Sunday morning exploded with the colors of late summer, the air crisp and cool whispered intentions of a day meant for parks, gazing at clouds, and just relaxing.
We rose early, had a quick spot of coffee, soaked in the morning sun and headed out, the day filled with promise. The countryside, and city streets flashed by our windows as we quietly made our way across town.
As we pulled into the parking lot, others who had made the same journey could be seen, smiles on their faces, greeting friends, all making their way to the heart of our morning.
The building reminded me of the schools of my youth, cool cement steps, brickwork laid by skilled hands, a large entrance with rows of warm wooden doors. Buildings like this are rare in the modern world of concrete and steel, but my heart sang at the shadows mixed with brick, mortar, cement and timelessness. At one point I was a six year old boy walking up the steps of my local school, the day rich with promise.
At the doors we were warmly greeted, we quietly made our way inside, once in the nave, sunlight beamed and danced on the water of the baptistry. We each dipped a finger, and crossed ourselves, as we were taught, a reminder of the water that brought us here.
The inner chapel greeted us with a warm glow, one that only wood can give, it called to us, come, deeper, deeper…
The room was filled with people, from the front to the rear, we found a little spot in the back, and turning to bow to the altar sat and waited. The silence of a room filled with people is deafening, a reverent hush was in the air.
As the priest ascended the Altar we stood as one body.
The mass had begun.
Each piece of the liturgy sang from our hearts, the words coming without effort. The liturgy of the word seemed to flow by like a fast moving river, sweeping us along, until finally we had reached our reason for being here, the liturgy of the Eucharist had begun. The words were familiar, they spoke of devotion, love, sacrifice, and mercy. The priest intoned the sacraments, the bells rang, and we knew the time had come, everything rested on our next decision and steps.
As I approached the Eucharist, I bowed and crossed myself in respect, and then I was there. “The Body Of Christ” was stated, and I replied “Amen”, taking the wafer and as I was taught, consuming, and then crossing myself. Two more steps, “The Blood Of Christ”, “Amen” and I drank. After almost a year, filled with pain, doubt, anger, and uncertainty, it all faded. I received a gift timeless, immemorial, my heart sang, and my soul was satisfied. I crossed myself and made my way back to the little pew.
And just like that, the Deacon made the call, the Mass had ended, it all seemed so quick, yet so reverent.
As we made our way our out, we realized that we had come home. That here we could heal, we could receive a precious gift, and give ourselves time to find ourselves again.
A warm summer morning greeted on the way out of the nave, and we knew that this day would be different.
This day we had come back home, and we could now move on with our lives, and the day full of possibilities embraced us…
I’m never satisfied, I’ve resisted any attempt to bring my life under authority. It’s been a constant churn for many years, more than I can even really remember…
But I never knew why, I could never find the source of my unrest, that is until I gave in and spent some time with a therapist. In the past I’ve been dismissive of the benefits of talking to a therapist, and maybe that was because everyone I talked to never seemed to be much more than someone with a college education making guesses about my life, but never understanding me.
But all that changed when I met Dr. Steven, he never analyzed me, he never tried to figure out what made me tick, instead he helped me figure that out for myself. When you finally tear apart the dark parts of your life, you learn that so many things that seemed to never matter, actually have a tremendous impact on how you see the world. In fact once we started laying out what was driving my unrest, my distrust of authority, and my constant searching for authenticity, I was finally able to start dealing with those issues head on.
I’ve been struggling to figure out what to do with my faith, all I could find was churches run by men who could not even be honest about the weakness of their positions, holding close to their morality as if it would save the masses from themselves. The higher their position, the more it became a burr under my skin, I abhor dishonesty in the priesthood, and I’ve found it to be a kind of universal fault of men.
What I have finally realized is that my bar was being raised to unrealistic levels, because of my past, where trust in those above me was abused. In many cases those I trusted most, hurt me the most. Some where intentional and others were never meant to cause emotional scars, but they did regardless. And it unknowingly pushed me to become hypercritical, skeptical, and untrusting…
Quite frankly it sucks, it’s not a good way to live your life…
Throw on top of that two years of losing our home, going through severe financial hardships, losing my best friend in the worst of possible ways, and you have the recipe for a free fall into utter despair…
I’ve dealt with it through alcohol, anger, frustration, depression and trying to isolate my life from emotion.
And none of it has worked, I walked away from my faith, but it never fully left me…
My heart is starting to come back to me, and through many long discussions with Michelle we have finally realized that we need to practice our faith or our lives feel hopelessly empty. But there’s a twist that I hesitate to share…
In our conversations the one constant we have found, is a desire to go back to the Catholic church. It’s not that we don’t love Orthodoxy, it’s that the Ascetic nature of the Orthodox life gets overwhelming. I’ve long wanted to see the two churches come back into communion, and I find incredible beauty in each, I’ve not been timid about my opinions in that area. But this week we had some time to kill and stopped by a little Catholic store, I picked up a little wooden cross and a picture of Pope Francis who I admire greatly. Michelle got a little card on her saint (Michael the Archangel), and a St Joseph cheaters guide to the mass.
It was unexpected, and it felt like coming home.
Now we are facing a horrible decision. It was a little over a year ago that we became Orthodox, and now our desire is to go back into the arms of the Catholic church where we understand the lifestyle, and structure. There are still issues to deal with, but I’ve come to understand that to settle in, I have to come to grips with some tension over belief. I actually can find fault in either faith if I look hard enough, which isn’t going to help my soul heal from this long journey. My biggest regret is that I don’t want to hurt anyones feelings, I’m still just as much in love with both churches as I was when I joined.
But when we finally started being honest with each other, the Catholic church never fully left us, and it’s a faith lifestyle we understand and have an easier time living with.
I never renounced my Catholic faith, and I have no intention of doing the same with the Orthodox church, I will be always be a man who is part of two worlds…
I found something today, buried in the ruins of my so called life, I found something that has identified a slow and steady change.
I’ve been a man without a mystery, it was only recently that I began to wear my little wooden cross around my neck, strangely it’s the one cross that I own that has not been blessed by a priest, so in some respects it’s ornamentation. But as of late it’s with me more than not, I wasn’t sure for a long time, but I got a startling clue this afternoon.
We had to move again, it wasn’t something we wanted to deal with, but circumstances forced our hand, and so we packed it all up, sold off a bunch of stuff we didn’t need. Today I’m working on my office, unpacking memories, and trying to give myself a place where I can be fully me.
In my stack of papers I found some cards, one was a sympathy card from my former team at work, expressing their compassion at the loss of the matriarch of my Mothers family, the year before I lost my hero when my Grandfather passed beyond his mortal remains. It’s a touching reminder of loss, and how we all share in the grief of living and dying.
But in that same stack was two cards, one from a little lutheran church in Corpus Christi, it is signed by a group of volunteers who knit prayer shawls, and give them out to those who desperately need hope, the shawl is prayed over constantly. It was given to me by my aunt during the time I was healing from my concussion, and with it came a second card signed and written by my aunt.
This little act of mercy touched the heart of a man who lost his faith, still recovering from the loss of someone close, and dealing with the brutal, maddening, unfairness of life. Inside the second card is this inscription:
We are praying for you. I hope you will heal fast.
God Bless You!
I stopped my unpacking and sat down to reflect, the last few months have been emotionally draining. Michelle has given me room to breathe and mourn, and I needed it, I had a very emotional talk with Fr. Mark about what I was feeling. The parish has not treated us any different, which for an old Baptist is something that I really have a hard time coming to grips with.
When the implications of a group of women who I have never met, would take the time, and skill to create a prayer shawl, for someone they never met, settled on me. Well, I consider it a diamond in the dirt of my being fallibly human, it touched something deep inside, it’s going to hasten a change that I have seen coming for a while now.
Around my neck is a small wooden cross, it has no monetary value, it’s simple and plain. I wear it because I like it’s simplicity, and it doesn’t irritate my skin. It sat for a long time on my night stand, I wasn’t sure if I would ever wear it again, but in the last few weeks it has started to hang around my neck more and more.
It’s part of a change, a metamorphosis if you will, starting deep within where the hurt and loss once ruled supreme. Overshadowing all parts of my life, that endless darkness is now being replaced slowly and steadily by a new light. I even considered going to service tomorrow, which surprised me. I’m not ready, but the fact that I even thought about it, and could feel the warm embrace of standing in the grandeur of the Divine Liturgy in my mind, tells me that the change is picking up speed. I still need some time to process everything, as Michelle and I settle into our new home, it will only accelerate the change.
There are other questions that will have to be dealt with, but those will have to wait, I’m not going to force the change, I’ll let it happen naturally. But happen it will.
Divine Providence, or Random Occurrence?
Maybe, just maybe, that Shawl was meant for a different type of sickness, and only now is it’s true intent coming to light.
Only time can tell at this point…
I was driving home with a friend the other day, and we started talking about Church. He was raised Lutheran, was an acolyte, and went through the whole confirmation process. For years they attended a large Mega Church, but lately they started to grow tired of the endless war on morality, and now spend weekends at home, and watch Olsteen to get their uplifting message every week.
I have challenged him before about ‘Why’ they go to church, and pointed out that for the Ancient Faiths, church is about US worshiping God, and for most evangelical it’s about US getting something FROM God..
That stuck with him, and now his question is why even go anymore? It’s a valid question and I’m glad they are working through it, I would love to warn them about Osteen, but eventually they will figure it out.
But what struck me, was that even in the safe and happy confines of a mega church, the moral wars are starting to take more and more victims and are turning them away from their faith. I see it in the dialog of our elected officials who are more and more becoming the vast right wing conspiracy every time they open their mouths. I’ve been shocked at just how much hate and vitriol is being poured forth in the name of Christianity and morality.
I’ve been highly critical of the Church’s reaction to homosexuality, we have reached a tipping point, where we are beginning to lose the argument and are playing the very role that our detractors are charging us with. It’s especially heinous, when elected officials step in, and let their ignorance and hatred show in how they declare laws. Who in their right mind, would support Arizona’s lawmakers, Brewer did the right thing, but I’m not sure for the right reasons. On the other hand, a private business should have the right to refuse anyone service, we should not be legislating morality, which is essentially what is happening in our day and age. So those of use who think Civil Unions are fine, and don’t have a real problem with anyone who is LBGT, are left trying to pick up the pieces.
I’ve begun to question the whole take on morality and societal norms. Humans, by and large are drastically unique individually, but tend to be monochromatic when taken in large populations. The church, in it’s war on anything and everything it sees and sinful, has lost the touching grace of our Savior, and has become a scourge that is afflicting mankind. As much as I dislike Dawkin, we are becoming characters in his dissertations against religion, which is a sad statement to be sure.
Last week we finally met with our parish Priest and his wife, it was time, I held out as long as I could but I knew at some point I would have to discuss where I’m at. It was honest, brutal, tearful, and in the long run something that I think I needed. I could not describe my feelings of abandonment without breaking down, the brutality of life, the hopelessness of being human. Their response was gentle, and loving and finally his wife commented that maybe, instead of divine planning, it was simply something physical that took Weston’s life. That forced me to stop and re-consider, I had not put it into those terms, and if she’s right it has deeper impacts philosophically. I can see where a Sovereign God would set the wheels in motion, granting true and utter free will, with both it’s gift, and it’s terrible consequences. Only stepping in when prompted or necessary. Being finite, I cannot fathom the infinite, but it does put things in a different light.
What if free will is the ultimate, terrible prize? How far adrift would any of us let the gift go? that is an interesting question, I need to wrestle with, it certainly doesn’t lesson the loss of a dear friend passing, but it could put it into perspective. Of course there would have to be a mystery element, as I am only clay.
From dirt I am made, incomplete, corrupt and corruptible, in the likeness of an image that I don’t understand, or can’t comprehend, at least in this existence.
Sitting on the shelf above my bed, is a small wooden cross. I bought it years ago in a little Catholic book store, there’s no gold, no silver, no fine craftsmanship to denote it as special. And yet it held deep meaning for many years, and I would wear it over even crosses given to me in my confirmation and illumination. I saw it as a form of a very simple faith, unadorned, unassuming, and utterly devoid of worldly value.
It sits there because I no longer are sure what I am, who I am, or why I believe like I do. It’s a constant reminder that even simple faith can become complicated in the face of tragedy. It will continue to sit there until I either give it away, or once again let it hold the center of my faith.
Only time can answer that question…
Since the passing of my best friend, I’ve been at odds with my faith. Forget Theodicy, I’m not interested in playing that game, rather I’m stepping back and taking another look at everything that I’ve learned.
It’s hard not to be somewhat jaded by what I see, I am after all a creation of my past experiences, and no matter how hard I want to let them go, they are part of my fabric now.
I read a blog post from a young man who grew up in the Baptist Faith, and who’s family fell into the trap of us versus the world mentality. No movies, no television, only church music, you could only read the bible, everything out there led to hell. The family adopted a very plain lifestyle, and lived a sheltered life, in fear of everything being tainted. It finally led the young man to try suicide out of utter despair, which was then of course blamed on his lack of faith (which in my opinion is pretty close to one of the most evil things you can say or do, especially to young people who you have trapped in your stupid moralistic worldview). In fact he said something in the article that struck a nerve with me, “if you would just let God break your heart, you could get past all this”. I heard that line for years, and yet no one could really explain it to me in a way that made any kind of sense. After his suicide he gave up on his faith, and is now asking questions about the possible non-existence of God, and looking to finding the truth of the matter, no matter the cost. I not only felt for his position, but wanted to encourage him, not to go back to church, but to keep digging until he found what he was looking for, because at least he’s taking an honest look at the issue. And the answer, theistic or not, is something he wrestled with.
Michelle and I spent the entire holiday season at home, we did not enter the doors of a church once (and still haven’t). Not that I’m mad at anyone, or the Church, it’s not that at all. Rather, I don’t know if I believe anymore in Church, in ceremony, in prayer, in any of it. I’ve wanted to reach out more than once and discuss all this, but I’m not sure our priest is open to a brutally honest conversation about this, and in point of fact there are only two people I know who I can talk to about it.
I guess in the long run, I’m just not sure *I’m* ready to have that conversation yet.
The hurt runs so deep now, and the questions remain largely unanswered, that I feel unable to bring myself around to dealing with them. On top of that, Michelle and I are still going through changes, nothing from the last year has been fully settled so that adds to the unease.
None of this is to say I’m looking at atheism, that’s a road I have no interest in going down, I think it’s intellectually a bad proposition. In many ways the Atheist of today are really no different than the Theist, neither side has conclusive evidence, and all they do is argue all day.
For myself theism is the only viable answer, there are simply too many factors to ignore and declare that there is no God. However, I’ve been on a long slide to being Agnostic, meaning that I’m not sure *anyone* has the right of it any longer, including the ancient faiths. While I reject the tenants of modern day evangelicalism and the protestant movement, I still think that some of their questions and concerns about the Ancient faiths have merit, and on that alone I can’t simply dismiss everything they say. On the other hand, while I think tradition is important, I’ve too often run into situations where tradition equals or in some cases overrules scripture.
But given my theistic leanings, the role of theodicy is almost inescapable. The world is hardly a fair place, in fact it’s rather brutal at the best of times. I read and article today about children being beheaded in the war between Muslims and Christians, one of my co-workers just found out that his wife has a very aggressive and fatal form of cancer, denying them any hope at a long marriage. Our own government who was supposed to protect our freedoms, is now run by crooks, con artists, and power hungry thieves. Their greatest gift to us this year is a completely botched health care system, that if not addressed soon will begin to take innocent lives, and even with form of evil on our doorsteps, they continue to push on as if nothing bad is happening. It would be easier to deal with if there was even a shred of honesty in our elected officials, but there’s not, and especially this president who doesn’t seem to understand what truth is.
I’ll be honest and tell you that if given the option, I would move my family to a remote island, arm up and let the rest of world rot away in their filth and hatred. Look at what we have done not only to the planet, but to each other. We look back on ancient times and consider them so barbaric, but we have people today who are beheading children because they hold a different religious belief. In my own lifetime there have been wars, genocide, atrocities that boggle the mind.
And now we have a new evil coming in play, the next generation is only concerned with the fairness of everything, damn the consequences, or the lessons of history, it has to be FAIR. Because why can’t someone working at McDonalds or Wal Mart make as much as someone who is getting paid more for a much more technical job?, ignoring the fact that in my own career I spent literally half my life learning my craft, and honing my skills, and my pay scale reflects those efforts. Certainly I had some opportunities, but I also worked menial jobs, I cleaned toilets, washed dishes, scrubbed floors. Nothing was given to me for free, I put in long hours and sacrificed time with my loved ones to build my career. So how is it fair if I get paid less for what I do? or if someone who has little or no skillset gets paid the same as I’m making, that’s not a sustainable model, and anyone with a brain knows that.
Why are they so driven to make things fair?, well partly because the previous generations let them down, we promised a world of modern answers, and then walked away. I’ve long held the opinion that the Church modern has made more atheists than any atheist group could hope to recruit, because on our stages, with all the lights and powerpoints, the struggle of faith cannot be tolerated. There is upcoming a debate between Bill Nigh the Science Guy, and Ken Ham the creationist wackoid, who wants to take the book of Genesis as literal science. Guess who’s going to win that little contest of stupidity? (I’ll give you a hint, it’s not going to be anyone holding up a bible as their source text). Although I don’t really care for Nigh, and find that he’s as religious about science as any modern preacher, Ham is fundamentally arguing the wrong point before the debate even starts, he simply has no chance of winning.
I”m tired of it all, I’m sick of the church and the poison that it has been spreading through the world. There is some good, I’m not going to deny it, but for every good, there is just as much hate, evil and fear generated by good church going people. We’ve taken the Gospel and twisted it into an abusive form of subjugation for anyone who dares disagree with our tightly held views (especially anyone who is GAY!! (Gasp)). There’s a saying in my line of work, that we talk globally, but act locally. The same can be said of our religious institutions, we talk about love and obedience to God, but instead we honor conformity to the status quo.
That is partly the influence of man, but I can’t help but wonder on the other part if God has just taken his hands out of the mess, or if free will is really a terrible gift? It’s a question I no longer am sure I can answer…
Life would be so much easier if God had put in a book of questions, with all the answers to the pressing problems that plague us daily…
But alas, no such book exists, so we the finite, try to make sense of the infinite. And that’s when things start to go awry, the minute a finite being gets his sticky little fingers on anything relating to the infinite, it’s bound to get screwed up.
I’ve been wrestling with my faith since Weston’s passing, it was the proverbial straw on the camels back. It also showed me just how brutal life can be. I knew, but it had been a while since it hit so close to home. So maybe I was due for a reminder, but as I stepped back to re-evaluate, a common theme kept rising to the surface…
No one on this planet understands who, or what God is. And I mean no one, especially the churches (and yes this includes the ancient ones as well). I don’t know why, but it seems that God rather than being clear, left a book of stories and examples all written by the hand of his broken vessels, and then he stepped back and let chaos reign. If there’s a divine purpose in the way religion has been woven into the fabric of our history, I sure can’t see it. Even something as basic as God being all about love, can be argued when put into the hands of men, look at the Westboro Baptist, or any of the reformed who make God into a capricious monster, demanding complete obedience to their message, OR ELSE!
Even in the ancient faiths, a parishes tone is set by the priest (who is just as fallible as the rest of us), and not the faith being taught. This holds true for protestant, Catholic and Orthodox, no one is immune. Some are focused on the rules like a bureaucrat looking for fault, and others are more focused on reaching out, or just mentoring the flock. Even in the Catholic faith you find this disparity of application to the way a parish is run, and like it or not this goes all the way to even how the sacraments are managed in some parishes.
I’ve been involved in this Christian thing since I was 19 years old, I’ve had the opportunity to experience a great many of the protestant faiths, I’ve been Catholic and recently Orthodox. Each has had it’s share of pro’s and con’s, each has some point of emphasis, be it rules, scripture, tradition, asceticism, or morality. Normally one is not emphasized to the exclusion of the others (though some come close), but all have one they tend to focus on more than the others.
I will say that the ancient faiths on the whole are much more likely to allow an open discussion about difficult topics, while many of the protestant faiths take a much more inclusive view of anything foreign to their paradigm. Part of that in my opinion, is that when your faith has a long and solid history (and by that I mean more than the 500 year nonsense we get today from the protestant religions), you have a tendency to be more open to hard discussions, because your faith isn’t going to change with the weather. The one thing I very much appreciate about both the Orthodox and the Catholic churches, is that you cannot just join them, you have to study and move into the lifestyle, because in their eyes once you commit, there is no going back. Plus each puts incredible emphasis on the Eucharist, which if your going to follow scripture, and the teachings of Christ is as it should be.
So where is all this leading…
I’m not sure anymore, I’ve become a pretty solid Agnostic Believer, meaning I believe in God and Christ, but I don’t really believe in any of the organized religions. That might change, given time, and I might ultimately decide it’s the best thing for my sanity. I’m certainly not interested in Atheism, I’ve done too much study to make that leap of faith, but where I land in all this is a big unknown at the moment.
I have come to view religion as a kind of members only club, with each offering it’s view of how salvation works according to their interpretation. The honest ones, and there are a few, freely admit that salvation is something God is responsible for, and they are in no position to say who is and who isn’t saved. Philosophy and Apologetic’s in the end are just tools used to defend our ideas and concepts of how we see faith and religion, as I’ve mentioned before the biggest downfall that I’ve seen with apologists is an innate drive to always have the right answer. I remember while converting away from Catholicism reading a very famous Catholic Apologist, who summed up Papal infallibility in one little neatly trimmed quote from a church father. It was such a pathetic attempt to shore up his and the Catholic churches opinion on the matter, that it offended me. The quoted text was hardly conclusive, and there has been a great deal of discussion about what it does and doesn’t say, but none of that matters, and why burden seekers with such menial and unimportant details?
But we can’t just blame the apologists, the reason so many are popular is not because they are right, but because they tell us they have the answer all buttoned up nice and neat, it’s what we want. It’s a fools errand to base your salvation or belief on the mumbling philosophy of another man. In fact this applies to the Church Fathers as well, because God knows the ancient churches love to quote them as proof positive that they are in the right (and trust me, there are many quotes that no one agrees on). What they say really depends on what you believe, this goes for all involved, sorry but it’s true. Much like quoting scripture out of context, humans on the whole are more than content to quote those who have come before them to shore up their system of belief.
Let’s take this example a step further and go the core…
The Eucharist, which Christ himself commanded, is a cause for celebration among all Christians, regardless of faith. But in the West they used Unleavened bread, and in the East they use Leavened, both use wine, and the protestants don’t know what to use. East and West core ceremonies are similar in many ways, but protestants are usually very different in form (and in some cases, disrespectful!). Men got involved, and now I cannot take communion with anyone, without going out of communion with the others. Certainly all sides have doctrinal differences, I’m not going to try and minimize that, but I will tell you that ALL claim to be the one true church, left behind by Christ. I will say that the Protestant faiths get the Eucharist wrong for the most part, and that the Eastern and Western churches give it the honor and reverance it deserves. But even there I cannot commune with East or West, without going out of communion with the other, Technically I’ve not been ex-communicated by either, so I could go to reconciliation, ask for forgiveness and commune with one side or the other. But since both believe in THE SAME GOD, THE SAME CHRIST, THE SAME FLIPPING BIBLE, and in many many cases THE SAME EUCHARISTIC PRACTICES.
IT SHOULD NOT MATTER !!!!
But apparently it does, at least Pope Francis seems willing to begin to try and heal the rift which is probably the most Christ like thing I’ve seen in my lifetime. I am sick to death of men who cling to their traditions, and practices with a death grip, not willing to budge even an inch out of their comfort zone. It’s almost as if God is not big enough to get around the kind of bread, the position you receive in, the liturgy you practice, or the vessel used to hold the wine. It’s all so infuriating, and it’s something that I’m not sure I can deal with anymore. So many I have met on this journey have an almost fanatical adherence to what I could call arbitrary traditions that have morphed into rules, which are then declared as part of the faith. I certainly can’t imagine Christ turning someone away because they didn’t follow some man made set of rules, he certainly didn’t follow those kind of precepts while he was here.
Maybe this is the protestant in me coming out, but I have a brain, I have free will (regardless of what the reformed think), and I’m capable of making my own determination of what’s right and wrong. I have a very deeply embedded rejection of anything that smells of extremism or thoughtless obedience, in point of fact it makes me hyper-sensitive to to some issues, and I have to be careful to keep it in check. But when we are arguing over the details, aren’t we missing the whole point what we are trying to do in the first place?
Christians are being murdered for their faith all over the world, and Bill Nye the science idiot, and Ken Ham the young earth, literal genesis moron, are going have a debate about science and the bible. Boy howdy, that will really help those people in Syria. The Crouch’s are having a war over their satellite empire, Joel Osteen is selling another feel good book, and Mark Driscoll is out using twitter to sell his latest interpretation of his belief system all while showing just what a classy guy he is by doing it at the Strange Fire conference. And all over this great land, we are worshiping at the altars of our celebrity pastors/rock stars.
The world is full of very intelligent people who want nothing more than to be led, to let someone else set their boundaries, and tell them how to live. It’s why even the worst of cults rarely have problems finding acolytes, all you need is someone to convincingly believe, and your all set. Again, this is why so many Apologists and Preachers become celebrities in their own right.
They can have it, I’m done with it all. Maybe there is some type of divine humor in Christ talking about believers as sheep. Bah!!
As for me.. I’m spent, I’m empty on the inside. The man that was is, is becoming no longer…
I’ve taken my seat on the sidelines, and until the ringmaster shows up, I think I may just stay right here.
It’s been a tough year, Michelle and I had to move, lost our house, got sued on what was at best a sham. I fell, received a concussion and have not really been the same since (all while delivering cookies for charity). We Have spent the year dealing with lawyers and CPA’s who all claim to be Christians, but who should instead have their licenses revoked. We finally found a lawyer not spouting the Christian title, and in one eighth the time he’s done more than the last one could even accomplish in a year.
One of my very best friends goes into a coma, and two weeks later passes away, all while a family sits and witnesses the demise of someone they all loved so dearly. Like how Michael Spencer left us so quickly, it’s such a crime that these beautiful have to die in such agonizing ways. Life sucks…
I’ve struggled with so much emphasis in the Orthodox Church on traditions, and the ascetic nature of parish life. It’s not that I’m anti tradition, but I can’t shake Michael Pattons admonition about essential and non-essential things, and how that sometimes in our desire to help people, we do the exact opposite of our intention. While I love the Orthodox faith, I also struggle with it a great deal. Going from west to east, is not an easy journey.
The Catholic church finally gets a pope who gets it, and it causes an internal war because everyone wants the pope to endorse their faction, when I am %100 sure that Christ would tell them all they are wrong. John MacArthur is now getting rich telling charismatics that they aren’t really christian (a non-christian message if there ever was one, but hey, we elected him supreme ruler of the church… didn’t we?), and Mark Driscoll shows up at the conference and shows that the he’s not above lying to sell a few copies of his book as well. I don’t really care about either of these men (along with the other self elected popes in the protestant world), but the people who’s faith gets destroyed by these antics is heartbreaking.
Our economy is crashing in slow motion, and the idiots and sycophants who run Capital hill are not accountable for any disaster they unleash, that includes the moron living in the white house. I was will to give them all a little room, but they can’t even put up a website for crying out loud, and don’t talk about security. What a bunch of bumbling, idiotic fools, and I’m referring there to ALL parties on capital hill.
To be sure I’ve had my ups and downs, but I’m tired of trite answers, I’m tired of feeling like I”m all alone in dealing with these struggles. I’m not sure any of it matters anymore, at times even Divine Liturgy feels like a pageant where we go through the motions, and nothing comes out the other side. You can forget prayer, what’s the point? If God’s in charge then I don’t understand his plans anymore, and my one little voice isn’t going to change anything, it certainly didn’t save my friend, who died of a brain tumor. One can’t help but do a little Theodicy when faced with the horrible death of a friend, it’s human nature, and in this case really can’t provide any substantive answers.
I’m tired of the whole mess, I’m tired of the ‘Christian’ messages of victory, and well being. Go pour out your positive poison nonsense on someone else, and just shut up for once. The next person who gets their panties in a bunch because the words ‘Happy Holiday’ are an attack on Christmas is going to get a special reindeer treat from me, thrown at your swollen head. Stop treating people who don’t believe as you do, as inferior to them. Go fight your damn moral nonsense battles somewhere else, stop telling me how to live my life, stay out of my bedroom, and stop acting like you have all the answers.
I need a vacation, not from work, but from believers and all their nonsense. I need to step away from the church, stop going to service, and just think for a while. Is any of this even real anymore, while I certainly don’t trust the likes of people like Dawkins, I do have doubts, and I need to face them head on.
I need room to breathe again, to not have everyone asking something of me, to just stop, sit and figure out who I am in all this mess.
If you think I need encouragement, or more prayer, then go read the psalms, because David is slowly becoming my kind of guy… It’s not all roses out here…
Today I lost someone close to my heart, I dare say that he was my best friend, and is without any doubt a permanent part of my family, even if time and distance have separated us. He could be infuriating, stubborn, geeky, smart, and sometimes just clueless. But he was always kind and gentle, and was there through thick and thin, we made quite the odd couple. My two boys grew up knowing him as their uncle, and both have very fond memories of time spent together. The Christmases, and Thanksgivings when we had so very little to share, and friendship was a gift that was priceless.
There were computers, compilers, languages, all the things young budding programmers needed to get by, and enough coke and Pepsi to later in life make me pre-diabetic, but it was worth it. The day we ordered the Lint pre-compiler, and then sat in horror as it tore apart every facet of our carefully coded system. It was only later that we discovered a chapter called ‘Living with Lint’, it’s humorous now, but then it was end of the world! Commodore 64’s, Amiga’s, learning to program on PC’s, all the BBS’s, games and software we collected and wrote.
Terrible old cars that barely ran and required constant tinkering…
The little yellow Miata that ended up in my Garage for a new clutch, and then taking it out and doing burn outs to make sure the clutch disk was good!! All the birds and their ridiculous antics, Pepper who loved to say his name over and over and over and over and over and over… The Gigantic bird aviary we made in your back yard. Darkrooms full of black and white pictures, an old garage turned into a photography studio, then turned into a programming office. So much possibility all the time, life was still new, and experience was something we would gather as we moved forward now.
Playing Jean Michelle Jarre CD’s, ELO, Rush, and just about everything else…
The waterbed that was filled too far, and flooded the room, the old Jacuzzi we used to sit in and plan. Software reviews, getting written about in a publication, writing our own BBS that eventually led to our being hired by another company. The wacky marriage in Vegas, and the heartbreaking divorce that eventually pushed us all away, that and my fundamentalism which I never got to ask forgiveness for.
So many memories, I can never go back, but I can re-live them by remembering how special those times were. it’s images, words, impressions, emotions and a sense of great loss.
I’m not sure I have many tears left, Iv’e been silently crying for a long time now, and now at the end, I’m not sure how to react. My heart is broken, my soul is mortally wounded at the senseless loss. I ache for the family left behind, both ours, and yours, frustrated at my inability to travel out and talk to you one last time, to tell you how much you meant to my life, my children, my family.
Michelle and I both have cried, we have both prayed, and right now I’m empty. I know more tears will come, but first we have to move past the shock, and then deal with such a tragic loss.
Be at peace my friend, take your rest and wait. You will see me again, in fact you can warn them I’m coming, I have questions and we both know how that can be.
Lord have mercy on us all.
During an interview with the Pope this August by Antonio Spadaro, S.J., editor in chief of La Civiltà Cattolica, Francis stated the following:“We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible. I have not spoken much about these things, and I was reprimanded for that. But when we speak about these issues, we have to talk about them in a context. The teaching of the church, for that matter, is clear and I am a son of the church, but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time.” “The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent. The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently. Proclamation in a missionary style focuses on the essentials, on the necessary things: this is also what fascinates and attracts more, what makes the heart burn, as it did for the disciples at Emmaus. We have to find a new balance; otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel. The proposal of the Gospel must be more simple, profound, radiant. It is from this proposition that the moral consequences then flow.”
Earlier he made this statement:“How are we treating the people of God? I dream of a church that is a mother and shepherdess. The church’s ministers must be merciful, take responsibility for the people and accompany them like the good Samaritan, who washes, cleans and raises up his neighbour. This is pure Gospel. God is greater than sin. The structural and organisational reforms are secondary – that is, they come afterward. The first reform must be the attitude. The ministers of the Gospel must be people who can warm the hearts of the people, who walk through the dark night with them, who know how to dialogue and to descend themselves into their people’s night, into the darkness, but without getting lost. The people of God want pastors, not clergy acting like bureaucrats or government officials. The bishops, particularly, must be able to support the movements of God among their people with patience, so that no one is left behind. But they must also be able to accompany the flock that has a flair for finding new paths.”
This will be taken out of context by both liberal Catholics and conservative Catholics alike, but he’s saying something that I have said before. The Catholic church as a whole has been so focused on what happens in the privacy of a marriage, and other issues relating to sexuality, that it has become a parody of the very values that it is trying to defend. Even in the context of abortion, which is a truly terrible thing, there are situations where the moral right, is less than clear and sometimes can be counterintuitive.
He’s right, there needs to be balance, and not all the dogmatic teachings are equal, and some like the immaculate conception, and infallibility should really not even be dogmatic in the first place.
To be clear, the Pope is not softening the position of the church on contraception or abortion, but he is saying that the focus has been out of balance, and that I agree with. Especially contraception, which at times has taken on an almost medieval tone in how it’s discussed, with some catholics breathlessly grabbing onto any position that has the appearance of supporting their views on contraception.
I still don’t agree with some Catholic doctrines, but I like Francis enough that for a time I was wondering if being Catholic again was something I should consider!
And that my friends says volumes about how much I respect this man.
You can read the whole interview HERE, it’s worth a read.
As someone who is newly illumined into the Orthodox faith, it’s really quite odd (for a westerner) that for forty days you wear your Chrismation clothes (or baptism gowns), carry your baptismal candle, and go first for communion.
Coming from the Catholic faith, and further back the Protestant faith, all this fuss makes us very uncomfortable. Our biggest excitement as Catholics was the first Mass that we took communion quietly on our own, one of our RCIA teachers was there and gave us a HUGE smile, but she didn’t intervene. It was at that moment, and not during the Chrismation that we felt truly Catholic, it was a seminal moment for us. It meant that we had truly been accepted as members of the faithful, and that we could now get on with the business of being Catholic.
But as new Orthodox we are chafing a bit at having so much fuss worked up over us, we just want to be Orthodox. We don’t want to make a big procession with Candles and other things every time we commune, it’s an awkward position. The tradition is that by going first the church is praying for us, that is all fine and well. But throw in Candles, the same white clothes each week, and this big fuss of us going RIGHT after the subdeacons (which is not widely known apparently, since each time we have to cut to the front of the communion line). And it begins to wear thin, in fact three weeks ago we forgot our candles, and the subdeacon commented on it, AS I WAS WALKING UP TO TAKE COMMUNION… I eyeballed him, and then rolled my eyes, because what was I going to do? seriously, stop the whole parish and run into the narthex and starting rooting around for candles and matches?
We asked to please not be singled out any longer, it was becoming a deterrent to the Liturgy for us, Fr. called and was very kind in explaining it to us, but it’s a tradition (that is not always practiced), and he wants to keep doing it until we hit forty days. It’s a frustrating position to be in, and it puts us in a very uncomfortable place. So we each made a choice, he decided to continue to require the tradition, and we decided to step back for a bit and let things settle. Once things calm down, then we call sit and talk and work through the issue.
Michael Patton always talks about the essentials and non-essentials, and he’s exactly right. There are things that really matter, that we need to observant of, but there are other things that just don’t mean much outside our little sphere of influence.
Here’s the thing…
Protestants, in their own way, have a valid point about the traditions of men. The Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist are what I would call essentials things, we find writings for them all way back to the time of the Apostles in the Didache. The liturgy of the Eucharist is especially important, given that Christ commands us to do so in memory of him. I would put a number of things that I can reference with clear ecclesiological material and a solid scriptural foundation as essential traditions.
But there are things that are simply not essential, and we as humans have a tendency to focus on them and lose sight of the bigger picture. Fr. Len at the Catholic church tells about when he was first a young priest, he wore his collar all the time, made sure he followed all the rules. It took him only a couple of years to realize that in the big picture it wasn’t that important, and he loosened up and stopped being a rule follower. He was much happier once he figured out that while wearing the proper attire while doing reconciliation, or serving at Mass are important. It’s not so much if he’s going to work out, or dig in the garden, or just go have a beer and talk theology. When we met with him to discuss theology, he was wearing a simple black T-Shirt and we had a great conversation, it was nice to not have to deal with the presence of the priestly garments, and just talk theology. He will always be a Priest, but it was good to see the man behind the collar.
I think he got it right, and I think our protestant friends have a good point, some traditions, are just that. And they are not always going to help us grow, they may make us and others feel better, but in the big picture they just don’t matter. Some people like to follow every rule, observe every fast, and can be technically pious. We have friends like that, who make huge and great efforts to follow all the rules. For us, there is so much going on, all the time, that sometimes we just forget, or at other times we just don’t. Asceticism is a tool to help us grow, and like all tools the more you use it, the better you become at it. We decided at the beginning of this journey to not get caught up in the rules and trappings, and not to burn ourselves out.
But there is a danger in replacing the important things, with the things that don’t really matter. I’ve said it before, there is no perfect church, and we never expected to find one. And we knew that becoming Orthodox would not make things magically better, but it’s interesting to see some of the differences in focus between Catholic and Orthodox traditions. I think a great of the difference stems from the fact that most Catholic churches are large, and it’s easy to find a way to fit in. In Orthodox churches you have a more community based dynamic, and while it’s not supposed to be about the rules, it’s unavoidable when your small and all very connected.
I’m not saying that Tradition is not important, it certainly is. But it’s also not the end all and be all, and sometimes it can cause others to stumble. It’s those times that we need to show wisdom and separate the essential from the non-essential.