Fragility July 16, 2009Posted by Justin Farr in Uncategorized.
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What is it about relationships that makes them so ephemeral? They are fragile. If you touch them, they might break. Shatter into hundreds of sharp tiny pieces. You can’t put it back together after that. Years down the road, you’ll be walking barefoot and be impaled by a piece you had missed. The blood will seep out as a painful reminder. You had almost forgotten.
You were so sure that you would stay together for ever. Now, 36 years into the marriage, you find yourself signing divorce papers.
You are bitter and argue all the time. But you’re scared. Scared that if you leave, you’ll be alone forever. Scared that when you go, there will be no one to hold your hand. So you stay. Anything to keep from dying alone.
Friends leave. They move across states. Across oceans. People grow and find themselves shoving you out to make room. You find a note from middle school when going through your junk. It’s signed “BFF” – Best Friends Forever.
What happened to Forever?
Families are often forced to stay together. Even then, with time, with travel, the bonds dissipate. You look at your cousin and wonder where that little girl went to. You see your parents and ask, “When did the glue dissolve? Where did the warm, loving embrace fade to?”
Nothing lasts forever. Relationships come and go like the breeze that cools you during a hot summer’s day, but then is gone, leaving you alone once more.
Some breezes just last longer than others I guess. But, in the end, it moves on.
I suppose we need to hold on to the relationships we have now. Clutch onto them and grip them tight. Because one day, you’ll find them sifting through the cracks of your fingers like sand. You look down, and your hand is empty. Relationships are so fragile. It confuses me. Just be careful with them; they’ll break sooner than you think.
The Gift of Freedom June 21, 2009Posted by Justin Farr in Uncategorized.
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I’m sitting here in the Holy Trinity Room of St. John’s Monastery near in Manton, CA. It’s only Day 3 (not including the brief evening I stayed on Thursday before bed) and already it seems much longer. The monastery is nothing like I had expected. Everybody is friendly. The monks are people. It’s great.
Flying was pretty nice. After liftoff, though, it’s like riding a cheap, cramped public bus that’s flying in the air. Clouds get old after awhile. Fr. Silouan picked me up from the airport and on the 2 1/2 hour drive to the monastery we picked up two really cool hobos with two large, neat dogs. We ate at a VERY authentic Mexican restaurant; the taco was filled with questionable meat and about 20 flies (no exaggeration) buzzing tirelessly around your head.
We arrived at the monastery just in time for the evening Vespers service. I didn’t stay for the informal supper, having already been spoiled by the “wonderful” authenticity of the Mexican food. I headed to my room in the bunks, which is a small building without heating and air conditioning that is near the guest house.
To date, I have discovered 12 spiders in the bunks (most in my room… and I am not including the dead ones in that number).
The two roosters wake me up at dawn, around 5AM, even when I don’t have to get up until 6:30 or 7. I secretly hope they keel over.
Last night was freezing in my room because of a freak thunderstorm that began immediately after the 3 1/2 hour long Great Vigil started. The services are frequent and long. I got pretty antsy during the last hour of Great Vigil, but otherwise, it is really nice. I am out on the monastery grounds and hear the beautiful call of the talanton. The talanton is a big wooden board that one of the monks holds and strikes in a pattern. It is loud and meant to alert everyone of starting services. The call begins at 10 minutes til, again at 5 minutes til, and then at one minute til service begins. For Divine Liturgy, bells are rung loudly and beautifully. The two dogs, Deka and Zusha, join in with their howls!
I hated it here. Even on the ride from the airport, looking out the car windows at the flat landscape, I repeated in my head, over and over, like a mantra: “I want to go home. I don’t want to do this.” I woke up the next morning, on Day 1, and was miserable. I woke up early. I woke up cold. I woke up earlier than I was supposed to because of the roosters. Then I had to head to church without a shower because the guests were using both of them. I managed to get a shower after church, but all I could think of was how I wanted my mommy. My dog. My bed. My room. My poptarts. I hated the formal meals and my lack of choice. I wanted to go home. Now.
To make it worse, Thursday night there was a meeting of the monks and summer novices. I spent an hour listening to people talk about things like “Should we keep our shoes on in the new church or wear socks?” and “How do we minimize the noise of sniffles and yawns?”
It wasn’t until last night, after a supper I hated and before Saturday’s Great Vigil, when I talked to the abbot, Father Meletios, that I had a new take on things.
For 2 1/2 years now, I knew what I was going to do. I was not going to college. I was going to a monastery. I was going to become a monk. That was that. I knew what God was calling me to do. I knew what God’s plan for my life was. But then I get here and I hate it. What gives?!
So, I sat down with Father Meletios and we had a good hour long talk. Monasticism is a choice. Going to college is a choice. Career decisions are a choice. Life is a series of choices. God doesn’t know what we are going to do until we do it. It hasn’t happened yet. We haven’t chose it yet. There is nothing but the now, the present moment. If God knew the future, then how do we have choice? Everything is already determined, then.
And life… life is a series of choices as we try to make good choices. Not “right or wrong” choices. Forget that whole concept of right and wrong. Not once in the Gospel does Christ command us, “Go out and be right!” He tells us to go into the world and be good, do good things, and preach the Gospel.
I need to try to make good choices with my life. Monasticism is a choice. Being a vet is a choice. Being an environmentalist is a choice. Those are all good choices if i do them to serve God. Monastics are no more holy than laity. We are all called to be saints, and monks and nuns don’t have a great chance of achieving that. Monasticism isn’t the epitome of Christian living. It isn’t the best way to live out the Gospel. It’s *a* way to live out the Gospel.
With this, I feel much better here. I don’t mind getting up early. I don’t mind the cold nights. I tell the spiders in my room good night before I crawl under the covers. I don’t hate the formal meals that are eaten in silence. I don’t mind having no choice in what I eat other than the choice between water or tea. I feel peaceful here, and it is nice. I don’t mind weeding in the hot sun, and I don’t mind having kitchen cleaning duty this week (which takes literally an hour or more after each meal). Why?
Because I have a choice.
Now, I am the most indecisive person in the world. It is a struggle for me to decide what to order when I go out to eat! Now I am here at the monastery for over a month. I pray and I worship God. I work. I get to know the brothers and fathers that reside here. I think about the choice I have to make; what do I do with my life?
I ask God, “Should I be a monk?” He says, “Sure.”
I ask God, “Should I be a vet?” He says, “Sure.”
I ask God, “Should I be an environmentalist?” He asks me in return, “Why not?”
I have so many options. So many choices. And I’m an indecisive person…
I’ve rambled a lot and skipped around everywhere, and I doubt that any of this makes sense. But I have choices to make. This means I have true freedom.
God help me.
“Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God, who has saved us and calles us with a holy calling, not according to our works but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us by Christ Jesus before time began, but has now been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel […] nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day.” – 2 Timothy 1:6-12
Trust in God is necessary.
For the last little bit in my life, I have gone through immense changes. I have turned 18 and I have graduated high school. I am facing the reality of life. Everything I was told when I was young no longer applies. Life isn’t a fairy tale. I cannot even, in fact, do whatever it is I put my mind to. No matter how hard I try, no matter how hard I dream, I just can’t have certain things I want, no matter how good and pure they are. These hard-learned lessons have pushed me to the edge lately, but I have come out with a greater reliance on God and with a stronger faith.
I have known what it is like to want to die. I know what it is like to want to crawl under the nearest rock and sleep forever. To want to bleed. To want to feel the welts rise on your skin. To imagine yourself falling, falling. Splattering against the cold, hard ground that couldn’t care less about you. I know what it’s like to not be able to move. To lay in bed and pray you will die. To feel so depressed that you feel like you can just melt away, slither through the cracks in your dwelling, and seep into the earth. Vanished.
I have known what it is like to have true joy. Where the world is so beautiful you can just fall down and be absorbed into it. Where your arms are too small to hold everyone and love them, but your heart fits around all the people in the world just right.
Life is such an interesting thing. It is full of sorrow. Beauty. Life. Death. Love. Relationships that come and go. Life itself comes and goes. Without God, our existence is nothing. As King Solomon proclaims in the Book of Ecclesiastes: “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity!” These are just some of my jumbled musings from the past few months. I’ve realized how empty everything is without God. I’ve learned how life is full of… everything. There’s so much to swallow, digest, crave, be satisfied with. There are so many people with such complex lives, and we are all interconnected. Life is so deep that words cannot describe its abyss which is both light and darkness simultaneously.
I am beginning an entire new chapter of my life. After I graduated, I was depressed for weeks. It took God’s love and grace, and prayers and encouragement and life stories of those who love me, for me to realize that it wasn’t the beginning of the end, but the end of the beginning.
As I mentioned, trusting in God is a critical and essential part of all of our lives. If we don’t trust in God and His love, we are lost in the darkness with no hope of light to guide us. We all have plans and hopes for our future. But why? We should live in the here, the now, and not be preoccupied with the future. We need to leave that up to God. Plans will get us nowhere. Life can change in the mere blink of an eye. Our own lives, in the grand scheme of things, is but a breeze that ruffles the leaves of trees for a brief moment, and then the leaves return to their previous state, having not even paid heed to thAt wind.
With God, we are nothing. I am trusting, or at least trying to trust, God with my life. I don’t know what He wants me to do. I don’t know how I can best serve Him. I don’t know a thing about what my future contains. I do know, however, that I am going to a monastery to draw nearer to God and find a direction in my life; to find out what path God wants me to take.
I am going to the monastery St. John of San Francisco in Manton, California. I leave tonight to the Nashville, TN airport and am flying to Sacramento, CA. This is my first time on a plane. This is the farthest from home I have ever been. This is the longest period of time that I have spent away from home. Even for these 5 weeks at the monastery, I will die to myself, die to the world, and live for God. Monasteries are both a spiritual oasis and the most intense battleground that ever existed between us and all in the Church and the demons. I am sure I will experience both.
Please pray for me, that God gives me direction, and that His will be done. I am praying for everyone as well.
This is the most exciting, busy, confusing time in my life. It is hard not being able to look ahead at the road and know where it turns and twists. But God is the best vehicle ever. I am safe when I am in Him.
Trust in God and glorify Him forever and ever! Amen.
One Day at a Time April 24, 2009Posted by Justin Farr in Uncategorized.
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What do you do with life? What do you make of it? How do you be everything, find the Kingdom of Heaven inside of you, the Kingdom here on Earth, and help the dying six-year old with cancer, and comfort the wrinkled with Alzheimer’s, and hold a grieving man in your arms because that’s really all he needs, and wipe the sweat off of a sick woman’s forehead, and give food to the hungry and clothes to the poor, and be a brother and a father and a husband and a son, and be a friend, and blow bubbles and play on swings and catch bugs, and love everyone with true intensity, and absorb the world into yourself and be absorbed into the world?
How do you do that?
The chrism is hardly dry. The water hasn’t quite finished evaporating. Two weeks ago I was baptized and chrismated into the Church. I participated in Holy Week, leading up to Christ’s holy and life-giving resurrection.
On Holy Wednesday, I received the Sacrament of Holy Unction. I was wearing white to signify my recent illumination, yet I had already transgressed and needed remission of sins.
Come Holy Thursday, I was the one betraying and crucifying my Savior. In bestowing His love, He never looked me over. In showering His followers with blessings, He never passed me by. When washing feet, Jesus never moved passed mine. Yet I sold God Himself for 30 pieces of silver. I drove the nails into His Flesh and I stabbed him with a spear.
Holy Friday, I mourned as I beheld the Tomb of Christ, though knowing I was the one who put Him in there.
Holy Saturday I beheld a union of love as my stepsister married. That night and into the early hours of Sunday, I celerbated Christ’s Holy and Life-giving Resurrection, triumphantly proclaiming, “Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life!” Hell cries out in agony as it is demolished and the gates of Hell are shattered; death loses its power, for Christ God has risen from the dead.
Every Friday at my school the Marketing Department sells Otis Spunkmeyer cookies. Their warmth can be felt through the package, and they melt in your mouth. This was the last day this semester they were selling them (we only have 2 Fridays left). This was the last day of my entire high school career that I will eat one of those cookies. Soon, many “lasts” will come up. My last test, my last look around the school, the last time I drive away from the school, last time I see dozens of people in person, my last homework assignment…
I’ll be a legal adult in about 10 days.
That doesn’t mean anything.
I am not going to some fancy college for my grandparents and parents and aunts and uncles to brag about. The exclusive names that garner such vast amounts of reputation won’t escape my lips proudly when I am asked about my post-high school plans. I will continue getting bewildered looks when I speak the words, “I’m not going to college.”
I want to do something. I want to truly help people. Or do I? I am so selfish, I don’t even know. All I can think of is how I feel, or what I want.
I cry when people are hurt. Death irks me because it is unnatural. My heart leaps for joy when I behold a brief shimmer of dazzling light when two people help and are there for one another, and thus the love of God is exposed. I realize that every pain, every need, every want, every deep desire in our hearts, is our yearning for God. We are in an unnatural state in an unnatural, fallen place. We so desperately crave that perfection and love that fills all of us. That’s why we embrace one another in hugs, or smile when we see God in the breathtaking arrays of pinks and oranges of a sunset.
I don’t even know what I am saying. I probably don’t even make sense.
Everything is about God.
God is love.
Everything is about love.
I want to love. I want to truly love people and be there for everyone. I am doing nothing but sitting here on my lazy ass all day. I need to DO something. Take affirmative action and live life and help others. I need to do something meaningful and try to make the world the slightest bit better. I want to love everyone and be so passionate in that love that I feel like I am absorbed into everyone and everything and they in me, and we are all connected within God. I just… I want to do something that means something…
So how do you deal with life, and find the Kingdom of Heaven on earth, and love everyone, and be happy, and be all that I need to be, and do everything, and be everything? How do you do that?
Seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and all else shall be added unto you.
You trust that God is good, you seek Him, and you do it one day at a time.
The Most Important Day of My Life April 11, 2009Posted by Justin Farr in The Journey.
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By means of Lazarus has Christ already plundered you, O death. Where is your victory, O Hades? For the lament of Bethany is handed over now to you. Let us all wave against it our branches of victory.
Today was the most important day of my life.
Today, I was received into God’s Holy Church.
Today, I was baptized in Christ and put on Christ.
Today, I was chrismated, receiving the seal of the Holy Spirit.
Today, I was adorned with a cross that I will wear into my grave.
Today, I felt loved.
Today, I took on as patrons Saints Cyprian and Justina, glorious martyrs.
Today, I received Communion. I ate the Body of God and drank His Precious Blood.
Today was my wedding day. My Bridegroom was Christ our God.
Today was the most important day of my life.
I cannot even begin to describe my joy today. I was at church for over 6 hours . It began with my life confession. I had to confess the serious tribulations I have faced this past week or so in preparation for Holy Baptism. I was so close to coming into the Church, and likewise so very close to abandoning all of it. I cursed and wept and mourned. Never underestimate the craftiness of the Devil. He will employ everything to ensnare you, to keep you from being received into God’s Church. The closer you get, the harder he fights. God have mercy on me for this past week. If I did not have people that loved me to shove me along, I would not have made it. Which, apparently, is fine. When I confessed this, Father Stephen said something along the lines of, “That’s alright. Some come kicking and screaming.” Boy, did that describe me!
But here I am, a member of Christ’s Church. The multitude of joys I experienced today cannot be fully detailed. From the time people started pouring in the church, a smile plastered my face. The entire service I couldn’t help but to grin from ear to ear.
I never thought I would make it. I can’t believe I am here. It doesn’t seem like that long ago that I was sneaking on foot to the services at the Greek Orthodox church nearby. The first time I went inside that church, I cried, thanking God for allowing me such an opportunity. I wept tears of joy, and I was in utter awe of the beauty of God’s house. Mama found out, but eventually started to let me go to church there. Then I got a car, and drove secretly with my friend Kaleigh to St. Anne’s in Oak Ridge for the first time. Mom started letting me go there, too, thank God. Before I knew it, I was a catechumen, talking to Father Justin at 10 o’clock at night at the McDonald’s as I crawled along the narrow road, taking two steps forward and one step back. In a flash he leaves for Kansas City. Things continued to degrade. Next thing I know, I am a member of Christ’s Holy Church.
Where does time go? I can’t believe it.
Some family came. Mama, David, my sister Daria, Nana, Uncle Will and Uncle Allen. Video was recorded and many photos were taken. They came to support me, and that made me smile all the wider. One touching moment during the service, when Father Stephen was blessing the baptismal waters, mom and I made eye contact. “I love you,” she mouthed, smiling sincerely. She looked so proud of me, and it touched my heart. “I love you, too,” I mouthed back, and smile.
I saw friends received into the Church. I plunged down three times in the waters, baptized in the name of the Holy Trinity. I was granted the seal of the Holy Spirit through chrism. That smell stayed with me most of the day. It is distinctive smell I will never forget. The scent and the oil itself goes back to the Apostles. It amazes me to think that I was received into the Church with the same oil that was used on the greatest of saints.
Family came. Friends surrounded me. I would look up now and again and make eye contact with them, and they would smile. The kind of smile that says, “I am so happy to be here and watch you do this.” My new godfather, Clem, stood beside me and supported me. He held my candle, symbolizing the light of Christ God. He urged me along. He placed my new cross around my neck. Clem also followed behind me in the procession three times around the horse trough that I was baptized in. I died and was raised again in Christ’s resurrection, through the waters of baptism, just like Lazarus was raised by Christ. When he was first brought back to life, however, he was still bound in the wraps. He probably needed people to help him along. Similarly, Clem and Father Stephen are there for me. One in front, one in back, ready to catch me if I fall as I try to fully accept the risen life that Christ our God has given me.
I still can hardly believe this has happened.
I stood by my godfather and friends, surrounded by parishioners who love me, as I worshiped God in the following Divine Liturgy. Finally, I approached the Chalice containing the Body and Blood of our God and Savior. I received Communion. I felt complete. Whole. Everything made sense. The voids inside my heart were filled as I intimately received God in a way unimaginable.
The day has been filled with joy. I never want to forget it. I never want to forget the encouragement. The support. The smiles. The hugs. The smells. Even the laughs. Apparently I “baptized” several people nearby when I was getting out of the baptismal font and slung water everywhere!! Hah. It was such a great day…
Why did I feel lonely? Why did I feel unloved? I am always loved, and I am never alone. I truly realized this today as people surrounded me, as angels crowded around us inside of the church, as God descended down upon us. I married God today. I received God today. I put on God today.
My joy is inexpressible. I keep trying to write it all out, and to speak of the immense love I find in my heart. But all I can do is smile and know that that says everything I need to say.
Today was the most important and beautiful day of my life. Glory to God!
Not Prepared April 5, 2009Posted by Justin Farr in Ramblings, The Journey.
I’m laying here in bed. It’s 77 degrees outside, and the warm breeze is pouring in through my open windows. I can’t do anything but ask myself… something. The question is too big to put into a few words. A sentence. It’s not something that can be condensed. You can’t point to it and say, “Yes. There’s the question. Now, can someone answer it for me?” Life doesn’t work like that.
I don’t want to be 18. I don’t want to graduate. I don’t want my friends dispersing across the country. I don’t want my life to drastically do a 180. I don’t want a finger that will forever feel incomplete without a ring. I don’t want to sleep with my dog at night because I’m afraid that no one else will ever be there. I don’t want this. I don’t want to be driving, working, doing things on my own. I want to be a kid again, blonde hair ruffled by the winds as I run around and the sun caresses my face. I want to roll around on the grass, jump out of swings, catch lightning bugs in the evenings, be on the constant hunt for snakes, toads, bugs. I want to have this dainty view of the world, thinking that everything will be alright in the end, and that life isn’t so bad.
Why the hell is it that, for 18 years, you are raised by parents and family members and teachers, and they don’t teach you a damn thing? Sure, I can find the value of x. I can do my laundry and wash dishes. I can change my oil. I know what a noun is, and where other grammar parts go in a sentence. I can drive. I can be polite at the dinner table, and I can make conversation. All of that means nothing. Why aren’t we educated with something that matters? Why do you have to suddenly wake up one morning, unprepared by all the adults in your life, to realize that you don’t know anything, and that life is nothing like what you’ve been raised to believe? And you say to yourself, “Wait a second. Hold up. Stop the train. What the hell happened?” When you ask yourself where your life went. Ask yourself, “Where did it all go?” When you wonder why things aren’t turning out the way you planned. When you wonder why life hurts so much, and why is it that things can’t just… be alright? And you wonder, “Why wasn’t I taught how to cope with all of this? Why wasn’t I taught something that was actually worth learning?”
I’m not prepared for this. Any of this. This sudden rush of change that is hitting me like a wave and forcing me under, praying for air to save me from dying. Or a hand to pull me out…
But then… Then, there’s the times when you have fun. You dance with friends, and you are merry. You never want it to end. It’s fun. It’s liberating. You want it to last forever. To dance on into the night. Then it’s over, and you back to life. Which is fine, you’re told. “You’ll have other experiences like this. Other fun times. You have your whole life ahead of you to be happy,” they say. Which is true, unless God is calling you elsewhere.
When I don’t feel like I am drowning, when I don’t feel angry at everyone who has failed to prepare me for the reality of life, I am having fun and enjoying life. I don’t WANT to sacrifice myself, my happiness, and my freedom. I don’t want to sacrifice myself for God and for the rest of the world, so I can live a life of prayer. I mean, I do, but all too often I don’t. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to sacrifice myself. That’s such CRAP.
I don’t even… know. I’m not prepared for any of this. For growing up, for graduating, for starting a huge new chapter in my life, for being baptized in 6 days.
I’m not prepared for life.
Out of the Mouths of Babes March 8, 2009Posted by Justin Farr in Ramblings, The Journey.
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This morning I finally understood more fully what Christ meant when He said, “Be like little children.”
I reluctantly woke up this morning at 8AM. I go down the hall and likewise wake up my little sister, Daria, who is 3 (almost 4). She groggily opens her eyes to behold the light of day shining into her room, filtered through purple curtains. “I have a bad headache,” she says, and she crawls out of bed and heads to the bathroom. I then go to stir Mama, who is already awake. She says to not wake Daria up because she has been up with her all night; she had’nt been feeling well.
I told Mama that I already woke her up, so she instructs me to ask Daria how she feels.
“Daria, how do you feel?” I ask.
“I feel bad,” she pouts, and looks up at me with a frown and eyelids yearning to close again.
“You do? Do you want to go to church?”
“Ya! I wanna go to Sunday school!”
“But you don’t feel good,” I tell her.
“Jesus make me better in the morning,” she smiles, and goes to get panties out of her drawer.
A few weeks ago she was sick and prayed to Jesus before bed that He would make her feel better. The next morning she woke up feeling fine. She still remembers it, and went to church and Sunday school with utmost faith that Jesus would make her better.
She’s feeling better now… 🙂
I need to learn how to be more child-like. God help me, and to You we ascribe utmost glory! Amen!
God is Good March 6, 2009Posted by Justin Farr in Ramblings, The Journey.
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God is good. Right?
I think I believe that. Sometimes – a lot of times – I don’t. I look up into the vast heavens on a chill winter’s night and feel so tiny and utterly… alone. Or the times where the world is moving, rapidly spinning onwards, and I’m just standing still, trying to will everything to stop with my feeble mind.
I hate change. What I do is I ignore it. I know it’s going to happen, but I ignore it. If I deny it, it won’t happen, right? But it always does. The day that that big change occurs, I try not to think about it. Then it happens, that final moment where you know that it is all so very real, and things change so suddenly, and then it hits you that this is reality.
Mama says that when I was little, I was the same way. I hated change, but then it would happen, and I’d eventually get over it and realize, “Hey, this isn’t so bad.”
That’s pretty much how it is now.
I am trying to see that God is good. He’s not out to get us, and He is good, and He works in mysterious ways.
The other day I went to take out the recycling. I was finishing up, and night had descended, when I spotted a small sort of shelter in the back near the woods and behind the recycle bins, and a raccoon was eating food from a bowl. I managed to get near to raccoon and just watched it for awhile. A woman then came up to put more food and water into the dishes. A couple of stray cats came up to eat, too. It turns out this woman has several “station” around the area to house and feed stray, feral cats.
This experience was incredibly uplifting. All I could think was, “Wow. God works through everyone in so many awesome ways.”
Great and Holy Lent started. I’ve been failing at things so miserably lately, but things have, surprisingly, gotten better since the onset of the Lenten season. The fasting I have grudgingly been doing has now become more wanted, and it has increased by closeness to God. If nothing else, I cross myself and talk to God more often. I’m beginning to get a better understand of what Christ Jesus said when He said something along the lines of, “This demon only comes out through prayer and fasting.”
God is good. I have to keep telling myself that. It baffles me sometimes why I can’t always see this truth. It’s like I’m at a gourmet feast eating candy, or playing a videogame while standing on the precipice of the Grand Canyon; I refuse to want what is good. I’m far too stubborn a person.
I hate change so much. Father Justin, my spiritual father, and his family are moving to Kansas City. I spent most of yesterday helping them load the truck and pack, as well as some of my other friends from church, until about 1AM. They should be on their way to Kansas City now…
Change hurts so much. I want to halt everything, struggle with all the strength I have and dig my heels into the ground to stop the earth from moving. Stop change. Stop it all. Make everything static, nothing changes. I hate it so much.
God has this funny way of teaching us lessons. We fight and kick and scream and bite to no avail. It happens. He wants us to learn something, and by golly, it’s going to be done. We can’t fight it. Why fight God, anyways? He knows what’s best, right? I’ve learned lessons before. Hard ones. I fought against it, but God kept throwing things my way to where it was unavoidable. Now He’s doing the same in regards to change, and it all connects so that it works for the salvation of everyone else involved, too. Everything is so providential. He’s God, after all. Truly, if we trust in Him, things turn out alright. To steal a line from a song my Nana sings, “Why worry when you can pray?” Worrying cannot add as single second to our lives. We don’t need to worry; God has it all under control.
It still hurts, though.
My spiritual father moved. My best friend has left me. I’m graduating soon. God is certainly trying to teach me a lesson about change; this is all happening so fast and so close together. I hate it. Everything is working out, but I still resist it with every fiber of my being.
Everything is changing.
And I’m powerless.
It was so hard looking into Fr. Justin’s empty living room after a long day of moving things into the truck. Just a few weeks ago I was at his house with his wife and kids and friends from church. We laughed and played games and sang songs and cried. Now that day is just echoing across the hollows of my memory. Yesterday, when I saw him and Mother Jodi last, is nothing but a memory now. I gave them hugs. I held them so tightly. I never wanted to let go. If I just held on strong enough, long enough, if my love was enough, they would stay.
But I had to let go. Leave. And cry.
At the opening of the Mary Tyler Moore show, she is walking down the meat aisle. She picks up a package of meat, checks the price, rolls her eyes, shrugs, and puts it into her cart.
Things in life happen for a reason, and everything is in God’s hands. I have to keep telling myself that. Repeat it over and over, like a mantra that reminds me that I’m alive. Real. That my existence is not without purpose. God isn’t like a clockmaker. He didn’t wind the world up and let it go, watching it from a distance. He is always at work in our lives. I don’t like the circumstance. Roll of the eyes. What can I do? Shrug. I put what I have into my cart and move on, crossing myself and praying, knowing that God is truly in our midst.
It’s one of those times in life that even a cigarette can’t remedy as it smoothly caresses your lungs with its loving sting. It’s one of those times when all you can say is, “Oh.” Because there isn’t really anything left to say.
For When I Forget… January 16, 2009Posted by Justin Farr in The Journey.
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I am writing this tonight for me, for when I forget the things that are important, and for when I forget the things that I, right now, know and hold dear. I far too often chase my emotions. I am a slave to them, bound up in their chains that scream the lies of the alleged freedom they offer to me.
This is for when I forget that there is a God.
This is for when I forget that there is a God, and that I am not Him.
This is for when I forget that God is good.
This is for when I forget to think about the struggles of others and become enraptured with myself, entangled within the snares of my own self absorption.
This is for when I forget remember that every person I meet is fighting a great battle, just as I am.
This is for when I forget that God is the Ruler of all and the Master of my life.
This is for when I forget to trust in God, and am instead unnecessarily concerned with my future.
This is for when I forget to always live in the now, the present moment, the time that God has given me.
This is for when I forget that God works in mysterious ways, and that I don’t need to have everything planned out, and that He will lead me to where I need to be.
This is for when I forget that God will give me everything I need for my salvation.
This is for when I forget that I am loved by God, and that the love of my family and friends attests to His love.
This is for when I forget that, despite how broken we are, God is merciful.
This is for when I forget that the closer I am to God and the Church, the harder the demons attack.
This is for when I forget that I am seeking Christ and His Church.
This is for when I forget that happiness is not what life is about.
This is for when I forget that God loves me, and all of us.
This is for when I forget that I love God.
Remember, Justin, tonight, this night: Thursday, January 15, 2009. You were 17, a senior in high school, and rode with Jonathan and Jerusa up to Fr. Justin and Mother Jodi’s house for dinner and fellowship. You were in OCF, the Orthodox Christian Fellowship, remember? You arrived at about 6:45 and had decided to give up on God and His Church, but wanted to go see your friends. You ate some great BBQ and fell in love with Fr. Justin and Mother Jodi’s dog, who is quite large. There was singing and merriment and games. Laughter and smiles were plentiful. It brought you out of your depression, remember?
And do you recall, Justin, that it was getting late when Mother Jodi initiated discussion with questions? “What is something you will not do this new year, and what is a goal for this year?” and “What is a high and low from this past year?” Your answer to the first question was: “My goal for this year is to develop a spiritual life beyond going to church at the appointed times. I want to have a prayer life at home, and read Scripture. This year I want to stop being so preoccupied with the future.” To the second question: “My highest point this past year was the day I became a catechumen. The lowest point has been about 85% 0f the time since then.” Your other friends answered. There were tears, comfort, hugs. Wisdom. Do you remember the distinct presence of God that you felt? You had many realizations that night that had been built up by God by past events. Do not also forget the peace that descended upon you afterwards.
When I forget all of these things, I will remember this night. I will come back here and read this, and be reminded of God’s love and of all the things I so often forget. I have friends that love me, family that care for me, food, a roof over my head, and so much more. I will come back here and remember this night, and remember to count my blessings, and remember that suffering is not bad.
When I forget, I will have this to help me remember what, Who, it is that I need to remember: God.
Thoughts on the New Year – God in 2009 January 2, 2009Posted by Justin Farr in The Journey.
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2008 is gone. God has blessed me immensely this past year, and here I shall detail just a few of His blessings. I have made numerous friends. I have come closer to God in my tears. I have found a wonderful church home where I am loved. My mother’s heart has been softened in my pursuit of the Church. I have experienced the love of God through other people. I have cut, burned, and overdosed to wind up in the hospital. I have spent hours crying into my pillow, clutching it with every ounce of my strength, feeling as if my heart would burst forth from my chest in sorrow. Through all of these things – friends, church, family, teachers, despair, selfishness, and more – God has brought me closer to Him. Glory to God for all things! Not “Glory to God for the things that make me happy!” Instead we proclaim, “Glory to God for ALL things!” Amen!
A new year has dawned. Resolutions litter our minds as 2009 is heralded by parties and booze. But why? All of this is nothing. Where will the parties get us? Where will these New Year’s resolutions propel us? The parties and alleged celebrations intended to fill us with joy leaves us empty instead. The drinks do not quench our thirst. The promises we make are quickly broken. Soon, then, the New Year becomes as degenerate as the previous one. We enter the New Year with good cheer and yearn for nothing but health and wealth and happiness to overflow in our lives during the coming months. All of this, I have found, is void of any meaning, hope, or life. These things are empty and fruitless.
I celebrated this New Year with prayer and family. We always gather around a few minutes before midnight at my home to watch the ball drop. I tried not to watch the immorality displayed by the so-called important people, the celebrities. I gathered in the living room with Mama and David and we watched the ball drop and wished one another a happy New Year. During this time I prayed, “Glory to You, O our God, and have mercy upon us!” I wanted to literally go into 2009 glorifying God and fully recognizing my independence on Him. I then proceeded to my room, kissed my icons, and lit my vigil oil lamp. It is my intention, God helping me, to keep it always burning during the coming year.
Earlier that evening I attended Vespers at St. Anne’s. It was wonderful, and the hymns were stunning. Fr. Stephen delivered an enlightening sermon, and I went home remembering God with a wet head from a needed blessing with holy water. New Year’s morning I awoke early and was immediately beset by an onslaught of demonic thoughts urging me to further rest in the warmth of my bed. Glory to God, though, for I rose from my lethargy, made the sign of the Cross, and readied myself for Divine Liturgy! It was wonderful, and the Spirit really moved in me that morning. I came home and cleaned my room and folded laundry. I do not want to enter into this year with mess and without remembrance of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
What about New Year’s resolutions? Shouldn’t I pray for blessings to shower me in the coming year and for my life to be filled with happiness? Should I not set some goals for myself? No. I will fail at my goals, as always, and I know that I will not be granted an overabundance of happiness just because I will it to be so as the New Year begins.
Fr. Thomas Hopko’s mother told him, “Go to church. Say your prayers. Remember God.” That is about all I can hope for achieving this year. I am a sinner, though, and I know with absolute certainty that I will fail. I tend to have the going to church bit down pat. A regular prayer rule is difficult for me to maintain, however. Furthermore, I hardly remember God except when it is convenient for me or when I wish to curse Him for deigning my sufferings. If I can continue with the first and make progress on the latter two, I will be in good shape. I cannot, and should not, ask anything else from 2009 other than drawing closer to my Lord. Sure, I have other things I would like to achieve. Those, however, will only be born from my drawing near to God. Nothing can be achieved outside of Him. He sustains us all from plummeting into a dismal abyss. God grants us life whether we acknowledge it or not. Outside of Him, nothing can be done. With Him, though, all things are possible.
Thus, what else can I ask for but God for 2009? What else should I even want for the New Year other than God? If I have God, and trust in Him fully, then I have everything. Nothing else matters.
So here’s where the happiness and blessings come in, right? God will grant me economic prosperity and bliss, right? Not exactly. 2009 might be a miserable year for me. It might be a year filled to the brim with joy and gladness. Whatever I need for my salvation, God will grant it. He will draw me closer to His loving, warm bosom. If this means I need a good year – as God wills. If this necessitates a year of hardship – as God wills. Regardless of what the New Year contains, if I perceive it with the correct eyes, it will be rich with blessings.
I cannot truly expect anything other than suffering for the coming year. I find it incredibly fitting that the secular New Year commences with the feast in celebration of the Circumcision of our Lord God and Savior, Jesus Christ. It is on this day that Christ submits Himself to His own Law. On this day God Himself suffers and cries out in agony. He is brought into this world and, on this day, the eighth day of His birth, He suffers.
God suffers. God experienced pain. How miraculous this is! Our God truly knows what it is like to experience pain and be human. He knows the tribulations we endure, for He Himself has experienced them!
God Himself willed to be incarnate of the Holy Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, the Unwed Bride of God. God Himself enters this world and experiences suffering. He redeems the world through suffering on the Cross. If God Himself suffered from infancy to His death, how can I expect other than that? Christ calls us to pick up our crosses and follow Him. You know what? Crosses hurt. They cause pain and weeping. We carry them, though, unto our salvation and to come closer to God and to truly love Him.
How, then, can I expect 2009 to have anything other than suffering?
This is the New Year. 2009 had descended upon us. I have made no resolutions. I will continue to try to follow God in prayer and remembrance of Him. I will continue to try to turn my back on the vanity of the world. There is nothing new here. I will fall, get up, fall, and get back up again. All of this I will do with God helping me and sustaining me. This year I do not expect mere emotional happiness or petty wealth. I will continue attempting to carry my cross in suffering, all the while rejoicing in God my Savior and living in true joy as opposed to simple emotional wellbeing.
I pray that we all walk into the New Year remembering God, praying, and carrying our crosses in joy and love for our Lord. We cannot hope for anything else, and from this everything else will come, for Christ God is our true and our sure hope. Glory to Him!