Life with Books

i have challenged myself for the last few years with the 31 Days group. This year, i will link up and make the attempt to publish every day for the month of October.

Humility is the “one word” i am focused on for 2018. The journey to humility is exceptionally long! i have come just far enough to have lost my certainty about anything but Christ. Despite the added burden and unpredictability of life with a chronic illness, i will make my best attempt to share my greatest joy with you daily.

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have brought me more joy than i can describe. The fullness of experience makes writing about my love of reading all the more difficult. Yesterday i could only share some of the best-loved words from my favorite book, The Bible. Exhausted, i could only think of the Good Shepherd bringing me to serene fields to graze in peace.

My husband gave me two icons for my birthday. The Good Shepherd and Christ Blessing the Children are two of the most powerful images for me. When i am physically and emotionally broken they remind me of who He is and what He has done. My weakness allows His grace to shine through.YDJGBM0hSKGiuuvA1jWRwg

The analogy of a candle’s flame is a powerful representation of what i believe to be a great truth. No man is an island.

In the nature of this month, i will attempt only a version of my Commonplace Book.0AGHHfvERB2Zcu2jGd0lzg

In the category of fiction, i would recommend Middlemarch, by George Elliot. Though not an explicitly Christian book, the main character, Dorthea had a finely wrought spirit that i appreciated. I read the book years ago but copied down the following description of Dorthea’s character.

“That by desiring what is perfectly good, even when we don’t quite know what it is and cannot do what we would, we are part of the Divine power against evil-widening the skirts of light and making the struggles with darkness narrower.”

As the Church is transformed from darkness to light on Pascha (Easter), we are synergistically lighting the dark society we dwell in when we allow the Light of Christ to shine through. We can do nothing by our own power but we can maintain the wick and let the Holy Spirit dwell in us. Like the wise virgins, we must keep oil for our lamps and trim our wicks.

Therefore, i just live quietly. Daily prayer and Bible reading with my family and consistent worship in the Church are my little ways.

This month i share some of the books that inspire me and help me. October is a great month to curl up with a good book. Join me in the comments section and share what inspires you.

31 Days 2018

Orthodoxy?

IMG_0525i encountered Orthodoxy through my husband. Our first real date began with the Divine Liturgy. i was a life-long Lutheran and my faith was always the central focus of my life.  i was blessed to have been raised by godly parents who took me to church services weekly and taught me to pray frequently throughout the day.  My desire to read the Bible and learn more about my faith was encouraged. The church was the most important part of our activity in my family. For sixteen years i worked for the Lutheran church and my work was my whole life. Chronic illness eventually took its toll on me and i could not continue my work. 

When we were planning to be married, my husband and i began a practice of worshiping at both my Lutheran Church and his Orthodox Church. Because of my health problems i was ultimately unable to continue attending two worship services each Sunday. At first, i missed my worship when i was unable to attend. When i first experienced the Orthodox services they were somewhat familiar in the sense that they had a liturgical structure and chanting. However, the Orthodox Liturgy was also very surprising in length and richness. As my understanding and appreciation of the Orthodox worship grew, i found that what i missed the most in my Lutheran church were the people that i loved. 

Thankfully, over time my husband was able to explain to me the depth and meaning contained in the services and the hymns as i came to know Orthodox worship. Even though i had come from a church with liturgical worship, even the moderately “high church” worship of my childhood had not prepared me for the intensity and passion of the Orthodox Divine Liturgy. Understanding why each word and action was included was invaluable for me to “unpack” the vivid texture of the service. In addition, the physicality of Orthodox worship can be puzzling to western Christians, but once it is understood it becomes deeply meaningful. 

i also appreciated the richness and fullness of the Orthodox worship life of the Lenten season. We had Orthodox Lenten services Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday, along with Bible study and a potluck meal together on Wednesday evenings.  While i was not always well enough to attend every service, i found myself wanting to be a part of all that i could. In Holy Week there are services each evening and most mornings. Holy Friday was a day filled with corporate worship with three profound services. Physically it took a toll on me. At the same time, i found myself growing spiritually. At the outside liturgical procession of Holy Friday evening, as the Kouvouklion (tomb of Christ) is carried around the outside of the church building, i will never forget the experience of walking under the raised “tomb” as a reminder that through Christ’s Crucifixion and Resurrection we have gone through the tomb into newness of life. Re-entering the church through the tomb moved something within me, and i knew that i wanted to know more about becoming a part of the fullness of the Christian Faith. 

One of the things about Orthodoxy that resonates with me in these turbulent times is that no human has the responsibility of determining the truth. This is truly the work of God taught through the centuries. The faith the Orthodox profess is the very same faith as that of the early Apostolic Church; 2000 years of Orthodox Christianity. It does not change with the “spirit of the age.” In a world dominated by relativism, the Orthodox Church provides one place where truth has not changed. 

IMG_0514The Orthodox Church has provided a place where my faith is nurtured, challenged and allowed to expand and grow.  There are elements of the traditions that don’t fit neatly into my western-trained worldview. At a certain point, i decided to accept what i cannot understand on faith. The realization came, that if i decided what is true for myself, rather than relying upon the authority of the Church through the ages, i was making myself the arbiter of truth and an equal to or even superior to God.

i was chrismated into the Apostolic Church of the Fathers, St. John the Divine Orthodox Church in August 2017 and continue a life-long process of growing in Christ.IMG_0523

Create

A deep desire to create lies within many people. Creation can take many forms and often expresses itself in guise of ordinary life. For some it is dinner at home or a program at work. Many people find their deepest desires met in teaching and guiding the children they helped to create. Watching new life develop and grow inspires us since we are all made in the image of our Heavenly Father, the Creator of all.

Fear can be a companion of the creation process. Self-doubt nips at my heels when i engage in creative endeavors. Why would anyone want to read this blog? What is the purpose of passing up some time with my husband? i am a fool to babble on the internet.

Recognizing our limited ability can help or hinder us depending upon our personality. For me releasing control is difficult but essential. i must surrender to the fact that i can not place myself at the head of the creation process.

Once i become humble enough to accept my place as a recipient, i can learn to receive the creative gifts that He gives.

i am nothing; He is everything.

Lord, make me an instrument of your orchestra and play Your will through my hollow life. Amen.

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Tell

Christians are commissioned to tell the Good News of God coming in human form to save us. The ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ transformed the world and changes how we walk-not by sight, but faith. Telling the story of salvation can become easy. Telling the truth about the pain of life is often very difficult.

i have not written much lately. In a period of transition, i find that i have more questions than answers. For some reason, it is much harder for me to share the questions. My life has been happier this past year than at any time in my life. That sounds like good news, and it is. candle-1803142_1280

Simultaneously, i have been deeply aware of the flaws in my own philosophical framework.  Continue reading

How to find Truth

Nicene Creed
We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen.
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father; through Him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation He came down from heaven,
was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the virgin Mary
and became man.
For our sake He was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
He suffered death and was buried.
On the third day He rose again
in accordance with the scriptures;
He ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and His kingdom will have no end.
We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son,*
 with the Father and the Son, He is worshiped and glorified, He has spoken through the prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.

*In the original creed agreed to in 325 A. D in Nicaea it merely stated that the Holy Spirit proceeded from the Father. The “and the Son” was added by the western churches to help combat a heresy that was prevalent at the time. The inclusion of the phrase, “and the Son” in the west is used today to refer to the fact that God is One God, triune consisting of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. In the eastern churches the addition is seen to upset the nature of “procession” and is unacceptable. The following is not an article on the “filoque controversy” as it is known. For more information on the conflict please see a more informed source. I am merely noting the discrepancy so that whichever tradition you follow you will know that I cited my version here and made note of the conflict out of respect to both opinions.

imageIn the If:Gathering online Bible Study the theme for today is, I believe the Holy Spirit reveals truth to us. Our culture defines truth as relative. For those who cannot define truth it becomes impossible to know if you are living in the truth. As Christians we recognize the need for a higher truth, a definitive Truth that can withstand the effect of societies’ redefining values over time. The search for truth can occupy a lifetime. In the Nicene Creed we say, in effect, that it is the Holy Spirit who reveals truth to us.

How do we know if we belong to God? How can we know if we are His children? In Romans 8:14-17 we are told that’ “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ—if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.” The way that we can find peace in knowing that we are loved by God is by the power of the Holy Spirit.

It is the Holy Spirit who leads us to Truth. In John 16: 13 Jesus told His disciples that the Holy Spirit would reveal the truth to them.

“When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever He hears, and He will declare to you the things that are to come.”

When we study and read the Bible we are reading the Word of God. However, if we read without asking the Holy Spirit to guide us we are vulnerable to mistaken understanding. It is the Holy Spirit who helps us to understand the Truth. Even the devil quoted scripture to Jesus during the 40 day of temptation in the desert. Simply learning the worlds without the Holy Spirit will not suffice. But to all who call upon the Holy Spirit to help them the words are living and active the Truth that we crave. We have not been left to uncertainty and continued doubt. When Jesus ascended into heaven he did not leave us as ‘orphans”, but left us the Holy Spirit to live with us, in us and guide us.
We pray…
Holy Spirit come and enliven our minds and guide our hearts. Help us to learn from your Word. Lead us in our thoughts, conversations with others, prayers and concerns. Help us to have the courage to turn all of our lives over to you. Make us vessels that you can use. In Jesus Holy Name we pray to The Father of Glory and Might through the Power of the Holy Spirit, One God through the Ages. Amen.

God’s Wisdom

In the last post I shared thoughts about Gentle Wisdom.

This is just another name for God’s Wisdom, or the unchangeable wisdom that comes from the eternal. If we acknowledge a Creator we recognize that there is a source of definitive Truth beyond our ephemeral and personal beliefs of the moment. The difficulty in defining this Truth is that it is by necessity beyond our finite capacity to comprehend in its entirety.

For those of us who find this Truth in the Bible

it is described by the Apostle Paul as “secret and hidden…decreed before the ages for our glory,” 1 Corinthians 2:7. He goes on to tell us that the rulers of that age did not understand it or they would not have crucified Jesus. Even a cursory search of history shows that the rulers of all ages seem to have a critical problem living by the wisdom that is pure, peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy (James 3:17).

The fact is that those who wield power in this world

often fail to live up to the standards of the world to come. Which is more evidence of why Christ died for us. Humans don’t seem to be capable of living up to God’s standards, or indeed our own.

Hope is not lost, however.

St. Paul went on to write to the Corinthians that, “What no eye has seen, nor ear hear, not the human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him” 1 Corinthians 2:9.

Without God, Gentle Wisdom would be unimaginable.

With God all the futility and hopelessness of the present age is alleviated. Even though our rulers disappoint us and we fail to accomplish half of what we intended when we complied our To Do  Opportunities list, Jesus achieved for us glory.

The word glory that is used in the Greek in 2 Corinthians 2:6 is doxa,

which comes from the word for opinion and can also be translated as praise,  approval (2), brightness (1), glories (1), glorious (5), glory (155), honor (1), majesties. Paul tells us that we will receive the good opinion of God through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

Not only does Jesus receive glory because of His death and resurrection,

but we also, as children of God, receive glory as well.

We cannot achieve Gentle Wisdom on our own.

We are unable to grasp the full measure of Truth. Despite our limitations we are blessed by glimpses of glory as we are being slowly transformed by the renewing of our minds to become more like Jesus.  One day we may see Him as He is and live with him in Perfect Truth.

Gentle Wisdom is based upon love.

Love is not a feeling, it is an active choice to place the best interest of the Beloved above our own feelings. Love is self-sacrifice. This is one of the reasons that it is never adequately demonstrated by those in power in this world.

Notwithstanding our human frailties, we can know something of Love and Truth in this life.

St. Paul further tells the early church in Corinth that, “these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.

The Holy Spirit which was poured out on us in the waters of Holy Baptism

can help us to comprehend something of the Wisdom that is eternal.

” Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit that is from God, so that we may understand the gifts bestowed on us by God. And we speak of these things in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual things to those who are spiritual.
Those who are unspiritual do not receive the gifts of God’s Spirit, for they are foolishness to them, and they are unable to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. Those who are spiritual discern all things, and they are themselves subject to no one else’s scrutiny.
“For who has known the mind of the Lord
so as to instruct him?”
But we have the mind of Christ.”1 Corinthians 2:12-16

I find it very interesting that the very next section in Paul’s letter

goes on to discuss the conflict that has been generated in the Corinthians church by factions arguing with one another. He chastens them to remember that we are all one structure in the church and built together with Love.

Gentle Wisdom from God is given to us through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Truth and Love are not out-dated concepts but living forces that have been present since before the world began. In spite of the conflicts and discord we see in the world around us, glory or God’s good opinion is ours through Christ. We are encouraged to get up and face another day without fear because we do not earn Wisdom, it is a gift.

Thanks be to God! Amen!

 

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Hearts and Flowers

Dear Reader,

Thank you for your patience during the recent lull in my blogging. To explain in the fewest possible words,

I met the man of my dreams and fell in love.

There is nothing like meeting your soul-mate at long last to hijack all your attention and derail all your work plans.

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You are not forgotten readers. I intend to get back on track and begin to post regularly once more.

As we roll into February and everyone else talks roses and chocolates I will attempt to temper all my romantic hopes and thoughts with words of rest and reassurance found in Christ.

That is my plan, my mind may be distracted by thoughts of my Beloved and wedding plans, but I will attempt to share words of inspiration and reflection that will be meaningful for those in all relationship statuses.IMG_2739

I will begin by reflecting on the nature of wisdom.

I wrote before about defining success. Wisdom is often viewed as the quality of having good judgement. In James chapter three wisdom is described as being of two kinds. He refers to one kind of “wisdom” as being, earthly, unspiritual and devilish. This is said to come from envy and selfish ambition. He said that this type of wisdom leads to every kind of wickedness.

James is right in pointing out to us that why we are looking for wisdom will often affect what type of wisdom we acquire.

If we merely want to prove a point we look only for the facts that substantiate our opinion. We may not even consider or notice factors that work against our preconceived notions. Our ambitions can easily blind us.

The other type of wisdom that James mentions is A Gentle Wisdom described in James 3:17,

“But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy.”

In my opinion this is the wisdom I value the most. I don’t want to be blinded by an agenda. I do not appreciate ideas that are driven by someone’s ulterior motives.

The quest to find Gentle Wisdom is long and arduous.

The journey has a variety of challenges and the landscape changes and we are refashioned by the adventure. This is the pilgrimage of life. If we are not shaped and refined by the process we are not really engaged in the journey.

When we encounter life fully and skirmish with the truth we learn more of Gentle Wisdom.

In some respects it is only possible to see this wisdom after we are wounded and battle-hardened by the struggle of life. Wisdom is the reward of those who grapple with Truth and Life. Those looking for the easy way inevitably end up seduced by the worldly wisdom that leads to despair. For those who undertake the campaign for Truth the victory is not the cessation of all difficulty, but the blessing of Gentle Wisdom.

Endeavor to hold fast to the Truth and Gentle Wisdom will be the crown that is placed upon the head of the righteous.

If we fight for a crown of our own making we will drive ourselves to defeat. Abide in Christ-the Truth and victory is assured.

Grace and Blessings on you all in 2016!

What I know

I’ve been thinking about what I know and questioning almost everything. Just now, a savvy debater could push me into doubting my own name. There is one thing that I KNOW. God is good and loving all the time and I am His beloved child because of what Jesus did in taking my whole, messed-up, confused, human sin to the cross. Period.

I don’t believe this. I know this. I cannot define why I am so certain. The conviction comes from somewhere beyond myself. Faith is a gift from God. Despite the constant barrage of signs to the contrary, I have the assurance of God’s love from the Holy Spirit.

The certitude strikes me forcefully enough share it with you. Over and over I have planned what I wanted to tell you. Over the last month I have written several brilliant blog posts in my mind. Somehow every time another demand on my time caused me to see to more pressing needs. God is who He says He is in the Bible. Jesus Christ is the invisible God made human and the Gospels and New Testament are lenses through which the whole of human history makes sense. Everything else can slip though our hands like sand. 

Truth is very hard for a grieved soul to hang on to. Truth is the reason I am rambling online at a moment when I am least myself. Pontus Pilate, the epitome of the educated cynic, asked JESUS, “What is truth?” Philosophers have argued about truth for millenia. In this dark moment I know truth.

It does not come from my degrees. It does not come from my family, although they are very faith-filled. Truth is not dependent upon my church, which I faithfully serve. Truth is a gift from God. It is a knowing too deep for words. The Holy Spirit utters our prayers for us with groans that exceed words when we cannot pray ourselves. We can only receive truth, we cannot find it ourselves. We can spend our lives in study, search with unquenchable vigor, but we cannot discover it of our own making. Science cannot prove truth. Human endeavors are all in vain. Truth is not beyond the human grasp, however. I have witnessed little children innocently uttering truth that startles the adults.

Truth does exist, Pilate. It belongs to God. He was right in front of you in the flesh! Faith does not depend upon us. It is certain. It is eternal. Faith, truth and knowing are gifts. All I can do is open my hands to receive today’s portion, like manna in the desert. Thanks be to God. Amen.