What’s wrong with being “Secular” anyway?

What’s wrong with being “secular”?

Take a moment to think about what you did yesterday. Did you get up to the morning news or the Today Show? Did you go to work? Hang out at the gym? What fast food did you eat recently, or did you meet someone at Starbucks or for a meal? Towards the end of the day, did you drive anywhere besides work? Use your cell phone? And finally, did you take a long hot shower and put up your feet to watch your favorite live or recorded TV show?

If any of this sounds familiar, then you have experienced the secular life. This is a life which is mostly YOU-centered. One in which you go about your daily routine using the time-saving technologies available and participating in the hustle and bustle of a modern life. We seem to be in such a hurry, and we have so many cool technologies, but what exactly are we saving our time for? K-cups and washing machines, and for what reason? Where does the time go?

Here’s a harder question for you: do you pray? Do you even consider God at any time throughout the day? Or, is your attempt at prayer a failed one as you lay your head on your pillow and fall into a minor coma every night? If you DO pray, then how many “please provides” and “please gives” are in your prayer as opposed to the “forgives” and “have mercies”?

Now you’re probably defensive. Are you thinking of all the many ways you can defend this way of life?

“So what if I’m ‘SECULAR’? I work!” may be your natural response, or perhaps it’s more like,

“Well, I’m a modern person in a modern world. I’m no nun!”,

“Not EVERYONE can be a monk!”

Sound familiar? You are not alone. Most of us think that the ascetic life is unattainable in our realities.

True, we can’t all be called to the ascetic life in the same way monks and nuns are. And, honestly, why would anyone try NOT to be secular? Is avoiding secularism even possible in this day and age? It is, after all, ALL we know as modern Americans, am I right?

But is it all we know? As Orthodox Christians, we have amazing examples of the Christian life to draw upon. Let’s just stop for a moment to think about what Orthodox Christianity really is:

—Orthodox Christianity is an ALL-ENCOMPASSING religion. This means it should permeate ALL areas of life. This is Biblical. This is what the Church teaches. This is what Christian martyrs die for. It’s not just about Sunday mornings. It’s a way of life.

—Orthodox Christianity is old-fashioned. Christianity in its truest form seems old-fashioned to the modern mind. Complete with the clear RIGHTS and WRONGS that our grandparents would have taught us. Christianity hasn’t changed. Mankind hasn’t changed. God doesn’t change. So why do we think the things that USED to apply to the Christian life do not apply to us today? Fast? You mean, NO WATER before Church, no McDonald’s for 40 days?! Ludicrous. Who does that nowadays?

—Orthodox Christianity predates modern addictions, but I’m sure early Christians had their addictions too. While the Apostle Paul did not have a smart phone, distractions have always been around. Phones have changed our collective psyche, and its temptations are effective at providing alternatives to a life of reflection and quiet. Look around church next Sunday and notice how many people glance at their phones, or sadly, just give the smart phone to the toddler to keep him quiet throughout the service. Why do people do this? Because we are all on schedules! We can’t sit still for more than three minutes. What if some person needs to contact me? What if I MISS something important (i.e. something MORE important than the church service I’m attending at this moment in time). That, and we are a culture of entertainment and instant gratification. We are a generation of addicts.

—Orthodox Christianity is not to be confused with the practices of the general population. Ask Abraham. Ask Jonah. Ask Ruth. Faith always comes at a cost. Beware of being too “NORMAL”. Never in the history of Christianity have Christians eagerly sought to be “part of the crowd” (shout out to those martyrs who flatly refused to render their pinch of incense to Caesar). Being anti-abortion, anti-same sex marriage, and anti-all inclusive will become harder and harder. Be ready.

Finally, remember that the point of not being secular is to point people to Christ. Nothing else matters. No one is more important. No thing can stand between YOU and GOD. Not job, not friends, not even family. If God is the most important focus in your life, everyone else will eventually accept their place. Give your kids to God; He owns them anyway. Christians are NOT to be lost in the secular culture.

SO, WHAT ARE CHRISTIANS TO DO TO AVOID THE SECULAR LIFE?

–Pray. Pray often. Pray aloud. Pray privately. Sing prayers. Pray in the shower and everywhere you go. Learn to use a prayer rope and learn to pray the “JESUS” prayer. Why? Because when you talk to God all the time, it becomes habit. Eventually, it will become who you are and you will seek His company often.

–Study. Read the Bible. Read books about the Bible. Read about people who pray. Read about the saints and martyrs. Why? Because these things strengthen us. They make us realize that we are NEVER alone in this struggle. They show us what is required of us now and what will be required of us later.

–Let life pass you by. When things conflict with church, fasts, feasts, and your Christian walk, it is time to walk away. Do not make excuses; the world doesn’t accept them anyway. This is, by far, one of the hardest parts of being a modern Christian.

–Dare to be defiant. Don’t forget that it was most often the defiance of the saints that led others to salvation. Be ready to be the “ONLY ONE” who objects.

–Don’t fall for the tricks of the world. Life will encroach. Coaches will scream at your kids for missing Sunday games. Jobs will pass you by. Opportunities will be lost. People will roll their eyes at you and call you “silly” and “religious fanatic”. Let them. Do not care. Find new friends. Get another job.

–Guard your kids. Recognize the dangers. Game of Thrones, had it been on prime time 20 years ago, would have been considered soft porn. If it’s popular, then it’s dangerous. Set limits to technology and keep up your guard. Try to recognize sin disguised as pop culture. Be ready for your kids to call you “old”; they are enslaved to the culture.

–Expect your children to be worldly. If you hand them computers that fit in their pockets, then you must expect them to know more than you think they know. About everything. Innocence is lost early. Have hard conversations with them. The kind of honesty required is surprising; don’t be timid. Realize that you too can fall victim to the culture.

Finally, know that everything in this life is preparation for another, better life. Keep your focus and guard your priorities. At the end of it all, what we want is a “Christian ending to our lives”.

You will not be “secular” when you willingly reject the culture of modern society. When you recognize the traps that are laid before you, and when you strive to keep The Kingdom of God in your sights. You will know that you are living rightly when you face struggle and the contempt of this world. This is OK; it just means that you are correctly focused and doing life the right way! Embrace the “weirdness” of being ORTHODOX ON PURPOSE.

Ol’ Army

Whoop 17 barn

If you know me at all, you know that I’m an Aggie. This means I attended Texas A&M University and totally “drank the Aggie Kool-aid”.  Older Aggies refer to their days in the Corps of Cadets as “Ol’ Army”.  This is the idea that, the old ways were the right ways, and the “Ol’ Army days” were a time when everything was good in the world. Never mind those “New Army” rules since obviously the next generation had it much easier than we did. Did the class of ’93 even do push-ups? Unlikely.

Sadly, and perhaps like an Ol’ Ag, I have begun to relate this phenomena to my life in the Church. To clarify, I think you will understand what I’m talking about if you have ever thought something like:

“WOW! My mother would have NEVER let me run around in church like that!”

or,

“No way my parents would have EVER let ME wear that!”

or my personal favorite,

“Gee. Can we not text all during church? Please?”

You get the point.

At what point in our lives do we look around and decide that the old ways were the BEST ways?  And why exactly do the rules, as we remember them, deserve to be followed still? Today, I found myself thinking about the “nones” or the millennial generation (from about 18-30 yrs old). Our church has a handful of members in this age group. These are the kids that go off to college somewhere and who often end up refusing to claim a religious affiliation later in life; hence, the “NONE” in the box marked religious preference. There are a lot out there, and their thinking is a lot different than mine.

It then dawned on me, THIS is my kids’ generation. My own children walk among the “nones”.

I have two children in college, so this issue is dear to my heart. I have to wonder, WHY would someone search for Orthodoxy? Why would a 20-something enter into the Orthodox Church (or any other church for that matter) when there are so many easier options? Once we consider that, then what role do we older folks play in their inclusion in the Church? Do young people reject Orthodox Christianity because there are just too many “rules”?  The irony is, the longer one is Orthodox, the more one begins to crave and appreciate “the rules”. Nothing the Church does is aimless, and the more mature one becomes as a Christian, the more the life of the Church becomes one’s own. But this is not something that can be forced, so how exactly can you relate that to someone who cannot understand why the Orthodox Church rejects so many of the ideas that are accepted as normal by most even while still in high school?

There is certainly some form of chronological snobbery on both sides of the aisle. Me, because I expect certain behaviors from younger people, and them, because they believe my generation is too “Ol’ Army” to be open-minded. I admit, the idea that there are no such things as “Ladies’ Rooms” at Starbucks still irks me.

There is a part of me that knows that when people are seeking truth that they will seek it until they find, well, something. When they find our little church, what will my role be? How will I receive them? Could my behavior at Greek Fest 2018 affect someone’s salvation? The answer: yes, of course it could.

My goal for this week: I need to find out what Ol’ Army ideas have value and which ones I keep simply due to my inability to adapt. I want to become more able to speak “None”.  I will pray for patience and humility as I continue to realize my many imperfections and strive to love the hard to love.

 

How or why did the “Bible Answer Man” finally find his answers?

Christ is Risen!

It’s been exactly one year since I posted on this blog. I know what you’re thinking. Here’s the skinny, I simply have had no life. Two college kids, an elderly father with dementia, church, work etc. etc. So, long story short. I’m baaaackk!

Welcome “BACK” to my forum for ladies who want to have some serious and not-so-serious church-related discussions.

Let’s just get on with it shall we?

Recently, a popular protestant author, Hank Hanegraaff, converted to the Greek Orthodox Church. This has lots of folks worked up, and I’ve seen lots of posts about both sides of his conversion. Interesting. It makes me wonder what most people think about us Orthodox Christians. As a former Southern Baptist, I think I understand most of the rhetoric, but what are your thoughts?

Myrrh, women, and selfless service

MATTHEW 28:

Jesus Has Risen

28 After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.

There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.

The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.”

So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”

THOUGHTS?

This passage always gets to me. How would that be? How is it to watch someone you love be horribly murdered, then take the little money you have and invest it in expensive ointment (for a dead body), and then get up at o’dark-thirty and walk to the tomb where you will encounter who-knows-how-many scary soldiers. There you will see the body of someone dear to you, and then anoint a corpse with oil. I can’t imagine the horror of it all. Women were tough back then.

This whole event strikes me as an act of complete, selfless, and unconditional love. Wow. I wonder just how much of this kind of love I show on a daily basis? I wonder sometimes what the conversation would have been like between these women? Did they even sleep the night before? My thought for the day is that it is interesting that so many Orthodox women fail to see the importance of their roles in the Church. We should remember that the first people to hear the GOOD NEWS were women. God appreciates this kind of service that only women seem to do, and we should be the kind of servants that give of their time, energies, and show the love of Christ to even those who cannot appreciate it. Let’s take the Myrrh-bearing women and apply it to our daily walk.+

 

 

Keep it simple…so I will remember it…

I am a khouria, a mother of three, a high school teacher, a scout leader, a Civil Air Patrol member, a music instructor and a daughter to a father with dementia. I have about 5 minutes to myself a week, and I would like them to count. This is why I started this blog.

If you are anything like me (and I’m guessing you are!) then you have a zillion things going at all times. Usually, my brain can manage to focus on a short message, or ponder a Bible verse as I go through the day, so I like short messages. Sometimes the little things can lead to big revelations, so most of my posts will be short and to the point.

My vision for this forum is for Orthodox women, moms, students, Khourias, Presbyteras, Matushkas, bake-sale helpers, and those who just want some worthwhile conversation to have a place to find encouragement and fellowship among other Orthodox ladies.

There are only 3 simple ground rules:

Let’s keep those posts positive!

No church politics please. Christ forgives and so do I.

Be kind.

 

Welcome to Khouria’s Corner!

My favorite verse:

Proverbs 3:5-6

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths.