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Fragility July 16, 2009

Posted by Justin Farr in Uncategorized.
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What is it about relationships that makes them so ephemeral? They are fragile. If you touch them, they might break. Shatter into hundreds of sharp tiny pieces. You can’t put it back together after that. Years down the road, you’ll be walking barefoot and be impaled by a piece you had missed. The blood will seep out as a painful reminder. You had almost forgotten.

You were so sure that you would stay together for ever. Now, 36 years into the marriage, you find yourself signing divorce papers.

You are bitter and argue all the time. But you’re scared. Scared that if you leave, you’ll be alone forever. Scared that when you go, there will be no one to hold your hand. So you stay. Anything to keep from dying alone.

Friends leave. They move across states. Across oceans. People grow and find themselves shoving you out to make room. You find a note from middle school when going through your junk. It’s signed “BFF” – Best Friends Forever.

What happened to Forever?

Families are often forced to stay together. Even then, with time, with travel, the bonds dissipate. You look at your cousin and wonder where that little girl went to. You see your parents and ask, “When did the glue dissolve? Where did the warm, loving embrace fade to?”

Nothing lasts forever. Relationships come and go like the breeze that cools you during a hot summer’s day, but then is gone, leaving you alone once more.

Some breezes just last longer than others I guess. But, in the end, it moves on.

I suppose we need to hold on to the relationships we have now. Clutch onto them and grip them tight. Because one day, you’ll find them sifting through the cracks of your fingers like sand. You look down, and your hand is empty. Relationships are so fragile. It confuses me. Just be careful with them; they’ll break sooner than you think.

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The Gift of Freedom June 21, 2009

Posted by Justin Farr in Uncategorized.
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I’m sitting here in the Holy Trinity Room of St. John’s Monastery near in Manton, CA. It’s only Day 3 (not including the brief evening I stayed on Thursday before bed) and already it seems much longer. The monastery is nothing like I had expected. Everybody is friendly. The monks are people. It’s great.

Flying was pretty nice. After liftoff, though, it’s like riding a cheap, cramped public bus that’s flying in the air. Clouds get old after awhile. Fr. Silouan picked me up from the airport and on the 2 1/2 hour drive to the monastery we picked up two really cool hobos with two large, neat dogs. We ate at a VERY authentic Mexican restaurant; the taco was filled with questionable meat and about 20 flies (no exaggeration) buzzing tirelessly around your head.

We arrived at the monastery just in time for the evening Vespers service. I didn’t stay for the informal supper, having already been spoiled by the “wonderful” authenticity of the Mexican food. I headed to my room in the bunks, which is a small building without heating and air conditioning that is near the guest house.

To date, I have discovered 12 spiders in the bunks (most in my room… and I am not including the dead ones in that number).

The two roosters wake me up at dawn, around 5AM, even when I don’t have to get up until 6:30 or 7. I secretly hope they keel over.

Last night was freezing in my room because of a freak thunderstorm that began immediately after the 3 1/2 hour long Great Vigil started. The services are frequent and long. I got pretty antsy during the last hour of Great Vigil, but otherwise, it is really nice. I am out on the monastery grounds and hear the beautiful call of the talanton. The talanton is a big wooden board that one of the monks holds and strikes in a pattern. It is loud and meant to alert everyone of starting services. The call begins at 10 minutes til, again at 5 minutes til, and then at one minute til service begins. For Divine Liturgy, bells are rung loudly and beautifully. The two dogs, Deka and Zusha, join in with their howls!

I hated it here. Even on the ride from the airport, looking out the car windows at the flat landscape, I repeated in my head, over and over, like a mantra: “I want to go home. I don’t want to do this.” I woke up the next morning, on Day 1, and was miserable. I woke up early. I woke up cold. I woke up earlier than I was supposed to because of the roosters. Then I had to head to church without a shower because the guests were using both of them. I managed to get a shower after church, but all I could think of was how I wanted my mommy. My dog. My bed. My room. My poptarts. I hated the formal meals and my lack of choice. I wanted to go home. Now.

To make it worse, Thursday night there was a meeting of the monks and summer novices. I spent an hour listening to people talk about things like “Should we keep our shoes on in the new church or wear socks?” and “How do we minimize the noise of sniffles and yawns?”

It wasn’t until last night, after a supper I hated and before Saturday’s Great Vigil, when I talked to the abbot, Father Meletios, that I had a new take on things.

For 2 1/2 years now, I knew what I was going to do. I was not going to college. I was going to a monastery. I was going to become a monk. That was that. I knew what God was calling me to do. I knew what God’s plan for my life was. But then I get here and I hate it. What gives?!

So, I sat down with Father Meletios and we had a good hour long talk. Monasticism is a choice. Going to college is a choice. Career decisions are a choice. Life is a series of choices. God doesn’t know what we are going to do until we do it. It hasn’t happened yet. We haven’t chose it yet. There is nothing but the now, the present moment. If God knew the future, then how do we have choice? Everything is already determined, then.

And life… life is a series of choices as we try to make good choices. Not “right or wrong” choices. Forget that whole concept of right and wrong. Not once in the Gospel does Christ command us, “Go out and be right!” He tells us to go into the world and be good, do good things, and preach the Gospel.

I need to try to make good choices with my life. Monasticism is a choice. Being a vet is a choice. Being an environmentalist is a choice. Those are all good choices if i do them to serve God. Monastics are no more holy than laity. We are all called to be saints, and monks and nuns don’t have a great chance of achieving that. Monasticism isn’t the epitome of Christian living. It isn’t the best way to live out the Gospel. It’s *a* way to live out the Gospel.

With this, I feel much better here. I don’t mind getting up early. I don’t mind the cold nights. I tell the spiders in my room good night before I crawl under the covers. I don’t hate the formal meals that are eaten in silence. I don’t mind having no choice in what I eat other than the choice between water or tea. I feel peaceful here, and it is nice. I don’t mind weeding in the hot sun, and I don’t mind having kitchen cleaning duty this week (which takes literally an hour or more after each meal). Why?

Because I have a choice.

Now, I am the most indecisive person in the world. It is a struggle for me to decide what to order when I go out to eat! Now I am here at the monastery for over a month. I pray and I worship God. I work. I get to know the brothers and fathers that reside here. I think about the choice I have to make; what do I do with my life?

I ask God, “Should I be a monk?” He says, “Sure.”

I ask God, “Should I be a vet?” He says, “Sure.”

I ask God, “Should I be an environmentalist?” He asks me in return, “Why not?”

I have so many options. So many choices. And I’m an indecisive person…

I’ve rambled a lot and skipped around everywhere, and I doubt that any of this makes sense. But I have choices to make. This means I have true freedom.

God help me.

Following the Distant Speck of Light While Surrounded by Darkness June 17, 2009

Posted by Justin Farr in Uncategorized.
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“Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God, who has saved us and calles us with a holy calling, not according to our works but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us by Christ Jesus before time began, but has now been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel […] nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day.” – 2 Timothy 1:6-12

Trust in God is necessary.

For the last little bit in my life, I have gone through immense changes. I have turned 18 and I have graduated high school. I am facing the reality of life. Everything I was told when I was young no longer applies. Life isn’t a fairy tale. I cannot even, in fact, do whatever it is I put my mind to. No matter how hard I try, no matter how hard I dream, I just can’t have certain things I want, no matter how good and pure they are. These hard-learned lessons have pushed me to the edge lately, but I have come out with a greater reliance on God and with a stronger faith.

I have known what it is like to want to die. I know what it is like to want to crawl under the nearest rock and sleep forever. To want to bleed. To want to feel the welts rise on your skin. To imagine yourself falling, falling. Splattering against the cold, hard ground that couldn’t care less about you. I know what it’s like to not be able to move. To lay in bed and pray you will die. To feel so depressed that you feel like you can just melt away, slither through the cracks in your dwelling, and seep into the earth. Vanished.

I have known what it is like to have true joy. Where the world is so beautiful you can just fall down and be absorbed into it. Where your arms are too small to hold everyone and love them, but your heart fits around all the people in the world just right.

Life is such an interesting thing. It is full of sorrow. Beauty. Life. Death. Love. Relationships that come and go. Life itself comes and goes. Without God, our existence is nothing. As King Solomon proclaims in the Book of Ecclesiastes: “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity!” These are just some of my jumbled musings from the past few months. I’ve realized how empty everything is without God. I’ve learned how life is full of… everything. There’s so much to swallow, digest, crave, be satisfied with. There are so many people with such complex lives, and we are all interconnected. Life is so deep that words cannot describe its abyss which is both light and darkness simultaneously.

I am beginning an entire new chapter of my life. After I graduated, I was depressed for weeks. It took God’s love and grace, and prayers and encouragement and life stories of those who love me, for me to realize that it wasn’t the beginning of the end, but the end of the beginning.

As I mentioned, trusting in God is a critical and essential part of all of our lives. If we don’t trust in God and His love, we are lost in the darkness with no hope of light to guide us. We all have plans and hopes for our future. But why? We should live in the here, the now, and not be preoccupied with the future. We need to leave that up to God. Plans will get us nowhere. Life can change in the mere blink of an eye. Our own lives, in the grand scheme of things, is but a breeze that ruffles the leaves of trees for a brief moment, and then the leaves return to their previous state, having not even paid heed to thAt wind.

With God, we are nothing. I am trusting, or at least trying to trust, God with my life. I don’t know what He wants me to do. I don’t know how I can best serve Him. I don’t know a thing about what my future contains. I do know, however, that I am going to a monastery to draw nearer to God and find a direction in my life; to find out what path God wants me to take.

I am going to the monastery St. John of San Francisco in Manton, California. I leave tonight to the Nashville, TN airport and am flying to Sacramento, CA. This is my first time on a plane. This is the farthest from home I have ever been. This is the longest period of time that I have spent away from home. Even for these 5 weeks at the monastery, I will die to myself, die to the world, and live for God. Monasteries are both a spiritual oasis and the most intense battleground that ever existed between us and all in the Church and the demons. I am sure I will experience both.

Please pray for me, that God gives me direction, and that His will be done. I am praying for everyone as well.

This is the most exciting, busy, confusing time in my life. It is hard not being able to look ahead at the road and know where it turns and twists. But God is the best vehicle ever. I am safe when I am in Him.

Trust in God and glorify Him forever and ever! Amen.

One Day at a Time April 24, 2009

Posted by Justin Farr in Uncategorized.
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What do you do with life? What do you make of it? How do you be everything, find the Kingdom of Heaven inside of you, the Kingdom here on Earth, and help the dying six-year old with cancer, and comfort the wrinkled with Alzheimer’s, and hold a grieving man in your arms because that’s really all he needs, and wipe the sweat off of a sick woman’s forehead, and give food to the hungry and clothes to the poor, and be a brother and a father and a husband and a son, and be a friend, and blow bubbles and play on swings and catch bugs, and love everyone with true intensity, and absorb the world into yourself and be absorbed into the world?

How do you do that?

The chrism is hardly dry. The water hasn’t quite finished evaporating. Two weeks ago I was baptized and chrismated into the Church. I participated in Holy Week, leading up to Christ’s holy and life-giving resurrection.

On Holy Wednesday, I received the Sacrament of Holy Unction. I was wearing white to signify my recent illumination, yet I had already transgressed and needed remission of sins.

Come Holy Thursday, I was the one betraying and crucifying my Savior. In bestowing His love, He never looked me over. In showering His followers with blessings, He never passed me by. When washing feet, Jesus never moved passed mine. Yet I sold God Himself for 30 pieces of silver. I drove the nails into His Flesh and I stabbed him with a spear.

Holy Friday, I mourned as I beheld the Tomb of Christ, though knowing I was the one who put Him in there.

Holy Saturday I beheld a union of love as my stepsister married. That night and into the early hours of Sunday, I celerbated Christ’s Holy and Life-giving Resurrection, triumphantly proclaiming, “Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life!” Hell cries out in agony as it is demolished and the gates of Hell are shattered; death loses its power, for Christ God has risen from the dead.

Every Friday at my school the Marketing Department sells Otis Spunkmeyer cookies. Their warmth can be felt through the package, and they melt in your mouth. This was the last day this semester they were selling them (we only have 2 Fridays left). This was the last day of my entire high school career that I will eat one of those cookies. Soon, many “lasts” will come up. My last test, my last look around the school, the last time I drive away from the school, last time I see dozens of people in person, my last homework assignment…

I’ll be a legal adult in about 10 days.

That doesn’t mean anything.

I am not going to some fancy college for my grandparents and parents and aunts and uncles to brag about. The exclusive names that garner such vast amounts of reputation won’t escape my lips proudly when I am asked about my post-high school plans. I will continue getting bewildered looks when I speak the words, “I’m not going to college.”

I want to do something. I want to truly help people. Or do I? I am so selfish, I don’t even know. All I can think of is how I feel, or what I want.

I cry when people are hurt. Death irks me because it is unnatural. My heart leaps for joy when I behold a brief shimmer of dazzling light when two people help and are there for one another, and thus the love of God is exposed. I realize that every pain, every need, every want, every deep desire in our hearts, is our yearning for God. We are in an unnatural state in an unnatural, fallen place. We so desperately crave that perfection and love that fills all of us. That’s why we embrace one another in hugs, or smile when we see God in the breathtaking arrays of pinks and oranges of a sunset.

I don’t even know what I am saying. I probably don’t even make sense.

Everything is about God.

God is love.

Everything is about love.

I want to love. I want to truly love people and be there for everyone. I am doing nothing but sitting here on my lazy ass all day. I need to DO something. Take affirmative action and live life and help others. I need to do something meaningful and try to make the world the slightest bit better. I want to love everyone and be so passionate in that love that I feel like I am absorbed into everyone and everything and they in me, and we are all connected within God. I just… I want to do something that means something

So how do you deal with life, and find the Kingdom of Heaven on earth, and love everyone, and be happy, and be all that I need to be, and do everything, and be everything? How do you do that?

Seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and all else shall be added unto you.

You trust that God is good, you seek Him, and you do it one day at a time.

This is why I can’t be a Christian! July 14, 2008

Posted by Justin Farr in Uncategorized.
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Every now and then I think we need to take a good look at ourselves. Who am I? What am I doing? This isn’t the road I should be traveling, is it? What kind of a Christian am I? I remember a youth pastor once told me this story (true, by the way).

He had this friend who was an atheist. They were in the car together. He had tried to witness to her and to bring her to Christ many times. As they were driving on the road and, being in the South, they came upon a slow tractor. After patiently following behind the tractor for several minutes, he drove faster and passed the tractor up. His friend exclaimed, “Aha! I knew you weren’t so good and perfect! See? THIS is why I can’t be a Christian!”

This story has always resonated within me. Sure, she had probably never heard of the Fullness of the Truth, the Church. We are not perfect. We can not be perfect. We are sinners.

I was just sitting here today thinking about it as I procrastinated reading A Night in the Desert of the Holy Mountain. How good of a Christian am I? Not so good. Do I model Christ to the best of my abilities. Not even close. Have people permanently abandoned the idea of following Christ because of me and my abundant sin? Probably. Woe is me on the Judgment Day! I am concerned in externals and regretfully neglect the inward being. I am harsh to my family, lax about the Faith around my friends, ashamed of Christ in front of the public. In the past few days alone I have examples of each. I have spoken crudely to my mother, and I have not appreciated her enough. I joked about Christianity half-heartedly with my friends. Yesterday a neighbor came by and seen my icon corner. She fell in love with it (and asked if I was Wiccan). She really admired its beauty. What an opportune time to explain the Church and to show a love for Christ! How miserably I failed!

Do not let others fall because of failings! Where I have led them to Hell, O God, turn them around towards you! Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner! I suppose I will go read and pray now instead of wasting time on the internet and putting off my duties. How little I care for eternity and for my Savior! Lord, have mercy!

(icon is Coptic and of the Resurrection)