Saturday, May 14, 2016

"And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one's deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile..." I Peter 1:17 ESV

Thursday, January 19, 2012

My birth and death fear was in not being welcome

I was not wanted at birth. My mother was 15 years old when an older married man she was with got her pregnant. I was the result of that union. I was given up for adoption at age 3 and taken in by my mother's Aunt & Uncle.

Later, after my (adopted) dad passed away, it ws made known to me that I was adopted so that the 'problem' (me) would be kept in the family. I believe that knowing that I wasn't wanted (and I believe I knew this in the womb) has led me to fear my being 'accepted' in Heaven.

Luke 12:32 is a great comfort to me:

Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom

Something else that was very healing, is this 'excerpt' that I want to post this, it is from a book by Henri Nouwen. Inner Voice of Love is the book.




Know That You are Welcome


"Not being welcome is your greatest fear. It connects with your birth fear, your fear of not being welcome in this life, and your death fear, your fear of not being welcome in the life after this. It is the deep-seated fear that it would have been better if you had not lived.

Here you are facing the core of the spiritual battle. Are you going to give in to the foreces of darkness that say you are not welcome in this life, or can you trust the voice of the One who came not to condemn you but to set you free from fear? You have to choose for life. At every moment you have to decide to trust the voice that says, "I love you. I knit you together in your mother's womb" (Psalm 139:13).

Everything Jesus is saying to you can be summarized in the words "Know that you are welcome." Jesus offers you his own most intimate life with the Father. He wants you to know all he knows and to do all he does. He wants his home to be yours. Yes, he wants to prepare a place for you in His Father's House."




Peace!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Is our idenity in Christ 'Legal Fiction' ?

This is a re-post. I am working thru some of the issues surrounding Forensic Justification now, and thought re-posting this would be timely.

*****************************

"Let's be honest with ourselves. None of us consistently experiences himself or herself as perfectly holy and blameless in Christ. Therefore, none of us lives out this truth consistently. Our lives are too often characterized by a real, ongoing, and sometimes losing battle with sin. Though we may make valiant attempts at the "try harder" solution, to some degree we still experience ourselves and live as though what the New Testament says about us is false.

What are we to make of this? How are we to reconcile the reality of our sinfulness with what Scripture says is true about us? One common way this is dealt with is by claiming that all the incredible things the New Testament says about the believer's identity in Christ is true positionally but not actually. According to this view, when Scripture says that we are in Christ, that we are holy and blameless before the Father, it is speaking only about how the Father sees us, not about how we actually are. It is sometimes said that God looks at us "through Jesus filters." He refuses to see our sin, though we are, in fact, still sinners.

Though there is certainly some truth to this view—believers are placed in a new position before the Father—there is also some serious error. The central error is in failing to realize that the position believers are placed in before God determines who they really are. God's Word determines reality as much in the believer's life as it did in the creation of the world (Gen. 1:3—26; 2 Cor. 4:6). When God speaks, reality is created] So, if God says we are holy in Christ, we are holy in Christ! Hence, there is simply no basis for making a distinction between what God says is positionally true about us and what is actually true about us.

Nor is there anything in the New Testament to suggest such a distinction. When Paul said we are "in Christ," he never qualified it He wrote as though what he said about the believer was unequivocally true. He never made any distinction between what God sees as real and what is real. He never spoke about the perfect righteousness that God gives to the believer as being in any sense fictional.

Thus, however we explain the fact that our behavior doesn't conform to what God says about us, we can't qualify what God's Word says about us. What God says is absolutely true. This is why Paul could motivate believers to live a certain way by appealing to their identity in Christ. He called us to live consistently with who we truly are.

Our True Identity and Our Experienced Self-Identity

If we truly are righteous in Christ Jesus, why should Paul need to remind us to live righteous lives? If we are new creations and have a new nature (2 Cor. 5:17), why do we still struggle with sin? If I am filled with God's Spirit, the Spirit of love, joy, and peace, why do I yet struggle with a lack of love, joy, and peace?

The puzzle is not to be resolved by distinguishing between the way God sees us and the way we actually are but by distinguishing between the way we actually are and the way we experience ourselves. Though our true identity is established by God -when we trust in Christ, our experienced self-identity—the way we habitually see and experience ourselves—remains largely intact. In terms of how we see and experience ourselves, we are yet largely controlled by the pattern of the world.

You see, God doesn't destroy who we are with all of our memories, our habits, or our past associations when he re-creates us in Christ Jesus. He rather seeks to transform all of our memories, habits, and past associations on the basis of our re-created identities. As we all know from experience, this takes time. We do not automatically see and experience ourselves as we truly are in Christ. Therefore, to some extent we continue to think and act as though what is true about us in Christ were not true.

It is important to see that our ongoing problem with sin, despite our new identity in Christ, is not really with our behavior. This is but a symptom of the problem, not the problem itself. Thus, the "try harder" solution that addresses only behavior completely misses the point. The problem is with the experienced self-identity that brings forth the behavior. "As he thinks in his heart, so is he" (Prov. 23:7 NKJV).

More specifically, the problem lies in how we view ourselves, how we define ourselves, how we experience ourselves, and thus how we live out our identity in Christ. Our perception is always to some degree colored by the pattern of the world—that system of life that is under the deceptive influence of Satan. The problem is that we have internalized messages from our upbringing, culture, past experiences, and our own rebellious ruminations that are not true but that continue to influence us, even after we've received our new identity in Christ. When we fail to view ourselves as though what God says about us in Christ is true, we often think and act according to what Paul called our "old self" (Eph. 4:22), our self "in Adam" (1 Cor. 15:22), or simply "the flesh" (Rom. 8:6-7; Gal. 5:16-17).

The result is that our true identity as defined by God conflicts with our experienced self-identity, inherited from the pattern of the world. When God said, "Let there be light" (Gen. 1:3), there was light automatically, because in the beginning there was nothing to oppose God's voice. Yet when God says, "I declare you to be holy, spotless, infinitely worthwhile, and lovable in my sight," there is a false identity in place that resists this divine word and that has to be confronted. Because we habitually thought and lived as our old selves before receiving our new identity, God's proclamation of who we truly are in Christ must overcome our old self-identity that we continue to experience.

This is why the true identity we have in Christ is not automatically experienced in our hearts and expressed in our behavior. It is why there is a discrepancy between what God says is true and what we habitually experience as truth. This is also why there is a discrepancy between what we ought to do, given our true identity, and what we in fact do because of our experienced self-identity. It is why there is an ongoing battle between the Spirit and the flesh (Gal. 5:17).

It Is Predestined!

Thankfully, God promises us that the battle will come to an end. Because God's Word is true and creates the reality it communicates, it is certain that believers ultimately will be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:29). The light certainly will overcome the darkness, and the truth will eventually swallow up the lie (John 1:5). Until that time, however, we are in process. God calls us his children, for that is who we truly are (1 John 3:1).Yet this is not perfectly manifested at this time because of the ongoing influence of the pattern of the world in our minds. Therefore, John added, "What we will be has not yet been revealed . . .. When he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is" (1 John 3:2).

Our true self-identity in Christ will someday be perfectly manifested."


(Taken from "Seeing Is Believing by Gregory Boyd html tags my own)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Burden of Ignorance

Went to Pet Smart yesterday evening to buy dog food for the pack, took my Shadow with me. Shadow is a beautiful pure black GSD a little over 3 years old (see attached picture). I'm used to folk noticing her.



Anyway, while in line, the lady behind me said, 'oh you poor thing' and when I turned around, she was referencing... the prong collar Shadow wears. I tried to explain that the prong collar, though it looks wicked, is very humaine and doesn't injure the animal or cause damage to the throat or larynx like a choke collar does. She was all, well my dog don't wear either. I gave up.

Later I wished i'd have thought to say this: "Ignorance is such a burden, I'm sorry you have to carry it"

Sigh

Friday, March 05, 2010

Better than I deserve

Often, I'm asked 'how are you?'

now in our culture how are you can be 'hello' folk don't really expect an answer. Often, however, I reply.

"Better than I deserve".

Some folk nod and say yup or amen. Some folk are like, I don't know about that...

But it's true. Everyday is a gift. Every good thing I do is a gift. The Word says "Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow." James 1:17

and "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them." Ephesians 2:10

a close friend asked me 'does your child 'deserve' to be fed, clothed, sheltered by you?' I didn't have an answer then. Not a clear one. But now I do.

No. She doesn't deserve anything. "Deserve" smacks of merit. Of having earned something. But it's not about that. She's my child. My Daughter. Deserve doesn't enter into it. She thru her birthright is part of the family.

Privileges follow, as gifts. Same way us with God. The only thing we deserve is whatever ending we had coming.

But then.

The Birth. The Incarnation.
The garden. The passion.
The suffering, the Death
The Resurrection. The Ascension.
The sitting at the Right hand interceding for us.

Our Destiny, changed forever.

"For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast." Ephesians 2:8&9

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Maverick Loves his Bath



Maverick is our special boy. He has changed since we lost Winter. Both of our Huskies have. They stay around us alot more. Play together more.

Here is Maverick just 'suffering' in the tub. I've never met a dog that likes to lay in the tub! Maverick does. Maybe it's cause he's the grandson of a movie star? See the Huskies in the picture below his from Eight Below? The 3rd from the Left, Mojo is Maverick's grand da and played Truman in the movie.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Rescues



Rescues. Are we rescuing them or are they rescuing us? I think it's them that rescued us.

It's ironic. The last dog we rescued forced a move on us. And now, that beautiful boy is gone.

He was a beautiful dog, very gentle, the sweetest boy. Broke his lead and ran across the road and got hit by a land rover. I was driving home, and saw him next to the road, he was still with us, but he soon breathed his last. I jumped out the truck, yelling 'winter!' I laid my hand on him, and he rolled his eye to look at me. And then he was still.

We buried him last nite. I really miss him.

What did he teach me?

Live life daily. With Joy.

In his death? This life is serious. Christianity is not an 'up grade' or an 'add on' or something I do.

It is a transformed life lived large. Lived with the recognition that death can come when we least expect it and to a large extent we are completely powerless against it. But we belong to one who is not powerless over death. And I believe, that Winter is running around heaven at my Master's feet.

And I believe. I believe. I will see him again.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Death Reaps the Beauty of the World

That phrase has stuck with me since I first read the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, the Unbeliever by Stephen Donaldson in 1979. I was 12.

This morning, sometime between 2:00 am and 2:30 am my wife's mother Ruthie May Brunner passed over into eternity. She died.

This morning, sometime between 2:00 am and 2:30 am my black shepherd, Shadow woke Janice up by licking her face (this was a first she usually wakes me up for her midnight treks) and didn't want to go outside. She just drank and drank and drank water, then laid back down near Janice.

Coincidence? I dunno.

Around 1130am this morning, Janice finds out from our oldest daughter, Jaquinell that her mom died...

Now I sit here, hurting for my wife -- but knowing how she feels (both my parents are gone). But not really knowing how she feels, cause her mother died a 'faithful' Jehovah's Witness.

Ruthie had been a Jehovah's Witness ever since I knew her, from day one when I asked for her blessing to marry her daughter. She wasn't always a witness though. She used to be a staunch Christian. With a deep faith in Jesus and taking her kids to Sunday School and reading the bible.

But somewhere along the way, someone said or did something (she'd never really say) and she left 'Christiandom' (as she would call it) and joined the Kingdom Hall.

Her faith was not a superficial one, even though I'm convinced it was the wrong one. She suffered from bad hips. But because she refused blood transfusions her 5 hip operations (yes 5!) never really went the way they were supposed to. Later, when she was diagnosed with Cancer she had to have a single mastectomy. I can't imagine that surgery went well either. Not without being able to take blood. It got to the point where she would not eat and refused a feeding tube.

She was on oxygen. If it wasn't for COPD it was for something close...

A week or so ago, we found out she was in hospice. And now today, she's gone.

Gone where? I do not believe everyone goes to Heaven, though I dare sometimes to hope they do. I do not know if her faith when she was younger was salvific in that it didn't last.

I do know that I will know one day. I know I've prayed and asked that Jesus would welcome her into his kingdom where the light never dims, and where we behold his countenance forever, walk with the angels, and know peace forever.

Please pray for my wife and her family, and that those in her family that don't know Jesus would come to know Him.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Birth Death and the Stuff inbetween

Rey greeted me last night on my facebook page with well wishes for my birthday today (42 woo hoo) and did so in a rather morbid way "You're not dead. These people are.. you outlived such and so by a week!"

got me to thinking about birth and life and death. I was born 420 am on April 21st, 1967 in greater South East Washington DC. I was born to a 16 year old girl named Sandra Hutchison. She turned 16 March 2nd, 1967. Either right before my birth or right after her mother Shirley died. Frank, her father put her out of the house.

she was a wild woman. drank, ran around. etc. birth dad was married already & not to mom, and he was in his mid to late 20s. Named Angelo Collins (he according to my half brother Angelo Jr. was a 'bill collector' for a dc crime family) I spoke to him twice, and to his brothers and sisters after he died, who put me in touch with Angelo Jr....

Sandra's Aunt Frances and Uncle George took mom in. And told her of wanting a son they had an 11 year old daughter, Susan already but Aunt Frances has miscarried more than once and wasn't allowed to be pregnant anymore... and fostering didn't work for them.

So they took us in, helped Sandra finish high school, and waited until I was 3 and she was 19 to see about adopting me. So she took off, and they adopted me, making Uncle George and Aunt Frances Mom & Dad.

Grew up in District Heights Maryland, in Prince George's County till I was 12 and then Dad retired and we moved to Orange Virginia. (Talk about culture shock from DC to Orange Virginia -- I didn't even know what a redneck was! I was painfully going to find out...)

Let me fast forward some.

Came to Christ thru Romans Road at an Independent Methodist Church. Wow I loved Jesus. Wow. I was a New Creature. Wow. I get home and 'you'll never change...' sigh.

which is where I think my quest began. I read read read everything I could. at age 12 when we moved to Orange and starting attending a Baptist Church.. remember changing from North Paumunkey Baptist Church to Mount Zion Baptist Church cause some friends from school went to Zion, and then having to have surgery on my throat from a cyst (thyroiglustal duct cyct) and being in the Hospital for 4 days by myself and the pastor from NP Baptist not wanting to visit cause I didn't go to 'his church anymore'

dad began to think I was a sissy cause I didn't like sports, didn't like hunting just wanted to read, dream, (discovered sci fi & fantasy) and hang out in the woods pretending to be a Forestal or a Ent....

So he had me enroll in Karate. didn't want his son to be a wuss. and I enjoyed it, but met some rather interesting people -- began my journey into new age, cults, etc. Cause when I'd go visit the Rainbow Connection on weekends, stuff would happen. I'd report back to the Baptists, well that stuff isn't real..

met an indian guru, (sad guru sant kishavadas) had multiple life readings, stuff would happen predictions would come true, history's revealed. scary stuff. Baptists answer -- not real. So I being wise and 16 thought, well if it's real and works and they know stuff about me it must be okay.

fast forward to it not being okay my no longer being comfortable and wanting structure wanting capital T truth and rededicating my life to Jesus at age 18 and becoming Roman Catholic and actively practicing for at least 5 or 6 years...

then the vineyard. then assembly's of God. etc. etc.

age 30 entered the Eastern Orthodox Church.

oh - married the 1st time at age 19. she left when I was 23. nuff said about her. took a year to make a list, then dated again. Met my Magdalena, Janice. Got married to her at age 25. Been with her ever since. (17 years this June)

Strange the things that stand out. So today.

I'm 42 years old. 2009.

1995 saw my dad George pass away kool thing, 1993 he asked me how to be saved, and I got to lead him to Jesus.

2001 saw the death of my birth dad, Angelo.
2002 saw the death of my birth mom Sandra.
2007 saw the death of my mom Frances

I've outlived them all. not older, just that I'm still here and they are gone...

Here are some pictures:





12, 13 and 18 years old graduating from High School

Now, I'm 42 (the answer to the question right? lol) and my profile picture is current.

How much longer DO I have? 50 more years? 30?

What should I be doing? What should I stop doing?

these are the things I think about, on the 42nd anniversary of my birth.

Thank God for Jesus.

Monday, April 13, 2009

He's Dead (Holy Saturday)

He's dead. I can't believe it.

Dead.

man. now what will I do. He's dead. The only one who ever gave me a chance. Dead. The only one who ever told me I was good enough. That I could be like him. He's gone.

I remember, being a child, studying studying the torah. I loved the feel of the parchment, as I so carefully unrolled the scroll a little at a time. I love reading the word. I remember tracing the characters with my fingers and my lips moving as I committed each line to memory.

Then I remember, the midrash, the conversations between Rabbi and his senior students. How they'd discuss and laugh and debate which interpretation was good, was better. And how each one was striving to hear Rabbi say, 'yes! that is right! you have kept the Torah!'

ah. Good memories! then the first time that Rabbi pulled me aside. The glow inside. but only for a moment.

"Ravi, I know you love Torah. I know you try and try. I see how hard you study! yes. yes. but Ravi. You do not have what it takes to be a Rabbi like me. It's not your fault! it's not for lack of trying.

You're just not cut out to be a Rabbi! Go back to your family. There is not shame. You father is a good man and loves Torah too!"

no shame.

right.

Rabbi didn't know. It was because Father didn't make it that I had too! Now the shame was doubled. At first I thought, maybe it was just his style. Maybe I'd do better with another Rabbi! Father who at first was disappointed, liked this idea! You could see the fire rekindle in his eyes, the doubt washing away. The hope restored. "Yes Ravi! Good Good son! Try again. Maybe with a different Rabbi...."

ah Father. He died before I found a Rabbi. How I miss papa. I wish he could have seen me as a disciple! But it wasn't to be. I know papa loved me. Just like I know I disappointed him. sigh.

Well, I am a disciple. I found a Rabbi. Well I didn't find him, not really. He found me.

But now Rabbi is dead. Rome killed him. Just yesterday. I remember when he saw me, in the market place. Working for my father, who was home, too ill to work.

I'd heard him in the temple. His words were amazing, he spoke with such authority. But with compassion! He seemed to care about us! His words, they encourage!

And then. He was infront of my stall. "Ravi." he said (He KNEW MY NAME). "Ravi" "Yes Master?" I replied. "Come Ravi. Will you come? Will you follow me?"

I don't remember if I even locked the door! I just left it all and followed Him! I knew papa would be proud!

I didn't know papa had died that morning.

It felt so strange. This unspeakable joy. This burning loss. now it's just loss.

Rabbi is dead. They buried him just yesterday. I watched from a distance.

My hope. My one hope of being a disciple. Of being a Rabbi.

Gone.

Buried with Jesus.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Kingdom of the Self

Saved. Delivered.

What are we being saved from?

What are we being saved unto

a friend somewhere told me maybe it's being saved from the Kingdom of the Self unto the Kingdom of God.

I like that. Kingdom of self. Yes.

old school would say

I've saved from the penalty of sin
I'm being saved from the power of sin
and one day I'll be saved from the presence of sin


but ultimately, salvation is Deliverance from the world, the flesh (which from here out I'll always think of as the kingdom of the self) and the devil.

also saved unto good works...

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Humanely Euthanized

I have a special dog. She is the 2nd dog I've owned as an adult (we still have the first one) but this dog is mine.





We rescued her from the local SPCA (like almost all of our dogs)and we can only speculate that she was wild and feral -- but not aggressive. We had her for a good month before we ever heard her 'voice'.

She has two barks. A high yippy one when she wants to go after the local cats, squirrels & rabbits, and a protective one, like when another dog ran up on me and the wife, she went all cugo -- pretty scary. But she has never shown any aggression to me.

Her only real faults are that she is an escape artist able to slip almost any harness, we've tried 4 kinds, even the tuff ones like this:



Her latest escape (successful - sigh) was this morning... but I was able to find her and get her in the house safely...

When I left today for work, Shadow and Orre were in the house already and Janice was walking Chaka and Sara.

I've been working with her and she responds so well to 'home' and 'in' that I got rid of the choke collar, and got her a regular pretty colar and a nice harness. What I didn't know is that everytime my wife has to bring Chaka in the house she basically has to drag her across the threshold...

so she slipped the harness. I also think it's my fault for driving away while she was outside, I think she was trying to find me.

I was watching animal planet last night and two shows featured Chaka's mix. She's an Australian Cattle Dog mixed with German Shepherd. On one of the shows the outcome was good. The were able to capture her and get her spayed and she lived happily on the horse farm.

The other one, from a back yard in Philly, she was like my Chaka but fearful and aggressive. So they had to have her Humanely Euthanized...

those words are with me this morning. They were with me as I watched my Chaka run across a 4 lane highway to my car (thank you Father, Son & Holy Ghost she did NOT get hit).. as I wondered why this dog, who I adored and who adored me and my family kept trying to run away.

When we adopt a dog, we make a commitment to ourselves, the dog and God to make this a forever home for the dog. This means that even when we get frustrated with their not eating, not listening..

..running away. We don't give up. And I think, if not for me, Chaka would probably have been put to sleep. humanely euthanized...

and I think if not for God...

where would I be? would I be 'adoptable?' would I have been able to find a 'forever home?'

and what is hell? is it God's way of 'humanely euthanizing' those who won't accept him but he doesn't destroy them because he doesn't want to give up on even the least of these?

I dunno. But this morning, I'm glad I have my Dog.

And I'm glad God has me.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

All about Mom

It's weird. My Mom died a year ago this past May (May 7th of 2007).

Unlike my father, who had a viewing and a burial, my mom was cremated and then buried.

So I know she's been gone, but it really hit me over this weekend. Why? well, the house she bought in 1995 (the year dad died) was sold in August and closed on this past Friday.

So with the house gone, it's like done. Even though I've gotten furniture out of the house, even though I've been there and seen it empty--

Even though most of my thoughts have been about my 'payday' (even though I was left out of the will, I was not left out of mom's thoughts. she directed my sister to give me part of the sale of the house. somewhere between 10 thousand and 20 thousand, probably closed to 10...)

But this morning, I even found myself unable to say 'mom's dead' without wanting to tear up. Why? It's been well over a year. And it's not been a happy time dealing with the fallout of her death and the will. feeling abandoned and orphaned...

But today, it's not about the money (though it's really going to help) it's about the fact that I can't call her. Can't go see her.

and even if she wasn't the mother I wanted, she was the mother I had and did the best she could.

So, mom, may your memory be eternal. may you be in peace. and may my memories of you be of love.

Robbie.

Monday, August 04, 2008

God not giving us all the answers...

...is grace.

I mean, how ofter do you have stuff figured out and know what you should do, what would be the most beneficial? and don't do it?

How many times does knowing the right thing to do motivate us to do the wrong thing?

I used to want God to write in letters 4 feet high in glowing neon his plan for my life.

But now I'm grateful he doesn't. I can barely do what I know the Scriptures tell me to do.

How about you?

I'shalom

Seraphim

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

i saw you

i saw you today

when I was walking with my wife and kid, our two dogs.

i saw you in your suit and tie and suv, bible on the dash

i saw you look at us

i saw you judge us

i saw you feel better about yourself that you were on your way to a building

we were on our way to the park

i saw you

hell

i was you

carrying the bible everywhere, proudly displayed.

but not living it

judging your righteousness by how much you agreed with me

not by how much you looked like jesus

i saw you today

and i remembered

church is not a building

worship is not confined to sunday morning

fellowship is more than stand and greet your neighbor

i saw you today

and i prayed for you and for me

and took my dogs

and walked and prayed and worshipped God

i saw you

u saw me

God saw us both.

-Seraphim

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Forgiveness Sunday

Protopresbyter Alexander Schmemann
Forgiveness Sunday

In the Orthodox Church, the last Sunday before Great Lent – the day on which, at Vespers, Lent is liturgically announced and inaugurated – is called Forgiveness Sunday. On the morning of that Sunday, at the Divine Liturgy, we hear the words of Christ:

"If you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses..." (Mark 6:14-15)

Then after Vespers – after hearing the announcement of Lent in the Great Prokeimenon: "Turn not away Thy face from Thy child for I am afflicted! Hear me speedily! Draw near unto my soul and deliver it!", after making our entrance into Lenten worship, with its special memories, with the prayer of St. Ephraim the Syrian, with its prostrations – we ask forgiveness from each other, we perform the rite of forgiveness and reconciliation. And as we approach each other with words of reconciliation, the choir intones the Paschal hymns, filling the church with the anticipation of Paschal joy.

What is the meaning of this rite? Why is it that the Church wants us to begin Lenten season with forgiveness and reconciliation? These questions are in order because for too many people Lent means primarily, and almost exclusively, a change of diet, the compliance with ecclesiastical regulations concerning fasting. They understand fasting as an end in itself, as a "good deed" required by God and carrying in itself its merit and its reward. But, the Church spares no effort in revealing to us that fasting is but a means, one among many, towards a higher goal: the spiritual renewal of man, his return to God, true repentance and, therefore, true reconciliation. The Church spares no effort in warning us against a hypocritical and pharisaic fasting, against the reduction of religion to mere external obligations. As a Lenten hymn says:

In vain do you rejoice in no eating, O soul!

For you abstain from food,

But from passions you are not purified.

If you persevere in sin, you will perform a useless fast.

Now, forgiveness stands at the very center of Christian faith and of Christian life because Christianity itself is, above all, the religion of forgiveness. God forgives us, and His forgiveness is in Christ, His Son, Whom He sends to us, so that by sharing in His humanity we may share in His love and be truly reconciled with God. Indeed, Christianity has no other content but love. And it is primarily the renewal of that love, a return to it, a growth in it, that we seek in Great Lent, in fasting and prayer, in the entire spirit and the entire effort of that season. Thus, truly forgiveness is both the beginning of, and the proper condition for the Lenten season.

One may ask, however: Why should I perform this rite when I have no "enemies"? Why should I ask forgiveness from people who have done nothing to me, and whom I hardly know? To ask these questions, is to misunderstand the Orthodox teaching concerning forgiveness. It is true, that open enmity, personal hatred, real animosity may be absent from our life, though if we experience them, it may be easier for us to repent, for these feelings openly contradict Divine commandments. But, the Church reveals to us that there are much subtler ways of offending Divine Love. These are indifference, selfishness, lack of interest in other people, of any real concern for them -- in short, that wall which we usually erect around ourselves, thinking that by being "polite" and "friendly" we fulfill God’s commandments. The rite of forgiveness is so important precisely because it makes us realize – be it only for one minute – that our entire relationship to other men is wrong, makes us experience that encounter of one child of God with another, of one person created by God with another, makes us feel that mutual "recognition" which is so terribly lacking in our cold and dehumanized world.

On that unique evening, listening to the joyful Paschal hymns we are called to make a spiritual discovery: to taste of another mode of life and relationship with people, of life whose essence is love. We can discover that always and everywhere Christ, the Divine Love Himself, stands in the midst of us, transforming our mutual alienation into brotherhood. As l advance towards the other, as the other comes to me – we begin to realize that it is Christ Who brings us together by His love for both of us.

And because we make this discovery – and because this discovery is that of the Kingdom of God itself: the Kingdom of Peace and Love, of reconciliation with God and, in Him, with all that exists – we hear the hymns of that Feast, which once a year, "opens to us the doors of Paradise." We know why we shall fast and pray, what we shall seek during the long Lenten pilgrimage. Forgiveness Sunday: the day on which we acquire the power to make our fasting – true fasting; our effort – true effort; our reconciliation with God – true reconciliation.



Father Alexander Schmemann



Introduction to the DRE/OCA 1975-1982 Forgiveness Sunday Vespers.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Christopher Walken

No words are needed. I think this is wicked Kool.


Tuesday, January 08, 2008

How Can you Love me Lord?

"One day I was dreaming, or I had a vision, it really doesn’t matter which, for I know it was of the Lord. And in the dream, I was alone in a dark place, and I was afraid. Yet I didn’t want to go out into the Light.

So the Light came to me.

I saw Jesus walking through the darkness. He stood before me, and I turned away. “How can you love me, Lord?” I asked. “Simple.” He said. “Watch and learn.” He reached out His gentle, nail-scarred hand; He reached it out and into my chest. He pulled out my heart, and showed it to me. It was black, as black as death, as black as sin. And sick, cancerous with worms and maggots and words cannot describe the ugliness of my own heart.

Again He said, “Watch.” He reached; He reached His other hand into His chest, and removed His own heart. It was perfect, golden, starlight and sunlight, snug there in the palm of His hand. He took it and placed it into the empty place inside of me, where my heart had been.

Then He did something even more wondrous. He took my heart, as black as sin and as black as murder, and placed it into His own chest. I could still see my heart in His chest. A look of infinite sadness and pain flashed over my Saviors face, and then His face, His body, shown brighter than the sun, the heart He had placed inside of Himself, my heart, started to shine, to glow, it was cleansed, washed clean, whiter than new-born snow.

“I love you.” Jesus said, “Because I have felt and lived your pain. I love you, because when I enter your life, I transform your heart, your very soul, until it is perfect and as pure as mine. I love you because I made you and I died for you. I love you, because now that I am in your heart, and you are forever in mine, you will begin to live for me, just as I died for you.”

He took my hand, and together we left the dark place."

Seraphim 1985

Friday, December 28, 2007

Pick a Tree...

the scripture says this:

Rom 14:5 One indeed esteems a day above another day; and another esteems every day alike. Let each one be fully assured in his own mind.

Rom 14:6 He who regards the day regards it to the Lord; and he not regarding the day, does not regard it to the Lord. He who eats, eats to the Lord, for he gives God thanks; and he who does not eat, does not eat to the Lord, and gives God thanks.

And interestingly enough, it's sandwiches in between these 2 verses:

Rom 14:4 Who are you that judges another's servant? To his own master he stands or falls. But he will stand, for God is able to make him stand.

AND

Rom 14:7 For none of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself.

I guess for me, it comes down to this. You've found your 'version' of Christianity you like. Enjoy it. Other folk have found 'their version' allow them to enjoy it.

Let me tell you a story.

I came to Christ in an Alter call when I was 8 years old at a Independent United Methodist Church. Was mocked by my parents (who were the ones who took me to the church. bizarre yes?) The one thing I hear (remember hearing them say) still sometimes was

'you're never going to change.'

then we moved from South East Wash DC to Orange County Virgina. Total culture shock. I didn't even know what a redneck was! Now I was ducking them when I could fighting them when I had to...

at age 12 ended up in a couple of baptist churches until around age 15/16 then cause dad thought I was a wuss ( he would say Pussy) he enrolled me in Okinawan Kempo. (which didn't change his opinion, but now he was scared of me. sigh).

it was from friendships there I ended up going to a commune called the Rainbow connection in Richmond, Virginia.. and spending weekends. Was there I met Sadguru Sant Kishavadas... and all that other 'stuff'.

Then when I got out of that mess, ended up at age 18 joining the Roman Catholic Church... Then the Vineyard, then the Church of God etc... then many years later in 2000 was received into the Ukrainian Version of the Eastern Orthodox Church at age 33. (this after being a catecumin for a number of years. I think I met Fr. Michael in 1996..)

Anyway, I think I got into my head that if I could find the right Church, I'd stop being so screwed up and life would stop being so frellin hard.

Now -- go back to 1988 just before I got out of the US Navy. A British Exchange Chaplain came over one day for lunch, and I shared all my 'stuff' 'baggage' if you will with him, and he the next time I went to work had me before the commander as needed to go into some sort of counseling program.. sheesh. (I think here my dislike of Chaplains began -- the Commander already didn't like me, because he was an American Baptist and I challenged his theology as crap when he tried to preach this Universal message)...

Anyway I ended up having to go on this retreat, and it was there I learned a few things. One is I always try to fix other folk rather than just listening and trying to fix myself. I think I've gotten much better at this.

One of the things we had to do was become a buddy or friend to someone there over the weekend... and you didn't know who or what they did.

The guy that befriended me listened to all my grief and bitterness towards Chaplains and religion and how I couldn't find 'the Church'...

I really really liked that guy. Don't even remember his name now. Of Course you know he turned out to be a Chaplain, right?

sigh. One day we went for a walk and he showed me this grove of trees. They were all lined up and they were basically all trees, but they were different kinds of trees.

He said Christianity was like that. It was a tree. And while there were different types of trees, at the end of the day the different denominations, different streams of Christianity (EO/RC & Prot -- he made it clear he wasn't talking about cults, JW's/ LDS, 7thday etc) where all trees. They were different but at the end of the day were a Tree.

HE also said I could look at them like Restaurants. Basically I at some point just needed to pick a franchise.

Cause no matter what Church you picked they all had alot of things right (There is a God, who is a Trinity. Mankind can only be reconciled to Him thru the life passion & death/resurrection of Jesus) and some things wrong...

but that if I never picked one, I'd never grow and never be happy.

I'm still trying to realize this truth I learned almost 20 years ago now. And sometimes I still long to be part of a specific local church.

But in the final analysis. If you never go to a building, but meet in homes, and you love Jesus and seek to have your walk match you love for him to become love for others...

or if you are devoutly RC and go to daily mass and folk know you as being like Jesus...

or if you are Eastern Orthodox -- Protestant Baptist or Methodist, Anglican or Episcopal... If you are loving Jesus and counting on him for your Life now and Forever..

What's the big deal?

Monday, December 24, 2007

The Awkwardness of Christmas

Christmas 2007

Another year upon us.

Another season of, well awkwardness. Family that doesn't see you or call you during the year wants you to come over.

Folk you work with get all weird if you give them a present. Or worse, if you don't.
Some will run right out and get you something, just so they are not 'in debt'.

Crazy stuff.

then for me it get's worse cause it's like, what church service will we as a family go to..

which translates into which Church.

Sigh.

I love Jesus, but sometimes I hate Christmas.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Saint Boniface & the Christmas Tree (report from 06)

I love the story of where we Christians get the Christmas Tree:

In 722 A.D., Saint Boniface, an English missionary and Benedictine monk who was known as the "Apostle of Germany," came upon some men about to cut down a huge oak tree to be used as a stake for a human sacrifice to Thor, one of the Norse Gods.

With a mighty blow from an axe, Saint Boniface felled the massive oak and, as the tree split apart, a beautiful young fir tree sprang from its center. Saint Boniface informed the people that this beautiful evergreen, whose branches pointed toward heaven, was a holy tree...the tree of the Christ Child, symbolizing the purity of the New Faith and the promise of eternal life.

Saint Boniface then instructed them to henceforth carry the evergreen from the wilderness, place it into their homes and surround it with gifts symbolic of love and kindness.

Saint Boniface, whose feast day is celebrated on June 5th, received the name Winfrid at his baptism but adopted Boniface before he was ordained to the priesthood.


He was martyred in Holland at the age of 75, along with 52 members of his flock, when they were set upon by a troop of pagans. Saint Boniface is the Patron Saint of Germany, as well as being the Patron Saint of Tailors and Brewers.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

I am Legend Daylight Meter - Very Kool!


Visit the Official I Am Legend Website

Monday, June 18, 2007

Hey Jesus

Hey Jesus.

It's me again. Late at nite, or early in the morning on a Tuesday. Do you keep up with stuff like that?

I wanted to thank you for blessing me. I mean, you've done pulled some real miracles for me lately.

Looks like a 2nd interview went well for our Magdalena... and you've come thru with money to get some immediate debt off of our backs.

I really appreciate it.

But Jesus. I'm here typing instead of sleeping. I'm still struggling with that thing we talked about yesterday nite.

and the nite before.

and the nite before.

Why can't I get victory over this thing Jesus? You know I believe in you. You know I know you are real. I mean, you're blessing me!

Church is going pretty good. The marriage is doing well. Work's okay. (Could you give some spiritual haladal to the guys at work though... talka about type A).

So. I know we've prayed about this.

I know I've given it to you, and you've forgiven me.

I know that if I'm here again tomorrow you'll do the same. I'm sorry I disappoint you. I know that you love me.

Can you forgive me again? Can you help me?

Won't you show me yourself? Please? I just want to see you.

I miss my mom. I miss my dad. I don't know how to be a dad to my boys. Especially Bobby. I mean, how do you endure it Lord?

You know I don't believe in pre trib. But Lord, Please come soon.

I love you Jesus.

Seraphim Robbie Walters your broken child

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Fr. Anthony 1st Solo Liturgy as Celebrant



Today I went to Liturgy with my good friend Doug Perkins. Who I knew as Doug Perkins, and then Father Deacon Anthony, and now as Father Anthony.

(Father Deacon Raphael if you are reading this I anticipate one day you to will be Father Raphael!!)

Fr. Anthony found St Nicholas Orthodox Church through the first website I built for the church. He came to us and became a dear friend.

It was an honor to help him at the alter this morning and participate in the Liturgy. He will be going to Rhode Island to serve as a Parish Priest with his family for the UOC of USA

Please join me in praying for our Priest hood and the Clergy of our brothers and sisters in the Lord (adapt as appropriate):

A Prayer for the Priesthood

O Lord Jesus Christ, enkindle
the hearts of all thy Priests
with the fire
of Zealous love for thee,
that they may ever seek thy glory;
Give them strength
that they may labor unceasingly
in thine earthly vineyard
for the salvation of souls
and the glory of thine
all-honorable and majestic Name:
of the Father,
and of the Son,
and of the Holy Spirit:
now and ever,
and unto ages of ages.

Amen.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Guest post from my bride. Letter from another daughter

FROM ANOTHER DAUGHTER:

Mom will be missed.

The realization hit me when a call to the funeral home revealed that she had been cremated.

To me, it was like she had been lowered into the ground.

No holding back the tears and the pain.
No more chances to see her face again.
No more kisses on each others cheeks,
Her quick laugh,
and pat on my backside.
That was our way of showing affection,
even though through the years,
I sometimes felt rejection.

On our first meeting, she was in a hospital bed,
and as the recent weeks passed,
I prayed that wouldn’t also be,
the last place I’d see her laying her head.

Yet, lastly, an unexpected visit to her house,
found her “sparky” but weak,
I came away feeling, she was her old self,
so to speak.

Could it be possible, would it be God’s will,
that we’d have her with us,
for a long, long while still?

Well, He knows our hearts and He hears our prayers,
but His ways are above our ways,
and He’s numbered our years.

Though Mom, as we knew her is gone from our sight,
we should be careful what we do,
and treat each other right,
as we wait to go,
into our own,
eternal goodnight.

Love you Ma,

Janice Walters…May-2007

Monday, May 07, 2007

Sometime last night my mother fell asleep in the Lord

"Christ our eternal King and God, You have destroyed death and the devil by Your Cross and have restored man to life by Your Resurrection; give rest, Lord, to the soul of Your servant Frances who has fallen asleep, in Your Kingdom, where there is no pain, sorrow or suffering. In Your goodness and love for all men, pardon all the sins she has committed in thought word or deed, for there is no man or woman who lives and sins not, You only are without sin."

Please pray for me, a sinner

Seraphim

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Easter 2007

So it's Wednesday before Holy Thursday.. and I start to think, what am I going to do 'family wise' about Holy Weekend.

I'm taking Friday afternoon off -- around 2pm.

At 3pm at St. Thomas Aquanis Catholic Church they are having the Chaplet of Divine Mercy.

Friday evening at St. Nicholas they are having Good Friday vespers with the Procession of the Winding Shroud and then they lay it out in the 'tomb'.

(I don't care what flavour of Christian you are, you should experience Easter I.E. Pascha from Good Friday to Resurrection Sunday at least once.. especially the Good Friday stuff)

and this year, St. Nich's is doing Pascha at Midnight (which is traditional, but they'd never done before).

So I talk to the wife. Say, hey Holy Week.

Let's go to St Thomas and then Good Friday at St. Nick's and then to the Midnight thing and then we'll go where ever you want to go Sunday morning.

Reasonable right? Should be a no brainer.

No, NO & no.

I tell her. (and you have to understand. I adore my wife. Absolutely ADORE her!!)

I'm not trying to convert you. It's okay if you're not Catholic.

It's okay if you're not Orthodox. I just want to do these things to celebrate Easter.

"Well, I understand. I have no interest in going. Feel free to go yourself."

arrrrrghh

I did not go.

So Friday phzzzt.

Saturday phzzt.

Sunday morning we wake up. Where are we going to go to church?

We decide on Episcopal.

We get to the opening prayer.

And the Priest starts talking about 'million dollar baby' after the gospel reading.

"Dad" says the Jade. "What does that have to do with the Gospel? Why is he telling that story?"

ah my child. said her father dotingly

Then he tells us to pull the ICON OUT OF THE BULLETING and begins to explain to us what it means and tells us about his visit to Greece and an Orthodox monastery.

Janice leans over to ask me something about the icon.

I short circuit. Everything I wanted to do didn't happen. (Mea Culpa). But now we're in an Episcopal church and she is asking me about the ICON of the RESURRECTION!!!!!!

arrrghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!


no I did not cause a scene. I waited until the standing prayer, and I tapped Jade on the shoulder.

"Jade, tell Mom to meet me out front, we are leaving".

So we left.

I explain to her.

Church has 3 things.

1. Reputation

2. Format

3. Theology

The episcopal church, imnsho, has a piss poor liberal reputation.. an okay format (earlier I'd expressed to the Magdalena that everything she enjoys about the Episcopal Liturgy ultimately comes from the Orthodox....) and some okay theology, but nothing deep... and not always on track.

And I just told her, it gave me a knot on my brain. I couldn't sit there and do Church where she could ask me about Icons but won't join me even for a service at the place that makes Icons well, IKONS!

so we went to some charasmatic church and had a half way desent Easter service, for protestants.... (No offense guys)

I could have done all the things I wanted to do. After all I had permission (if you will).

But I didn't. Mea Culpa. I'm working with this crazy notion that we're supposed to do Church together.

Certainly this is not a new dilema. I'm just tired of it. Pavel even gave me excellent advise about it.

DO my own thing and treat her the same she'll deal.

Or get over myself and just be protestant that likes Orthodox stuff.

Sigh. My Pascha.

Christ is Risen!

Seraphim

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Death - When I die

Thought about more creative titles for this post, 'if i die' my meeting with the Angel of Death... etc.

But Death is good enough, as a post title.

Death is inconvenient.. it comes unexpectedly... Most folk arn't planning on it happening when it does happen.

Car accidents, 'acts of God'. etc.

Very rarely do you have the time to set your affairs in order, gather family around you and give them your blessing before you pass away on your death bed.

So. I wanted to write this letter, article, blog 'thing'. Now. So that if you find out I'm dead, or when I die, it's already here.

If you are reading this. And I am dead.

and our last words were an argument

our last visit ended badly

we haven't spoken in years

we fought last time we were together. No matter what the occasion or situation.

If you are now reading this.. or if at any time you have read this and find out I have left the mortal coil, that I am dead.

It means this.

My being dead means..

...you are forgiven.

...Please forgive me.

...I love you.

...I know you didn't mean it.

...It is okay.

...and we will meet again.

I'shalom

Seraphim

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Was the simple Jesus of the Gospels replaced by the Complex Christ
of St. Paul?

I agree with Fr. Robert Capon's Assessment. Short answer? No.

Long answer? I bow to the wisdom of the good Fr. Capon below:

“In spite of the fact that the Good News of Jesus Christ (to give Christianity one of its own titles of preference) has been seen as a religion by outsiders and been sold as one by its adherents, it is not a religion at all. Rather, it is the announcement of the end of religion. On its plan, New Testament face, it proclaims that all the things that religion promised but couldn’t deliver have been delivered once and for all by Jesus in his death and resurrection. This is not to say that there isn’t plenty of old-time religion in the Bible; there are in fact enough creedal, cultic, and behavioral stipulations to gladden the heart of an Aztec priest. And those requirements can be found not only in the Old Testament (where they are obviously meant to be taken seriously) but also in the New (where they cannot be taken with anything like the seriousness they are often accorded). Nevertheless, on any final, Gospel-regarding balance, only one conclusion is possible: religion as I have defined it – that is, religion as something that human beings must get right in order to have a correct relationship with god – is a subject that shouldn’t be given Christian houseroom.

It has been argued, of course, that this “no-religion” aspect of the Gospel – this insistence on salvation by grace alone, not works (not even religious works) – is the invention of Paul rather than Jesus. You yourself may even have bought that bill of goods. For me, though, it just won’t wash.

In the first place, its fundamental proposition – namely, that the “simple Jesus of the Gospels” was surreptitiously replaced by the “complex Christ of Paul” – runs clear contrary to the evidence of history. The records simply do not support the nineteenth-century fantasy that a cosmic savior who reconciles all by grace through faith was somehow slipped over on a primitive church that previously had heard only of a wonder working rabbi with a few religious improvements up his sleeve.

The early church was reading Paul’s letters before he died in A.D. 64; it did not, however, get its hands on the Gospels as we now have them until sometime after that (65, say, to 110). The Gospels, accordingly, were written for the sake of the Epistles, not the other way around. At the very least, the two were accepted by the church in a process of mutual interaction: there was never even a hint that the first Christians thought one of them was seditiously infiltrating the other.

Paradoxically, moreover, the four Gospels the church finally settled on as “canonical” (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John – their predominance is clearly evident by 150 to 200) were the four so-called “simpler” ones as contrasted with the other, more high-flown examples of the genre now generally referred to as the Apocryphal Gospels. It would seem, therefore, that however much the 19th (and 20th) centuries may have found this “simple-complex” combination indigestible, the early church, if it noticed at all, took it in as nothing more than two courses in the same delicious meal.

In the second place, the New Testament has a perfectly good answer to the charge that Christianity as we now have it is radically Pauline. And the answer is that God hired Paul (then called Saul) on the road to Damascus for the precise purpose of making Christianity Pauline – that is, of rescuing it from the overly “religious” orientation of the exclusively Jewish-Christian Jerusalem church.
The main item in Paul’s job description was precisely that he knock religion in the head. Because whatever it was that Jesus may have thought or taught (and at the very least, the authorities who finally nailed him didn’t think he was teaching their brand of religion), it soon became evident that if the original Jerusalem church crown could have had their way, Christianity would have been swamped in a flood of religious requirements like circumcision, dietary laws, and other gentile-excluding practices. Indeed, in an odd moment, I once suggested that what Jesus actually said to Saul on the Damascus road was not, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” but, “Saul! Help! I’m a prisoner in a commandment factory.”

In other words, far from supplanting the Gospel of Jesus Christ, Paul actually rescued the Good News of Jesus from the danger of being converted into the bad news of religion. He was the one who saw clearly that if Jesus had indeed done whatever it was that religion had been trying to do, there was simply no more need for religion. Its job (which it couldn’t really accomplish anyway) had been done for it. The whole business was over. All that we or anyone had to do now was believe (have faith) in Jesus and we would be home free because the right relationship, so long and so vainly sought, was already a fact in him. There were no works of any kind we had to get right to achieve the relationship; we had only to trust him and be pleasantly surprised at the light burden he had substituted for the iron yoke of religion.

Admittedly – and legitimately – Christianity has long made use of the forms of religion in presenting its radically nonreligious message. It has employed the trappings of creed, cult, and conduct freely and without apology. But it has never used them seriously: at its Gospel-regarding best, it has always said that those trappings had no religious function. Christians used them not to do the job of establishing a right relationship with God but simply to remind themselves of what the job was that needed doing – and of the rib-tickling fact that Jesus had done the whole thing free for nothing. When we get right down to it, therefore, there is not a single properly religious act in the Christian “religion.” Our confessions do not earn us forgiveness by their sincerity or their exhaustiveness: we had it all along by Jesus’ gift.

Our prayers do not con God into being gracious: he conned himself on the cross. Our Eucharists do not cause Jesus to show up in a place from which he was absent: he is already everywhere – in all the fullness of his reconciling work – before the service starts. And our baptisms (to come finally to the root sacrament of the Good News) do not divide the world into the saved (us, inside) and the lost (them, outside). Baptism – and the church it constitutes – is simply the authentic, effective sign of the mystery of the Christ who has already saved all, whether in or out. Accordingly, none of these “religious” acts leaves room for a single, saving thing that is up to us. We erect the sacramental signs, yes; but the mystery beneath the signs is none of our doing. We have only to believe that we have all been drawn in for good by Jesus (“I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all to myself,” John 12:32) and laugh out loud.

That is why the Gospel alone is Good News and all the religions of the world – whether they’re about God or some lesser thing – are bad news. You would think, therefore, wouldn’t you, that the world would take one look at the “Gone Out Of The Religion Business” sign on the door of the church and come pouring in to celebrate the free gift. Well, if you did, you would think wrong. Because not only doesn’t the world knock down the church’s door; it actually prefers to sit outside in the cold wind of religion and make believe it’s earning its way home by shivering. Worse yet, the church – at most times and in all ages – has either not bothered to put the sign up, or has been feverishly busy taking it down.”

- Health Money, and Love & why we don’t enjoy them pp. 31-34

Monday, December 25, 2006

Christ is born! Glorify Him!



O come, let us rejoice in the Lord as we declare this present mystery: The partition wall of disunion has been destroyed, the flaming sword is turned back, the cherubim withdraw from the Tree of Life, and I partake of the food of Paradise, whence I had been expelled because of disobedience. For the immutable Image of the Father, the Image of His eternity, takes the form of a servant, having come forth of a Mother unwedded, yet having suffered no change. For that which He was, He remains, being very God; and that which He was not, He has assumed, becoming true man because of His love for humankind. Unto Him let us cry aloud: O God, who was born of a Virgin, have mercy upon us!


(Vespers Sticharion,Tone 2
)

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Fr. Jon C. Emanuelson



He is the priest on the right. Funny. When I met him he was the Priest of Holy Transfiguration Greek Orthodox Church in Charlottesville Virginia.

Now he is the Priest of Holy Transfiguration Greek Orthodox Church in Ogden Utah. I miss him very much.

You never know the heart of a priest until you confess to him.

I miss confessions with Fr. Jon.

After liturgies he'd invite me behind the Royal Doors, and have me read pray the Prayers after Communion. I'd always attend when he was doing week day liturgies. During that time of my life I worked noon to 8:30pm so my mornings were free.

I wish Fr. Jon was still in Charlottesville, for very selfish reasons. I know he is blessed and being a blessing where he is in Utah.

Fr. Jon is a True Christian.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Saint Boniface & the Christmas Tree

I love the story of where we Christians get the Christmas Tree:

In 722 A.D., Saint Boniface, an English missionary and Benedictine monk who was known as the "Apostle of Germany," came upon some men about to cut down a huge oak tree to be used as a stake for a human sacrifice to Thor, one of the Norse Gods.

With a mighty blow from an axe, Saint Boniface felled the massive oak and, as the tree split apart, a beautiful young fir tree sprang from its center. Saint Boniface informed the people that this beautiful evergreen, whose branches pointed toward heaven, was a holy tree...the tree of the Christ Child, symbolizing the purty of the New Faith and the promise of eternal life.

Saint Boniface then instructed them to henceforth carry the evergreen from the wilderness, place it into their homes and surround it with gifts symbolic of love and kindess.

Saint Boniface, whose feast day is celebrated on June 5th, received the name Winfrid at his baptism but adopted Boniface before he was ordained to the priesthood.


He was martyred in Holland at the age of 75, along with 52 members of his flock, when they were set upon by a troop of pagans. Saint Boniface is the Patron Saint of Germany, as well as being the Patron Saint of Tailors and Brewers.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Memory Eternal - Father George!

Fr. Deacon Raphael gave me the sad news from November 21st today.

"The Archpriest George (Calciu), confessor of Christ Jesus, reposed a few moments ago in Fairfax Hospital. Fr George was Pastor of Holy Cross Romanian Orthodox Church in Alexandria and father confessor to many. He had been imprisoned twice in communist Romania (in Pitesti, the most notorious of prison-camps) for preaching the Word of Salvation. (The dictator Nicolae Ceausescu had declared Fr George his “personal enemy”.) He preached at Holy Cross in Linthicum a couple of years ago as we celebrated our Patronal Feast together and we will always remember his deep commitment to the Holy Church, devotion to the Fathers, and sheer joy in the life in Jesus Christ. As you pray for the repose of the soul of Fr George, please also remember his wife, Adriana, their son and grandson, and as well as all of Fr George’s spiritual children."

(from Neepeople)

Fr. George was very, very special to me. I met him on more than one occasion and he personally counseled me in my journey. He encouraged me to become Orthodox.

"Christ is calling you Seraphim. He loves you"

Here is the photo from the last time I saw him, in his parish in Fairfax:



"O Master, Lord our God, Who in Thy wisdom hast created man, and didst honor him with Thy Divine image, and place in him the spirit of life, and lead him into this world, bestowing on him the hope of resurrection and life everlasting; and after he had violated Thy commandments, Thou O Gracious lover of mankind, didst descend to the earth that Thou mightest renew again the creation of Thy hands. Therefore we pray Thee, O All-Holy Master give rest to the souls of Thy servants Fr. George, in a place of brightness, a place of green pasture, a place of repose, and, in that they have sinned in word, or deed or thought forgive them: For Thou art a good God and lovest mankind and unto Thee do we ascribe Glory, together with Thy Father, Who is from everlasting and Thine All-Holy and good, and ever giving Spirit, now, and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen."

We have lost a living saint.

Memory Eternal. Fr. George, pray for us!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Tired of Apologetics

Recently I've come across alot of books that are about 'apologetics'.

Why you shouldn't be Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic or Protestant etc.

By the usual suspects. The most recent one was 'West of Jesus' by Regina Orthodox Press and it was about where the Protestants went wrong.

But it was poorly done. I mean, the author argued as if every protestant was a reformed calvinist that believed in once saved always saved.

But I'm really tired of it. Do you know what I often find? Mischaracterizations.

Those that only believe in 'believer's baptism' saying that those who baptise infants don't understand the gospel that baptising infants doesn't 'save' (Even though not a single group that practicies infant baptism believes it is salvific alone..)

But the point is, besides the mischaracterizations, it's not really about helping anyone have a relationship with the Master. With God. With Jesus, or the Holy Spirit.

Can you be Eastern Orthodox and be a Christian? Yes

Are only Easter Orthodox Christians? No

Can you be Roman Catholic and be a Christian? Yes

Are only Roman Catholics Christians? No

Can you be Protestant and be a Christian? Yes

Are only Protestants Christians? No

Sigh. No wonder the gospel asks the question, when the Son of Man returns, will he find faith on the earth?

We need to be about what unites us and not what divides us. The truth of all three streams of our Great Christian faith is this.

We need a relationship with God we are built for it.

We can only have such a relationship with God thru Jesus Christ

We can only live the Christian life filled with the Holy Spirit

We need to be part of a faith community.

Is this stuff really so hard?

Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on us.

Seraphim

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Why did Jesus..

come to the earth? Why the Incarnation?

"Pilate therefore said unto him, Art thou a King then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a King. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth." (John 18:37)

"For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might Destroy the works of the devil." (I John 3:8b).

Huh. So testifying or bearing witness to Truth destroys the works of the devil.

"And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." (John 8:32)

"Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me." (John 14:6)

Truth is very important to God. What is Truth?

Rob Bell's Rain & the False Twisted Idea

I think Rob Bell rocks. I love his nooma video series 'rain'

My church is doing the 'Dust of the Rabbi' series for Sunday School and we're doing the The Truth Project in the evenings.

Anyway, in the evening discussion some things were said, about do we believe that what we believe (Christ, the Gospel etc.) is really real?

Some folk (good folk mind you) said some pious sounding stuff like "Well, I can't say I really believe it, or I'd live different". Yikes! What is the gospel?

Well, Rob Bell talks about it in the DVD of his "Rain" See the Bolded part of text from the series below:

"It's interesting. 'cause if you look up the word "cry," look in the scriptures, you find this word comes up over and over and over again--like even in the book of Psalms, just the book of Psalms. If you start reading through, it speaks over and over and over again of crying....

...of crying out to God. And God says these amazing things like

"When you cry out to me, I listen."

He even says, "I cannot ignore the cries of someone who is afflicted."

It's like if I'm hurting, lost, soaking wet, scared, confused, God says:

"You cry out and I hear." God even says that when you cry, He's close to the broken hearted, he's close to those who cry out and admit they're scared, lost, soaking wet, and confused.

See, there is this false, twisted idead out there among religious people that somehow you gotta have it all together to have a relationship with God. That like somehow God's only looking for people who have no problems, and have it all nailed down, and can put on like the happy face all the time.

And yet the Scriptures speak directly against this kind of thinking.


I mean Jesus is even just straight ahead when He says, "Come to me, all you who are weary and heavey laden."

I mean, the essence of Salvation is crying out to God and admitting I don't have it all together. It's admiting I am lost, I am hurting and this sinful nature that I carry around with me has really screwed things up for me and God if you don't show me the way home, if you don't fix things, if you don't step in, I am dying here. This kind of thing is all throughout the Scriptures.

It's over and over again God says to us -- When you come to me you come to me with all your problems, you come to me all screwed up, all messed. Let me take care of it.

Jesus even sets out looking for peole and he even says this, he says:

"I'm not looking ofr the healthy. I came for the sick."


Check out Rob Bell. Either his book Velvet Elvis or His site - Nooma

I'shalom

Jesus is Missing...

Has anyone else even noticed? Jesus is missing. From Christianity. From the Church.

Has he left us? no. We evicted him. We'd rather have a Christ-less Christianity, a Church that's about us and not HIM.

What do I mean?

Well. When was the last time you heard something True about Jesus? Have you ever heard this preached:

"Jesus loves you and has a difficult plan for your life. You'll never be able to get your act together, and if you look to your left and your right and see folk who have their act together, don't worry. They don't. They just look that way.

You see, Jesus didn't come to let us know that Salvation with him would be easy. He didn't come to let us know that Salvation without him would be difficult. His message is that Salvation without Him is Impossible.

Remember, Acts 14:22 tells us that we MUST thru many trials and tribulations inherit the Kingdom of Heaven."

When was the last time you heard that sermon? You probably haven't.

How else is Jesus missing? Look at 'mainstream Christianity'. How do they reconcile a Jesus how told them "Love not the world" "Go and sell all you have" and "if you see your brother in need, help him" with most of Christianity's cozy relationship with wealth and unjust economic systems? How do we Tell the world to "Come out from among them" when we are The Among them?

When we look just like the world? When we know more about current events, what's at the movies and who's on first base than what is between the pages of the Book?

And where is Jesus when most folk who know alot of bible are bigger asses than those who don't? Where is Jesus when we have on average 5 to 9 bibles in a home and don't read them and worse don't LIVE THEM?

It's no wonder Luke asks the question:

"..Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?" (Luke 18:8b)

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Most Difficult Day & a Prayer Request

The most difficult time I have ever had in my life was when I had to have my oldest son arrested for molesting my only daughter.

It was also the one time I felt something close to understanding the heart of God.

When I was 23? 24? My first marriage ended in a nasty seperation/divorce. I stayed single for over a year. One day I'd come home and the wife and my three boys, Robert (Bobby) - Zachary & Nicholai were gone. (they were age 3 years, 2 years and Nic was a few months) at the time...

My folks and I looked for them for 9 days before we found them. Turns out she'd been planning it for awhile...

Anyway that aside... fast forward to when I'm 28, 29. I'd been married to Janice - my bridge - the Magdalena for, oh, 3 to 4 years by this time and the Jade is born. Fast forward to 2001 about July / August of that year.

Out of the blue I get a call "I want Bobby (who's 15 years old now) to come and live with you. I can't handle him." I ask "what's wrong with him?"

She doesn't tell me what the issue really is, just "oh, stealing getting in fights, boy stuff." I am estatic. I can picture re-bonding with my oldest son, taking him to Church with me, and helping him....

Well, I won't go into details here. Sufice it to say that within 72 hours he'd showed some extremely un-appropriate behaviors towards his sister. The first time we weren't sure if what we 'saw' was really what we saw

So he got the big brother -- you're an example of what acceptable male behaviour is to your sister etc...speech and after that what we did see, again, was enough for us to drop him with his aunt in the middle of the night.

We talked with Jade, but didn't realize the full impact of what happened when Janice and I were both at work and Jade's older sister Jatonia (who was 18 or 19 years old at the time) was in the shower....

We were taking the Jade to the public health center for her shots (they are free there) and in the one section they have a waiting room with posters of STD's and we see them and move Jade away, but not before Jade looks at one (desplaying a male member) and she points and says "Oh, look -- Bobby".

The good news is (here in the present) the Jade is fine, healthy & well. Social Workers the Police Detective and her counselors were great. Her dad I think (which of course is me) still has issues...

But as the story unfolded to me, then to her mom and then to the social worker and then the detective and then the counselors -- Jade realized that she'd done nothing wrong, that Bobby had done something wrong, she'd fought and prevented penetration and didn't feel any shame, but was mad at Bobby.

My daughter is an incredible child. in speaking with Bobby it was revealed that the reason his mother wanted him to come live with me was because he had a younger sister at home (from where his mother remarried) and had been messing with her, and a baby sitter had messed with him. I asked him if they were going to get him any help? He said why would this time be any different?

Thus I had him arrested, so he'd have court appointed help. He's currently in Juve Jail. And I really don't know anything else.

The Magdalena had been so careful. We weren't even going to have any more children, and then we were blessed with the Jade.

She'd never been in day care, never been with a baby sitter... but because I allowed the predator into my home (my son!!) our years of vigilence counted for naught.

Abuse happens alot more than people think -- and more than people are comfortable to know about.

This Book - Mending the Soul is an excellent resource.

From the website:

"It's time for the church to recognize the epidemic scale of abuse. Abuse kills. In its different forms—physical, sexual, verbal, spiritual, or neglectful—abuse deadens the emotions, slays self-worth, cripples the mind, even destroys the body. Its victims are legion.

They live in your neighborhood, play with your children, and attend your church. In the United States

* one in three women will be physically assaulted by an intimate partner.

* around 1.5 million children are abused or neglected annually.

* at least twenty-five percent of girls experience contact sexual abuse.

But there is hope. God delights in mending shattered souls. However, healing doesn't come by ignoring the problem of abuse, minimizing its complexities, or downplaying its devastating impact. Healing comes by fully understanding the nature and ramifications of abuse, and by following a biblical path of restoration that allows God's grace to touch the heart's deep wounds. Mending the Soul sounds the call and leads the charge. Thorough and accessible, here at last is a unique and powerful resource for understanding and healing victims of abuse."


Seraphim

**********************

The Above was written September 25, 2005. The abuse to the Jade actually happened 2001/2002ish.

Today is August 23, 2006. My mom called me to let me know that a few weeks ago on a Sunday she saw the boys. Bobby now has a girlfriend (and long hair, tattoo's and piercings) Zachary according to my mom and nephew Avery looks just like me.. and Nicholai was there too.

Which is interesting. Because in my reckoning I figured we'd be hearing from or seeing the boys any day now. I confess I've been a poor father to them. When the thing happened with Bobby and Jade -- I didn't cope well and I allowed them to just drop off of the radar. I called and left a message with Zach to call me. Hopefully he will and that call will go well enough for me to get the information on the rest of the kids.

I've got Janice telling the Jade that Bobby is no longer in jail. I'm not sure how she will take it.

Also. The thing is. Back when I was getting Bobby to come for a visit. Zach really wanted to come too. I told him he'd get his turn. You have to know that I have agonized so many times and am today, that if I'd have let Zach come he would have stopped Bobby. Or prevented this mess. But I didn't.

Lord Jesus Christ, son of God have mercy on me a sinner. Please pray for me, I'm a mess.

Seraphim

Monday, August 21, 2006

The Primary Mission of the Church

If I were asked what is the Primary Mission of the Church. This would be my answer:

The Great Commission. To preach the gospel:

"All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."(NIV)Matthew 28:16-20

I might add loving God, loving people but that's part of what they are to teach, eh?

However, who am I?

Now if you ask the presiding bishop elect of the episcopal church usa you'd get this answer:

On the mission of the church:

TIME Question: What will be your focus as head of the U.S. (Episcopal) church?

Jefferts Schori: Our focus needs to be on feeding people who go to bed hungry, on providing primary education to girls and boys, on healing people with AIDS, on addressing tuberculosis and malaria, on sustainable development. That ought to be the primary focus. (from the interview with Jeff Chu of TIME Magazine, published 7/10/06)

Sigh.

It's not surprize that someone that cannot identify the primary mission of the Church would also get the answer to this question wrong:

TIME Question: Is belief in Jesus the only way to get to heaven?

Jefferts Schori: We who practice the Christian tradition understand him as our vehicle to the divine. But for us to assume that God could not act in other ways is, I think, to put God in an awfully small box. (from the interview with Jeff Chu of TIME Magazine, published 7/10/06)

yikes. the problem with that small box is it contains a bible. The 'Truth of our Faith' is found in the Revealed Truth handed down to the Church in the Scriptures which say:

"There is no other name, under heaven - given among men, whereby we must be saved" Acts 4:12

I believe 2 Timothy 4:3 is upon us.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Fr. George Calciu



I first met Fr. George in 1996, at the St. Herman of Alaska Orthodox Mission in Charlottesville, Virginia. He was giving a talk and giving away copies of his book:

"Christ is calling you: A Course in Catacomb Pastorship"



Later, Fr. Michael took a group of us to visit him at his Church in Northern Virginia. Fr. George remembered me and encouarged me to join the Orthodox Faith.

Fast forward a couple of years, and I'm about to become Orthodox. But there is some question of the cannonicity of the group I'm with (they were formerly the Holy Order of Mans' part of the group Fr. Herman and Fr. Seraphim Rose started) but Bishop Philaret may not actually be a Bishop.

So I called Fr. George, and asked him 'What should I do'.

'We should talk face to face. Come see me this Saturday, around 2pm'.

So I do. And after visiting with this living saint, a few months later at Pascha I enter the Orthodox Church via Chrismation at St. Nicholas Orthodox Mission in Charlottesville, VA.

So. That's a little bit about one of my Spiritual Fathers.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Prayer of St. Mykal Judge



“Lord, take me where You want me to go;
Let me meet who You want me to meet;
Tell me what You want me to say; and
Keep me out of your way.”

St. Mykal Judge

Romanian Folktale

"When God created the world He also created sorrow, suffering and trouble;

and He laid them on a big stone and the stone broke;

He laid them on a big tree and the tree withered;

and finally He laid them on man and man carried them.

And so will you, my brother, carry your sufferings.”

- Romanian Folktale

How Can You Love Me Lord?

This is a poem I wrote when I was 18. It is and is not fiction...




One day I was dreaming, or I had a vision, it really doesn't matter which, for I know it was of the Lord. And in the dream, I was alone in a dark place, and I was afraid. Yet I didn't want to go out into the Light.

So the Light came to me.

I saw Jesus walking through the darkness. He stood before me, and I turned away. “How can you love me, Lord?” I asked. “Simple.” He said. “Watch and learn.” He reached out His gentle, nail-scarred hand; He reached it out and into my chest. He pulled out my heart, and showed it to me. It was black, as black as death, as black as sin. And sick, cancerous with worms and maggots and words cannot describe the ugliness of my own heart.

Again He said, “Watch.” He reached; He reached His other hand into His chest, and removed His own heart. It was perfect, golden, starlight and sunlight, snug there in the palm of His hand. He took it and placed it into the empty place inside of me, where my heart had been.

Then He did something even more wondrous. He took my heart, as black as sin and as black as murder, and placed it into His own chest. I could still see my heart in His chest. A look of infinite sadness and pain flashed over my Saviors face, and then His face, His body, shown brighter than the sun, the heart He had placed inside of Himself, my heart, started to shine, to glow, it was cleansed, washed clean, whiter than new-born snow.

“I love you.” Jesus said, “Because I have felt and lived your pain. I love you, because when I enter your life, I transform your heart, your very soul, until it is perfect and as pure as mine. I love you because I made you and I died for you. I love you, because now that I am in your heart, and you are forever in mine, you will begin to live for me, just as I died for you.”

He took my hand, and together we left the dark place.

by Seraphim

Monday, August 07, 2006

Jesus Repents for Us

“Repent!” the Baptizer Thundered!

“The Kingdom of Heaven is at Hand!”

Now, the Hebrews would be very familiar with baptism, they knew it as mikveh, the Ritual Bath for Ritual cleansing.

So here was this Prophetic figure, telling them they had to change.

REPENT!

Metanoia. A complete change. a 180. Letting go of our past. Our ego's our sin.

The Old Man.

So. Here comes another prophet like man. Heading right for John.

“Jesus!” John says. “What are you doing? Don't you know I SHOULD BE BAPTIZED by You?”

“Let it be John”

And so, The baptizer baptizes one who is ego-less.

Without sin, without the need to change or be transformed.

So then why is Jesus taking this step of repentance? What does Jesus have to Repent of?

Nothing.

The Orthodox would say that Jesus is sanctifying the Waters so that when we go into them they are salvific.

I disagree. (meaning I think it was that but also...)

Before we can walk the Path we must know the Path, we must see the Path. We must be told the Path. Until we reach Transformation, Salvation - Satori, Enlightenmnet…

We can do nothing on our own. At least nothing right.

So Jesus Repents. For us. He does it for us!

So that when we lay our burdens down, when we let go of the ego, of our sin, and are willing to allow the transformation to begin..

We can do that which he has already done on our behalf.

God's Peace

Seraphim

Transactional Christianity

I've been thinking about this alot.

The Orthodox say that those Protestants that believe in 'legal fiction'.

That Salvation is more than a transaction that occurs because of a 'sinner's prayer'.

But in thinking about being a Christian, and deciding which flavour of a Christian to be, I don't see anyone that doesn't believe in what I'm calling

Transactional Christianity.

Transaction Result

Say a prayer - you're saved

participate in the sacraments - You're saved

Say a prayer and live holy, - you're saved
obey the commandments etc.

Join the Church
& don't commit mortal sins

You get the picture. How did we end up with this transactional view of Christianity? I admit I've perhaps over simplified… and if so, how does one become/be a Christian without a Transaction?

Seraphim

Friday, July 21, 2006

Brief moments of Lucidity - stumbling thru the Fog

I feel like most of my life is stumbling thru a Fog. The Fog is always there, even though we don't often notice it.

The Fog keeps us just going thru the motions. Working paying bills, eating sleeping.

But not really living. Most of what we do isn't life. It isn't community. It's pseudo Life half life almost life.

Need your 'spiritual fix'? Well, God forbid you should help at a shelter visit old folks in their nursing homes or feed the homeless. Forget about volunteering with Habitat for Humanity or getting to know the folk in your neighborhood.

Just go to a 'church'. There your money will go to some over paid peacock - some professional christian who will use your funds to build his Empire. I know of some of these places where the pastors makes at least 150,000... and the facility is 2 million dollars. Hell, it's 5 K a week just to keep the utilities burning.

You can guarantee your 'tithe' goes to the upkeep of this Empire. Surely it's not going to the poor and needy.

I have brief moments of Lucidity. I wake from the Fog. I find myself on the couch watching some TV show feeling emotions about characters played on a flat screen.. while the wife is either watching with me or falling asleep in the chair next to me. And the Jade is either in another room watching another TV or on one of our two computers..

(do you ever notice, no one on the TV is watching TV -- or not for long. Notice how we watch those who seemingly have a life - while ours passes by)

And I think... Why? What are we doing?

Why arn't we

Reading together, taking a walk, making a puzzle, interacting. Why are the hours and days and months just passing by.. how did this Fog this pseudo life get so damn strong?!

I want to have real community. I want to BE the Church. I want to talk to people face to face, in a pub over darts (double in double out)...

I want to make a difference with my life.

I want to feel that I LIVED! And during these moments of Lucidity.. I want to sell the TV's

Sell the computers

Turn off the cable

And Do something besides stumble thru the Fog and wake up not even knowing I've lived let alone died.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Communion with God in Prayer

"The goal of the Christian's life on earth is salvation in our Lord Jesus Christ and, at the same time, communion with God. The means for this communion is prayer, and through his prayer the Christian is joined in one spirit with the Lord (I Cor. 6:17). Prayer is the focal point and foundation of spiritual life and the source of salvation. Without prayer, as St. John Chrysostom says, there is no life in the spirit. Without prayer man is deprived of communion with God and can be compared to a dry and barren tree, which is cut down and thrown into the fire (Matt. 7:19).

In prayer, the Christian concentrates together all his spiritual acts. Prayer draws down to him the grace of God and is an invaluable instrument of spiritual defense in the Christian's struggles against the sinful passions and vices. By prayer our thoughts, desires and deeds are sanctified, for he who prays receives the blessing of the Lord on his deeds, for, as Holy Scripture tells us, unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain (Ps. 127:1). Nothing so helps us to grow in virtue as our pure and pious prayers to God. Thus it was the shared opinion of all the Holy Fathers that prayer is the mother of virtues. By repeated and fervent prayer, man is made more worthy of God's mercy and more capable of receiving the gifts of grace which God, by reason of His infinite goodness, is ready to bestow on us out of His immeasurable bounties.

In prayer, the Christian prays not only for himself, but for all men, for we all are the children of God. We must pray for the salvation of our neighbor just as we pray for our own salvation, and the best means of correcting our neighbor is to pray for him, because prayer for our neighbor has far greater effect than denunciation of his sins. In addition, we pray not only for the living, but also for the departed, that God may forgive them their sins and grant them repose in the heavenly mansions of the righteous.

As with any spiritual endeavor, however, the Christian must learn how to pray properly. As St. Tikhon of Zadonsk cautions us: Of no value is that prayer in which the tongue prays but the mind is empty; the tongue speaks, but the mind lies silent; the tongue calls God, but the mind wanders amongst created things. We must, therefore, pray in fear and trembling and try in every way to ensure that our minds are with our words, or, as St. John of the Ladder tells us, to enclose our mind in the words of our prayer, [so that] the heart may respond to the words of the prayers.

The reading of prayers and prostrations are essential, of course, but these only express the state of prayer, while the prayer itself should come from the heart. And it is only such prayer, from the bottom of the heart and of the soul, that is the life of the spirit. True prayer, however, is a gift of God, and this gift is not granted to us without diligence and struggle. Therefore it is necessary for us to pray that the Lord should deem us worthy of this gift and grant us the grace to offer up to Him our sincere, pure and heartfelt prayer, for we are only able to pray when strengthened by the Holy Spirit. Therefore we must be mindful that the Holy Spirit is drawn to a soul cleansed of the stain of sin and worldly passions, and only in such a soul will He abide.

Our prayers will gradually grow more perfect as we improve the manner of our lives and cleanse our hearts of sinful passion. This banishment of sinful ways from our lives brings as its reward our success in prayer. At the same time, we must say that prayer cannot achieve perfection in isolation, but must be accompanied by all the virtues, for as we grow in virtue, so does our prayer grow ever more perfect.

Therefore we say that a Christian does not achieve true prayer at once, but only gradually, through various exertions and labor. All of life's deeds require toil and patience, but nowhere more than in the striving after the supreme virtue prayer.
Conditions for Prayer.

The first condition for the attainment of true prayer is a fervent desire to be saved and be pleasing to God a readiness to sacrifice all for the sake of God and the salvation of one's soul. As Bishop Theophan the Recluse states: Consider prayer to be the first and foremost duty in your life and as such keep it in your heart. Go about your prayers as to the fulfillment of your primary duty, and not as to something to be done between tasks.

A habit of absentminded, inattentive and careless prayer breeds a coldness towards God, dejection, a weakening of the faith and a darkening of the mind, and these in their turn lead to spiritual numbness. For prayer to be fruitful it must be fervent, offered up with an awareness of the need for what we are asking (Col. 4:2) and it must be untiring and relentless, pursuing its purpose with the firm resolve of the widow in Our Lord's parable who seeks protection from her adversary (Luke 18:2-8). At the same time, however, we must ensure that our supplications be worthy of God and of His glory and not opposed to His divine will. Surely we must pray: Lord, let Thy, and not my, will be done in all things!

There are different degrees of prayer and for the beginner the effort of prayer consists mainly in attentively reading or listening to prayer, in standing, bowing and making the Sign of the Cross. Here a great deal of self-exertion and patience is called for, because our attention becomes distracted in this process and our heart may not feel the words of the Prayer. Through this verbal prayer through the diligent exercise of it the Christian, with the help of God, gradually trains his mind to collect itself, to understand and penetrate into the words of the prayer and to pronounce them without becoming distracted by outside thoughts.

The Christian must remain constantly mindful of God and must walk in fear of God. He is always before the eyes of God as God is invisibly with him always and everywhere. One's Guardian Angel is also always by his side. One must also be mindful of the fact that earthly life is not eternal. Death, which passes no one by and carries us off in many ways, must always be brought to remembrance as well as the fearsome Day of Judgment, where we all shall have to answer for our every sinful word, deed and thought. We must always call to mind Hell and the eternal torment which awaits all sinners, as well as the Kingdom of Heaven prepared for the faithful who lived in righteousness. In this way we may lead our lives in the fear of the Lord.

When we pray we must remember that if our prayers will rise speedily to God, they must be said with charity, for prayer said without love is not heard. According to St. John Chrysostom, charity is the wing of prayer. As the Holy Fathers also teach us, we should begin our prayers with glorification of the Creator of all, with a sincere thanksgiving to God for all His mercies, for all the trials and sorrows sent down for our benefit and the benefit of our neighbors. Then we must make a confession of sins in repentance of heart after which we will be deemed worthy to entreat the King of Heaven in prayer.
Mechanics of Prayer.

The Church of Christ teaches us prayers composed by righteous and holy men. The Holy Fathers and Ascetics of the Church, enlightened by the grace of God, have composed many beautiful prayers, filled with holy thoughts and deep feeling for the guidance and admonition of Christians. We hear these prayers in Church during the Divine Services, but for private prayer at home, each Christian must recite the prayers contained in the Prayerbook.

When we begin to pray, we do not immediately break off from our daily tasks and just start praying, but we must prepare ourselves. As the Prayerbook says: Stand in silence for a few moments until all your senses are calmed. Furthermore, as Holy Scripture tells us: Before offering a prayer, prepare yourself; and do not be like a man who tempts the Lord (Sirach 18:23). In addition to this, before entering into prayer, one must prepare himself not only inwardly, but also outwardly.

During prayer one should stand straight with ones eyes fixed on the icon or lowered to the ground, while, at the same time, the eyes of the soul, together with one's soulful aspirations, should be lifted up to God. This outward attitude of piety in prayer is both necessary and beneficial, for the disposition of the soul is in conformity with the disposition of the body.

One must also prepare himself for prayer in the soul, the essence of which consists of purging all vengeful thoughts from one's heart (Mark 11:25-26), in an awareness of one's own sinfulness and with the contrition and humility of soul that such awareness brings. For the only sacrifice pleasing to God is a broken spirit: a broken and contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise (Ps. 50:17). As the Holy Fathers teach us, whosoever does not avow himself a sinner, his prayer shall not be pleasing to the Lord.

In his daily devotions, the Christian must adhere to a strict home rule of prayer. All the great ascetics had such a rule and kept to it diligently. The extent of our home rule of prayer is determined for each of us in accordance with our manner of life and the state of our spiritual and physical strength. It is better that we offer up a few prayers, made, however, in proper devotion, than that we say many prayers in haste, a danger difficult to avoid if we take upon ourselves too heavy a burden.

In the Prayerbook the Church provides all Christians with a rule of morning and evening prayers. This is a moderate rule and is of special help to those who are just learning to pray. As one fulfills his devotional obligations, one must not be thinking only of reciting all of the prescribed prayers, but must strive to arouse and strengthen in the soul the proper prayerful feelings and devotional attitude. One must strengthen himself against the temptations of sloth and must seek not to excuse himself from prayers on the grounds of lack of time. One must not let off reading the prayers even when fatigued after a day of hard work, since such prayer, done with such great effort, is especially pleasing to God. One must be prepared to sacrifice some moments of bodily repose for the Lord, for by rushing through one's prayers in the anxiety for bodily rest, one will only deprive himself of both physical and spiritual repose.

An unhurried and devout recitation of the words will greatly help in keeping attention on the prayers. If one only has a little time for prayer, it would be far better to say fewer prayers, but with careful thought and attention, than to rush through many prayers without proper attention. But, one must also not allow the omitted prayers to go unheeded; these can be completed later when there is time. While saying a prayer, especially if reading it from a book, one must not hasten from one word to the next, lest there be a failure to grasp the truth of the text and to receive it into the heart.

The Holy Fathers recommend for greater spirituality of mind and heart the rule of executing bows, prostrations, and making the Sign of the Cross, during prayer, as an expression of heartfelt feelings of penitence, humility, deep piety, fear of God and devotion to Him, for when one's body is prostrate, the soul ascends heavenwards to God!

St. John Chrysostom on Prayers

In his earthly ministry, St. John Chrysostom was well known as a superb homilist and for his efforts received the well-deserved title Golden-mouth. In his sermons, St. John was especially concerned for the spiritual and moral development of his flock and, as a result, he was especially interested in teaching them how to pray. As trees cannot live without water, so man's soul cannot live without prayerful contact with God, he taught. If you deprive yourself of prayer, you will do as though you had taken a fish out of water: as life is water for a fish, so is prayer for you.

To live in God means that one must always and everywhere be with God, and without prayer, such a union is impossible. Therefore the Holy Father, St. John, did not limit conversation with God in prayer to one set time of day or to one definite place. As he taught, one can say prolonged prayers while walking to the square, while walking about the streets. While sitting and working in a workshop, one can dedicate his spirit to God. One can say prolonged and fervent prayers, I say, both coming in and going out. While in public, St. John did not recommend that prayer be said with the lips, for the power of prayer lies not in words uttered by the lips, but by the heart. One can be heard without uttering any words. While walking about a square, one can pray in thought with great zeal, and while sitting with friends and doing any sort of thing, one can call upon God with a great cry (I mean an internal cry) without making it known to any of those present.

While not diminishing the role and importance of prayer set for definite hours, St. John, nonetheless, sees the time of prayer in much broader terms. We can obtain benefit from praying during our entire lives by devoting to it the greater part of our time. He even asked Christians to pray during the night, for he knew from experience what benefit such prayers bring. Prayers at night are often purer because the mind is more at ease and there are fewer worries. These prayers can be short and few, but, as St. John says, let us rise during the night. If you do not say many prayers, then say one with attentive concern and this is enough. I demand no more. If not in the middle of the night, at least towards morning.

Fasting also proves to be an invaluable aid to man in the achievement of perfect prayer. While fasting, as the Saint notes, a man does not doze off, does not talk a lot, neither does he yawn or grow weak in prayer as often happens to many when not fasting.

Speaking of the content of prayer, St. John advises first of all to thank God for everything. Receiving all gifts from God, a Christian not only must thank God for them, but must also ask them of Him. But, not all that is asked of God can bring benefit to man or can be good for him. Many are not heard because they ask for useless things, because they insist on the fulfillment of their own will and not God's, show indulgence towards their own weaknesses, and do not gather spiritual treasure. A man must also be taught by reason of his limitations and sinfulness that he cannot always correctly determine what will bring him what he asks for in prayer.

Whether we are heard or not when we pray, depends upon the following: 1) Are we worthy to receive? 2) Do we pray according to Divine Law? 3) Do we pray incessantly? 4) Do we avoid asking for worldly things? 5) Do we fulfill everything that is required on our part? and, finally, 6) Do we ask for beneficial things?

When these conditions are fulfilled, prayer acquires a truly ineffable power. It spiritualizes a man, renews him, inspires him, and carries him away to heavenly pastures. As St. John affirms, in truth prayer is the light of the soul, the true knowledge of God and men, the healer of vices, the physician of diseases, the peace of the soul, the heavenly guide which does not revolve around the earth, but which leads up to Heaven! Therefore, the beneficial devotion of prayer is the breath of life.

Church Prayer

Apart from private or home prayer, which is said in private, according to the words of the Savior, When you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father Who is in secret; and your Father Who sees in secret will reward you (Matt. 6:6), as a Christian one must also participate in church prayer, conducted during Divine Service, before the gathering of the faithful. The importance and significance of this type of prayer at the Divine Services is stressed in the Gospels. The Lord Himself, during His earthly life, used to visit the Temple of Jerusalem, as well as the synagogue, and pray therein. He often prayed, not only in solitude, but also before the people, and the first Christians were day by day, attending the temple together (Acts 2:46). Therefore our Holy Orthodox Church our Mother strictly commands her children to attend Divine Services, which is particularly essential to our salvation.

By its very significance church prayer is incomparably higher than prayer said at home, for as St. John Chrysostom tells us, a single Lord, have mercy uttered in church together with the congregation of believers, is worth a hundred prostrations during lonely home prayer. Why is this so? Because our Lord said: For where two or three are gathered in My name, there am I in the midst of them (Matt. 18:20).

Some say that it is not essential to go to church to pray, that one can pray just as well at home. Beware, for you deceive only yourselves, warns St. John Chrysostom. You can, of course, pray at home, but you cannot there pray as you can in church, amidst so many people, speaking to God as with one voice. When you pray to the Lord alone you will not be heard as soon as when you pray together with your brethren, for together with them your prayer is great: you pray in unanimity, concord, a union of love and of prayer with the officiating priests. That is why the priests stand before us, that the prayers of the people, who are weak in spirit, may be united with their stronger prayers and thus be uplifted to Heaven. Such prayer has much greater power, is far more bold and effective than private prayer recited at home. During church prayer it is not only people who lift up their voices, but Angels, too, come to the Lord with prayer, and the Archangels also make their devotions to Him.
The Lord's Prayer.

When the Disciples asked Our Lord to teach them how to pray, he gave to them the words of the Lord's Prayer, which, in St. Matthew's Gospel is worded thus:

Our Father, Who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name.

Thy kingdom come.

Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread;

And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us;

And lead us not into temptation,

But deliver us from the Evil One.

The words Our Father Who art in heaven bear witness to the truth that God is the Father of all that exists. He not only created the universe, the entire world material and spiritual, visible and invisible but, being the Father, He loves His creation, cares for it, and guides it to the goals of goodness and perfection as He has planned. The Father is He Who calls us to life, Who loves His creation and cares for it. According to Bishop Nicholas of Ochrid, when I open my mouth and cry: 'Father!' love expels fear, and the earth seems to draw closer to Heaven....Egoism cries to Thee: 'My Father,' but love says: 'Our Father!'

The universe created by God is diverse, for, on the one hand, it is our world the world of nature and man and, on the other hand, it is spiritual the world of the Angelic Host and the Church Triumphant-known biblically as Heaven. Therefore God is called the Father of our natural-human world and the Heavenly Father Who art in Heaven, that is, the Father of the spiritual world. Heaven also implies that purity and sanctity of divine life to which man is called, and which does not exist in him if he is entirely captivated by Sin. As Bishop Nicholas says: Heaven is very, very far for a man whose heart and soul have turned away from Thee...but Heaven is very, very close for a man whose soul is open and awaits Thy coming.

The Lord's Prayer consists of seven petitions, and these are things that we should ask of our Heavenly Father.

(1) Our Father Who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name.

In the first petition, we should beseech our Heavenly Father that His name, which is always holy in itself, be hallowed, with His blessing, both in us and through us (Matt. 5:16). The Lord is the fullness and perfection of sanctity but, by glorifying Him, we sanctify ourselves and the surrounding world.

(2) Thy kingdom come.

In the second petition, we ask the Lord to help us and make us worthy, through His grace, of the Kingdom of Heaven which begins, as Christ Himself said, here on earth, within us. But it will only come to us in the fullness of its power when Sin ceases to hold undivided sway in us and righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit (Rom. 14:17) abide in us.

(3) Thy will be done on earth, as it is in Heaven.

In the third petition, we beseech God the Father that He not allow us to live out our earthly lives according to our sinful ways, but according to His will, which is always good, and acceptable, and perfect (Rom. 12:2). By obeying the will of God, we begin to establish the Kingdom of God within ourselves.

(4) Give us this day our daily bread;

In the fourth petition we beseech God to give us our daily bread everything we need in life, spiritual as well as physical. Our spiritual bread is the grace-bestowing Sacraments of the Church, instituted for our salvation. First and foremost, our daily bread means Holy Communion, of which the Lord said: I am the bread of life...and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is My flesh (John 6:48, 51). Material bread means all that is necessary for human existence, directly associated with the surrounding world. The words this day warn us against too many cares, and teaches us to ask only for what is most essential, because the Lord says: But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well. Therefore, do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Let the day's own trouble be sufficient for the day (Matt. 6:33-34).

(5) And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.

In the fifth petition the Lord teaches us how to ask forgiveness for our sins from the Heavenly Father, and how they may be forgiven. And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against any one; so that your Father also Who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father Who is in heaven forgive your trespasses (Mark 11:25-26). Man's sins are called trespasses against God in this petition and here we beg for God's mercy. This is our confession, asking for His forgiveness. Whoever seeks forgiveness should resort to the healing power of repentance and forgive his neighbor, the trespasser. When we forgive our trespassers, then God will also forgive us our sins (Mark 4:24).

(6) And lead us not into temptation,

In the sixth petition we ask of the Lord that He not allow us to fall into sin. We ask Him to preserve us from all that confuses our spirit and from temptations that are beyond our strength to reject. If we encounter on our earthly path trials and temptations sent for our purification from sin and spiritual fortification, then we ask God to send us His timely help. God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it (I Cor. 10:13). For because He Himself has suffered and been tempted, He is able to help those who are tempted (Heb. 2:18), St. Paul says, indicating the Helper and Accomplisher of our salvation, the Lord Jesus Christ.

(7) But deliver us from the Evil One.

In the seventh and final petition, we ask that we be protected against and saved from Evil and the Devil, who is a murderer from the beginning and works for our destruction. As St. Peter says, the Devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking some one to devour (1 Pet. 5:8). Remembering the Enemy of our salvation, the Lord urges us to be vigilant and sober of spirit, to have courage to accomplish a feat, teaches us to pray for one another, and by prayer to the Heavenly Father, to fortify ourselves spiritually and free ourselves from misfortune and disaster.

Thus the Lord's Prayer is the unfailing model and rule for all prayers. The Church uses it in all the sacramental orders, and in all the Divine Services. As St. John Chrysostom says, it is the crown of all prayers.

Excerpt taken from "These Truths We Hold - The Holy Orthodox Church: Her Life and Teachings". Compiled and Edited by A Monk of St. Tikhon's Monastery. Copyright 1986 by the St. Tikhon's Seminary Press, South Canaan, Pennsylvania 18459.