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Speaking specifically about all the videos, these facts and statistics are outdated and incorrect almost as soon as they’re posted.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
A good deed done in silence is more valuable – St. Nicolai Velimirovich
We have spent decades trying to deal with this immigration issue. Whether or not you like Trump or his administration this problem has been around since the Clinton administration, and the Bush administration, and the Obama administration and has been exacerbated by numerous elected officials on both sides of the aisle.
It was Obama (who also said all he could do was enforce the law & never signed an executive order to fix this), who militarized the border and opened the way for kids to come from the south. He created secret detention centers that housed around 4,000 kids until they age out at 18. Where was the outrage and protests then?
Here’s an investigative report by the Washington Post from BEFORE Trump took office: https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/obama-administration-placed-children-with-human-traffickers-report-says/2016/01/28/39465050-c542-11e5-9693-933a4d31bcc8_story.html
I am thankful we are finally seeing the injustice and the failure of our immigration system.
We process asylum seekers from Middle Eastern, European or Asian areas of the world much differently than how we treat our neighbors south of the border.
Or do we simply leave it to the Christian Missionary to carry on the often thankless work (but rewarded by God) in these places where they’ve even endangered their own lives and families for the sake of others. But after all, Christian Missionaries are horrible with their ideas of right & wrong and morality. Never mind that they build homes, drinking wells, schools, teach literacy, help with clothes, food, farming & medical care — all through donations and volunteers.
Wouldn’t our millionaires & billionaires, politicians, sports heroes, music stars & acting artists of Hollywood consider putting their money where there mouth is? Shouldn’t these “talking media heads”, go to these countries and try to implement creative solutions to help these people be able to stay in their home country instead of just taking pictures and interviewing these people in their pain? How can someone film this stuff and NOT give, do, act… give up even 1/4 of their salary and contribute to a solution. It’s so easy to gripe, so hard to labor in the fields.
Now that Trump signed an executive order, people are still griping because the situation still exists. Do these people really expect a massive re-unification of families to happen over night? Many are critical that Trump changed his mind… who cares? At least he saw the problem, the protests and the outrage and he changed his mind and DID at least something. It takes guts to change a position to attempt to make things better.
People are just letting their feelings run wild without knowing the facts and the complexities, pointing fingers and pontificating, including religious leaders and politicians spouting Bible verses to justify their various positions.
Unfortunately we have officials trying to follow the law and congress has yet to fix our broken immigration system.
Did you know that thousands of children have been sent to the US borders by themselves, with no parent? What are we to do with these children, just release them into the packs of ravenous sex slave traffickers & work slave traffickers just waiting to snatch them up. It’s going to take time to pair up parents with children. Yes, it shouldn’t have happened but it did, and it will not be an overnight solution.
This recent video from ABC News talks about how big the complexities of this problem have become. https://youtu.be/nmKhrd1GYS8
I hope we will look at ALL the facts before we begin to protest and judge others so harshly and publically shaming them. You may not agree with what you read but it all comes down to enforcing our laws. There is no justification here at all for what’s going on. So our elected officials continue to kick the can down the road or play dodge ball, or catch me if you can, or “oh no, not me, it’s not my fault.”.
As in politics and religion everyone has an opinion and everyone feels theirs is the “right” of it. I do agree that the system is broken. I do believe in enforcing our laws. I however also believe in COMPASSION. I personally don’t see anything wrong with children staying with parents until they are deported. Many refugee camps allow families to stay together. Must our detention centers look like prison?
I am not looking at it from a political stand point, I am looking at it as a compassionate, Christian, human being. I want us as a country to do the right thing but still have heart. Is that so hard? Why can’t there still be compassion? Remove politics & religious rhetoric and imagine the trauma of children missing their parents. Imagine the trauma of you not knowing where your child is and barely getting any answers? Yes, it’s risky & terrifying traveling from a war torn, or crime riddled, or leave your home because of persecution for whatever reason. As a parent it is a huge undertaking to uproot one’s family from a home often from roots that go back generations, to SAVE your family from starvation, kidnapping, rape, drug lords, murder, & other atrocities. To entrust your family & pay a smuggler who promises help & freedom. Some come in cargo boxes or trucks. If they make it here alive, they hope they’re not left to die, crammed, suffocating in 100 degree weather, packed like human sardines.
Then to finally arrive to America, land of the free, home of the brave, land of endless opportunities, and then they face what we now know as a horrifying situation… separation of families, parents deported without their children, and the children left in squalor conditions that resemble cages.
I don’t care which party is to blame. Let us truly treat others as we would want to be treated if we were in their shoes. Once again, let’s remove politics out of this situation and let’s have a heart. Thanks for taking the time to read this. Blessings on you.
Years have passed since I first found Christ, or rather since Christ found me.
Yes, Christ found me and I rebelled at first, then finally bowed my knee. I claimed Him as my Savior and Lord, my God and my Master. No other God would I serve.
But since that day, long ago, my feet have trodden many a time in places forbidden and dark. I, so often, have been drawn away to other masters, other gods who gave enticing yet deceptive treats that when grasped would crumble into dust; or when eaten turned bitter and full of bile when swallowed.
So, I have paid the price of tasting forbidden fruit. I have suffered the pain of grabbing thorns. I have known the shackles of fierce demons unrelenting in their torture. In fear and darkness, anxiety and unforgiveness, I walked through the valleys of the shadow of death.
In the depths of despair, I heard footsteps pursuing me. Afraid of the Presence of God, I hid but being so exhausted and tired, I surrendered to His One pursuit. I collapsed in His arms, not caring if He would slay me, for death itself would be better than living in the squalor and mire I was now in.
I cried out, “Lord, save me, deliver me, have mercy.” Then a light began to burn and the Presence of Whom I had surrendered to was the One I had always longed for. The Lord Jesus was the One who had been pursuing me relentlessly and never ending. He enveloped me in His arms. His love washing over me like wave after wave, cleansing, healing, forgiving.
God — I thought He was a fierce Master and a Lord that I could never appease. He was truly fierce and worthy of respect — for He was all powerful, so holy. Now, for the first time, I was given fresh revelation. Just as fierce was His righteousness, His love was equally fierce. I now surrendered to the lover of my soul.
I remember when I was young in Christ, visions and dreams enveloped my nights. By day, I was filled with an insatiable desire, an unquenchable thirst and hunger for God. I had a gnawing ache deep within that I was called to a purpose — a great and mighty plan. I’ve caught glimpses of His plans. I am still not sure what it all means. I am not sure about the why’s, what’s, or the when’s. His ways are always higher than mine. His ways are past finding out. God has given many gifts, skills and talents all I need is a desire to try and do my best for Him and surrender those gifts to Hitoshi use or not to use. I am so very thankful and so very blessed. It seems the Lover of my soul continues to shower me with His incredible treasures.
I am learning submission and obedience within God’s will. I can trust God to work all for good. I am learning more and more the balance between grace and obedience. I am learning evermore the depths and the heights of His great love, mercy, forgiveness and grace.
I am also learning that with the joy there is also the fellowship of His suffering. That love often bears a cross and a crown of thorns. But love never loses focus of the goal and will always prevail and endure.
I believe in trusting God with my future and leaving it in His hands. For I have learned that just when I think I know — that is when I am most ignorant. It is better to be like Mary, the mother of Jesus, and ponder the things in my heart than it is to speak too hastily.
I cannot help but wonder at the past events of my life. How does it all fit together in God’s plan? I do not know. I do know that He has called me away many times and says to me, “Come away my beloved. Come and learn of me. Spend time alone in my presence. Let Me love you. Let Me fill you with Myself.”
When a person is a child and his friends reject him the adult world says, “go and make new friends” or “that’s okay, you’ll find other friends.” Someone hurts her or calls her a name and the adult world says, “sticks and stones may break your bones, but names will never hurt you.”
As a child becomes a teen and “falls in love” they call it “puppy love” but when the first break-up occurs the adult world says, “you’ll get over it” or “there are other fish in the sea.”
When friends hurt and we don’t fit in, others say, “they probably weren’t your real friends anyway” or “you’re better off without them.”
Finally, there comes a time when we are the adults. Mom and Dad are no longer there to run to and we have no answers. They are not there to hold us or wipe the tears from our eyes. We get hurt, cry on our pillow, then try and remember all those sayings we were told as a child. Yet, it doesn’t take the pain away anymore.
But, did it really ever help before?
Maybe, it merely would hide it for awhile… until the next time.
What do they really tell us?
Cover it up…
It’s all over…
You’ll get over it…
What good were all those sayings?
Many times my walls have gone up… walls of bitterness, mistrust, unforgiveness and hurt. I have made silent vows of: not letting anyone get too close; not letting myself become vulnerable; not letting anyone see me as I really am; not willing to love wholeheartedly.
But God’s relentless, pursuing love starts calling, wooing, and melting those walls. His love begins to permeate once again my heart, my life. I begin reaching out, touching others, loving again.
His love — it’s beautiful; it’s wonderful; it’s a sweet aroma, an enriching fragrance. I am lifted, refreshed, strengthened and renewed! My hope is built. My faith is encouraged. My trust is renewed. My heart is softened. I learn to love again.
Then it happens, my heart is tested by those very same areas that hurt, those same words, those same actions, the same pain, the same wound — reopened all over again. The only thing that may be different is the people have different names or faces. I tend to slip into disillusionment, despair, disappointment. Feeling rejected, lost, hurt, hopeless and lonely. The loneliness is the part we all hate. The loneliness we can feel even when we’re in a crowd.
May those lonely times drive me to the Lord Jesus Christ, the only one who can satisfy a lonely heart, fulfill my deepest longings, heal the wounds of pain.
As I stop seeking and pursuing after worldly pleasures and turn my efforts and affections toward the love of God will I find fulfillment.
As I let go of all memories, all the people, all the hurts, all the longings, will I find my heart satisfied.
In losing my life, I find it. In giving, I receive. In dying, only then shall I live. Sticks and stones may kill the body, but they cannot kill the soul.
There is a friend that sticks closer than a brother. There is a friend that will never leave nor depart. There is a friend whose love will never change.
So, I have sought Him often alone — but not often enough. I know He desires me more than I Him, but that will probably always be that way. I feel as though I have been in a desert and yet I have not been forsaken. There is hidden beauty in the desert. I believe I have passed from a romantic feeling of love into a deep and abiding lasting love that goes far beyond feelings and into a deep sense of knowing.
I am at peace and am content with God. I feel comfortable with my relationship and settled. Yet, at the same time, paradoxically, I am restless, hungry, thirsty. I am satisfied but ever yearning for more of Him. I am in pursuit of God, yet at rest.
Yes, I have made up my mind. I will continue on this path, wherever the Lord may lead. I will stick with my God, my Lord, the one I love and am learning to love over and over again in fresh and new ways. I plan on hanging in through all the trials. I will not run from fear. I will face whatever the future may bring and take the risk of bearing a cross.
I may stumble, but I will go on. Ultimately, my deepest longings will be fulfilled and I will accomplish His purpose to which I’ve been called. Only by walking through the desert can I expect to enter that promised land. Like Jacob I will hold on until I receive the blessing. Even if, in holding on, it may appear to my natural eyes that I am crippled some way, in the end, every good thing has a price.
If I fail to hear God’s voice and find myself lost along the way, even in my wanderings I will be okay. I know that my Lord Jesus, is the Good Shepherd and will pursue and seek me. I can trust in God, alone, who can redeem anything that is lost including wayward dreams. He can make mistakes turn for good. He can make the foolish become wise — the strong become weak and the weak become strong. He can redeem the years that the locusts have eaten. He can bring beauty out of ashes and turn mourning into joy. He holds all things in His hands. He is sovereign and will accomplish His purpose and work in my life what He desires. So, I can face the future with assurance and hope. I am bathed and washed in His goodness and love.
Praise His name forevermore. He will keep me as the apple of His eye and hide me in the shelter of His wings. He is my God and I will be His servant forever! Not by my might, nor by my power, but by the grace of His Spirit!
Come to the one who is the lover of your soul. Come to the one who loves with a never ending, ever enduring, everlasting love. There is a Savior who will be with us in the deepest seas of despair, the darkest night of loneliness, the great chasm of pain. Jesus has felt the pain. He has known the agony. He has experienced the sorrow
In Him and through Him we can reach out. By Him and because of Him we can love again. Because nothing will ever be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord except our own selves. We know that His perfect love will cast out all fear. Then the world will know we are His disciples by our love!
”Lord of love, fill us with more of You!”
“Let us more and more insist on raising funds of love, of kindness, of understanding, of peace. Money will come if we seek first the Kingdom of God – the rest will be given.” – Mother Theresa
Too often I find myself caught up in the worries, concerns, and stresses of every day life. I found myself even more so throughout this past holiday season. Struggling with health concerns and as a result not able to work as often as I would have liked or needed to which then resulted in not enough finances to meet bills and basic necessities.
Sometimes God gives us strength and health to take care of things. Other times He allows us to be weak in order for us to rely on His strength and the strength of others. I too often find myself leaning on my own strength, trying to pull myself up by my own “bootstraps” so to speak. Yet when I lean on Jesus, trusting Him in ALL things, the strength of the Lord is often revealed in the strength of His body, the Church.
So I am humbled by not being the giver, but being the one given to. I am blessed by not being the one to lean on, but the one who needs others to lean on.
God is faithful even when I am weak, doubting, struggling, falling and getting up again & again. Because of the Lord’s mercies all my needs are met.
My family and friends are blessed not by what I give them in the way of material gifts, but they are blessed by my prayers, by my love, by just being me. So I will continue to raise my funds of love, understanding, care and by God’s grace His peace.
Thank you for allowing me to be honest, to be real, to be me.
People often find the darkness inside an Orthodox church a bit disturbing. I have heard other Orthodox Christians mention various reasons as to why this is so: to help us focus, to distance ourselves from the distractions of the world and other reasons. To others it just seems to be a place of darkness and with the darkness it seems on the surface to be contrary to what we think it should. After all shouldn’t being in Church be a place of light?
As the Nativity fast is soon upon us, my thoughts were turning toward preparing my heart for the coming of the Nativity of our Lord God and Savior in the flesh. That wonderful time of year that is for Christians a time of reflecting and remembering the birth of Jesus – Christmas. The Nativity season doesn’t end “officially” in the church until Theophany also know as Epiphany. This season is known as the festival of lights.
As a child raised in a Lutheran Church, we, as a family looked forward to the Advent services and especially the Christmas Eve services. During each Advent service we would light one special candle on Sunday to again prepare our hearts. Then came the midnight Christmas Eve services which usually started around 11:00 in the evening and it would end on or a bit after midnight. During this service all the lights in the church were extinguished and then each of the Advent candles were lit with a special Scripture reading. Finally it came time to light the Christ candle. Upon the Christ candle being lit, the Pastor would take his own individual candle and light his candle from the Christ candle. The Pastor would then light one of the candles of one of the other members of the church, who in turn would pass the lighting on to another, until each one of us had our own individually lit candle. By the time everyone had their own candle lit, the room was no longer dark. We were no longer sitting or standing in darkness. “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them a light has shined.” Isaiah 9:2, The Holy Bible, New King James Version “Arise, shine; for your light has come! And the glory of the Lord is risen upon you. For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and deep darkness the people but the Lord will arise over you and His glory will be seen upon you. The Gentiles shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising.” Isaiah 60:1-3, The Holy Bible, New King James Version
Jesus said of Himself that He was the Light of the World. The scriptures have numerous references to God and especially the God-man Jesus of being light and in Him is no darkness. As Christians we are exhorted to let the life of Christ, the light of Christ, shine out of our own hearts and lives.
We have many artistic renditions of the Nativity with some very common themes that illustrate the Nativity story in paintings, sculptures and in the Orthodox Church icons. It is the Nativity icon I find many expressions of darkness contrasting light. The cave in which Christ is born is pictured dark and out of the darkness the light of Christ is shining. It was dark in the sky until Angels appeared and lit up the sky. And let’s not forget the magnificent Star, the Magi from the east followed to where the baby Jesus lay.
In the services of the Orthodox Church there are many reminders to help teach us eternal truths. One of the reminders is a darkened church. There is light in the surroundings, but the lights are strategically placed in front of icons in the form of candles: in the memorial boxes and small oil lamps (lampadas). There is usually a big light such as a chandelier hanging from the ceiling. In the evening Vespers service the candles and lampadas are lit, but the overhead lighting is off, until a certain moment when we sing a song that begins with “O Gentle Light of the glorious…”
I am not an Orthodox “expert” by any means, so hear are my humble thoughts on these expressions of contrasting light and darkness. Jesus came into a dark world as the Light of the world. Each time a candle is lit in front of an icon we remember the particular saint or angel as one who has the light of Christ dwelling in them. The “halo” around various saints and angels reflects the glory of God shining from their faces and their lives.
So much more symbolism in the candles, the flames, oil burning in the lampadas, everything to remind us that although we are in a dark world, we have the light of Christ with us always. And just as the light from the Christ candle is One glorious light – it is still passed on person to person. So the next time you find yourself surrounded by darkness look for the light, perhaps bring a light to someone else in darkness. Where do we get this light? We receive the light from the Lord Jesus Christ himself who even the darkness, the darkness is light to Him.
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“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.