Category Archives: Eastern Orthodoxy

Goodbye

This post is probably the most difficult one I’ve written. It’s a decision upon which I have reflected, prayed and wrestled for almost a year. Yet, as time passes, I am increasingly convinced that it’s time to close the door on this blog.

I began this blog in March 2003 as our family left professional ministry and embarked on a journey of theological exploration. This blog has recorded our joys and struggles as we explored a different form of Christian community. It has allowed me to deconstruct and reconstruct my theology and wrestle with my new identity outside of professional ministry. It has marked special events in our family’s life. And recently, it has recorded our family’s journey into the Holy Orthodox Church.

So why am I ending this blog?

There are a several reasons, but I won’t bore you with the details. Ultimately I believe I’m entering a time when my voice needs to be silent. For me, this blog has been a platform to share what I’ve learned and experienced as well as serving as a catalyst for conversations beyond my local relationships. During the past seven years, I have thoroughly enjoyed writing as well as participating in the conversations that various posts have sparked. I am blessed by the number of people who have contacted me to share their stories. I’m always startled by God’s grace and love in the midst of every person’s journey, struggles and joys. I feel like I was blessed with the rare opportunities to witness firsthand the remarkable transformations of faith as people searched for something deeper and more meaningful than their current church experiences.

But it’s now time for me to be quiet. And I had a choice to make. I could have simply stopped writing posts and let this blog fade away. However, as I’ve grown a bit older, I’ve realized that marking significant events has become increasingly important to me.

This blog has been a very n0table part of my life and I would have regretted not marking my decision to end it. This blog has sustained me for the last several years. It has been my journal and sounding board, allowing me to process my wounds, my theology and my journey. There are probably as many unpublished posts as published ones. But the discipline of writing all of them with prayer, reflection and discernment has been an essential part of the overall formative process in my journey. So because this blog has meant so much to me, I need closure.

As I say goodbye to this blog, some thanks are in order. First, I want to thank everyone who participated in our house church community — Mark, Barbara, Dan, Kerri, David, Jennifer, Angela, Gary, Anne, Thomas, Erika, Billy, Carol, Alan, Maribeth, Debbie and all of the kids and friends who been part of our extended family.

I also want to thank Steve for being a great friend and pastor to me through those house church years. And I want to thank David for being such a profound influence in my movement toward Orthodoxy.

While this blog comes to an end, my life-goals remain the same. I simply want to be a good man, husband, father and friend. I want to embody, demonstrate and announce Christ’s life and love to the best of my abilities. I want to incarnate Christ’s presence in a simple, quiet way to the people I love so that they may grow and excel in God’s life. In some small way, I want to follow St Seraphim of Sarov’s words, “Acquire a peaceful spirit, and around you thousands will be saved.”

I want to thank all of you who have taken time to read my posts, leave comments, say prayers for my family, and be a little part of our journey. May God lead you ever further into his life, love and likeness.

Goodbye.


Bridegroom Hymn

During the last two evenings, our family has attended the Bridegroom Matins. These are such beautiful services, immersing us ever-deeper into Holy Week. One of the hymns we sing during these services is absolutely breathtaking. It succinctly captures the pathos of the Lenten journey of joyful repentance as well as the brilliant hope of Christ’s resurrection that awaits us at the culmination of Holy Week.

“I behold Thy bridal chamber richly adorned, O my Savior; but I have no wedding garment to worthily enter. Make radiant the garment of my soul, O Giver of Light, and save me.”

I’ve attached a short clip of our congregation singing the hymn:


Happy 18th Birthday, Michael!

Wow! Today, my oldest child, Michael, turns 18 years old! It has been such an honor watching Michael grow up. I’m astonished by his stellar character. He’s compassionate and thoughtful. He takes his faith very seriously. And he’s very intelligent and creative. I’m filled with such joy when I watch him serve at the altar in our parish.

As Michael quickly approaches his high school graduation, both he and our family are aware of the many changes we face. I know these changes are inevitable and are good for all of us. But I also know that I will deeply miss the unique family dynamics that we’ve enjoyed the past several years.

Michael, I love you more than my words and actions have expressed. You are an amazing person and  being your dad fills me daily with joy. Happy Birthday, Michael! May God grant you many years!


What the Holy Spirit Shows Us

I follow Jason Barker at Orthodoxresource.com. His site is a wonderful repository of Orthodox quotes. I especially enjoyed today’s quote by St Innocent of Alaska:

“But when the Holy Spirit dwells in the heart of a person, He shows him all his inner poverty and weakness, and the corruption of his heart and soul, and his separation from God; and with all his virtues and righteousness. He shows him his sins, his sloth and indifference regarding the salvation and good of people, his self-seeking in his apparently most disinterested virtues, his coarse selfishness even where he does not suspect it. To be brief, the Holy Spirit shows him everything as it really is.”

As a former charismatic and as one who still associates with people in the movement, I have claimed and still hear claims about things that the Holy Spirit has supposedly revealed. Needless to say, much of it is simply distorted passions run amuck in the guise of a prophetic voice.

But Jesus called the Holy Spirit the Spirit of Truth. And if He is dwelling and working in us toward our salvation, then wouldn’t He show us what is true, especially about ourselves? Wouldn’t He illumine the dark crevices of our souls with the brilliance of Truth, replacing delusion with Reality? And that Reality would be our continuous and desperate need for Jesus and His kingdom.


Fr Stephen & “The Existence of God”

Do you hear the crack of the bat and the screaming crowds? You should. That’s because Fr Stephen had hit another one out of the park! His excellent post on “The Existence of God” is a must-read. Here’s a couple of paragraphs that made me want to shout “Amen!”

“We are living in a time of history in which saints are required. We have long passed the time in which rational arguments will carry the day. Nothing less than lives which manifest the existence of God will do. The world has heard centuries of arguments – has been subjected to crass persecutions and atrocities in the name of God (even if these were largely not the result of Orthodox actions). We have survived a century of extremes (Bolshevism, Nazism, etc.). That the world is hungry is beyond doubt. But the world is not hungry for a new and winning argument. The world hungers for God (whether it knows this or not).

“The proper Christian answer to the hunger of the world is to be found only in the manifestation of God. Thus the challenge of a modern atheist should not be met with an anxious rejoinder from our panoply of arguments – but with the urgency of prayer that we might ourselves become an answer through the reality of the presence of God in our lives.”

Fr Stephen is absolutely correct. The proper answer to questions of God’s existence are not logical arguments but living examples of God, embodied and incarnated in normal human lives. That’s why I believe the core of being “missional” is first and foremost theosis. Humans are designed to be God’s image, reflecting him into the world. Christ provides both the way and the example of being God’s image in human form. We must become like him for the sake of the world.


Fr Gregory & “Certitude, Doubt and the Virtue of Faith”

Fr Gregory answers an email, discussing the virtue of faith as well as the dynamic between certainty and faith. It’s a good read and I absolutely love the summarizing paragraphs:

“For St Gregory Nyssa, to wrap this up, this is the source of human perfectablity.  We are in a constant state of change, and so we are forever imperfect.  This however is not due to any lack on our part but is inherent in being a creature and it our changeability that makes it possible for to grow in perfection, that is become like God Who does not change.  We can only become like the Unchanging God, that is perfect, to the degree that we are willing to change “and change frequently” in Gregory’s formulation.

“To the degree that I imagine I have intellectual certitude–that is that now I understand God or the Christian life in an exhaustive sense–to that degree I am a fool and living not by faith but something else entirely.  A life of faith requires that I am constantly changing, growing and re-evaluating myself and my life not only in the Light of the Unchanging God but also the ever changing circumstances in which I (quite literally) find myself.”


Living As God’s Image

Living as the image of God is what it means to be truly human. We were created in the image of God and it has always been God’s intention that humanity would mature into the fullness of this image, which is fully embodied and demonstrated by Christ.

While this intention might seem impossible, we are never called to live like anything else. Our attempts to live as something else is the core of our corruption and distortion. Therefore, our healing and renewal, along with the entirety of creation, occurs as we relearn how to live as God’s image during the course of our normal daily lives.

The question that looms before us is “How do we do this?” After almost 25 years as a Christian, I am convinced that the Orthodox Church possesses both the fullest theological paradigm and practical process for learning how to incarnate Christ’s life and presence on earth.

This is why I resonate so much with a quote from Met Jonah that I recently posted. The primary reason for my joining the Orthodox Church is because I believe it is the Way to Christ’s likeness. And while I believe the Orthodox Church is the historical and apostolic church, for me that matters only in that it has helped the Orthodox Church to preserve the Way through the centuries.

A recent post by Fr Gregory Jensen has further stimulated my personal reflections. He succinctly summarizes his reflections about the future of Orthodoxy in America:

“Objective teaching about the Gospel, the Church’s worship (especially the Eucharist), and the human heart, all converge in Jesus Christ and the fruit of that encounter is the desire to evangelize, to bear witness to what we know personally. All four of these elements must be present. Where I suspect we have gone wrong is to neglect the formation of the human heart.”

I love Orthodoxy and all of its beauty. I love its history, its theology, its liturgy and its sacraments. Sure there are still points of contention that arise when my past Evangelical Protestant theology, practices and values are confronted with those of Orthodoxy’s. But I’m at home in Orthodoxy, even if my new home still stirs feelings of culture shock and homesickness now and then.

This is why I was thrilled to come across an essay by Met Jonah through Fr Stephen’s blog. The essay is entitled, “Do Not Resent, Do Not React, Keep Inner Stillness.” For me, this essay was a reminder and a refocus. It encapsulates the trajectory of my Christian life just prior to leaving professional ministry and my journey ever since. I still believe that as human beings created in God’s image, we are to join God in his mission to nurture and renew humanity and creation toward the fulfillment of his intentions. For me, this is what the last line of the Creed conveys, “I look for the resurrection of the dead and the Life of the world to come.” This line is not conveying a passive waiting, but an active anticipation as we lean into and live toward that future based on everything the Creed has previously affirmed.

So we live into God’s future, actively participating in God’s mission toward that future primarily by learning to be and live as God’s image. In so doing, we experience the healing and restoration of our human nature from which true embodied and everlasting love and goodness flow.

If you’re interested, you can also hear an hour-long lecture of the same material by Met Jonah on Ancient Faith Radio, entitled “The Spiritual Process.”

And if you’re interested in going a even further, there is also a five-part lecture series on the Met Jonah’s material at Icon New Media Network:

Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4, & Part 5


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