Speculation is the thief of wisdom.

C.S. Lewis wrote in The Last Battle,

“I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now…come further up, come further in!”

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A favorite saying of mine is, ‘get your oats fresh’. This means to get your information straight from the horse’s mouth… from the source. Not through friends, family or well meaning lay people in the church.

Previously, in this POST, I wrote about my concerns regarding what I thought was, ‘Mary worship’. To better understand the Orthodox Church, I ordered, and received the book; Welcome to the Orthodox Church, an Introduction to Eastern Christianity written by, Frederica Mathewes-Green. Click LINK to purchase because if you’ve ever had any sort of question about Eastern Orthodox Christianity, I’m certain this book will answer it. I’m on page 55 out of 361 and already my eyes have been opened to the truth. Historical truths about the origins of the early church. Truths about the icons, Mary, and the saints. Wisdom casts out fear and ignorance. Two things about the Orthodox Church I had been unnecessarily carrying around. I’m so glad that I decided to investigate things further instead of just following the words of ex-Catholic friends and family who associate Eastern Orthodox Christianity with Catholicism.

As I read, Mrs. Green’s most excellent book, I feel as though I can ear her voice speaking to me with love and warmth about something dear to her heart. You can tell by her words, how she explains the ins-and-outs of Orthodoxy, that she truely has a deep, and abiding love for God, and His church; as well as a deep desire for others who are seeking to find the answers to their questions.

I’m new to the Orthodox ‘Way’. I grew up in churches without icons or murals. Yes, my childhood church had crosses on the walls and handmade banners commemorating feasts and holidays, but compared to an orthodox church it looked bare. I love that I can walk into an orthodox church and experience God without the priest saying a single word. There, on the walls are bible stories, and the saints we read about when we open our bibles. In this crazy world full of violence and death, the more time I can spend in the presence of God the better, and I’m not just talking about reading His Word, but experiencing it through visual reminders seen on the church walls and the icons presented on altars. His beauty, reflected back to me through the icons, candles, incense, etc., has given me a sense of peace and joy I have not felt in a long time. I’m sure I’m not the only person out there in need of some peace and joy. Some comfort please to help alleviate this deep set weariness that comes not from physical exhaustion but spiritual turmoil caused by what is going on in our world, in our nation, in our cities and in our neighborhoods.

If you are in need of spiritual beauty, perhaps it is time to turn off the news, go to church, and light a candle. While you are there, say a prayer for me? I’ll be praying for you.

Lord have mercy.

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Ancient cave churches

The bible tells us that the early Christians worshiped in caves and people’s houses.  The following images have been taken from varies sites on the Internet and are of early christian churches… cave churches. The drawing was done in 1651.

I follow the daily scripture readings on the website; Orthodox Church in America.  This site talks about who is being honored with feasts, who the martyrs were, and what scripture are to be read for the day. today, I am learning about the ancient cave churches of the early church. It’s part of my immersion process to follow the daily events of the church as if I were a member. Growing up, little to no emphasis was placed on the early church or her martyrs. We knew from scripture that the early churches were in caves and in people’s homes, but it was never recognized as it is in the Orthodox Church. In modern churches, the past is left in the past as people try to reinvent the wheel, as-it-were.

In the Orthodox Church, the past is remembered. What people did for Christ is celebrated. I’m learning the details of the threads that have helped to weave the rich, historic tapestry that is Christianity. It’s amazing. Lord have mercy.

Do you fear the world?

 

Galatians 2:11-16 (Epistle)
11 Now when Peter had come to Antioch, I withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed; 12for before certain men came from James, he would eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing those who were of the circumcision.13And the rest of the Jews also played the hypocrite with him, so that even Barnabas was carried away with their hypocrisy.14 But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter before them all, “If you, being a Jew, live in the manner of Gentiles and not as the Jews, why do you compel Gentiles to live as Jews? 15 We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles,16 knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified.

Do you wish to go deeper in your spiritual walk but you are concerned about what friends, family and the world (co-workers, etc.) might say? ‘Who cares’? Would be the simple answer, but we see that even Peter, on whom Christ built His church, had issues with appearances. People claim we all should be individuals and yet, when our individuality leads to an outward show of our identity in, and love for, Christ- we are labeled as weird. We who just want to go deeper in our spiritual walk can be labeled as being a religious zealot for observing fasts and feast days. Branded as old fashioned, or culturally out of sync, for wearing a head covering, or lighting a candle.

One of the things I like about the Orthodox Church is that, no one cares if you get it exactly right or if you do something that modern church goers would consider, ‘goofy’ because pretty much everything done by Orthodox church goers looks bizarre to people unaccustomed to what they see happening in an orthodox church. The first time I saw ‘DOX’ church goers get down on their knees and put their foreheads on the floor I about ran out of the building. That was definitely NOT part of my church experience growing up.

Many protestants are hearing God lead them to the Orthodox Church. My journey has been on going for about 2-3 years now. I did not start my journey looking for Orthodox Christianity. I began it studying head covering. I’ve looked into other, more traditional forms of churches and communities but none of them has stayed with me beyond the respect of an outsider looking in. I began attending services at the Orthodox temple closest to me last year. Due to certain commitments, and some things that happened, I had to stop attending for a bit. During this time, the Lord spoke to me and told me to stop going to the church I had been attending. People don’t like it when you stop attending their church and tell them it was a directive from God. If that church is good enough for them, why is it not good enough for you? It has nothing to do with that but everything to do with my desire to be obedient to God. Even though scripture tells us to be obedient… even THAT raises eyebrows because of the can of worms opened up when you claim to hear the voice of God. Everyone talks about it, but no one really expects other people to be able to hear from God especially if they themselves do not hear from Him.  I never do what I do as a poke in the eye to those around me. I do it in obedience and it is interesting to see how it can open a new level of communication between the Lord and I. However, as the aforementioned scriptures speak, no Christian should feel they are able to live in sin while telling those around them that they are bad people destined for hell. Every person’s spiritual walk could be picked apart but that is not what we are here to do. While we are here, we are to love, feed, heal, repent of our own sins, walk in obedience, forgive, walk in humility, deny our flesh, and (among many other things) make sure that we are righteous; all the while making ourselves available to those around us in Christ-like brotherly love.

If God is telling you to visit people in the hospital then go. If He is telling you to stop going to this church and to go instead to this other church… GO. Your obedience and loyalty belong to God and not to any church leader, co-worker, family member, etc. God’s ways are not our own. That is something for which I am SO thankful!!! God’s rewards are also beyond our comprehension. God never has and never will lead anyone astray. Trust Him and lean not on your own understanding.

I feel as though someone young man is going to read this who has questions about whether or not to go to Orthodox seminary to become a priest. God is telling me to tell you ‘yes, do it’.

That’s all for now. Lord have mercy.

 

Catechism

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God willing, and I can stay awake that late, I’ll be starting catechism soon. I don’t know how long it will take or if I’ll even want to join the church after taking the classes, but I figured I’d better get going on classes before it starts getting dark at 4 and snowing. I don’t know. I just don’t know. The Mary worship bothers me. Also, the bible says not to call anyone ‘Father’ and yet that’s exactly what the priests are called. Growing up protestant and hearing these things are evil… it’s not easy to let these conditioned thoughts go. However, I’ve been to many churches in my quest for… what? If not perfection then at least the church that comes closest to the truth. In my quest, I’ve seen a deal of error on behalf of the leadership in every church I’ve visited. However, so far the orthodox Christian church is showing itself to be the forerunner in theological truth despite my concerns of the icons and Mary worship. In protestant churches, we are taught that Mary is nothing. She carried Christ in her womb and as soon as she gave birth to him, her story ended. Yes, this is wrong, but there is a great deal of enmity toward women in churches. Because Christ is the king, the Son of God, the one to perform miracles, why DO Catholics and Orthodox Christians worship her or call upon her for anything? God gave us Holy Spirit on Pentecost so we can do everything Christ did and more, but once you’re dead, that’s it. Why does this not apply to Mary? I am concerned about Mary worship because of the spirit of the Queen of heaven. When Christianity began to impact people’s worship of pagan deities, the spirit that benefited from the worship of Diana was replaced by Mary as the  new female deity being worshiped in the church. See why I’m concerned? Pagans worshiped Diana, the church took that female deity away but then gave them Mary to worship. Nearly every world religion has some sort of female deity that is worshiped. No matter what she is called by the faithful of that religion, it all boils down to the Queen of Heaven. When Jesus was on the cross, women tried to exalt, Mary by calling her blessed for having given birth to the Christ. He stopped them and reminded them that the word of God was better than, Mary. This is not the only ‘nod’ to paganism in The Church. All of our Christian holidays are based in paganism, but by going to the orthodox church, am I replacing one inconsistency with another?

Despite my concerns, there is a theological truth in the orthodox church I have not found in any other modern church AND, many modern churches are actively engaging in witchcraft. Whether or not it is intentional remains to be seen.

This is where I am right now. A spiritual wanderer. I am tired of half baked theology from modern churches, but I do not want to become mired in orthodox errors either. UPDATE

Lord have mercy

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Image taken from St. Joseph School for boys (used w/o permission but will be removed upon request) Please visit their site to ORDER.

There are so many things I’m loving about the Orthodox Church. One of them is the Jesus prayer. ‘Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of, God- have mercy on me a sinner.’. The bible tells us to pray without ceasing. How are we to do that and still walk around interacting with other people without looking insane? Are we to pray the Lord’s prayer? Are we asking for healing, prosperity, favor, abundance, or something else? Are we to praise Him? What? Well, all of the above and more. But, how do you squeeze it all in as you go about your business when it’s not a specified time for being quiet before God and in intensive prayer? Here is more on The Jesus prayer from an article I read. LINK

Some contemporary leaders are teaching once saved, you’ll never sin again and if you do, you were really never saved to begin with… this even applies to using cuss words. If this were true I’d be saved, and unsaved, several times PER DAY. I love how the orthodox church recognizes that we are all a work  in progress. That; I’m in the process of being saved. I do not go out of my way to mess up but I’m still hmmm how shall I put this… baking? It’s nice to know that just as we are patient with the children around us, God is patient with us, HIS children. ‘Lord, Jesus Christ Son of God, have mercy on me.’. There is quite a bit of talk in the orthodox church about mercy. Lord have mercy, Lord have mercy, Lord have mercy- is chanted seemingly constantly. At least in every service I have been to so far. The Lord’s mercies are new each day. Do you ask for His new mercies? Do you ever ask for mercy? HAVE you ever asked for mercy? If you are being taught, wrongly, by contemporary leaders that you no longer sin once you are saved, then why would you need a fresh, hot batch of mercy from the Lord each day? Lord have mercy.

Perhaps you think those new, daily mercies are for ‘other people’. I see this error all too often as well. People walking around thinking that the sinners being mentioned in the bible are other people and not them. Lord have mercy.

I started using my prayer rope about a year or so ago. I was experiencing some not-so-good things in my life and it calmed me. Before I have to go meet with people for business, etc., I sit in my car and recite the Jesus prayer while touching the knots on the rope. Lord have mercy… on ME… a SINNER. It’s calming. Quieting. It brings peace. Peace is merciful.

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God have mercy on me a sinner.

Teaching the next generation

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I went to Great Vespers tonight at an Orthodox Christian church. The kids at this church are not sent off to childrens’ church. They are just as much a part of the service as are the adults.  One little girl was particularly busy. She was teaching her dolly how to be a Christian. She took it around and had it kiss the icons and the toes of the saints on the walls- too cute! She mimicked everything the adults did (as do I since I have no idea what I’m doing most of the time at an orthodox church), and made sure her doll could see everything. That little girl looked about 3-4ish. Another older girl, maybe a year older, came over and they got busy making sure that doll was taken care of! They laid her down for a nap and covered her up with a head covering. Did they pay attention to the service? No. Were they quiet? Mostly. They are young. I would not expect a small child to be able to hold still through an entire service. I can’t even do that. However, through all their ‘busyness’ something is sinking in, at least it was clear when observing the younger one as she busied herself teaching what SHE had learned to her doll.

The next child to catch my eye was an adorable, chubby-fisted 3yo boy. I noticed him because he was carrying a lit candle by himself. His mother was near by, but he was being independent. He carried his candle proudly, and with what I can only describe as reverence, over to the spot where the sand filled box, into which had been thrust other candles, sat ready to receive his offering. His mother had to help him place the candle in the sand, but for the most part, he was in charge of that candle and he took his responsibility serious. Yes, I believe children can be reverent even if they do not know what it means to be so, or the very word exists.

Now, even though these children were learning what is means to be an Orthodox Christian, they are still children. As I mentioned earlier, the girls were playing with the doll. I saw the little boy log roll himself across the carpet. His mom motioned for him to come back. I’m sure she expected him to stand up and walk to her, I know I did. I had to cover my mouth to muffle my chuckle as I saw him roll back toward her. Kids!

Seeing these children in this church proves that children can be taught how to be quiet in church. They were still kids. They were still busy little bees, but hey, they are kids. Not mini adults. If we place the right expectations before them, kids stretch to meet those expectations. They may not be able to sit still for an hour, but they can learn how to play quietly, and learn what it means to be a Christian.

Proverbs 22:6King James Version (KJV)

Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.