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The Blessings of Sacrifice June 29, 2008

Posted by Justin Farr in The Journey.
1 comment so far

Abraham\'s Sacrifice of Isaac

For our heart shall rejoice in Him, because we have trusted in His holy name.

I’m trying to count how many times I’ve failed since my first blog entry. I’m out of fingers and toes, and my dog doesn’t really like me using hers.

I did pray once. Otherwise I’ve been wallowing in my own filth. I’ve been saying that I prefer darkness. I prefer death. Satan mocks me. He aids me in sinning, then he turns right back around and helps me condemn myself for my sin, causing me to fall into despair, whereas God would have me repent and remember my sin no more.

My sin is a droplet of water. If I cast it into the ocean of God’s love, grace, and mercy, I could never find it again. Why do I cling to it so? Why am I afraid for the Light to illumine my darkness? Why do I have such affinity for death and decay?

I love being in nature. It is my belief that God initially led me to my interest in monasticism with my love for nature. It’s so peaceful, to sit out amidst all Creation and hymn to God, pray the Jesus Prayer. I love to just bask in the glory of it all. I especially enjoy listening to birds and hearing the return calls, listening to their conversations. I was able to sit in a natural area outside of church today (until the bride-to-be at 2PM booted me out to take pictures in her wedding gown!). On my way to church I saw a deer, and that really made my morning. On my way home I saw a terrible blood and guts scene on the road involving a flattened squirrel. As always, I crossed myself and prayed “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on all Creation. Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.”

Anyways, I was invited to spend all day today tubing and hiking in the beautiful Smoky Mountains. After I had eagerly made plans to go with my friends, guilt overcame me. With the help of some friends I reluctantly decided to go to church instead, and the Lord our God truly blessed me for my sacrifice. It may not seem much, but turning down the trip was difficult to do. I will be lucky to have any similar opportunity again this year, as my family does not do that sort of thing.

Let me rewind to last night! I seen the Disney movie Wall-E. Best movie of the year. It was phenomenal. Of course, I drove slightly impaired from too much Jack Daniels Tennessee Whiskey due to my despair that had been plaguing me. I would be an alcoholic if I were 21. The movie, however, truly touched the heart, and, more importantly, reminded me of how often I take things for granted. Despite getting lost after the movie and having mom angrily yell directions at me on the phone for 20 minutes as I attempted to navigate back home, I remained at peace. I looked at things in a positive light. Glory to God who works in such awesome ways! Truly He used a movie to steer me closer towards the correct road from which I had veered so much two hours before.

I thought that my blessing from God for my sacrifice would be that my mother come to church with me. I talked to her about it, and she said maybe, and for me to wake her at 7AM to see how she felt. Her and David apparently argued til 5AM (Lord, have mercy; this family of mine (including myself) is so broken). She didn’t come. I was so excited I barely slept a wink last night, and then such crushing disappointment this morning.

Halfway reluctantly I drove to St. Anne Orthodox Church early and had a Bible study with Fr. Stephen Freeman and some other nice folks. Father’s study hit home in many ways. During the Divine Liturgy I felt more amazing and peaceful and joyous than I have for a long time during liturgy. At several points I teared up (never quite actual tears, I’ve noticed). Fr. Stephen’s sermon was perhaps one of the best I have heard him preach, and it deeply moved me.

The founders of Ancient Faith Radio were there during the liturgy and at coffee hour, but they were busy and I never got the chance to meet them.

My mother has also agreed to come with me to church soon because she is so curious! What great news, indeed! God knows so much more than I. She will come when the time is right.

But I am afraid. Such a high will result in a long and hard fall. But it will only make me stronger.

The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?

I need to get a better grip. I’ve been doing a bit better with my health with the new juicer I got (carrots, brocolli, romaine lettuce, radishes, apples, lemon, orange drink. Yum.). I know that with God’s aid I can get on the right track treating my body, the temple of the Holy Spirit, better. I bought some used books today, and I know I can start reading passionately (and writing, too!) like I used to. But I know that these are battles I can win. It is so hard to pray and get on track spiritually when I know that I can never win. I can never get it right. I can never excel. I will always be battling and struggling and falling. O Lord my God, come unto my aid!

I really need to straighten things out with my spiritual father, and let him know my sincerity in this change. Change for the glory of God. This is why I have this blog so that I now have a more tangible means to keep me in check. I want to be in love with God and rejoice in all Creation like I used to.

I must trust in God and spit and laugh in the face of Satan. I have Christ. I have light. I have life. I am allowing the light to illumine my darkness. There is no such thing as death!

I have been so blessed today. Hosanna! Glory to God in the highest!

(the icon is of Abraham’s Sacrifice of Isaac)

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God Died for Me and I Don’t Give a Damn June 23, 2008

Posted by Justin Farr in The Journey.
6 comments

Crucifixion of Christ

God, you died for me, and I don’t give a damn.

Here I am, wallowing in filth. The pernicious serpent is indeed dragging me down to Hell alive. The Enemy is shouting, “Indeed, I have prevailed over him!”

First, let me share a touching story.

In Warsaw, in the 1950s, when Communism was strong, three young Communist men were walking past the cathedral on Holy Friday at about noon. The young men realized the significance of the day to Christians and came to the agreement that they ought to go into the cathedral and make a statement, on behalf of “enlightened” communists. They drew straws to decide who would make the statement, and one of the young men went in. So they went in, and, like many young men who don’t go to church, felt a little awkward and weren’t quite sure what to do.

There happened to be a hierodeacon working in the church between services who spotted the young men coming in and recognized that something was going on. He went up to the young man that was to make the statement, as he was kind of standing towards the front of the group, and asked if he could help him. The young man looked back at his friends, who motioned for him to go ahead and talk to the hierodeacon. The young man, walking with an air of purpose, said, “Yes, we would like to make a statement. We don’t believe in all this nonsense, and we would like to make a statement.”

“Sure. Sure,” the monk responded. He put his arms around the young man and brought him to the front of the temple, where the corpus was still on the Cross, while the other young men watched from a distance at the back of the temple. “I tell you what I think you should do: Look up here at Jesus crucified, and say, “You died for me, and I don’t give a damn.”

The young man thought about it, decided that that wasn’t too hard, and said, in a loud voice, “You died for me, and I don’t give a damn!”

“Very good, very good,” replied the hierodeacon. “But, of course, in the Orthodox Church we like to repeat things, so go ahead and say it again.”

The young man was a bit taken aback by that, because he thought he had finished with his statement, but he looked up at Christ on the Cross again and said, in not so loud a voice, “You died for me, and I don’t give a damn.”

“Very good, very good,” replied the hierodeacon again. “But I was thinking, and if you REALLY want to make a statement that the Orthodox will respect, you should say it one last time, because we are a trinitarian faith, and the Orthodox are always saying things in threes. Yes, I think you should definitely say it one more time.”

This time you could see that the young man was totally beaten down by this last suggestion of the monk, but he pulled himself up for one last “statement.” “You died for me,” he began, but then collapsed on his knees,sitting on the floor in front of the Cross. “And I care,” he whispered and began crying.

God died for me, and I don’t give a damn. God humbled Himself and became Man. He came to declare the Good News. I hear it, but I continually mock Him. He says, “Here I am. I bring you light and life.” Always I eagerly respond, “No! I prefer darkness. I prefer death.” The Light burns, and I’d much rather trod the easy path with the darkness I am accustomed to.

My life has managed to fly off the tracks. What happened? Was it last summer when, laughing, I eagerly shouted to the demons, literally inviting them into my soul and body? What happened to the time when I yearned to even step foot inside an Orthodox parish? The day I did go inside St. George Greek Orthodox Church here, I cried. The smell of incense, the beauty of the church, the silence. It was all so beautiful and breathtaking. I counted it as such a blessing. Then later I managed to sneak to a Divine Liturgy, and I was again in awe. Now I go pretty much every Sunday, and I complain that there is too much Greek in the liturgy!

I can’t seem to figure out what happened to me. I used to love God and all His creation. I reveled in work. I prayed eagerly. Now I spit at God, complain about His creation, despair in work, and laugh at prayer.

Yesterday I sinned. One sin particular had me realize something needed to change. “I am going to change my life,” I said for probably the 107th time. “And I need God’s help.” I prayed for the Lord to have mercy, and I signed myself with the Sign of the Cross. I was going to change my life. So I prayed last night and eagerly set my alarm clock for 7AM to start a one hour walking routine.

I found myself cursing this day from the second I awoke at 10:30AM.

I failed again.

We fall down, get up, fall down again, get up again. Now I must try to stand again. Maybe I can walk a few more steps this time without falling.

I need to especially pray more. Eat healthier. Exercise more. Stop sleeping in and staying up late. I particularly need to read the Holy Gospel and get to know my Savior, our Lord Jesus Christ.

Here I am, O Lord. Do with me what you will. This is my pledge, my first step after a long and hard fall, to change my life to the glory of Your Most Precious Name.

“O Lord my God, even though I have done nothing good in Thy sight, grant me by Thy grace to make a good start.”