To Believe the Truth

I have to confess as I begin this post that I find myself reaching for words. I reach for words to say something I know, but which is hard to express. To believe the truth is not the same thing as having a correct opinion – indeed the two have almost nothing to do with one another. And this is a great difficulty – for most of the things that we think…

The Cross and the Church

This weekend I have been in Memphis, Tennessee, at St. John Orthodox Church leading a retreat for their Church women. The topic of the retreat was “The Emptiness of God.” The following series of articles captures much of the thought that was offered this weekend (and thus a summary of my thoughts as I have made my way back home – it’s about a 400 mile trip each way). For me, these…

Why We Fast

This Sunday, November 15, marks the beginning of the Nativity Fast (40 days before Christmas). The following article offers some thoughts on the purpose of fasting. Fasting is not very alive and well in the Christian world. Much of that world has long lost any living connection with the historical memory of Christian fasting. It is as though they were Jews who heard there was such a thing as kosher and decided…

I Don’t Know About That

A hermit advised, “If someone speaks to you about a controversy, do not argue with him. If what he says makes sense, say, ‘Yes,’ If his comments are misguided, say, ‘I don’t know anything about that.’ If you refuse to dispute with his ideas, your mind will be at peace.” +++ There is an element of this story which makes many want to cry out, “Yes, but!” It is a story similar…

Wrong Turns and the Providence of God

The following is, in part, a response to a comment posted earlier today. It seemed worth sharing more prominently, since not everyone reads comments. These are some thoughts on the Providence of God and its work in our lives. I think there is absolutely such a thing as Providence (not that we have much of a clue as to what God’s plan is in our life). Rather Providence is the trust that…

Learning to Sin

This morning I had a chance in a conversation to remember Stanley Hauerwas with whom I studied in my time at Duke in the late 80’s (and early 90’s). This article begins with a reflection from a Hauerwas contention: “that sin is something you have to learn.” It is typical of his thought – startling statements that beg a question – followed by a frequently new insight. The insight of this piece…

Words from an Elder – And a Thought about Trees

I am sharing here a few sayings from the Elder Amphilochios of Patmos, someone whose life and teachings I have heard spoken of before by Metropolitian Kallistos of Diocleia (Kallistos Ware). They are worth savoring. The quotes come from the volume Precious Vessels of the Holy Spirit. I am especially fond of his attitude to trees. The leaves have almost reached their autumn peak here in East Tennessee and it would take a…

Not to Judge

In a monastery there were two remarkable brothers who soon merited to see the grace of God descend upon each other. Now one day it happened that one of them went out of the monastery on a Friday and saw someone who was eating in the morning, and he said to him, ‘Why are you eating at this hour on a Friday?’ Later there was the synaxis [assembly] as usual. Now his…

The Argument

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God. For many years, two hermits lived together without any conflict or disagreement. One suggested they have a quarrel to see how others live. The other answered, “I don’t know how to start a quarrel.” The first said, “Look, I’ll put this brick on the ground between us and claim it is mine. Then you insist it belongs to you.…

To Live Without Distraction

Abba Arsenius avoided discussion of the Scripture, even though he was an excellent expositor. He was also reluctant to write letters to anyone. When he attended public worship, he sat behind a pillar to prevent himself or others from being distracted. Writing as I do is a great distraction (sometimes for me, sometimes for others). To speak is also to offer a target (for criticism, for disagreement or worse). For a variety…