Monday, October 24, 2011

Psalm 146:7-10 To Think Spiritually is to Believe Concretely

(The LORD) Secures justice for the oppressed [calling all to salvation], gives food to the hungry [communion]. The LORD sets prisoners free [crushing down death by death]; the LORD gives sight to the blind [wisdom]. The LORD raises up those who are bowed down [exalts the penitent]; the LORD loves the righteous [those who keep the statutes]. The LORD protects the stranger [catechumen], sustains the orphan [those without faith] and the widow [those who have lost faith], but thwarts the way of the wicked [anyone who would turn a chosen one away]. The LORD shall reign forever [King of Kings], your God, Zion, through all generations! Hallelujah! – Psalm 146:7-10
Compelled by our association with the fatih we must assist in the good work by feeding the hungry by nurishing the soul, freeing the prisoners through our corporate intercessory prayer, giving sight to those who are spiritually blind by admonishing one another in psalm and approaching righteousness in our own living, and growing God's church by welcoming the stranger (to the faith).We take from this life only what we invest in our spiritual relationship to God and to one another.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Be the Church Be Well Versed

Hagiographos Elias Damianakis, Archon Maestor

We are the Church so to be the Church be well versed. We are not called to ignorance but to the knowledge of God. There just is no substitute for reading The Word. Podcasts, audio tracks, Christian radio, lectures and workshops all enrich our understanding and the broader Christian community but they are not replacements.
To cozy up with a well read Bible is about as good as we are going to find it. Even the church fathers and elders will only clarify what has already been established. Now please don't interpret my commentary as some refashioned sola scriptura or a lopsided adoration. This is simply a reality that everything else seems to clarify and frame the text. What good is the context without the content. Exercise your soul and invigorate your spirit everyday with Bible readings. Cozy up not just with a good book but The Good Book. I venture to say reading daily even the smallest verse will vastly improve the quality of your life and your relationship with God the Great I Am. If we wait to find time we will soon realize that time has run out. That we have allowed the cares of this life to choke off our spiritual body. Remember Orthodox brethren we ARE the Bible Belt.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Euthanasia or A Good Death: Fr. Stanely Harakas Orthodox Ethics

Since the long suffering of my father-in-law with emphysema advanced care directives, DNR, POA, health care agents and alike became the dreaded conversation and even the unspoken preoccupation. The discussions themselves were veiled in superstition and may have been perceived as the ultimate betrayal. Honest questions regarding the Church position and private ethics about what actually constitutes appropriate medical inventions at all cost to keep the (person) body alive and the juxaposed position of comfort measures only for someone who has no hope for improved health can divide families. When is a 'good death' distinguished from euthanasia? What is unreasonable or invasive?

 Father Stanely Harakas the premier Orthodox mind and person on the subject draws clear distinctions and is helpful for families and individuals going through end of life issue and even post mortem as we (they) move through the mourning and grief process. Guilt, fear, anxiety, loneliness, and loyalty can cloud sound judgement and understanding I firmly assert that Father Stanely who himself personally has had to address such issues is the foremost authority.
Fr. Harakas:
The traditional definition of physical death is "the separation of soul and body." Such a definition is not subject to objective observation. Thus it is not within the province of theology to determine the medical indications of death and the onset of the dying process. However, in reference to the terminally ill person, certain distinctions can be made. Physical life is generally understood to imply the ability of the person to sustain his or her vital activities. Physical death begins when interrelated systems of the body begin to break down. Death occurs when the systemic breakdown becomes irreversible. It may well be that physical life and death are events in a continuum in which it is impossible to discern when the dying process actually begins. Nevertheless, the bias of the Church and the traditional bias of the medical practitioner (cf. Oath of Hippocrates) is to do everything possible to maintain life and hinder the onset of dying and death. The medical use of drugs, surgical operations, and even artificial organs (mechanical kidneys, lungs, hearts, etc.) are considered legitimately used when there is a reasonable expectation that they will aid the return in due time to normal or close to normal functioning of the whole organic system.
The special case arises in that it is now medically possible to keep the body "alive" with a complex array of artificial organs, medications, transfusions, and the like. Under these conditions it may not be feasible to expect, with any degree of probability, the restoration of the organic functioning of the body. When, especially, there is no evidence of brain activity in conjunction with the systemic breakdown, we can safely say that the patient is no longer alive in any religiously significant way, and that, in fact, only certain organs are functioning. In such a case there is no moral responsibility to continue the use of artificial, means. It is of interest that the Prayer book of the Eastern Orthodox Church includes a whole service devoted to those in the process of dying. In the case of the individual whose death is prolonged and attended by much "struggling to die," the key sentence in the prayer calls upon God to separate the soul from the body, thus giving rest to the dying person. It asks God "to release your servant (name) from this unbearable suffering and this continuing bitter illness and grant rest to him" (Mikron Euchologion, p. 192).

However, it must be emphasized that this is a prayer directed to God, who, for the Orthodox, has ultimate dominion over life and death. Consequently, the preceding discussion in no way supports the practice of euthanasia. Euthanasia is held by some to be morally justified and/or morally required to terminate the life of an incurably sick person. To permit a dying person to die, when there is no real expectation that life can sustain itself, and even to pray to the Author of Life to take the life of one "struggling to die" is one thing; euthanasia is another, i.e., the active intervention to terminate the life of another. Orthodox Christian ethics rejects the alternative of the willful termination of dying patients, regarding it as a special case of murder if done without the knowledge and consent of the patient, and suicide if it is permitted by the patient (Antoniades, II, pp. 125-127). One of the most serious criticisms of euthanasia is the grave difficulty in drawing the line between "bearable suffering" and "unbearable suffering," especially from an Eastern Orthodox perspective, which has taken seriously the spiritual growth that may take place through suffering (Rom. 8:17-39).

Ethical decision making is never precise and absolute. The principles that govern it are in a measure fluid and subject to interpretation. But to elevate euthanasia to a right or an obligation would bring it into direct conflict with the fundamental ethical affirmation that as human beings we are custodians of life, which comes from a source other than ourselves. Furthermore, the immense possibilities, not only for error but also for decision making based on self-serving ends, which may disregard the fundamental principle of the sanctity of human life, argue against euthanasia.

Generally speaking, the Orthodox Church teaches that it is the duty of both physician and family to make the patient as comfortable as possible, to provide the opportunity for the exercise of patience, courage, repentance, and prayer. The Church has always rejected inflicted, and unnecessary voluntary suffering and pain as immoral; but at the same time, the Church also has perceived in suffering a positive value that often goes unrecognized in the "logic of the world."

The only "eu-thanasia" (Greek for "a good death") recognized in Orthodox ethics is that death in which the human person accepts the end of his or her life in the spirit of moral and spiritual purity, in hope and trust in God, and as a member of his kingdom. True humanity may be achieved even on a deathbed.

From: For the Health of Body and Soul: An Eastern Orthodox Introduction to Bioethics

Thursday, April 28, 2011

English Subtitles, Endnotes, Footnotes, Drafts All is Vanity

Life had become inundated with footnotes, endnotes and drafts. Our Church life is overrun with subtitles and parenthesis and brackets. Every thought and declaration a revision of some prior edition. Each seeking to outdo, out clarify, out pray.

Countless hours are spent in a fatal attempt to legitimize editions by demonizing sages, customs  and discrediting the original (the gold standard). These keepers of the way who maintain the path paved the way with crimson blood of the martyrs are to be embraced not banished or slandered for being loyal to sacred traditions and canons. If the copy or translation contained the essentials of the original endless notations would be unnecessary. It is essential to make the concerted effort to bring the wisdom to believers though education not negation.

Bring the Traditions and the Bible in the vernacular of the people certainly as one would to babes but then broaden and deepen understanding by including the original reference. Distancing personal revelation from the keepers of the faith is precarious if not suicidal.  This is the problem with harvesting our clerics from first generation converts who are vested in remaining authentically 'whatever they were before'. I fail to understand why clerics would not see it as their obligation to their vows to learn the language of the Church and to encourage their flock to learn what they can. They choose rather to insert themselves into artificial arguments of morality and ethics the lesser issues of man. Focus rather on healing and illumination. It is a prideful ethnocentrism if you will permit the broad usage of the term to cling to their traditions of linguistic affections and secularism.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Bondservant Reclaim Your Dignity

Vanquished are the days when man did not waver from obligation

Lost is the era where the mind of man expressed Christian dignity
Loyalty the ultimate inconvenience to self-interest and ambition.

The path of conscience has become the way of ease and slothfulness
Vanity and pride corrupt; separating man from his bond and conversion.
Jargon and rhetoric expel honor; and the Christian from his station.

This theology of prosperity and liberation has entangled and enslaved.
Duals have lost their civility with legal charters of double minded men.
Oaths dismissed and contracts rendered subvert rather then asure.
This disorientated citizenry now without liberty a slave to egotism.
Impulsively cast to and fro and exiled from the Kingdom by obstinacy .
Prisoners of vice and greed; mankind now feeble-minded, frail and homeless.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

the omnipresence of God and alienation

This theme has been surfacing a lot during Lent. The conviction on the omnipresence of God is a deep consolation and abiding comfort which often can only be understood as an act of faith as it were. There are times when we all have an inability to relate, connect or feel imbued with His presence even during a formal service. While discipleship is a constant goal in life it can be derailed only by my own ineptitude or fatigue. I am learning in praxis the value of vigils and fasts but am grossly lazy.

God is everywhere and fillest all things at all times TRUE but it is in relation to His nature and not mine. He is inaccessible at times because I am unable to find Him within me buried beneath shortsightedness and sin. Prayer fatigue or attention deficit disorder of the major kind. So far removed from my original state that I could confuse this detachment as part of my true nature. This is a very common condition which is why I share it in this forum. I don't find it rational to pressume that talking aloud to God in my car that I am actually connecting with God. it seems more like a talking to myself in fact to think otherwise seems anthropocentric (and delusional) as if God exists in relation to me. I see God around me but not in me always. To experience and acknowledge these thoughts of  alienation is to begin to persue a prayerful watch. I try to attach myself to Him and dedicate myself to His church but I don't feel Him in the objective sense as readily as I would like. I have come to believe that there is a distinction between a preoccupation and a relationship. Now I think I know that prayer is not by nature emotive but from whence comes the confirmation that I have indeed gone out to meet Him? This is not about doubt it is about process.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Prayer A Divine Call And The Human Response

This blog is not written or hosted by a person of note or spiritual dynamism. I am simply a pilgrim on the way to the Savior. I am one of many journeymen being transformed by prayer and for moments re-joining the heavenly hosts in their natural state and transcendent ministry. "Let us who mystically represent the Cherubim. And who sing the Thrice Holy hymn...".

Prayer is the single most powerful tool and state of being. It need not be complicated but it is not easy and yet it is simple. Pray is not tame and cannot be man handled as it were. It contains within it its very own essence and structure and is not dependant on the human 'feeling'  anything or experiencing objectively 'a difference'. In this way it is very much an act of faith.

Through prayer our sorrow is eased, our sadness lifted, our hopelessness relieved. By answering the call to prayer from God we become receptive to the absolute transformative power of the Almighty no matter how imperceptible it may appear. We cannot be in the presence of God and not be changed that is logical and to believe otherwise is irrational. Without God's intervention our own effort is futile.

Although there is no outward tangible gain from prayer the renewal and transformative reshaping of our sinful state is taking place. All prayers for the beginner are "give me" prayers. And as a collective church we are compelled to pray for one another. It is our duty to intercede and make our supplications individually for one another that we should "bear one anothers burdens".

Prayer is the Mystical relationship the perpetual calling of God of us back to Paradise to our perfected state. The most basic form of prayer is our outward response our hearing and heeding that call. According to Matthew the Poor "Prayer then has two forms: a perpetual, vague urge, and an open, intermittent response. In both its forms together, prayer is made whole as a divine-human action a call and a response".

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Church Attendance the Holistic Way

Holistic Church participation can be explained in the most concise term Orthopraxis. The unfortunate truth is that too many approach their Orthodox Faith and perhaps Christianity in broader terms by limiting their focus and attention to compulsory Church attendance. This nominal Christianity is tragic and a rejection of the profession of Faith.
This attitude is encouraged by a society which misrepresents secularism as a twisted protection of Religios Freedom. This secularism is actually a demand of freedom FROM religion and relegates ones religiosity as it where to Sunday mornings. The public square which wishes to openly acknowledge homosexuals insists on closeting people of Faith; particularly everything Christian. As dutiful citizens we accept this without reservation and compartmentalize the implications of our Faith. If Orthodoxy does not midigate our path we have failed. We banish every extension or integration of Church life into our actual living; and chop off every sprout or fruit of the Spirit. We hide our Faith where we can scarcely find it to dust it off for Sunday service.
To live holistically we can only find true meaning by embracing our Church as a fundamental member of our very being. We must consider and have within and before us, the Church and the Way. An holistic approach to Orthodoxy understands that we are to concern ourselves with the long effort of returning to the true order of things as it were. We must consider the other 22 hours in our Sundays and each and every hour and other day between services. If we fail to do this good work of bearing fruit and shining forth we are Christian only in name and have replaced our self identification of Orthodox Christian with nominal christian.
Church services are training sessions or like time spent at the gym. Our training doesn't end when we stop our workout actually it only begins there. Our diet, mindset and activity all affect your Christian living (Orthopraxis). It may seem a dense point but there is holism to Church to Orthodoxy itself. The Orthodox method is the 'correct' intervention for what ails the soul. Take another approach and naturally the intervention is changed and the cure further removed.
Unfortunately too many believers will affirm that only the monastics can fully apply Christian standards of prayer and fasting to their lives. This is not true. Living in the world is challenging in obvious ways but we are given in marriage to find our helpmate and together we join with our Church Whose sole purpose is to prepare, to heal and to serve the Faithful spiritual nourishment for the long journey. 

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Dismissiveness Fasting and Misery

Dismissiveness will not assist on our journey to unity and integration with God. To dismiss the benefits of fasting for example as a ritualistic, archaic practice without any practical benefit aside from dietary adjustments, is fool hearty. Generally those who would function from this posture have not bowed their head in repentance or inclined their hearts to humility. Only those who are well on their journey homeward understand the benefit of self control and denial of what is natural. I believe the surest solution is to fast to simply practice the fasts as prescribed and wait and watch. It will not be possible to change something as central to a person as eating and not experience a change in mind, body and spirit.

To have a "know all" and then cavalier attitude toward the tools of the Church is to demonstrate complete ignorance and unwillingness to apply what is painfully clear to those who have begun and are well on the road to illumination. Oddly enough it is generally the loudest protesters and first to point to hypocritically at others, who is most miserable and alone in their knowledge of misery.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

A Christian Must Not Be Fanatic Elder Paisios the Athonite

Elder Paisios the Athonite
A Christian must not be fanatic; he must have love for and be sensitive towards all people. Those who inconsiderately toss out comments, even if they are true, can cause harm.

I once met a theologian who was extremely pious, but who had the habit of speaking to the (secular) people around him in a very blunt manner; his method penetrated so deeply that it shook them very severely. He told me once: “During a gathering, I said such and such a thing to a lady.” But the way that he said it, crushed her. “Look”, I said to him, “you may be tossing golden crowns studded with diamonds to other people, but the way that you throw them can smash heads, not only the sensitive ones, but the sound ones also.”

Let’s not stone our fellow-man in a so-called “Christian manner.” The person who – in the presence of others – checks someone for having sinned (or speaks in an impassioned manner about a certain person), is not moved by the Spirit of God; he is moved by another spirit.

The way of the Church is LOVE; it differs from the way of the legalists. The Church sees everything with tolerance and seeks to help each person, whatever he may have done, however sinful he may be.

I have observed a peculiar kind of logic in certain pious people. Their piety is a good thing, and their predisposition for good is also a good thing; however, a certain spiritual discernment and amplitude is required so that their piety is not accompanied by narrow-mindedness or strong-headedness. Someone who is truly in a spiritual state must possess and exemplify spiritual discernment; otherwise he will forever remain attached to the “letter of the Law”, and the letter of the Law can be quite deadly.

A truly humble person never behaves like a teacher; he will listen, and, whenever his opinion is requested, he responds humbly. In other words, he replies like a student. He who believes that he is capable of correcting others is filled with egotism.

A person that begins to do something with a good intention and eventually reaches an extreme point, lacks true discernment. His actions exemplify a latent type of egotism that is hidden beneath this behavior; he is unaware of it, because he does not know himself that well, which is why he goes to extremes.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Conflict Resolution Rules of Engagement (marriage)

Relationships all have defined rules of engagement. There are clear boundaries and expectations in every relationship professional or personal. When such criteria are dismissed or violated it is a game changer and perhaps a deal breaker. Steal at the office and you find yourself vamping up your resume. Mistreat friends and you'll find yourself in a very exclusive club. Abuse your family and shop the real estate market for the neighborhood adult living facility. Leave the Church and poison your being.

The most gratifying and meaningful relationships are intimate and the ability to engage in a healthy  dyad (triad, familial system,...) is not natural and requires a skill set not always obvious. This is painfully obvious between most in-laws. The road map to relationships which enhance the quality of life require rules and strategic plans. Respect, trust, goodwill and honesty are key ingredients to any full long lasting mutually satisfying relationship.  Undermine these principles and the relationship will steadily grow in toxicity.

I personally maintain specific rules of engagement with all my relationships including the most casual encounter. I expect my grocer not to change the 'sell by' date for example. Because people are not generally honest there are regulations which secular institutions enforce. Likewise the more personal the relationship the more vital those principles because regulations are only in place to deal with the most obsene circumstance. The emotional scarring of even the most casual encounter can be debilitating.

Resolving disappointment and unfulfilled expectations can only be accomplished when ideally all parties are acting in good faith. A company which sells an inferior product must be willing to honor warranties and be willing to address liability where applicable. Likewise the public trust cannot be betrayed with poisonous products or unfair legal systems. A friendship which may dissolve obruptly can be done respectfully and honestly. If one party feels rejected and refuses to concede the relationship or the terms of its dissolution it can erode self esteem and quality of life. If said party is unwilling or unable to accept the reality, it can lead to obsessiveness and irrational behavior. In a marriage each spouse must believe regardless of argument particulars that the other in the end is not out to disparage or hurt the other. Children must accept in principle that their parents have their interest in mind even if it fails to appeal to their limited understanding.

Discourse can be robust and full of opposition but it must be fair and respectful of the humanity of the other party, person or persons. This is a Christian ideal because even in disagreement and vehement opposition, the humanity of the other is never demeaned; thereby respecting the image and likeness of God. I respond harshly when the rules of engagement are ignored or dismissed. I have zero tolerance for violence or the perceived aggression toward my family. Intent is difficult to gauge and is irrelavent in public circles for the most part but in the private sector is can be the be all and end all.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

The Bridge of Dreams

The bridge of dreams is the stuff of youthful fairy tails. When did my robust 'can do' attitude toward living begin to recede. When did I get so old. What has really changed perhaps only the clarity with which I percieve. Where my dreams just the naivite of adolescence? I requires a lifetime to carve out a proper place. My end point is Christ the Rock of my salvation but I have yet to find my thrust my proweness I am but an other. Did I get a reality check suddenly learning the true limits of my ability. Is my mediocrity boundless; my tranfigurment disfiguring? When I was young starting out everything seemed possible; life was still giving; still making room for me to make my mark. Now it seems that loss is more likely; expected even. My ordinary life has become representative of a gross neglect or complete incompetance. Sadly I am only half the woman I thought myself to be. I used to believe that I was an ego maniac with a serious inferiority complex and now I realize that I am simply inferior. I was deluded by my own concete.
To percieve the futility of ambition is growth. But is it a deranged maligancy or epiphany.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

St. Christopher, Tama and Papou

This blog entry is a re post from  Yesterday at 6:55 pm my fathe- in-law Nikitas died of respiratory failure due to emphysema. He was survived by his wife of 46 years; his four children and ten grandchildren. He had his family with him as he left this life. Although bed ridden he never lost his enthusiasm for having his grandchildren close from 16 years to 9 months.We are all thankful for the additional three years of blessings, laughter and his good looks.

i headed out at almost five pm and finished 2:45.47 hours later. my intention was 4. the thought of 8 i couldn't bear and my 6 mile course was not appealing. as it turned out i ran and ran and ran. from my home to seven springs blvd, to keystone/mcmullen, to 580 onward mease dunedin hospital to visit my father in law [he had been hospitalized for complications from his emphysema]. i called my husband from tire kingdom, just north of landsbrook, and told him to get ready and pack the kids to go visit his dad and i'd meet them there. with no water or fuel, this was definitely something i felt, in the moment, called to do. just my ipod, my prayer, my intention and determination. i have learned not to talk about what i will do but to just do.

i drank from the water fountain at tire kingdom (gross). then my husband stopped and met me twice where i drank some flavored h20 and took one dollar for a candy bar that i could pick up at mile 15. i purchased a snickers from a drive-thru convenience store ( i find that funny). i was driven to run. my father-in-law can't hardly breath or move; but i can and did, somehow for the both of us. the last three miles seemed like six; not knowing any of the distances until the return trip in the car. it was my time with God and it was all i felt i could do to really help. i hoped and believed that the effort of my running made my prayer more sincere.

inspired in part by saint christopher who before his conversion was a cannibal and a giant of a man. he carried travelers (for a price) across the river (or lake) i can't recall. then one day he carried a small child. he couldn't hardly manage the weight he felt. he didn't understand why this giant of a person (think like andrea the giant) was so weighed down and exhausted. the folk law explains then when he looked up at this small child who was heavier then any man he carried it was Jesus. (think of the apostle paul his on the way to damascus). Saint Christopher then converted to Christianity. He is traditionally depicted carrying a small Jesus. he is also depicted with the face of a dog or donkey because he was so ugly. i felt that i could at least in spirit, carry my bony butt, father in law, with me on this journey. after all st joseph carried the Savior. the greek people call this type of prayer or commitment a "tama".
see you all on sunday! what is the mileage? by the way, you all did great at your half. i can't wait for the marathon when we can all do our very best.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

I am a Runner?

It is behavior not intentions that make us who we are. Very recently I came to the realization I am a runner. The fact that this is a  sudden revelation is startling as I have been running regularly since January 2004 (with two exceptions: time off before and after my brain surgery and then during my third pregnancy). Why should this concept be such an epiphany? Although my preformance is mediocre by any objective standard; to consider myself a novice is not founded in reality.  Having touted the non-judgmental space of my running (opting out of a  preoccupation with stats: time, distance, place or pace) has been a classic case of Reaction Formation (see Defense Mechanisms Anna Freud).  I consciously denied 'judgment' precisely because I discounted my effort almost entirely. In fact the only anchor I had to legitimize my running was that I chose to run marathon and therefore had the credential of marathoner. To consider myself as a runner is revolutionary indeed.

So how is it that I this average or below average runner has been so preoccupied with this sport or recreational activity. I suppose it could simply be defined as a hobby and yet it has transformed my outlook and approach to many aspects of my life. Mediocrity being unacceptable but my reality was veiled beneath the banner of the marathon. I realize that I have vested more time and energy on this effort then on my professional aspirations which shifted course about ten years ago only to become a experiment in lip service and nothingness.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Self Examination and the Workplace

Elias Damianakis, Hagiographos
Archon Maestor of the Great Church of Christ

It is vital when aspiring to produce anything thing or provide any service to take make a candid and honest examination of  how we contribute or undermine the effort. Understanding how we interact with others: staff, consumers and the broader community is essential.

Generally speaking, individuals are resistant to actually taking on this type of assessment because of its negative connotations. It is almost always assumed it is a process of trouble shooting where personal and professional shortcomings are the focus. This should have nothing whatsoever to do with personal attacks; and the perception or misapplication of this protocol is an unfortunate bias and error. Taking an accounting of our professional inventory is the key to success: any kind of success really, precisely because it truthfully evaluates in real time what is actually happening. In contrast a personal inventory is private and the sole responsibility of the person. It should be part and parcel of our personal standard and code of ethics but it is not part of the business plan or assessment protocol.

The only overlap of these two distinct assessments is that both professionally and personally we can undertake with regularity an examination of how we are concretely contributing or hindering  the effort in terms of the quantitative and qualitative value of our behavior and our perception. This is manner of proceeding assesses not only risks but assets. It is not about assigning blame or regret which can be destructive but rather it is about letting the light in and acknowledging the situation with a critical eye which provides unforeseen opportunity opening the door for brainstorming, troubleshooting and change. This discussion should resemble a dialogue not a debate nor should it be a time of unwarranted flattery and excessive complimenting. Remember keep it professional about the work not personal.

This outcome of procedural assessments should address the measure of behaviors and aptitudes if possible. To avoid defensiveness or overstating strengths it would be beneficial to address the outcome measures dispassionately like a label on a contain or listing product information: what it does (the actual product) , warnings about potentially harmful additives (poor work habits), active (time and talent) and inert (unnecessary or unprofitable habits) ingredients.  Success is about the product. What is actually produced and how is it received by your consumer and your staff. An honest look at the action plan will accentuate the positives, the negatives and those characteristics or behaviors which are not merely inert but distractions and which squander resources. With change comes the opportunity for excitement, improvement and hope which too often is sorely lacking. It is astonishing the images we carry with us and uphold as objective realities or truths which have absolutely nothing at all to do with conditions on the ground.  

On a final note as with any system there must be the facilitator the primary individual who by skill, vision and dedication spearheads the project. This individual must be the most qualified and the most sensitive not only to the process but to the people he/she relies on to do the menial and skilled tasks as well as understanding the target group. This individual must not only be self assured but clear headed. An impatient, defensive facilitator is a dictator who ultimately will drive down productivity and undermine the integrity of the work. If not clearly apparent at the onset it will become painfully obvious. When the risk assessment and procedural assessment is complete if a course correction is necessary it is imperative that workers are receptive to the change and criticism. Each individual is responsible to first start with the man in the mirror.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Affect Flat Mood Blunted

Emotional deadening is a real phenomena. It exemplifies the individuals inability to register concise thoughts, to brainstorm or process solutions and ultimately to feel emotion. The absence of empathy is not the result of insensitivity but hyper-sensitivity.

It represents an emotional overload. To over state the case, it is like an 'acute' episode of Aspergers Syndrome in an otherwise healthy individual who sorely lacks the ability to process information, to organized data and appropriately integrate emotional responses which significantly jeopardized functioning. Emotional supplies are depleted and the strength of the ego defenses are reduced to base functioning. There is little room for personal choice and all efforts for the survival of mental facilities seems to determine the course. Recourse is dominated with reactive deflections from perceived indictments and a barrage of disparaging remarks. Saturated synapses produce the perfect conditions for paralysis where irrationality abounds.

The deadening of our resolve and enthusiasm is unavoidable. A tsunami of personal crisis decompensation is of a seismic proportion and is decimating. Relationships erode and hope dissipates it will require a nuclear option to blast the culture of learned helplessness. Irrationality replaces sound thinking as alternate and insoluble solutions which are haphazardly applied in  faulty attempts to try something. That something often exacerbates an already tenuous situation which is developing into a spiritual syndrome.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

On the Road to Marathon and Damascus

Dead legs is a condition where despite all the will in the world your legs won’t run; the turnover rate is at a virtual standstill. In a Marathon it is the infamous Wall. During prolonged exertion mental fatigue erodes focus, fuel stores are depleted and lactic acid builds up; resulting in the seizing of the muscles. The demanding nature of endurance events are that ultimately they overwhelm the body’s ability to recover from the ongoing workload and are so taxing that cognition becomes compromised resulting in confusion and poor form. This is precisely the point of your epiphany. When you have spent all that you have and continue to endure the hardship and continue the course.

If such adventures are not approached with a serious plan and if you foolishly get over zealous you will come up short. To use an example from the Bible if like the Foolish Virgins, set out too quickly or attempt to tackle too much you will run out of oil. Train too little and take your preparation too lightly and you come up short; overtrain and you get injured. On race day, should you abandon your plan, and let your emotions run the race, you will hit the Wall guaranteed.

Our spiritual journey which begins with our soul and engages our body requires the same plan discipline and effort. It is good spiritually to make pilgrimages to the monasteries if we can and to read Patristic writings but to attempt to artificially induce or replicate their lifestyle is prideful, unrealistic and destined to bring failure. There is no hocus pocus remedy to running a Marathon or becoming perfected spiritually as it were. There are natural limits precisely because it is a natural process. There is a road map and regime for spiritual awakening also. Even when addressing Paul’s Damascus moment we must remember he did not just head back out and preach Christ Crucified. Even then we must further consider that Paul was no ordinary man he was an Olympian of his faith and was simply doing a course correction. He had already been purified but now was being illuminated.

The Ten Virgins are a great example of this point: all ten were chaste; committed; training and seeking; but the Foolish Virgins didn’t choose the plan that would keep their oil burning long enough. It is not clear whether they trained too little or ran out too quickly on race day as it were. Additionally The Wise could not simply give their own share; it is understood this is a journey we do as individuals. We can train together, we can enter an event together and run the same course but we must each find out way. If through misguided zeal you set out too fast and don’t pace yourself with the Holy Spirit  Who knows what you can do and in what time; you will burn out and get dejected. At the beginning and even in the middle of your event you will have a false sense of accomplishment and confidence only to hit the wall at mile 20 or 22 and lose what you thought you gained and more. Learn well the road to Damascus is very much like the road to Marathon.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Broken and Bruised

It is when we can't recognize the brokenness in us that we become sick. Gossip functions as a bi product of affluent living. There is a luxury associated with the condition.

i muddied my statement as i was reflecting how how civilizations are developed.

We are all plagued with such introspective waste. There is a distinct difference between pastoral guidance and clinical practice. The qualifications are different, as are the professionals and the context of the work. Clinical work is an ongoing process and requires regular counsel. Never attach person to a diagnosis as it becomes a source of anxiety and pain for the individual. Deal rather with the person in the proper environment including how the person integrates such information. In clinical practice there is the practical matter of payment for services rendered but they are of no consequence to treatment save underwriting the financial burden. When pasturing or consulting there is no need for a diagnosis but there is a real need to be aware of the various conditions and subset of conditions. With consulting and pasturing there is no clinical barrier there is just the journey. Depression seems to be a pandemic in the states but in fact it is endemic in our society. It functions as a disease and a bi product of affluent living. There is a luxury associated with the condition. The isolation and fractured existence of individuals removed from a community creates existential anxiety. Communal life and even parish life is a way of controlling the existential anxiety: isolation from others opens the individual to many malformities which include, meaningless, alienation, purposelessness, pain as an inevitability. We are all plagued with such introspective waste.

Depression is expected to cover an enormous range is it acute or chronic. Is it a normal malaise or is it more conditional. There is a normal reaction to certain events like death. Transitional periods like grief resolve itself over time. If there is no disruption in the course of the life of the person then its more organic or a learned condition. Clinically it is taken for granted that it is organic but that is a huge 'leap of faith'. It is maintained that medications can manipulate the problem. Medication or self medicating is a natural result of this thinking. Psychotropics do not cure the condition but rid the person of the symptoms. The symptom however can be helpful to the person because it forced there hand to deal with the condition. Removing the emotional pain is not the cure or answer. Think and heal the cause of the pain root out the cause. Get the message and then do something about it. Removing the thorn is not the answer to what really ails the person. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manuel drives the methodology of the diagnosis and therefore drives treatment. There is the debate over the actual conditions sited. if the conditions are so pervasive that the larger population has it then you are not describing illness but sociological conditions or state or characteristics. Lethargic heaviness or slothfulness, laziness is the dominant factor of depression. people in their right mind do seek help. it's when you fail to recognize the need for intervention that you are out of your mind. substance is often lacking but the need to incite attention is present for them. they are not anchored. medication can normalise the pendulum and reduce the swing. then intervention is more possible. demonstration measurement: proof. Depressed people lack motivation to cure themselves. The chasm between the mind and the heart is to pray. We are broken but we are glorious.

(This is largely the influence and brain child of Abbot Meletios. I need to basically insert entire entry into one footnote. This is like a humble summary of this subject.)

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Terms Every Orthodox Christian Should Know

Orthodox living requires a basic understanding of how we work out our salvation. It is about our journey closer to God.

The word fortitude is tossed about so casually I don't think it means what most people think it means. The epistles teach us that we need to approach our discipleship with fortitude. is is not to be confused with a mere stubbornness or a spoken intent to consistently associate oneself with Christ or to agree to a philosophical ideal.

Fortitude an inner determination and external committment which require strength, courage, loyalty, dedication, and endurance to remain steadfast in difficult and painful circumstances. It is the willingness to participate fully in the vocation of Christian discipleship, as a slave or bond servant. Like our Savior who set the standard for Christian fortitude he submitted to the savagery, scorn and torture of the Cross. It is a forfeiture of ease for the way of the Cross.

Now endurance is another term that has been so secularized that it has lost its intent also. Endurance speaks to the very core, constitution or construct of a person, not “desire” necessarily, to push through and to bear hardship. It refers in many ways to the tolerance for prolonged exertion pain and hardship. It refers to the ability and willingness of the individual to survive despite the personal cost or liability. It is the manner in which one accepts and manages the ravages of commitment and circumstance. This acceptance to endure what must occur is also demonstrated by our Lord on His way to Golgotha. The Via Dolorosa is a perfect and whole example of how we must endure every humiliation, every trial, every pain and get up even when we fall. I would also humbly point out that it must have pained our Lord perhaps even more so, to endure when He accepted the absolute the confines of flesh during the Incarnation.

Stamina describes a type of strength, energy or resistance to discomfort. It may be equately with grace which can be multiplied. By increasing one’s willingness to endure we are graced with a higher threashold before discomfort begins, before fatigue or exertion wreaks havoc and this is stamina.  Unlike endurance, stamina refers to an abiding aptitude and energy an enduring persistence or talent.

W can increase our talents by increasing stamina. This innate tolerance and regeneration is what creates the ease and grace in which some can do extraordinary feats. There is a perpetual and simultaneous rejuvenation for those who are endowed with a healthy generous dose of stamina. We capitalize on our stamina with effort with consistency seeking to expend effort on improving endurance and fortitude which is character building.

Refer yet again to our Lord and Savior who was arguably endowed by His very nature, the duality and perfect synergy of His two natures to have the greatest ‘amount’ of innate ability and stamina. Yet he too in His humanity had to indure anquish as He sweat blood on the eve of His arrest and prayed for His disciples and all who believe. Our Lord demonstrated perfectly the synergy of stamina, fortitude and endurance to tolerate prolonged hardship, pain, disappointment, temptation and torture whether in the desert or on the Cross for us all.

On the road to salvation there is an inseparable integration of these terms and characteristics. They are inseparable because of the interplay and interdependence of one with the other. They should not be conflated or confused and I pray I haven't done so here because of my own lacking and ignorance. We are each given a talent an amount and it varies that can be equated with stamina but we are all called to increase our talent and not to bury or squander it.
While actively studying Karate the motto was simple “Hard work beats talent when talent quits working hard”. I think it speaks well to this point. When building one’s increase it is uncomfortable and takes ‘sweat equity’ or labor. When we stretch beyond our former limits we establish new thresholds new horizons and create a more complete reality for ourselves. Our ability to mitigate strife and difficulty improves and therefore our endurance is elongated and extended. These positive outcomes often are the very stepping stones which were once stumbling blocks. They influence our thinking, feeling and belief. Our fortitude is thereby exponentially increased.

Orthodoxy, correct living, in this context is a pragmatic extension of the lessons of Saint Paul that we are essentially and in reality forging our salvation despite our iniquity but in the furnace of purification. It is a furnace the climate and environment is not hospitable. We may lament our turmoil the injustice the shame but we move forward amputating or pruning what is not useful or hurtful and making room in our lives for the blessings and holiness of God. Our Lord in Chapter 17 of the Gospel According to John states that he does not wish us to be taken out of the world but that we should be kept from evil. We are here to work out our salvation move through our journey in this life time. Remember also that we are already in eternity.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Today was a good day. Do you ever have good days i most certainly hope so. What made today so lovely was that I am moving through some obsticals I've had


Logosimi can snuff out all enthusiasm, will cast dispersions on our brother while casting a huge shadow of doubt.  True psychic pain, feels like saddness, desperation, ineptitude and loss.  

Moments become extended periods which result in years where we  feel cloaked in failure. There is a paranoia which affixes itself to the schema of the mind systematically and efficiently eats away at self-worth and confidence.

Every event needlessly becomes a litmus test of  God's interest and concern, our perceived ability, credibility and self-worth. Ironically most 'events' do not confirm or deny, correspond or correlate  whatever with our real or imagined internal or cosmic struggle.

This artificial testing ground become fertile soil for insecurity, self-doubt, dissatisfaction, isolation and rejection. Anticipatory anxiety feeds the beast stealing even moments of reprieve which later only seem to mock hope. Feelings of dejection snowball and anxiety flourishes. By definition anxiety is a free floating fear which has no root, is irrational,  having  no place and yet expelling it from the garden of our hearts is virtually impossible.

We become the Emperor with our 'new clothes'. Rashly discarding our competence, confidence and unique skill set for neurosis which  is keenly aware of the snickering, murmuring and ridicule. We become darkened and sullied, devoid of skill and without accolades.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Theology As A Gift

The essential life is the reunification of man with God. Not god who is fashioned from mankind's  need and thereby a creation of man. Neither should this reunification be a superstitious and legalistic endeavor to meet the requirements  a strict moral codex or ritualistic statutes in which we commit to an external compliance replete with disdain for our brother.  The New Testament is full of reference which cautions this type of empty compliance and the pitfalls legalism. 
Many individuals, sects, world religions and Christian denominations (whatever they are) seek to determine what Christianity is and most get it wrong; plain and simple. They reduce and bind God to a religion, a philosophy or an ideal of good intention; but Christianity is the revelation of Christ to us and it is our reconciliation with God. It is not a feel good love fest, pep rally, nor is it a geopolitical movement; rather we are clothed with the very armor of Christ. We seek to unite with our God who desires our healing and a vibrant relationship with each of us.

There is no evidence that the Holy Spirit will inject Himself in the heart of an unwelcoming host. Our relationship with God is very much a cooperative effort.  When we seek we shall find, ask and it shall be given, knock and it shall be opened to us (New Testament) By our very action through praxis which is very much tangible and attainable, the power of God enters into our lives. To assume to understand theology without practice is to understand nothing. It is actually more harmful then nothing it is delusional.

Theology is not just another scholastic exercise learned by rote or traditional methods like mathematics. It is a Gift of the Holy Spirit (see St. Paul) given to those who are identified by their Chrismation and are being purified and who focus on the inner life. If we believe the Church fathers then it is not taught by these tele-evangelists on Trinity Broadcasting not by national 'icons' like Billy Grahm or End Time preachers like Benny Hinn. We are cautioned by St. Maximus and St. Thalassios (etc.) that theology is not a worldly wisdom but a spiritual wisdom and discernment which the Holy Spirit gives as revelations from God. Theology and understanding is not the result of a great intellect or persuasive speech (see St. Paul).

Those of us who are not Saints and are not yet perfected must at least be on the path to purification and healing. Humility and determination when coupled with a competent spiritual guide will help us to approach the Chalice with some hope of Salvation and not to condemnation. To state the truth plainly is not to insult or to boast about my own progress as that would be a farce. These are merely observations that I have made through my journey these almost 43 years.

This experiment in running which I write so much about and which I invest so much of my time in; is an attempt to concretely put into practice our Holy Traditions and Biblical Principles. It is not an exercise in physical prowess or a serious interest in my health but a way of using the body to bend the will; to find spiritual enlightenment. The Holies (Saints) of God who through their own purification and deification lead us by the hand, encourage and guide us on our own journey.

We are journeymen who are homeward bound. That is Theology which is a gift of the Holy Spirit not an academic exercise.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Poetic License Revisits Orthopraxis

Poetic License Revisits Orthopraxis

Orthodoxia is abstract
Orthopraxis is tangible.

The seamless, the timeless
the very constant of me.
The immaterial essence of self.
It is not ego, per say
It’s the intersection of the soul
and the construct of the mind.

Our body the time portal
contains our memories
and interfaces with the world.
It is the where we are called
within the confines of this life
where we work out our place
within the Kingdom.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Disappointment the Identifiable Anguish

Agiographios Elias Damianakis
Archon Maestor of the Holy & Great Church of Christ
Life is replete with struggle, obstacles and even suffering. Often times the difficulty we face comes from our own doing or undoing. Disappointment and uncertainty bear an identifiable anguish that if left to grow can erode hope and confidence that a resolution is at hand. Understand that our Lord cautioned that we would have adversity and tribulation in this life but to take comfort that He (our Lord) has overcome the world.

Strife and anxiety can muddy the waters and cloud judgement. This can lead us off on red herrings and roundabouts delaying our arrival and even creating insurmountable obstacles by not learning or heeding lessons. Pride and self doubt are odd bed fellows. Humility, patience and faith will expand our vision, refine our judgment and determine the correct course. Enduring the process of healing and growing will yield unknowable blessings and solutions which sometimes are only perceptible after the fact.

Tending to Details

Tending to the details of life are necessary opportunities not dismal obligations. At the onset this is painfully hidden and many get sidetracked and find they have detoured. Expanding lessons from the all the training is more to the point then apparent when logging miles. Dispensing with the vicious approach avoidance cycle is paramount when desiring a more wonderfully enriching life.

The wonder is in the details and making projects your own. I have spent consecutive days following through on the tasks which have been derailed by laziness and avoidance. I was amazed repeatedly the progress and movement that is made by consistent effort and labor. Small tasks have an impact over time. For example stringing together many short runs builds the base which makes long runs possible.

Remember to cense your house to bless your family to pray. I have spent a few moments each day with my three year old blessing one another. I prayed evening prayers tonight alone in my chapel and I called to mind through the structure of the designated prayers to invoke the assistance of the Holy Trinity, the Theotokos, the angels, Saint John Chrysostom, Gregory the Theologian, Nicholas the Wonder worker, John the Baptist, the Apostles, the Female martyrs, myrhbearers and virgins, angelic hosts, the ascetics and Prophets etc. and so the list went on and on. The effect was that I was increasingly more aware that I prayed in concert with the Church Triumphant. Each became humbly approachable and wholly personal to me like physicians awaiting to hear my symptoms and heartache.

I was reminded how organic the Church is and how we are interconnected one with another a true body with Christ the Bridegroom as the head. It is enough for me to know that although I pray privately within my heart but I am never alone.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Heeding My Own Advice How Sweet It Is

I have continued on the course set before me commit to do what makes life good. I did some writing in the morning with my coffee and running after dinner. This was the first running since the marathon last Sunday and it was exactly as it should be. I couldn't resist thinking about what is acceptable weekly mileage.

It is amazing how a healthy does of industriousness energizes. Sleep is a blessing when it comes at night but sleep during the day makes one tired and sluggish. I spent the remainder of the day working on the stuff that sometimes get moved to another time. The family chapel was top priority today and Saint Anthony the Great weighed on my heart. The chapel which is now suited to prayer and privacy is sweet to the eyes and the heart. It is the first room to the left when you enter the house and it lets all who enter "As for me and my house we shall serve the Lord".

The hall closet even got an overhaul and the tapestry from Brussels was finally mounted. The kids did their fare share. After a good days where I called them to the front door and we looked into our home into the chapel and the formal room then we walked on to  the family room, the kitchen, "running central" (the treadmill room), the screen room and even the water closet. The downstairs (with the exception of the garage and storage room) was attended to.

This was not all butterflies and pixie dust there was shouting,  bickering and some resistance but in the end all turn out well and we feasted on a fantastic dinner made by Elias and Euphemia. Although I don't think they would voluntarily sign up for warrior weekend projects they did confirm how the house was welcoming and how we felt relaxed and had an openness about us which had been absent since the holidays. 

 Life can be turbulent and really good.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The "To Do List"

There is a definite tendency to over think and plan.  We beat the proverbial horse in everything we do having become expert list makers. We've become an accumulation of great ideas that seem to go no where. We spend months, years and decades planning for the perfect conditions rather then improving what we can and enjoy what has been given. We decide to just do it already.

Get up everyday and commit to doing something. Spend each weekend becoming a project warrior and spend some hours with your children teaching them the benefits of home improvements. If the kids don't like the smell of trash take it out and to the curb. Consider how even the garbage is made possible because of our plenty and then how blessed we are that it is hauled far away. Attention to detail and time each day devoted to improving your physical space will not go unrewarded.

Devaluing the smaller doable changes is just a way of being lazy and resistant to taking  charge. We condition ourselves to ignore and eventually not to see the misplaced items the chipping paint or the toothpaste in the sink. We must watch for this desensitization which is the same operation that kicks in and we fail to see the homeless the hungry. We must raise awareness of our surroundings and the conditions of our life and of course our soul. We see but do not perceive we hear but to not listen. We turn a blind eye and then we incrementally slowly close ourselves off from more and more of our corner of the world.

Saint Anthony the Great understood that even the monks and nuns who have dedicated themselves to prayer can not lead a life where prayer is the sole activity; there must be labor. I am always amazed by the popular misconception that many laity have that the monastics withdraw from the work of urban life to attend church and pray. Consider the work that these oasis' in the deserts require. Maintenance is a part of every life or it should be. 

There is "the doing" that we must get done regularily to move through our day obviously but then there are those activities which are basically brainless the cabinet that needs tightening, the pictures that need hanging, or the weeds that won't wait. Completing these tasks can be calming because of their simplicity. They are equally rewarding as we are reminded throughout our day of how we made that small space better. We no longer avoid the cabinet or the flower bed or the unfinished wall.

There has been the growing impetus in this society to reward avoidance where it is seen as a badge of honor and menial chores are seen as tasks others are hired to do.   By taking ownership of our space and what needs to be done we enjoy the fruits of our labor and move through the private space in our home and yard recreating order and serenity in a personal way.

It is true that in the deepest sense the inner reality creates the outer form but ignoring or dismissing the outer reality is like ignoring that we are a spiritual creature with a body. We can apply this concept of doing small tasks regularly to change more subtle aspects to our inner life also. A small daily prayer will change our life being courteous to our neighbors or the clerks where we shop will provide a more relational experience.

These small changes will create the momentum which will set the stage for bigger and better changes. We will not be entrusted with more if we fail to be good stewards of what we have been given. If we don't care for our stuff our little treasures our selves we can't hardly expect others to.  So cense your house everyday, bless your children and paint the porch.

So get up and just get it done. Change your attitude about chores don't resist doing them don't resent having to clean up and fix up. See it as your pleasure and a concrete way of thanking God for the abundance of your life.  Tending to your personal space is not work it should not be equated with some kind of enslavement our material work.  You are privileged to have the opportunity to create a clean beautiful space in which you live.  We must remember it is our home wherever it is.  It is where we relax and make ourselves at home with our families. 

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Do What You Can

The Serenity Prayer
God grant me
the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.
The courage to change the things I can.
And the wisdom to know the difference.

Subscribing to the notion of an internal locos of control is a powerful way to live. To maintain such a mindset and to function from that worldview is liberating as you carve out for yourself the life you want. In doing so we are limited only by a lack of creativity to contend with our internal ambivalence and external obstacles, challenges and opposing interests which seek to assert another agenda.

There are undeniable givens which are fixed like gender, birth order, race, citizenship, genetics  and intelligence which establish parameters and shape our identity. They are only the beginning of how we interface with the world and  more importantly with our Creator. None of these fixed characteristics of a person touch on the spirit of a person, the incorporeal essence or the eternal center of the human being.  These 'predetermined' or fixed variables may be compared with a rule book but does not speak to strategy or intent or desire.
Does this then mean that overwhelming adversity or strife negates the reality of an internal locus of control? Hardly, we hear about individuals overcoming what seems like impossible odds. Human trafficking, genocide, trauma, abuse, starvation and modern day slavery are no match for the human spirit and resolve. More then about changing such conditions it is very much out how we move through such adversity. In the United States there is a tremendous reservoir of untapped potential and resignation of the any personal initiative. Acceptance is confused with defeatism. As explored in other blog entries depression is endemic in the American society being largely a disease of affluence. The human spirit is stupefied and doped up on instant gratification and entitlements. 

I reject Calvin and his predestination along with Augustine and his ideas of human depravity. I deny emphatically the fatalism of determinism. As Orthodox Christians we strive to return to God and like the Prodigal we find the Father waiting to embrace us.

On the flip side yielding or submitting to an external locus of control ideology is a terrifying prospect where emancipated individuals are shackled,  lack the free will, volition or the ability to shape their lives.  By circumventing or more correctly exposing, the thin rhetoric of that poorly constructed paradigm which seeks to assert that we are little more then lab rats subject to the reflexive responses of behaviorism and determinism run amok; we can continue to be empowered.

By understanding the essentials of an internal locus of control we no longer have to live in a constant fear of deprivation or anxiety. We are able to harness the full force of our God given talents and use them to live securely and authentically. We can be good citizens by encouraging others to take control of their decisions and not to settle into the learned helplessness. By lending our 'ego' strength to others by showing empathy not sympathy (a fundamental distinction) and by our example of faith and fortitude we can show our neighbors how they too can be effective change agents in their own lives.

As we enforce our determination and augment our skill set those situations which seek to draw us away from our personal empowerment diminish and become the stepping stones beckoning us out to put our best foot forward. The conditions that exist beyond our control  are blessed and released as we partner with God.

More then accepting our limitations as givens we must accept our ability and the responsibility we have in shaping our community for the better. It is altruistic not self absorbed to embrace our unique abilities. It is the ultimate cop-out to live a life controlled by others. It is too empty to have an existence where we feel blown about by the tides of the day, by the whim of some, by the assertions of others who may not have our interest in mind.
We can take charge within our own lives and work collectively with our family to make life better. Our family can be a safe, loving fortress which is fortified by Christian values. All of our communications with extended family, friends and colleagues should be respectful, engaging and with the utmost of civility.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Journey v.s.Destination

I always thought that I was a destination driven person. Of course each of us are journeymen in this life enroute to the Promised Land where there is neither pain nor sorrow.  God's Grace has provided any and all hope to navigate the storm and make passage to the safe harbor. All hope of finding our way  is contingent on our willingness to engage with God and His Divine Revelation through a robust prayer life and the medicine offered us through Mysteria of  the Church. "It is not one's own efforts which lead to the goal, because without grace, efforts produce little. Nor does grace without effort bring what is sought, because grace acts in us and for us through our efforts." St. Theophan the Recluse

This past weekend I realized that I may not actually be a destination driven individual but a journeyman. During my marathon I realized that I don't like racing (to use the term very loosely). I have only ever enjoyed one organized event in 2005 which is why I almost never enter a road race. I'm not complaining about the team of volunteers or the traffic control or the enthusiasm from the crowds rather I resist what they seem to assert about the runner. It is true that it can be a helpful tool an objective assessment but of what actually?
Training is driven by the desire to go in and connect with God. Training provides the structure to engage the mind, body and soul in a consistent format. Running road races seems to cheapen the effort. It seems tht event running is more concerned with bragging rights then with the deeper matters of self and spiritual intergration.
The relaxed circumstance of training runs are wholly personal, relaxed and non judgmental. Once I start adding divisions and finishing times the fun and joy is sucked right out and running starts to be invaded by the status and economy of the rest of life. Judgment and ridicule abound in so many aspects of our life that it seems sad to sacrifice the sanctuary and respit of my runs for something as silly as a medal.
Performance based assessments tools like road races and events award accolades based simply on finishing times which are determined largely  by genetics, opportunity and training. I admire the grace and beauty of athletes who are blessed with the genetic genenius and the brilliance which shines from their hard work. It is wonderful to watch and is inspiring. I choose to look through a different prism one which gives promise and rewards my intent when paired with diligence. Even the ordinary can do extraordinary feats when engaged with God's Grace.
So to wind up this blog entry I know there are those  motivated by the arrival on the scene and others like myself who are more about the journey. Of course when the road to the destination presents challenges we all wish we could just get there already and just move the mountain.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Run for Religious Freedom Marathon Stats and Update

This was the most ambivalent training I've had. It was different then the first two marathon trainers in some very important ways. The only similarity between these three marathons was that each was dedicated to the Ecumenical Patriarch and the cause of Religious Freedom.

 Motivation is a difficult thing to fake and it was difficult at times to be excited about the process but I knew that in the end I would be better for doing it and would most likely seek to complete many more marathons through the years.

I will continue to offer the national team-in-training 16 week program free of charge to whomever was interested in Running for Religious Freedom. For future reference simply contact me decide on a race and I'll help you week to week. There were many people interested but few who were willing to take on the challenge themselves. Demetra P. is one who is training for her first marathon this April! This is just the beginning of Run for Religious Freedom and I am setting up my website and store to assist Orthodox Christians to get involved and to create a sense of community in the running world. For those of you who have been following my training and this cause I'll post the stats of this my third marathon dedicated to His All-Holiness and the Inaugural Event for the Run for Religious Freedom.

Cause: Run for Religious Freedom

Participant: Damianakis, Angela
Event: Walt Disney World Marathon Jan. 9, 2011
Female 42 yr. old

Distance: MARATHON 26.2 miles
Clock Time 4:27:32                             Chip Time 4:23:01
Overall Place 3702 / 13522                 Gender Place 1054 / 6267             Division Place 177 / 951
Age Grade 55.1%
5 Mile 48:12                                       10 Mile 1:37:30
Half Split 2:09:46                                20 Mile 3:18:42

O.K. everyone this wasn't a personal record but it is completed. Please know there is always another marathon to take our cause to the streets. Please remember to donate through Paypal (button on this blog) if you believe this a worthy cause.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Run for Religious Freedom Marathon 2011

Run for Religious Freedom Marathon 2011 in upon us. What I hope to accomplish with this inaugural event is to empower a grassroots effort and telegraph bodly the message: We are tenacious, dedicated and persistent. Although we live the world seas away, we care about religious freedom and the right of our spiritual leader the Ecumenical Patriarch to be afforded all civil and human rights endowed to each of us by our Creator.

Stepping out despite my weakness or inexperience will provide a most valuable tool. It has already changed how I approach challenges in life. This is faith: the gap between ability and accomplishment. This training, this basic running rule, has shown me how to apply Biblical principles in everyday life. In the end we all must ask ourselves whom do we really serve in our behavior, by our conduct, with our effort; there is where our heart is. So I'm will lace up and get moving!!!

I will Dig Deep and shake the lead out.

On Being Terminally Ill

There is a healthy way to be ill. Living only in terms of waiting on death is not living.  Even when given a "death sentence" dropping out of life is no way to spend the rest of one's time. It is the perfect opportunity to right wrongs,  repent, to find God now that you have been freed from the superficiality of this world.

Modification of daily functioning may be quite necessary and inevitable but resolving to die is not the point. Accepting the course and circumstance one can harness a resolve not found among most indulged with excellent health and opportunity.

Redefining long term goals and perceiving essentials beyond this mortal life can console, comfort and even motivate. Worry about a pension ten years off becomes insignificant and new emphasis can be placed on acceptance and love,  on forgiveness and faith. These after all are the real concerns the true preoccupations in life.

If desperation and fear kick in we can become obsessed with prolonging life beyond reasonable limits which can be misguided and fool hearty as death will find us all. Dying with dignity comes with living in understanding one's relationship to death and to life eternal. If you seek to save your life you will lose it.