Skip navigation

Category Archives: Faith

Found a very interesting debate from Newsweek between Sam Harris (The End of Faith, Letter to a Christian Nation) and Rick Warren (The Purpose Driven Life).  Take a look here.

Also, when gathering the inks for this post, I noticed that Mr. Harris, as part of ongoing research, is seeking volunteers to answer surveys regarding beliefs.  “We especially need Christians to respond, as one of the goals of these surveys is to design stimuli that a majority of Christians will find doctrinally sound.”

I do not envy him.

When I met my girlfriend Tiffany back in September, she could best be described as a melting pot of religious views, with the primary views flipping back-and-forth between agnosticism and atheism, as far as I could tell.

Today, almost 8 months later, she became a catechumen in the Orthodox Christian Church.  And it’s funny, really. After Pascha, she was talking to me about how she had started to feel something that she’s never felt before but has always wanted to feel. She also explained that she had started to fight her doubts against faith which linger in spite of this new feeling. I explained that St. Thomas had a situation where he dealt with a bit of doubt, and that, as a result (long story short), Christ said that those who don’t see and believe are even more blessed than Thomas was.

And, then, we get to church, she gets enrolled into the catechumenate, and I look down at the bulletin to find out that, lo and behold, it’s Thomas Sunday.

God is cool. 🙂

O Lord, our God, Who dwellest on high and regardest the humble of heart; Who hast sent forth as the salvation of mankind Thine Only-begotten Son and God, our Lord Jesus Christ; look down upon Thy servants, the catechumens, who have bowed their heads before Thee; make them worthy in due season of the laver of regeneration. Unite them to thy Holy, Universal and Apostolic Church, and number them with Thy chosen flock. That they also with us may glorify Thy most honorable and majestic Name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.

A few thoughts…

–Last year, I wrote about my Charlie Brown Christmas and the possible end of a 30-something-year tradition in my family. Well, I’m actually quite content in reporting that it ended this year (that is, we didn’t have it), though for reasons different from what threatened it last year. It was brought about by a certain needed movement in our family life, and for that, I’m grateful. I’m also thankful that it precisely isn’t because of the issues I discussed last year. Essentially, it was caused by someone’s personal progress and not someone else’s personal tragedies.

–The 2008 OCF College Conference is coming up in two days. Wow. It seems that just yesterday I was telling some friends that I would be seeing them in 10 days. And now it will much sooner be upon us. Last year, I was a first-time attendee and was awestruck at what I experienced, being so impressed by the love and friendship and spiritual focus and unspeakable “other goodness” (for want of a better term). (Oh…and, did I mention that’s how I was introduced to Sheetz? 😀 ) This year, I’m a member of the OCF Student Advisory Board and someone who is hoping to be involved in an upcoming object called the OCF Podcast (until something catchier develops…), something I proposed to our executive director this past summer. To my knowledge, I was the first person to seriously mention it in as much detail as I did. I assume this because I didn’t hear back, “We’re already working on it,” but “Hey…that’s a great idea. Let’s talk more about this in a few days when I get back home.” For once, I’m in a place where people listen intently to the ideas I have and are brave enough to explore, rather than putting me off and assuring they’ll “get back to me.” I can’t wait to tell this to our fellow students at the conference, because it’s what our organization is built on: listening to the students and shaping OCF to serve them and the greater community to the best of everyone’s ability. If they will listen to me, they’ll listen to anyone. I hope someone is encouraged by this, has some spark of an idea, and runs with it…and ends up blowing us all away. What a joy that would be.

At any rate, we’re going to try and record as much of the talks as humanly possible, as well as gather some photos and other randomness throughout each day and and post it all either to ancientfaithradio.com or ocf.net. If we post anything, I’ll link to it here.

–I’m grateful for super cheap airfare, enabling me to jump down to Florida shortly after my return from the conference so that I can meet Tiffany’s family. Though, the idea of it being warm enough to visit the beach in January slightly weirds me out.

–For the first time in years, the grades I’ve received so far for my semester’s work do not go below a “c”. I still have an incomplete in one class, but that will be dealt with shortly, and I’ll likely do fine. Also, there are no plans whatsoever to change majors or schools anytime soon. In fact, I’m adding a minor–in journalism. 🙂 Couple that with the news I discussed about OCF and the Podcast and so on, and you’ll have an idea of where I’d like to be heading as far as career preparation.

–In semi-related computer comments: If you’re a writer of any type who is easily distracted, and your computer of choice is Mac, I highly recommend a little app called WriteRoom. It makes your entire screen black and puts a little blinking green block-style cursor in front of you, making it easy to just write. No distractions, no menubars, no Firefox windows in the background…just the appearance of typing on an old Apple //e. It’s what I used to write this and my last post on being lost in Virginia, and I’m very pleased with it.

–Speaking of writing, I want to continue to thank the people who read twelve:one, whether regularly or just passing through. And thanks to those who have put me on their blogrolls. Honestly, I am frequently surprised and humbled by the stats that show up in my dashboard when I check it. Someone from China viewed one of my entries through Google translator the other day. How cool is that?!? Also, the fact that I average roughly 20-35 hits daily for one entry alone (“To Write Love On Her Arms“) is indicative of a) the growing amount of exposure for the organization, and b) the aching need many have in our society…and communities and workplaces and households…for signs that hope and rescue can be something they can experience. If you’re one of those people, I hope you can find such signs in the joy of this season—which, I know, isn’t joyous for everyone. If you’re not one of those people, then, please, be that sign to someone. Smile, or offer a hand or an ear or your time this Christmas and into the New Year.

Anyway, back to the writing…:) Thanks for reading and for your comments made both on and off the record. It is through your encouragement that I’ve decided to look into media production for OCF and to minor in journalism. Basically, you’ve helped this writer get a slightly better handle on his future than he would have had otherwise. Thank you.

–It’s Christmas. It’s the celebration of when love and grace and redemption broke into our chaotic world. By the Incarnation—and the Resurrection—we are moved to freely love, serve, and forgive. Even if you’re not Christian, I ask that you consider allowing these things to break into your life. Let go of bitterness and malice and rage and slander and vengeance…and let go of yourself. Embrace the unspeakable wonder that is selfless love. For those who want to lengthen their days, it’s an imperative. (Research actually shows this time and again.) In fact, some say you can live forever if you desire that your life be transformed by Love. But, even if you’ve no interest in true Christianity, give love a shot. It’s amazing how much your existing world, with all its bitterness and cares and worries and vendettas, can crumble, while a new one is built up in the place of the old one. Yeah, you’ll likely still have some of those things for a while, maybe as long as you live. But you’ll be a million times better the more you can let go and forgive in love. Try to be a humble example of redemption to someone you know.

–Ill leave you with this hymn, one that we Orthodox will hear plenty over the next week:

Thy Nativity, O Christ our God,

Has shown to the world the light of wisdom.

For by it those who worshipped the stars,

Were taught by a star to adore Thee,

The Sun of Righteousness.

And to know Thee the Orient from on high,

O Lord, Glory to Thee!

Troparion for Christmas Day

Merry Christmas. Christ is born! Glorify him!

This really moved me…

Found this via a longer post from To Write Love On Her Arms on their MySpace. I encourage you to read good words, and you can read some of theirs here. The blog of Switchfoot’s Jon Foreman can be read here.

J. D. Salinger and St. Paul and dark black smoke
by jon foreman

So I’m listnin’ to the jason molina box set. reminds me a bit of sun kill moon in a really good way. with some atmospheric “spirit of eden” things every now and then.

it’s grey out. it was grey out yesterday. but it’s not raining. it was raining yesterday.

still trying to get any news about home. rough. feels like a world away. fires.

So I find it strangely appropriate that we’re touring to support habitat for humanity, an ironic twist in the plot, with the homes burning back on the west coast. It’s so strangely fitting that I wrote a song with Thieson for this tour on a bus that burned down a few hours later. But you see, this plot, this divine comedy strays awfully close to tragedy.

It’s a strange book and I’m inside it. So I’m trying to pin down the details about the the plot in this book. The one where I’m the protagonist in a plot much larger than I am. A book that I can’t simply put down when I’m frustrated. With no bookmark, no remote control. The pages write themselves with very little effort of my own. And yet I’m in there. I’m written into the book.

I was wondering today whether the houses that we help build with Habitat in SD are still standing. I don’t know how this ends.

Ruth has gone on downstairs, the bass frequencies are vibrating everything in the room… and a world away houses are burning down in my hometown. What can you do?

The good guys get gunned down. The bad guys do fine. That can’t be the end of the story… But the fires are still burning back home… and this thought kept running through my mind all day, “Oh God, have mercy on me a sinner.” I think that’s the prayer in Franny and Zoey… But St. Paul says the same thing

Pray that God is merciful,

jon

Clingman’s Dome 3

Written late last night…

So many days and nights have passed since my last entry. Some held things worth writing about, though I didn’t feel motivated to write. Some held very little importance. Well, for whatever reason, here I am, writing…

University of Tennessee, round three. Taking 12 hours, and I continue to struggle. I know in the back of my mind that it cannot go away overnight. Yet, I expect to—not change—but to have already changed, to be perfect now. I know I will never be perfect; that is, that I will always struggle. Why do I go on living without struggle? I don’t—but it’s the delusion I clothe myself with every day.

But, I haven’t dropped below full time for the first time in two years. And I have no reason to. So, all is not lost…

I have met a girl. Wonderful, delightful, cute, funny, precious, beautiful, smart, witty, thoughtful, sweet, kind, and lovely are her names. But, for short, I call her Tiffany along with the rest of the world. She is unlike any human being I have had the pleasure of sharing my life’s moments with. She makes me undeniably happy.

Differing religious views abound within her. This is perhaps our greatest difference. No—it is our greatest difference. Though, I understand (as much as I can) her place in life. I don’t think for a minute that I can enter her world and touch her and watch her become a Christian before my eyes. Foolishness wouldn’t even begin to describe that mindset.

Any change would be long in coming, if at all. More importantly, I accept this. Yet, I’m the guy that always has to skip the adventure and peek into the Endgame scenario. When I do that, a question mark appears, and that scares me, makes me want to run. But this has always been the case: I HATE the unknown in life. It scares me. So, this is no different, really.

She deserves my patience, love, care, kindness, and understanding every minute of every day—nothing less. And I wish to give these things to her so much. She is a wonder.

A marvel.

A Godsend.

It’s time to sleep…I suppose I’ll write more when the mood strikes.

He walked past the couch to the open window, and held up the drooping stalk of a moss-rose, looking down at the dainty blend of crimson and green. It was a new phase of his character to me, for I had never before seen him show any keen interest in natural objects.

“There is nothing in which deduction is so necessary as in religion,” said he, leaning with his back against the shutters. “It can be built up as an exact science by the reasoner. Our highest assurance of the goodness of Providence seems to me to rest in the flowers. All other things, our powers our desires, our food, are all really necessary for our existence in the first instance. But this rose is an extra. Its smell and its color are an embellishment of life, not a condition of it. It is only goodness which gives extras, and so I say again that we have much to hope from the flowers.”

“The Naval Treaty,” from The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

I’m looking for an orphanage
I’m looking for a bridge I can’t burn down
I don’t believe the emptiness
I’m looking for the Kingdom coming down

Everything is meaningless
I want more than simple cash can buy

Happy is a yuppie word
Happy is a yuppie word
Happy is a yuppie word
Happy is a yuppie word

Nothing is sound

“Happy Is A Yuppie Word,” from Nothing Is Sound by Switchfoot

It’s funny how you’ll occasionally try very hard to express a thought, only to later come across something that makes your point—or, at least, a part of it—for you, and does so perfectly. Such was the case as I read the last few chapters of A Tiny Step Away from Deepest Faith by Marjorie Corbman.

I wander through my world of icons, darkness and candles, memories and bittersweet faith, carrying my own cross, and it’s sometimes hard for me to remember who I used to be, who I am now. The upper-case letter “I” looks ugly—thin and rigid—to me, and the fact that I still don’t know who I am upsets me sometimes. I forget that what I believe isn’t here for me. All my searching for self met its end in the realization that none of it matters, that I can only really find myself in giving myself up, that everyone will realize who I am once I’ve become irrelevant to myself. I relish the paradox, but sometimes it won’t translate into reality, and sometimes I’m pulled down with my friends into the abyss of that perpetual question—”Who am I?”

Sometimes I end up in the right place. By my nightstand sits and icon of Christ as the Divine Wisdom, an icon that I got in New York not so long ago. The colors are striking, forceful. His steady hand, blessing, entices the eye to travel up further to His illuminated face—all gold and brown and white. The eyes make me stop dead in my tracks. A red circle, lines and Greek letters surround his head, all pushing down into the eyes, those eyes, which actually are rather small, though glowing.

“Who do you say that I am?” they seem to ask me, just as they asked the apostles. This is about Him, I see. This is not about me.

This entry comes courtesy of my friend PJ.  She posted it on facebook and was kind enough to allow a repost here.  Personally, this probably hits home a little more than I care to admit.

“easy does not enter into grown-up life.”

this is from one of my favorite movies (the weatherman), except it has never been one of my favorite quotes. probably because i prefer for things to be easy…and also i prefer to not be a grown-up.

i caught a little glimpse of reality today. this little glimpse told me that life is going to be hard. for an idealist, like myself, this is huge.

i see things how they are meant to be, how they should be, how i want them to be. the only challenges i face are in dealing with the discrepancies between reality and the ideal. but i always assume that one day, everything will end up just fine. when the idealistic dream comes true, i won’t be frustrated anymore. and then everything will be honky-dory…because that is the way things work.

it so happens that this is not the case. people are complicated. relationships are complicated. love and commitment are complicated. we are tainted and impure. hurtful. imperfect. messy.

messy is a good word.

i guess i’ve always been so idealistic that i’ve never been ok with messing up. i’ve always been pretty hard on myself and the people around me. i have never been one to hold people with different morals and beliefs to the same standards i hold myself to. but with people i’m really close to, who follow the same God i do…well, i’ve never been very comfortable with them making mistakes that really hurt people–whether it be themselves or the people around them. i am not saying that i am intolerant. i am just saying that i am uncomfortable. and i am not saying that i am uncomfortable only with other people. i am uncomfortable mostly with myself.

mistakes, shortcomings, and insecurities leave me squirming in my seat. i am always thinking “this is not the way it was supposed to be.” this not how God intended it. or…if i am being honest…this is not how i intended it. i intended for things to be more perfect. or maybe…just a little easier?

easy does not enter into grown-up life. “this is not the way it was supposed to be” becomes “this is the way it is.” life is not a math problem with a clear-cut solution, or simply waiting for a dream to come true. life is dirty. sometimes you have to dig through trash. sometimes diamonds need refining.

i need to learn that this is ok. that real people with real hearts are going to be messy. that things are not always going to make sense. they are going to be confusing. and hard. and i will have to work. and be hurt. and love. and disappoint others. and forgive. and disappoint God. and love some more. and not wait for some easy mess-free ending because sometimes the best things are raw.

raw is also a good word.

that is how i feel my life is. it’s not the ideal in waiting. it’s raw and it’s messy…right now. and it will be even more so in the future.

i can love fiercely and still be sick with hurt. i can hope like i have never hoped before and then be crushed at the thought of hope fleeting. when i was thinking about how not easy it is to be in pursuit of something so out of reach, it dawned on me that maybe this is a little like what Jesus feels like. while He is not messy himself, he sure loves a messy bunch of people. and he still passionately pursues us with all that he has. even when we mess up and make him sick with hurt. his love is surely not an easy love, as he went through the greatest torture to commit.

i am learning to expect that nothing in my own life worth loving will come without its fair share of challenges. “easy does it” has never been true…and that’s really not a bad thing.

Right now, I’m in between tests on a day of marathon testing. For those keeping score, that’s roughly 26 miles of tests. 🙂 I’ve two down, two to go.  The class I’m taking them for winds up today, and it is my final class to bring to a close here at Mountain State University in WV. (Though, sadly, I’m not done with college just yet). This last week has been one of the toughest in a long long time.  But I have faith and I pray that it will shape me more into who I should be. 


words/music by Jon and Tim Foreman

Sunshine, won’t you be my mother
Sunshine, come and help me sing
My heart is darker than these oceans
My heart is frozen underneath

We are
Crooked souls trying to stay up straight
Dry eyes in the pouring rain,
When the shadow proves the sunshine,
the shadow proves the sunshine
Two scared little run aways
Hold fast till the break of daylight where,
The shadow proves the sunshine,
The shadow proves the sunshine

O, Lord, why did you forsake me?
O, Lord, don’t be far away (away)
Storm clouds gathering beside me
Please Lord, don’t look the other way

I’m a
Crooked soul trying to stay up straight
Dry eyes in the pouring rain
Where the shadow proves the sunshine,
the shadow proves the sunshine
Two scared little run aways
Hold fast till the break of daylight where,
The shadow proves the sunshine,
The shadow proves the sunshine

Yeah, yeah
Shine on me
Yeah, yeah
Shine on me
Yeah, yeah
Shine on me

Shine on me,
Let my shadows prove the sunshine