Recurring Miracles (& Hiatus)

I grew up in a miracle-believing town. Tulsa, Oklahoma, was and still is a center of charismatic Christianity, which Merriam-Webster defines succinctly and accurately as “the religious movement that emphasizes the seeking of direct divine inspiration and extraordinary power (as of healing) given a Christian by the Holy Spirit.” Tulsa is the home of Oral Roberts University, Rhema Bible Institute, and many churches that actually schedule and promote healing services and expect…

More Scriptures I Never Memorized

In our last post I discussed the omission of the Church as a topic in Protestant Scripture memory systems. Before I became Orthodox, I never identified the lack of attention given to the Church as a problem. I didn’t think about the Church much at all except in personal terms—being connected to a local congregation and serving there—and in eschatological terms—someday every tribe, tongue, and nation will be worshiping before God’s throne…

The Scriptures I Never Memorized

I still remember the circle of padded chairs and the industrial carpeting  where our Wednesday night group met weekly for Scripture memory. I was a high school sophomore at the time, and our small gathering of teens met after Bible study. In our purses or backpacks we carried stacks of little 2×3” cards in protective blue vinyl holders—cards that helped us to “hide the word in our hearts,” as Psalm 119:11 instructed…

Behind the Icon Screen: The Journey of the Bread & the Wine

My husband Rob played guitar in a worship band for a small church plant that we had been attending. The little church, which focused on ministry to immigrants, was part of the charismatic Foursquare denomination, and we met on Sunday evenings in the sanctuary of a large, established church that was Evangelical Presbyterian. Soon Rob and I would discover Orthodoxy, but at the time we were all over the religious map in…

Behind the Icon Screen: Praying over the Vestments

Out of sight of the folks in the nave, the priest moves to the second pre-Matins service, the Vesting prayers. These prayers, recited as the clergy put on each article of their vestments, are all based in Scripture. Of course, we laypeople don’t need to worry about this sort of thing when we prepare for the work God has given us. Instead, St. Paul instructs us to put on spiritual armor. We’ll…

Behind the Icon Screen: The Service of Kairos

  I remember quite vividly the first Orthodox service I ever attended. It was a vespers service during Lent, on the Saturday evening before the Sunday of St. Mary of Egypt. I remember this detail because I was not expecting the image of a skeletal, white-haired woman on the icon stand.    I can’t remember a single psalm or prayer from that service. But one thing deeply affected me: the sense of…

Understanding the Ever-Changing Apostles Fast

This week we have entered one of the least known and possibly most widely ignored fasting seasons of the Orthodox Church: the Apostles Fast. It began on Monday. If you forgot about it, you’re probably not alone. Unless your priest and your church bulletin reminded you, nothing in our society signals us that another fasting season has arrived. One of the difficulties with the Apostles Fast is that its duration varies widely.…

The Pandemic Is Kinda Sorta Over. Have We Learned Anything?

My younger daughter and the other baristas were hard at work during the morning rush, pulling espresso shots and steaming milk. The coronavirus pandemic was continuing its relentless spread throughout the world, and her company began requiring everyone who entered its coffee shops to wear masks.    One day a regular customer entered the shop and was asked to put on a mask, and this formerly pleasant, friendly woman refused to comply.…

Attempting to Measure My Post-Lenten Spiritual Progress

Christ is risen! We’ve made it through the ascetic struggles of Great Lent and Holy Week, entering into the celebration of Pascha, Bright Week, and beyond. Whew! Done! Life moves on at its usual relentless pace. But now that we’re on the other side of our journey, what is the result? Are we any different? I always like to measure progress. It’s a very Western thing. We like data, we like numbers,…

A Basic Introduction to Iconography & the Icon of the Crucifixion

I remember sitting on a pew inside the small OCA church about 12 years ago, alone with my thoughts and my journal. And yet I wasn’t alone. On a midweek afternoon, I had come to the little parish to think and to pray, to make some sense of my jumbled thoughts by putting pen to paper. I could have journaled in a library or a coffee shop, but the church kept pulling…