Contemplatives in Confinement: Be Careful What You Pray For

Nothing, whether it is good or bad, happens to a person by blind chance. There is a provident God who steers the affairs of the world, and with each one of us there is a Guardian who does not miss anything, and whose watchfulness never relaxes or grows weak. — St. Isaac the Syrian Possibly my favorite book in C.S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia series is The Silver Chair. In this…

Contemplatives in Confinement: Where Did My Digital Minimalism Go?

I’d been behind on many things, including my biweekly blog. Then restaurants and gyms closed, church services were cancelled for the foreseeable future, and everyone has become more isolated and homebound to varying degrees. I’m wrestling with what all of this means in the context of Great Lent. So, I decided to publish more frequent posts about observing Lent in our new circumstances. I chose “Contemplatives in Confinement” as a goal for…

Traveling the HOV Lane during Lent

I still remember clearly that feeling from 12 years ago, as I was driving on I-25 through Denver. Easter was on the horizon, and I wanted to do something about it. My church didn’t really observe liturgical seasons, and I knew nothing about Orthodox Christianity. (Isn’t that an Eastern European form of Catholicism?) Yet I still had a strong urge to observe Lent in some way. The problem was, I didn’t know…

Extreme Prep: The Long Triodion Warm-Up for Lent

Every act of physical hardship requires preparation. Nobody of right mind sets out to run the New York Marathon without serious endurance training. Even for a shorter race, to qualify for one of the early waves in the BOLDERBoulder 10K, a runner must show proof of the ability to run it in less than an oddly specific 68 minutes. I’m in no danger of running anywhere unless a bear is chasing me,…

Red-Letter Christians and the Gospel Book

A while ago I had some Evangelical friends who referred to themselves as “red-letter Christians.” The term, which seems to be an exclusively Protestant thing, refers to editions of the Bible that print Jesus’ words in red, leaving the rest of the text is in the usual black. Although I never described myself as a red-letter Christian, I liked the concept of focusing on obedience to Jesus’ teachings rather than on various…

My Private Switzerland of the Mind

As the new calendar year begins, I find myself reflecting on the things I allow into my mind—through images and reading, as well as the thoughts that tempt and assault me. My musings on this subject are a direct result of a month-long “digital fast” that my husband Rob and I began in mid-December. The idea had been bubbling in the back of my mind since last summer’s Ancient Faith Writing &…

Finding Christ in a Blue Christmas

One of the most familiar benedictions of the Christmas season is the angelic message delivered to the shepherds outside of Bethlehem: Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men! (Luke 2:13–14)   We gaze fondly at the shepherds in family creches and in Nativity icons, and that ethereal peace feels holy and poetic—a heavenly ideal. But on a personal level, where we work out our salvation in…

By Twinkle Lights We Shall See Light

As Christmas looms on the calendar I indulge in my annual pre-season rant, grumbling about mindless consumerism, cheap sentimentality, and society-driven busyness. Bah, humbug. But when the first Christmas lights sparkle in the winter darkness, my cynicism vanishes. Colored lights, white lights, C9s and C7s, blinking or steady, thousands upon thousands of twinkle lights. Oh, the magic of it all. Especially on a dark and bitterly cold December night, the glowing trees…

Slouching Towards Bethlehem

As predictable as a pile of unwanted catalogs in my mailbox, November brought with it an ad for a community “Holiday Celebration.” Which holiday? Is it possible that my Denver suburb will be celebrating Pancha Ganapati, the five-day Hindu festival in December honoring Ganesha? Possible, but unlikely. A choir probably will not be singing pagan Yule or Saturnalia songs at the event, although they might devote a tune to Hanukkah amid the…

A Family of Faith, Spiritual and Real

A few years ago my friend and her family were received into the Orthodox Church. When our priest prayed for the Luceros they did not stand by themselves. In fact, if they wanted to join the Church on their own, they would not be allowed, because the Church is not a gathering of individuals; it is a Eucharistic community. In a beautiful practice birthed in the ancient wisdom of the Church, each…