I’m so tired of all the controversy over the pandemic, politics, riots, chaos, and controversies. As Christians, we are to seek the middle path the “Royal Way” as St. John Cassian (who lived in the 4th century) encourages us to do. Not be led by extremism on either side.
Let us not live in fear and neither let us live in anger, rebellion, pride, or be distracted by “our rights”, “our “freedoms” or the “cares of this world”. As Christians we are called to lay down our rights, the only true freedom is found in serving Christ. The cares of this world will only entangle and snare us.
Rather let us live in love for God and love for others. There are some who will live carelessly, there are some who live cautiously. Let us walk in love, dying to self, surrendering our lives to Christ & giving ourselves in service and love to our neighbors.
Speaking specifically about all the videos, these facts and statistics are outdated and incorrect almost as soon as they’re posted. There are so many videos and messages spreading information and misinformation that causes either dissensions, accusations, fears, and doubts.
The bigger picture is that we do not battle flesh and blood but spiritual powers and principalities. We are facing a greater spiritual battle, one in which the enemy of our souls wishes to cause divisions, fears, protests, distrust, self-preservation, self-interest, materialism, and more.
Please don’t get caught up in all this stuff. The Lord God, King of the Universe, has allowed for these rulers over us at this time in our lives. Let us obey the laws of the land so long as they do not violate the law of God which is love. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the eternal things, the fruits of the Holy Spirit, in Galatians 6 and the love as explained in 1 Corinthians 13.
Scriptures encourage us to look out for the “weaker” brother, to be examples for the children, to not be a cause for them or anyone to stumble. As Christians we must ask ourselves, how can I care for the “least of these”. If our fellow brother or sister is fearful, how can we put them at peace? If I have a sickly relative or an elderly parent how can I protect them? If I have a friend out of work and needs help, how can I be a servant to them?
All this other “stuff” is nothing compared to the eternal values of the Kingdom of God. We must ask ourselves constantly if what I say, think or do is profitable for my soul and the soul of my brother or sister.
I fail everyday with this, but I keep pressing on to the upward call in Christ Jesus.
There is nothing new under the sun, says the writer of Ecclesiastes. During the time of the book of the Acts of the Apostles, there was famine, plague, persecution. We must follow the example of the apostles who didn’t get involved in the things of this world, but rather went about the work of the Kingdom sharing the Gospel in spite of the turmoil in the world.
They didn’t share the political news, they didn’t share social media news, they didn’t share the latest controversies. They shared the Gospel, the Good News, and they died to self, sharing their very lives and laying down their lives for the sake of others.
In this world we will have tribulations but be of good cheer for Jesus has overcome the world and gives us peace. (John 16:33)
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
(Philippians 4:8 NIV)
Be at peace, live in peace my friends and family. Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called sons of God.
In addition to the scripture quotes already mentioned, here are some quotes from St. Seraphim of Sarov to ponder and put in practice:
“Acquire the Spirit of Peace and a thousand souls around you will be saved.”
“You cannot be too gentle, too kind. Shun even to appear harsh in your treatment of each other. Joy, radiant joy, streams from the face of him who gives and kindles joy in the heart of him who receives.”
“All condemnations is from the devil. Never condemn each other…instead of condemning others, strive to reach inner peace.”
“Keep silent, refrain from judgment. This will raise you above the deadly arrows of slander, insult, and outrage and will shield your glowing hearts against all evil.”
It’s the anniversary of my mother’s birthday, born August 28, 1942. Funny how I remember one of mom’s quips, “in 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue, in 1942 my mother gave birth to me, Susie Q!” It still makes me smile and because of her, I remember a tid bit of history. My mom passed away on September 28, 1999. She was 57 years old. It’s strange for me to think I’ve now surpassed her in years on this earth. Always this time of year, I get a bit melancholy thinking and remembering her and other family members who have passed on. But on this day, when I remember she breathed her first breath of air in this earthly existence, the day of her birth and the beginning of her earthly life, I’m reflecting on her life and the life she breathed into others. This is what I and my sister shared at her funeral service. As I share it again, May it bring a blessing to you, encourage you and challenge you to find joy, hope, strength and life in all things, but most importantly, in Jesus.
“I have learned to be content in whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13
During this time of year, I can’t help but be caught in the memories of my mother, who joined my brother 4 years after his passing to be in the presence of the Lord. When my brother passed, I wrote about the gift of time – how precious it is. I still believe that what we can take with us to heaven is the memories and the jewels we will have in our crown is what things that were of eternal value that we passed on to others.
Reflecting on my mother and her life, I can wholeheartedly express that she left a great legacy of faith & joy!
Momma was diagnosed with lung cancer December 1998 and throughout 1999 as we struggled as a family, I watched my mother increase in faith. Sure, there were times we cried together, but the times of laughter far surpassed all others. She did have struggles with all those “why” questions and even was discouraged… but her faith never wavered. In the last 6 months of her life, she was completely bedridden, yet she never complained about it. When people came to visit, she would always be seen smiling and encouraging those who were supposed to be encouraging her.
Rather than go on with all my thoughts, I thought I would share what my sister, Deborah wrote as a memorial to her great legacy of faith and joy…
“One of Mother’s favorite songs was ‘The Joy of the Lord is My Strength’.
You couldn’t just hear her sing it.
You couldn’t just watch her sing it.
You had to give yourself over to the experience of the song.
The laughter and the fun and the praise were real, palpable, contagious. And that is much like her life in general – you couldn’t observe her from afar, as a disinterested bystander to her life. You had to give yourself over to the experience that was Susan. Her laughter and fun and joy were real, were palpable, were contagious.
Never content to sit by the sidelines and watch life go by, she jumped in with limbs flying and bells ringing. She was quick to forgive, quick to embrace, and quick to hurt on behalf of others. Her empathy was such that she spent her Christmas spending money on a homeless family when she came to visit me in San Francisco. Her hugs were like balm to the soul. She didn’t give those hugs where you stand just close enough to bend at the waist and give an obligatory kind of shoulder hug and pat on the back. She embraced you – and when she embraced you, you felt embraced by her life, her light, her energy. She could laugh like no one else – and although always conscious of the volume of her voice, she just couldn’t tone it down – it was beyond her. Her exuberance and enthusiasm could not be contained.
As a mother she was beyond comparison.
She was always a little “more” than other mothers – a little more involved,
A little more emotional,
A little more loud,
A little more herself.
I recently told her I was proud of her, and she said, “what for?” with some degree of amazement. And although I could not begin to list all of the reasons for you here today, let me start with this and give you the freedom to add your own reasons:
Without much formal education, she ran a couple of businesses, organized a mentally gifted minor program, taught junior high school, and became a very successful Avon lady and regional officer for Girl Scouts. She organized neighborhoods to get playground equipment for children, swimming lessons, and safer play areas. She organized parents and participated in the Feingold program for hyperactive children. She taught Sunday school for many years and was looked up to by younger people in the Church. She brought desperate and lonely people into her home, cared for them, and sent them back out into the world. She organized a program to feed the homeless in a Redding park and every Saturday they set up a barbecue to feed the poor. She cared for many elderly people both through her church and through “adopt-a-grandparent” programs. She won numerous awards at various county fairs for floral arrangement, crafts, and photography.
She taught us to stand firm in our beliefs, to love camping and roasting marshmallows and singing campfire songs. She taught us how to make May Day baskets for the shut-ins in our neighborhood, to visit the elderly in nursing homes whose own grandchildren would not be spending the holidays with them, and she taught us how to go without Thanksgiving dinner one year so that we could feed another family. To our amazement, we returned home to find all of the fixings for own holiday meal on our front porch. To this day we don’t know where it came from – but she knew it came from God and so we were doubly blessed that holiday season.
She taught us how to sing, “do your ears hang low”, “waddly atcha” and “under the spreading chestnut tree”. She taught us to treasure our gifts and the gifts of others. She taught us to give when it seemed you had nothing to give – such as when she gave balloon animals to the cancer patients and staff in the cancer care center in her clown wig and horn – she, who was dying of cancer, still thought to bring joy to others.
But most importantly she taught us how to love, how to laugh, how to smile, even in the hardest times. She taught me, toward the end, what it means to have faith, true faith, and what it means to be content. She told me that God had really blessed her – and she was content those final months”. – by Deborah Dunn Yeager
Momma has left all that knew her a great legacy of faith and joy. My thoughts are best expressed in the following words to a song I wrote for her and for all of us who will carry on her legacy of faith & joy.
Some watching said you were a fanatic.
Still others thought that you were odd.
But in the watching and the waiting,
We could see the reflection of God.
Handing out food, balloons, or your hugs,
Traveling dusty roads even as a clown,
You hugged the dirty, the lonely, the outcast
And encouraged us all to sing along…
That the joy of the Lord will be my strength.
I will run and not grow weary, I’ll not faint.
And I can do all things, all things,
I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.
We were watching when you lost your son, my brother.
The gusty blows came sudden and hard.
But through it all you showed God’s forgiveness
In the midst of all your pain and your doubt
You sang and smiled your way through all the sorrow.
Altho’ you wept your faith stayed so strong
You shared your laughter and your joy.
We couldn’t help but laugh and sing along.
That the joy of the Lord will be my strength.
I will run and not grow weary, I’ll not faint.
And I can do all things, all things,
I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.
Then watching your struggle with cancer
Full of pain every breath a miracle
Still you smiled, you blessed, you gave
You laughed and sang to us still.
The promises, and the scripture verses
The Bible passages all marked and worn
Still speak to me and those you love
Of a joy, a peace, and of a world beyond.
When it was time for you to pass over
And the night was growing dark
Your song of joy joined with the angels
And your laughter and your song still carries on!
And the joy of the Lord will be my strength.
I will run and not grow weary, I’ll not faint.
And I can do all things, all things,
I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.
For this season and in the months and years to come… no matter what trials, woes, or tribulations come… focus on the eternal things, the things that will not pass away… fix your gaze on the Author and the Finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross… He will be your strength, your hope, your joy, your life.
“Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is sacred to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Nehemiah 8:10
“There is nothing-no circumstances, no trouble, no testing-that can ever touch me until, first of all, it has come past God and Christ, right through to me. If it has come that far, it has come with a great purpose.” Alan Redpath
This quote was found in a fiction book I was reading and it really struck me at how true this is. If I can only remember that all things in my life God works together for good and for a good purpose for me. Most often it is in the trials of life that I grow the most in character and into the person that God wants me to be.
Too often I see negative things come my way and I have negative thinking that goes along with it. In light of this being “Easter Monday” I am reminded that the darkness of the cross was actually a triumphant act and especially in light of the resurrection. I am always trying to put myself in the shoes of the followers of Christ on Good Friday and how they must have felt to see Perfect Love crucified – without the knowledge of the coming resurrection. I have experienced loss, grief and death, but I have the knowledge and the hope of resurrection.
If I can hold fast to the Faith, then I can get through my own little crosses in this life with the hope and joy of resurrection.
Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Fourth of July, the end of the summer and the beginning of another school year… time flies. Time… the one gift we all have in common… the one thing we all have equal amounts given to us. Time… we have all that we are going to ever get but something we never seem to have enough of. The Word of God exhorts us to redeem the time. We should be good stewards of all our resources especially our time. Once we spend our time, it is gone forever. We can not count on tomorrow. It may never come. We are to look to each day and make wise use of the time that God has now given us.
As these thoughts come to mind, I am fully aware of how much time I waste every day, every hour, every moment. How much time do I spend in prayer? How much time do I spend in the Word? How much time do I spend with those I love? How much time do I spend in front of the television, play computer games, read the newspaper, or waste away.
I have been extremely discouraged lately, it seems I never have “enough time” to get all the things done that I want to do. People just do not have “enough time” to give anymore. The truth is, we do have “enough time”. God has given us plenty of time. He has given us all the time that we will ever need. It comes down to priorities… do we use our time as God would have us? Ouch! Truth hurts! Bottom line… we all have “enough time”. It is how we choose to spend our time that shows us our hearts.
Mike in 1969 7 mos
The issue of time was brought very close to my heart. My brother, Michael, was 26 years old and died in an accident in the mountains near Weaverville. My brother, Michael and I were very, very close. He had always struggled in his walk with the Lord. The week before his death, he came through Redding from Sacramento to visit. He was struggling again (here we go again, it seemed he was always struggling). He was very confused about the direction he should take in his life. He shared many personal, heart issues that, to my knowledge he had not shared with others. We played games and talked. Later, we listened to some of his favorite songs and then somehow the conversation turned to his reason for leaving Sacramento and why he was headed to Weaverville. He told me he did not know what he was going to do, but he knew one thing, he was going to get away from everything and everyone that was hounding him and seek God in prayer for answers.
The day before he died, he confessed his belief in the Lord Jesus Christ and he planned to go to church the next day. He died less than 24 hours later. Michael’s time on earth ended. Time, he did not know that he had so little time left — neither did I.
The Holy Martyr Wenceslaus (Vatslav or Vyacheslav), King of the Czechs Commemorated September 28/October 11
Of all the ancient stories that surround Christmas, the tale about King Wenceslaus (spelled Vatslav or Vyacheslav) stands out. Though the carol was composed by noted songwriter and priest, John Mason Neale, the song is based on historical fact.
King Wenceslaus was a real member of European royalty, a ruler who daily touched his subjects with Christian kindness and charity. For many in the Dark Ages, this king was the role model for Christian leaders. Today, over a thousand years after his death, King Wenceslaus remains a role model for Christian people everywhere.
The son of Duke Borivoy (Bratislav) of Bohemia, Saint Wenceslaus had the good fortune to be raised by his grandmother, holy Martyr and Princess Ludmilla (commemorated September 16). Ludmilla was a devoted Christian woman who raised Prince Wenceslaus in deep piety, teaching her grandson the meaning of faith, hope, and charity. Wenceslaus took his grandmother’s lessons to heart, and in 920, when Duke Borivoy (Bratislav) was killed in battle, the youngster seemed ready to put what he had learned into action. At the age of eighteen, Saint Wenceslaus, just a few minutes older than Boleslaus, was made the leader of Bohemia.
In spite of his youthful age, he ruled wisely and justly and concerned himself much about the Christian enlightenment of the people. The holy prince was a widely educated man, and he studied in the Latin and Greek languages. Saint Wenceslaus was peace-loving. He built and embellished churches, and in Prague, the Czech capital, he raised up a magnificent church in the name of Saint Vitus, and he had respect for the clergy.
Envious nobles decided to murder the saint and, at first, to incite his mother against him, and later to urge his younger brother, Boleslav, to occupy the princely throne. As the young duke attempted to guide the troubled nation, his mother, Drahomira, and his brother, Boleslaus, instituted a pagan revolt. They assassinated Ludmilla as she prayed, then attempted to overthrow Saint Wenceslaus. The teen took charge, put down the rebellion, and in an act of Christian kindness, expelled his mother and brother rather than executing them. The tiny nation was amazed that the boy would react with such great mercy.
With the wisdom of Solomon, the young duke set up a nation built on true justice and mercy. He enacted laws in the manner he thought would best serve his Lord. As king, he labored in the Faith like the great ascetics, and strengthened the Christian Faith among his people. He was strict in ensuring that no innocent person suffer in the courts. In his zeal for the Christian Faith and in his love for his fellow man, Saint Wenceslaus purchased pagan children who were being sold as slaves, and immediately baptized them and raised them as Christians. He translated the Gospel of St. John into the Czech language, and transported the relics of St. Vitus and St. Ludmilla to Prague.
He even journeyed out into the country seeking insight as to what his people needed. When possible, he shared everything from firewood to meat with his subjects. He took pity on the poor and urged those blessed with wealth to reach out to the less fortunate. In large part due to Saint Wenceslaus’s example, a host of pagan peasants turned to Christianity. It was a revival unlike any had ever seen in the country.
When Saint Wenceslaus married and had a son, all of Bohemia celebrated. Peasants and powerful landlords sought the man out, offering their prayers for long life and happiness. With a smile on his face, the leader assured them that he was praying for their happiness as well. In the years that followed, the duke and his subjects continued to share both their prayers and their blessings with one another each day. Rarely had a leader been as universally revered as was Wenceslaus.
And Saint Wenceslaus loved Christmas. Centuries before gift giving became a part of the holiday tradition, the young leader embraced the joy of sharing his bounty with others. Inspired by a sincere spirit of compassion, each Christmas Eve the duke sought out the most needy of his subjects and visited them. With his pages at his side, Saint Wenceslaus brought food, firewood, and clothing. After greeting all in the household, the duke would continue to the next stop. Though often faced with harsh weather conditions, Saint Wenceslaus never postponed his rounds. Like a tenth century Saint Nicholas, the kindly young man made the night before Christmas special for scores of families. For many, a Christmas Eve visit from the duke was an answered prayer and a special reason to celebrate the birth of Jesus.
Boleslav invited his brother to the dedication of a church, and then asked him to stay another day. In spite of the warnings of his servants, the holy prince Saint Wenceslaus refused to believe in a conspiracy and exposed his life to the will of God. On the following day, September 28, 935, when Saint Wenceslaus went to Matins, he was wickedly murdered at the doors of the church by his own brother and his brother’s servants. Falling to his knees on the church steps, the dying ruler looked up and whispered, “Brother, may God forgive you.” Then he died. His body was stabbed and discarded without burial.
The mother, hearing of the murder of her son, found and placed his body in a recently consecrated church at the princely court. They were not able to wash off the blood splashed on the church doors, but after three days it disappeared by itself.
Amazingly, when the young man realized what he had done, the new duke turned away from his colleagues and embraced the faith that had guided his brother’s life and rule. Though he had planned the revolt that had killed his twin, it was Boleslaus who sustained the memory of Saint Wenceslaus. After repenting of his sin, the murderer transferred the relics of Saint Wenceslaus to Prague, where they were placed in the church of St. Vitus, which the martyr himself had constructed (the transfer of the relics of Saint Wenceslaus is celebrated on March 4). The memory of Saint Wenceslaus has been honored from of old in the Orthodox Church. Thanks to the man who killed his brother, the Crown of Saint Wenceslaus became the symbol of the Czech nation. Saint Wenceslaus suffered in the year 935 and his relics repose in Prague. The Christmas Carol “Good King Wenceslaus” Good King Wenceslaus looked out, on the Feast of Stephen, When the snow lay round about, Deep and crisp and even; Brightly shone the moon that night, Tho’ the frost was cruel, When a poor man came in sight, Gath’ring winter fuel. “Hither, page, and stand by me, If thou know’st it, telling, Yonder peasant, who is he? Where and what his dwelling?” “Sire, he lives a good league hence, Underneath the mountain; Right against the forest fence, By Saint Agnes’ fountain.” “Bring me flesh, and bring me wine, Bring me pine logs hither: Thou and I will see him dine, When we bear them thither.” Page and monarch, forth they went, Forth they went together; Thro’ the rude wind’s wild lament And the bitter weather. “Sire, the night is darker now, And the wind blows stronger; Fails my heart, I know not how, I can go no longer.” “Mark my footsteps, good my page; Tread thou in them boldly: Thou shalt find the winter’s rage Freeze thy blood less coldly.” In his master’s steps he trod Where the snow lay dinted; Heat was in the very sod Which the Saint had printed. Therefore, Christian men, be sure, Wealth or rank possessing, Ye who now will bless the poor,Shall yourselves find blessing. An Orthodox Hymn of Praise The Holy Martyr Wenceslaus, King of the Czechs From a wicked mother, good fruit was born: Saint Wenceslaus, who pleased God. His wicked mother gave him only a body, But his grandmother-light and faith and hope. The glorious grandmother, pious Ludmilla, Nurtured Wenceslaus ‘s soul. As a white lily, Wenceslaus grew, And adorned himself with innocence. As the king reigned, the people rejoiced, And with their king they honored God. Yet the adversary of man never sleeps or dozes, Laying sinful snares for every soul, And he incited Boleslav against Wenceslaus. “For what, my brother, do you want my head?” Wenceslaus asked, but was still beheaded! But the evildoer did not escape God. The soul of Saint Wenceslaus went Before the Most-high God, the Just, The One he had always adored, And with Ludmilla, Wenceslaus now prays For his people, that they be strengthened in faith. Saint Wenceslaus, beautiful as an angel!
The True Story of Saint Nicholas… Our Father among the Saints Nicholas the Wonderworker Archbishop of Myra in Lycia Commemorated December 6/19
Saint Nicholas, Archbishop of Myra in Lycia, and Wonderworker is famed as a great saint pleasing unto God. He was born in the city of Patara in the Lycian region (on the south coast of the Asia Minor peninsula), and was the only son of pious parents Theophanes and Nonna, who had given a vow to dedicate him to God. As the fruition of longtime prayer of his childless parents, the infant Nicholas from the very day of his birth revealed to people the light of his future glory as a wonderworker. His mother, Nonna, after giving birth was immediately healed from illness. The newborn infant while still in the baptismal font stood on his feet three times, without support from anyone, indicating by this to honour the MostHoly Trinity. Saint Nicholas from his infancy began a life of fasting, and on Wednesdays and Fridays he accepted milk from his mother only but once, after the evening prayers of his parents.
From the time of his childhood Nicholas thrived on the study of Divine Scripture; by day he would not leave church, and by night he prayed and read books — fashioning in himself a worthy dwelling-place of the Holy Spirit. His uncle, Bishop Nicholas of Patara, rejoiced at the spiritual success and deep piety of his kinsman. He ordained him a reader, and then elevated Nicholas to the dignity of presbyter, making him his assistant and entrusting him to speak instructing the flock. In serving the Lord the youth was fervent of spirit, and in his proficiency with questions of faith he was like an elder / starets, which aroused the wonder and deep respect of believers. Constantly at work and vivacious, being in unceasing prayer, presbyter Nicholas displayed great kind-heartedness towards the flock, and towards those afflicted coming to him for help, and he distributed all his inheritance to the poor. Having learned about the bitter need and poverty of a certain formerly rich inhabitant of his city, Saint Nicholas saved him from great sin. Having three grown daughters, the despairing father considered to give them over to profligacy so as to save them from hunger. The saint, grieving lest the man perish a sinner, by night secretly brought him through the window three sacks with gold and by this saved the family from falling into spiritual destruction. In bestowing charity, Saint Nicholas always strove to do this secretly and conceal his good deeds.
In setting off on pilgrimage to the holy places at Jerusalem, the bishop of Patara entrusted the guidance of the flock to Saint Nicholas, who fulfilled this obedience carefully and with love. When the bishop returned, he in turn asked blessing for a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Along the way the saint predicted the onset of a storm threatening the ship with inundation, since he saw the devil itself having got on ship. At the entreaty of the despairing pilgrims, he calmed by his prayers the waves of the sea. Through his prayer also was restored to health a certain sailor of the ship, who had fallen from the mast and was mortally injured.
Having reached the ancient city of Jerusalem and having come to Golgotha, Saint Nicholas offered up thanksgiving to the Saviour of the race of mankind and he made the rounds of all the holy places, doing poklons and making prayers. By night on Mount Sion the closed doors of the church opened by themselves in front of the arriving great pilgrim. Going round the holy places connected with the earthly service of the Son of God, Saint Nicholas decided to withdraw into the wilderness, but he was stopped by a Divine voice, urging him to return to his native country. Having returned to Lycia and yearning for a life of quietude, the saint entered into the brotherhood of a monastery, named Holy Sion. But the Lord again announced another pathway, awaiting him: “Nicholas, this is not the field, on which thou ought to await Mine harvest, but rather turn round and go into the world, and there My Name shalt be glorified in thee”. In the vision the Lord gave him a Gospel of exquisite workmanship, and the MostHoly Mother of God — an omophor.
And actually, upon the death of archbishop John, he was chosen bishop of Lycian Myra — after one of the bishops of the Council gave a decisive reply on the question of choice of a new archbishop — the choice of God as directed him in a vision — Saint Nicholas. Summoned to the flock of the Church in the dignity of archbishop, Sainted Nicholas remained a great ascetic, appearing to his flock as an image of gentleness, kindness and love towards people. This was particularly precious for the Lycian Church during the time of persecution of Christians under the emperor Diocletian (284-305). Bishop Nicholas, locked up in prison together with other Christians, sustained them and exhorted them to bravely endure the fetters, punishment and torture. He himself the lord preserved unharmed. Upon the accession to rule of the holy equal-to-the-apostles Constantine, Saint Nicholas was restored to his flock, which joyfully received back their guide and intercessor.
Despite his great gentleness of spirit and purity of heart, Saint Nicholas was a zealous and ardent warrior of the Church of Christ. Fighting evil spirits, the saint made the rounds of the pagan temples and shrines in the city of Myra and its surroundings, shattering the idols and turning the temples to dust.
In the year 325 Saint Nicholas was a participant in the I OEcumenical Council (Sobor). This Council proclaimed the Nicean Symbol of faith, and he stood up with the likes of saints Sylvester the pope of Rome, Alexander of Alexandria, Spyridon of Trimiphuntum and others of the 318 fathers of the Council against the heretic Arius.
Saint Nicholas, in the heat of denunciation and fired up with zeal for the Lord, even gave the false-teacher a good drubbing on the ears, for which he was deprived of his bishop’s omophor and put under guard. But several of the holy fathers shared a vision revealing that the Lord Himself and the Mother of God had made the saint to be bishop, bestowing upon him the Gospel and omophorion. The fathers of the Council, having concurred, that the audacity of the saint was pleasing to god, gave glory to the Lord and restored His holy saint to the dignity of bishop.
Having returned to his own diocese, the saint brought it peace and blessings, sowing the word of Truth, nipping in the bud defective and spurious claims of wisdom, uprooting heresy and healing the fallen and those led astray through ignorance. He was indeed a light in the world and the salt of the earth, wherein his life did shine and his word was mixed with the salt of wisdom.
Even during his life the saint worked many miracles. Of them the one accorded the greatest fame was the deliverance from death by the saint of three men, unjustly condemned by a greedy city-commander. The saint boldly went up to the executioner and took hold of his sword, already suspended over the heads of the condemned. The city-commander, denounced by Saint Nicholas in wrong-doing, repented himself and begged for forgiveness. During this time there were present three military officers, dispatched by the emperor Constantine to Phrygia. They did not suspect that they soon likewise would be compelled to seek the intercession of Saint Nicholas: it so happened that they had been vilely slandered before the emperor and were come under a sentence of death. Appearing in sleep to the holy equal-to-the-apostles Constantine, Saint Nicholas called on him to dismiss the wrongful death-sentence of the military officers who, now in prison, prayerfully called out for help to the saint. He worked many other miracles, and asceticised many long years at his labour. Through the prayers of the saint, the city of Myra was rescued from a terrible famine. Having appeared in sleep to a certain Italian merchant and having left him as a pledge of payment three gold money-pieces, which the merchant found in his hand upon wakening in the morning, he requested him to sail to Myra and furnish grain there. More than once did the saint save those drowning in the sea, and provide release from captivity and imprisonment.
Having reached old age, Saint Nicholas expired peacefully to the Lord (+ 345-351). His venerable relics were preserved undecayed in the local cathedral church and flowed with curative myrh, from which many received healing. In the year 1087 his relics were transferred to the Italian city of Bari, where they rest even now (about the Transfer of Relics see under 9 May).
The name of the great saint of God, the hierarch and wonderworker Nicholas, a speedy helper and suppliant for all hastening to him, is famed in all the ends of the earth, in many lands and among many peoples. In Russia there are a multitude of cathedrals, monasteries and churches consecrated in his name. There is not, probably, a single city without a Nikol’sk temple.
In the name of Saint Nicholas the Wonderworker — the first Russian Christian prince Askol’d (+ 882) was baptised in 866 by Patriarch Photios. Over the grave of Askol’d, the holy equal-to-the-apostles Ol’ga (Comm. 11 July) erected the first temple of Sainted Nicholas in the Russian Church at Kiev. Primary cathedrals were dedicated to Saint Nicholas at Izborsk, Ostrov, Mozhaisk, and Zaraisk. At Novgorod the Great one of the main churches of the city — the Nikolo-Dvorischensk church, later became a cathedral. Famed and venerable Nikol’sk churches and monasteries are at Kiev, Smolensk, Pskov, Toropetsa, Galich, Archangelsk, Great Ustiug, Tobol’sk. Moscow was famed by several tens of churches consecrated to the saint, and three Nikol’sk monasteries were situated in the Moscow diocese: the Nikolo-Greek (Staryi) — in the Chinese-quarter, the Nikolo-Perervinsk and the Nikolo-Ugreshsk. One of the chief towers of the Kremlin was named the Nikol’sk. Part of all the churches devoted to the saint were those established at market-squares by Russian merchants, sea-farers and land-goers, venerating the wonderworker Nicholas as a protector of all those journeying on dry land and sea. They sometimes received the name among the people of “Nicholas soaked”. Many village churches in Russia were dedicated to the wonderworker Nicholas, reverently venerated by peasants as a merciful intercessor before the Lord for all the people in their work. And in the Russian land Saint Nicholas did not leave off with his intercession. Ancient Kiev preserves the memory about the miraculous rescue of a drowning infant by the saint. The great wonderworker, hearing the grief-filled prayers of the parents in the loss of their only child, by night snatched up the infant from the waters, revived him and placed him in the choir-loft of Saint Sophia church in front of his wonderworking image. And here in the morning the infant was found safe by his thrilled parents, praising with a multitude of the people Saint Nicholas the Wonderworker.
Many wonderworking icons of Saint Nicholas appeared in Russia and came also from other lands. There is the ancient byzantine embroidered image of the saint (XII), brought to Moscow from Novgorod, and the large icon written in the XIII Century by a Novgorod master. Two depictions of the wonderworker are especially distributed in the Russian Church: Sainted Nicholas of Zaraisk — in full-length, with blessing right hand and with Gospel (this image was brought to Ryazan in 1225 by the byzantine princess Eupraxia, future spouse of Ryazan prince Theodore, and perishing in 1237 with her husband and infant-son during the incursion of Batu); and Sainted Nicholas of Mozhaisk — also in full stature, with a sword in his right hand and a city in his left — in memory of the miraculous rescue, through the prayers of the saint, of the city of Mozhaisk from an invasion of enemies. It is impossible to list all the graced icons of Saint Nicholas. Every Russian city and every church was blessed by suchlike icons through the prayers of the saint. Eastern Christian Orthodox Hymn – Troparion Tone 4 The truth of things revealed thee to thy flock as a rule of faith,/ a model of meekness, and a teacher of temperance./ Therefore thou hast won the heights by humility,/ riches by poverty./ Holy Father Nicholas, intercede with Christ our God that our souls may be saved. Eastern Christian Orthodox Hymn – Kontakion Tone 3 Thou wast a faithful minister of God in Myra,/ O Saint Nicholas./ For having fulfilled the Gospel of Christ,/ thou didst die for the people and save the innocent./ Therefore thou wast sanctified as a great initiator of the grace of God.
Don’t put me in a box Don’t label me at all Don’t try to figure me out Don’t put me on a pedestal Don’t put me in a category Or give me a personality test Don’t send me to a psychiatrist Or a psychoanalyst God’s the one that made me And he’s not finished yet He knows all my tomorrows And He knows every one of my regrets Lord knows He knows my secrets More than I can ever admit He knows the deepest part of me My heart’s too complicated for a simple fix I’m not the Rock of Gibraltar Cause sometimes I can crumble Stumble, cry and fall But when it’s all over I’m still standing tall … God loves me like I am
This is an excerpt of a letter sent to a young man in prison struggling with his appeal process to reduce his sentencing time in prison. But I thought I would add it to my blog and maybe encourage someone else although we may not be in prison… we all have our “prisons”, “deserts”, “wilderness” experiences.
These are thoughts after spending over 20 years in ministry and missions work about learning patience and truly waiting on God’s perfect timing. Some of the things I desired for a certain ministry or mission to take place often took years and I was often frustrated things didn’t move faster than I would have liked, but God’s timing is always perfect. I would often remind myself that it is not the end result but the process of growing in the journey closer to God. God is not so much concerned about what we do for Him as to how our relationship is growing with Him.
I am reminded about Moses spending 40 years in the desert tending sheep a time of preparation and drawing closer to God. Then there was David who killed Goliath and later became King, but he spent many years in the wilderness tending sheep and facing his own battles learning to trust God to direct his paths. Elijah spent 3 years in the wilderness in a time of drought being fed by ravens and living in a cave. There was also John the Baptist growing up from childhood in the desert until the time he was to reveal Christ to the world by baptism. Saul who met the Lord on the road to Damascus and became the Apostle Paul spent 14 years in the desert drawing close to God before going out and doing missionary work. The Apostle Paul spent many years in and out of prison and many of his letters or epistles as they are called in the Bible were written while he was in prison. While the Apostle Paul was in prison, his life so reflected Christ that many came to salvation because of his witness in prison – even the guards.
Outside of scriptures there are numerous great people used by God to do great and mighty things who spent years in a wilderness or desert of some sort. John Bunyan who wrote one of Christianity’s classic books, “Pilgrim’s Progress” wrote it while he was in prison for several years.
So let me encourage you with some scriptures from the Apostle Paul:
Philippians 2:5-10: ” Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
Philippians 4:4-14 ” Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice. Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you. But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at the last your care of me hath flourished again; wherein ye were also careful, but ye lacked opportunity. Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. Notwithstanding ye have well done, that ye did communicate with my affliction.”
The final verses are ones out of 2 Corinthians 4 that I especially took heart in when in difficult times: “Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we do not lose heart. But we have renounced the hidden things of shame, not walking in craftiness nor handling the word of God deceitfully, but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God… But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed… Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”
I am always reminding myself that God’s most important work is in our hearts and not in our ministries or what we do for God. That we are to work out our salvation, meaning that we are to constantly work on our heart to become more like Christ in whatever situation we are in and trust God to work out His perfect timing and plans for our lives.
My other favorite verses are Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.”
And Isaiah 55:8-9 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
So our life takes many turns and often not the way we planned but looking back it is God’s perfect plan and we can see his hand in all things. Even when we have made mistakes, done things we are not proud of, been disciplined by the hand of God (sometimes from the law, sometimes from man, but it is all from God), God is working on our character, our personality and our hearts to form us into the very likeness and image of Christ so that our light will shine without and shadows and the water that flows out of us will be living water purified and not stained.
So consider this time in “prison”, as a time in the “wilderness” or “desert”, a time where God has set you aside to draw you closer to Himself and to reveal Himself to you in a deeper way.
It is a time of examining our hearts and seeing how much we are truly willing to sacrifice and to “die to self” for the sake of the Gospel and for the sake of Christ.
We cannot see or make plans for the future, we have to make the most of today and make sure our hearts and minds are purified and holy before God so that if today or tonight he decided to take our life and call us home we are ready.
May you ponder on these rich nuggets of gold that I have learned from God in my own “wilderness” experiences. I wish you blessings from heaven dear brothers and sisters in the Lord.