Skip navigation

Monthly Archives: November 2006

“Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” (Psalm 46:10)

I often associate this verse with what I should do in times of uncertainty, particularly times of abrupt uncertainty, those times things seem to be going fine when, all of the sudden, the bottom falls out and I’m left with my head in my hands. And, I suppose that’s fair enough, as one should be still and remain mindful of God during those times instead of worrying frantically. (Though, I usually do the latter more often than the former.) Yet, there’s another view that has gotten my attention as of late.

I have had quite a strange journey in the world of Academia. Currently, I’m attending my fourth undergrad school, and working toward graduation in my fifth major. I’ve attended school (at least, for some period of time) every single year since I graduated from high school in May 2000. I’ve studied music twice. I’ve also studied youth ministry. I even briefly studied electronic engineering. Now, I’m in an interdisciplinary program with a concentration in business. Never in eighteen eternities would I have guessed I would travel as varied a path as I have, let alone all that to wind up here in West Virginia.

When I made the choice to come here to Mountain State University and study business in the hopes of opening an Orthodox Christian cafe and bookstore, more than a few people had questions as to why. Not negative questions so much of why in the world would I do such a thing. But legitimate questions of why—why, after all that I’ve done and studied and gone through, would I move away to study something I’ve never done? My answer was that I have this dream that I feet God has planted in me to open this kind of business, and that I believe it is something I want to do. It appeals to me in so many ways. It is as if all the things I have studied or truly considered (save the electronics excursion) are seen coming together in this one idea. So, I’ve decided to run after it.

At some point this past summer, amidst the preparations to come to orientation and make my final decision, I got another idea to check with the local Orthodox parish priest and ask about the possibilities of starting an Orthodox Christian Fellowship on the MSU campus. So, following orientation, I stayed overnight and went to see him the next day, totally unannounced. I had never spoken to him or corresponded in any way. In fact, when he answered the door and I told him my business—that I just wanted to speak with him because I would be attending his parish during the coming year—he looked at my cross and said with a small amount of surprise, “Oh. You’re Orthodox!” So began our meeting.

We went into a conference room and chatted for a while, just getting to know one another. Then, we started to talk about the school and how well Orthodoxy was represented among the student body. And, before I could even open my mouth, he told me that he wanted to form an OCF. After I told him that discussion of an OCF was the ultimate reason I had stopped by that afternoon, he said with a smile on his face, “You know…God has a way of putting you where you need to be…and I’ve been praying for you for a long time!”

A few months later, while on a visit home for my birthday, I decided to spend my Sunday evening attending the church in which I solidly spent the first 22 years of my life. Aside from the great blessing of seeing friends I hadn’t seen in a while (especially from the youth group to which I’ve remained close even through my years in college), I heard a message from the student pastor that set ablaze a fire for youth ministry that had been all but smothered out a couple of years ago. From that moment, I began thinking about how to evangelize to youth, and how to do so within an Orthodox context. I also began thinking of how to incorporate youth ministry with the coffee shop thing, though I had already made allowance for there to be a youth element (just not at that level). And, ever since, my mind has been thinking upon things it hasn’t in years. And, because of it, I feel like I’ve found a piece that was missing.

Some days it seems that God reveals a little more of the big picture, and it excites me to no end. The past week, on and off, there have been those moments of revelation. Some have been bigger than others, but they’ve all added to the vision as a whole. With all this fresh on my mind, I took a break from studying last night to read the blog of Father Stephen Freeman, my home parish priest.

The post, entitled “How Hard Is It?“, was about sharing Christ with the next generation, and how imperative it is to continuing growth—and to stifling decline—in the Church. Of course, it’s not just about numbers. In fact, it’s not really about that at all. But, I digress.

His post struck a chord with me. And it goes beyond that. It’s like this: I could say to someone, “Meet me here at this coffee shop and we can talk. Here are the directions, here’s how to get there. When you get to where I am, we’ll have a good discussion.” Or, by sheer providence, I could be at the coffee shop, look over at a table, and see my friend there. At that point, all I have to do is to walk over and start talking.

This is very similar to the latter scenario. I don’t have to explain my whole mindset to Fr. Stephen and wait for him to swallow all of this. He’s already in the process of thinking about these things himself. All we need to do is simply come together and discuss our ideas. And I very much look forward to when we will have a chance to do just that.

These two occurrences are so far beyond my ability to comprehend them, that God, in His infinite wisdom and goodness, would so bless me (and others as a result, I pray) by preordaining these things and easing the strain of life just a little bit. So many things in my life have been such a heinous struggle in recent years, I had almost forgotten what it was like to have these big moments of providence take place.

This is precisely the other perspective I mentioned above. For once in a long time, I’m not suddenly left with my head in my hands. Instead, I’m unexpectedly being lifted up out of the mire just a little more, and finding that my traction is slightly better than it was before. And, instead of questioning aloud wondering “why me, why now, why didn’t this happen earlier, why why why…” I should simply be still and know that He is God.

For, in the words of Father Arseny, “The ways of God are inscrutable and His mercy is inexhaustible.”

Amen.

Advertisements

“Today, let us repent, while it is still called ‘today.'”

I hear these words, and I stand convicted. I am such a horrid procrastinator. So often I take a task given to me to be done in due time, only to shove it aside for a later time, which may or may not ever actually come. I do this for a number of reasons, and give an even greater number of excuses to try and justify it. I know that it is bad, wrong, even sinful. Yet, I continue to do it.

This tendency has plagued me most of my life. Not only in school, but in life itself. How often do I put off the act of repentance? How many times do I linger in behaviors, mindsets, motivations which I know to be detrimental to my spiritual health, simply because I don’t want to bother myself with looking into my heart and making the necessary changes? Countless times, I’m sure.

Of course, there is another task which frequently lacks proper and timely action from me. Christ commands us, “Love one another as I have loved you.” This is a wholly unconditional statement. It makes no accomodations as to the type of person we are to love, when we are to love, or how often we are to love. But, I so often fail to recognize this.

Sure, I’m eagerly loving toward my friends—they mean everything to me. I say “I love you” much of the time, and I try to show it whenever I think to (which, granted, is not as much as I should). For words and love don’t mean anything; actions and love mean everything (cf. 1 John 3:18). Yet, why do I not do it as eagerly toward coworkers, instructors, fellow students, and the nameless people whom I pass every day? Why do I put off the task of loving my neighbor simply because it’s not convenient?

And, it’s shameful to say that it’s not convenient, but that’s how I see it. That is to say that it must not be, or I’d do it. My whole life is built around convenience for myself, as is the life of many a person living in this bent world in which we do.

Being kind to others is fairly easy (though, not always) when you work a position in a retail business, where your job requires interacting with people and seeing that they have a good experience. I always felt good when people told me that I had made them smile or had otherwise brightened a crummy day. Not because I felt high and mighty. Rather, I just liked knowing they felt better than they had when they entered the store. Sadly, I rarely take the same attitude toward the people from whom I will never hear regarding how an encounter with me affected their day.

And it’s not complex at all. Simply a caring glance, an encouraging word, or a smile could make all the difference in an interaction, however brief that interaction may be.

Though, in the end, it’s not just for them that I should do it. It affects me, too. By taking the time…sometimes mere seconds…to demonstrate genuine love and concern for someone, I draw closer to the God in whose image those people are made, and my icy heart is melted just a little more.