Monday, April 30, 2012

Iron Sharpens Iron ~ a lesson learned at Vespers!

Last Saturday I went to Vespers again and Jim Martin was there. I was only 5 minutes early as opposed to the 30 minutes early of the week before so we didn't have a lot of time to chat. Jim, of course, had been in the parking lot for 20 minutes already. "If I have something penciled into my calendar and I am still at home, I ask myself, Why?" That's Jim's philosophy and I think it's a good one!

We did sit a little bit before Vespers and we talked a little. I had mentioned how our approaches were somewhat different which was evidenced by the fact that I have been exploring Orthodoxy from afar for years and attending Vespers for nearly two years and, yet, Jim, with only two Vesper visits under his belt is ready to go full steam ahead. Let the Catechumen Classes Begin!!!!

I might have said this with almost a confessional tone because Jim said, "Iron Sharpens Iron" and then before much more could be said, Fr Gary came out to begin the service.

"Iron sharpens Iron so one man sharpens another" Proverbs 27:17

That means we are here to make each other stronger.

Last week Jim and I were supposed to meet for coffee but that didn't happen because things were a bit crazy at work but we are, God willing, meeting this Tuesday. Jim is very anxious to have an extended conversation with me and even though I truly am not qualified to be the Orthodox Answer Man I do understand why he'd want to talk to me. We have known each other for a long time. We both understand the protestant world he is coming out of and I know I am not at all intimidating. I think that Jim is so new to Orthodoxy he may not even know the right questions to ask a priest.

Jim had said via facebook when he first learned of my Orthodox leanings, he was so amazed on God's timing~ Jim was ready to take the next step and then, by random it seems, he notices on that I was reading the Orthodox Study Bible, I pointed him to my blogs which chronicled my journey and he then shows up at Vespers. Yes, God's timing is Amazing!

But here is the really amazing thing. I believe, Jim is an answer to my prayer. I have been stuck at a point where the only next step to take is to commit to Orthodoxy, become a catechumen and begin the journey with the Church. But I am hesitant for reasons I have given before. I prayed, "God, could you please kinda force the issue. Make me Orthodox!" Well, we all know that God respects our free will and doesn't make us do anything. But He will send people in our lives to move us; He will arrange situations that cause us to act.

Well, then Jim shows up! I have always looked up to Jim. He has gifts I do not and when we worked together at our protestant parish, I not only learned from him, I grew because of our different approaches. (He is more spontaneous, more able to do things on the fly - not so with me). I believe that just as he challenged me before, he can do so again. And maybe he has somethings he can learn from me.

Iron sharpens iron~ I think that is true!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Worship with Friends!

Jim and Jim in the Narthex after Vespers.
Normally, I don't get to Vespers early but today I did and I was happy to see my friend Jim Martin in the  parking lot.  We were a full half hour early so I had plenty of time to hear his story.But before I listened I joked with him that if he wanted to fit into Orthodoxy he was going to have to start arriving late. He said, "Yeah, I noticed that on Bright Monday." I can tell you this, knowing Jim as I do, that is one Orthodox habit he will not adopt.  Who knows, maybe he'll start a trend and the Faithful will start arriving on time. :)

So we talked and I heard his story. It was the same as mine and, in some ways, not.  It was different, in that Jim and I have different personalities and sometimes approach life, well, differently. So his experience and his journey is going to not look like mine completely. But his story is the same in that, he talked about a dissatisfaction with protestant Christianity. After years of being a Christian, it was like he asked, "Is this all we get?" So Jim started doing some research into Celtic spirituality and met up with pre-Roman Catholic monastics. That'll change the way you look at Christianity! And as what normally happens when you study history, you end up Orthodox!

A couple of weeks ago he asked me to review the Orthodox Study Bible which I listed as a book I am reading. (I am a member of, as is Jim~ That's Facebook for readers). I told him my story, how after years of podcasts and reading, I started attending Vespers. But, Jim being Jim, didn't waste any time! He is here full steam ahead  and jumped right in. He didn't even wait for me to go with him. He attended Bright Monday Vespers on his own!

It was a joy to sit/stand next to Jim as we worshiped. I certainly don't want to tell you all about his reaction when you can read it all for yourself in his blog. ( but I will tell you that having known Jim for, well, decades and having sometimes sat next to him in protestant worship, I have never seen such an attentiveness in him as I did when we were at Vespers.I guess when you are standing in the Presence of God, you take on the seriousness and alertness that that Presence necessitates.

One thing really stood out in my mind during Vespers. At the end, Fr. Gary gave a really short homily.  Forgive me, I don't even remember now what he said but I do remember it being "right on". During the homily, my friend Jim was nodding his head yes in agreement.  Coming from an Evangelical background, I could tell that Jim wanted to shout, "Amen, brother" or "Preach it" (Hey, what can I tell you; that's how Evangelicals stay tuned into the sermon).  Everything Fr. Gary was saying just seemed to make sense. And all he was doing was commenting on the Gospel reading that would be read Sunday morning.

You have to understand something. For the most part, all Protestants have is "the sermon" It usually runs anywhere from 25 minutes to an hour depending on the particular church you are in. I suspect that in Jim's "mega church" it was closer to an hour and, no doubt, the preacher was well prepared and probably a very engaging preacher. (You can't have a mega- church if you don't have a Pastor who speaks well). But Fr. Gary just gave a  short, simple homily and it was all that Jim could do from shouting "Amen." In the context of Orthodoxy, in the context of "Right-worship", Fr Gary was saying things in a simple yet relevant way that agreed with the teaching of the Apostles and Church Fathers. No wonder Jim wanted to shout "Amen!

I had sensed this reaction in Jim and he confirmed it while we spoke to Fr. Gary in the parking lot later. Speaking of parking lots, Jim and I continued our conversation and he spoke of Fr. Gillquist's book "Becoming Orthodox." He had just re-read it in fact and Jim said a certain word just leaped off the page at him.  This word is something that is standard in Orthodoxy but is always a surprise to us Evangelicals when we encounter it. Why? Because the word sums up Orthodoxy so well. Now I am not going to spoil what he said when he said it so much better. Take a quick read ~

 After Vespers, I introduced Jim to Reader Innocent (that would be Jack Hayford) and we chatted  awhile. Tami came by to say hello but she said she couldn't stay because she had to take the "two Russian Sisters" home.

"Two Russian Sisters? Sounds like a country band," Jim quipped.

Tami found that really  funny and stated doing "air country guitar"

I chuckled, They are going to like having Jim around here!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Pascha Vigils and Seeking Friends!

I am in this crowd! Bottom right; dark blue jacket and white stripe

Wow, is all I can say. The Pashca Vigil was amazing and words will fail every time but I will try anyway. I entered the service at 11:25pm and a young girl was reading from the book of Acts. People were sitting about quietly praying, some where venerating the shroud and it was completely dark. Uncharacteristically, I sat on the right side and was tapped on the shoulder by Tammy who warmly greeted me and invited me to stand next to her. She noticed I had no candle so she offered to get me one. She herself did not need one since she would be carrying an Icon.

I think my favorite part was when we all received the light and then processed around the church with lit candles, although, the candles did not stay lit because of the wind. Then we entered into the church with the bells joyfully sounding out that Christ is Risen! And when we returned to our seats, the Church is bright and all are joyful, embracing each other and saying to each other that "Christ is Risen". Father Gary, of course, is incensing the Icons and proclaiming in different languages that "Christ is Risen" When he got to German, one sole loud voice responded, "Er ist wahrhaftig auferstanden! Tammy joked, "He is from the German contingency"

In fact, I was able to record it; take a quick listen below:

The whole evening was a blessing. I could not stay for "the fellowship" meal afterwards but I did get my red egg which I promptly ate the next morning.

Even though I did not get a lot of sleep, the next day, as I went to my protestant parish and celebrated my sons 19th birthday, I was very joyful!.

And speaking of occasions of joy, a friend of mine who used to attend my protestant parish but now is a member of a big, charismatic Mega church, contacted me via For those who don't know, Goodreads is like Facebook for book enthusiasts. My friend, also named Jim, noticed that I listed the Orthodox Study Bible as something I was reading. He asked for a review, which I gave him. I also briefly shared my own journey towards Orthodoxy and pointed him towards my blog. Well, Jim kept facebooking all day long, telling me that he had read each blog entry and he was anxious to visit a service. He went to Bright Monday Vespers and he blogs about it. Please take a read. You will be blessed as you witness God working in his life.

I could not attend Vespers on Monday because I had to leave for work at 12:30am (Yes, that is 30 minutes past midnight!) so I needed to get some sleep. I look forward to worshiping with Jim this Saturday night.

Christ is Risen! Indeed He is Risen!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

A good Worshipful time at Vespers and loving St. Mary of Egypt!

photo by Flickr user olympiada , used under the creative commons license.
check out more photos at:

I went to Vespers last night and I seemed to be able to concentrate more. I think it is because when I first came in, there were only two people in the choir and I felt like I had to add my voice to make it sound fuller. Who would have thought that actually singing would help me pay attention :)

I really sensed what we were doing when we came to a psalm (It was under the heading of Kastmi or something that began with a K...I have a horrible memory). Anyway, the Psalm said serve the Lord with Fear and rejoice with trembling. This is something the Orthodox know how to do. No disrespect to all the protestants but it seems to me that the Orthodox Church nails this, even though the protestants try. Rejoicing and Trembling together? I guess that says something about God. He isn't our buddy in the sky. Man, I've got a lot to learn!

Fr Gary's homily was about St. Mary of Egypt. I love that saint! I guess it's because I can see how easily she would fit into America, at least the first half of her life. Her path to salvation was so radical, yet she took it! So what paths does God call me to? A good question!

May God continue to lead me on the path to Salvation!

Blessed Lent, everyone!

P,S. Here's a video I made for my protestant parish. They are selling bricks to pave a prayer garden. In it, you'll see my protestant church. The Teens loved making it! Let me know what you think.