Friday, November 16, 2007
This is my first solo attempt at baking the bread. Our priest's wife Khouria Claudia, gave a group of us, mostly converts, a workshop in bread baking a few weeks ago. I made a practice batch last weekend and it was awful! A woman at my church had also loaned me a DVD on holy bread making which I watched this morning to refresh my memory. I think this batch was much better. I could at least see the seals this time! (just not very well in this picture!)
Thursday, October 18, 2007
In anticipation of the Nativity fast, I ordered this cookbook. I think its going to be very helpful. In the same order I also got a prosphora seal. Our priest's wife gave some of us new converts a holy breadmaking class. (yeah, yeah Dad...it was the bread that was holy NOT the class!) The bread we made was used the next day in Divine Liturgy which was very cool. I want to make a "practice" batch at home though before I sign up for "real".
I also realized today that Thanksgiving falls during the Nativity fast which means no turkey :( I don't know why this hadn't occured to me before now but there it is.
In other news....I finally got my invite to Ravelry, a very cool new site for knitters and other yarn-y types. You can see what everyone else is working on, catalog your yarn and knitting books and lots of other fun stuff. My screen name is AuntMartha if you ever want to look me up there.
Tuesday, October 9, 2007
One of the things I learned through several years of therapy, is that it is in our relationships that we are revealed to ourselves. When I'm alone I tend to think I'm pretty great but when other people are added to the equation, I begin to see how selfish I am and how far I have to go. In healthy relationships where forgiveness and mercy exist, healing then occurs.
I saw a bumper sticker this evening that reminded me of this truth. It was in the shape of a band-aid with the words "God can fix it". In many Protestant evangelical circles, translated, this means God will fix my problem and all that is necessary is for me to believe and ask. No others need to be involved. As a result so many good Christians are alone and isolated and barely hanging onto their faith. God created us to be in relationship. At Adam's creation He said, "it is not good for man to be alone". Through Christ he gave us a relationship with Himself and from that a relationship with his Church. Now and ever and unto ages of ages.
Sunday, September 9, 2007
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
Friday, August 10, 2007
Me: "I have a fifteen year old daughter who thinks I've gone off the deep end with this Orthodoxy stuff"
Other parents (in chorus): "You have!"
Monday, July 30, 2007
There is a wonderful short article in the Aug. 2007 issue of Christianity Today (sorry, couldn't find it online yet) that fits in very nicely with the Orthodox practice of fasting.
Eat, Drink and Be Hungry by John Koessler
"Blessed are those who hunger? Hunger and thirst signal need.....How can they be a source of blessing?.....Why not, 'Blessed are the righteous?'. Hunger implies a lack of righteousness. Jesus proposal is so radical, it turns our notions of God and righteousness and blessing on their heads. He blesses what most of us would curse.
According to Jesus, when we draw near to the kingdom, it is better to come empty than full. We are tempted to think that righteousness is the condition we must be in to be blessed. Jesus says the opposite. Righteousness is the blessing; hunger is the precondition.
......Righteousness is not our natural food. As a result, we are being consumed by our appetites. Like our first parents....in the Garden of Eden.....we too long for what seems good, pleasing and desirable, but which will destroy us in the end.....So God takes steps to help us get over our taste for food that cannot satisfy. To our discomfort, the main tool He uses is hunger.
Why is blessedness associated with hunger? Because those who bring their hunger to Christ will be filled with his righteousness. Thus, righteousness must be a gift before it can become a practice. The promise of righteousness is offered to those who are empty. It belongs to those who are aware of their lack.
Righteousness works from the inside out. We usually go about it the other way around; we try to work on it from the outside in, as if it were a matter of externals. If we worship in the right building, perform the right rituals.....we are righteous. If we read our Bibles and pray in the morning, give a tithe....we are righteous.....If we are to have righteousness as Jesus defines it, we must receive it like beggars, letting it transform us from the inside."
Try to get hold of a copy. It's worth the price of the magazine.
Thursday, July 12, 2007
This is what the rental company (courtesy of Pepsico's insurance) gave me to drive while my car is out of commission. Yes they actually gave me this big ole, redneck, 4 wheel drive, extended cab monstrosity. I realize that in Oklahoma these vehicles are practically issued to you with your driver's license but I have been fortunate enough to have lived a sheltered life and have never before driven one. And as further proof that I am living in a version of Hooterville, when I got home yesterday I found that the power was off to most of the town including the police station, the library and my house. The reason? A squirrel got into a transformer. Lovely. Apparently for a few hours, the squirrel won. Still not convinced? Okay, here's another one: a few nights ago there was fire in an empty house a few blocks from us. The only reason the fire was discovered was that the firemen smelled smoke and drove around town till they found the fire. Now that's a small town! However, even with all its quirks, this town has been good to us so I'm not complaining. Laughing maybe, but not complaining.
Wednesday, July 11, 2007
Guess what happened to me yesterday?
I was rear-ended by a Pepsi truck of all things. Its hard to see under the Visqueen but the impact shattered the rear window completely and also did a number on the rear door and fenders. Thankfully I got off with only a case of whiplash and none of my kids were with me. My darling husband dropped everything at a work and rushed to the scene of the crash to lend his support. And hey, its only a car after all.
Sunday, July 8, 2007
Happy news! Father says that I will be chrismated sometime this fall!
How thankful I am for the gift of Orthodoxy. Last Sunday at Divine Liturgy, as I looked at the icons surrounding me and the people worshiping with me, I felt a peace that I barely have words to describe. It was like being wrapped in soft blanket. I was not alone, I was supported by a community that transcends time and place. Utterly safe. Completely loved. I know feelings are by nature, transitory. I know there have been times in my life when God felt very distant and that most likely I will have times like that again. But I also know in my heart of hearts that this is more "real" than any other reality I have ever experienced.
Thursday, July 5, 2007
In Lewis’ That Hideous Strength, his character, Mark Studdock, is pictured being tempted to lose his soul through a long string of seemingly inane choices (engineered by the infernal regions), no one of which in itself seems all that bad.
Our hearts are formed and shaped in a very small crucible. The large decisions frequently come as the fruit of many much smaller. A decision to act and live with integrity, for instance, will yield many smaller results, even surprising results.
This really rang true for me especially in two areas of my life that I am trying to change.....money and eating habits. Its so easy to convince ourselves that the the little bad choices...eating a candy bar, buying yet another skein of yarn...really aren't destructive. But they are and the cumulative weight of them inexorably pulls you down.
Saturday, June 30, 2007
Now, I have a yellow Lab who has been known to chew his way out of our fence so I immediately turned around and went to investigate. It was a yellow Lab all right, just not my yellow Lab. He was friendly enough, but he was limping and was clearly injured. I managed to get him in my car and brought him home, fed him and put him in a crate we have in garage. At least he'll be safe until I can either get him to a vet or to Lab Rescue.
Friday, June 15, 2007
Now I know.
In a previous post I mentioned how I had been drawn to the Catholic Church through reading the book Karen. I thought that it was the liturgical nature of the Church that drew me and in part that was true. I love the liturgy, the cycles of the church year. But what I realized recently is that what I have been seeking is not just liturgy but lifestyle. The amazing thing about the author’s family in Karen was not that they were Catholic but that their whole lives were lived in the context of their faith. It was deeply woven into every day, every decision. That is what I longed for. That is what I have found in Orthodoxy. A faith that is not content to stay neatly confined to Sunday morning but overflows its banks, sweeping away the debris of my soul and pouring through every crack, every corner of my life. Fasts and feasts, darkness and candlelight, the scent of incense, the taste of bread, all running together in a glorious flood that transforms the ordinary into a sacrifice of praise. That transforms me.
Monday, June 4, 2007
Tuesday, May 29, 2007
Sorry it has taken me so long to get back to the story of my faith journey. Things have been crazy lately and this is the kind of post I wanted to spend some time thinking about before I write it. Let’s see, where was I? Oh yeah, I had just gotten divorced after a 20 year marriage, left the Southern Baptist church our family attended and returned to my Episcopal roots. I loved that little Episcopal Church. People were warm and accepting and obviously loved Christ. But the dissolution of my marriage had put me into a spiritual “depression” of sorts. I kept going to church, but inside I was questioning almost everything I had ever believed. Oh, I still believed in a loving God who sent His Son to rescue us. Other than that everything else was up for grabs. I had prayed for so long for God to heal my marriage, change my husband, make me more submissive. I read Scripture and claimed verses as promises from God that He would do a miracle. In the end, He not only didn’t do a miracle but left it to me to declare the marriage dead. And it was. Deader than the proverbial door nail. In the end, I came to understand that if I didn’t get out of this dead relationship, I would sacrifice myself, emotionally and spiritually, and that I had no right to deprive my children of their mother.
But I was deeply, deeply disappointed in God. To make a long story short, I spent the next several years wandering around in a wilderness not sure of what was really true or real. I felt like my faith and my church had let me down at best and lied to me at worst. During this time God gave me a very great (and undeserved) blessing….my husband Dennis. We were married in 2003.
Then last summer God shook me awake. My beloved Anglican Communion was in crisis and the Episcopal Church, the Communion’s
So I began to search for another church. I knew I needed a liturgical church so that narrowed the possibilities to two: the Roman Catholic Church and Orthodoxy. I started with the Catholic Church. Like a lot of people I thought Orthodoxy would be too ethnic and strange for this Anglophile. I read a lot of books about Catholicism, joined the RCIA class at my local Catholic parish and spent an inordinate amount of money at the Catholic bookstore. I learned a lot. I learned about sola scriptura (I had never heard of it before!) and why it didn’t work. I learned about apostolic succession and the early church fathers. The daughter of historians, I loved the connection to ancient believers. I got to know Mary and started praying the rosary. Suddenly, I had found my spiritual life again. But there were some problems, my divorce and remarriage being chief among them. I also had a hard time getting on board with papal infallibility. Although I came close at times, I never felt the go-ahead to become Catholic. I was at an impasse. I was clearly no longer Protestant in my beliefs, but neither was I Roman Catholic. Eventually, it dawned on me that I needed to consider Orthodoxy. I started my research with the Internet and Frederica Mathews-Green’s books. Then I decided I needed to bite the bullet and visit an Orthodox church. To my great surprise I found a friend from my last Episcopal church had just been chrismated there! She helped me through my first Divine Liturgy. I knew almost immediately I was home. So that’s where I am today. I can hardly wait for the day when I will join the great
Monday, May 28, 2007
Later I will add some icons and a vigil lamp or beeswax candles (I love the smell).
Friday, May 25, 2007
Basil of Caesarea (c. 329 - 379)
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
Sunday, May 20, 2007
So this morning at the end of Divine Liturgy, Father and I stood at the back of the church (the entrance) and he prayed a brief prayer from the service book. I couldn't repeat any of it now but it was so personal and so moving that I almost cried. I've spent the last year trying to figure out where I belonged. No, that's wrong....I've spent the last 50 years trying to figure out where I belong.
There is such wonderful peace in knowing that I am finally home!
Friday, May 18, 2007
Saturday, May 12, 2007
1. Read a minimum of one psalm vocally.
2. Read a minimum of one chapter from the Gospels
3. Read a minimum of one chapter from the Acts, Epistles or Revelations
4. Read the daily prayers from an Orthodox prayer book, vocally or silently.
5. Read at least a page from a book of Orthodox spiritual instruction silently.
6. Read at least a page from the life of a saint silently.
7. In your own words, ask for help from God, His Holy Mother, your guardian angel and your saint.
The idea is that by "washing" your soul in prayer, Scripture, and godly instruction you can develop a relationship to God and gradually remove the destructive tendencies and sin that clutter and impede your life.
I'm afraid however that even such a simple prayer rule would be too much for me at this point. So using the above prescription as a starting point, this is my plan.
1. Daily morning, noon and evening prayer using the Divine Hours book of prayers.
2. Read the daily lectionary readings of a gospel passage and an epistle passage. The Orthodox calendar that I received from the church has a listing for each day. On weekdays, I can listen to The Path podcast on the way to work which is a reading of the day's Scriptures.
3. Read a page of a book about Orthodox spirituality.
4. Daily ask for help to be faithful from God and His mother .
I'm also going to run this plan by my priest to see what he thinks.
Wednesday, May 9, 2007
It’s funny, when your faith finally caves, it goes all at once. You realize you were just a shell held together with hackneyed rituals and desperate hopes. You are not strong. You do not have answers.
St. John of the Cross calls it "The Dark Night of the Soul." He says those seeking God will walk the paths of others but eventually those paths will end and there will be no path. They will be left with “Nada, Nada, Nada.” Nothing, Nothing, Nothing.
It broke my heart. I grieved in joint and marrow. My reptilian brain cried. I was sad all the way to the bottom.
I received an email from someone puzzled about the grief I experienced when I gave up on God. This person felt liberated when she left Christianity.
I understand how some would feel that way. Many of you only know Christianity from bad books, TV preachers, and the people who watch them. If that were all I knew of Christianity I would celebrate my liberation from it all the days of my life.
But I was exposed early to the real stuff - Top Shelf Christianity - Deep and Old Christianity. This kind is practiced by people who work until they stink and take life in great draughts. Their hands are as rough as their hides, and they DO their faith in secret, hiding their good works in obedience to Christ. They know how to love and be loved in return. Their laughter is loud and has its roots in joy.
These Christians don’t want your money and they don’t advertise. You will only find them if you MUST find them. These are the ones who took me to Mexico as a boy and showed me pain and joy. They hid nothing from me.
Eventually, he makes his way out:
....we think having faith means being convinced God exists in the same way we are convinced a chair exists. People who cannot be completely convinced of God’s existence think faith is impossible for them.
Not so. People who doubt can have great faith because faith is something you do, not something you think. In fact, the greater your doubt the more heroic your faith.
I learned that it doesn’t matter in the least that I be convinced of God’s existence. Whether or not God exists is none of my business, really. What do I know of existence? I don’t even know how the VCR works.
What does matter is whether or not I am faithful. I think faithful is a hell of a good word. It still has some of its original shine. It still calls us to action.
Go read it. Now.
Monday, May 7, 2007
Saturday I attended my first catechism class. It was a small class....an older man (a former Roman Catholic) who was chrismated at Easter this year, a woman who came with her 13 year old daughter and me. It was a very relaxed class with plenty of room for questions. The big revelation for me this time had to do with the nature of Christ's sacrifice. I had always been taught that Christ's death was necessary as a "payment" to a just God for humanity's sins. That even if God wasn't angry with us (which most of the time it was implied that He was), His "justice" demanded that someone be punished. Suprisingly, that is not how Orthodoxy sees it. They see Christ's death as the means by which He conquered death. Before the Fall, death didn't exist. Death came into the world as a consequence of man's arrogance and decision to depart from God's way. All sin has its roots in the fear of death. Christ's willing sacrifice of himself to death, enabled Him to conquer death for all of us. So for the Orthodox, the Cross and Resurrection is seen more as a joyous victory than a payment of a debt to an angry God. Christ as victor not victim. This is probably a vast over-simplification and I know I have much to learn but there is such freedom in this knowledge! Its going to take awhile to get my head around that! It basically upturns everything I've ever been taught. Orthodoxy is a continual surprise.
Tuesday, May 1, 2007
Then there was the “church” thing. I finally called my Anglican priest to resign from the vestry and tell him I was moving toward Orthodoxy. He asked me some hard questions most of which I have been asking myself for months. He did have a good question though…. “when you think about the Orthodox church do you feel peace?”. I could honestly answer yes. By contrast, even the times when I felt the most eager about becoming Roman Catholic there was always some measure of doubt or confusion be it small or great. I did not have the complete peace I have about Orthodoxy. And I was getting NO peace in the Anglican Church which is really strange for me because I have loved Anglicanism for all of my adult life. But every Sunday lately, I’d go to church and have this feeling that I wasn’t supposed to be there. Yes, I know the enemy of our souls could be the cuprit there but it didn't feel like it. Actually, all the endless, tortured questioning of myself over my motives for converting to Orthodoxy....that felt like him.
Of course all this discernment has taken a tremendous amount of time since I have to second-guess every thought I have and change my mind at least three times. Hey, it’s what I do.
Okay, so I make the phone call to my priest and immediately after hanging up start having a major anxiety attack. This too is what I do. Welcome to my world.
Friday, April 27, 2007
"We are fully known, even in the depths that we ourselves cannot see, cannot bear to see. Instead of hoping that God will love us for our good parts and pass over the rest, we know that he died for the bad parts, and will not rest till they are made right. The depth of our sin proves the height of his love, a height we cannot comprehend until we realize how desperately we need it. We are fully loved and one day will be fully healed, brought into God's presence without spot or wrinkle or any such thing."
Thursday, April 26, 2007
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
Some gems from it:
Only one question really matters. Does God exist or not? If he does, that has implications for every aspect of our personal and public behavior: all of our actions, all of our choices, all of our decisions. If God exists, denying him in our public life—whether we do it explicitly like Nietzsche or implicitly by our silence—cannot serve the common good, because it amounts to worshiping the unreal in the place of the real.
The common good is what best serves human happiness in the light of what is real and true. That’s the heart of the matter: What is real and true? If God exists, then the more man flees from God, the less true and real man becomes. If God exists, then a society that refuses to acknowledge or publicly talk about God is suffering from a peculiar kind of insanity.
Humility is the beginning of sanity. We can’t love anyone else until we can see past ourselves. And man can’t even be man without God. The humility to recognize who we are as creatures, who God is as our Father, what God asks from each of us, and the reality of God’s love for other human persons as well as ourselves—this is the necessary foundation that religion brings to every discussion of free will, justice, and truth, and to every conversation about “the common good.” Sirach and the Psalms and the Gospel of Luke and the Letter of James—these Scriptures move the human heart not because they’re beautiful writings. They’re beautiful writings because they spring from what we know in our hearts to be true.
Saturday, April 14, 2007
So last summer, by a work of God's grace, I arrived at my bottom line: The only kind of God that I wanted to worship was a God who has both the desire and the power to change me. Me. Not my husband, not my children, not my gay friends, me. I had to leave all those other people in God's loving and capable hands and trust Him enough to take care of them. My job was to put myself in a community that reflected this desire of God to change me and supported me in those efforts.
Because if God can't change me, why bother? A church that believes that is nothing more than a bunch of guys in dresses, playing with candles and pretty words. Its worse than wrong because it keeps people apart from the Truth and the Healer that can transform.
One of the things I am beginning to suspect about Orthodoxy is that they are people who believe in transformation. Not in a legalistic, punitive way but with a humility and awareness that even the best of us are as nothing compared to our Lord. I am going to my first Orthodox service this evening and I am SO hoping to find this is true.
Wednesday, April 11, 2007
Monday, April 9, 2007
If you've been following the Current Unpleasantness in the Episcopal Church you will know that it has been embroiled in controversy for the last few years over the ordination of an openly gay bishop. Last summer things came to a head when the General Convention elected a presiding bishop, a woman, who espouses no discernable Christian doctrine. It was in the days following convention that I finally had to choose. What will I believe in....a God who loves every person no matter what but requires no departure from sin OR a God who has the desire AND the power to change me. I chose the latter. That has opened a floodgate. To my knowledge at the time, the Episcopal parish that I was attending had no plans to confront this situation (they have since left ECUSA) so I was going to have to find another place to be. I knew I needed a liturgical church. That left me with 3 choices, Anglicanism (apart from the US version), Roman Catholicism or Orthodoxy. Anglicanism would be the easiest of the three but I have serious doubts about the long-term viability of a denomination that has the ability to vote in heresy. So I took a long look at the Roman church. I'm still looking at it. But I have to twist my theology into some uncomfortable positions to go there and I'm not sure "contortionist" is a spiritual gift. That leaves Orthodoxy. My first thought was "that is just too ethnic and strange". But lately the more I read about it, the more I am impressed. Orthodoxy has a humility and an respect for mystery that I find very compelling. We'll see.
I am a middle-aged mother of four, twice married. My second husband and I live with my youngest daughter in a small town in Oklahoma. I love books, music, knitting, Labrador retrievers and chocolate. I work full time as a librarian. Life is busy. I’m at that age when time appears to have slipped into over-drive and is going past faster than I can grasp.
I seem to be on a spiritual quest that has existed in some form or another for my entire life although it went underground in the years immediately following my divorce from my first husband. I am currently a member of an Anglican church. Theologically I tend to fall on the Anglo-Catholic side of the aisle.
The title of my blog comes from two sources. First, when I was little and competing for parental attention with my younger twin siblings, my mom invented a code phrase, known only to her and me that was Our Secret. The phrase was “special treasure”. She would whisper it in my ear or refer to it by the initials “S.T.” When I went to camp and later to college she would sign it beside her name at the bottom of her letters to me. It made me feel special and loved and secure. The other source is Luke 2:19: “But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” That verse has always spoken to me as a mother who has treasured the years when my children were small. But I also seem to spend a lot of time “pondering”. Hopefully I can share some of that here.