Entries with tag young adult ministry .

The Things That I Don't Know

In my undergraduate classes, it was so rare to hear an “I don’t know” from a professor. These brilliant men and women, who had devoting themselves studying, researching, and writing in their fields for years, could seemingly grapple with any question thrown at them. When people know that much, it almost becomes a game to try and stump them.

 

Well, we find ourselves in Great Lent, and I am admitting defeat. I am stumped by Orthodoxy. There is so much that I simply don’t know.

 

It’s hard to admit this because I want to know everything. Yet the more I pray, the more I read books and articles and listen to podcasts about Orthodoxy, and the more church services that I attend during Lent, I am still not prepared to answer questions definitively, to say that I know, well, anything. On the contrary, these experiences have me thinking: wow, I’m confused; I don’t know much at all.

 

These past few weeks, I’ve been admitting to not knowing so often. In fact, I’ve made it a point to live in the “I don’t know.” To lean into, to become acquainted with, and even to embrace the things that I don’t know.

 

Because in life, there’s a lot that I don’t know, and there’s a lot that I will never know (it’s a little scary, but a lot of truth lies in that statement).

 

I’ll never know why certain friendships have faded, why certain relationships haven’t worked out, or

why bad things happen to good people. I’ll never know why there is sickness and suffering in this world of unfathomable amounts.

 

So...where’s the solace in all of this?

 

Well, it lies in what I know.

 

As a wise priest once told me at summer camp, when you read the Bible, you should focus on what you know. So I’ve been trying really hard to do this in all aspects of my life: to focus on what I’ve already known, and to learn what I can from everything I read, listen to, and every person I talk to.

 

Unlike most professors, I’m quite happy to admit that I don’t know. The process of coming to understanding that there is a lot which I don’t know about my faith is what has led me to want to learn all that I can.

 

What I do know is so important: that Christ died for me and that He loves me. That I have put my faith and trust in Him.

 

And that’s spectacular enough to get me through all of the things that I don’t know.

 

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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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A Small Act of Sharing and Caring

I was raised in a way that has made my faith pretty private.

 

What I mean by that is that I came into my faith on my own; I was never asked or pushed into practicing Orthodox Christianity. And I was never really encouraged to share my triumphs and struggles in the faith. Obviously, our faith is a shared faith, but for a long time I kept mine very private; I didn’t realize how much there was to be shared.

 

Personal anecdote time. A few weeks ago, my grandfather was in the hospital, and there was an interfaith chapel down the hall from his room. My grandmother took me into the chapel to pray for my grandfather. It was a repository of icons, bibles, and other symbols of different faith traditions, but we didn’t see any representations of Orthodoxy. So I went into my bag and looked to see if I had any of the small icon cards that you can pick up at parishes, and I found one of St. George, so I left it in the chapel.

 

Now, I can’t really explain why, but in that moment, I felt that St. George was watching over me, and I felt so compelled to do a little research on him (I’m not very versed in the lives of the saints, and while I knew the basics of his life, I wanted to go into a little more detail). The next day, I uploaded a picture of an icon of St. George to Instagram.

 

A few weeks later, my mom asked me, out of the blue, having no idea of the events that transpired, “Now, why do you feel that St. George is watching over you?” It was honestly the first time in a long time that I can remember being asked about something going on in my spiritual life that directly. Because of the relationship that we have established with our faith in my household, I was going to say, “I just do,” and leave it at that.

 

But I took a deep breath after realizing...she asked. This is not something that happens often, if at all. So I answered. In detail.

 

I realized how stubborn I was being to not want to answer my mom in the first place. Like, “my faith is personal, and I don’t want to share it with her right now.” Yet I sucked up my pride and decided to share it anyway.


Generally, I think that I am pretty open about my faith now. I don’t try to hide it from the people I meet, like I used to. I know that if the fact that I am Orthodox bothers someone, then that person probably isn’t the kind of person that I want in my life.

 

But it got me thinking about when people ask me about my faith. I want to be the type of person who is open, who gets people thinking, who has stories to share that can keep them engaged. The type of person who is excited to talk about Christ because of the amazing effect that He has had on my life, and because of the fact that He gave me life. And I want to be asked questions about my faith. Personally, and on a more general level. So why was I scoffing at my mother when she asked?

 

Just as we have to open ourselves to Christ in order for Him to be able to come into us, to guide us towards His Kingdom, we have to be open to talking about Him.

 

Even though it’s not what I’m used to in my family, I want to be more open to changing what I’m used to, for the benefit of all involved. Talking things through and talking about our faith, about the saints who are active in our lives and about how Christ is active in our lives, is the most important way to share Him with others.

 

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Want more from Y2AM?  Subscribe to our email list and get weekly tips for your spiritual life every Monday!  And you can support Y2AM even more by becoming a monthly Patreon supporter.  As little as $1 a month can help us continue the work we’re doing.

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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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Learning to Listen and Listening to Learn

If there was a class on “How to Listen,” I would take it. I would recommend that all of my friends take it. I would recommend that all of my enemies take it, too, for that matter.

 

One of the major themes I’ve seen over the past few months of my life is that people have trouble truly listening to one another. Some people just need to try harder, while others simply do not want to listen because they might hear things that they don’t want to. Things that don’t align with what they believe. Things that they don’t know how to respond to. But the glorious part of listening is that it’s a skill we can all learn, if we are willing to try.

 

Here’s a personal example. Over the past year, I’ve learned so much about Orthodoxy through my coworkers at the Archdiocese. How? By asking questions and then shutting my mouth. By not having the expectation that what I want to hear and what I’m going to hear will line up, but instead, truly listening to the answers that I am given.

 

In the past, I’ve asked questions and fought the answers; asked questions with self-serving motives in mind: to prove my point. But, it’s not my point that I’m looking to prove: it’s Christ’s. And if someone knows His teachings better than I, then you had better believe that I will listen to that person wholeheartedly.

 

“Orthodoxy” in the above example can really be replaced with anything that you care about. “Knitting,” “Iceland,” “my next door neighbor Peter,” even… “politics.” Shudder.

 

If you care, listen.

 

It doesn’t matter if you have all of the evidence in the world to support your point. It doesn’t matter what truths you believe you are spreading. It’s important to listen first, and then if you must speak, you can do so. It’s also important to acknowledge that there are other opinions, other ways of life than the one you choose to lead. Listening is the easiest way to make a human being feel like a human being; to show them that they are worthy and valued.

 

Because if they aren’t valuable, then I’m not either. I’m a sinner too.

 

In this toxic, politics-ridden, dare I admit it- fallen- world, we all need to learn to listen to each other. It’s not only the Orthodox way. It’s the human way. It’s the only way.

 

Now, what you might come to realize is that you don’t listen well. Or that you only listen to share your own opinions. That you’ve driven people out of your life by acting this way.

 

I have good news: it’s not too late to start listening.


And listening has a lot to do with prayer, as we strive to be like the greatest listener, Jesus Christ. He listens with no agenda other than to offer you His very own Life by allowing you to share your troubles with Him. If we could all be listeners like Jesus Christ, people would feel a lot more of a weight lifted off of their shoulders when they speak. People would be more apt to share their opinions, emotions, sins, without fear of condemnation of judgment, if you and I were better listeners.

 

Next time you ask a question, prepare yourself to hear the answer. Even if it’s not what you want to hear. Prepare yourself to put your agenda and feelings aside, and to be there for someone who truly needs you to listen to them. And when you find yourself in a position where you need someone to listen to you, you can trust that you will be able to find someone who will extend you the same courtesy that you extended them. The same courtesy that Jesus Christ extends you every time that you pray to Him.

 

You might not change a mind. You might not even fully comprehend a mind. But the only way that you can even try is if you listen.

 

Want more from Y2AM?  Subscribe to our email list and get weekly tips for your spiritual life every Monday!  And you can support Y2AM even more by becoming a monthly Patreon supporter.  As little as $1 a month can help us continue the work we’re doing.

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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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Christ Comes First

Last week, we at Y2AM hosted the 2017 Youth and Camper Workers Conference in Austin, Texas. Well, to be honest, it was more like all my co-workers who pulled it off; I seriously had the chance simply to show up and participate. They poured tons of work into the conference, and it showed.

The theme of the conference was “The Seamless Garment of Christ.” Steve chose this theme because in practice, we often pursue what he calls an “ice cube tray model” of ministry. The idea is that we separate our ministries into individual segments of work: GOYA, Young Adults, Women, Men, etc. Usually these ice cubes are kept separate and don’t interact with each other much. Our idea at Y2AM, however, is that if we are going to function properly as the Body of Christ, then we need to understand that these ministries, while distinct, should never be separated.

Our keynote speaker, Fr. Stephen Freeman, the author of the excellent blog, Glory to God for All Things, started us off by perfectly introducing the topic. He suggested that everything in the Church – the icons, the sacraments, the music – existed for one purpose: Christ. They exist to unite us to Christ; for in Christ are all things complete and contained. He even capped this thought perfectly by saying, “When we speak of anything, we speak of everything, because we speak of the One Thing: Christ.”

As the conference progressed and various speakers contributed, I noticed that I heard the name of Jesus spoken more than I’ve ever heard Him spoken at any other Orthodox event I’ve ever attended. We love to speak of “Orthodoxy” or “the Faith” or even the “Ancient Faith,” but hearing each speaker offer a meditation of which Christ was the Center struck me as somehow sadly unusual.

But as I’ve thought more about this, I find that the reality is simple: our ministries can never be united unless they are united in Christ because they are actually His Ministry. There is one priesthood: Christ’s. There is one Church: Christ’s. And unless we keep Him at the forefront our meditation, at the forefront of our work, then we will never achieve the unity that we seek.

All of our ministry must be oriented toward Christ and His Kingdom; if we focus on anything else, then we are doomed from the start. His presence must infiltrate our entire lives. We must be His and His alone, seeing that all things are given to us by Him and that all things exist for Him and that all things are only fulfilled in Him.

Our ministries cannot oversimplify the Gospel, offering moralistic platitudes and feel-goodery with humanistic undertones. If we do this, if we pull our punches when it comes to Christ and water down the depth of the gospel, then we actually inoculate people against Christ, giving them just enough of the faith not to turn them off to Christ, but not enough to open the compelling reality of Life in Him. Christ simply becomes boring, something people “already know about,” rather than Someone people are invited to encounter and follow.

We boldly need to reclaim the scandal that is the Person of Jesus Christ, the God who became Man, who dwelt among us and ascended the Cross in the flesh, calling all people who wish to follow Him to take up their cross also and to follow Him to their own deaths.

Christian ministry must primarily be about Christ, and if it is not, then it is not Ministry. It is simply a philosophy that guides how we interact with others. Indeed, if we don’t have Christ as the Center of all our ministry, of all our preaching, of all our life, then we are only wasting our time.

Christian is a Young Adult Ministries Coordinator for Y2AM. He is a husband, father, coffee drinker, sandal wearer, podcaster, 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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Check out Fr. Stephen Freeman's Keynote address below:

 

Stop Saying it's Okay: A Lesson in Forgiveness

I’ve learned a lot about forgiveness this holiday season.

 

It’s not because I’ve necessarily gone through instances of having to forgive large grievances committed against me, but because I’ve found myself thinking about the difference between forgiving someone and telling them that their actions are okay.

 

I think we need to stop saying “it’s okay” when it’s not. For example, a while back I had fought with one of my friends, and when she apologized, I kept repeating, “It’s okay.” I immediately regretted my choice of words, because she and I both knew that her actions weren’t okay.

 

Yet they were forgiven. She was forgiven.

 

Forgiving her, and forgiving anyone who I find myself in a disagreement with, takes some time and effort. It’s by no means easy, and I’ve come to accept that. It keeps me conscious of the fact that forgiveness is a process, and it’s something that I need to focus on and work on a lot. Forgiving someone doesn’t just happen.


Telling someone “it’s okay” when something that they did truly hurt you or was detrimental to them is one of the greatest disservices that you can do them and yourself.

 

Because it is forgiveness, not “okayness,” that changes people.

 

Last week, on the feast day of St. Dionysios, I went to Divine Liturgy for St. Dionysios, and it was during the sermon that the profound power of forgiveness hit me as I heard about another one of the miracles of this amazing saint.

 

Among his many, many miracles, one of the most famous and truly awe-inspiring stories about St. Dionysios is the one in which he has the ability to forgive the man who murdered his brother. It’s the reason why this saint is the paragon of forgiveness for many people.

 

The man who had committed the murder committed a sinful action, and it hurt many people, probably most of all himself; these are undeniable facts. And telling someone that something like that is okay is not what’s going to help them, or you, come to terms with any of it.

 

As St. Dionysios showed us, forgiveness does not have to come with the reassurance of saying “it’s okay.” Forgiveness is enough in itself.

 

And Christ forgives others for that as readily as he forgives us; far more readily than we can forgive others, and surely more readily than we tend to forgive ourselves.

 

A sin that you committed, or one that was committed against you, will not sit well with you. It might pain you to look back on it for a long time. It might sit festering, or you may receive an apology, but you never owe an “it’s okay,” to anyone: to yourself, or to the person who wronged you.

 

Instead of “it’s okay,” try “I forgive you.” Just as Christ has done for you.

 

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Want more from Y2AM?  Subscribe to our email list and get weekly tips for your spiritual life every Monday!  And you can support Y2AM even more by becoming a monthly Patreon supporter.  As little as $1 a month can help us continue the work we’re doing.

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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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