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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.

Why? Here’s the truth. October 25, 2008

Posted by Justin Farr in Wisdom.
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When asked, “Why Orthodoxy? Why God?” Kyriaki responded in a very real way by just writing. Below I share the very real truth that she shared on her blog, Lighting Candles to Pray for Light.

First, from Seraphim on Desert Calling:

[In response to being asked ‘why do you pursue Orthodoxy and long for God?’]

Why? Because it’s either the Truth or death. This isn’t some weekend hobby we’re talking about or some means to being able to identify with a larger group — this is life. How should I live, for Whom shall I live, and what when I die? Some people think these are abstractions that get in the way of living. On the contrary, I do not think it is possible to live a real, full life without acknowledging those questions, and in so realizing, I discovered Orthodoxy. Christ is the only way to make any sense out of this ridiculous mess that is life, that is the world. The atheists call it weakness. I call it strength. It takes strength to admit that human beings are not self-sufficient and are in need of the grace of God for salvation from corruption and death.

That is possibly the best answer to that question that I’ve read in a while. This…gets into your blood. It stops being religion, a way to describe yourself, a belief system and a moral code. It might sound weird to the non-Orthodox but…I live this, I breathe it. It…is everything, in everything. Nothing is mundane, all is sacred, somehow. Even taking my medicine, walking, washing my hair, cleaning, stitching. It doesn’t have to mention God or have Jesus tacked on it for it to be sacred – it just is. Prayers that go with things like waking up or going to bed, or beginning study, are good. But they’re not necessary for the Christian life to be sacred. It just…is. Something happened to me the day Pater bade me kneel as he baptised me, and as the oil was marked on my face, hands, feet, neck…this Cross around my neck is more than metal, my life is more than existance and it is more than this life. It is only today that matters, and worry about the past or future is meaningless. And yet today is meaningless and only eternity is important. I live suspended in this world of earth and heaven together at once, heaven here amongst us and angels that walk unseen. To be in the presence of God and the Saints, to live this life and worship in a way that doesn’t always mean song or dance but can mean the simple prayers as I work during the day, as I go about my daily life. And that one prayer – Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner. Heaven is not above me, in some separate universe. It is HERE and yet unseen, experienced yet not understood. At home, outside, and most especially within the walls of the Temple, surrounded by icons that remind me of the Saints present but unseen. Tomorrow I will ’see’ my friends in Church, present at the one eternal Divine Liturgy, one perfect Sacrifice, that every divine service takes part in. For us Christ is sacrificed on the Altar tomorrow – and yet, He is never sacrificed again because this sacrifice took place both inside and outside human time. How can we comprehend such things? We can’t. We can never pretend to. But somehow our incomprehension makes it all the more beautiful, that this is so far beyond what we could ever imagine.

Find the rest of her post HERE.

God help me to attain that, and God bless you, Seraphim and Kyriaki.

Truly, God is love.

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.

Fight or Flight September 13, 2008

Posted by Justin Farr in Ramblings.
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***This was during a period where I fell from God. Keep this in mind, even though this is a real instinct. :P***

I’ve experienced a very powerful instinct.

I was sitting lazily at my computer earlier tonight, minding my own business, when Daria, my three year old sister, lets out a scream. She’s a bit ghetto (we are trying to adopt), so I figured she had done something that needed a spanking. I come out of my room with nonchalance to see what had happened. But then… that’s no “I’m crying because I was spanked” scream. I enter panic mode and my heart beats faster as my feet carry my to the living room with haste.

Mom had Daria pinned down on the couch and David was hovering over her. My eyes go wide as mom barks out orders for me to retrieve cu-tips and a tissue. I run to the bathroom like I have never had any greater mission in my life. I hand her the supplied, see david with tweezers up Daria’s nose. I stand there twitching, not knowing how I can help, Daria screaming and crying. Then David pulls a huge wad of paper out of her nose. Apparently, she had stuck it up there.

With the crisis solve, I noticably relaxed, though my heart raced 5 minutes longer.

Never before have I experience such panic and desperation.

I had one goal: Help her, save her. Slaughter anyone who gets in my way.

I’ve never been so determined and goal oriented in my life. So this is what love does.

Interesting experience tonight, indeed.

Newfound Life September 12, 2008

Posted by Justin Farr in The Journey.
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***This was during a period where I fell long and hard from Christ. Keep this in mind. Long and hard, indeed. God help me.***

“Life is full of beauty. Notice it. Notice the bumble bee, the small child, and the smiling faces. Smell the rain, and feel the wind. Live your life to the fullest potential, and fight for your dreams.” — Ashley Smith

Things have been a rollercoaster.

I was received as a catechumen almost two weeks ago. Now I wish that I would have written a blog about it, captured those intense feelings and afterthoughts. Instead, they have escaped and fluttered off, now beyond my reach, never to be set to words.

Today, however, I have discovered freedom. I am the deer galloping across the meadow of wildflowers, the eagle soaring over the snow-capped mountains, the dolphin in a sea stretched out to an endless horizon. I have found love. I am the hatchling cradled under a warm and caring wing, the cub protectively eyed, the child held dearly at his mother’s breast. I have discovered joy. I am the dog embraced in reunification with its owner, the father cooing and cradling his newly born child, the dry elephant at sight of glistening waters.

Today, I warmly greet the sun as he shines forth. I merrily welcome in the moon as she lightens the darkened lands. I hear the trees rustle, whispering words of joy and merriment and thanksgiving to yesterday’s rain. I feel the wind caress my cheek tenderly and ruffle my hair as a loving and playful mother. I hear the nearby creek call to me, urging me to drink from its happiness without abandon. I feel energy radiate from everything around me.

Today, I have seen goodness.

Today, I wore a skirt.

I have tasted freedom. I have tasted love. I have tasted joy. I have tasted the beauty of all the world.

It started with a whim, a brief realization of everything I craved. My friend brought a selection, the only fitting one being a long, black, peasant skirt that was somewhat lacy and a touch frilly. But it was long. It was black. It was a skirt.

For many months, a year or more, I have been clouded in darkness, suppressed by everything I was told that I had to be and yet could never be. I was drowning in my unhappiness, near the point of giving up and letting the dark waters drag me into their cold and unforgiving depths.

Doubt had clouded my mind. This light that I had caught glimpses of from behind the clouds… was this really a false light, like I had been told? Was the darkness that I was surrounded with really the light of Christ? Why stay with something that causes me such unhappiness, sorrow, despair, anger, bitterness?

Today, the veil has been lifted. Mine eyes have seen the light.

I was warned.

You’re a heathen liberal. You’re what’s making this world fall apart. You are what will cause your brother to stumble. You will cause scandal. You will get beaten up. You will fall into delusion. Don’t do this to yourself.

I did this to myself.

It was amazing.

My day in a skirt began with sweat beadlets conspiring against me on my own forehead. My muscles felt weak. My lungs kicked into overdrive.

Breathe.

In, out. In, out. Slower.

In, out.

I wiped the sweat away, calmed my nerves, and proceeded forward.

The world did not end. I did not cause anyone to stumble spiritually. I did not cause scandal. I did not get beaten up. I did not fall into delusion.

I only had three comments made out loud to me today. Two of the comments were guys, who told me mockingly that they liked the skirt. The other was of a girl and a few of her friends who said loudly, “Wow! You are SO gay!” That was it. Nothing obscenely rude. No fists planting firmly against my face. The only other things I received were a few double takes and short stares. Emphasis on “a few.”

I had a hypothesis based on what I was told. It was proved wrong.

No one seemed to care, really. It wasn’t a big deal.

Truly, the bonds have been loosened. Never have I been this happy in over a year. This freedom, love, joy – it’s all exilerating, liberating, amazing.

I have found life again.

As I took the skirt off to change into shorts before coming home, a great sadness overtook me. It was as if the skirt was the very embodiment of my freedom, my love, my happiness. And I was taking it all off.

I realized, however, that this was not the case. I am not going to go forever back to my sorrows and bitterness. I am not going to let today be a mere outing, a once in a lifetime opportunity where I have everything I want, and then go home knowing that I will never have it again. I will not let this be temporary. Ephemeral. I have been filled with freedom and love an joy. I am truly happy. Life has entered me. I will not shove these things out of my heart again. I will keep them there forever, clutching them tightly as if they sustained my life. And they do.

Right now the darkness is at bay. But it’s there. Waiting on the sidelines. Waiting to come and devour me alive. The doubt is creeping into my mind. “Your joy, your freedom, your newfound love – these are all delusions. Christ is Truth. Cast aside your delusions and be truly happy with Christ.” The doubt is there. But I am keeping it at bay until it vanishes forever. I cannot, will not, abandon this. I have discovered myself.

I will dearly clutch my freedom, my joy, my love.

I’m never letting go.

Epiphany August 20, 2008

Posted by Justin Farr in The Journey.
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I want to leave the Church (essentially, though I cannot technically leave something that I am not in) for love. Right? I want to leave the Church for the one thing I want more than anything.

And I have come to the realization that even outside of the Church, I cannot have it. I cannot have the simple, normal, conservative, monogamous homosexual relationship I want. It’s pretty much unheard of in the gay world. I’ve now realized this.

The following three pictures are examples of what I want that I cannot never never ever have:

But if I get what I want, if I get that, the one thing I want more than anything, the one thing I cry myself to sleep at night over… there’s nothing to prohibit this:

Everything comes unglued. The lines of acceptability become invisible. Everything becomes permissible.

If I say that my fallen desires are permissible, there is nothing to prohibit the fallen desires of others from being acceptable. Everything just…. isn’t right… outside of the Church. There is no life outside of God. There are no relative truths. There is one Truth. I’ve decided to continue seeking the Church, to continue craving love, to continue my unhappiness, to continue failing to smother my desires to love, to continue the pillow cries, to continue with the hurt. Why? Because, dammit, I know it’s right. And coming to this realization is something that’s a whole hell of a lot to swallow. But, my God, the first two pictures hurt me so much. I desire that so bad. I want to be in that love and grow old with the love of my life.

But I’m going to try to struggle against that.

God help me.

Weird Experience at Vespers August 14, 2008

Posted by Justin Farr in The Journey.
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Neither the tomb, nor death, could hold the Theotokos, who is constant in prayer and our firm hope in her itnercession. For being the Mother of Life, she was translated to life by the One who dwelt in her virginal womb!

I managed to make it to the Vespers of the Dormition of our Most Holy Mother of God and Ever-Virgin Mary.

It was a wierd experience. I have never quite felt anything like it. I went reluctantly in the first place, and I arrived and my mind was not focused on the Liturgy. As time passed, however, the weird feelings began. Now and again I would well up with tears, feeling as if I all the tears I had inside of me would pour forth from my eyes as I prostrated myself before God. Then the feeling subsided, and the tears that had come forth into my eyes retreated. This happened several times. Sometimes I would feel bored, and then just as suddenly I would have this intense desire to just bow as low as I could before God. For most of the service, I felt both completely in communion with God and completely abandonded and gone away from Him. I felt as if I could just surrender myself, and fall down, but instead of hitting the floor, I would be consumed by God, as if God were a giant cloud, and I could fall down right then and there and be immersed in this cloud, immersed in God, forever being embraced by Him. Then other times it seemed that if I fell, I would just fall on the hard floor. I was keenly aware of God’s presence and just as much aware of how far away from God I was.

And so these feelings continued, this weird sensation of being swallowed whole by God if I would just take one more step, surrender myself and let myself fall, accompanied with the thoughts that if I fell, I would hit the floor and not be consumed and immersed into God Himself.

It was beautiful, though. The darkness. The dim candle lights illuminated the faces of icons. The incense swirling all about. One could be fully immersed in this, smelling the incense, seeing the illumined icons in the dim light, and hearing the small choir sing hymns as if angels had descended upon them from Heaven.

I’ve been struck down with my desire to fall in love, which I am forbidden by the Church to do so because I am gay. These desires have haunted me the past few days, whereas I previously was keeping my prayer rule well until it started one night with, “I am tired. God will understand if I do not pray tonight.”

I keenly feel God sustaining me. Were He to cease doing so, I am very much aware that I would collapse into sheer nothingness. I know that it is God that holds me from plummeting into the abyss. One step forward, and I can be consumed by God, fully immersed and in communion with Him. Or so I think. I don’t really know. It’s a weird feeling that I have never previously experience, and I am unsure of how to act.

I think I’ll go read Twilight now.

The Reality of God August 7, 2008

Posted by Justin Farr in The Journey.
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“This life has been given to you for repentance, do not waste it in vain pursuits.”
– St. Isaac the Syrian

My zeal for Christ has vanished in a puff of smoke. The wind has picked it up and carried it to a distant and foreign land. I have started my journey to retrieve that zeal, but I am still not far off from where I began. I have yet to fully traverse the harsh lands between here and there. I have barely made it out of the front yard, though the journey thus far seems as if miles have passed beneath my feet. I used to love praying. I prayed with exceeding gladness. I accepted life’s circumstances and my workload with joy. I loved God, and I loved everyone around me, living icons of God.

I will be a catechumen soon. I will be a catechumen soon. I just need to pause so that I am able to fully soak that in. I’m not sure it has fully hit me yet. I just now realize how much better off a person is under persecution. Some of my old zeal may have indeed been from the dreaded “convertitis”, but now I believe that a lot of it was because of my persecution from my mother and family. My mom used to depsise Orthodox Christianity. I remember when driving by the local Greek church brought elation to my heart. And O! how my soul danced with joy when I made the journey inside an Orthodox church! Just a mere look inside after school rewarded astounding joy.

I starkly remember the time. I was hot and sweaty from making the trek to the church after school in secret. I had been there a few times before and no one was there. This time, however, a few people were baking for the upcoming GreekFest. She let me into the church. I stepped inside, opening the heavy door. My breath seemed so loud. I was instantly aware of God and all His saints surrounding me. Icons, truly windows into Heaven, were everywhere. Candles were burning. And there was this beautiful smell that took be straight to Heaven (incense, I later discovered). I lit a candle, and I prayed, and I was granted the gift of tears. They poured down my cheeks, caressing my face. I prayed for everyone, I prayed for myself, such a wretched sinner, I praised God for His love, I cried. I went into the nave next, overwhelmed by the beauty of the stained glass icons. I advanced further inside the nave to find beautiful mosaic icons, and a giant dome of an icon of Christ looking down upon me. I was aware of His presence. The iconostasis struck me with its beauty. I walked around the church in awe and thanksgiving to God before sitting in a pew and praying the Jesus Prayer.

I counted such a brief few moments as a tremendous blessing.

Then I would sneak to the church Sunday mornings, trying to understand what was going on and trying to get the English translation of all the Greek. I counted that as a rich blessing, too.

All the while I was still under persecution. Mom abhorred Holy Orthodoxy, and my visits to the church were covered in lies of biking and nature trails.

Now I go to church with permission from my mother. She has even went with me this past Sunday. Though she was only interested in seeing what I see (which she didn’t), she still lets me go. I am now allowed to talk to priests and monks. I have my icon corner in my room without any qualm. I have an Orthodox Study Bible my mom knows about. It is only in this time, under acceptance and away from persecution, that I have become lax in my prayer discipline, and my particular zeal for God has been carried off by the wind.

Have I really even thanked God for these blessings? No. I even fell into a short despair when mom “got nothing” out of the Divine Liturgy. I didn’t thank God for bringing her to church!

God, Orthodoxy, has become routine. Normal.

But my love for God is still out there, somewhere. I still acknowledge the world’s vanity. I still go to church. I still pray for roadkill and pray when I hear an ambulance hurry by. I remember the other day I saw a cricket on the sidewalk as I was going out to my car. It looked like it had been stepped on (perhaps by me, God forbid). It was hurt, in pain, struggling to move. It’s legs were twisted in funky ways and it had a wound where guts oozed out. But it was still alive. I couldn’t bear to have it live, and I couldn’t stand it to kill it. But I killed it to put it out of its misery, and I thought about that cricket all night long. Creation is the way it is because of us, because of me. Just as Jesus raised up humanity, so must humanity raise up Creation where we caused it to fall. This can only be done in faith, love, and the fear of God.

I seek that love. I want that love. I’ve tasted that love. I want to share with others that love. In 4 days I will be entering my senior year in high school. It is a unique time in my life. Never again will I be surrounded by so many people. Never again will I have the opportunity to love and witness to such a large crowd.

As the reality of officially beginning my catechism looms upon me after two long years, so does the reality of God and of my sinfulness smack me square in the face. God is a reality. My sinfulness is a reality. Eternity is a reality. This isn’t a game. This isn’t just an idea or some fanciful wishing. It is all real. God is an inescapable reality. I really need to get going. My love for God is way out there somewhere. God is waiting on me to find Him, though I must first pass over the harsh landscape between He and I. He is guiding me, but so often I refuse His hand.

I sing of the Fountain of Immortality each Sunday as I watch the parishioners receive the true Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ. I yearn to taste it. I long to have a drink from the Fountain. How can I even conceive of approaching the Chalice without first loving God and loving my neighbor as myself?

I keep saying “Tomorrow.” But tomorrow never comes. It is always a day away. I suppose I will truly discover my longing for God tonight,  whether I pray, like I should, or if I will continue telling myself “Tomorrow is when I shall commence theosis.”

Lord Jesus, have mercy!