Entries with tag christian .

Abducted Syrian Bishops Serve as Models of Christian Service

This month marked four years since two Christian hierarchs were abducted at gunpoint in Syria. While Metropolitan Paul of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and Bishop John, the Syriac Orthodox bishop of Aleppo, were en route from Antioch to Aleppo, they were stopped by unknown assailants and taken hostage. The deacon driving their car was shot and killed.

The bishops’ whereabouts and status remain unknown. As Syria has been embroiled in a devastatingly violent and multifaceted civil war since 2011, various factions immediately blamed each other for the abductions.

The extended disappearance of the bishops has had a marked and heart-rending effect on the Christian population both in Syria and around the world. Both men were known as prominent and dedicated clerics in their communities.

And there’s one more important detail to the story that I haven’t mentioned yet.

The bishops were returning from a humanitarian mission when they were kidnapped.

In today’s charged political climate, much of the conversation here in the United States and in Europe centers on security over humanity and dignity. Civil authorities endlessly debate the merits of offering humanitarian aid and of safe haven in our own communities, particularly to the victims of violence in the Middle East.

Metropolitan Paul and Bishop John, both residents of Aleppo, probably knew better than anybody how dangerous it was to venture out past their front gates and into the world. And yet they did it anyway.

They took their Christian role as servants very seriously, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).

The bishops could easily have decided that it would have been too risky to travel. They could very well have remained secure in their homes, offices and cathedrals.

But they didn’t. They went out into the world to serve.

As Christians, our ambition is to follow the example of Jesus; to live a Life in Christ.

And though we still do not know where Meropolitan Paul and Bishop John are, their service reminds us that our individual and collective potential for helping others is far greater than the power of death.

Indeed, the anniversary of their abduction during this Paschal season emphasizes the power of Christ in the world. Christians, after all, are not deterred by danger; we go out into the world and open the doors to our communities in service for many.

Andrew Romanov is a Fellow at the U.N. for the Department of Inter-Orthodox, Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America (un.goarch.org).

The Archdiocese is an accredited Non-Governmental Organization at the United Nations through the Department of Public Information (UN DPI) and has General Consultative Status under the Economic and Social Council of the UN (ECOSOC). It has been actively working at the United Nations for 30 years.

 

Life Lessons from "This Is Us" - Pop Culture Espresso Shots

My wife and I are huge fans of NBC’s new show, This is Us. We love it so much, that we are even willing to admit that Mandy Moore isn’t annoying in this particular show. Seriously. She isn’t.

The show follows a family of five. Jack and Rebecca Pearson are the parents of three triplets, two biological (Kevin and Kate) and one adopted (Randall). This is Us does something unique with its storytelling, however, by splitting the narrative into two timelines. One focuses on the life of the family when the kids were children (usually when they are 8 years old), while the other focuses on the lives of kids as adults, after Jack has died and Rebecca has remarried.

Each episode is full of joy, pain, struggle, and reality as we follow these people’s lives and come to understand the unique issues that each faces. Almost every episode has made me cry at some point. Of course, it really isn’t too hard to make me cry, but still, I think it’s worth noting the emotional honesty of This is Us.

Even though Jack Pearson is dead in the timeline that follows the adult Pearson children, it is clear that he has made an indelible mark on his family. They love their father, and his family has been shaped by his optimism, his humor, and above all else, his utter dedication to them.

In the Thanksgiving episode, we learn that the Pearsons annually recreate their best Thanksgiving, which involved a 3.4 mile hike (to a convenience store), roasting hot dogs against an open furnace flame, and of course, a pilgrim’s hat. Behind each of these traditions is Jack’s unwavering faithfulness to his family, his devotion to ensuring that they are seen, loved, and cared for.

As a father myself now, watching this show resonates with me deeply. I look at how Jack has shaped his family’s life, and I can’t help but hope and pray that my children remember me as fondly as his remember him.

I hope that I leave a mark on my kids.

Jack’s mark, however, is not necessarily based in anything that he says. He doesn’t just have the right words at the right time for his kids, but rather, his impact is based on who he is. It is not so much the issue of Jack’s parenting, but rather it is the issue of Jack’s character.

I’ve talked with my wife a whole lot about how I want our girls to know and love the Lord, how I want them to feel brave and resilient, to have self-control and to be humble. We’ve discussed how we want them to stand up for goodness and truth but to be kind and merciful.

In watching This is Us, however, I increasingly realize that if I am to have any hope of my children learning these lessons from me, it has to be because I demonstrate them myself. You can’t share what you don’t have.

If I wish my children to know and love the Lord, then I must decide today that I am going to relentlessly pursue knowledge of and love for the Lord myself. If I want them to be tender, compassionate and merciful, then I need to demonstrate tenderness, compassion, and mercy in my dealings with them.

Above all else, This is Us has made me look at my own life and my own heart and realize how desperately I need to work on orienting myself toward Christ before I even dream of having an impact on my children. Both parenting and following the Lord are not just about saying the right words, but rather they must be about becoming the kind of person who has the right words instinctively, as a second nature.

St. Seraphim of Sarov is frequently quoted for saying, “Acquire the Spirit of peace, and a thousand around you will be saved.” I guess “a thousand” must start in my own home, with my own wife and my own children. But even before them, it starts with me, with my own acquiring the Spirit of peace.

This Nativity fast has been trying (and not because of the food). I have continually been presented with opportunities to see myself clearly, to admit that I’m quickly frustrated and extremely defensive/offensive when people disagree with me. It sucks.

But if I’m going to teach my children to repent, it means I’m going to have to model repentance in my own life, it means that I’m going to have to see myself clearly, that I’m going to have to model self-understanding and then the humility it takes to admit that I was wrong.

This is Us has been a fantastic show. It has given me an image for the kind of husband and father I want to be. Jack Pearson isn’t without his faults, but he is committed to his family, and that’s a commitment he passes on to his family.

My hope and prayer is that I, too, can become a man of commitment, first to the Lord and then to my family. Instead of just talking to my kids about Jesus, I’ll be able to talk to them as someone who knows Him, trusting that His grace will fill my words and kindle the fire of love for Him in their own hearts too.

Photo credits: Depositphotos

Christian is a Young Adult Ministries Coordinator for Y2AM. He is a husband, father, coffee drinker, sandal wearer, podcaster, and CrossFitter. Christian has his first MA from Azusa Pacific University in Marriage and Family Therapy and a second MA in Children, Youth, and Family Ministry from Luther Seminary. Christian and his family live in Phoenix, Arizona.

______________

For more on this idea, check out this episode of The Trench:

 
 

St. Nicholas and the Spirit of Charity and Giving

 

St. Nicholas is undoubtedly one of the most well-known and beloved Christian saints. Universally venerated among traditional Christian denominations, one would be hard pressed to find a city that doesn’t have a church named after the 4th-century Bishop of Myra.

 

He is known as Nicholas the Wonderworker because of the many miracles and stories attributed to him both during his life and after his repose.

 

One of the greatest was when St. Nicholas interceded on behalf of three innocent men condemned to death by a corrupt governor. He is said to have boldly went up to the executioner and took his sword, which was already suspended over the heads of the condemned. The governor, denounced by St. Nicholas for his wrongdoing, repented and begged for forgiveness.

 

Famously, St. Nicholas is also said to have aided a poor man who had three daughters but no dowry for them. At the time, remaining unmarried meant that the daughters would have fallen into lives of poverty and public ridicule, and so Nicholas decided to secretly help them. He went to their house under the cover of night and tossed three purses filled with gold coins through the window.

 

These are only two of the many great stories credited to St. Nicholas, but nearly all of them have to do with his devotion to charity and sacrifice.

 

Because of the saint’s habit of secret gift-giving, the diminutive “Saint Nick” is one of the many names given to Santa Claus, the legendary Western character who gives gifts to children on Christmas eve and is thought to be a combination of several figures, including the real St. Nicholas and several pagan winter characters.

 

As the weeks leading up to Christmas mark the proverbial “Season of Giving,” St. Nicholas serves as a reminder to embody a spirit of charity both during the holiday season and far beyond it.

 

Giving Tuesday” was exactly one week ago, a movement established as an international day of giving at the beginning of the Christmas and holiday season.

 

And in the last month, civil rights and anti-discrimination organizations have experienced an unprecedented increase in donations following the U.S. presidential election.

 

Once again, as it miraculously does every year, St. Nicholas’ famous spirit of charity and giving lives on during his feast day here and around the globe.

 

St. Nicholas the Wonderworker and Archbishop of Myra in Lycia is commemorated on Dec. 6.

 

Andrew Romanov is a Fellow at the U.N. for the Department of Inter-Orthodox, Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America (un.goarch.org).

 

The Archdiocese is an accredited Non-Governmental Organization at the United Nations through the Department of Public Information (UN DPI) and has General Consultative Status under the Economic and Social Council of the UN (ECOSOC). It has been actively working at the United Nations for 30 years.

 

Finding Ourselves Within Tradition - Pop Culture Espresso Shots

I recently binge-watched the ABC musical comedy, Galavant. The show begins when the show’s eponymous medieval knight’s ladylove, Madalena, is forced to marry the evil King Richard. As Sir Galavant rushes to her rescue, attempting to stop the wedding dramatically, Madalena tells the romantic Galavant that she actually is now choosing to marry Richard, largely because she desires to be wealthy, powerful, and live in a castle.

Distraught, Galavant turns to drink and becomes a has-been hero.

The story is thus about Galavant’s return to being a hero and his desire to win back the heart of Madalena and overthrow the King. Of course, I don’t want to give too much of it away as there is a lot of fun to be had, but I highly recommend it to anyone who might be amused by such thing.

The show itself is very clever. It is a lot of fun, heart-warming, and delightfully silly, full of dancing knights and the like. What is most enjoyable, however, is that this show has quite intentionally chosen to place itself within a long tradition of musicals and other knightly stories.

Without taking itself seriously (whatsoever), the show makes unapologetic references to all kinds of stories: West Side Story, Les Miserables, The Princess Bride, Lord of the Rings, and Game of Thrones to name only a few. By doing this, the show has no pretense at all about being some kind of unique story, unique offering to the world of television, musicals, or medieval lore.

But in so doing, it actually emerges triumphantly as an entirely original and marvelously enjoyable show. It borrows (and some times flat out steals) from other stories, but Galavant nonetheless succeeds not only as an entertaining way to spend half-an-hour, but also as another comedy, musical, and knightly tale.

As I reflected on this, I considered the ending of C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity, in which he writes, “In literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it.”[1]

Here, in Galavant, this proved to be entirely true. Galavant not only didn’t seek to make itself unique, it intentionally paid homage to the other stories it was almost exactly like. In so doing, it showed itself to be entirely original.

I think this rings true with our lives as well. Unfortunately, we so often spend our energy trying to be unique individuals, trying to express ourselves or live authentically. We don’t want to be “fake,” so we go to extensive lengths in order to “live our own truth.”

Usually, this involves deciding what kind of person we want to be, and then doing the things that kind of person would do, and so:

We shop at Abercrombie.

We only eat organic.

We start CrossFit and then never stop talking about it.

Yet a great irony occurs here: that by trying to be unique we actually end up being just like everyone else. We are not truly being ourselves, we are buying ourselves from people who want to sell our selves to us.

In trying to find ourselves, we lose ourselves – I think Jesus may have said something like that (Matt. 16:25).

Rather, instead of just trying to express ourselves, trying to be unique and individual, if we saw ourselves as being placed within a larger tradition of saints and sinners, people who have been brought to new life in Christ, we would see that we, too, might find a way to newness of life.

This is why it’s amazing to note that there have been all kinds of saints: doctors, lawyers, warriors, teenagers, married, monks…really, the difference among the followers of Christ is far and wide, while those of us who pursue authenticity according to our own desires, according to what we think makes us original end up looking like carbon copies of one another.

We may feel that following Christ is “boring,” or something that we resist because we don’t want to be told what to do. But if we seek originality by our own judgments, we are still likely to fail to achieve uniqueness as we are simply being branded by companies that want our money.

If we follow Christ, however, if we lose ourselves by following Him, by throwing it all in and giving ourselves to the long tradition of those who have come before us, we may be utterly delighted when we discover that by giving ourselves away in service, we find who we really are: persons made to reveal the image of God uniquely.

And since I’ve tried over and over again to write a brilliant (original) conclusion to this and have continually failed, I’ll let C.S. Lewis close for me:

Submit to death, death of your ambitions and favourite wishes every day and death of your whole body in the end: submit with every fibre of your being, and you will find eternal life. Keep back nothing. Nothing that you have not given away will really be yours. Nothing in you that has not died will ever be raised from the dead. Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in.[2]

[1] C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1980), p. 226.

[2] Ibid., p. 227.

 

Photo Credits: Depositphotos

 

 

Christian is a Young Adult Ministries Coordinator for Y2AM. He is a husband, father, coffee drinker, sandal wearer, podcaster, and CrossFitter. Christian has his first MA from Azusa Pacific University in Marriage and Family Therapy and a second MA in Children, Youth, and Family Ministry from Luther Seminary. Christian and his family live in Phoenix, Arizona.

______________

That Time I Thought My Daughter Was Dying

I’ve lately been writing a lot about the need for courage in the face of death. A couple weeks ago, my own courage in the face of death was put to the test when, after hitting her head on a concrete floor, my beautiful 13-month-old baby girl passed out for roughly a minute.

Nothing could have prepared me for this, and I’m honestly still trying to make sense of it. It is every father’s nightmare.

It happened while my family and a bunch of our friends were out to lunch following the Divine Liturgy. Having just participated in the Lord’s Table, we extended our Eucharistic community through the lifting up of our lunch table.

My baby had just started walking a couple weeks prior, so she was still very new to the whole biped way of life (aren’t we all?). I was walking right behind her, half-distracted by the goings-on of the restaurant as well as the Cubs game on television. She leaned up against a slick, vinyl bench, and down she went, smacking the back of her head square on the ground.

At this point, other than being scared and in pain, she seemed fine. Just a normal, albeit hard fall, I thought. She started crying, as one would expect, but as I picked her up and walked her to her mommy, she must have been unable to get a breath in the midst of her deep pain, which is when her eyes rolled back, and she passed out in my arms.

Even writing this now, I struggle to put the words down, horrified and fighting back tears as images of my infant daughter, limp and unconscious, run through my head.

I have never been more afraid than I was then.

I have never felt more vulnerable than I did at that moment.

I realized just how swiftly my “happiness” could be taken away from me and how fragile everything that I’m working to build for my family and myself really is.

Obviously, no parent wants to see their kid pass out, no parent wants to see their child die, and unfortunately, far too many parents have to go through such tragedy. I have several friends who have lost babies to miscarriage, SIDS, or some other fatal disease.

And after the fainting incident, I can honestly say that how these people found ways through the pain that I only momentarily was afraid of…well, it’s beyond me.

And I think that’s just the point. It is beyond any of us.

The only explanation I have is that somehow these parents who have lost their children believe, deep in their souls, that life is stronger than death. They bravely believe that Christ is stronger than death.

They must have a firm conviction that Christ truly has defeated death, or they are at least actively practicing this conviction, leaning into the discomfort, the pain, the tragedy of losing a child.

These courageous parents choose love and hope, trusting in Christ even when faced with the inescapable reality of death. These are people whom I wish to emulate.

Because the reality of our world is bleak.

It seems like almost every day that we see some news story about someone (or even a bunch of someones) dying far too soon and far too violently. Why do I think that I am impervious to the threat of having my own heart broken?

Death is coming for me and for my children. The only hope is Jesus Christ.

And I felt the need to have that hope, a need to trust the Christ is mightier than anything that could take my baby away from me. I felt the need for that hope when death came knocking at the door of my faith and the only answer that came was the hollow echo of nothingness.

I realized how truly, deeply afraid I am, how much I continually trust in myself to keep my family safe, to keep myself safe. But no matter how hard I try, no matter how much I convince myself that I can protect my children, the reality is that I can’t.

And that terrifies me.

So more than having a lesson or some kind of thesis with this blog post, I write it more as a confession. I write it to confess that I struggle, that my faith gets battered up against the cold, hard reality of death. Or rather, my lack of faith is exposed by the moments that terrify me, that truly deeply shake me to my core.

And I write it as a request because I know I’m not alone. That we can pray for one another that we can learn to hold each other close as we lift each other up to the Lord Jesus Christ, the One in whom we must choose to hope daily, for He alone is the Resurrection and the Life.

Photo Credits:

Dark Path: Desositphotos

Jesus: Despositphotos

Christian is a Young Adult Ministries Coordinator for Y2AM. He is a husband, father, mover, shaker, coffee drinker, sandal wearer, and CrossFitter. Christian has his first MA from Azusa Pacific University in Marriage and Family Therapy and a second MA in Children, Youth, and Family Ministry from Luther Seminary. Christian and his family live in Phoenix, Arizona.

______________

 

— 5 Items per Page
Showing 1 - 5 of 6 results.
Sam Williams
Posts: 65
Stars: 0
Date: 10/10/17
Steven Christoforou
Posts: 27
Stars: 0
Date: 10/6/17
Dr. Alexandros K. Kyrou
Posts: 25
Stars: 10
Date: 10/3/17
Rev. Dr. Tony Vrame
Posts: 24
Stars: 1
Date: 9/29/17
Christian Gonzalez
Posts: 75
Stars: 8
Date: 9/20/17
Nicholas Anton
Posts: 5
Stars: 0
Date: 9/1/17
Andrew Calivas
Posts: 3
Stars: 0
Date: 8/22/17
Anthony Constantine Balouris
Posts: 9
Stars: 0
Date: 6/28/17
Maria Pappas
Posts: 25
Stars: 0
Date: 5/12/17
Andrew Romanov
Posts: 8
Stars: 0
Date: 4/27/17