From Gimp to Athlete

It was during college, I decided to go for a run that day. Beautiful weather, sun beaming down but not too hot. I went for a few miles and was running alongside the railroad tracks. Somehow I tripped and banged my knee pretty good. I figured the pain would go away after a few days and it did; however, the pain would always come back when I tried to run. Like an idiot, I never went to the doctor. I decided to take it easy on that knee and because the glory days of racing were over, I thought nothing more of it, aside from praying for God to remove the pain. I had many people pray for me actually. But I figured I was now an academic, so that was where I focused my energies.

After two years of no running I decided to give it another go – I was visiting my parents when I tried to go on this run. Once again, it was another beautiful day and I was running around the lake on their property. The pain in my knee became excruciating, I walked to the house and started rubbing down my knee and then I felt it: a huge extra bump on the inside of my leg! Whoa, what is this! Am I an alien? I asked my mom to look at it and she freaked out – and she is a nurse! We went to get X-Rays as soon as possible and discovered what is called Osteochondroma, essentially it was an extra piece of bone growing off of my femur. It was about 4 inches long and was wrapped around my knee, and the ligaments in my knee were catching on it whenever I moved. No wonder it hurt!

Long story short: I had surgery, they had to make a seven inch incision through the muscles in my leg. Surgery went well, we found out that it was not cancerous and it never came back. However, they completely destroyed the muscles! I would have a long journey of PT. Impact sports were out of the question because of doctor’s order. I decided to start riding a bike to commute, and enjoy the scenery, being I could not enjoy that by running anymore. I got really into biking, my wife and I even started racing. And then I decided to try running again. The scenario: I was competing in a cyclocross bike race, my tire flatted and there were no neutral wheels that fit my bike. I was not going to quit, so I ran for 4 miles and finished the race. And amazingly, my knee was not hurting! Whoa! However, my back was killing me! What a strange twist of events?

My back problems continued getting worse so I visited several chiropractors and it was Dr. Scott Shepherd (Portland, OR) who helped me realize that I had been tri-poding for the last few years. Because of the weakness in one leg, I would put most of my weight on one leg so that I could baby the other one. The downside: it messed up my alignment big time! My spine was so curved! We decided to put in a heal lift on one of my shoes and after a year of this and regular chiropractic my spine was much more strait. He helped eliminate all of my everyday pain! Thank you Dr. Shepherd! But every so often I would attempt to run again, and I would develop more back pain, what was going on?

During this time my wife had become a personal trainer and was sharing my story with a few of her co-workers and it was Krista Loveless, the Pilates instructor, that I am ever grateful for. At this point I was so willing to run that I was willing to do whatever it took. Krista is not a big fan of heal lifts, so we got rid of it. Then she had me start strengthening my feet by doing toe curls and other random exercises! Have you ever done toe curls? they are hard! It takes a lot of coordination. And then we started doing a ton of different exercises on the Reformer – it is amazing how much stability you can gain through working out on that thing! I did personal training with Krista for close to a year, and during that time I withheld from running so that I would not ruin a good thing. I knew that a good runner needed strong feet and a strong core (refer to previous post on Virbam 5 fingers vs. New Balance Minimus Zero).

From the time of my original injury til today, it has been 9 years. I have been running again for the past year with no knee trouble and no back pain. Dr. Shepherd is still my chiropractor for emergencies (like when I crash my bike) and is stoked to see how far I have come. Krista is still my friend and is doing an amazing job as a Pilates instructor! Today, I am training for my first marathon this October. My wife is now my personal trainer (Sara Fletcher) and she is helping me train to shoot for a 7:00 min/mile pace. Can I do it? I don’t know, but I will try ūüôā

Nine years is a long time to fight through an injury. I used to wonder if God cared about me, I would get upset on occasion because he did not heal me. But I have come to realize something: God did answer my prayers, it just happened to be through my hard work. God loves it when we are faithful with the resources he gives us. He gave me plenty of resources and I was faithful to diligently use them. Amen!

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Praying with Zossima and Dostoevsky

My favorite author is Fyodor Dostoevsky (aside from Saint Athanasius and the authors of the Bible). I highly recommend that you read, at minimum, two of his novels: The Brothers Karamazov and Crime & Punishment (note: the two links are FREE Kindle downloads, and Kindle apps are available for free on computers and phones! You have no excuses!) In these two books you find amazing theological themes of sin, grace, justice, mercy, salvation, etc. Reading Dostoevsky is truly a spiritual exercise for me and I wish I could devote more of my time to reading his works. In the Brothers K, Father Zossima is the character who gives many words of Orthodox wisdom — especially to Alyosha, one of the Brothers who is told to live the life of a monk in the world by taking a wife. I wish Dostoevsky had survived long enough to finish the sequel to this book so that he could explain the latter part of Alyosha’s life! However, Fyodor’s time came to an end on February 9th, 1881. I wish to share an excerpt from The Brothers Karamazov (p.293). In this quote, Father Zossima teaches us on the necessity of prayer, I hope that it brings you hope and encourages you to pray:

Young man, be not forgetful of prayer. Every time you pray, if your prayer is sincere, there will be new feeling and new meaning in it, which will give you fresh courage, and you will understand that prayer is an education. Remember too, every day, and whenever you can, repeat to yourself, “Lord, have mercy on all who appear before Thee today.” For every hour and every moment thousands of men leave life on this earth, and their souls appear before God. And how many of them depart in solitude, unknown, sad, dejected that no one mourns for them or even knows whether they have lived or not! And behold, from the other end of the earth perhaps, your prayer for their rest will rise up to God though you knew them not nor they knew you. How touching it must be to a soul standing in dread before the Lord to feel at that instant that, for him too, there is one to pray, that there is a fellow creature left on earth to love him too! And God will look on you both more graciously, for you have had pity on him, how much will He have pity Who is infinitely more loving and merciful than you! And He will forgive him for your sake.

Brothers, have no fear of men’s sin. Love a man even in his sin, for that is the semblance of Divine Love and is the highest love on earth. Love all God’s creation, the whole and every grain of sand in it. Love every leaf, every ray of God’s light. Love the animals, love the plants, love everything. If you love everything, you will perceive the divine mystery in things. Once you perceive it, you will begin to comprehend it better every day. And you will come at last to love the whole world with an all-embracing love….

At some thoughts one stands perplexed, especially at the sight of men’s sin, and wonders whether one should use force or humble love. Always decide to use humble love. If you resolve on that once for all, you may subdue the whole world. Loving humility is marvelously strong, the strongest of all things, and there is nothing else like it….

My friends, pray to God for gladness. Be glad as children, as the birds of heaven. And let not the sin of men confound you in your doings. Fear not that it will wear away your work and hinder its being accomplished. Do not say, “Sin is mighty, wickedness is mighty, evil environment is mighty, and we are lonely and helpless, and evil environment is wearing us away and hindering our good work from being done.” Fly from that dejection, children! There is only one means of salvation, then take yourself and make yourself responsible for all men’s sins, that is the truth, you know, friends, for as soon as you sincerely make yourself responsible for everything and for all men, you will see at once that it is really so, and you are to blame for everyone and for all things. But throwing your own indolence and impotence on others you will end by sharing the pride of Satan and murmuring against God.

The Incarnate God Prays

It is impossible to count the waves, they keep coming...

“Such and so many are the¬†Savior’s¬†achievements that follow from his Incarnation, that to try to number them is¬†like gazing at the open sea and trying to count the waves…” (Athanasius, On the Incarnation)

One of his many achievements in the flesh was the¬†Savior’s¬†ability to humbly pray to the Father — we are forever grateful for every prayer which Jesus prayed, especially the following as recorded in John 17:

When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, ¬†since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. ¬†And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed. “I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you. For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them. And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. But Jesus prayed for our reconciliation to each other and to the Fathernow I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves. I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth. “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”

May we all be mindful of God come in the flesh and remember this prayer all of our days. Merry Christmas.

“Comfort, give comfort to my people”

2nd Sunday of Advent: Scripture Readings: Isaiah 40; Psalm 85; 2 Peter 3; Mark 1

Reading: Is 40:1-5, 9-11

Comfort, give comfort to my people,
says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her
that her service is at an end,
her guilt is expiated;
indeed, she has received from the hand of the LORD
double for all her sins.

A voice cries out:
In the desert prepare the way of the LORD!
Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God!
Every valley shall be filled in,
every mountain and hill shall be made low;
the rugged land shall be made a plain,
the rough country, a broad valley.
Then the glory of the LORD shall be revealed,
and all people shall see it together;
for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.

Go up on to a high mountain,
Zion, herald of glad tidings;
cry out at the top of your voice,
Jerusalem, herald of good news!
Fear not to cry out
and say to the cities of Judah:
Here is your God!
Here comes with power
the Lord GOD,
who rules by his strong arm;
here is his reward with him,
his recompense before him.
Like a shepherd he feeds his flock;
in his arms he gathers the lambs,
carrying them in his bosom,
and leading the ewes with care.

Responsorial Psalm: Ps 85:9-10-11-12, 13-14

Lord, let us see your kindness, and grant us your salvation.
I will hear what God proclaims;
the LORD–for he proclaims peace to his people.
Near indeed is his salvation to those who fear him,
glory dwelling in our land.
Lord, let us see your kindness, and grant us your salvation.
Kindness and truth shall meet;
justice and peace shall kiss.
Truth shall spring out of the earth,
and justice shall look down from heaven.
Lord, let us see your kindness, and grant us your salvation.
The LORD himself will give his benefits;
our land shall yield its increase.
Justice shall walk before him,
and prepare the way of his steps.
Lord, let us see your kindness, and grant us your salvation.

Reading: 2 Pt 3:8-14

Do not ignore this one fact, beloved,
that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years
and a thousand years like one day.
The Lord does not delay his promise, as some regard “delay,”
but he is patient with you,
not wishing that any should perish
but that all should come to repentance.
But the day of the Lord will come like a thief,
and then the heavens will pass away with a mighty roar
and the elements will be dissolved by fire,
and the earth and everything done on it will be found out.

Since everything is to be dissolved in this way,
what sort of persons ought you to be,
conducting yourselves in holiness and devotion,
waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God,
because of which the heavens will be dissolved in flames
and the elements melted by fire.
But according to his promise
we await new heavens and a new earth
in which righteousness dwells.
Therefore, beloved, since you await these things,
be eager to be found without spot or blemish before him, at peace.

Gospel: Mk 1:1-8

The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God.

As it is written in Isaiah the prophet:
Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you;
he will prepare your way.
A voice of one crying out in the desert:
“Prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight his paths.”
John the Baptist appeared in the desert
proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
People of the whole Judean countryside
and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem
were going out to him
and were being baptized by him in the Jordan River
as they acknowledged their sins.
John was clothed in camel’s hair,
with a leather belt around his waist.
He fed on locusts and wild honey.
And this is what he proclaimed:
“One mightier than I is coming after me.
I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals.
I have baptized you with water;
he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

Saint John of Damascene

This Sunday is the feast day of Saint John Damascene, Doctor of the Church (676 ‚Äď 4 December 749). He is most famous as one who defended veneration – not to be confused with worship! – of sacred images and icons. His writings in the Eastern Church are¬†comparable¬†to St Thomas Aquinas in the West. There are so many of his writings I would love to share; but, today I will simply leave you with two examples of his work, one is a prayer:

No one stands between Son and Mother. Accept, then, my good-will, which is greater than my capacity, and give us salvation. Heal our passions, Cure our diseases, Help us out of our difficulties, Make our lives peaceful, Send us the illumination of the Spirit. Inflame us with the desire of thy son. Render us pleasing to Him, so that we may enjoy happiness with Him, seeing thee resplendent with thy Son’s glory, rejoicing forever, keeping feast in the Church with those who worthily celebrate Him who worked our salvation through thee, Christ the Son of God, and our God. To Him be glory and majesty, with the uncreated Father and the all-holy and life-giving Spirit, now and forever, through the endless ages of eternity. Amen. (from Sermon 3 on the Dormition)

So, then, He had by nature, both as God and as man, the power of will. But His human will was obedient and subordinate to His divine will, not being guided by its own inclination, but willing those things which the divine will willed. For it was with the permission of the divine will that He suffered by nature what was proper to Him. For when He prayed that He might escape the death, it was with His divine will naturally willing and permitting it that He did so pray and agonize and fear, and again when His divine will willed that His human will should choose the death, the passion became voluntary to Him. For it was not as God only, but also as man, that He voluntarily surrendered Himself to the death. And thus He bestowed on us also courage in the face of death. So, indeed, He said before His saving passion, Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me , manifestly as though He were to drink the cup as man and not as God. It was as man, then, that He wished the cup to pass from Him: but these are the words of natural timidity. Nevertheless, He said, not My will, that is to say, not in so far as I am of a different essence from You, but Your will be done, that is to say, My will and Your will, in so far as I am of the same essence as Thou. Now these are the words of a brave heart. For the Spirit of the Lord, since He truly became man in His good pleasure, on first testing its natural weakness was sensible of the naturalfellow-suffering involved in its separation from the body, but being strengthened by the divine will it again grew bold in the face of death. For since He was Himself wholly God although also man, and wholly man although also God, He Himself as man subjected in Himself and by Himself His human nature to God and the Father, and became obedient to the Father, thus making Himself the most excellent type and example for us. (Exposition of the Faith, Book III, Chapter 18)

Hardest Decision of My Life

Decisions suck. And prayer often seems like such a silly thing at times. Does God listen? Does he care? Is he real? If he is so powerful, can my request change anything? Is life fatalistic, has he pre-planned everything to happen as he wills it?

I have been examining my journey with Christ, looking at specific turning points and scenarios which impacted me. It is funny how all of the bad stuff, all the junk, actually turns into a good thing. Life is hard right now, I am working 70+ hours a week (bike shop, coffee shop, graduate fellowship, graduate school, church volunteering) and sometimes I wonder why I am doing it. Sometimes I wonder if it matters. Sometimes I want to throw in the towel. Sometimes I wonder if God is real. But I know that these are all lies from Satan. I know that all of my trials will be used to mold me into a better person for the Kingdom of God and his Church.

I can recall many hard decisions in my life, and this evening as I was recounting my journey, something led me to cry (mind you, I was crying with joy, not sorrow). I was reminded of one of the hardest decisions I ever had to make. You may be wondering what that decision was: Was it my decision to follow God? No. Was it my decision to marry Sara? No. Was it my decision to go to Seminary school? No. When I was an undergrad, I was accepted into a combined BA/MA Mathematics program and I was overjoyed to have been accepted into the program. I was going to earn my MA in Math at age 21. I was hoping to someday earn a PhD in Math and attempt to earn a Fields Medal in Topology. I became a follower of Jesus Christ in college and realized that I was pursuing Math in a completely prideful manner. The hardest decision I ever made was to drop out of the Math program. The hardest decision I ever had to made was giving up that which I wanted with all my might. At that moment, I realized that everything I held dear was a complete pile of crap, it amounted to absolutely nothing. At that moment, I knew that I wanted to give my all to the Lord, but it was so hard to turn away from the very thing which I loved.

Do I regret this decision? No. I am free. I am free to love God. I am free to love people. I am free to no longer be enslaved to my pride. Yes, I still struggle with issues of pride, but it is not nearly as evil. I truly want to encourage unity and charity among the people of God. I want to see reconciliation of the Church. Everything I do is so that we can be One. At times my pride gets in the way, but God quickens me to repent.

How did I go from talking about prayer to this? Well, I asked God to humble me. And he did. Not in the way I expected. God literally tells all of heaven to stop what they are doing when he is listening to our prayers. All of the heavenly hosts stop what they are doing to hear the prayers of the saints. Our prayers matter. He listens to us. We matter to him.

O Most Holy Trinity, have mercy on us. O Lord, cleanse us from our sins. O Master, pardon our transgressions. O Holy One, visit and heal our infirmities, for Thy name’s sake. Lord have mercy. Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.

I hope that my ramblings bring some sort of hope to you, please let me know your feelings in response to this.

Advent – Day 5

Scripture Readings: Isaiah 26:1-6; Psalm 118; Matthew 7:21-27

The Great Doxology

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will among men. We praise Thee, we bless Thee, we worship Thee, we glorify Thee, we give thanks to Thee for Thy great glory. O Lord, heavenly King, God the Father Almighty; O Lord, the Only-Begotten Son, Jesus Christ; and O Holy Spirit. O Lord God, Lamb of God, Son of the Father, that takest away the sin of the world, have mercy on us; Thou that takest away the sins of the world, receive our prayer; Thou that sittest at the right hand of the Father, have mercy on us. For Thou only art holy, Thou only art the Lord, O Jesus Christ, to the glory of God the Father. Amen. Everyday will I bless thee and I will praise Thy name forever, yea forever and ever. Vouchsafe, O Lord, to keep us this day without sin. Blessed art Thou, O Lord, the God of our fathers, and praised and glorified is Thy name unto the ages. Amen.

Let Thy mercy, O Lord, be upon us according as we have hoped in Thee; Blessed art Thou, O Lord, teach me Thy statutes. Blessed art Thou, O Lord, teach me Thy statutes. Blessed art Thou, O Lord, teach me Thy statutes. Lord, Thou hast been our refuge in generation and generation. I said: O Lord, have mercy on me, heal my soul, for I have sinned against Thee. O Lord, unto Thee have I fled for refuge, teach me to do Thy will, for Thou art my God; For in Thee is the fountain of life, in Thy light shall we see light. O continue Thy mercy unto them that know Thee.

Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us. Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us. Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us. Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen. Holy Immortal, have mercy on us. Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us.

Reading 1: Is 26:1-6

On that day they will sing this song in the land of Judah:”A strong city have we;
he sets up walls and ramparts to protect us.
Open up the gates
to let in a nation that is just,
one that keeps faith.
A nation of firm purpose you keep in peace;
in peace, for its trust in you.”Trust in the LORD forever!
For the LORD is an eternal Rock.
He humbles those in high places,
and the lofty city he brings down;
He tumbles it to the ground,
levels it with the dust.
It is trampled underfoot by the needy,
by the footsteps of the poor.

Responsorial Psalm: Ps 118:1 And 8-9, 19-21, 25-27a

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Alleluia.
Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,
for his mercy endures forever.
It is better to take refuge in the LORD
than to trust in man.
It is better to take refuge in the LORD
than to trust in princes.
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Alleluia.
Open to me the gates of justice;
I will enter them and give thanks to the LORD.
This gate is the LORD’s;
the just shall enter it.
I will give thanks to you, for you have answered me
and have been my savior.
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Alleluia.
O LORD, grant salvation!
O LORD, grant prosperity!
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD;
we bless you from the house of the LORD.
The LORD is God, and he has given us light.
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Alleluia.

Gospel: Mt 7:21, 24-27

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’
will enter the Kingdom of heaven,
but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.”Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them
will be like a wise man who built his house on rock.
The rain fell, the floods came,
and the winds blew and buffeted the house.
But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock.
And everyone who listens to these words of mine
but does not act on them
will be like a fool who built his house on sand.
The rain fell, the floods came,
and the winds blew and buffeted the house.
And it collapsed and was completely ruined.”
 May we find our true foundation in Christ. Amen.

Clement on Humility

Clement of Rome was a disciple of Peter and was the 4th Bishop of Rome (ca. 88-97). He is considered the First Church Father and Patristic Writer. His feast days are on November 23 (Catholic) and 25 (Orthodox). I could not find any extant prayers written by him; however, he does have some fabulous letters and homilies. The following is taken from the 16th chapter of his first letter:

For Christ is of those who are humble-minded, and not of those who exalt themselves over His flock. Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Sceptre of the majesty of God, did not come in the pomp of pride or arrogance, although He might have done so, but in a lowly condition, as the Holy Spirit had declared regarding Him. For He says, Lord, who has believed our report, and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed? We have declared [our message] in His presence: He is, as it were, a child, and like a root in thirsty ground; He has no form nor glory, yea, we saw Him, and He had no form nor comeliness; but His form was without eminence, yea, deficient in comparison with the [ordinary] form of men. He is a man exposed to stripes and suffering, and acquainted with the endurance of grief: for His countenance was turned away; He was despised, and not esteemed. He bears our iniquities, and is in sorrow for our sakes; yet we supposed that [on His own account] He was exposed to labour, and stripes, and affliction. But He was wounded for our transgressions, and bruised for our iniquities. The chastisement of our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we were healed. All we, like sheep, have gone astray; [every] man has wandered in his own way; and the Lord has delivered Him up for our sins, while He in the midst of His sufferings opens not His mouth. He was brought as a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before her shearer is dumb, so He opens not His mouth. In His humiliation His judgment was taken away; who shall declare His generation? For His life is taken from the earth. For the transgressions of my people was He brought down to death. And I will give the wicked for His sepulchre, and therich for His death, because He did no iniquity, neither was guile found in His mouth. And the Lord is pleased to purify him by stripes. If you make an offering for sin, your soul shall see a long-lived seed. And the Lord is pleased to relieve Him of the affliction of His soul, to show Him light, and to form Him with understanding, to justify the Just One who ministers well to many; and He Himself shall carry their sins. On this account He shall inherit many, and shall divide the spoil of the strong; because His soul was delivered to death, and He was reckoned among the transgressors, and He bare the sins of many, and for their sins was He delivered. And again He says, I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people. All that see me have derided me; they have spoken with their lips; they have wagged their head, [saying] He hoped in God, let Him deliver Him, let Him save Him, since He delights in Him. You see, beloved, what is the example which has been given us; for if the Lord thus humbled Himself, what shall we do who have through Him come under the yoke of His grace?

St Augustine on Sustainability

Did you know that Saint Augustine was into sustainability? He was green before it was in style.

“…Grow green again, grow grain again, grow ripe again…”

St Augustine of Hippo (ca. November 13, 354 – August 28, 430) did everything he could to maintain a reconciled and unified Church. He was constantly urging Christians to follow the One True Catholic and Apostolic Church. Part of his teachings which I find most encouraging are centered around, what do we do with “bad members” in our Churches? The following is an excerpt from Sermon 223:

Don’t be surprised, either, at how many bad Christians there are, who fill the church, who communicate at the altar, who loudly praise the bishop or priest when he preaches about good morals…They can be with us in the Church of this time; but in that Church which will come into being after the resurrection, they will be unable to be gathered in with the saints.

The Church of this time, you see, is compared to a threshing-floor, having on it grain mixed with chaff, having bad members mixed with good; after the judgment it will have all good members, without any bad ones….as the gospel states, “He will have a winnowing fan in his hand, and will cleanse his threshing-floor; and he will gather his wheat together into the granary, while the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire” (Luke 3.17).

You older faithful, you listen to what I am saying. Any of you who are grain, rejoice with trembling, and stay where you are, and don’t leave the threshing-floor. Don’t attempt on your own judgment, to shake yourselves free, as it were, from the chaff; because if you separate yourself from the chaff, you won’t be able to stay on the threshing-floor. And when that one comes who distinguishes infallibly between grain and chaff, he won’t carry up to the granary anything he doesn’t find on the threshing-floor. So it will be no good at that time for grains to boast about the ears of wheat they came from, if they have left the threshing-floor. That granary will be filled and closed. Anything left outside will be gutted by fire.

So then, dearly beloved, if you are good, you must put up with the bad; if you are bad, you must imitate the good. The fact is, on this threshing-floor grains can degenerate into chaff, and again grains can be resurrected from chaff. This sort of thing happens everyday, my dear brothers and sisters; this life is full of both painful and pleasant surprises. Every day people who seemed to be good fall away and perish; and again, ones who seemed to be bad are converted and live. “God, you see, does not desire the death of the wicked, but only that they may turn back and live” (Ezekiel 18.23).

Listen to me, grains; listen to me, those of you who are what I desire you to be. Don’t let the mixture of husks depress you; they won’t be with you forever. How much, anyway, is the pile of husks that is covering us? Thank God, it’s very light. We only have to be grains, and however big it is, it won’t crush us. “God, after all, is faithful, and he will not permit us to be tempted or tried beyond our capacity, but with the trial will also provide a way out, so that we can endure” (1 Corinthians 10.13).

Let the husks listen to me too; wherever they are, let them listen. I hope there aren’t any here; but let me address them all the same, in case there are perhaps some here. So listen to me, you husks; though if you do listen, you won’t be husks anymore. So listen. Let God’s patience stand you in good stead. Let your association with the grains, and their advice and admonitions, make you too into grains. You are not denied the showers of God’s word; don’t let God’s field in you be barren. So, grow green again, grow grain again, grow ripe again. The one who sowed you, after all, wished to find full ears of corn, not empty husks.

I thank the Lord for Saint Augustine, he has helped propel so many followers of Christ forward in their journey along The Way. I pray as he did, that the Church would be unified, reconciled, and welcoming. As I said earlier, Augustine was truly into sustainability: he did not want to throw people away, and he saw that God is able to renew them in a better re-creation. I hope these words give you encouragement. I would love to hear any and all thoughts. Happy Birthday, St Augustine!

24 hours at Mt Angel

I went on an overnight retreat at Mt. Angel Abbey, it is a Catholic Benedictine Monastery with a retreat center (and the best Patristic Library on the West Coast). I have gone to Mt. Angel more times than I can count, and every time I am graced with the presence of God in a profound way. I truly enjoyed my solitude with God and learned more things than I could ever write down in a book, let alone a blog entry! There are two things I would like to share: 

I woke up yesterday at 5am and prayed for a while in the stillness of the night, and then I put on my running clothes and hit the country roads. The sun was not yet out and the fog was so dense I could only see about a hundred feet. The crispness of the air melted my heart, the beauty of the fields and trees brought me to my knees in worship of the Creator, the rhythmic drum of my feet on the pavement reminded me of the rhythms of grace in my life. My run that morning was one of worship, and I pray that I will be as close to my Lord on every future run.

Later on that morning I went to the cafe, got a latte and sat down next to two priests. I asked them directly if they ever thought that Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox believers could ever be reconciled. They both said “yes.” This answer brought so much joy to my heart!!! I told them how I am a Seminary student in the protestant tradition and they found this very encouraging. All three of us affirmed belief in the Triune God, the full humanity and divinity of Christ, the actual life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, his ascension into heaven, that salvation and life are found only through belief and confession of Jesus Christ. And all three of us affirmed that this is the truth that should guide and direct all other matters. Lord, thank you for this encouraging conversation and please continue to reconcile your bride into One Church.

Do you believe Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox believers can be reconciled together into One Church in this life?