Wednesday, April 27, 2011

More About Pascha, er Easter

Along with my response to a comment I got on the post "Is Easter Pagan??", I thought I'd post a link to this article as I found it to be especially helpful:

I offer no judgment toward people who use the term "Easter" rather than "Pascha."  None at all!  I just put this out there as food for thought because I thought Father Michael makes a lot of sense and gives biblical justification for the use of the word "Pascha."

Off my soapbox now! 

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

To Train Up a Child: A Review

I wrote this review on Amazon a few years ago and thought I'd post it here.  Please keep in mind that this review was written before the deaths of Sean Paddock and Lydia Schatz, both of which implicate the Pearls' teachings as contributing factors to these deaths.  I would have MUCH stronger words today then I did several years ago... but this review is a pretty good summary of what I think about their godless, evil teachings.

One star out of Five

I think a few of the main problems I have with this book lie in a couple of areas:
1. The Pearls view training children the way some people view training animals. Several times in TTUAC, Mr. Pearl states that the biblical way to train children is the same way we train a mule or a dog. He seems to ignore the fact that children are human beings made in God’s image. Biblically speaking, we are to treat human beings with a great deal more dignity and respect than a dog.
2. The Pearls set up an antagonistic relationship between parent and child. The child’s will must be subdued and conquered and the only way to accomplish this, it seems, is through switching. If parents fail to use this method, Mr. Pearl states that parents are creating a “Nazi.” He commands parents to look for opportunities to “thwart” the will of one’s children. I don’t see that in the Bible anywhere.
3. Obviously, parents react to the Pearls’ materials in different ways. I see TTUAC as a manual for child abuse. Pearl supporters claim its saved their homes. It seems to be a matter of interpretation. How can we know how anyone is going to interpret what is in that book? Even some Pearl supporters say that they don’t agree with everything they say which means there are elements that just don’t sit right with many, many people. I would hope that those folks ask why those elements bother them so much.
4. The Pearls represent themselves as biblical authorities on parenting and “child training”. Parents who don’t have a good support system in place tend to get desperate very fast. Mr. Pearl states in his introduction to TTUAC that once you read his book, the techniques will seem obvious and you’ll wonder why you didn’t figure it out on your own. Desperate people often tend toward extreme behavior. There are many MANY pro-spanking parents who feel that the Pearls’ methods are extreme. Switching for each and every single offense. Placing a child’s hands on a hot stove to teach him not to touch it. Shoving an unsuspecting child in a pool to teach them fear of the water. Hosing down a child who’s soiled his pants while learning to potty train as punishment for not using the potty.
Believe me, there are innumberable ways to raise godly children that have nothing whatsoever to do with the abuse advocated in this book.
5. This book is also full of horrible theology which I believe stems from the Pearls errant view on the nature of man.
6. The Pearls are just bad writers. They are totally unclear about several of their ideas and they contradict themselves in a number of places. Never show mercy to your child, show mercy to your child. Pick your child up when he cries, don’t pick him up when he cries. Things like that. I know for a fact that their style alone has left a number of parents totally confused about what to do with their kids. If the Pearls believe that consistency is the key, perhaps they should work on being more consistent in their writing.
Please, please don’t buy it. Amazon should stop selling it.
I’d give it zero stars if I could.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Christos Anesti!

Christ is Risen from the dead
And through death, He did trample upon death
And thus bestowed upon those in the tombs the gift of life.

Alithos Anesti! Truly He is Risen!

I cannot believe that Pascha has come and gone!  This past week was so incredibly moving for my whole family that I'm kind of sad to see it go.  Holy Week is an incredibly intense time of prayer, services, standing, repentance, sorrow, joy, hope... And it all culminates in that glorious and hope-filled proclamation that Christ is risen from the dead!  Truly, He is Risen!

Can I just brag on my kids for a moment?  They did AWESOME this week!  They attended just about every service I went to and they behaved so well and were so patient, I started to wonder who traded in my babies for these adults who sat still and didn't ask to be taken the loo 100 times.  I think, in total, they attended about 15 hours of services from Wednesday through Sunday.

My husband was received into the Church by chrismation just before the Resurrection service began late Saturday night.  I cannot describe the joy that I feel now that we are all united together in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.  I am so grateful to God for bringing my husband home to His Church and for giving Mark a genuine conviction about the veracity of the Orthodox Church's contention that it is the Apostolic witness alive in the world.  He could have converted just to please me- and that would've been enough for me at this point- but he seems to have genuinely embraced the Church's teachings and the demands made on your body and soul and mind.  I am very proud and very RELIEVED!

I want to write more.  I so do.  I am full of stories about Great and Holy Friday and how the Lord brought me to a wonderful place of repentance and peace before His cross that afternoon; what we do in the services; the JOY and emotion and hope of Pascha... the look on my priest's face as he sings "Christos Anesti" is priceless; you can tell that THIS proclamation- that Christ is Risen from the dead- is the center of his very soul.  It is what fuels him.  I'll never get a picture of it except in my mind.  We sing Christos Anesti/Christ is Risen at least 20 or 30 times on Pascha night alone!

As I was saying... I want to write more on these things and I plan to... but I'm falling into a post-Pascha coma at the moment.  Somehow, while we were out all week at Church, my house went to pot.  Mount Washmore looks like Mount Everest and while I started from base camp and made it a few camps upward, I still need to tackle the summit.  I put declared today a TV/non-school day and fixed up my house.  Tomorrow, its back to school and back to live as usual.

Except that life can never be the same as long as those words, Christos Anesti, continue to ring in my heart.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Hades Groans

"Today hades groans and cries aloud: 
'It had been better for me, had I not accepted Mary's Son,
 for He has come to me and destroyed my power; 
He has shattered the gates of brass,
 and as God He has raised up the souls that once I held.' 
Glory to Thy Cross, O Lord, and to Thy Resurrection!"

~A Hymn from Holy Saturday

Until yesterday, my heart had been weighed down with troubles and I just couldn't focus on repentance and genuine sorrow for the part that my life has played in placing Christ on the cross.  But somehow, sitting in the church with my husband in silence, God trampled down those walls and those sorrows I was feeling for the troubles in my life turned into that repentance and sorrow for sin I had been longing for and seeking.  I started weeping.  I left the service last night, no longer weighed down by my earthly cares.  I hope this feeling stays, at least through tomorrow.  

I will write more about yesterday, Great and Holy Friday, in the days to come.  For now, I am basking in the truth that Satan has been defeated and the grave can no longer hold those who call Christ their Savior.

Kali Anastasi!  Blessed Resurrection!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Is Easter Pagan??

Is Easter pagan?


I came across this article and thought it might be helpful for those who have questions about the origins of the commemoration of Christ's Resurrection.

Was Easter Borrowed From a Pagan Holiday?

Here's a little snippet to whet the appetite:

Anyone encountering anti-Christian polemics will quickly come up against the accusation that a major festival practiced by Christians across the globe—namely, Easter—was actually borrowed or rather usurped from a pagan celebration. I often encounter this idea among Muslims who claim that later Christians compromised with paganism to dilute the original faith of Jesus.
The argument largely rests on the supposed pagan associations of the English and German names for the celebration (Easter in English and Ostern in German). It is important to note, however, that in most other European languages, the name for the Christian celebration is derived from the Greek word Pascha, which comes frompesach, the Hebrew word for Passover. Easter is the Christian Passover festival. 
Of course, even if Christians did engage incontextualization—expressing their message and worship in the language or forms of the local people—that in no way implies doctrinal compromise. Christians around the world have sought to redeem the local culture for Christ while purging it of practices antithetical to biblical norms. After all, Christians speak of "Good Friday," but they are in no way honoring the worship of the Norse/Germanic queen of the gods Freya by doing so. 
But, in fact, in the case of Easter the evidence suggests otherwise: that neither the commemoration of Christ's death and resurrection nor its name are derived from paganism.

And for what its worth, the Orthodox do not generally use the term "Easter" to describe this holy day.  I've heard it used by some but the correct term for us is "Pascha."

Okay, I'm off to decorate the church for this afternoon!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

She Knows My Pain

Today He who hung the earth upon the waters is hung on the tree. The King of the angels is decked with a crown of thorns. He who wraps the heavens in clouds is wrapped in the purple of mockery. The Bridegroom of the Church is affixed to the Cross with nails. The Son of the Virgin is pierced by a spear. We worship Thy passion, O Christ. Show us also Thy glorious resurrection.
Today the blameless Virgin saw You, O Word of God, hanging on the Cross, deeply mourning you within herself, and bitterly pierced in the heart, she groaned in agony from the depth of her soul.  Exhausted by beating on her breast, with hair disheveled, she cried out wailing: "Woe to me! My Divine Son! Woe to me! Light of the world!  Why O Lamb of God, have You faded from my eyes?" Wherefore, the legions of the Heavenly Hosts were seized with trembling, crying out "O incomprehensible Lord, glory to You."
But God, our King, before all ages wrought salvation amidst the earth.
Seeing You hanging on the Cross O Christ, the God and Creator of all, Whom as a Virgin she bore, she cried out bitterly: "O my Son, where has the beauty of Your form vanished? I cannot bear to see You unjustly crucified; hasten therefore and rise up, that I too may behold Your Resurrection from the dead on the third day."

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

School News

I. am. not. creative.


I am a homeschool mom.  Those two are difficult to mesh together successfully, I think.  I actually have to stretch my creative muscles in order to do anything not out of a story or workbook.

In other words, I am the most boring teacher ever.

Not really.  My kids seem to enjoy school and they are learning a lot.  And I must say, the wannabe creative mom in me came out yesterday in an effort to keep the interest going.

1. We sang our math lessons.  Made-up melodies for math problems.  It was hilarious, but it kept my son's attention- and we were having some attention issues yesterday... It was his idea to sing and we ended having a lot of fun!

2. The kids created "cave paintings" to go along with the lessons about early humans.  I crumbled up some grocery bags to give the paper some texture and they painted something from their daily lives- Alex did an amusement park (not part of our daily lives, but still pretty cool).  Sophia did... well... a Jackson Pollack, also not part of our daily lives.  But they had fun AND did some art.  Alex really enjoyed it which brought me joy because he's not an art kind of kid at all.

In other homeschool news:

I picked up the Simply Charlotte Mason All-Day Seminar and our homeschool was lifted out of the doldrums overnight!  Katherine over at Evlogia suggested that using the wisdom found in this seminar would be the best thing we could do for our homeschool and she was totally right.  I am THRILLED and recommend this DVD set wholeheartedly.

I am starting to wonder whether or not we need the charter school to fund our homeschool... We will be using A LOT of Simply Charlotte Mason products and recommendations (Spelling Wisdom, Delightful Reading, English for the Thoughtful Child, Outdoor Secrets, etc.) and the school won't fund those purchases.  Totally fine.  So what do I need the school for?  Yes, the school will pay for extracurricular activities and field trips but is it worth it?  The only drawback to leaving now is that we'd have to give back everything they've bought for us and repurchasing those things would cost us significantly.  So, for now, we're sticking with it.

We recently revolutionized our math lessons by FINALLY picking up the Singapore Home Instructor's Guide which, I must begrudgingly admit, is the KEY to teaching math the "Singapore Way."  Manipulatives Manipulatives Manipulatives!  Less text/workbook.

I picked up A Child's History of the World which I LOVE because it does not come from a Young Earth Creationist perspective.  My kids love the stories. They are far more engaging then Story of the World.

Along with "A Child's History," I did purchase the first set of timeline figures from Homeschool in the Woods. These figures are beautiful and the descriptions will be really helpful... but the dates are wrong.  A lot of the dates are wrong.  I don't have a problem with the timeline beginning in 5005 BC- if they want to come from that perspective, that's fine.  We just won't use their dates for anything before Genesis 12.  Not a problem.  BUT, I'm finding that a lot of the ancient history dates are incorrect- some of them are off by centuries.  And this does present a problem for us because we are putting together a Book of Centuries.  I don't mind changing pre-history dates because I expect that they will have their dates wrong on those events, but I do not want to have to change 700 dates.  That is definitely no bueno.

We have eight weeks left in the school year and I intend to finish STRONG!  I feel like I have finally hit my stride as a teacher.  My kids don't complain about the lessons anymore (thank you Sonya Shafer!) and I'm hitting every subject I want to cover.  We've even managed to have a school week during Holy Week, the busiest time of year for us liturgically speaking.  But if you keep the lessons short, sweet, and interesting, its easier to fit school in to the rhythm of liturgical life.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

About My Father's Business

The Church has given us quite a long Gospel reading from the Olivet Discourse for Great Tuesday.  I felt especially convicted this morning as I read these words:

45 “Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his master made ruler over his household, to give them food in due season? 46 Blessed is that servant whom his master, when he comes, will find so doing. 47 Assuredly, I say to you that he will make him ruler over all his goods. 48 But if that evil servant says in his heart, ‘My master is delaying his coming,’ [g] 49 and begins to beat his fellow servants, and to eat and drink with the drunkards, 50 the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him and at an hour that he is not aware of, 51 and will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Matthew 24:45-51

God has called me to the incredible vocation of wife and mother.  I can truly say that this is exactly what I want to be doing with my life and I am so thankful and privileged to be able to do it.

But I need to actually do it.

The faithful and wise servant in this parable is constantly working at his calling because he knows that the Lord's return is imminent and he does not want to be caught being lazy when his Master comes calling.  The evil servant knows that its going to be a while before the Master returns, so he does whatever his heart pleases.  He then gets caught off guard because he wasn't looking for the Master.

Holy Week is geared toward getting our minds focused on the coming of our Bridegroom, our Master, our Savior.  During this week especially, the great majority of our mental and even physical energy is spent in preparation for Pascha.  I think this is why we read the Olivet Discourse during this time.

This passage hit me even more close to home this morning.  I am sooooo often more like the evil servant- procrastinating my duties and engaging in the "fruits of my labors" before I have actually, you know, labored.  I mean, who doesn't like to eat desert first?  But I think Jesus is calling me to be busy in my vocation and calling BECAUSE I do not know the day or the hour of His return.  I would be MORTIFIED if he came to my door and found me on Facebook while dirty dishes sat unwashed in the sink.

Please, please know that I am speaking of myself here and my own particular issues with sloth and self-discipline.  I am not saying that anyone's home needs to be perfectly clean or that hanging out on Facebook or reading/writing blogs or whatever is wrong in any way.  My own tendency is to do these things first and then put off my duties- my very calling- until it feels convenient for me.
And that is not at all the way I want to live my life.

I love the idea of being busy about my Father's business because Jesus is returning soon.  Working out my salvation (out, not for!) within my vocation prepares my soul for eternity and union with Christ.  My vocation is God's particular design for my particular soul- He knows my frame!- and He knows that this life that He has given me is exactly what I need to prepare for my Bridegroom.  And I long for Him, down to my very bones.

I'd better get busy!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Behold, the Bridegroom Comes!

Behold, the Bridegroom comes at midnight,
and blessed is the servant whom He shall find watching;
and again, unworthy is the servant whom He shall find heedless.
Beware, therefore, O my soul, do not be weighted down with sleep,
lest you be given up to death,
and lest you be shut out of the Kingdom!
But rouse yourself, crying: “Holy, holy, holy, are You, O our God!”
Through the Theotokos have mercy on us!

Some words from Fr. Alexander Schmemann:

Midnight is the moment when the old day comes to its end and a new day begins. It is thus the symbol of the time in which we live as Christians. For, on the one hand, the Church is still in this world, sharing in its weaknesses and tragedies. Yet, on the other hand, her true being is not of this world, for she is the Bride of Christ and her mission is to announce and to reveal the coming of the Kingdom and of the new day. Her life is a perpetual watching and expectation, a vigil pointed at the dawn of this new day. But we know how strong is still our attachment to the "old day," to the world with its passions and sins. We know how deeply we still belong to "this world." We have seen the light, 'We know Christ, we have heard about the peace and joy of the new life in Him, and yet the world holds us in its slavery. This weakness, this constant betrayal of Christ, this incapacity to give the totality of our love to the only true object of love are wonderfully expressed in the exapostilarion of these three days: 
 "Thy Bridal Chamber I see adorned, O my Savior And I have no wedding garment that I may enter, O Giver of life, enlighten the vesture of my soul And save me." 

How often do live my life unprepared for the Bridegroom?   He could come at any moment- am I prepared to meet him?  My soul often sleeps.  How grateful I am for Great Lent and Holy Week, times absolutely focused on rousing my soul and finding the freedom from sin that only Christ can give!

Simple Woman's Daybook

Simple Woman's Daybook

Welcome to my Sunday Daybook. A chance for me to reflect intentionally on what is going on in my world each week. You can check out other daybookers here.

Outside my window …
 it feels like summer.  I'm going to put on shorts for the next few hours until its time to go back to Church.

I am thinking … about Bridegroom Matins, a service I get to attend alone this evening.  This is one of my favorite services of the entire liturgical year.  For most of my life I never truly knew the love of God... I never truly understood what it meant to have Christ as my Bridegroom.  When I became Orthodox, I knew the love of God for the first time.
Behold, the Bridegroom cometh in the middle of the night, and blessed is that servant whom He shall find watching; and again unworthy is he whom He shall find heedless. Beware, therefore, O my soul, lest thou be overcome with sleep, lest thou be given up to death, and be shut out from the Kingdom. But rouse thyself and cry: Holy, Holy, Holy art Thou, O God, through the Mother of God, have mercy on us.
Holy Week is upon us and I am looking forward to the long hours in Church and Mark's Chrismation on Holy Saturday evening!

I am thankful for … the incredible people of St. Paul's Greek Orthodox Church in Irvine.  These people have absolutely bathed us in love and generosity.  And they provide a tremendous example of what it means to be a Christian in the world: they are the servants of all.  And they do it with joy.

I am hoping … that this will be a meaningful week for my family, especially Mark, who will become a member of the Church at the end of the week.

On my mind …getting stuff done before leaving for the service tonight.

Noticing that …I need to get going!

A few plans for the week … Someone counted up all the hours of potential hours of Holy Week services and came up with 36.  That's pretty amazing!  We're not going to absolutely everything, but we'll be around for most of that.  I'm not planning on doing much besides homeschool and Holy Week.  

From the kitchen … Enchilada Pie; Corn tortillas smothered in salsa beans and cheese and stacked; top with salsa and more cheese, bake until hot, enjoy.

Around the house …Eeek!  Don't come over!  And its about to get worse cuz we're moving in a few weeks!  But then, please come over!  We'll have a home big enough for our family (and others!!)

One of my favorite things … Fresh, homemade salsa

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Kingdom of Me

Father Steve likes to quote this passage from Kay Warren's book Dangerous Surrender and lately, I've found it to be terribly convicting and wonderful:

Not only do I seek complete control of everything around me, but my greatest and deepest love is reserved for myself.  I am desperately in love with myself.  If I am completely honest, I have to admit that there are many times when I want the world to revolve around me- my comfort, my pleasure, my convenience.  I desire that others make me happy, meet my needs, and refrain from offending me, hurting me, wounding me, upsetting or irritating me.  I want to be understood, appreciated, acknowledged, elevated, praised, valued, adored and cherished.  My greatest efforts every day go toward myself.

And in case anyone is wondering, that attitude is totally incompatible with Christianity and is utterly condemned by Christ.  But I'm guilty of behaving like that every day.  These attitudes are probably my greatest sins.  Christianity is about EMPTYING yourself of these attitudes.  

Father goes on to say:

Writing in the Philokalia, St. Maximos the Confessor calls this philautia or self-love and says that this obsessive and narcissistic love of self is at the root of all human sinfulness, lust for power, hatred and violence.  The first maxim of the spiritual life is given to us by St. John the Baptist in the Gospel of John: "He must increase and I must decrease."  In order to follow the Lord Jesus and enter his Kingdom, we must deny ourselves- all our self-centered ways of seeing the world around us and our selfish behavior that results from this distorted vision- and pick up our cross and follow Him.

Lord have mercy.

A Tighter Conversion Story

Somewhere on this blog, I have a pretty lengthy conversion story... but it is LONG and needed to be tightened up a bit.  My priest asked me to write it out for our parish newsletter (I'm kinda freaking out!!), so I took what I had already written and tightened it up.  This is sort of the "events-based" conversion story.  I don't talk theology a lot, but believe me- if I did not believe the theological and historical positions of the Orthodox Christian Church were true, I wouldn't be Orthodox.  So, here goes:

I have been a Christian almost all of my life.  I grew up in the Evangelical-Free Church and eventually  made my way from there, through Calvary Chapel to the Reformed Church.   If you have talked to me 18 months ago about my dedication to Calvinism and Reformed Theology, I would have told you I was ready to die for the core principles of the Protestant Reformation.  I believed so strongly in the theological system that I never managed to develop a relationship with God or realize that He actually loved me.  When I found Orthodox Christianity, I wasn't looking for it.  But somehow, as God pursued me, He brought me through a series of events, providentially ordered to bring me to where I am now- a member of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.

The Journey Begins

Calvinism saved my life seven years ago. My belief in God’s absolute and utter sovereignty kept me from taking my own life when the Lord called home my firstborn, Grace, before she ever drew breath. “And we know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28 is inscribed on Grace’s marker. God’s purpose, albeit unknown to me, was to work for my good. I hated that fact, but it kept me alive… well, breathing, at least.

Just over a year later and only three months after my next child was born, my father died an agonizing death from pancreatic cancer.  My dad was everything to me: my hero, my confidant, my best friend... Losing him, and so quickly, became another nearly unbearable loss.

The deaths of these two people affected me profoundly, as I’m sure is obvious. I tell these stories, not to be a downer, but because they are such an integral part of my journey.

I confess- I had an emotional connection to Reformed theology. It gave me peace during a time when my mind and my soul were in absolute upheaval. But it was so much more than that. I really believed this theology to be true and completely biblical.  

The presupposition for all these beliefs is that the Bible is the sole, sufficient, infallible Word of God in matters of faith and practice. Sola Scriptura is often called the article on which the Reformation stands or falls. To be honest- I took sola scriptura for granted. I never did a great study of the subject. To me, believing in Scripture and Tradition meant you had to check your mind at the door. Why bother studying the Bible when there are numbers of books/canons/councils et al to tell you what it means? It never occurred to me to look at Scripture and Tradition from an Orthodox perspective...  I was not even aware that there was an Orthodox perspective.  I mean, aren't Orthodox just Catholics without the Pope?

My former church is pretty intellectual. A great emphasis is placed on cultivating the life of the mind.  We were trained to know what we believed and why we believed it.  And we were PROUD of being Reformed!  At least we weren't like those other happy-clappy American Evangelicals!  It was a rare occurrence indeed for anyone to "swim the Tiber" and become Roman Catholic... and even MORE rare for someone to "swim the Bosporus" and become Orthodox!

Confronted by Orthodoxy

Imagine my shock, then, when Heather, my best friend and fellow church member, let me in on a little secret: She and her husband, Marcelo, were studying Orthodox Christianity and not just as an intellectual exercise.  I tried to talk her out of Orthodoxy, but it’s very difficult to present a defense against something you know nothing about. Of course, I started off on a one woman crusade to take down Orthodox Christianity (you can laugh at this point... its okay!) in order to save my friends from what I considered to be a false religion.  I listened to podcasts (and argued into the air with the teachers I listened to... it was pretty funny).  I read books.  Lots of books.  I tried to keep all that I was learning at arm's length, but really, all that information was starting to chip away at my defenses... 

On September 1st, 2009, I first walked into the doors of St. Paul's after a weekday liturgy.  Heather's husband, Marcelo, offered to take me inside and give me a tour.  My five senses were immediately hit. I could smell the incense… a very distinctive smell, by the way, and one that I remembered from my brief tour of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. I could see all the beautifully lit candles in the nave and the icons of St. Paul and the Theotokos on either side of the doors. And of course, I walked inside those doors and immediately confronted the enormous Platytera icon.  My mind was screaming "See!  They DO worship Mary!" 

We sat down in the middle of the church and Marcelo showed me all the elements inside- the altar, iconostasis, and the incredible dome. For some reason, the dome really struck me. Seeing Christ as King looking down on the church- it became apparent that He was the person the Orthodox worship and not Mary. She may be the first icon you see, but she is placed there as an example of how our lives need to be, with Christ at the very center.  I left the church intrigued and unsettled.

The Walls Come Crumbling Down...

That night, somehow, Marcelo and I started chatting on Facebook. We talked about a wide range of things- sola scriptura, justification, salvation… and the Saints. At this point, I really didn’t have a problem with the idea of asking the Saints for their intercession in the same way that I would ask for the intercession of my family and friends for whatever need seemed reasonable.

My grandma, a cradle Roman Catholic, has prayed out of the same prayer book every single day for at least my entire life. Marcelo asked me why she would stop praying for us once she reached heaven. Surely she could pray more fully when in the presence of Christ.  So true.

And then I asked him one of the most important questions of my life- the answer to which changed everything. Here is where the walls of my Reformed heart tumbled down and turned to dust.

“Do you think my dad and my daughter are praying for me?”

Marcelo's answer: “I would be certain of it.”

Remember how the deaths of my daughter and my dad profoundly affected my theology and made me hold on even more tightly to God’s absolute and unwavering sovereignty? Remember how the only way I could accept their deaths was by trusting that God somehow had a plan for my good? Suddenly, that didn’t seem to be enough anymore, but in a good way! Their Christian lives were carrying on even now! To know that my beloved family members are praying for us night and day- that brought me such comfort. I can’t explain it. I really wish I could understand how this particular issue finally pulled down the stubborn strongholds of my faith and allow me to see Orthodoxy for what it is and not for how it is different from “the true faith.” I’d wanted to believe or just to begin to learn without being critical. I finally had a reason that I could live with. Somehow, in this faith, my loved ones didn’t seem to be so far away. To know that we are worshiping with them in the Divine Liturgy, to know that we are participating with them in the Marriage Supper of the Lamb as we commune and they are separated from us only because we cannot see them or hear them… I had to know more!

Eventually, I found myself sitting in Orthodoxy 101 with Father Steve and many others.  Last year, my children and I were received into the Church.  This year, my husband joins us.  I am so grateful to the people who shared with me and prayed for me.  My family has been absolutely enveloped by the love of St. Paul's parishioners.  We have found our home.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Loving the Unbeliever

All too often, we Christians are characterized by what we stand against.  We expect others to hold to our religious and moral standards and when they don't, we gossip about them or we boycott their businesses or introduce legislation to trample their rights.  THAT IS NOT CHRISTIANITY.  That is not Jesus Christ.

I heard some quotes today from St. Maximus the Confessor that I had to put down before I forgot:
“The one who loves God cannot help but love also every man as himself even though he is displeased by the passions of those who are not yet purified” (CL 1:13). “Love for God in no way admits of hatred for man” (CL 1:15).  
“The one who does not love his neighbor [as the Lord commands as a proof of our love for Him] …is not able to love the Lord” (CL 1:16).  
“Blessed is the man who has learned to love all men equally” (CL 1:17; 2:10).  
“The one who loves God surely loves his neighbor as well” (CL 1:23). 
  “The work of love is the deliberate doing of good to one‟s neighbor…” (CL 1:40). 
“The one who leads an angelic life on earth…[is] always thinking good of everyone” (CL 1:42).  
“Perfect love does not split up the one nature of men on the basis of their various dispositions but ever looking steadfastly at it loves all men equally…It ever manifests the fruits of love equally for all men…” (CL 1:71; cf. 2:30).  
“The one who has come to understand the weakness of human nature…never looks down on anyone” (CL 2:39).  
“The one who does not love anything human loves all men…” (CL 3:37).  
“Love of neighbor prepares the mind to think always well of him” (CL 4:40).  
“The one who loves Christ thoroughly imitates Him as much as he can.  Treated ungratefully and blasphemed, He was patient; beaten and put to death by them, He endured, not thinking ill of anyone at all.  These three are the works of love of neighbor in the absence of which a person who says he loves Christ or possesses His Kingdom deceives himself” (CL 4:55).  
“Be as eager as you can to love every man, but if you cannot do this, at least do not  hate anyone [which] you cannot do unless you scorn the things of this world” (CL 4:82).  
“You are to love every man from your soul…” (CL 4:95).  
“The friends of Christ love everyone sincerely [and] maintain the continuity of their love till the end” (CL 4:98). 
I know of people who are leaving the Faith, in part, because of the way American Christians are living out their lives in battle against those with whom they disagree.  They are known by what they stand against rather than what they are for.  Again, let me say, those people do not represent Jesus Christ any more then the 9/11 hijackers represent Islam.  May the world know that we are Christians by the love we show to one another, even those who appear to be our enemies.  Loving people does not mean we have to agree with everything they stand for.  But it does mean extending KINDNESS, assistance when needed, mercy, friendship, and a constant recognition of my own faults and not my neighbors'.  My sins are great enough!  

Molly Sabourin wrote a FANTASTIC piece about this issue last year.  In it, she states:

What does it mean to believe boldly? To take a stand against ___________? Well, just fill in the blank. There’s no shortage of un-Christian attitudes, legislation, opinions to disagree with. Christians oppose Yoga, I read on the front page of the Yahoo website last week. We oppose, we oppose, we’re against, we’re fighting back, we followers of Christ have exchanged our feet washing rags for cold and metal suits of armor. And how approachable does that make us, I wonder? I mean, I understand the concern that befriending, without an agenda,  individuals with moral standards, political opinions, or theological principles not in compliance with our own could be misconstrued as acceptance of what we would consider to be sinful and foolish behavior. I’m not proposing, at all,  that we compromise our beliefs or blend seamlessly into our secular surroundings. I think we absolutely should  stand-out, like light, like salt, like a meager meal of fish and bread shared miraculously with the multitudes, but not because of what we oppose, rather because of what we’re for: a Christ-like love that defies logic, fear, racism, selfishness, self-consciousness, condemnation, rejection, negativity.

This last part really resonates with me because this IS Christianity.  This isn't what I've decided I like about Christianity... this is what was taught by Christ and the Apostles and established as the NORM in the Orthodox Church.  Christ-like love.  May that be what characterizes MY life, even when people do or say things I don't like.

O Lord and Master of my Life,
Take from me the spirit of sloth, despondency, lust for power and idle talk
But a spirit of chastity, humility, patience and love, bestow upon me, Thy servant.
Yea, O Lord and King, grant me to see my own faults, and not to condem my brother
For Blessed art Thou unto ages of ages.  Amen.

I started thinking about this while listening to a podcast by Father Thomas Hopko, theologian extraordinaire, on Ancient Faith Radio:

Absolutely convicting and inspiring.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

My Own Kind of Homeschooler

A few days ago, I woke up to the news that Ken Ham, President of Answers in Genesis, has been "disinvited" to speak at two major homeschool conventions this year.  Now, I, for one, think this is a good thing.  I happen to be an old-earth creationist and I think the pseudo-science and biblical literalism he's peddling is nothing short of ridiculous.  But, unfortunately, the content of his message is not the reason why he was disinvited.  I'm still trying to get to the bottom of what this is all about, but I'm pretty sure he wasn't kicked out for believing the earth is 6,000 years old.

So often I feel all alone out here in old-earth world.  Its funny: some days I think to myself "does anybody still believe the earth is young?" and I'm totally shocked that anybody does.  And some days, like today, I very much feel in the minority, which I don't mind.  My fidelity is to truth, not to being popular.

But just try buying science curriculum from Rainbow that does NOT espouse young earth creationism.  It can be done and there are some excellent resources out there.  But its slow going.  Much like the creation of the earth, har har.

Homeschool conventions are being taken over by neo-Calvinistic historical revisionists like Doug Phillips and Kevin Swanson.  Very. scary.  I can honestly say that I will never attend a one where either of those men (or Voddie Baucham or any member of the Botkin family) is a keynote speaker.  Young Earth Creationists I can mostly deal with... but these patriocentric types... yeah, suffice it to say that putting me in a room with Doug Phillips would not be a pretty picture.

Being compared to a godless pagan guilty of committing child sacrifice sure didn't help his image in my eyes..

Yeah, I'm still working on that forgiveness thing.  (I'm just being sarcastic.... I really AM working on that forgiveness thing).

The agenda these people peddle is dangerous- it is dangerous to families, to homeschooling, to our country and to the people of God.  They create a problem, twist the Scriptures, make a video and sell you the solution for $29.99 plus shipping.

And yet, they seem to be the "future" of homeschooling.  People are believing the false utopian images they are selling and it breaks my heart.  It angers me to see them identified as Reformed Christians (when they most certainly are NOT- you can't be Reformed and be a baptist.  Calvin would've had you thrown out of Geneva.  Its okay.  Accept it.  There are other ways to pretend your beliefs and traditions are tied to history).  It angers me to see the devastation that patriocentricity inflicts on families.  It angers me to see so many people falling for it.

So, obviously, these are not my kind of homeschoolers.

But hey, after all, I'm Orthodox.  And there are some great resources out there for Orthodox homeschoolers.

I'm definitely in the minority.  I am my own kind of homeschooler.  The beauty about homeschooling is that doing what works for your family is exactly the point!  I teach my children about the Feasts and Fasts and the Saints.  We memorize Scripture from the Divine Liturgy.  We get to church as often as possible.  We read a lot of living books.  We use workbooks and teach concept-based math.  (Hey, Singapore is #1 in the world for a reason!!).  We "do school" almost every day, but we are very flexible.  We teach our children that nature doesn't lie to us because God is the Creator of nature and has revealed Himself to us in nature as well as in the Bible and Holy Tradition.  We teach them weird stuff like tolerance and social justice.  We use a public charter school to fund our curriculum and activities.  We teach them to pray and to have compassion and not to judge others.

And that's what works for us.

I'm not terribly concerned about fitting in.  The homeschooling movement as a whole has no interest for me.  As long as it stays legal in California, Doug Phillips can peddle his products and the Botkins can preach about the wonders of spanking all they want.  Thankfully, I don't have to listen.