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.