Three Ways to Persevere in Orthodox Worship Even When Itā€™s Boring

Iā€™ll admit it. Recently the liturgy felt longer than usual, even though my FitBit told me it wasnā€™t. I had been unable to corral my wandering thoughts during worship and had difficulty focusing. No spiritual or temporal crisis loomed. I believed the words, I appreciated the service and those who ministered, but going through the motions left me disconnected, stifling yawns. And yetā€¦   The thought of worshiping elsewhere, of looking forā€¦

Three Takeaways from the Protoevangelium of James

During December’s twenty-four days before Christmas, blog readers joined me in reading one ā€œchapterā€ a day from the Protoevangelium of James, which functions as a sort of prequel and addendum to the gospel accounts of the Nativity. What are we to think of this poetic, mystical document? Scholarly debates about its origins and historicity are way above my pay grade, and the purpose of this devotional exercise was not to debate, butā€¦

People You Should Know: St. Ignatius of Antioch

December is a busy time in the Orthodox tradition. Beyond the Nativity celebration, the month also features the feast days of some flashy, well-known fathers like Saint Nicholas (Dec. 6), Saint Spyridon (Dec. 12), and Saint Stephen, the first martyr from the Book of Acts (Dec. 27). Often lost in the shuffle is a second-century martyr who changed my life: St. Ignatius of Antioch. His feast day is fast approaching (Dec. 20),ā€¦

Pondering the Nativity through Iconography

Over the years, I’ve heard variations of a particular message from Christian friends: Icons were created for an illiterate population, but once the Bible became available to the masses and people learned to read, we no longer needed pictures to communicate truth. The reference to the irrelevance of religious art, or ā€œicon worship,ā€ was often accompanied by a patronizing tone of voice that implied that pictures are for children, not for thoseā€¦

Advent Reading: The Protoevangelium for December

  The first of December is coming! In fact, if you’re reading this on Saturday, it’s here. For those of you who would like to participate in reading one chapter a day of theĀ Protoevangelium of JamesĀ (also known as theĀ Gospel of James) through Christmas Eve, steep yourself a cup of tea and join me. You can download it here, and if you’d like a brief introduction to this cherished document, you can readā€¦

Drinking Coffee without Controversy

Recently I stood in my churchā€™s crowded fellowship hall with my Styrofoam cup of coffee, savoring the genuine half-and-half on a non-fasting day and feeling content after another beautiful Divine Liturgy. Somehow this after-church mingling felt different than even the warmest times of fellowship in my Protestant days. But why?   Yes, the liturgy was beautiful, filled with deep truths and symbolism that will take me a lifetime to unpack. But somethingā€¦

Prequel to Christmas: Reading “The Rest of the Story”

Years ago I enjoyed listening to legendary radio broadcaster Paul Harvey’s weekday programĀ The Rest of the Story. (For those of you who are old enough to remember, his distinctive voice is now playing in your head. You’re welcome.)Ā In each show, Harvey would reveal interesting, often forgotten details about a well-known event, saving a key piece of information (usually the name of a famous person) for the surprise ending. As we approach Christmas,Ā theā€¦

A Countercultural Christmas Carol

All right, I’ll admit it. I’ve been indulging my carnivorous cravings over the past few days, as I often do before a long fast begins. [See *Note below.] The Nativity Fast commences on Thursday (November 15th), and Iā€™m gettinā€™ real here: the timing of this fast is seriously inconvenient.   It is the second-longest fast of the year: forty days before Christmas, and itā€™s not even that difficult, food-wise. Fish, olive oil,ā€¦

Burned Out on Church with Nowhere to Turn

Should I give up on church? For several years I wrestled with this question. The short answer was ā€œno.ā€ I wasnā€™t angry at God, I wasnā€™t angry at people, and I knew that Christians are not supposed to forsake ā€œassembling ourselves togetherā€ (Hebrews 10:25). But my church experiences left me unsatisfied. My husband and I dragged our children to one type of church, then another in our quest forā€¦something. We met wonderfulā€¦