Saturday, March 22, 2008

13. Face reality.

Here is Calise from California, with some exciting news . . .

Hello Ladies! Let me first say it has been such a blessing to be able to connect with all of you through this discussion.

We miss you all terribly! Let me tell you all as well that I am pregnant with our 3rd & I have been sick as a dog! So please pray for us!

As I started to ponder this maxim the first thing that came to mind was Confession. I feel like preparing for my first confession was the first time I really stood back & faced the reality of what my life had been & there were a lot of things that I didn't like. Ever since then, confession has helped me to have more regular "reality checks".

Father Thomas Hopko says..."face reality, don't live in fantasy. There's a Russian saying, 'God is everywhere except in imagination & fantasy'; face the realities of your life."

I have of late been thinking about the consequences of living in a fantasy world. My father is an alcoholic. Alcoholics tend to form their own fantasy worlds where they are the victims. This helps them to live with their decisions & to justify their actions; otherwise, how do you live with yourself?

That scares the living daylights out of me; after having lived as part of his fantasy world for over 30 years, I am only now beginning to come to grips with the awful ramifications it has on the people around you. I don't want to be the victim. I want to fully engage in my own reality & that of others.

Facing reality doesn't only mean the bad stuff; it also means the good. We are called to be grateful for what God has given us & to be good stewards of our own realities!
I want to be a Christian, a wife, a mother, a sister, a friend, a neighbor & a human being who not only faces my own reality & is daily acknowledging the good and combatting the bad, but I want to encourage all of those people in my life who are a part of my reality.

It seems to me the only way to truly face our own realities is through God's employing all these previous maxims.

So I pray as we all read these blogs & continue this discussion that God would reveal the ugliness & beauty in our own realities & give us the strength & humility to face it all!

God bless all of you in this blessed season of Lent!

Friday, March 21, 2008

12. Do the most difficult and painful things first.

Let me encourage you all anew to please post your thoughts about these Maxims! It is such a blessing to hear from each of you.

I love this Maxim because it's so wise, so uncomplicated, and yet so terribly hard to implement. I've found numerous times throughout life that if I can just get started on something I've been putting off, it actually doesn't take long at all -- whether cleaning my house, writing a lesson plan or just reconnecting with a friend I haven't seen in a long time. In fact, it seems to apply that the more I'm dreading it, the less of a big deal it turns out to be; and even if it is a difficult thing, like a confrontation or asking forgiveness, it feels SO much better just to have it over with, all out in the open.

You know?

Thursday, March 20, 2008

11. Do your work, then forget it.

Hello, all!

I'm running short of ideas for these . . . and would like to save some of my thought energies for my actual post next week! So I will leave this open for discussion.

I love the simple, clear wisdom of this thought. For me, it's a reminder that no matter how much I love or loathe my job on any given day, it's only a job -- the important thing is my attitude while doing it, that I do it "as unto the Lord" and for the furtherance of my salvation.

What does it bring to mind for you?

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

10. Be faithful in little things.

A meditation from Doanh:

Jesus admonishes us to be faithful in the little things. In the book of Luke, he says, "He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much." (Luke 16:10) Here, He is specifically talking about money as he goes on to say, "Therefore if you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches? And if you have not been faithful in what is another man's, who will give you what is your own? (Luke 16:11-12). Allow me to borrow the caption from the Orthodox Study Bible about this verse: The test as to whether God will bestow heavenly blessings (true riches) on a person is directly related to how that person spends his money. The money we consider our own is actually another man's, that is, belonging to God, or at least to the poor. The Fathers universally see a person's failure to give money to God's work as stealing.

So, in conclusion, money and everything we have (even our own selves) belong to God. Do not allow anything to master over you. Keep Christ the Master of your life and everything you do with what you have, your money, and yourself will fall under His good and perfect will for you. When God sees that you have been faithful over little, He will give you the "more" which is the true riches of heavenly blessings.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

9. Be honest, first of all with yourself.

This morning's meditation is from Laura:

Oh, boy, now that's a doozie. Being honest with myself usually results in being overly critical or not critical enough, both of which are very prideful (and not very honest). I'm sure that I have yet to learn just how to truly be honest with myself.

Last Thursday evening, I had the honor of chanting the last installment of the Great Canon of St. Andrew for the first week of Lent. Early on in the service, I found myself leaning against the wall behind the chanter's stand, thinking to myself, "I feel sick." I ran through multiple explanations, trying to discern why I might suddenly feel so nasty. Perhaps it was the kids who sneezed on me at work. Could it be the combination of a spring-forward time change (always a hard one for me) and the first week of Lent and the denial it ensued? Was I tired from the seemingly-endless services that took place that first week?

Then, of course, the hard irony kicked me in the gut. Girl, you're standing here chanting the Great Canon and feeling sick. Could this have anything to do with sin? Well, duh! I really don't know how to confront the bad stuff that I produce or its consequences for myself and the rest of the world. And even when I do attempt to confront my own sin, I want to try and explain it and/or turn it around so that it's really good stuff or at least not that bad. This is a pretty nasty trick and a hard habit to break.

Of course I know that this is all a lie and a byproduct of my own weakness and lack of self discipline. Being honest with myself is hard. It takes energy, time (I often complain about having too little time, but how much do I waste?) and probably most importantly, prayer.

My dear sisters (and any brothers who may be lurking here) I do ask that you pray with me as I learn to look at myself and all my actions, sinful or not, and see them for what they really are. Lent certainly seems a good time to take on this endeavor. I will pray for all of you as well.


Monday, March 17, 2008

8. Live a day, even a part of a day, at a time.

Good evening! Apologies for posting so late . . .

We are again author-less today, so I thought I would post a wonderful excerpt from one of Tolstoy's short stories, which I've always loved, but is especially meaningful ever since Bishop Kallistos Ware referred to it in a homily he gave.

"Remember that there is only one important time and that is Now. The present moment is the only time over which we have dominion. The most important person is always the person with whom you are, who is right before you, for who knows if you will have dealings with any other person in the future. The most important pursuit is making that person, the one standing at you side, happy, for that alone is the pursuit of life."

It's said so often that it sounds meaningless, but try to see it in a new light: every day is a gift, and even every part of every day, as this Maxim reminds us. Or, as Christ said: "Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will take care of itself."

Today the church commemorates St. Patrick, whose wonderful Breastplate Prayer speaks also of the importance of re-dedicating yourself to Christ with each new breath. A blessed feast to you all!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

7. Be an ordinary person, one of the human race.

A Blessed Sunday of Orthodoxy to you all! I just had to share this note from the Emily files before moving on to the Maxim for the day:

Despite attending about a dozen Sunday of Orthodoxy services in my lifetime, I didn't understand the connection between "Orthodoxy Sunday" and the resolution of the iconoclastic controversy until hearing the Synaxarion reading this morning. "Orthodox" doesn't just refer to our denomination; it means "straight doctrine," or "correct teaching." So we are celebrating the triumph of correct teaching over heresy. Wow! I was even more teary-eyed than usual as we read: "This is the faith of the fathers; this is the faith of the Orthodox; this is the faith that established the universe." Something about all of those voices shouting those words in unison is so moving.

In Fr. Tom's podcast on his Maxims, he says that to refuse to be ordinary is to be prideful: "Don't ever say, 'I thank you, God, that I am not like other people!' Try to be as much like others as you can. Be ordinary." He also he quotes Chekhov, who wrote, "Everything outside the ordinary is from the devil."

This is especially hard living in a country and an age that values uniqueness and individuality above all else. To be "ordinary" here and now is to be completely useless. I remember the first time I watched "American Beauty," a heartbreakingly true portrait of life in our fallen world: one of the main characters, a beautiful but horribly insecure teenager, is reduced to tears when another character calls her "ordinary." Later, she is vindicated when another character reassures her, "You couldn't be ordinary if you tried."

Why are we so afraid of being ordinary?

The Forty Maxims

  • 1. Be always with Christ and trust God in everything.
  • 2. Pray, fast and do acts of mercy.
  • 3. Read the Scriptures regularly.
  • 4. Read good books, a little at a time.
  • 5. Practice silence, inner and outer.
  • 6. Cultivate communion with the saints.
  • 7. Be an ordinary person, one of the human race.
  • 8. Live a day, even a part of a day, at a time.
  • 9. Be honest, first of all with yourself.
  • 10. Be faithful in little things.
  • 11. Do your work, then forget it.
  • 12. Do the most difficult and painful things first.
  • 13. Face reality.
  • 14. Be grateful.
  • 15. Be cheerful.
  • 16. Be simple, hidden, quiet and small.
  • 17. Never bring unnecessary attention to yourself.
  • 18. Listen when people talk to you.
  • 19. Be awake and attentive, fully present where you are.
  • 20. Think and talk about things no more than necessary.
  • 21. Speak simply, clearly, firmly, directly.
  • 22. Flee imagination, fantasy, analysis.
  • 23. Flee carnal things at their first appearance.
  • 24. Don’t complain, grumble, murmur or whine.
  • 25. Don’t seek or expect pity or praise.
  • 26. Don’t compare yourself with anyone.
  • 27. Don’t judge anyone for anything.
  • 28. Don’t try to convince anyone of anything.
  • 29. Don’t defend or justify yourself.
  • 30. Be defined and bound by God, not people.
  • 31. Accept criticism gracefully and test it carefully.
  • 32. Give advice only when asked or when it is your duty.
  • 33. Be strict with yourself.
  • 34. Be merciful with yourself and others.
  • 35. Do nothing for people that they can do for themselves.
  • 36. Have a healthy, wholesome hobby.
  • 37. Have no expectations except to be fiercely tempted to your last breath.
  • 38. Endure the trial of yourself and your faults serenely, under God’s mercy.
  • 39. When you fall, get up immediately and start over.
  • 40. Get help when you need it, without fear or shame.