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…

Little Plastic Cups and Motley Communion Experiences

At our Southern Baptist church, I knew “transubstantiation” was a non-starter. But did we perhaps believe in Martin Luther’s “consubstantiation,” the idea that the substance of the Body and Blood of Christ are present alongside the substance of the bread and wine…er, grape juice?

Smoke Signals: The Fragrance of Prayer for Church and Home

On a recent weekday I was walking from my church’s fellowship hall into the nave to light a jar candle and pray for a friend in need. My thoughts were pinging around as usual, and I wasn’t feeling particularly spiritual. But when I opened the door to the narthex, my heart registered a sacred truth well before my mind caught up: I had entered a holy place. The signal came not from…

Remembering the Cross, Again

Have you seen anyone recently with a golden electric chair hanging from a chain around his neck? How about an elegant, elderly woman showing off a diamond guillotine brooch on her dress? Or maybe you spotted a buffed-up guy at GNC, buying a protein supplement while wearing a sterling silver noose over his tight workout shirt.   No? Me neither. Even in our depraved modern world, instruments of violent death aren’t used…