It’s Getting Cold

It’s getting cold.

I walk to work in the morning with my body bundled into a warm coat, my feet in boots, my head down to keep the wind from biting too fiercely. We who are on these streets walk quickly, there is no room for small talk or conversation. We are glad to get to our destinations and breathe, away from the wind and the cold.

It’s getting cold. Yet there are still homeless on my streets. There are still men and women huddled together, spooning under blankets for comfort, there are still signs that say “Homeless. Can you help?” Shivering in the morning wind, Charlie asks me for spare change. I get him a cup of coffee and move on.

Border crossing - Turkey Syria

It’s getting cold. And Syrian refugees in no man’s land are in flimsy tents with little to guard them from the incoming winter. Bare feet and no jackets for children of all ages, families that have nothing left, a system strained under fear and corruption that has to fight to make sure aid goes where it is most needed.

I am acutely aware of all of this as I take a hot shower and sit before a warm heater drinking hot coffee. It’s getting cold and there are so many without — without heat, without home, without family. I can hardly bear this, hardly bear the thought of millions of refugees that can’t keep warm or nourished. Hardly bear that I walk by homeless huddled for comfort.

“This is not the way life should be” I shout in my head to a silent Heaven.

It’s getting cold and I have my choice of 3 coats to wear and scarves line my closet. It’s getting cold and I have warm sweaters and food, heat and light. I pray the only prayer that makes sense: “Lord Have Mercy” adding a question to the end of the prayer:

“How can I bring warmth to a world that is so cold?”

How do we bring warmth to a world that is cold? 


date raisin muffinsI don’t know about you, but I find baking healing. Especially when the goods can be shared. Stacy has an amazing recipe today: Date Syrup Raisin Muffins. One of the things I love about Stacy is that she links stories to her recipes. Here is what she says about this recipe: “This week on Monday, 2 December, the UAE celebrates its 42nd National Day so I decided to create a muffin with some local-ish flavors.  This muffin is made with date honey or syrup and cardamon along with some cinnamon and raisins.  For those who can’t find date honey, molasses is an excellent substitute both in deep flavor and consistency.” If you try these muffins – let us know! Either click on the picture or the link above to get to the recipe.

The Reluctant Orthodox – Volume 2 “On Pews, Standing, & Overall Comfort”


“I’m exhausted” I whisper to my husband “Do these people never sit?” We were attending Divine Liturgy, a service that had my husband’s face raised to the Resurrection Icon with a look of holy expectation, a service that had me shaking my head thinking “why can’t I sit?”

Orthodox churches differ in how many pews they have, but a common characteristic in all of them is that you stand. A Lot.

And I’m not used to standing, unless I’m speaking at a workshop. In fact, my body isn’t used to much discomfort. Too cold? I put on heat. Too warm? I put on a fan or go to the ocean. Too tired? I lay down. Too hungry? I eat. Too angry? I vent.

In a word, the world I live in is ‘comfortable’. I don’t say ‘no’ to self on a regular basis.

And that’s where my mind ends up going – thinking about how quickly I physically get uncomfortable and want to ease my discomfort. About how much I have to learn about giving up self, giving up comfort, focusing on worship and love of my Lord. The discomfort and agony of the cross is textbook discomfort for me, theory that I’d just as soon dismiss rather than shudder through, rather than really face.

If there is one thing I am learning on this journey toward Orthodoxy it is this: the church will not bend for my comfort. This strikes me as a startling revelation. So much of church shopping today is done according to comfort. “If I can’t go in my shorts, holding my large Hazelnut Latte, then it’s not the church for me.” is a quote I have heard in various versions in diverse areas of the country for the past 10 years.

And yet here I am in a church where comfort is not high on the agenda. Neither is creating an atmosphere that will make your local coffee shop aficionado feel like it’s their ‘place’. Rather, I am participating in a service and pursuing a faith that speaks in awe and reverence about the saints and their posture as they head toward their deaths. A church that hasn’t changed much since the first century. A church that invites me to look at worship in a new way. It is a church that takes the words in the book of Philippians seriously: “That I may know Him, and the power of his resurrection, the fellowship of his sufferings, being conformed to his death.”

I am in a church that stands in awe, prostrates in reverence, fasts in remembrance.

And so I stand, and I open my ears to listen to the words I am hearing from the a cappella choir, I begin to pray that I will stand with strength, that my reluctant heart will be drawn beyond the weakness of the physical to the strength of the eternal.

Lord Have Mercy on this soft, squishy, reluctant Orthodox.

The Reluctant Orthodox – Volume 1 “Ten Years Ago”

IMG_2776It was 10 years ago when my husband entered an Eastern Orthodox church in Chicago and felt like he had come ‘home’. He was there with our oldest son on a college search and happened upon this church in the middle of the city.

I had no idea when he came home that our spiritual journey would take a sharp and unmistakable turn into the mysteries of the Eastern Orthodox faith and we would never be quite the same.

A couple of months later he urged me to attend a vespers service, a Saturday night service, call it “Orthodox light”.

Saturday night vespers begins with the setting of the sun and precedes Divine Liturgy, which will be held the next day. It’s a service with a lot of Psalms and a quiet, contemplative tone.

Everyone likes Vespers….everyone except me it seemed.

So we attended vespers. I did not like the service. I disliked how long it was on a Saturday evening and day dreamed of being back home sitting on our patio, enjoying the Phoenix sunset. I was irritated by the women who attended, their faces and voices raised in out of this world peace. I was annoyed by the icons. I quickly dismissed the whole package.

“We’ll get through this eastern orthodoxy stage” I thought, and continue doing what we knew well: vacillating between feeling sometimes alienated and sometimes a part of the American evangelical church. Nothing would really change.

But a month later he invited me to Pascha, that great and glorious resurrection service signifying the end of the great fast and the Risen Saviour. And I disliked that even more. My feet hurt. My back started to ache. The apostles glared at me from Iconic holiness and I wanted to cry. I barely made it past midnight in a service that would go on until the wee hours of the morning.

Despite all this, every Sunday I get up and head to Holy Resurrection in Allston, a part of Boston known for its high population of students, bars, and ethnic restaurants. There I humbly take part in the Divine Liturgy of the Orthodox Church. I reverently venerate icons and make the sign of the cross, and I  say “Lord Have Mercy” many times. I hear the priest say “Thine own of thine own we offer up to thee” and join my voice with a hundred others singing “We have seen the true light! We have received the Heavenly Spirit. We have found the true faith, worshiping the undivided Trinity, who has saved us”

Because I am a Reluctant Orthodox. I am an unexpected, but thoroughly committed catechumen in the Eastern Orthodox Church, learning daily about this ancient faith that I sometimes doubt, other times believe, and all the time feel compelled to pursue until I reach the other side, and all is made clear.

And today marks a new edition to Communicating Across Boundaries. I will publish The Reluctant Orthodox every week on Sunday. My goal is to articulate my journey of faith, and through doing so perhaps others will see some of their own journey.

Welcome to the Reluctant Orthodox.

Sometimes it Takes a Hundred Alleluias

icons, orthodoxyIt seemed to me that it was at the 100th Alleluia that I finally let my guard down, put the tension and burdens of the week at the foot of the cross, began to look up instead of down and across.

Sometimes it takes a hundred Alleluias – sometimes it takes a thousand.

Somewhere during the process of saying the words I allowed myself to give up being a poor substitute for a deity and allow God to be God. I began to give up my need to control and offer up reins and a mouth bit to a Holy God. I realized that the depth of my heart cried out for miracles, even as my head refused to believe they were possible.

It’s at that hundredth Alleluia and the fiftieth ‘Lord Have Mercy’ that my soul begins to believe the words and rest in the God who made me – the Giver of all Life.

Today? Today it make take a thousand. But of this I am assured, the resting will come.