The Deliciousness of Redemption

When I was a boy, my heroes were Christian missionaries who journeyed to primitive tribes in remote places on the globe, learned the language and culture of the locals, created an alphabet for that tribe, then translated the Scriptures into that newly discovered language. I thought perhaps someday God might call me to such a work, so I studied classical languages as a basis for all untranslated tongues. Though I never became a missionary of this type, the work of translating and communicating the Gospel to an unreached people continues to interest me.

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A Surprise from God

There was a time in my life when I was a clueless Protestant convert to the Holy Orthodox Church. Every weekend, as a bachelor, I headed to a monastery that bore the name of a despised Greek Orthodox Metropolitan that became a saint after his death and is loved the world over by the common people. This saint taught me so much in the brief time that I knew him that I labeled my automobile, the St. Nektarios Taxi Service. Every weekend I was bringing pilgrims to this monastery that bore his name. Tonight, I saw an online screening of a new movie about his life as part of the Los Angeles Greek Film Festival. It was every bit of what I remember from my bachelorhood encounters with this saint who is the champion of the common man.

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Ivanhoe!

Dude! you have got to read this book, Ivanhoe! But first I have to ask you a question. Have you ever read a Great Illustrated Classic? Because if you haven’t, you have got to! I have read half of them. My favorite scene in it is when the bad guys are trying to escape their flaming castle. The only exit is blocked by the Black Knight, an insanely skilled fighter (they had already tasted his wrath).

The bad guy knight had to challenge him because he had no way out. His squire exclaimed, “Dude, it is like you are challenging the devil himself.!” Read this book and find out how the good guys prevail.

Christianity Without the Cheese

Happy Easter to those on the Western calendar. Christ is Risen! Alleluia!

To those of us in the East, 4 more weeks til we party in the resurrection. But our friend Dallas Jenkins has given us a reason to celebrate early. FINALLY, media featuring the Son of God that is not overly sappy, obvious, moralistic, or preachy. Tonight in honor of Easter Sunday, Dallas gave us episode one of season Two of The Chosen. I recommend watching the whole first season and giving this brilliant man all the money you have saved up to donate to worthy evangelism! I cannot tell you how long I have waited for such understated, artistic loveliness. You will not be disappointed!

Reordering Our Disordered Desires

Forgiveness Sunday

At the beginning of another journey through Great Lent, I would like to offer this review of a book I recently finished. Please forgive and pray for me a sinner, and may our good God have mercy on us and forgive us all. Veliki Post!  Kali Tessarakosti!  Blessed Lenten journey to you all!

Never forget that when we are dealing with any pleasure in its healthy and normal and satisfying form, we are, in a sense, on the Enemy’s [God’s] ground. I know we have won many a soul through pleasure. All the same, it is His invention, not ours. He made the pleasures: all our research so far has not enabled us to produce one. All we can do is to encourage humans to take the pleasures which our Enemy has produced, at times, or in ways, or in degrees which He has forbidden. Hence we always try to work away from the natural condition of any pleasure to that in which it is least natural, least redolent of its Maker, and least pleasurable. An ever-increasing craving for an ever diminishing pleasure is the formula.”

C. S. Lewis’ demon Screwtape

A better description of our current culture’s infatuation with sex and the diminishing returns of unfettered promiscuity has never been so well put. And now with the publication of her most recent spiritual memoir, award-winning author Carolyn Weber describes how to reorder these disordered pleasures and loves in line with what St. Augustine called the City of God. In Sex and the City of God (SCG), Caro (as her close friends call her) provides a personal and powerful roadmap through a variety of sexual temptations including idolization of the beloved, casual hookups with friends, and one of the most devastating of all temptations, adultery. With a sharp wit and creative literary inspiration, this English professor narrates the details of her own love life and illumines all of her various relationships with the eternal truths of Scripture and the Holy Fathers.

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Nancy’s New Playhouse

I am Nancy, and this is my friend Bree. My grandpa and my dad are going to make a new playhouse and I am very excited because I am planning a party to celebrate.

“Oh no!” I say, “Here comes Grace!”

“I have a playhouse too,” she says. “And my playhouse is much better than yours.” Then she went away on her bike.                    

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The Difference Between Safety and Salvation

Scrooge then made bold to inquire what business brought the spirit to him. “Your welfare!” said the Ghost. Scrooge expressed himself much obliged, but could not help thinking that a night of unbroken rest would have been more conducive to that end. The Spirit must have heard him thinking, for it said immediately— “Your reclamation, then. Take heed!”

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

As the coronavirus continues to surge across the nation and many states are rolling back on their reopening plans, it becomes harder and harder to celebrate the Advent and Christmas season with the fullness it deserves. But the answer encapsulated above in the Spirit’s response to Scrooge reminds us that welfare, comfort and safety is not the chief goal of Advent or what the Orthodox Church calls the Nativity fast. Scrooge was violently ripped away from his commercial comfort zone because his business dealings were killing his soul. His night long journey deep into his own soul is what ultimately led to Scrooge’s reclamation, or in other words, his salvation.

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The Power of Confession in Community

Saturday, November 28, 2020
First Day of the Nativity Fast
Commencement of Advent in the Orthodox Church

In this season of hope and expectation of deliverance, I saw a film about the power of confession within community. Words on Bathroom Walls tells the story of a young man named Adam diagnosed with schizophrenia during his senior year in high school and how he copes with this very difficult mental illness. He hears and sometimes sees characters and voices that severely distract and sometimes rip apart his soul. His first instinct is to try to pretend that he can hide it from friends and those beyond his immediate family circle. When that plan backfires, he is expelled from school for being too much of a danger to others. His mother and stepfather enroll him in a private Catholic school where he is given a second chance and encounters an extraordinary young lady named Maya whose love begins to chip away at his defensive and ultimately harmful facade.

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Another Downton Abbey

Fans of the now concluded Downton Abbey have been looking for sometime for the next creation of director Julian Fellowes. I am pleased to say that his latest creation Belgravia, now available on DVD or through a subscription to EPIX, more than fits the bill.

I just finished watching this six episode mini-drama about a self-made businessman named James Trenchard who makes his way into London society via marriage with his eligible daughter Sophia. All the usual pretensions of true and not-so-true aristocracy play out in this wonderful tale of love, betrayal, and everlasting integrity. So order your copy of the drama wherever you find good British period pieces. You won’t be sorry you did!