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The Most Important Day of My Life April 11, 2009

Posted 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!

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Not Prepared April 5, 2009

Posted by Justin Farr in Ramblings, The Journey.
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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, 2009

Posted 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, 2009

Posted 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.

Oh.

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!

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

Posted by Justin Farr in The Journey.
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“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.
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“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.

Acceptance October 23, 2008

Posted by Justin Farr in The Journey.
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Of all of her saints and sailors/prophets and princesses/Bethlehem never saw anyone like you

Royalty’s line of David/raised in the holy temple/soon to become the temple/of the King of kings

Mary/conversation of angels/Anna’s daughter Mary/mother of God

Gabriel’s grand announcement/Mary’s own humble acceptance/as you received Him/may our hearts receive Him, too

Virgin and Holy Spirit/mystery and conception/chosen and willing/bore the Savior of the world

Theotokos, pray for us!/Theotokos, pray for us!

Of all of her saints and sailors/prophets and princesses/Bethlehem never saw anyone like you/Mary

— “Mary” by Ron Moore

Tonight at OCF I had the opportunity for missionary Ron Moore’s music to grace my ears (as well as fellowship and lots of fun). This week has been…. godless. Not that that’s new. I’ve been wondering what the point was of me being in the catechumenate. I’ve been thinking about leaving. I remember all last week I had felt wonderful and I truly loved life, and then after Wednesday night Vespers I felt horrible. “Well, self,” I said to myself, “this is a very obvious sign that this whole Christian thing isn’t right for you.. It might be right for others, but it’s not your path.” Yes. I was buying into that crap. In my head floated thoughts about all religions being different facets of the same diamond, all paths leading to God, being happy my own way, and other such bullshit (to put it bluntly).

As so many times in the past, I was merrily skipping my way to Hell on the wide path.

Were it not for my friends, I would not have been to the past few weeks of services. Even if I went for the wrong reasons, to see friends instead of to worship God, I was still going.

I was sitting and listening to songs from Jonathan Bush, Ron Moore, and Fr. Justin Mathews. I remember that missionary Ron Moore introduced his song, “Mary” (above), by talking about a teenage girl who said “yes” to God. It didn’t really click for me until Ron began singing. I’ve never thought about it before, not really. But Mary, the Most Holy Mother of God, was a teenager. Mary was a teenager when she agreed to God’s will. She bore God Himself, Emmanuel, for us. She is the Mother of the Light, our Savior Jesus Christ. She did not falter. She said, “Yes.” She accepted God’s will in her life. Mary said, “Let it be to me according to your word.”

Now Mary arose in those days and went into the hill country with haste, to a city of Judah, and entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth. And it happened, when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, that the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. Then she spoke out with a loud voice and said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! But why is this granted to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For indeed, as soon as the voice of your greeting sounded in my ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy. Blessed is she who believed, for there will be a fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord.”

And Mary said:

“My soul magnifies the Lord,
And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.
For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant;
For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed.
For He who is mighty has done great things for me,
And holy is His name.
And His mercy is on those who fear Him
From generation to generation.
He has shown strength with His arm;
He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
He has put down the mighty from their thrones,
And exalted the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
And the rich He has sent away empty.
He has helped His servant Israel,
In remembrance of His mercy,
As He spoke to our fathers,
To Abraham and to his seed forever.”

— (Luke 1:39-55, Mary Visits Elizabeth, The Song of Mary, NKJV)

Mary, a young teenage girl, became the Mother of God. That just… astounds me. My mind wants to implode by just briefly contemplating that fact. Mary, a young teenage girl, became the temple for the King of Kings. Mary, as a young teenage girl, became the Unwed Bride of God. A young teenager was the conversation of angels, the bearer of Light, the cause of rejoicing in Heaven.

Yet I, a young and foolish teenager, cannot even manage a few brief prayers at night?

Why can’t I trust God so fully? Why can’t I let Him sustain me in my apathy, comfort me in my tears, ground me in my naive wanderings, be the hope of my future? The demons work to subvert me. Damn me. I let them. I don’t turn to God, Who is my Hope. I don’t turn to the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Why? It confuses me to no end. I can’t seem to get it right. I cling to desires and fantasies and dreams and longings. I crave comfort, touch, warmth, love. Why can’t I manage to see that God can give all of that to me?

Why can I not look at Mary, who was a teenager as myself (and younger) when she bore God for the salvation of the world? She fully accepted God’s will, and put her life into His hands. She continued this acceptance throughout her life, even to the Cross. She watched as her only son was crucified, blood running down His precious skin. Mary, the Theotokos, trusted God and accepted His will.

The song says “her own humble acceptance.” That’s just what I need to do. Accept God’s will, what He has put in my life unto my salvation.

I need to accept.

God helping me, by the prayers of His Most Holy Mother Mary as I look to her for example, and of all the saints, I’ll manage to accept God’s will.

The Road to Paradise October 9, 2008

Posted by Justin Farr in The Journey.
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“When you are on the road to paradise, this will be your sign: the temptations which multiply against you.” — St. Isaac the Syrian

Oh my God, help me! Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!

So much has happened. I have neglected this blog that has been so helpful to me.

I remember the Feast of the Birth of Mary. I remember that the service was powerful, but I can’t remember why.

Today from the stem of Jesse and from the loins of David, the handmaid of God Mary is being born for us. Therefore all creation is renewed and rejoices. Heaven and earth rejoice together. Praise her, you families of nations, for Joachim rejoices, and Anna celebrates, crying out, “The barren one gives birth to the Theotokos, the Nourisher of Life!”

I remember desperately wanting love. That has been a recurring theme lately.

It eats me alive inside. It haunts my every thought, my every dream. It as if the sadness in my heart is so great that it is going to burst forth from my chest.

Quick as a humming bird is my love, Dipping into the hearts of flowers– He darts so eagerly, swiftly, sweetly Dipping into the flowers of my heart.

— James Oppenheim

And I remember the Feast of the Protection of Mary, the Mother of God.

I remember, for the first time in a long time, being happy that day. It was some time last week. I had felt happy all day long. I saw beauty in everything. Such happiness was sudden, uncharacteristic. I go to church for Wednesday Vespers to find out that that day was the feast of the Protection of the Mother of God. And it all clicked. She had cast her veil over me in loving, warm protection that day. I remember kneeling, and I found it wonderful. We cried out, “Most Holy Theotokos, save us!” and then we would prostrate. It was amazing.

And the pilgrimage to Holy Cross Hermitage.

I had been miserable, my desires eating me alive, feasting upon my soul. I was tired, cold. My feet hurt. It was late; we were at a quite long vigil. Then, like a sudden gust of unexpected wind that bewilders you, the grace of God descended upon me. It lasted about an hour or so, I do not know. I was near to tears, so enraptured in the liturgy.

Earlier that day I had read a bit in the book The Sweet Far Thing. Gemma had encountered a beautiful, wondrous fairy in the woods. Her voice rang as mithril, and there was nothing more lovely in all the realms. The fairy tempted Gemma towards the gates to the Winterlands, a sweet seductress, luring Gemma in with wonderful things. Her friend, however, called for her from far away and interrupted Gemma’s allure. It was then that she noticed how horrid the fairy was, and that her voice was a shrill hiss as opposed to the voice akin to that of a goddess. Gemma looked past the fairy’s facade and found the truth beyond the superficial beauty.

During vigil, I connected this with the demons. So beautiful. Alluring. Wonderful. Until something interrupts their pull, if only briefly. Then you see their horror. Their lies. Dragging you to your damnation. Maybe not even dragging. Many times I have simply held their hand, all too happy to merrily skip on my way to Hell.

Everything I thought I wanted, needed, was a lie. The fog was lifted from my eyes. I loved God. I fervently prayed that He have mercy on me and not allow me to fall again into the dark, stagnant depths.

God, apparently, had different plans.

O Lord, I know not what to ask of You. You alone know my true needs. You love me more that I myself know how to love. Help me to see my real needs which are concealed from me. I dare not ask either a cross or consolation. I can only wait on You. My heart is open to You. Visit and help me, for Your great mercy’s sake. Strike me and heal me. Cast me down and raise me up. I worship in silence Your holy will and Your inscrutable ways. I offer myself as a sacrifice to You. I put all my trust in You. I have no other desire than to fulfill Your will. Teach me how to pray. Pray Yourself in me. Amen.

We left, and I was particularly assailed by demons. I was too weak to fight them for long. I tried, then I slowly gave way to apathy. I even wanted the thoughts I had, as unrealistic as I knew they were.

Nearly a week later, and I have sunk down. I have fallen into despair. I want to cling to my thoughts of dating, planning romantic dates, proposing, marriage, children, growing old and dying with the love of my life. I cling to those thoughts as though they were the very things sustaining me. I know I cannot have those things. I clutch my pillow at night and cry. Cry. I worship this idol of marriage. Of marriage I cannot have within the Church.

I am spitting on God’s face once again, yelling, “God! You died for me, and I don’t give a damn!”

I happily wallow in my despair. I cling to my darkness. I desperately grasp onto my fantasies. I want something else more than I want God. I want marriage more than I want my salvation.

As I think of this, I remember the quote above from St. Isaac the Syrian. At the monastery’s vigil, I was truly close to paradise. I know I was close because, indeed, the temptations have multiplied against me. I have fallen. If it is God’s will, so be it. “Strike me and heal me. Cast me down and raise me up.” I pray that I learn from all that I go through.

This blog is about my journey in Christ. I fall down, get up, fall down again, get up again. I do an awful lot of falling.

God, help me to get back up.

Whenever I feel empty, whenever I desire to be filled with something other than You, O my God, come to my aid. Whenever I want love, help me to remember that You are love.

“God is love.”

Help me, my God. Oh my God, help me! Oh my God, oh my God… help me.