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Posts from the ‘Faith’ Category


I’m a Christian and I’m here to help…

Let’s start off by saying that I’m going to offend a lot of people with this post, I’m not going to hold back, I’m hanging it all out there on the line, so if your easily offended, go read something else.

I think the majority of people who claim to be ‘Christians’ are embeciles.

I mean it, and I’m tired of dealing with their stupidity.

I’m sick and tired of people using the term ‘Christian’ as if it gives them some type holy calling regarding everything they do in their lives. It’s like a get out jail free card, they pin it to their chest and wear it proudly in everything they do. Their business cards are embossed with little fish signs, or crosses.

They make me sick.

I will never again hire someone thinks that the term ‘Christian’ somehow adds weight to their credentials, if your a CPA, be a CPA. Do NOT be a ‘Christian’ CPA or one that follows other ‘Christians’ advice, be a damn CPA, do your job, take PRIDE in what you do, and stop hiding behind your faith. You can be a Christian and be a CPA, just shutup about it and make sure that you do a good job, don’t use your job to make some type of statement. Other than you know what the hell your doing, if I want to know what you believe, because you impress me as a saint, I’ll ask, thank you very much.

Tim Tebow has turned the moniker of being a ‘Christian’ into a marketable commodity, where the faithful blindly buy into their new form of idol worship. Nevermind that the guy was not a very good football player, and when he didn’t get signed, the faithful reacted as if they are an oppressed society and this was their one big chance to get someone who believes like they do out into the open to show that they are not different.

Except, that type of belief IS different.

Look around us today, we are surrounded by a million voices all claiming to both be Christian and to be on the case of ‘Sharing the good news’, can anyone rightly claim that we don’t know the message of John 3:16 at this point? Our cities are full of churches on every corner, signs that say ‘Jesus Saves’, outreach programs, preachers and charlotans on the T.V. we are saturated to the point of overload.

And yet it’s not enough, we have to continue to put it out in the face of everyone we meet. We aren’t content just living a quiet peaceful life, serving our neighbors, and worshipping quietly. Nope, that’s old fashioned, because just like those apostles, we are called to be out in people faces. Nevermind the apostles where called to start a church, and had a very different calling than any of us. St. Paul tells us to go and live a quiet life, but that’s just so old fashioned…

It’s worse if you mix celebrity with being a Christian, look at Pat Robertson, has any human alive put his foot more times into his mouth than good ole Pat?. There are so  many today that have fulfilled Luthers vision of a ploughboy with a bible becoming a Pope. We have built up so many common men into their own Papacy, we hang on their every word, even when they turn out to be frauds, cheats, and charlotans. We forgive them as quickly as we can and get on with the fandom. Gone are the days when godly men took their time before speaking, now they just belt out whatever they feel and declare it gospel.

There’s something to be said for how slowly the ancient churches react to secular events, the Orthodox church worked on a statement about same sex marriages for weeks before ever making any statement, and the Vatican just released their statement on it (with a former and a current Pope no less). Notice how they didn’t run out the next day and start blabbering on about how this is the end of the world, I didn’t see them flood the talk shows. They are taking their time, being thoughtful, and crafting an appropriate response. The one thing I LOVE about Billy Graham is that in his autobiography he talks about this very thing, when he realized his fame became part of his message. He became very careful about weighing in on issues, tarnishing his reputation, and speaking when there was no need.

As well we have all the nutcases who find every strange event a new miracle, right now a tree is weeping beetle dung in California (google it if you need too), and the ‘faithful’ are calling the drops, the ‘Tears Of God’. Sorry I just can’t make up anything that ludicrous, real life is far too good to change sometimes. I remember a similar event when I was growing up with a christmas light that cast the shape of the virgin Mary, it became a circus, with the faithful all flocking to a bulb that was cut in a candle shape (casting the shape everyone saw). People built flipping altar in front of the string of lights, and if anyone dared voice the obvious (you know, that it was a light bulb), the crowd would make sure to shout down their demonic unbelief. So how do you say your a reasonable believer, when we have so many faithful who put their faith in what they can see, and churches who validate their insanity.

No wonder atheism is on the rise, we never left the dark ages…

So here’s the thing, if you believe, then believe, live your faith quietly. And be prepared to answer questions when asked, but stop telling us about it, stop advertising because I’m not buying anymore. I don’t want a ‘Christian’ barbor to cut my hair, do my taxes, work on my car, or anything else. I want people who will focus on doing the best job possible, not evangalizing me, I’m not paying you to tell me about your faith. Just fix the damn car, I’ll treat you honestly and with respect, I expect the same from you.

Do that, and we will all get along just fine.



The Doors, The Doors…


Our journey, which started in 2008, has finally come to a close.The doors which we stood at for two years before have finally opened, the threshold has been crossed.

We carried the candles of our illumination, we bear the mark of our chrismation, and we consumed the mystery of our faith. Around our necks is the reminder of our faith and conversion.

I cannot find the words to express what we experienced today, it’s so ancient in it’s very nature, and so very Christ like that I’ve run out of words. As a now former Catholic, I can tell you there are similarities, it’s unavoidable. I think the biggest difference is simply the people, when we became Catholic we were warmly welcomed. But in Orthodoxy it wasn’t a warm greeting, it was like coming home to a family that has been waiting their entire lives for you to arrive. The contrast is hard to articulate without offending someone, which I in no way want  to do.

But as we waited in the Narthex, and the anticipation grew. We knew something was different, as if a cloud of witnesses was watching in anticipation, ready to share in a celestial event about to explode. As we stood during our chrismation, barefoot and dressed in white, holding our chrismation candles. Our very souls began to sing, and then after so many years of searching, of pain, despair, we finally partook of the holy mysteries, and at that moment we were made whole. The final chapter has been written, in his holy hand and not ours. Our lives will never be the same, our family has suddenly expanded, and the love that poured out on us, was simply overwhelming.

Again, words simply fail.

We have arrived, we are done. The doors opened, and we became part of that which we had searched so long for, the original church that Christ and the Apostles left behind. We have been adopted, we have changed. He has changed us, and our new family has changed us, and we can finally close this book.

One journey ends, another begins.

My prayer will never cease, before I die, I want to commune licitly with both Catholic and Orthodox.

I’m not interested in leaving this earth until that happens.

We are different, that cannot be denied, but we have much more in common that those things we disagree on.


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Home at last…

It’s finally happening, after a long and dry period floating between the two ancient churches, the hour is upon us. We are preparing for our first Orthodox confession, and then Sunday August 11th, we will be chrismated into full communion with the Antiochian Orthodox Church.

To say we are excited is an understatement, when we became Catholic, it was like my wedding day waiting for the ceremony to start. In my little waiting room I had to ask myself: am I really doing this? Am I ready? Did I have cold feet, yep… Both when I got married, and when we joined the Catholic Church. Do I regret either decision, not in any way. I still love both, always will.

But becoming Orthodox is different, I’m more prepared, I know what I’m getting into. I’ve been living it out in my daily life. And this is the final piece that makes it all fully authentic, it’s emotionally overwhelming, and I’m pretty sure I’ll cry at some point.


I can’t wait, I want it to be Sunday, I want to savior the first taste of full communion, I want to be fully whole again. I’ve been on pause for two years, stalemated with no other option than to patiently wait. That’s hard for someone with no patience, I wanted to open this present two years ago…

And there’s a bonus, and it’s a big one…

We get to bless the faithful by making the Prosphora for Sunday, so not only do we get blessed beyond belief by being chrismated, but we get to bless those we love, by preparing the lamb used in communion. It was important to us that as we receive such a blessing, that are able to bless others at the same time.

Michelle is taking the name of Michael the Archangel, it fits her character perfectly. Just disagree with her, and you’ll see :)

My wish has been, and will always be that one day before I die, I can commune with my Catholic family, and commune with my Orthodox family, and not worry about the Schism, excommunication, or any of that other non-essential nonsense.

So based on that desire of my heart, I chose Pope Clement The First, who was the second or third Pope (depending on who you listen too), and is considered a Saint in both the Orthodox and the Catholic faiths. I’m sure if he where here today, he would share my desire for unity…

Please forgive me a sinner…



Random Thoughts – July Edition

I’ve been so busy with work and dealing with the crash of our finances, that I’ve not had much time to come up for air. I read the SCOTUS decision on DOMA, it took me a couple of minutes to dig through it…

I just knew there was a wave of anger coming from believers the minute I read the decision,  the blaming and shaming would begin and the real discussion about what SCOTUS said would get lost.

Tim Kimberly weighed in on the topic with a good reasonable opinion, and then generated some heat from the comments section. You can read it here:

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Sure enough, the next morning my iPad reader was full of commentaries from the Christian Community, they ran all the way from quoting the old testament lamentations, throwing ash on ourselves and wearing sack cloth (which could be a new fashion trend), to blaming the whole thing on our apathy.

My take is pretty simple, I think Tim’s right and we are now, and have been for quite a while, a secular society. Despite the culture wars, and battle mentality of some in the Church, this country was founded on the belief that faith, and personal belief should not be  legislated but protected. And yet I find so many in the Church who want to change that, they aren’t happy that others don’t share their delicate beliefs, and want our government to fix the situation.

I’m also tired of hearing the nonsense about our founding fathers all being Christian, any first year student of history will tell you that it’s not that simple, and disingenuous to suggest such a thing. That doesn’t mean they didn’t believe in religious freedom, they did. But their personal beliefs are all over the board, sorry revisionists but that’s the truth.

The Supreme Court, whether you agree with them or not, made the right decision, we cannot, or should not legislate morality at the federal level. And we certainly should not single out one belief system or another and hold it in higher regard than others at a federal level, the fed’s job is not to play that role, and the minute we change that we have lost what the founding fathers attempted to do.

We are not redefining ‘Holy Matrimony’ as defined by the church, but simply allowing marriage at a state level to be defined there. Obama stated that there is no desire to force Churches to accept the new definitions, and while I don’t always trust him, I believe him in this case. There’s no benefit in doing so, in this country the Church gets to believe what it wants, regardless of how one feels about that. If we have that type of religious freedom then, it needs to flow the other way. You may not agree with same sex marriages, that is your right, but you also don’t get to legislate them out, unless we as a society deem they are destructive as a whole.

Do I care if same sex couples get married?, not really, I don’t think it’s the end of society, at least I haven’t started building my bunker yet. There are much more pressing issues to focus on, Abortion is the killing of our own kind, and I think one could easily make the case that it sets a precedent that hurts our society as a whole. Same sex marriage, outside the church?, not so much.

I was also amused to read Kirk Cameron’s take on the issue, it was the old shame game, it’s all our fault, because we didn’t do enough, or witness enough, on and on and on the blame goes. I left that world a long time ago, and it feels good to be looking at it from the outside.

Apple and the Post Jobs Era…

I’m an admitted Apple Fan boy, have been for a long long time. I was very pleased with the new changes to iOS that Apple is making, and have decided to get back into programming on the side. I do some much administrative work in my day to day job, that I don’t get to code as much as I used too, and I miss it. Plus I find the OS X and iOS platforms fascinating.

I think Apple is doing fine without Steve at the helm any longer, and the latest changes show they are still innovating, and pushing the envelope in design. I wasn’t blown away by the new Mac Pro, but I’m intrigued. It looks like Darth Vader’s life support system from the outside, but it is impressive on paper, and will probably be outrageously expensive…

Converting to Orthodoxy

We got a chance to sit with Fr. Fenn this week and discuss our current personal situation, it was uplifting to hear his struggles which mirror mine in so many ways. And he didn’t give me sophistry, he gave us some good solid advice and shared Christs love with us, it was a shelter in the middle of the storm, and much appreciated.

He told me to not hold back in sharing my frustration with God, but I’m actually not mad at God this time, I’m mad at myself. So my prayer has been to ask for mercy, it’s all I can think to do.

The other topic that came up was our entrance into the Church, he is off for the next week to a conference and is going to talk to the Bishop about finally pulling the trigger on bringing us officially into the Church. It’s been just about two years, we have been slowly bringing the Orthodox Ascetics into our daily lives. And the one thing that I shared with him was that I have not been able to do reconciliation in over two years, and that weighs on my soul. So hopefully the Bishop will approve our entrance into the Church and we can finally be whole again.

Please Forgive me a sinner…



The Habit Of Prayer

My life prayer is something that I have always struggled with, I can remember reciting the Lords Prayer as a youngster, memorizing every word, but not really understanding the context. As an evangelical my prayer life was sporadic at best and nonexistent at worst.

Compounding the issue, was that no one could tell me ‘HOW’ to pray, in fact I still have books on the topic that have all kinds of information about prayer, but nothing on the how to portion. It always made me wonder how people did it so regularly?, what was their secret?, and why could they simply not share what they did differently? They talked a great deal about the topic, but never seemed to say here is how I do it…

And then I read Anthony Blooms book called ‘How To Pray’, and though it took a while to settle in, that little Orthodox book has had a massive impact on my life. I need to read through it again, because there’s more depth in there, but here is the walk-away and the part and has had a huge impact on my life.

In the book he suggests (I’m going to very loosely paraphrase here) that you don’t start out running, you have to learn how to crawl first, then learn to stand, then run, etc…

I took that personally to mean that I need to stop being concerned about the length or content of my prayer, and focus on building a ‘Habit’ of prayer. That was my starting point, but then I faced the issue on what to pray, that problem is easily solved with any number of prayer books. My current favorite is the Orthodox Handbook (it’s a little red one, that fits in your shirt pocket). I read the basic prayer every morning, and every evening before bed, even when I don’t feel like it. And if I miss a night or a morning, I make note, and force myself to do the next morning.

I had baggage that needed to be dealt with as well, in the both the Protestant and Catholic faith real prayer is done on your knees, in the Orthodox faith you pray standing up, while you face east. Fortunately we have little landing right off our bedroom where we built a little altar with our icons, and it faces east (or Eastish if you will, it’s pretty close to dead on). And against what my instinct told me, I build it at standing height, even though I badly wanted it for kneeling.

I made a commitment to begin bringing the Orthodox faith out of the parish and the sanctuary, and into my personal life. I started with just a quick morning and evening prayer, I made it short and sweet and didn’t worry about the content. I just kept at it, month after month, and slowly I started to branch out, sometimes I read the whole prayer, sometimes I do the shorter version.

I found some 3×5 cards and started keeping a list of things that I needed to pray about, because the list was growing, and between 8 and 5, my day job tries to erase my memory. While all this may seem very basic there is one key thing here…


No I’m not doing two hours a day, but I am stopping each morning and each evening and doing my prayers, in fact going downstairs without praying seems to be an odd thing now. Which is what Anthony Bloom was talking about, and what I wanted when I started out on this path.

So if you find your prayer life is sporadic, or needs some work. You can pick up Blooms book on Amazon, or you can just start small, as small as you are comfortable with. And then work at making it a habit, don’t get discouraged if you miss a day or a stretch of them. This isn’t a race, it’s a foundation, your doing it one brick at a time, so take the time to get it right.

And if your struggling to find a starting prayer, the Orthodox Trisagion is a good starting point:

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Glory to thee, our God, glory to thee.

O heavenly King, O Comforter, the Spirit of truth, who art in all places and fillest all things; Treasury of good things and Giver of life: Come and dwell in us and cleanse us from every stain, and save our souls, O gracious Lord.

Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal: have mercy on us. (Thrice)

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.

All-holy Trinity, have mercy on us. Lord, cleanse us from our sins. Master, pardon our iniquities. Holy God, visit and heal our infirmities for thy Name’s sake.

Lord, have mercy. (Thrice)

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy Name; thy kingdom come; thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

Through the prayers of our holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us.





Anger and Sorrow…

My faith has been shaken, my heart is filled with shame. Anger and sorrow come and go as they please.

My world has come undone, and it’s been my doing. I alone caused all this to happen, the shame, while not entirely mine to bear, could have been prevented.

I have a taste of what David suffered, and there’s nothing good about it.

Those I love, and those I trusted, betrayed me, some honestly, some I’m still not sure.

But what I thought was, is now, no longer.

So I’m facing the mistakes of my past again, in all their agony.

But the betrayal, that’s the knife in my back, that part cut me to the core.

It hurts, it really aches deep in my soul, and I have no idea of what to do.




I’m not sure even where I stand right now, on anything, and yet I must continue on. I don’t have a choice, and I don’t know what else to do.

Others are counting on me, there is no escape, I can’t let them down, even though I feel let down and betrayed.

I need a miracle, except that if one happened, would I really benefit from it? or is this suffering the only way out of the valley?

I don’t know any longer.

My faith has been shaken.

God Please Forgive Me A Sinner.



iStock_000003364641XSmallI have been a lifelong asthmatic, since the age of three it has dominated my life in one form or another. From the age of three I learned that the disease which affected my lungs also removed any semblance of control I had over my life. I’m what you would call an incredibly independent person, I like to be self sustaining, and very much dislike having to depend on others. There are exceptions but they are few and far between, and to this day I struggle with the need to control my environment.

Letting go has never been an option.

I’m not one to psychoanalyze myself, but I’m pretty sure it stems from the feeling of helplessness with my asthma growing up. I have distinct memories of my mother and father arguing violently about my refusal to take the sulphur flavored syrup that helped me breathe better, or my refusal to take a shot in the emergency room and three nurses, an orderly and my tearful mother all sitting on me to administer the said injection. The dentist who had red hair, bad breath, and the bed side manner of Jeffery Dahmer, who drilled on a tooth while I squirmed and tried to hide from the pain. Looking back so much of my life was left in the hands of others that I did everything possible to retain what little control I could exert on my situation.

It wasn’t until my late 30’s that I finally allowed a dentist to even touch me, and then only on my terms. My fear of all things medical and my need for control have led to some epic moments I now fully regret. The time I slipped through a pool vent cover, and tore my shin down to the bone, and my walking out on a Dr. who could not take the time to share a little empathy with a patient already terrified of needles. It was my wife who reminded the good Dr, that unless he could take the time to treat me with compassion, he had little room to complain when I walked out of his ER with an open wound that could be fatal.

All of that has driven how I approach my faith, there was a time when I didn’t ask hard questions, when I simply believed. But when I saw the truth and the hypocrisy of those who claimed to know the truth, my natural and expected reaction was to take matters into my own hands. That decision as expected, had consequences…

It led me down a long and winding path where I moved from Church to Church, looking for the truth and only finding human frailty. It also forced me into a mode of Scholasticism, where knowledge became my saving grace. And once you start down that road, it’s a long way back to eden. God in his grace and wisdom has brought changes into my life that have slowly forced me to rely on him more and more, but I still have a very deep and strong desire to remain in control.  It colors my choices, it’s colors my life, and paints everything with the brush of skepticism.

As Michelle and I have moved from Catholicism to Orthodoxy, we have been forced to let go of more and more, and trust, not just God. But also those around us, we have learned to put our hearts out on the line, to open what before that which was tightly held in private. It has changed us, and will continue to do so.

I haven’t fully let go yet, I don’t know if I ever can, but every day I learn a little bit more about trust, and every day I let go of my control just a little more. Maybe I’ll have all worked out before I die, but most likely, I’ll go to my grave on my terms, in a red casket with ghost flames!


The Road To Antioch

Ruins In Turkey

Ruins in Turkey

Here is another old post that I found, for some reason I never published, and it’s  very good, it’s still relevant. The one exception is that we will enter into full communion with the Antiochian Orthodox Church in August. I can’t find the original date for the article, but I think is was around december of 2012…

We’ve been on this journey for a long time, the road has led us to people and places, we would have never considered when we took our first steps. The path has taught us a great deal, we have found love in some very unexpected places, we have learned theology, some good, some bad, some terrible. We have run into creepy more than once, and left more churches mid-service than we care to admit.

Our goal (mine to start with, Michelle’s later on), was to find the truth at all costs. What that ultimately meant was going back to the very beginning, to the original deposit of faith and learning early church history. When you finally get there, and this is important, if you are willing to be honest with what you find and not try to read into early church history and writing. You are left with only a couple of options, there was only one church for a little over a thousand years. In the 10th century the one Church split into two halves we call East (Orthodox Church) and West (Catholic Church), which you choose is based on your calling.

I believe you can find fulfillment in either church, I believe both have full Apostolic succession (a line of bishops tracing all the way back to the original Apostles), I still find great beauty in the Catholic Church, just as I find a deep reverence in the Divine Liturgy of the Orthodox Church.

The difference between the protestant world and the ancient faiths is one of depth, when I was protestant all I needed was my bible, churches where chosen on what I could get out of them, and how I fit into the worship of the church. We attended countless bible studies, raked over revelation more times than I can count (how many ways can you ms-interpret the number of the beast for crying out loud), and was lied to in so many ways by people who themselves, simply didn’t know any better. Scripture changed in meaning depending on who was teaching, and which translation was being used. Churches always centered around an individual Pastor and his interpretation of the bible, trained or not trained, made no difference. If it matched what we thought, then we where good.

There was, and is today, no depth in the protestant faiths. There’s lots of philosophy, scripture reading, and sophistry. But it’s all dependent on interpretation, normally of one individual. I spent 20 years in the Baptist faith, and while we sure studied the bible a whole lot, we never once talked about where it came from, how it was created, and who put it together. That was not just one Baptist church either, that was a string of them as we moved. I even ran into the King James Only nonsense that one finds in some fundamental Baptist faiths, and heard numerous renderings of why it matters from different pastors. But beyond the doors of the Baptist church I found the same problem, no one wanted to discuss theology, no one wanted to study the early church and it’s foundations. It was all bible study, all the time.

I sat down yesterday to talk with my Orthodox sponsor, and this very topic came up. She lived her life as a committed protestant, did countless bible studies, and ultimately found the experience left her questioning everything. As she started to look at the early church, and make her way into the Orthodox church, she discovered that what she “thought” bible verses said as a protestant, actually had a different meaning when viewed through the lens of the Orthodox church. The more scripture was discussed the more obvious it became that without the guidance of not only the church, but the early church fathers, history and the deposit of faith, it was easy to misinterpret what scripture really meant. The problem is worse when you understand how bibles and their interpretation have changed in the last 400 years. Once Martin Luther began the protestant movement (and not without good reason mind you), history, tradition and the deposit of faith (the teaching of the Apostles) became secondary. Each man could be his own pope, all he needed was a bible to read, and he was all set.

Now 500 years in, we can see the effect that Sola Scripura has had on the church. There have always been and always will be heresies, heretical teachings, religious sects and cults. But today even in mainline protestant churches, we have division after division. All it takes is someone not agreeing over any reason and a new church is born, with new members. I’ve witnessed it first hand, and I’ve commiserated with those who want nothing more than to live a holy life, and are torn asunder by this going our own way nonsense. The Anglican Church which was created when the King could not marry again because the Pope held to Catholic teachings, is now in a state of free fall. Ordaining women, practicing homosexuals and unable to take a stand on any moral issue. Parishioners are leaving in droves, and whole parishes are converting to the Catholic Church to find some stability.

Too many of the men set to preside as pastors over a congregation, have neither the education, nor the training to effectively manage the position. The lack of standard is appalling at times, and the faithful seem nothing more than lemmings willing to follow any teacher off the cliff of new and inventive theology, all while holding their bibles in a death grip claiming they have everything they need.


That’s the issue, without the depth of history, the deposit of faith, and teachings of those who have gone before us, it’s easy to be led astray. There’s nothing quite a creepy as sitting in a service where the women all wear head coverings, rarely speak out, and all because someone misinterpreted what St Paul said to Timothy.

The protestant church is a ship without the rudder of history, the deposit of faith, and the guidance of the church fathers.

When we finally started this journey to a new faith, we looked for stability, something with roots. We never found it, and that’s because nothing in the protestant world goes any farther than 1511. Anything before that period is largely ignored, with the exception of a few chosen Saints like Augustine, who’s idea have been twisted first by Luther, and then later and more egregiously by Calvin. It wasn’t until the Anglican Church that we started to see some roots, but even there it only goes to the 1300’s at best.

When we finally ended up at the doors of the Catholic Church, we both where confused and concerned. But we worked through the issues, and ultimately became Catholic, if only for a short time. While I still believe that the Catholic Church is truly apostolic, the more I studied the early history of the newly founded Christianity,the differences I found in what Catholics taught versus what the church fathers said. Those discoveries are clearly listed here on the site, so I won’t go over them here.

But it finally led us to the door of the Antiochian Orthodox Church, that part of our journey took a year just to come to grips with how different the liturgy and practices are from what we have experienced, even as Catholics. Unlike our protestant background where everything revolves around how we interpret the bible, the Orthodox faith uses tradition, history, writings of the Church Fathers, and men incredibly well educated in sharing what scripture actually means. We don’t yearn to discover something new and inventive in texts that are now well over two thousand years old, and we don’t invent doctrine so that we can describe our theology. We use all the tools are our disposal: History, Tradition, The Deposit of Faith, Teachings of the Church Fathers, and Scripture to define how to live our lives.

In this we find stability, we don’t need a praise band telling us how to be happy in Jesus, nor does our Sunday worship rely on an impassioned sermon from the preacher. Those things don’t matter anymore, instead we are there to honor the Trinity, to give our worship TO God, to partake of the same mysteries that the Christians in Antioch celebrated over 2000 years ago as they did in the book of Acts. There are no lights, no stage, certainly no smoke machines. We don’t need to be hip and have a clever message to bring people in, in fact if you stop by, we will open our doors and our hearts to you, but we won’t pressure you at all. If you have questions we would LOVE to answer them as best we can, but we believe in free will, and that God gave us all the ability to choose for ourselves. You cannot be forced, or tricked into being Orthodox, you have to want to become Orthodox. We will do anything we can to help, but only if that’s what you decide.

When I was Evangelical, going door to door to sell the Gospel was the thing to do, just like the Mormons and JW’s. But as an Orthodox Christian, I’m not here to sell you on the merits of Orthodoxy. I’ll answer any questions, but you and you alone need to make the decision to go down this path to the Ancient faith. It’s a hard road to travel, once you realize how different the early church was, and how the Orthodox Church has maintained that same teaching, you begin to understand the magnitude of change that’s required. What is ingrained in us at an early age in the western world, will slowly and painfully peel away.

When I finally understood how much free will plays a part of Orthodox Theology, my heart soared, it was like being set free after a long imprisonment. Here, finally, was what I had been reading in the scriptures for so many years, and yet forced to submit to the theology of the western church. It makes the journey to Orthodoxy so much easier understanding that God gave each of us the true capability of free will, and despite how we have used it, still loves us unconditionally.

All I can say is that it’s all worth it, even the aesthetic lifestyle one slowly works into as an Orthodox Christian, becomes something more when you realize that the decision rests with you, as to how far you want this to go.

The road has indeed been long and painful, but finally we are at the end, Lent starts this week for us (the Orthodox use a different calendar for Easter), and hopefully with the blessing of the Bishop we will enter into full communion with the Orthodox church.


Why Orthodoxy?

Church of the Resurrection Jesus Christ at St Petersburg, Russia

Church of the Resurrection Jesus Christ at St Petersburg, Russia

That simple question has been the subject of dreams, discussions and  a good part of my life for the last year.

There is no singular, or simple answer.

It’s more difficult to explain to friends and family, there is an unmeasurable amount of depth in the Orthodox faith. But putting that into words is difficult, because the worldview is radically different that any other faith I have ever experienced. I will mention the standard things that cause people to convert, but I’m also going to attempt to articulate the things that people don’t mention. And trust me, there is a lot they never tell you. I would love to say it’s all good, but there are some downsides to all this, and I would be less than honest if I did not mention them. While Catholicism changed me in a number of positive ways, Orthodoxy has completely turned my world inside out, I’m still trying to understand some of the things I’ve learned over the last year, and especially the last month.

For my Catholic friends, I walked away from the Catholic Faith, because I could not find the evidence to support a number of Catholic Doctrines and Dogmas (you can find them in other posts here), and I felt conflicted because the more I dug into the church fathers, history and scripture the more I began to question what I was being taught. Finally I took a leap of faith and met with the Priest at the local Orthodox church, and that discussion started a long journey into the faith. If your not questioning what the Church teaches, then stay. I love Catholicism, I just disagree in certain areas, and it ultimately led me to the Orthodox church. I have also begun to realize that the schism in 1054, can no longer be healed. The issues run too deep, and there is too much at stake for either side to fully change. And it’s more than just the Papacy or the Filioque, it goes all the way to how each side see original sin, amongst other deep issues. That doesn’t mean we can’t get along, but the world views are just very, very different.

For my Protestant friends, there is a huge resource of rich Christian teaching that is not found in the Bible, in fact you should spend some time studying how you even got the bible you hold today. Because there is no heavenly printing press popping out RSV’s, ESV’s and KJV’s, there is a deep and rich history of early church involvement in what you hold so dear today. And until you understand the times, the men, the Saints, and the church that put it together, you really don’t know what you have in your hands. Sola Scriptura is not a concept that was even conceived of until the 15th century, and more importantly it’s not a concept that the Bible it’self teaches, the  early church used tradition, and the deposit of faith to determine what books made up the bible we use today. And the current protestant versions that excludes the Apocryphal books, is a new invention started in the mid 1800’s in protestant Scotland. Which means that for almost 1500 years the church used those books as Scripture, but protestants so desperate to avoid any view of tradition they considered man made removed books THEY deemed unfit. So much for 1500 years of scholars and theologians who never had an issue with them.

So why Orthodoxy?, why after a year did we decide to finally enter into communion with the Orthodox church?

1. Apostolic Foundation, the church can trace a direct lineage back to the original apostles. It has held on tightly to the original teachings handed to it by the men who spent three years with Christ (also called the deposit of faith), and has resisted change over two millennia. We may not have a Papacy or a Magisterium like the Catholics, but we do have Bishops, Priests, Deacons and we can claim that we are the church that Christ started. We were united with the Roman Catholic Church until 1054, and once we separated, we held onto our teachings as tightly as possible. To me, this is the same faith that the Apostles and the first church fathers practiced.

2. Biblically Centered, every aspect of the Orthodox life is centered around scripture, the liturgy is fully based on scripture, as are the other services such as vespers and Matens, you will hear more scripture in an Orthodox service than any other church alive today.

3. Grace, Love and Mercy are the rule, and not an exception. This is something we had to learn on our own, the Orthodox church while very Ascetic in its every day practice (we fast weekly as part of the Orthodox faith, and have a calendar full of fasting times), it has no expectations that everyone will be able to follow those rules. There is a saying in the church, of ‘Mind your own plate’, meaning we are all sinners who are learning to be better at being Christ like. We should encourage each other in love, and show the same grace and compassion that Christ showed to sinners.

4. Deep, reverential, and love filled liturgy focused on Christ, God, The Holy Spirit, and the Eucharist. Known sometimes as the smells and bells, the liturgy in the church is taken very seriously by those attending. But there is no sense that if you don’t cross yourself here, or bow at a certain time you are doing anything wrong. The whole thing is about worshipping God, there is structure to be sure, but you can’t ruin it because you do something wrong. In both the Catholic Mass, and the Divine Liturgy in the Orthodox faith, the direction of the worship is different, it’s centered on not what we get out of it, but of how we can use worship to honor God. In fact in the Antiochian Orthodox church we are part of, you will only hear singing, with no instruments, because the focus is on worshipping the Holy One and not how good the band performs today.

5. Family and Community, merged in love. This again took us a long time to see, but we didn’t join a community in the classic sense of the word, we where adopted into a family, warts and all. The love we have been shown has humbled us in so many ways, while I was Baptist we used to greet each other with the statement ‘Brother’, but I knew very few of those people personally. It’s so incredibly different in the Orthodox church, there is no pretentiousness, it really is a family, made up of smaller family’s. And loving each other, without any judgmental aspects is the rule. It’s been a truly humbling experience to see this part of the faith.

6. A faith lived out, not just on Sunday’s. The Orthodox faith is not about attending a parish, in point of the fact the church building is considered part of the church, and not just a structure we meet in. The Orthodox way seeps into our homes, our marriages, every aspect of our lives, you live this faith, you don’t just attend it. I know that can sound scary. But it’s meant in a good way, because when you begin to understand the depth of love, you can’t but help be changed. And there are no expectations, no one is there to monitor you, but as you grow you learn that living the Christian faith in all parts of our life, is the only way to grow in our faith. The same can be said of the Catholic Faith, but it means more in the Orthodox faith, it becomes more ingrained into who you are.

7. Correct Theology, this is a personal item, but as I came out of the protestant church, and especially Calvinism. I spent a good deal of time working out biblically things like Soteriology (the study of salvation), and dug through the early church, the formation of the Bible, and the church fathers. I have found few things in the Orthodox church that concern me, but there are no areas where I theologically disagree. And that’s huge, in fact in some of my studies on energies and essence, I’ve had to go back to reset some of my thinking, because what I found matched with what I had researched. I had just put a western spin on it, and once I began to understand what the original church believed, I found my thinking was off.

8. Synergism, meaning God and Man working together. This concept is one that drives reformed Christians crazy, they are monergists, meaning that in their world view God is always in full control and free will is an illusion. But scripture does not agree, God certainly has foreknowledge (knowledge of things that have not happened yet). But I could never buy that a truly loving God, would limit free will, or that he did not make his creation truly free, it just doesn’t fit the model that we see in scripture. It’s a far more loving act for a parent to say, you have free will, and I will honor your decision fully. Over the years I came to believe that the Reformers had it dead wrong, and that God truly grants us free will, because anything else changes the very loving nature of God into something terrible. The Orthodox church believes that our salvation is not a one time event, it’s a process of growing, and learning and changing. That we live it out in our prayer, and that together with God’s help, we become more like Christ. It’s not meant to be an easy path, it’s meant to help us grow into something more.

9. Economy, meaning the handling or housekeeping of a thing, or in this case a rule. In practice, this is the rule of love, rather than the strict application of a rule. It means that some things can be set aside in order to help someone grow in the faith. For instance I see this in effect, when in the Orthodox church a married couple can meet with their confessor and discuss options around birth control, it becomes an issue between the three. Not one that is strictly dictated by the Bishop (although he could do that) or rule, this handling of things that fall outside the normal realm, by using love and grace as the guiding principle is something that is hard to explain. In contrast, in the Catholic Church if you purposely miss a weekly mass, there is a dictated consequence (mortal sin), and a determined outcome (no salvation, unless you confess your sin). The Orthodox church doesn’t work that way, the rules are there to help mold you to be more Christ-like, not to punish you because you didn’t meet the criteria. This is one thing that I hear from Catholics, who disagree with the Orthodox position on Contraception, they want solid rules and ideas that have absolutes. But love and grace are never absolute, they have a mystery aspect to them, applying a set of dictated rules never works when it runs into the reality of human frailty.

10. Tradition, the foundation of the church is based on what has been handed to them by the Apostles, and their successors all down the line, unbroken to this very day. In the Orthodox faith you will find icons, lots and lots and lots of icons. There are the Saints, they are there to remind us of the men and women who have gone before us and shown the way. There are the Angels, and then there is Christ and the Theotokos or Mary, the one who said yes to the Angel, the God Bearer. We keep these traditions, icons, feast days, handed down since the beginning, as part of what makes us Orthodox. Traditions help us to grow in our faith, but it also grounds us in the very teachings of those who sat at the feet of Christ, there have certainly been changes over the years. Some parts of the liturgy have changed with the times, but the core of what we believe and practice has remained steadfast for over 2000 years.

One thing that I can’t stress enough, is that the Liturgy is not about ceremony, I used to think that way. Until I realized that ALL churches, even the most open and free-will ones have some type of liturgy. Without it, you don’t have worship, but chaos, and no one benefits. It’s not about what we get out of it, it’s not about the music, or the preaching. It really is about worshipping God, plain and simple.  In the Orthodox faith, vespers which is a prayer service done on saturday nights, is done no matter how many people are there, because it’s not for us, it’s to honor the creator. Think about that for a minute, even if no parishioners show up, the service will still continue. It’s a huge difference in focus from what we did when we where protestant where the bigger the crowd the better the show. Gone are the video clips, sound systems, and 10 piece band. We worship with what God gave us, our voices, our bodies, our minds, it’s not a performance, it’s gratitude for a merciful and awesome creator.

You will also find a great deal of piety in the Orthodox faith, people ending messages with things like ‘Pray for me a sinner’. Coming from a fundamental world, it can seem like a race to be the most humble, but in reality we are all sinners and we need all the help we can get. The piety that at first glance is so external, is really part of the Orthodox experience, I am a sinner. I do terrible things, and it’s only through prayer, and the difficult task of dealing with it (with God’s help) that I can overcome it, it’s a struggle and so I need to be remind myself and others that I am no better than they are. This kind of humility is found in the monastic life of Monks, and we would do well to learn from their examples.

The Orthodox faith for us, has been the destination of the last five years of looking, we would have no appreciation unless we had spend so much time in other faiths learning. Looking back we can see how we where slowly led to this point, and now that we are here, we are finding that things are not how we expected them to be. They are better and more difficult, which I suppose seems odd, but that’s being brutally honest. We knew this would not be easy, we talked about it for weeks before we even finally making what was already a forgone conclusion, that we belonged in the Orthodox church. And the great thing is she didn’t change to meet us halfway, she just opened her arms and took us as we where. She will change us, but it’s not through rules, or catechisms, it’s through love, grace and mercy. The piety that we are now beginning to experience isn’t because anyone is telling us we have too, it’s because we realize that without it, our growth would be stunted. The Orthodox church is the church that Christ left behind, it’s full of sinners, and full of grace, and it’s a mystery that we will live for the rest of our lives.

Please Forgive Me A Sinner.


A longer road less traveled

This is an old post that I found while doing some cleanup, it’s a reflection of my mindset a little over a year ago. Today I’m no longer straddling the fence, I’m not sure why I never published it, so instead of letting it waste away, I’ll share it instead.


When I started my journey from being apostate and living in the evangelical wilderness, back into the world of faith, I never expected it to take me all the way to the doors of the Catholic church. But a little over two years ago, Michelle and I attended our first mass, at what is now our home parish. We actually hid it from the children, because we didn’t want them freaking out until we had a chance to finish freaking out ourselves. The good Father who greeted us that morning, would later take my first shaky confession, and would witness tears of pain and joy, as I confessed my sins.

Now we are facing our first anniversary as new Catholics this Easter, we have been faithful to our parish and faith, and we have found peace in simply being Catholic. We are sponsoring an older couple who come from a pentecostal background, it’s been good to sit and listen to their concerns and know that we had to face the same questions. The road that brought us here has been painful at times, and for a while we were sure that we had finally found home.


I never stopped looking for the truth, I knew that there was more, and the only way to find it was to keep digging until I had satiated my desire for authenticity and truth.

That has led me to a new place in my personal theology, somewhere I never expected to be. My wife is not there yet, and I’m not sure she ever will be, she doesn’t want to go back to the road. Too many painful events, memories, lost friends, and emotions. I agree with her, but I need, or more directly, Have to know where the truth is. As I have mentioned before I also have begun to look at the differences between the Catholic and Orthodox churches, and that has opened up a new world for me, one that quite honestly I didn’t even know existed for most of my life.

My theology has come to the point that I don’t think any church in existence today can claim full irrefutable authority or divine providence in matters of faith, certainly no evangelical church can make that claim. Much less the Orthodox or Catholic churches, even with doctrine that explicitly states otherwise, the history of each branch of Christianity tells a different story than the doctrine they present. I’m not trying to state that every church has faults, few would argue that point, rather my point is that no one body of believers has fully held the original deposit of faith handed down from the Apostles. Each has modified or changed it in some way, I’m not sure how you could expect any less. The world has not remained static, and each generation, and age faces new and more difficult challenges. This paired with constant attacks on Christianity from all sides (and often within), and modify doctrine becomes the only way to survive.

I no longer believe the dogma that the papacy is infallible when declaring dogmatic teaching. I know this will bother my Catholic friends, but the theology of infallibility was not even fully decreed as dogma until 1870 at the Vatican I council. And that after a long and bothersome history of the papal office expanding the role of the bishop of Rome, from a primate position among bishops (which is how the early church viewed the bishop of Rome), to the most powerful chair in the world. This expansion of power led to abuse and scandal, and was one of the key linchpins in the schism between east and west in 1054. Let me be clear that I’m not referring to papal cyclicals, doctrinal positions, or the personal human nature of the bishop of Rome. I’m specifically stating that the dogma declared by the Vatican I council is a position that cannot be supported from either Tradition, or Scripture. And despite apologetic claims to the contrary, it is clear from history and the writings of the church fathers that the original deposit of faith, was not seen as giving petrine supremacy to the bishop of Rome.

The Orthodox churches who share the same deposit of faith from the Apostles, certainly have never seen the papacy as universal in the same sense that the Catholic church defined it in 1870. That’s not say that the petrine doctrine found in Matthew has no significance, in fact it’s evident from the early church writings that the early churches looked to Rome and specifically the papacy as the guardian of doctrine. But it was never viewed in the same way that the Catholic church has defined it, and certainly not as Vatican I dogmatically decreed it.

This is not to say that I don’t believe in the primacy of papacy, or the magisterium. I think both are critical to protecting the orthodoxy of the Catholic Church, Michelle and I have found stability in knowing that the structure of the Catholic church is not open to the whims of the changing times. At the same time, this very attribute of protecting orthodoxy creates a situation where the church can seem lethargic when reacting to a quickly changing world. So there’s good and bad, but we see it clearly as a positive. And I do dearly love the Catholic church, I love the liturgy, the aesthetic practices, the clergy, the structure and the grandeur of the whole thing. It’s safe, consistent and reliable, even if the people are not.

But I would be lying, if I was to tell you that I think it’s perfect. I cringe when I read apologist or others who feel the need to claim full inerrancy of the dogmatic or doctrinal teachings of the church, because when you take dogmatic teaching like the assumption of Mary, you can’t defend the position without playing the ‘on faith’ or ‘it’s a mystery’ get out jail card. There is nothing substantive in the writings of the church fathers, nothing in scripture on the topic, and the Orthodox have never seen a need to dogmatize the assumption. It’s really christian legend, and I’m not saying that it couldn’t have happened, just that if you are going to make something part of your dogma, you should be able to clearly and concisely argue your position.

So what about the Orthodox church?, my exposure so far has been scholastic in nature. But even with that type of limited exposure I have found that there are divisions among the various Orthodox churches, and you can find Orthodox churches that are exceedingly strict to the western palette, and ones that conform more to the needs of a modern society. The one thing that I find attractive is that in all my reading, the Orthodox do their best to protect what was handed to them by the Apostles, and aren’t afraid to admit when they are standing on less than solid ground. I do admit that I find that kind of frank honesty missing in Catholic apologetics, where the answer is always absolute, it’s only rarely will you find someone willing to admit that some doctrine is simply not very defensible.

So from my position, no one can claim full authority. Even with Apostolic succession, you end up with two institutions that haven’t gotten along since 1054,   both showing a clear succession from the Apostolic traditions to today. That doesn’t mean they are bad, or wrong, my point is more subtle than that. It means that until the two can join together and speak with a united voice, neither can really be considered the one true church.

I am, for lack of a better term, stuck in the middle. I love the Catholic Church, I don’t think it’s perfect and I don’t buy into all of it’s dogma, but I’m reticent to leave because I find so much beauty in what it is and what it does. I find that the Orthodox faith makes so much more sense, and on matters not relating to Rome, they seem to be so much more reasonable. I’ve learned more about being Catholic from reading Orthodox authors than I have Catholic ones, there are exceptions, but they are pretty scarce.