It’s an Orthodox Thing…

My friend Tanya often will interject in a conversation, “Oh, you know, it’s an Orthodox thing.” This is when things are un-explainable to most people, but when something happens (or doesn’t happen), when the word comes at just the right time, or the perfect house shows up just when you have finally decided that you are okay with whatever God has in mind, be it staying in the cramped apartment…living in a part of town you don’t want to live in, giving up a spot in the garage for your own car…whatever…

At that time, you say to yourself, I won’t show him this house because even though I love it, I know he won’t, and he looks at it without you there and puts in an offer without you even stepping foot into the house.

It’s when you have an inexplicable experience while venerating an icon or praying in the nave. It’s when there is a rescue immediately following urgent prayer. It’s not always what we might call a blessing, but somehow you know deep inside that something otherworldly has happened, that the veil between the here and now and the glorious forever has thinned and grace has shown down on you.

Such a thing happened to me on Sunday. I will not tell the story here, for it is not the kind of thing you say publicly. It is the kind of thing we Orthodox often keep between ourselves and our closest confidants. I will say, however that that moment, that touch of heaven, or whatever you want to call it (an Orthodox thing), felt like the loving hand of God.

It stayed with me through a difficult day when I thought my husband had a heart attack. The paramedics were also concerned that something was happening that wasn’t good, perhaps his heart. I was weeping, yet fairly calm. I remember clearly, as I was standing over him as he lay on the carpet saying over and over and over, “I just need to catch my breath.”

In that moment, when he looked horrid, when he said something about his chest hurting, when all the events of the previous hour swirled through my head and I thought he might die…in that moment, I remembered the touch of God from earlier in the day, that touch that said to me that God loved me, despite myself. I knew that no matter what happened, that it would be okay. No matter what.

I kept that in mind as I called 911, as I talked to the operator, as I was dealing with an ill man who did not want help but needed it badly. I was reminded as I watched the paramedics and firemen gently talk my husband into letting them help him, and as I rode in the ambulance with him. It stayed with me as I sat in the waiting room as they treated him.

Because of his condition at the time, it was deemed best that I wait outside while they treated him. I pulled my crocheting out of my bag and waited.

I was thinking of that loving touch which occurred during Divine Liturgy, and the comfort it gave me was profound. That comfort (I’m tempted to capitalize that word, for the comfort was so great) aided me as I crocheted and prayed the Jesus Prayer. Double crochet, Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, single crochet, have mercy on me a sinner. Over and over and over again, the hook wove in an out of the growing piece of fabric. Over and over and over, those words grew in me.

Lord, O Master of all creation. Jesus Christ, O, that sweet name. Son of God, Son of God, of one essence with the Father, True God of True God. Have mercy on me, Oh what manner of love is this that the Father has bestowed upon us? What mercy? What grace? That I can COUNT on that mercy as part of His very essence? A sinner, ah, how blessed am I to be forgiven.

Others have gone deeper into the Jesus Prayer, and know so much more. But I have been graced with this comfort from the very Comforter. It’s an Orthodox thing.


Prayer of St. Philaret



My Lord, I know not what I ought to ask of Thee.
Thou and Thou alone knowest my needs.
Thou lovest me more than I am able to love Thee.
O Father, grant unto me, Thy servant, all which I cannot ask.
For a cross I dare not ask, nor for consolation;
I dare only to stand in Thy presence.
My heart is open to Thee.
Thou seest my needs of which I myself am unaware.
Behold and lift me up!
In Thy presence I stand,
awed and silenced by Thy will and Thy judgments,
into which my mind cannot penetrate.
To Thee I offer myself as a sacrifice.
No other desire is mine but to fulfill Thy will.
Teach me how to pray.
Do Thyself pray within me.


This prayer came to me, I did not come to it.  I was looking for something else, but this prayer kept coming up in my search, not the one I sought. The words, ah, the words.  How my heart and soul reacted to the words: I know not what I ought to ask of Thee. Oh, Amen. Thou and Thou alone knowest my needs.  Ah, yes.  This is so true.  Thou seest my needs of which I myself am unaware. This prayer sounds in my spirit like a deeply resounding gong calling me to peace. I find myself praying this prayer throughout the day, again and again.

Thou lovest me more than I am able to love Thee.  I love you more, God is saying to my heart.

Steve often says, “I love you more.” To which I respond, “I know.” It’s a little joke of ours, but sometimes I wonder if it’s true. I wonder if my heart is so damaged that I cannot love this man as much as he loves me. That makes me want to try harder, to be kinder, to love him as he should be loved, but then my Father is saying to me, “Love you more” and I can only say, “Thank you. I didn’t remember.”


Love you more.


Chasing the Sun

Paint the world
Calm the heart, the mind and spirit with a fall drive.

Chasing the sun along fields and forests, the round bales of hay dotting fields against the fiery leafed edges in shades of crimson, gold, mustard, orange, oxblood, chestnut, shades of red and orange of every description, against skies of gray clouds slowly shifting to skies of clear blue. Shafts of sunlight lit the occasional tree with heavenly light, like Moses’ burning bush. The gentle cacophony of bird song carried through the open skylight. Wonder and awe lifted my sorrow. Wrapped in glory, my eyes were lifted from earth to heaven.

This glory, this peaceful glory wrapped around my heart and lifted me in my grief, and hinted, no, insisted that there is more than this.  There is more than this earthly glory and it was almost visible for a time. The veil that separates us from the eternal other was thin. In those moments, grief, so real, so profound, was nonetheless overwhelmed by glory. Comfort in the bliss of colors that came from the hand of God himself, lit by heavenly glow, colors too vibrant, too many to grasp in my finite mind.

Today I am comforted in the fading glow, the residual memories of that glory.  I know that is there, and I long for it again. That thing which seems to be the perfect fall day, but is achingly more than that… I am unable to explain why this is such a comfort, but having tasted this comfort which is also discomforting, this glory which aches for more glory, I must hunt for more.  I must seek more solitary wow.  I must seek more of those glimpses that cause me to cry out, “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!”  and “Glory to Thee, O God. Glory to Thee!”

Ah, help me in my grief, O my Savior!


Some Days My Heart Hurts

You know those days? The days when the hurt of others weighs on you and your heart and squeezes your chest tight, and tears swell behind your eyes, and you wonder at the laughter of others. One friend received a cancer diagnoses. One friend is struggling for life in the hospital. Someone you love is dealing with what looks like dementia and paranoia, and the pain in your own body is threatening to overwhelm you. When your concern for others is more than you can bear. A family member has a terrible looking wound that doesn’t seem to be healing, while recovering from major surgery oh so slowly, and the bills are coming in for an injury…and, and, and…

And Christians are beheaded for their faith, others taken captive, still others have not been heard from as the months and years tick on, and so many are refugees running from violence and war, and your heart threatens to leap from your chest to escape the burdens of these hurts, these wounds.

It’s one of those days. It’s a day when I recognize my complete inadequacy to handle anything, when it is all I can do to crawl from my bed and whisper “Lord, have mercy!” And the words of that prayer are both insufficient and utterly sufficient. For where am I to go where His mercy is not sufficient? Do I need to explain what I want to happen? Do I need to tell him that I am asking for strength for the cancer patient, for the hospitalized friend and the family who loves him so, for the paranoid, the demented, for the recovery, for the bills, for the pain? I am going to the God who Knows All, Sees All, Hears All, and whose love is unending. I don’t have to educate Him as to what to do, as I used to think when I was younger.

I have not the strength for the day. Lord, have mercy. I have not the wisdom to know how to handle some family issues. Lord, have mercy. Someone has wounded me. Lord, have mercy. There are new martyrs. Lord, have mercy. There are those captured. Lord, have mercy. There are bills beyond my ability to pay. Lord, have mercy. There is pain beyond my endurance. Lord, have mercy. There is illness. Lord, have mercy.

Oh, Lord, have mercy. Omniscient, Omnipotent, Omnipresent, All-loving God, have mercy.


In everything give thanks.


In this, Lord?  In this give thanks?


I don’t know how to give thanks for this pain.


Bitter tears pour down my cheeks into the bathwater. 


Please take this away.


In that moment I forget that He, too, knows what it is to have pain,


He, too, knows what it is to ask to have it removed—


But He said, “Nevertheless.”




“Not my will, but Thine.”


Today, as my body longs for a wheelchair, or my bed,


but finds me here at work instead,


Not my will…


but Thine.

Of Anger and Mercy

I am filled with anger today and I can find all kinds of reasons why it is justified, and if I were to explain them, most would agree and might even chime in on my behalf, bolstering me in my cause and encouraging me to send the email I have drafted.

For the moment though, despite wanting to call one friend or another, to vent and to be heard and understood, I recognize that I must pray over this. I do not want to, for I may be asked to give up my anger, to set it aside, to forgive and to accept the slight, the wrong, the misdeed. I have already been too loose lipped, speaking out against this injustice to a few people who have no part in it, except to commiserate with me.

Even as I begin to pray, “Lord have mercy…” my heart stops, I take in a quick startled breath, realizing in that quick second, that moment that I am asking mercy where I am unwilling to give any. I want to plead my cause, to shout out the injustice to the one who was treated–willingly–most injustly. I envision His hands, splayed out on a rough hewn cross, blood dripping from the spikes, cruelly nailed through flesh. I see His thorn-pierced brow, and my slight, the one I did not want to give up, is fading. I was so very angry just a moment ago, but now, that anger is like a whisp of smoke, fading into the air, soon to be no more.

I look down at my hands, now stained with the soot of my anger. Oh, cleanse me, my God. Forgive me my anger, my burning, fiery temper that takes offense so easily.

O, Lord, have mercy on me. I am in desperate need of you. O, Spirit of God, that convicts me, that comforts my soul, how I need comfort now in the sight of my wretchedness. I wanted to be angry. I wanted to plead my case. I have none. Oh, Father, forgive them. They do not mean to do harm, or if they do, forgive them anyway. And me, Father…I need forgiveness most of all, I who have known your mercy, who have supped of your lovingkindness. I need your healing forgiveness. I need to be cleansed of every sin, of every stain. Teach me to walk in your ways. How I long to be a person who takes no offense, but has a heart that loves and forgives in the moment.

Have mercy.