faith · Lent · Orthodoxy · saints

Repent and Believe

…the Kingdom of God is at hand.  Repent and believe in the gospel.  Mark 1:25

It is difficult to discern the difference between being sorry for sin and being sorry for the consequences of sin.  Most of the time propriety keeps my sins nicely concealed, wrapped up in manners and decency and etiquette.  However, once in a while I am caught with my hand in the cookie jar. A slip of gossip, a quick yet horrid rant of anger, a spewing of pent up malice.  However small and dainty the slips might be, they reveal more than I like to admit.  Even an attempted recovery of placid mannerisms and sweet words cannot hide my heart- the truth.  Those who witness these momentary lapses of discretion are surely surprised.  Or are they?  I wonder if what we conceal is really hidden at all.  It is certainly not hidden from God, our Mother, and the saints.

I am known, whether I admit that or not.

To be known is a fearful thing if one is convinced.  We hide to protect, we conceal to survive, we lie to persevere. Pride makes the case that there is nothing so risky as coming out, coming forth, coming to ourselves.  The only safe path is isolation, because there in that small space we at least have the consolation of self love.  Poor and friendless as this place can be, it is no hell like being known for who we are- and not being loved.

The stronghold of a mind fortified with self love is like Jericho, the safest place on earth, the most strategic warriors are no match for its strength and might.  It is hard to give up such security, however this is just what repentance requires. Repentance is not a reinforcement of will to make the walls stronger.  It is a shout, a mighty shout of faith, and the walls come tumbling down.

What kind of faith can make walls fall, stones roll away, even the stones of our minds?  It is the faith to believe that Jesus told us the truth.  We must believe, and take Him at His word.  God is love, and He is a God of promises, not threats.  We must come up out of our graves, from behind our fortified walls, and let mercy heal us.  Love and humility are so kindred that perhaps they are the same.  For in one we find the other.  To be humble is to love, to love is to be humble.  And humility is not thinking we are less, it is believing simply in the gospel of good news- to receive it as a child- God is Love, and his mercy endures forever. It is a very humble thing to be loved.

When the walls fall, repentance replaces my obsessive fear.  It is no longer the consequences of sin that threaten my self love and make me afraid.  Repentance is being heart broken for sin itself- the deed, the wound.  Sin is alien.  It hurts- it should.  We must grieve when we fail to love. As we grieve, we change our minds- literally.  We change our minds about our enemies mostly.  This change of mind brings about chastity- when the inside matches the outside.  I no longer have a reason to hide behind manners, decency, and propriety- all of which make disguising sin a social sport.  Repentance brings change from the inside out, a chaste and genuine person shines through.  No hidden malice, despondency, vain talking. No guile.  No lie.

For what reason must we repent and believe?  Is some threat looming?  Some terror?

Yes, a great terror looms in the hearts of all men.  It is the threat of love.  It is the threat of peace.  It is the threat of glory.  If we would simply repent and believe, we would see our lives transformed by love.  The kingdom of God is at hand.

O Lord, vouchsafe unto us the gift of the Holy Spirit,
that we may perceive Thy glory,
and live on earth in peace and love.
And let there be neither malice, nor wars nor enemies,
but may love alone reign,
and there will be no need of armies, or prisons,
and life will be easy for everyone on earth.
St. Silouan the Athonite

 

baby · faith · family · homemaking · kids · motherhood · parenting · saints · Uncategorized

What I want my daughters to know about the 2016 US Election

(I wrote this three days before the election.)

A certain Hillary Clinton campaign add depicts small children innocently watching the television as Donald Trump makes fun of the disabled, offering up one calloused and derogatory remark after another to the massive crowds at his rallies. The television add ends with this epitaph, “Our children are watching.”

Epitaph, you say?  Yes, in an horrifyingly ironic way Hillary’s tag line is like an inscription on the tombstone of the unborn.  Our children are watching-in memory of the children who are not watching the television, the children who are not our choice.

Dear daughters, labor to discern the times and ponder what is good and true and beautiful.

We live in a world where it is not okay to make fun of the disabled and yet it is perfectly okay to abort a disabled child.  Understand the times. Ponder how evil is always rooted in some convoluted lie-some twisting and confusion of the truth.

Mother Angelica said, “I do not vote for candidates, I vote for life.”  And this is where I stand.  All other issues flow from this one issue…life.

Hold your ground as a woman.  Do not be deceived by women who tell convoluted lies.  For woman is created to be a child-bearer, physically and/or spiritually.  And bearing children is hard and you will suffer.  As long as I am alive I will help you bear this burden.  As a woman I will try my best to support you.

And do not hate men.  Come alongside them and bear their weaknesses.  Do not be deceived by women who tell convoluted lies.  For woman is created to be a help meet, physically and/or spiritually. This is hard and you will suffer.  As long as I am alive I will help you bear this burden.  As a woman I will try my best to support you.

Hillary Clinton does not represent me as a woman, nor does any other woman who shares her ideology.  She represents all I am trying to repent of, sin that is rooted in a strong-willed desire to rule.

Stay veiled- stay hidden- stay quiet in spirit- stay repentant.
Look to the Theotokos, pray, and remember the icon of motherhood.
Do not be deceived by convoluted lies.
Remember the woman who ran for President of the United States of America in 2016- remember her in your prayers.
If she wins-keep praying.

To the woman he said, I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; in sorrow you shall bring forth children; and your desire shall be to your husband, and he shall rule over you. Genesis 3:16

faith · family · motherhood · Orthodoxy · saints

Less Stress

Mark Zuckerberg is a genius, but not for the obvious reason of being one of the co-founders of Facebook. He is also the networking website’s CEO, and is said to have a net worth of over $30 billion…still not why I think he is a genius.  His one dollar salary from Facebook is pretty great, but again I am not all that impressed by numbers, big or small.

What I am impressed by are his habits, the habits that are the foundation for his success.  When my husband told me that Zuckerberg wears a gray t-shirt almost everyday my ears perked up, and not because my husband was making a case for his own gray t-shirt, the t-shirt he says is lucky, the t-shirt he wears every time it is clean, the t-shirt that I don’t “get”.

My wheels began to turn because of the reason Zuckerberg gives for this very quirky habit.  He says that deciding what to wear everyday is a “silly” thing that he would rather not waste time on.  After a quick search I came up with a quote of his concerning his gray t-shirt that I thought was what embodied this young entrepreneur’s real genius,

“I really want to clear my life so that I have to make as few decisions as possible about anything except how to best serve this community.”

He also thinks deciding what he will eat for breakfast is a waste of time.  And I could not agree more.  How did this young fella learn this at such a young age…how to manage energy in this way?  I am just now learning the principal of energy conservation and how to manage stress from the inside out not the outside in.

When I was a young mother and wife I thought that managing time, stress, and energy meant I needed to overhaul my house, make strict schedules, and crack down on discipline.  After stumping my toe on that perfectionist bed post enough times I have slowly become aware of where the stress that makes life “undoable” comes from and how to go about managing my life in a real and sustainable way.

The most important thing I have learned is that stress is an internal battle, not an external problem.  There are real external challenges that we face as human beings living on this flawed planet; sickness, disease, poverty, conflict, and pain. But the stress we feel as we live among the thorns and thistles is something of a phenomenon that occurs when we cannot surrender.  Being out of control, in any shape or form is what stress is all about.  The real trick of living in this world is to become aware of what we can and cannot control and act accordingly.

Over and over again I notice that successful people live the serenity prayer:

The serenity to accept the things I cannot change, 
The courage to change the things I can, 
and especially, The wisdom to know the difference.  

To know the difference…that is key.
To know the difference between what I can and cannot control.

What I wear, what I eat for breakfast are all under my control…for now.  These are simple decisions that do not have to be a stress…they can become passionless.  And when the ascetics speak of passionlessness I wonder if this is how to walk that out in everyday life?  Passionlessness for a mother and wife is about “doing” without passion.  What I wear should not make me anxious or lustful or prideful.  And this is where a gray t-shirt everyday comes in handy.  Simplicity practiced on a regular basis is a great tool in calming of the passions.

Simple habits of success.
Simple habits that eliminate unnecessary passion.
Simple habits that conserve energy that would best be spent elsewhere.

It is hard for me to admit that stress is a passion.  It is hard for me to imagine a life without stress…is it even possible?  And then I ponder the Panagia and her life. Her fiat makes it all clear, “Be it unto me according to Thy word.”

Her habit, her way, her pondering, her perfection…made perfect in surrender.

Stress is not a habit of the Kingdom.

Lately I have been pondering where my stress really comes from, and the passions that cause it.  I am also learning to accept  what I cannot change and stop wasting energy on those things.  I am learning to recognize the sources of my stress…things like perfectionism, sentimentalism, pride, greed, and unbelief…learning to stop sinful thoughts and thought patterns.  Stress begins with imaginations.

Managing a home is a lot like managing a corporation, and I am the CEO of this enterprise.  What kind of a leader am I?  Home management is not about perfectionism…it is about creating an environment where stress is at a minimum… where passionlessness is a goal.  It is about creating a haven from the world of pain and sorrow, a place where those who need rest find it in it’s fullness, body and soul.

I like Zuckerman’s attitude.  He wants to eliminate stress to be able to serve his community better.  I like that…eliminating stress is not about making “me” feel better (although it is a great side effect).

Eliminating stress is about having the energy to serve God and my family better.

It’s what I work towards…what I seek…what I hope for… passionless passion.

Prayer to Our Lord Jesus Christ 

O Ruler of all, Word of the Father, O Jesus Christ, Thou Who art perfect: For the sake of the plenitude of Thy mercy, never depart from me, but always remain in me Thy servant. O Jesus, Good Shepherd of Thy sheep, deliver me not over to the sedition of the serpent, and leave me not to the will of Satan, for the seed of corruption is in me. But do Thou, O Lord, worshipful God, holy King, Jesus Christ, as I sleep, guard me by the Unwaning Light, Thy Holy Spirit, by Whom Thou didst sanctify Thy disciples. O Lord, grant me, Thine unworthy servant, Thy salvation upon my bed. Enlighten my mind with the light of understanding of Thy Holy Gospel; my soul, with the love of Thy Cross; my heart, with the purity of Thy word; my body, with Thy passionless Passion. Keep my thought in Thy humility, and raise me up at the proper time for Thy glorification. For most glorified art Thou together with Thine unoriginate Father, and the Most-holy Spirit, unto the ages. Amen.

 – Prayer of St. Antiochus

books · faith · family · Nativity · saints · winter

A Journey to Nativity

I mentioned in my last post that I was working on a Journey to Nativity calendar.  Well, I finished it! Can you believe it is only 6 weeks until Christmas?  Approximately.

Every year I try to get ahead of the busyness of the season by making a loose plan for the holidays.  The Nativity fast begins on the 15th of this month, and it would be nice to be a bit more organized and intentional this year.  When I say loose, I mean that my plan is just a spine.  I am sure that I will add to it, and not get to some of the activities on my calendar.

I divided my days into four categories:

Cleaning/Organizing
Cooking
Caring
Sharing

I do not have activities planned for each category for every day. That would be impossible.  I tried to schedule things with peace and good will in mind.  I love Thanksgiving and Christmas.  We have so many cultural and spiritual traditions that make this season the highlight of the year. I love to ready my home, cook, and enjoy all the music and treats.  The calendar I made does not include spiritual readings.  However, I am using a little book entitled Daily Meditations and Prayers for the Christmas, Advent Fast and Epiphany.  

If you would like to see my calendar just click on the link:

Below I have included just a few things we are planing to include on our Journey to Nativity.
I plan on doing this with the books I have on hand.  I am going to wrap them up, put them under the tree, and let the littles open them once a week for a new Christmas story treat!
I wrote this little story for my kids last year.  I read it aloud while they made leaf rubbed vellum lanterns.  Feel free to print and share.  This is also a great time to clean out the coat closet and replenish coats, hats. gloves, and scarves.  Donate gently used items to a shelter.

On this day the kids and I are going to go to church and then drop off all of our baby items as a donation to a local pregnancy outreach center.  The troparion of the feast can be sung at meals and prayer times. 
Troparion:
Today is the preview of the good will of God,

Of the preaching of the salvation of mankind.
The Virgin appears in the temple of God,
In anticipation proclaiming Christ to all.
Let us rejoice and sing to her: Rejoice,
0 Divine Fulfillment of the Creator’s dispensation.

 http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0689846819/ref=ox_sc_act_title_1?ie=UTF8&psc=1&smid=ATVPDKIKX0DER
Shoes left by the front door filled with chocolate coins and a small gift.  We love reading the stories of Saint Nicholas.  Click the image for the link.
  Click on the image for the link.  
  
After Saint Barbara was martyred by her own father he was struck by lightening.  It is tradition to celebrate this day with fire…maybe some fireworks/sparklers.  Serve some spiced cider and read the story of this great saint. Don’t forget s’mores!

   A few things to think about as the Nativity Fast approaches and we prepare for Christ’s birth:

  • A lenten menu.
  • When will you confess?
  • Gifts for priests and their families.
  • Making room in the budget for charitable giving.
  • Readings, inspirational books, and prayers!
Well, I hope this little post is as helpful to you as it is me.  Happy planning!  
O Come, O Come Emmanuel

books · faith · family · kids · Orthodoxy · saints

Saint Helen

Happy Name Day, Elinor!
May God grant you many years.
Click on the image for the link.
faith · http://schemas.google.com/blogger/2008/kind#post · Orthodoxy · saints

Do Different Things

My intellect and emotional habits…sometimes even my morals shut me off from God.  And the thought of giving them up produces such a scare that I only adhere insofar as it does not require, that it does not demand that I do different things.  The spiritual definition of humility makes me ponder the attachments I have, the strongholds of mountainous pride…pride that can be characterized as habits, customs, rituals…maybe that is what iniquity is..the long standing traditions of sin passed down…the chromosome of bad habit.

Maybe that is what Christ meant when he said you must hate your mother and father if you are to be a follower…people of The Way.  We must receive the new Way. We must adhere to the Tradition…not traditions.  This Way, a new way of walking and thinking, is foreign to me, it is not my mother’s wisdom, or my father’s…it is different.  And letting go of tidy systems, and principles, and convictions is scary.  It requires that I change my mind, that I allow myself to be censored, to admit that I have not yet understood a thing. (That Man Is You,Louis Evely)

God asks Abraham to leave his homeland; he must journey to find the promised land.  We all have a journey to make, and it requires humility to so often be changed..to practice detachment.  The rut of sin is mud dried hard, that rutted road that leads home, the road that we know so well…so well we drive it in the dark or even blindly. However, I have found that the road that leads to heaven requires attentiveness and light and road signs.  It is not a familiar road.

Some say that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting different results.  I agree.  My only hope is that there is peace in store for those who are obsessed with being changed, who try different things in that eternal search for perfection, who are accused of foolishness, but really they are just people unwilling to stay the way there are, because the pursuit is all about becoming something different…becoming like God.

To those who resist change, the spiritual journey can be full of anxiety and anger.  To those who are satisfied the spiritual journey can be full of unnecessary angst.  But for those who hunger and thirst, who believe themselves to be poor, who would rather be a fool than remain unchanged, those are given the blessings of discipleship. That to me defines a saint..those who have been given the blessings of discipleship.

It has been my experience that God, being the author and finisher of this faith, can ask ANYTHING.  And He resists me when I say, “Nothing can be done.”  Because obedience is always an option.  If I would only obey, things would change. I would change.  I have a long way to go.

A group of my friends gathered at my house this weekend for a party.  As we were setting under the twinkle lights on my patio, laughing and reminiscing, the conversation turned to me.  A friend commented that it was interesting watching me over the years, how I change so often, how I believe something so strongly and then I don’t, how I have changed my mind so much.  I was brought low by this opinion, somehow I believe stability validates the truth..that my perceived instability nullifies my credibility.  In truth, I have no credibility. I only hope that the witness of my life has not brought scandal.

 As I listened to my friends censor me, friends who have walked with me for over ten years, seen my journey, witnessed my life in flux, I kept silent…I had no defense.  I am what they say…I am a person who wants to change.  I want to do different things.  Because truth is worth every sacrifice.

“… it is certainly required that what is subject to change be in a sense always coming to birth. In mutable nature nothing can be observed which is always the same. Being born spiritually, in the sense of constantly experiencing change, does not come about as the result of external initiative, as is the case with the birth of the body, which takes place by means outside our control. Such a birth occurs by choice. We are in some manner our own parents, giving birth to ourselves by our own free choice in accordance with whatever we wish to be? moulding ourselves to the teaching of virtue or vice.”

Saint Gregory of Nyssa The Life of Moses

faith · family · http://schemas.google.com/blogger/2008/kind#post · saints

Cancer is a Scary Word


Cancer is a scary word…a word that evokes dread.  It is a heavy word.  It’s like in the Lord of the Rings when those who spoke of the Dark Lord used his various names with caution and trepidation.  I hate even saying the word. It is a disease of uncontrolled division of abnormal cells. Sounds like our world…a world that rejects communion, love of enemy, and oneness. 

A world that sees health as primarily physical... 

It is scientifically official.  You are what you eat…and breath…and touch.

I recently watched a short documentary about a Babushka that has lived her entire life in the Siberian wilderness.  Her father took the family into seclusion when she was just a baby to escape communist persecution. She is now in her seventies, the last member her family still living.  The wise woman described communism as the great science…the soul crushing science. 

 The modern answer to disease is soul crushing.

Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man, but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man. 

These are my thoughts as I pray for my Mema, recently diagnosed with a malignant Melanoma.  It is black and ulcerated and ugly. So many questions swirl around as we talk as a family about treatment plans and prognosis.  It’s like shooting a shotgun…hoping the spread pattern hits the target.  There are a thousand ways to treat cancer…like pellets in a shotgun.
My heart is with my mother…she is aiming the gun.

We say it is our environment, the water, the air, the soil.  We live in an environment that creates disease.  We are connected to it in a very real way, and no matter how much we try to separate from the toxins we cannot be assured completely…because we are a part of this world.  In a culture that denies the unseen, I find it difficult to identify with the scientific environmentalists.  Our world may be killing us, but it is our sin that makes the world toxic.
I am wondering about the soul and cancer and our world and how we are none exempt.  I am praying for the men and woman who are trained physicians, that care for the sick and suffering.  I am humbled.

I pray with Saint Panteleimon, a trained physician who healed in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 



O Champion and Martyr of God,
imitating the Merciful and bearing from Him the grace of healing,
cure our spiritual ills by your prayers,
and set free from the temptation of the eternal enemy,those who ceaselessly cry out, “Save us, O Lord.”

Below is a homily that I read this morning at Orthodox Way of Life.  Very comforting for those facing a life threatening disease.

  


Homily by St.Nicholas Velimirovic

“Do not be afraid of anything that you are going to suffer. Remain faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Revelation 2:10). 

By His suffering our Lord eased our suffering. He endured the greatest of pain and emerged as the Victor. That is why He can encourage us in our lesser sufferings. He suffered and endured in righteousness while we suffer and endure in expiating our own sins. This is why He can doubly remind us to endure to the end as He, the Sinless One, endured. Not one of us has helped nor alleviated His pains and endurance, yet He stands along side each one of us when we suffer and alleviates our pains and misfortunes. That is why He has the right to tell each one who suffers for His Name’s sake: “Do not be afraid! Do not be afraid of anything that you are going to suffer,” says Christ, for I alone have endured all suffering and am familiar with them. I was not frightened at not a single suffering. I received them upon Myself and, in the end, overcame them all. I did not overcome them by dismissing them or fleeing from them but receiving them all upon Myself voluntarily and enduring them all to the end. And so you also should accept voluntary suffering, for I see and know how much and for how long you can endure. 

If your suffering should continue to death itself and if it is the cause of your death, nevertheless, do not be afraid; “I will give you the crown of life.” I will crown you with immortal life in which I reign eternally with the Father and the Life-Giving Spirit. God did not send you to earth to live comfortably, rather to prepare for eternal life. It would be a great tragedy if your Creator were unable to give you a better, longer, and brighter life than that which is on earth which reeks of decay and death and is shorter than the life of a raven. 

O my brethren, let us listen to the words of the Lord and all of our sufferings will be alleviated. If the blows of the world seem as hard as stones, they will become as the foam of the sea when we obey the Lord. 

O Victorious Lord, teach us more about Your long-suffering; and when we become exhausted, extend Your hand and sustain us.