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For When I Forget… January 16, 2009

Posted 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, 2009

Posted 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!