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Trusting in God My Savior and the Need for Prayer November 15, 2008

Posted by Justin Farr in The Journey.

“Words which do not give the light of Christ increase the darkness.” – Mother Teresa

I am not really sure, again, where I will be going with this. I just need to write, really… Genocide, Prayer, the so-called Enlightenment, Sickness, Sinning… I don’t really know. I suppose I shall start chronologically (going from the previous post to now) and see where that leads me. I also really like the above quote, and need to keep it in mind. Due to experiences I had last night, and the consequences this morning, I find that it is something I need to remember far more often.

Last week in my Contemporary American Issues class, we watched Hotel Rwanda. I distinctly remember in the movie a new reporter saying that even if the Americans saw horrible genocide footage, it wouldn’t matter. He said (going from memory here):

“They will be eating their dinners and see this footage on the TV. They will say, “Oh! That’s horrible!” Then they will go back to eating their dinner.”

How disgustingly true that is. I instantly recalled the plentiful times that I have done that exact thing. Furthermore, I (and most of the class) agreed that the US should have stepped in to stop the genocide. But, my teacher asked, which of us would have volunteered to go over there and kill and possibly die for it? Not I. Would I go with the Red Cross to directly aid? Probably not, though this one is a bit more likely. The movie caused my heart to ache and grieve, and I realized also the blackness of my own soul. I am so accustomed to violence and murder that I don’t think twice about it. It is casually mentioned, and it seems so far off.

I just didn’t know what to do.

Then I remembered something Ron Moore had said during his visit at OCF a few weeks back. He was talking about missions, and the OCMC (Orthodox Christian Mission Center) and such. He had said that even though we are not directly out there, we can contribute greatly by praying for the missions and those involved. How true this is for war, genocide, famine, hurricanes… all the evil in the world. I need to pray for what I see on the news. Really pray. Not just a quick “Lord, have mercy” and go about my day. I need to really pray for those people and those involved. And that’s the best thing I, or anyone, can do, and wait with great anticipation for the Second Glorious Coming of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ.

I’ve also not prayed. Which is frustrating, because I had been doing decently well. Recently, when I picked up the habit of prayer again (well, evening prayer… I’m not so great about the morning rule…), I had realized how I had gone for many, many weeks without praying other than at church. This had all originated from a single night when I told myself, “I am tired. God will understand.” I did the same this time. Same exact words. God help me.

I also had a wreck. That’s about all the detail I shall go into, but I felt (feel) awful about it. I find that entire night to be more than coincidental. I was driving to Tiffany’s to watch Ostrov (The Island) – an amazing film. Then I wrecked. As I continued to her house, I was cussing and freaking out. A large theme in the movie was trusting God, and there were many examples in the film: the mother who was worried about her work after God healed her son, the woman who was worried about her farm, etc. I’m trying to view this all as a lesson about trusting God… which I fail miserably at. Even that night I did not trust God. 1/10th of a second is the difference between the small wreck I had as opposed to a full on t-boning… Yet I did not, in any way, glorify God or thank Him other than a quick “Thank you, God” while in the car. That’s it. Nothing more. No praise for my safekeeping. Nothing. By the time I made it to bed that night, it was about 1AM. I laid in bed, distinctly remembering the lesson on trusting God and not being worried, yet I still used the excuse that it was late and that I needed sleep for school, so I would not pray. I did not trust in the Lord, and I curled into bed and fell asleep, and still awoke in the morning feeling as if I had far too little rest.

God help me. Truly, I cry out to Thee, “Lord, I believe! Help my unbelief!”

I have also been making attempts to read more of the Gospel. I hardly ever crack the Holy Bible open. It’s sad. So this week I have decided to begin by reading Luke, my favorite Gospel. It really has made a difference, and I have been more at peace since the reading. A few times I have turned to the Psalms or to the Song of Songs in times of despair, and that has been a great aid as well.

I have also decided to trust God financially. That sounds ridiculous, I am aware, but olive oil is expensive! I have taken to only burning my vigil lamp during prayer… this is a practice that needs to stop. Today I have lit my lampada, my vigil lamp, and am going to once again maintain it 24/7. Though this means I will be using a lot of olive oil, I will, God helping me, trust in the Lord on the matter.

I’ve been thinking about trusting God a lot lately, and about how much I don’t trust God. I worry about so many little details. It’s horrible. Christ our God has even told us in the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 12:22-30:

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest? Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.

I need to make a much greater effort to truly trust in God, and to stop fretting over insignificant things. Even my English teacher Mr. Ross frequently says that the things we worry over are, indeed, inconsquential. How true this is.

So it turns out this blog post has been one centered around my absolute need to start trusting in God. It is a necessity. In fact, I had not realized this until now. Thank God for this blog. And also, apparently, about prayer. It is the most effective thing anyone can do in any situation. Too often I see prayer as something to do in church, and in the morning and evening. This is not true. I need to live in Christ. I need to live prayer. When I drive, when I leave the apartment, when I begin studying, when I eat, when I finish eating, when I hear of tragedies on the news… I need to breathe prayer, as if it is my very life… and it is. God alone sustains me and keeps me from falling into the abyss. Furthermore, I cannot fall out of prayer, for if I do, it is so very difficult to get back into it. God helping me, however, I shall pray more and draw closer to Him and all of His incomprehensible sweetness, love, and joy.

As a bit of an addition and not related to the theme, I’m working on my term paper in my AP Enlighs 12 class. It’s a 2 part paper. One is about the so-called Enlightenment, the problems with it, and how it has shaped our thought process and affected the entire world. It is proving very interesting. The second part is a satirical piece. I shall post both of them Monday night.

This quote is relevant to my paper and to be incredibly true:

“Religion today is not transforming people; rather it is being transformed by the people. It is not raising the moral level of society; it is descending to society’s own level, and congratulating itself that it has scored a victory because society is smilingly accepting its surrender.” – A. W. Tozer

So, so true. Thank God that I have found Orthodoxy, a strong pillar, Christ’s Holy Church. I need to continually try to persevere against the lies of the world and to let go of my delusions. I need to dispel the dream of despondency and embrace the Truth that is Christ. I have felt a significant tug to Mary, my Mother, and the Mother of my God, the Queen of Heaven, the Unwed Bride of God…

O God, by the loving intercessions of Mary and by the prayers of all the saints and bodiless powers, save me, a sinner.


The Arrow That is Christ November 2, 2008

Posted by Justin Farr in The Journey.

“The man who follows Christ in solitary mourning is greater than he who praises Christ in the congregation of men.” — St. Isaac the Syrian

The icon, which is of the Lamentations of Rachel, and the quote have little to do with the overall post. The icon and quotation only reflect my mood the past few hours, really. Only my current emotions, and not the glories of this past week. This post has no theme. Not that it matters. I’m just organizing my thoughts and writing things down, an accountability to my own self and a story of my journey in Christ our Lord.

Thing clicked for me recently. A great many things were illumined. I truly realized my own self absorption, my own hardness of heart. I have had many revelations before, such as when I initiated this blog. My first post reflects that, and it reveals my commitment to stop spitting on Christ and to cease puncturing His sides. So much of what I do is based on pure emotionalism. Fr. Ambrose has told me that my chasing after my frivolous emotions will be my downfall. Even on this blog, much of what I post I have written in haste. I have written in the heat of the moment, based on emotions alone, either with a “high” on God and on happiness (not true, deep, penetrating joy), or a very deep, low, dark depression. Rarely do I have any neutrality, any sort of rationalism, any true logic. It is all, at the very core, a deep hunger for God, a search for fullness that all humanity is embedded with. That searching, however, is in vain if I base all rationality (or lack thereof) on emotions instead of true thinking, true belief. This, however, is a real revelation, a correct understanding (as much as I can comprehend as a sinning human) that came only from the grace of God.

I was on the brink of damnation. I frequently say similar things, but I truly was (similar to the aforementioned enlightenment being entirely real and based on something concrete). I stood on the very precipice of destruction. I almost denied Christ fully and abandoned my pursuit of His Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. I nearly left the catechumenate. Some minute sliver of doubt lingered in the dark recesses of my mind, my soul, my heart, faintly whispering of the promise of life in Christ Jesus. I would have left the catechumenate, but if I left, I was afraid that I would never return.

I cannot wholly, thoroughly explain the sincerity of all of this. This is not another mere emotional game. This is not a brief rabbit trail of emotions that I am eager to tread. This is real. I have allowed it to sink in. I have not run wild and vainly chased an emotion in the heat of the moment. This is real.

And I am not sure how it happened.

It was last Wednesday after Vespers. I had a brief meeting scheduled with Fr. Justin. It turned out to be an hour and a half spent talking in McDonald’s until 10 o’clock that night. My God, it was needed! We’ve talked similarly in the past, but nothing ever happened. He told me the truth, I would accept it at rudimentary level, and then I would go about my life (which is not truly life unless it is a life with and in Christ). Nothing ever deeply penetrated. It tried. Previous blog postings affirm this. My heart was far too hard. I didn’t even want to accept it.

Earlier that week I had been informed of my own self absorption from two dear friends. One was Fr. Ambrose. In response to an email I sent, detailing the same things over again, he said, “I hardly even know what to say to you anymore.” He had said it all, and I have been so very unwilling to listen. I gripped and clung to my illogic adamantly. The other was a very, very good friend of mine, Brian. Too much have I hurt him. Too much has my indecision caused him pain. Far too long have I stood on the line, never fully committed to Christ and never fully committed to the world. I wanted both, but Christ says that we cannot serve both God and Mammon. In a nutshell, Brian told me that he could no longer walk with me down the road I was headed. His words cut me deeply with the sharp edge of their reality.

So it happened that, as I was pondering these things, I sat down one night at McDonald’s with Fr. Justin. It began as normal: I told him a few things (many of them the same as previously), he responded with the Truth, I listened with faux attention, I averted his eyes. As he talked, as I was looking at the tiled and dirty floors of the restaurant, I was thinking of the words of Fr. Ambrose and of Brian. I also was thinking of some New Age science garbage I had read a week ago, talking about all of these “energies” and how one way we give one another these energies is by eye contact. I then made it a point to look into his eyes, to really try to listen to what he had to say.

We conversed for awhile, and I heeded his words. He made it evident that I had let God down, and that I had broke a promise to both him and God. I came to the realization that, due to my own self absorption, I have been leading people to Hell. He assuredly confirmed this. As we continued talking to one another, more and more things “clicked” for me. So much was illumined and set out before me. I was, indeed, enlightened! And, oh! how horrible it all was once laid out bare for examination. Fr. Justin aided me and offered advice as I sought (seek) to correct such things, rejoicing in God my Savior.

It was only by the grace of God did I manage to finally “get” things. I apologized to many people, for it was greatly needed. For the first time in a very long time, I prayed. For several days straight, too. If, during the day, thoughts arose, I would pierce them with the unfailing arrow that is the Jesus Prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner!”

I hung out with friends some, and it was nice. Friday night I did not get in until 1AM, and Saturday night I did not make it home until 2 in the morning. I neglected my prayer rule both of those days, and this morning as well. I have seen the effects that the lack of prayer has. Sinful thoughts have bombarded me since I have ceased praying, and I do not even desire to use the arrow that is Christ’s name to shoot them from my mind. I have entertained desires and fantasies. So much godlessness has come from skipping prayer for a mere two days. Tonight, because I have seen the results, and because I have come to an understanding that digs deeper and goes beyond mere emotion, I will pray, God helping me.

It is all truly amazing how things have been turning out, slowly working themselves into a visible plan… the plan that God has laid out for my life. Over the past few months I have been able to see how it has unfolded in my life and how it is continuing to unfold as I go on and try to do God’s will. Numerous things I have seen tied together… the call after the ODing and relapse into cutting, the despair that has brought me in search for a greater something, the friends I am making and the community I am entering into at St. Anne’s… just to name a few. It is all working out so wondrously, even if I cannot see it at work oftentimes.

And then God has granted me, by His grace, to see and understand many things.

An important thing that I have learned, however, is that this doesn’t mean that life is automatically good and happy. Indeed, Christ has called us to a life that can often be rife with struggle. He says, “Pick up your cross and follow Me.” Jesus did not preach of this new-fangled “Prosperity Gospel.” To quote my own self from my Facebook status update: “Justin is melancholy, but at least he is somber in Christ. Though he lies in bed, pensive, Christ is there beside him, holding him in a warm, loving embrace.”

This is all that really matters. Christ. My happiness, my despair, my anger… those are simple emotions that I far too often let rein me in with chains. I allow them to mercilessly drag me hither and thither. They don’t matter. God matters. His joy goes far beyond emotions. It is true joy. Even in despair, I must always know that God is there. He loves me, He holds me, He cares for me. Too often all of this is just words. There truly is a God. He exists. I have a guardian angel that is constantly, constantly at my side, guarding me. The saints pray for me, and at church and during prayers I am truly surrounded by a “great cloud of witnesses.” At chuch during Divine Liturgy, there truly is a host of angels, tens of thousands, that surround us.

This is real.

And it’s not based on emotions, or desires. It digs deeper. It penetrates the surface of my heart of stone.

I have been allowed understanding. True, full, real understanding. Thus, I have taken the step onto Christ’s side of the line. I no longer teeter back and forth. Yes, I still look at that other side longingly. I gaze at the world. I want it. I crave it. But then I am reminded of the arrow. So I pray for God to have mercy upon me. I pray for Him to help my unbelief. The arrow of Christ is, truly, unfailing.