself. But I cheat myself that way of spiritual treasures accessible only through a wholistic approach to fasting that nourishes my body, mind and spirit equally, seamlessly. I’m desperate to avoid this year getting distracted by, and therefore lost in, the peripherals.
Do you fast? Give me proof of it by your works, wrote Saint John Chrysostom. If you see a poor man, take pity on him. If you see a friend being honored, do not envy him. Do not let only your mouth fast, but also the eye, and the ear, and the feet, and the hands, and all the members of our bodies. Let the hands fast, by being free of avarice. Let the feet fast, by ceasing to run after sin. Let the eyes fast, by disciplining them not to glare at that which is sinful… Let the ear fast… by not listening to evil talk and gossip… Let the mouth fast from the foul words and unjust criticism. For what good is it if we abstain from birds and fishes, but bite and devour our brothers?
So back to my messy house, to the dishes that need to be scrubbed, the pile of school papers covering our buffet table, the cluttered corners upstairs and downstairs whining for my attention. When every room I enter has become disheveled due to busyness and neglect, my default defense tactic is avoidance. I’m an expert at inventing ways to cunningly address the issue of the mess without actually ever picking up a broom, mop or dust rag. You know what I need? I’ll easily convince myself, Another trip to Target, for a wall calendar, white board, new laundry basket, etc. I can waste hours on-line searching up organizational tips or housework schedules. It’s embarrassingly remarkable really, how, despite talking about the mess, obsessing over the mess, buying stuff to tame the mess, at the end of the day my house remains no cleaner than before. Unless I bite the bullet, roll up my sleeves and surrender to the terribly untitillating effort required to transform that which is hectic into an oasis of calmness and simplicity, peace will elude me.
Now cleaning my house won’t make anyone love me more – my family hasn’t presented me with an ultimatum or anything stating, Tidy-up or we’re out of here! I’m so thankful to be loved unconditionally by my kids and husband. On my pleasant days, crabby days, lazy days, they are forgiving and resilient. It will, however, affect the quality of my day-to-day life. Waking up to a home that’s been tended to feels tranquil and empowering. I’m more generous, hospitable, dependable, patient optimistic when I’m a good and faithful steward of our material blessings. Any other incentive besides tapping in to that peace of mind, heart and spirit, such as the procuring of praise and respect, fail to motivate me long term or shield me from resentment (“I just vacuumed that rug yesterday!” “They need to eat again?!”). Plain old hard and selfless work is the unflashy narrow path to joy and contentment.
Yes, it’s my soul I’m alluding to here, my disheveled soul, which I’m too distracted on my own to recognize is in need of some serious TLC so the Church, out of Love, points its cluttered state out to me. And she knows I’m too weak to care for it all by my lonesome, so here I am, hand-in-hand with an entire community of Orthodox Christians from all around the world at the starting line of a Church assigned season of quiet prayer, reflection and preparation. We simplify our diets, which aids in controlling our impulsivities. Mindless gorging, speaking, reacting or spending is terribly addictive and counterproductive, not to mention spiritually deafening. We attend Church services, beautiful services, lengthy and frequent services so imperative for keeping us focused on the aim at hand, and accessing the Christ hungry depths of our spirits too often smothered by earthly diversions. We pray more. We try not to escape the intensity of silence, which leads to self-reflection, with the noise of television or radio. We read about saints. We attempt to give and love more in the name of Christ who is Love and Mercy. We receive the Holy Eucharist and repent of our sins at Confession.
These Lenten tools of the Church are many and miraculous. They are highly effective, when utilized with humility and in conjunction with one another, at chipping away the calcified self-centeredness fueling our lusts and anxieties. There’s nothing easy about them, however, or comfortable or entertaining. And there are no short cuts. Any other incentive to work at fasting, besides tapping into the heavenly peace of mind, heart and spirit found in communion with Christ, such as the procuring of praise and respect, fail to motivate me long term or shield me from resentment (“I’m sick to death of hummus!” ), despair (“I screwed up again!”) or judgment (“Why weren’t they at Presanctified Liturgy last night?”).
Lent is not a pass/fail endeavor – it’s not a test, but rather a mystical means of healing and enlightenment I’d be very, very foolish not to take advantage of. The work of fasting won’t make God love me more – I’m very thankful to already, no matter what I do or don’t do, be loved by Him unconditionally. On my prayerful days, my forgetful days, my relapse days, my exhausted days, He is forgiving and full of grace. It will however affect the quality and fruitfulness of my day-to-day life here on earth. Waking up to a soul that’s been tended to feels tranquil and meaningful. I’m more generous, hospitable, courageous, patient, when I’m a good and faithful steward of my spiritual blessings.
Come, my fellow laborers, let us pace ourselves together, and with joy, throughout these forty days of work. Let us prune, water and feed our souls that Love may bloom , remaining confident, always secure in the promise that on the other side of our Lenten efforts lies the victorious Resurrection of all Life, all Purpose and all Hope!
You were delivered on a full-sized bed in the middle of our living room, surrounded by close friends and family. "You're crazy," people told me, for giving birth at home, and for sharing such an intimate and vulnerable experience with anyone other than my doctor and husband. Looking back, I have to agree. I was crazy – crazy young, crazy naive – but I knew enough about myself to fortify myself with all the support I possibly could. "Your body was made to do this," assured my mom, while I groaned and cried throughout the excruciating throes of labor. Then, hallelujah!, you emerged, all shockingly dark and hairy. And I laughed deliriously because you were finally here, and you were beautiful – because the pain was over.
Just recently, we were in the car together and Pearl Jam's Better Man came on the radio. "I used to love this song," I said, and you playfully rolled your eyes at me. I am endearingly ancient to you now, outdated, which feels strange – not because it hurts my feelings or anything, but because so clearly I can remember being your exact age and thinking my own mother hopelessly old fashioned. You're intense, poised to leap, electric blue and neon yellow. I'm soft and worn, settled in, shabby chic.
Today I celebrate your mind, teeming with magic and grand ambitions, your tender heart and eternal soul. I'm thankful for all I've gained, and surrendered, specifically because of you.
And I am proud of myself for not eating leftover birthday cake for breakfast this morning.
It's been a heck of a ride so far, my teenage boy chasing down manhood. God grant you many, many, many more love filled years!Read More
Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art… It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival.
- C.S. Lewis
It was hard to choose which photos to post here. All eighty plus I shot over our weekend in Michigan are precious to me. I feel grounded and refreshed after visiting with old friends and their children, grandchildren, whom I also treasure. Life is better with friends, my faith is strengthened by friends, there is healing in being known… and loved anyway.
Next Week’s The Way I See It theme will be: StillnessRead More
If we are feeling the ill effects of being spread half an inch thick and going a million miles an hour, the solution is not to go ever faster and be spread even thinner. The solution is to take a deep breath, identify what really matters, and do more of that and less of other things.
- Margaret Kim
Keeping House: The Litany of Everyday Life
"I love you," he said when he got out of the car. Just like that. "Love you too," I replied, ever so nonchalantly, trying to play off the fact my insides were downright glowing. Lately, we've seemed to have found a tentative truce, each of us softening to the other's humble offering of giving a little, of taking baby steps toward meeting in the middle, whereas before there was only "my way or the highway."
Who knew setting aside my chores for three quarters of an hour to watch Merlin on BBC, or picking up extra mechanical pencils and graph paper at the drug store (for a Star Frontiers role playing game), both seemingly trivial and inconsequential activities, could be so eye-opening and healing? I'm learning that putting time into a person, the whole of them, into talking with them about what they like, listening respectfully and completely to what they have to say, forges a connection much better able to deal healthfully with the inevitable differences of opinion that creep up now and again. A child who feels loved, exactly as they are, I now realize, is more open to being guided.
Who knew overreacting could be such an incredible time and energy waster? Who'd have thought reorganizing my priorities in order to make connecting emotionally with my kids and husband the most important undertaking of my day, of my life, would be so utterly, incomparably, un-fleetingly satisfying? It's been a rough trip, fraught with plenty of wrong turns and bumps in the road, but this morning, praise be to God, I feel like maybe, just maybe, we're finally getting there.Read More