Sunday, February 26, 2017

Smooth Hands Will Never Take the Gate

Uninspired and much too tired
To bleed for the Word today
Oh I want and I need
To walk the narrow way

Give blood to get spirit 
Only soldiers storm the gates.
Do I have the ears to hear it?
Or to keep a warrior's pace?

The servants will be greatest;
But no sweat flows from my pores.
My hands are smooth and the gate is
Taken violently by force. 

~ Peter John Gillquist from his album Real

These are the words I've had running through my head this week. I happened to put on an old album, one I haven't listened to in years, and when this song came I realized that these were words meant for me.

How often I have sat back and complained when things are not going my way. How often I have felt sorry for myself that I keep having to face temptation and struggle. How many times I have relaxed my vigilance because I just don't feel like making an effort.

My hands are smooth because I haven't been trying. But only those who do violence to their passions will take the gate. How can I expect to win a battle I won't even fight? I must arm myself with love and learn to keep watch over my thoughts. I must run from those things that take my thoughts away from Christ. I must give blood. And that's not pretty and it's not easy and it's certainly not fun. But now is the time to run the race. Now is the time to work and build up my treasure in heaven so that my heart might be there also. This is not the time for rest or retreat; this is the time to fight.

Thank God that Lent is upon us! What better time to wake and begin the watch? I know that when we begin to fast the temptations will pile on fast and thick, but thank God! How else could we become seasoned warriors if we haven't had any practice in battle?

Behold, the Bridegroom cometh at midnight.
And blessed is the servant whom He shall find awake.
But he whom He shall find neglectful is verily unworthy.
Behold therfore, my soul! 
Beware, lest thou fallest into deep slumber
And the door of the Kingdom be closed against thee
And thou be delivered unto death. 
But be thou wakeful crying,
Holy, holy, holy art Thou, O God!
Through the intercessions of the Theotokos have mercy on us. 

A blessed fast to all of my readers! May God give you strength and grace to run the race and fight the good fight! 

Monday, February 13, 2017

Rejoice in each day

I rejoice in each day's blessing as it comes, and never wish for more than does come. You, who are wishing the present to be better than it is, and fearing that the future may be worse, are meanwhile losing all enjoyment of the hour that now is. You think this wise. To me it seems as foolish as it is ungrateful!

Margaret Gatty
Parables from Nature

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Letting Go of Perfection

Mistakes are an inevitable part of life. We live in a fallen world and none of us can be perfect. We strive with all our might to live up to the Ideal we have set before us, but again and again we fail: we make poor choices, we hurt those dear to us, we act based on misunderstandings and miscommunication, and we mess up over and over. 

We can, of course, be sorry for our mistakes. All of us know regret and remorse. We try to clean up the spills and the broken fragments that remain as evidence of our carelessness or our folly. But try as we might to mend the tear, the fact is that the fabric will never be as good as new again. We can glue the broken pieces back together, but the jar will always show evidence of the crack.  

We may strive for perfection but we cannot attain it in this life. And you know what? That's ok. 

We must learn to strive for the ideal, while always remembering that we cannot reach it - yet. We must not attempt to have everything be perfect now because that's an invitation for more trouble. Intrusive thoughts will enter in and make a home in our hearts and they will tear everything apart even more. 

These are the thoughts that say,

*I am a failure

*My child is not who he should be

*My spouse is not behaving as a loving spouse behaves

*If so and so continues to act like this she will "ruin" her life

*Everyone will think badly of me or my family

*If I don't fix this problem I will "ruin" my child's life

*So and so doesn't treat people right 

*So and so is lying to me and it's my job to uncover the truth

*So and so doesn't fast

*So and so did something wrong and it's my job to spread the word

*I have failed my loved ones and myself

The list could go on and on with endless variations, but ultimately all these thoughts boil down to the reality that I think things "should" be a certain way and they simply are not. Sometimes these thoughts come internally and sometimes those around us suggest them to us. And we feel helpless and hopeless and panicked because we can't fix things. We want Perfect and we think we can have it now. We think we should have it now. 

The reality is that none of us can live up to the Ideal. The reality is that we must live with the consequences of sin; both our own sins and the sins of others. The fall of Adam was universal and we will never be free of the consequences until Christ comes again.

But that doesn't mean we must live in a state of despair and hopelessness. Those thoughts that intrude on our hearts don't have to be welcomed. Those comparisons and reminders of failure and all thoughts that cause us to wring our hands and react with anxiety and worry are nothing but useless trash that ought to be put out at the curb and not allowed to decompose in our hearts. 

We must accept our weaknesses and bear our shame and keep our eyes on Christ who is the only One who can fix this mess and make all things new. And what do we see when we behold Him? We see Him suspended on the cross, taking on all the shame and brokenness, all the mistakes and imperfections of the world upon Himself. 

We can't fix a thing. He does the fixing and the perfecting. He makes all things new and only asks that we take what we have in our hands and do our best to live in communion with Him that we may become whole once more. We can't compare and we can't judge and we can't expect perfection by worldly standards. 

Our God is all-powerful and all-knowing. He is always moving to effect our salvation and the mark of His hand can be seen everywhere if we will just take the time to look. We must give up our notions of what constitutes perfection our own ideas of every "Should" in life. The only thing for us to do is to focus on Him. As St. Seraphim said, we must simply seek to acquire the Holy Spirit and thousands around us will be saved.