“…you were bought with a price…”

 

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“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” 1Corinthians 6: 19-20

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Guess where I am at today? Yeah; I am there. It seems like there is a push in our culture to expose us to uber-sexuality. It is everywhere. It is temptation surrounding us. And it is pervasive. The evil one is sitting back and laughing. The movies, the TV shows, song lyrics…and those are the legitimate sources of temptation. I just found out there is an alternate universe of YouTube that is dedicated to pornography (Red something or other). And it is free. There is Snap Chat where kids can sext each other and the image disappears after a few seconds. Except nothing disappears. And our children can find porn so easily. I read an article today that said 97% of all young men before the age of 18 have watched pornography. And it is not like trying to find a centerfold in a Playboy magazine. No. This is hard cord porn. There are images and videos of “rough sex,” and even group sex. Children as young as 11 and 12 are becoming addicted. And they are becoming reclusive and disordered. There was a court case this week against a father, accusing him of sexual abuse. A secondary charge of bestiality was dropped because there was no “penetration.” And that, as sick as it is, unfortunately, is now in our legal system and can set precedent for other cases of child abuse. Pornography and the culture surrounding it is all out there, easily obtained. And it is killing our country’s cultural base, and our families, which are the foundation of our culture. It is creating this disordered sense of what family is supposed to be, our sexuality, and all of our interpersonal relationships. And it is scaring me. And it should be scaring you.

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I am not sure how to combat this epidemic. I do know that I need to change myself, before I can help anyone else change. Do I watch porn? No. Do I read porn? No. Do I allow it in my home? No. Is it here? Probably. Because we allow sexual innuendo and jokes, and poor vocabulary, to sneak into our home and our lives. We slowly allow the level of purity and modesty to sink. It is like the story of the frogs in hot water. You place them in a pot on your stove in warm, tepid water. You slowly increase the heat until the frogs are boiling to death, and they are happy all the way, because they do not notice the water getting increasingly hot. Do we laugh at impure jokes? Do we allow movies rated “R” for sex or violence into our homes? We allowed a movie in that we still regret – the “F” word was used more than 300 times during that movie. That’s more than 1 time/minute. That is ridiculous. It is in the trash. I have to stop this from invading our home. I need to judge myself and see where I am lacking, in that I am allowing this cultural deviation to have a place in our home and family. It is part of the actions that I need to take; that each of us needs to take in order to combat this evil pervading our country, one person and one family at a time.

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What I find so interesting, is that this whole issue was noticed by me, over the past few days, coming from several sources – commercials about this new 50 Shades movie, comments on a couple of ProLife pages on FB, and news reports, even comments from people I know. And the timing is so much the Lord’s. Because this weekend is MeatFare Sunday. This weekend we enter into the preparation for Great Lent. This weekend we turn our focus inward, onto how we are preparing for the sacrifice God made for every one of us. A sacrifice that He would make, even if each of us were the sole person on earth. He would die for my sins alone. He would die for your sins, alone. He is that magnificent of a Creator. He values His creation above all things. He desperately wants each of us to belong solely to Him. Not this world. Not the evil that tempts us in this world. Not the wrong that is trying to invade our righteousness, our holiness, our future of eternity in the presence of God. Because sin separates us from God.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that everyone who believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him. Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is already condemned, because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. And this is the verdict: The Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness more than light, because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come into the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever practices the truth comes into the Light, so that it may be clearly seen that what he has done has been accomplished in God.”” John 3:16-21

If we read part of that in light of pornography and evil, we can see how clearly God is talking to us. When John says, “The Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness more than light, because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come into the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.” Pornography seeps into the world in darkness – behind closed doors. There are have been studies showing that kids can spend hours in their rooms, on their computers. These computers are tools that can help them with their schoolwork, yes, and can be invaluable tools for education. But think of the study that said 97% of boys before 18 have watched pornography. Where? How? Have you checked their laptops? Do you allow computers, Play Stations and the X-Box in their rooms? Did you know they have internet capabilities? I did not realize they are like having another WiFi Hot Spot. Have you scanned their phones or looked at the photos on them? Do you have their log in codes for the internet or their phones? Do you understand the apps they have on their computers and phones – what they can and cannot do on those apps? Do you have all their passwords? They are sometimes alone, in their rooms, with temptation swirling all around them. We trust our kids to become the people we set the example for them to aspire to be. We instruct them. We pray with them, and for them. We go to Church with them. We send them to Youth Group. We monitor their “dating” practices. We know their friends. Some of us homeschool, in order to keep an extra eye on our kids. But are we with them every moment? Is what we are doing enough? The evil one is laughing, because it is NOT enough. Don’t fool yourself. It is NOT enough.

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As we enter this preparation period for Great Lent, we are asked to focus more on our prayer life. Yes, we fast from certain foods; the list for Melkite Greek Catholics is quite lengthy and strict. Many Catholics and Orthodox give up chocolate or coffee. Some give up Facebook or the internet. But for me, fasting is a exercise in self control that I should be trying to do every week; it is not enough of a sacrifice for me (it doesn’t “hurt” enough to be memorable, if that makes sense). We should be fasting from meats on Wednesdays and Fridays all year long (in the Eastern Churches, we do). What works for me is to add something; to intensify the good, wholesome, faith-filled and inspiring things in my life. Doing so helps drown out all this evil and all these ungodly influences. Paying attention to what influences you can even include how you present yourself to others – too much make-up, or even flashy or revealing clothing. Because ungodly attire is a distraction to everyone and it can come from both males and females. How do others perceive you just from how you look when they see you? What is the first impression you give off to others? Are you a wholesome and Godly young person (or older person) or are you projecting the world and its influences? Are you trying too hard to be a part of the world? Try doing more in the religious and faith-filled part of your life. Go to Church more often. Sit in the presence of God in the Tabernacle, where He waits for us. Spend more time praying. Add volunteering with those who are less fortunate. Donate your time, and the money you save fasting, to those who are in need, to those who are suffering. Dedicate a portion of each day to silent prayer. Read stimulating, religious works by some of the Church Fathers. (The Ladder of Divine Assent by John Climacus and Our Thoughts Determine our Lives by Elder Thaddeus are two of my favorites). Stimulate your mind and your heart with thoughts and prayers of God. Divest yourself of the things of this world that make you less than what God calls you to be. Stop allowing the world and its bright and shiny temptations to skewer your relationship with God. Go to confession. Find a mentor or Spiritual Father you can chat with. Have coffee with your Youth Pastor or confessor. Make Godly relationships a priority, while pulling away from those who would do your soul, your eternity, harm. The evil one is laughing…let’s shut him up.

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Take this time of Lent to get yourself right with God. Work on your relationship with your parents, siblings, children, and friends – but most importantly, with God. Cement the Godly and be rid of the evil. Christ endured beatings and belittling for us. God, Himself, hung on that cross for 3 agonizing hours – just for you; just for me. Do not throw His sacrifice back in His face.

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But He was pierced through for our transgressions,
He was crushed for our iniquities;
The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him,
And by His scourging we are healed. Isaiah 53:5

“Not from the mouth of the Lord…”

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I have once again had my tail handed to me – online – by people who assume it is okay to yell at others, slam their integrity, and impugn them. All without ever having met them, even being “Facebook friends,” or other social media connection. And man oh man, has the vitriol gone viral!

I find it interesting that when you disagree with someone, or even point out holes in their argument, they unleash the hounds of hell on you. Online. Wow. In a forum, someone was bemoaning the fact that people are constantly using the forum in place of google, as I alluded to (well, I actually said it) in a post yesterday. Today, I opined basically what I said on my own blog post yesterday, that perhaps if you find the information yourself, it becomes your knowledge. And that growing and stretching and changing is painful, but it is satisfying in and of itself. And then I was accused of a litany of defects, most of which were assembled around the fact that I cannot acknowledge that others have feelings, too, and are insecure and cannot function without seeking confirmation or ratification from others. And therein lies my problem with all of this.

“Thus says the LORD of hosts, “Do not listen to the words of the prophets who are prophesying to you. They are leading you into futility; They speak a vision of their own imagination, Not from the mouth of the LORD.” Jeremiah 23:16

When our society has continually lied to its people, and perpetuated false truths, the result of that can be seen in its young people. At 60 years old, I guess I am no longer a part of the “younger generation,” the “cool kids” like I was in the 70s and 80s. And I have seen the awful results of poor education through experimentation with what is presented, and how it is presented, in our schools and other institutions (even Little League and Pop Warner football). Everyone has to be treated “sensitively,” and we have to be sure “little Johnny” isn’t offended by anything. The false god of pride is alive and well in America and is manifested in our plethora of entitled youth. If “little Johnny” cannot read at grade level, well, we don’t want him to feel bad (and I, his teacher, am so overwhelmed with having to show good scores for my job safety) we promote him, even though he is not ready for it. There’s a movie I love, that is really inappropriate in so many ways, but I love it nonetheless, “Easy A.” I love that Emma Stone takes a stand against the gossipers, and that she “takes one for the team” of inept and socially outcast students, and eventually even a guidance counselor. I love how her parents (Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson) totally get her and support her, even when she changes her style of clothing and sews an “A” on everything. And I bring this up because a boy says he got a venereal disease from her, when in fact he got it from that guidance counselor I mentioned. And he is 21 years old, and only a senior in High School. The girl who likes him (Amanda Bynes) says it is because it is “his choice” to go slowly through school, so he can be a good role model and Christian (he belongs to a Christian group trying to have an affect on other students and it is woefully lampooned in this movie). It becomes obvious this kid is about as dumb as a rock, and that is why he is still in HS at 21 years old. He smoked way too much funny tobacco or something. It is played so well by Cam Gigandet, an actor I like, who was also in Twilight (but that is another post, Bryce. No, he did not sparkle). The guidance counselor (Lisa Kudrow) keeps saying that it is okay because he is over 21 (although it is still wrong because she is married – to her wonderfully unaware husband, played by Thomas Haden Church). He is caught by his mother (and doctor in an hilarious hospital scene) and sent to live with his grandparents in Arizona, where he sits, reading Scripture to them in a short clip.

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The movie shows in so many ways what a massively wrong turn we took, as a culture, somewhere along the way. The fact that this movie, in all its graphic details, shows how kids treat one another, demonstrates why I was taken aback, but not surprised, at the attack on me today. After I shut my computer, I re-opened it and looked at the people lambasting me for suggesting they do their own research. I “Facebook stalked” them and looked at their profiles. Yeah, they were all young enough (or old enough, depending upon where you are standing) to be my children. At least my college-grad children. And I felt really sorry for them. They have probably been given “A’s” their whole life, along with participation trophies for just being on a team, let alone having to strive to be their best for their team.

“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you.” Psalm 32:8

There was a term recently coined during this election cycle and I chuckled when I saw it, and all the glorious artwork accompanying the term. It is, “snowflake.” Now, before some of you get all mad (in case you were not already) let me explain. I live in Alaska. I am around snowflakes all the time. They are beautiful, but extremely fragile. You can only see them if the conditions are perfect, otherwise they will melt away, or become joined by zillions of others and then you are in a snow storm and cannot see them. Right now, the snowflakes are all around us because we are having very cold temps, but no new snow. Everything is covered in this delicious coat of white. It is stunning, truly, to see. Everything is made new in freezing fog and ice.

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Taken in the social construct in which it was termed, a snowflake is someone who just cannot handle the heat of this election cycle, or the fact that they are going to have to go to work, in order to succeed. One man, on a different site, bemoaned the fact that his 31 year old son was living on his couch and was still asleep at 1:00pm, and had no job. Tons of people jumped on that as a lack of this man’s parenting skills, whereas the man was blaming the system for his son’s lazy attitude of entitlement. I can honestly say I believe it is a combination of both. We ship our kids off for 8-9 or more hours a day to a federally mandated educational system that seeks to mold “yes men” and workers out of our kids. Not thinkers. No doers. People who punch a mindless time clock but don’t invent a new way to conquer cancer. People who do not question but just accept what they are fed. And when they have to step outside that comfort zone, and actually learn to think for themselves, they are unable to do it without constant social media support. And today, these youngsters were complaining about all the rules inherent in the Whole30 program, trying to bend them so they could “handle” it. Well, when you are used to being given everything, it is hard to do it for yourself. They hold up bottles and packages, constantly asking, “Is this compliant?” and when I commented that they needed to learn for themselves, they attacked. Boy, did they attack. And I realized it was because they are “adults” and know on some level they are not healthy and have been making poor dietary choices. And they do want to fix it. But these rules are hard. These words confuse them (galactose – okay…but I see “tose” and I know its sugar!!) and they cannot possibly read the labels by themselves. Wow. It makes me sad for them. How are they going to function as adults in this world if they cannot even follow a dietary rule, without social media help (and I’m sorry, but who checks Facebook in a grocery store????) and without attacking other people??

Psalm 143:8 says this: “Remind me each morning of your constant love, for I put my trust in you. My prayers go up to you; show me the way I should go.”

Our world is tanking, my friends. Our youth have been fed garbage in our schools and universities and us dumb parents have allowed it to happen. Why? We trusted our country and our politicians, our leaders and teachers, to know what was best for our kids. Well, I didn’t too much, as I opted to homeschool my kids. But still, those trophies were given out when our boys played sports. I do remember my oldest son, however, chucking a little participation trophy to the side one time. When we commented on it after his season-ending pizza party, he told us, “It’s stupid. We didn’t win anything. We came in last.” Out of the mouths of babes. These same kids, who all thought they were so awesome all this time, now cannot even follow a diet without a meltdown. God bless America and God help our grandchildren’s generation. I can only pray we bring back law and order, the right to say, “Merry Christmas,” and some industry and prosperity and pride. Perhaps they’ll catch on as they run to catch up.

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“…You are praised by the Seraphim …”

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I absolutely love angels.  I love reading fantasy novels which pit good against evil.  Most of the time, good wins; sometimes evil is just too powerful in the face of purity.  But I am drawn to that sort of literature. I mostly read the Young Adult genre because there’s not much profanity, of language or situation, in them.  And I love battling evil. I believe it is what all Christians need to do.

I read a great article on Thursday. “Why Orthodox Men Love Church” by Frederica Mathewes-Green (Here’s a link: http://www.pravoslavie.ru/english.42390htm. I think if you click on the word, Orthodox, above, it will direct you there, too).  I have loved her writing for years and years.  There were some great insights into the spirituality of men in the article and I highly recommend it.  This is one of her quotes, “A convert priest says that men are drawn to the dangerous element of Orthodoxy, which involves “the self-denial of a warrior, the terrifying risk of loving one’s enemies, the unknown frontiers to which a commitment to humility might call us. Lose any of those dangerous qualities and we become the ‘JoAnn Fabric Store’ of churches: nice colors and a very subdued clientele.”  I love this because I happen to adore JoAnne’s Fabric Stores, and my husband hates stepping inside one. He says it’s a “woman’s domain.”  Although he is crafty, he would prefer to shop at Home Depot or Lowe’s for his crafting supplies, as would our son.  And I get that, I truly do. I feel that one of the reasons we were drawn to the East was because we were challenged in what we knew, what we thought we knew, the historical context in which the Eastern Churches arose, and where we, as Americans, all fit in.

Luckily for us, we found the Melkite Greek Catholic Church. Our pastor, Fr. Justin Rose, ensured that we would know to what we were committing ourselves.  We went through some wonderful faith development and enlightenment around the tables in our hall.  We had wonderful shared meals with other journeymen of faith; we shared bottles of wine and some amazing bar-be-ques and hookahs. We loved every moment of that experience. The Melkites are a church of the MIddle East. Most of our parishioners did not speak English as their primary language, nor did they speak it at home. Our Liturgies are sung in Arabic, English, Greek, and occasionally, a little Spanish. I was blessed to learn the tones in Arabic as well as English. I will clarify that for those of you who know my singing ability and say that I can “follow the guy in front of me” pretty well.  Heaven forbid one of the other deacon’s wives and I sat too close together, because she is as bad as I am.  Fr. Justin told us we sing in Tone 10 – deacon’s wives tone! (For those of you unfamiliar with tonal singing in Church, there is no Tone 10!). For another quote in her article, “As Leon Podles wrote in his 1999 book, “The Church Impotent: The Feminization of Christianity,” “The Orthodox are the only Christians who write basso profundo church music, or need to.”  It is wonderful to hear good, clear, tonal music from men’s voices in Church. I love it.Male Cantors

And one of the things I get most from Eastern-styled worship is a sense of safety and comfort. The faith is not watered down; there is no ambiguity about what I need to do to strengthen my relationship with Jesus Christ. I need to not sin. Period. I need to place my complete faith in Jesus Christ. Period. “The prayers the Church provides for us — morning prayers, evening prayers, prayers before and after meals, and so on — give men a way to engage in spirituality without feeling put on the spot, or worrying about looking stupid because they don’t know what to say.” The same holds true for women. We love that we can come to morning prayer, even a little late, and just join in. No surprises. We always know what comes next and there is comfort and a feel of protectiveness in that.

Our world is careening out of control these days. There is wantonness everywhere you turn. Sex sells. It sure does. And it saddens me that promiscuity is now rewarded. How many times do we hear, “So and So were just engaged and plan to marry after the birth of their first child, due next month.” Wow. There’s even hedonism  – it is defined as seeking pleasure as the highest good in life (think of Herod and the licentiousness of the late Roman Empire) – and even when seeking to have children. There’s an up and coming trend these days among women who make a living in the public forum and who don’t want to look “bad” in the press or in their business suits, so they are hiring women to have babies for them.  Because they don’t want to mar their bodies with the glories of stretch marks, or appear to be fat. Oh my. There is an over-importance placed on the purse you carry, the car you drive, even what clothes your children wear, which restaurants you frequent. How can all of this come into line with an Orthodox, as in right-thinking, life of faith? It just doesn’t. Pretty simple, really.

I am feeling so out of control about how this world is affecting my friends, my kids, my church family. There have been seemingly innocent kids caught “sexting” at a high school in Colorado (click on the word and it should take you to a CNN article about it). Some of their nude photos were taken on campus. Literally hundreds of students were caught with hundreds of photos. There is an app kids can get for smart phones that looks like a calculator on their phone but is really a “secret” file sort of like Snap Chat, where kids can hide their nude photos from their parents. And there was a game involved – who could collect the most photos of fellow students – nude photos – was the winner. Now many of these teens face felony charges and life-long registry as sex offenders. How do we combat this? It is NOT okay to send nude photos of yourself. Things on the internet never die. Ever. Someone has a record of it somewhere. Every, single, keystroke or attachment, file or photo is stored in the great internet “cloud” of information somewhere. A friend’s son is going through the process of becoming a fire fighter, which is something my youngest son aspires to. There are intensive background checks, as well as lie-detector tests, health screening, and psych exams you have to pass, above and beyond the skill set of firefighting, itself. If a 14-year-old kid made stupid statements on FB, or posted inappropriate photos of himself or others, 8 years later, as a college graduate, he could not get a job because there’s a record of that idiocy on the internet somewhere, that some expert in unearthing stuff, will find. How do we stop it before it begins?

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Orthodoxy preserves and transmits ancient Christian wisdom about how to progress toward this union, which is called “theosis.” Every sacrament or spiritual exercise is designed to bring the person, body and soul, further into continual awareness of the presence of Christ within, and also within every other human being. As a cloth becomes saturated with dye by osmosis, we are saturated with God by theosis.

A catechumen wrote that he was finding icons helpful in resisting unwanted thoughts. “If you just close your eyes to some visual temptation, there are plenty of stored images to cause problems. But if you surround yourself with icons, you have a choice of whether to look at something tempting or something holy.

Do we surround ourselves and our families with things that bring us into the “Presence of God?” Do we watch our speech? Is what I say life-giving? Is it destructive? Do I harm others by my speech? Are others better because of knowing me? Or do I bring others down? Are my actions reflecting what I believe in? Do I allow abhorrent behavior to continue around me? Do I associate with others who reflect what I believe? Do I allow my children to associate with others who are not good for their character development? Will I be able to stand before God, when He asks me, “What have you done for the souls I have entrusted to you?” Will I answer, “Lord, I prayed for them; I sheltered them; I fed them; I instructed them; I set them on the path to You?” For my children, I pray I did this for them. And they then made their own adult choices and decisions. We can only “lead a horse to water, but you cannot make them drink.” Each person’s faith is specifically that – their own. As parents, we try to lead our children to a life of faith. In the world, at times we are the only Jesus a stranger, even a friend, will ever know. So how do we conduct ourselves, even at the grocery store, on the highways and byways of life, with our own relatives? Are we Christ to them? Do we lead by example? Are we the light and leaven in this fallen world?

Christians in the world.

I have been feeling so out of control of the things around me. It seems like nothing I can do can affect a change, especially an immediate one. I feel hamstrung some days. Thursday was a particularly trying day. I was trying to affect movement and change in the world of business and was thwarted at every turn. I was trying to help my children and some friends. But the Lord decided I needed some fine tuning today. He wanted me to learn patience and utter reliance on His Word in my life. He wanted me to learn that stopping, taking a deep breath, and praying is more often the valued path to choose. Sometimes my words are not what others need to hear. Sometimes I cannot effect change in the timeframe my brain had settled on. Some things have to germinate and take forever to change. But God truly has my life in His hands. I truly believe this world is a fallen place where I am to work out my salvation for the next. We are tried again and again. Sometimes we fall. The trick is to always get back up, ready to battle evil again.

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It is proper and right to sing to You, bless You, praise You, thank You and worship You in all places of Your dominion; for You are God ineffable, beyond comprehension, invisible, beyond understanding, existing forever and always the same… We also thank You for this liturgy which You are pleased to accept from our hands, even though You are surrounded by thousands of Archangels and tens of thousands of Angels, by the Cherubim and Seraphim, six-winged, many-eyed, soaring with their wings

I try to imagine Heaven, where all the choirs of angels are constantly singing praise to God. Where they are flying to and from His Throne, ministering to their charges. And I pray that some day the sweet sounds of their eternal song will be heard by me, for eternity. I pray I can greet my family members and friends, who have made the journey before me. All the angels and saints, greeting me as I approach the Throne of God. And I wondered, with all the stress of the day I had yesterday, the chats continuing on today, the many conversations and actions throughout my life, if I have done enough – for others. We are called to love those who persecute us; to love our enemies; to pray for those who hate us. Have I, honestly, done that? What have I done for the souls entrusted to me? I pray that all of us, as our world continues to careen out of control, that we stop; we all just stop, take a deep breath and pray to God. Stop and notice those hurting around you. Re-evaluate the words you use with others; the actions you take with others. If each of us were to truly be Christian in this fallen world, we could affect a change. A real, authentic change. We are called to be the “light and leaven” in this fallen world. And not because of what we do, but how we believe, take that belief of Christ Jesus living in us (Theosis) and turn it into love for one another.

For indeed He was crucified because of weakness, yet He lives because of the power of God. For we also are weak in Him, yet we will live with Him because of the power of God directed toward you. Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you– unless indeed you fail the test? But I trust that you will realize that we ourselves do not fail the test.…” (2Cor 13:5-8)

Prayer candles cross

“…in their midst.”

Candles sandI find myself so often approaching the large icons at the front of our parish and just standing there, with my wonderful beeswax candles in my hand.  If you have never had the opportunity to smell beeswax candles, combined with the scent of incense still in the air, alongside icons painted on wood, in a wooden church, in a damp or cold environment, you have been missing something. It is almost ethereal; the senses, if we allow them, share with us the Presence of the Divine in our Churches.  God told us, “Whenever two or three are gathered in My Name, there I am, in their midst.” (Matthew 18:20).  Very often these days, I find myself humbled before these icons, which represent Our Lord and the Theotokos, or Mother of God.  In a Byzantine parish, we are blessed to see icons pretty much everywhere you turn.  If you look up, there is Christ, Pantocrator, lovingly watching His people.  Behind our altar, deep in the Holy Place, is an amazing icon of the Mother of God holding Our Lord.  The iconostasis is full of icons and when the candles are lit and the incense is being distributed by the Deacon, accompanied by the tones of our faith, God feels with us; truly with us.

Priest at Holy DoorsAs I light my candles, I offer prayers.  So many prayers.  For ourselves and our lives, for my children and grandchildren, for friends, for peace.  More often than I like to admit, I find myself quietly weeping, bringing all those concerns before God.  The scent of the beeswax and the incense, the warmth of the wood and icons all around me, the quiet peace inside the Church, it all gives me a sense of peace.  And a completeness, that this is where I need to be, to offer these concerns and prayers – at the foot of Our Lord.

I have been delving a little bit into some sites online that are purported to be of my same faith, although with varying degrees of fervency and varying styles of worship.  But most are, at the very least, Byzantine, or Eastern in nature.  I have steered away from the political “hot buttons” and pretty much left much of those sorts of pages or sites, because they seemed just so inflammatory. The anger level was palatable and I think I have enough stress in my life without adding politics to the mix.  And, to be honest, I was hoping for some of the camaraderie I have found at our parish, on these Byzantine/Eastern sites.  But to be completely honest, I was taken aback and felt assaulted with the same sort of angry rhetoric I found at political sites and pages.  I was so surprised at how much anger is in pretty much everyone. I have found several hearts out there that beat similarly to mine and have enjoyed interacting so much with them.  Many of these people I have met are monks and priests, deacons and readers, along with a considerable number of lay people.  But the “hot buttons” of politics have been replaced by seemingly “hot buttons” in faith. I had no idea people were this upset and would strike in such mean and nasty ways at people they only know through the internet.  One person said that the internet allows us to be ruder than we would be in a personal conversation, sitting down with another person.  I think that is pretty right on.  There is also very little respect for our clerics, be they readers, deacons, priests, religious, or monks.  One person said they are “just people,” and “put their pants on, one leg at a time.”  I found that sad, and very disturbing.  I presumed that this person has no concept or honest experience of Holy Orders or the Divine in his life.  I love knowing my priest and monk friends, and I love having them as friends.  But I do treat them with the utmost respect.  Mostly for the education they have that I do not, their treasure of knowledge that I love listening to.  But foremost, I respect their ordination.  I respect that my priest has “holy hands” because he brings me God in the Sacraments. I only wish that people would realize that we are gathered together, in the the guise of faith, to lift one another up.  And if we approach the use of the internet and these sites and pages that profess to be ones of faith, knowing the Words of God, “there I am in their midst,” then perhaps some of this ugliness would disappear.  I know my spirit feels like it was trampled upon and sort of beat up!

And tonight, as our family heads off to Divine Liturgy to celebrate the feast day of Our Lady, I will light my beeswax candles and I will do so with the hearts of these people in mind.  We cannot be someone who draws others to this Divine Light of faith if we treat each others with contempt and disrespect. I personally quit several sites because of the vehemence with which others disrespected people, myself included.  And I will pray that with this faith we are so rudely defending, that we actually act in a manner that shows that we are believers, that we love God, and believe in His Words to us:

““‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”  (Matthew 22:36-40)

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