Our true identity in Christ and the momentum of holiness

Our true identity and the momentum of holiness

What can Paul Gauguin and Paul the Apostle teach us about our identity in Christ? Born in France and raised partially in Peru, Paul Gauguin's early years were marked by the death of his father, domestic upheaval, and sweeping cultural shifts. After returning to France to live with his grandfather, he joined the merchant marines, served a stint in the navy, took work as a stockbroker, married, and had several kids. His tumultuous life could have settled into middle-class ease, but then Gauguin … [Read more...]

How to wreck your life

How to wreck your life

If you’re looking to get off on the wrong foot this week, start with ingratitude. It’s easy, really. Everything we have is a gift from God. The trick to ingratitude is to be unthankful for it. The job, the spouse, the bills, the house, the kids, the coworkers, the car—all you have to do is grumble and complain about them. If you’re new to this little trick, don’t overdo it. Start with little gripes about small disturbances. But if you’re well practiced, you might as well jump into … [Read more...]

The gospel of radical submission

The gospel of radical submission

The Scripture commands husbands to love their wives, wives to respect their husbands, children to honor their parents, citizens to obey the authorities, employees to follow their employers, and believers to subject themselves to the elders of the Church. None of this has anything to do with how much or well the other party deserves it. There are plenty of unlovable wives, disreputable husbands, dishonorable parents, unworthy governments, ill-willed employers, and untrustworthy church leaders … [Read more...]

Are you making progress?

Are you making progress?

What does the perfect Christian life look like? When asked the question by a friend, Gregory of Nyssa said it looked like perpetual progress toward God, a thought stemming from Christ's statement that Christians are to be perfect like God is perfect. This is tricky business. Perfection is easy if we're talking about the length of a yard or the number ten, things that have attainable, comprehensible limits. But what if there is no spatial or conceptual boundary? Exactly how long is virtue, … [Read more...]

Fear and the stories we tell ourselves

'Quiet the thoughts'

We live in a bramble of innumerable fears. We have anxiety about our families, worry about our jobs, concern about our futures. More the fruit of imagination than actuality, these fears can bud and grow in our minds until we are entangled and entrapped. Our creatureliness explains why we find ourselves enmeshed in this thicket. As creatures, we are self-protective. Vulnerable to life’s vicissitudes, we face a future with a million possibilities, some of them dangerous and threatening. … [Read more...]

Where we turn to model our lives

Luke the Evangelist 'writing' Mary

According to tradition, the first icon-painter in the Church was the evangelist Luke, and the first icon he painted was of Mary. This is a big deal, so, naturally, there’s an icon of it. In that icon of an icon Mary stands with the baby Jesus to the side, while Luke sits, studies, and paints. I was reminded of this image when reading something in a letter from Basil about models for Christian living. Basil’s point is that we should look to the Scriptures for examples of Christian … [Read more...]

Trusting God’s messy providence

Into the tangle

If your week hasn’t gone according to plan, this post is for you. Come to think of it, if your life hasn’t gone according to plan, this post is for you. St. Paul offers the Romans (and us) an extremely comforting thought when he tells them that God works all things for our good. Probably most of us believe that, cling to it in fact. We’re just mystified about how he goes about doing it. Look at Joseph’s story. God used him to save Egypt from famine and, by extension, the fledging … [Read more...]

Don’t change boats, change yourself

Don't change boats

Ever feel like a change in circumstances would make life easier? You’re not alone. Basil wanted to find a place where it was quiet, where he could leave behind the craziness and commotion of life and focus on his relationship with God. (Sound familiar?) So he moved from the city to the country, hoping to still the waters and lower the noise. But it didn’t work. Quieter circumstances failed to quiet his mind. “[W]e have derived no great benefit from our present solitude,” Basil … [Read more...]

Thanks for everything

Praying Old Man

Get this scene: A monk sits on a train. A fellow passenger approaches and offers him a cigarette. Monks aren’t much known to smoke, but this monk was once a soldier and gratefully accepts the gift. Holding the slender item, the monk suggests to his benefactor that they should make the sign of the cross before they smoke. The man is torn. Isn’t it, he asks, improper to make the sign of the cross before smoking? The monk answers that if an activity doesn’t square with the sign of the … [Read more...]

One trait every Christian leader needs

St. John the Baptist

Line up Moses, King David, the Apostle Paul, and John the Baptist, and you will see leaders who had countless differing characteristics and personality traits. You’ll also find that they shared several in common, one being humility. Moses stood up to Pharaoh and led the Israelites out of slavery, yet the scriptures speak of Moses as being “very meek, more than all the people who were on the face of the earth.” David reigned over the unified kingdom and led his people to one victory … [Read more...]