Entries with tag faith .

Yes, I Read *The Benedict Option*

Recently, one of my friends read Rod Dreher’s The Benedict Option and strongly suggested that I do likewise. I was a bit hesitant, to be sure, feeling like I was about to be inundated with political lingo and reasons that the Religious Conservative Right was under siege from the Secular Liberal Left, and frankly - ain’t nobody got time for that.

I have enough problems. I thought. I don’t need to hear all the bad news about how the Church is under attack. And so I wrote it off.

Then I learned that many people I love and respect have been wrestling through Dreher’s work, and so I suddenly felt that perhaps it was time that I give it a go, and so I decided to follow suite, and bought The Benedict Option on Audible.

While a review of Dreher’s book is beyond the scope of this post, I can say that my time with The Benedict Option has awakened something within me: a longing for a truly Christian community. I want to be a part of something bigger than myself, a part of a group of people that are committed to living out the virtues and struggles of the Christian life together.

I think one of the biggest problems I face in my own Christian life is that of isolation. I frequently feel like my spirituality is something that I’m responsible for muscling through on my own, and so I despair. I feel lonely in my striving to follow Christ, and it becomes all too easy to let myself off the hook when it comes to the struggle that is inherent in learning to be a disciple of Christ, of learning to deny myself, take up the cross, and follow Him.

I know that the Church exists as a rampart of faith, a place where we can shore up courage as we learn to battle the passions together, but functionally, it doesn’t really seem like that. For me, it often feels more like a weekly gathering of like-minded people who take refuge in being kind-of-like one another. In part, this is due to the fact that so many of us live so far from our parishes that establishing any kind of day-in-day-out rhythm of life is simply impossible. So each Sunday we come together and return to our individual huts where we are responsible for holding on for another seven days. And frankly, this is simply getting tiring for me.

It’s not that I don’t believe. It’s just that I don’t have the strength to act like it on my own. And so, as I’m reading The Benedict Option, I find myself longing for a community of faith, a community that is dedicated to the teaching of Christ, committed to living out what it is to be a disciple of the Lord.

I don’t mean this as laziness on my part. It’s not that I don’t want to do it on my own. It’s just that I can’t. I get too weighed down by the demands of my daily life: waking up in the middle of the night to a crying baby, waking up again to the demands of a hungry toddler, needing to get ready for work, maintaining a caseload, feeling guilty about not making it to the gym more, and amidst all this, trying to be the perfect husband who helps out around the house as much as possible while having a keen financial plan that will allow us to make a down payment on a house in a year...well, it’s just a lot. Then when someone tells me that I have to say my prayers, spend an hour in silence, and prepare for confession...honestly, those just seem like more things on top of an already very long to-do list.

Again, it’s not that I don’t want to do these things; I simply don’t have the energy on my own.

But I have this imagination that if I were part of a community, a real community of Orthodox Christians where our kids played together after school and we gathered together for evening prayers or reader’s vespers on the regular, somehow this would make it all feel more manageable.

I’m just tired. I’m tired of believing on my own. I’m tired of feeling like I have to keep my head above water by my own effort. I understand that this is an essential component of being a disciple, but it cannot be the entirety of it. If the monks are a part of a community that is committed to prayer as a way of life and the central grounding point of their life together; why shouldn’t lay people in the world want the same thing?

And so, I think I’m going to make this my quest in the next year or so. I want to make an intentional effort to build a community of Christians committed to living out the Gospel. I don’t mean that I simply want more “church events.” I want the Church, the assembled body of believers to be the center of my life so that I may continue to strive to draw near to the Lord with the fear of God, in faith and in love.

Christian is a Young Adult Ministries Coordinator for Y2AM. He is a husband, father, coffee drinker, sandal wearer, podcaster, homebrewer, and CrossFitter. Christian has an MA in Children, Youth, and Family Ministry from Luther Seminary and is a Licensed Associate Marriage and Family Therapist. Christian and his family live in Phoenix, Arizona.

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Dancing Anxiously at Life's Circumference

 

The last couple weeks have been incredibly stressful to me for a number of reasons, but the most pressing one for me right now is the fact that on Friday, I am slated to take the National Marriage and Family Therapy Licensing Exam.

And I’m feeling dreadfully unprepared for it.

I’ve been spending hours on hours studying, taking (and failing) practice quizzes and exams. What’s more, it has been a two-and-a-half year journey to this point since I moved to Arizona as the requirements for licensure are different in Arizona than they were in California.

I’ve had to jump through all kinds of hoops, gain a lot more hours of clinical practice, take a few different classes, compile a ton of paperwork, and pay thousands of dollars more to get to this point.

Needless to say: there is a lot riding on this test.

There is so much wrapped into this for me that I actually can’t really think about or do much else with my time. I feel anxious. I feel dumb when I fail the practice tests.

I just feel overwhelmed by the possibility of not passing this exam.

Sadly, this test is at the center of my life right now.

Or rather, I’m dancing around on the circumference of my life, and neglecting to dwell in the True Center: Christ.

So much of what I’m putting meaning into right now is leading up to a four-hour window in which I will either leave being able to practice Marriage and Family Therapy or I will leave having to retake the exam and try again. Very little effort has gone into seeking the Lord, trusting that I am His beloved child regardless of whether I pass this exam.

In reality, this test is minor. It is at the edges of my life, part of what I do, not constitutive of who I am.

Who I am is Christ’s. I belong to Christ. It is this identity that is at the center of my life, but I spend very little time dwelling in that center, trusting that the Lord has got a hold of me.

So I bounce around on the circumference of life, worrying about a test, or how loud the kids are, or how much work I have to do still, or how tired I am, blah blah blah. Being so distracted from the center of my life, it’s no wonder that my overall feeling is one of anxiety! I’m constantly trying to control things that come and go, that change with circumstances!

“Jesus Christ,” the Scriptures tell us, “is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Heb. 13:8). I find this particularly comforting because rarely are yesterday, today, and forever all the same. They are constantly changing, and each day holds its own set of battles and surprises. But amidst the chaos, amidst the storm, Jesus Christ remains steadfast.

My identity, my value, my life does not rest in whether or not I pass my MFT exam. I would like to, of course, but this isn’t where my life comes from. Rather, in the words of St. Paul, “the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20).

Christ alone is my life. Christ alone is the center, and it is that reality that allows me to navigate the storms on the circumference of my life. But it would also be nice if He helps me remember everything I’ve studied.

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.

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The Benefits of Time Travel

When I first heard about the app “Timehop,” I had really mixed feelings.

 

If you haven’t heard of it, it does what it sounds like: hops through time. It pools together a conglomerate of your social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.), and each year it will tell you what you’ve posted on these platforms on this day in years past. And if you haven’t heard of Timehop, I’m sure you’ve come into contact with the Facebook feature that does the same thing.

 

At first, I hated the idea of Timehop simply because I didn’t want to have everything that I’ve put up to be accessible in one place.

 

On one hand, I mean, it’s just embarrassing! Sometimes, it feels like I’m looking back on someone else’s life. Someone way different from me.

 

The message is clear: you can’t escape past you. But I’ve chosen to change my perspective on Timehop.

 

Because on the other hand, as embarrassing as it can be to see that I 0nc3 wr0t3 lyk dys, it can also be heartwarming and eye-opening. Like when it reminds me of a great friendship, a family trip, something that made me laugh.

 

It also can remind me of how far I’ve come. Often, when we’re in happy times, we forget the bad times that led us there. But Timehop takes us right back, whether we want to go there or not.

 

For example, take my current job. I will often refer to this job as my “dream job” and I’m not kidding (and I’m not just writing this because my boss is reading it). But it didn’t just appear out of thin air. And I never want to forget how blessed I am to be here.

 

Because Timehop has been reminding me lately that this time last year I was all over the place. I was posting pictures of the beautiful campus on which I worked, trying to make myself love where I was. Secret: I did not love where I was. I was praying a lot that things would get better and actively searching for new opportunities, but I felt kind of abandoned by God. I mean, I had just graduated, spent a few months unemployed, and when I finally found part-time employment, I hated it. It felt like a horrible joke. I felt like my life was at a standstill, and I had no idea where I was headed.

 

But by the grace of God, a few people mentioned this job listing, and I figured “there’s probably something to this. Let me apply.” Here I am, a little less than a year later, having made it out of that rut.

 

The things that I see on Timehop, as unwanted as they can sometimes be, stand to remind me that life can change through faith, trust, and prayer. This doesn’t always ensure that things will get better, that things will change immensely, but even the little things count sometimes.

 

It’s hard to see these types of things from day to day, but I bet that if you looked back on where you’ve been and compared that to where you are now, you would see major changes.

 

Challenge yourself to find something to be grateful for. Even a change from who you were, how you thought, or where your faith laid a few years ago is important. And if you don’t believe you have a lot to be grateful for, download Timehop.

 

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Maria is the Administrative Coordinator of Y2AM. She is a New York native who isn't completely sold on the city's charm, yet has never left. A proud graduate of Fordham University and occasional runner, she is happiest whenever chocolate, a sale, or a good Gilmore Girls reference is involved.

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"Cubs Win!" and Other Election Day Thoughts - Pop Culture Espresso Shots

You guys.

The Cubs won the World Series.

Did you ever think that you would see the day? I certainly didn’t! But lo, and behold. Here we are, and the Commissioner’s Trophy has found its home in Wrigleyville.

I’m perfectly ready to die happy.

As I was watching the events of postseason baseball unfold, it continued to dawn on me that there were whole generations of people who hoped for this day and never saw it.

108 years is a long time!

More than a century’s worth of Cubs fans have longed for this day, and many of them died without seeing it become a reality. Even though Cubs fans tend to assume that the Cubs would never, in fact, win the World Series, it was always a nice to imagine Don Zimmer, Dusty Baker, or Lou Piniella holding that trophy high above their heads, but until now, a Cubs manager winning the World Series was just a dream.

We now live in a different world, and it’s all thanks to a 10-inning Game 7.

We now live in a world where veteran losers are the champs.

We now live in a world where curses are broken.

We now live in a world where we are free once more to believe in the impossible.

Generations of Cubs fans have held onto hope that we would see this day, and now it is here, despite the fact that at times (most especially during that Game 7, eighth inning, two-out rally by the Indians) it looked like the curse was still very much a real thing.

We held on. And now we can rejoice that once again the Cubs are champions.

As Christians, I think we could learn a thing or two from Cubs fans.

We have to hold on to hope.

Today is Election Day, and there is a lot of fear and uncertainty going around. We may believe that America stands on the brink of destruction (regardless of the candidate to be chosen). We may believe that every empire has to fall eventually, and this is just the beginning of the end.

Well, I can’t say anything about that. Maybe.

Maybe this is the end for America. I don’t know. I hope not.

But I do know something. It definitely is not the end of God’s Providence.

When I go to bed tonight, and when I wake up on November ninth, God will still be King, regardless of who has been elected President.

The Kingdom is coming. It’s hard to believe. It’s hard to see. When things are so politically uncertain and somewhat frightening, it’s difficult to be like 108 years worth of Cubs fans and to say, “I know this looks bad, but our day will come.”

Millennia of Christians have held to this belief, and they have gone to their graves hoping that they would see Christ’s Kingdom come in glory. They didn’t see it happen in their lives, but it is going to happen one day.

The saints rebuked dangerous leaders, they endured countless tortures, they led lives of prayerful solitude in caves, all because they held onto the hope that Christ had defeated death and was coming back. They longed to see Him face to face.

No matter how scary it gets, no matter how dark the world around us seems, we who are called to be saints must hold fast to Jesus, trusting that He is the King, that He is robed in majesty, and that even if it means waiting for 108 or 108,000 years, He is going to come back and His Kingdom shall have no end.

Years of Christians have held to this belief, trusting that they would see the day when all things would be made right, in which death would be no more.

Cubs fans would make excellent Christians; they’ve already learned how to hope in the face of what seems to be impossibility. But deep down, Cubs fans knew that the Cubs’ day was coming, and we know, too, that the Lord’s day is coming.

We might have to put up with some long days and painful years as we wait and long for Christ to establish His never-ending Kingdom, but one thing is for sure, “It’s Gonna Happen.”

#FlyTheXC #ImWithHim #IMeanJesus

Photo Credit: 

Wrigley: Frank Gruber Flickr via Compfight cc

Martyr's Last Prayer: Wikimedia Commons

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.

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Why I Let My Daughter Be Scared - Pop Culture Espresso Shots

Fairy tales are more than true - not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.

– G.K. Chesteron

On Father’s Day, my five-year-old daughter and I watched Star Wars: The Force Awakens together. Admittedly, there are some incredibly dark and frightening aspects to the movie, but she was doing fine until Kylo Ren killed his own father, Han Solo. Then, all manner of craziness broke out in our home.

Distraught by Kylo’s patricide, she ran to her mother, who comforted her with reassuring hugs and affirmation of her feelings: “That is sad! I don’t like that part either!” After calming down, my little one came back to the living room and wanted to finish the movie. She was reassured by the end of it all when Luke and Rey finally meet.

Not two days later, my darling little girl was asking to watch the movie again but stated that she wanted to fast forward through the scary part where Kylo Ren kills his daddy.

This also happened as we were watching Beauty and the Beast just last week. She got scared at several parts and also started crying with ear-shattering volume, “I don’t want to watch this! I don’t like it; fast forward!”

I have to admit that I’m torn about whether or not fast-forwarding through the scary parts is the best idea.

Now before you go thinking that I like subjecting my children to terrifying images or that I’m advocating anyone else do likewise, I’m not. All I’m saying is that perhaps by giving into fear and fast-forwarding through the scary parts of movies and stories, we are actually simply serving and reinforcing fear. I wonder if I’m missing out on an opportunity to walk through fear with my daughter and to show her that we can emerge on the other side.

The reality of life is that the world is scary. It seems like it’s almost every other day that we get news of another mass shooting or suicide bombing. As a parent and a traveling dad, I must admit that I’m nervous any time anyone in my family (my girls or myself) leaves the house. I hate that I can’t go to a movie theater or a crowded place without wondering, “Is this the day I die?”

Sadly. This is the world now. And I have two options: face it or hide from it. Unfortunately, I’m learning that no matter what, I can’t hide from it; I can’t just fast forward through the scary parts.

I have to learn to sit in the tension of not knowing whether or not I’ll see my family after my next flight. And then I still have to go to the airport. I have to go through the scary parts.

The older my daughter gets, the more I want to teach her that fear is nothing to be afraid of. It is just an emotion, a powerful one, but an emotion nonetheless. It comes and goes, and ultimately, it is simply false because as I’ve said before: Jesus wins.

Even though Kylo Ren kills his father, I’m strongly confident that by the end of the Star Wars saga, we will see the Light Side of the Force prevail.

Even though Beauty and the Beast is full of terrifying parts (even as an adult), the movie ends as love defeats death and gives a beast his humanity.

These stories are powerful because they teach us that evil will lose, and therefore we need not be afraid. And as a husband and a father who knows he cannot completely protect the ones he loves, this is a lesson I need to practice over and over again, and it is a lesson I need to instill in the hearts of my girls.

We need to know that dragons can be beaten.

We need to know that dragons will be beaten.

So maybe I’m not so torn about this whole fast-forwarding thing anymore; maybe it’s just best to let these stories work on our hearts, to learn the hard lesson over and over again that the bad guys simply cannot win, no matter how scary it gets.

We just have to hang in there and see it through, all the way to the end.

Photo Credit:

Kylo Ren: botisaurusrex via Compfight cc

Dragon: Depositphotos

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.

 

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