Monday, May 16, 2016

Let the words of my mouth

Learning about Orthodoxy through books, and having an Orthodox worldview are very different things. The books are a beginning, but developing "the mind of Christ" is a slow process.

I have noticed that there are many phrases that you frequently hear the Orthodox use that reflect the rich theology deeply woven into the life of the faithful. God is present here and now, and every act and person is commended to him. I have collected some of these here:

"Lord have mercy."
"May God receive."
"By your prayers."
"Esm il salib."  
"Thank God."

"Lord have mercy."
We pray this frequently in all of our services (For the sick, the suffering... Lord have mercy. For travelers... Lord have mercy), but also privately, when we hear of someone in need of prayer. For every need, in every situation, we ask God for his mercy:
"The word mercy in English is the translation of the Greek word eleos. This word has the same ultimate root as the old Greek word for oil, or more precisely, olive oil; a substance which was used extensively as a soothing agent for bruises and minor wounds. The oil was poured onto the wound and gently massaged in, thus soothing, comforting and making whole the injured part. The Hebrew word which is also translated as eleos and mercy is hesed, and means steadfast love. The Greek words for 'Lord, have mercy,' are 'Kyrie, eleison'  that is to say, 'Lord, soothe me, comfort me, take away my pain, show me your steadfast love.' Thus mercy does not refer so much to justice or acquittal  a very Western interpretation but to the infinite loving-kindness of God, and his compassion for his suffering children! It is in this sense that we pray 'Lord, have mercy,' with great frequency throughout the Divine Liturgy." - GOARCH
See also this from the Antiochian Archdiocese. 

"May God receive."
Or "May God receive your efforts."
I first heard this in the book A Scent of Holiness, and have found it very helpful to me. When someone offers some act of kindness or other almsgiving, the recipient responds not with "Thank you," but with "May God receive." In this way the recipient acknowledges the kindness of the other is a service to God, and also offers a prayer as their thanks. Similarly, if someone does respond with, "thank you" the giver may reply with "May God receive," which points back toward God, rather than just deflecting with something like, "it was nothing." See also here and here

"By your prayers."
Or "Through the prayers."
I also first read this in the The Scent of Holiness, but also from Fr. Stephen at Glory to God. It is used both in the services, but also in daily life, by which we attribute our accomplishments (or even our salvation) to the prayers of others:

"It is a recognition that we cannot make this journey alone. I have days when I think I’m doing ok, and then there are much longer periods when I realize that only by the prayers of others and the mercies of God will I make this journey in any shape or form." - Fr. Stephen

"Esm il salib."  اسم الصليب

Forgive me if my transliteration here is poor - I relied on Google translate. I hear this frequently from a dear friend at my parish who says it three times (in Arabic) every time she picks up my infant daughter. She told me it means, "in God's name," but I also see it translated as "by the name of cross," which is a shorted form of "may you be saved by the name of the Holy cross." She is commending to God something beautiful and precious.

"Thank God."

I still forget so much to say this, but hearing it from others, especially frequently from our khouria, has made a deep impression on me. Whenever someone compliments another, instead of replying, "you're welcome" or deflecting, we reply "thank God." So, "that was a big help to me!" is answered with "thank God!" Similarly, we may say, "what beautiful weather, thank God!" All good things are from God. This is different from a prosperity gospel, because we thank God in all things, not only in prosperity. In our morning prayers, we thank God for raising us up in each day. 

Friday, May 6, 2016


Before we started our mission church, we traveled 2 hours to attend church in Memphis. We love this church so much, but often felt like we were observing this community from a distance and not able to participate in their life. We attended Pascha, but we couldn't stay for the picnics and parties, and so a lot of our celebrating happened alone. We wouldn't even be Orthodox or have our own mission for a few more years, and so it was lonely at times.

One year Kh. Susan (who was my first Orthodox friend), wrote about one of their traditions: making Magiritsa on Pascha. A friend had taught her this recipe, which is meant to feed the whole church, and the instructions factor in the timing of the services. After her friend Urania died, Kh. Susan wanted to pass on the tradition to other women in their church. When I read Kh. Susan's writing about making soup with her friend, I wanted so badly to be one of those women learning to make lamb soup in the kitchen at St. John. I don't imagine that Greek soup or red eggs are among the more important parts of Christianity, but they play a really beautiful role, sanctifying our daily lives and connecting us to each other. This special meal on this special day is one of the ways they are bound together in community. I wanted to belong, too.

So I made her soup. At home in my own kitchen. I remember that was the year we were choosing a house site on our land. We put some soup in a thermos and had a picnic during Bright Week on our house site. The kids were just babies, our house was just a dream, and my Orthodox community was in a thermos hours away from the church.

But it was a beginning.

Now, we have a thriving parish with many friends who teach us their faith. I am grateful for the time my friend Tina spent teaching me to make kolliva; and for Emily, who helped me to make my prosfora loaves more even; and for all the others who share their life and faith with us in these simple and cullinary ways. And now I'm making this soup for my parish.

So anyway, make some soup. You should read her full directions at the link above, but the proportions I used (about 1/4th recipe) are as follows:

2 lbs lamb
1 small batch parsley
1 small batch cilantro
1 bunch green onions
1/2 yellow onion
1/2 TBSP fresh dill
2 TBSP butter

Avgolemono Sauce:juice of 3 lemons (9 TBSPs lemon juice)
1 1/4 TBSP cornstarch
4 eggs
salt and pepper to taste

Cook the lamb in a big soup pot. When cooked add the butter and all the chopped herbs and onions. Add enough water to make soup. [ I think I added 8-10 cups of water.] Simmer for 1 hour or longer. Meanwhile, whisk together the Avgolemono sauce. Shortly before serving, slowly add some of the broth to the avgolemono sauce a little at a time, stirring constantly so that the eggs do not curdle. Then add the mixture to the soup pot, and stir constantly. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately. (I always make mine ahead of time and my eggs always curdle. Its still wonderful, though!)

Monday, May 2, 2016

"Rejoice always."

I used to have the prayer, "Lord of all pots and pans and things," in my kitchen window, but last week after re-reading an old post from Glory to God for All Things, I replaced my dish-washing meditation with this verse:

"Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." - I Thess 5:16-18
Fr. Stephen explains, "The underlying message of modern pietism in its various forms (including Orthodox) is that there is nothing wrong with us that the right choices and right rewards will not fix. All that is needed is right information. But this is not the teaching of the Christian faith." And later: "St. Paul doesn’t endorse slavery, but he recognizes that many will have no choice. If you have a choice, 'Use it!' he says. But for many who will have no choice, he suggests something else: 'Do not be concerned about it.'"

So we begin again!

Christ is risen!

Pascha basket ready to go!

dressed up for Pascha!

blessing the fleshmeats!
A little Pascha humor, but seriously, where's the meat?
Pascha baskets, lots of candy eggs, Saint peg dolls, and coffee 
"This is Mr. Hades and I'm gobbling him up!"  - how Orthodox do chocolate bunnies :)

Confetti eggs on the clearance easter rack
- makes my kitchen floor look like the floor of the nave after Holy Saturday. 

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Red Egg Poem printable

I decided to play around with a new red egg design this year, and I made a little poem to go with it. It fits a full size page, but feel free to scale it down for cards, etc. We're almost there!

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Holy Week Map

This is a Holy Week Map I made for our church. It folds into a pamphlet. The outside has our church's contact information and services, but the inside has a map of all the services of Holy Week with a brief description. If you want to use the map, you can leave off the second page with our church info.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

When God Made You (a book review)

I wrote this review for We Wilsons, but wanted to share it with my reader's here, too. 

I like to include books in our Easter baskets each year, and this year I found one so lovely I bought it for my godchildren, too! I love a book that puts beautiful illustrations and poetic images in children's hands, and even better, this book challenges them to think poetically, too. When God Made You is a delight. We don't celebrate Easter until later this year (see why here), so I'm still waiting to share it with my kids, and I can hardly wait!

Each page introduces a new child from a different culture and with different gifts. It goes one to explain the unique recipe for each child: seeds, fizzy candy, drum beats and wood. My oldest daughter loves drawing connections to metaphors, so I believe she will like thinking about how these "ingredients" work together to make each child's unique skills and strengths. The book ends by asking, "What beautiful things was God thinking when He made you?" I expect we will have silly and serious conversations about what beautiful things in our world might make each of us.

The book clearly presents God as the maker of people (and beauty!), but doesn't go much farther to explain God. This has the lovely affect of encouraging children to see God through his creation, and leaves the door open for you to discuss your faith in the way you choose.

The illustrations initially look like fanciful watercolors, but the more you look, you can see illustrator Megan Elizabeth Gilbert included collage elements as well. The pictures are full of new things to find with each reading.

The author Jane Meyer encourages children to write or draw their own page for "When God Made You," and send it to her! Here are some instructions I put together to get my kids started, with my own little entry below. I'll have to share later when the kids do their own.
1. What do you do really well? (an action, e.g. painting)
2. What do you like about that? (looking, color, being playful)
3. What is hard about it? (seeing too much,
3. What kinds of things help you do it? (brushes, pigments, flowers, icons)
4. Where do you live, and where do you do your action? (Tennessee, upstairs)
5. Write your explanation of what God was thinking when He made you!
6. Draw a scene of you doing your thing in your place. Be sure to show what is unique about where you live, and include the elements that you like and that help you. Hide some of these elements here and there so people don't see them all at first (because isn't that how God hides things in us?).
When God made Laura, he spattered her cheeks with copper and tickled her fingers with foxgloves. Then he gently opened her eyes and brushed her lashes with sunlight and clay and gold leaf. Stepping aside and pointing, God said, "Laura, paint!"

*This book review contains affiliate links, but I bought the book and reviewed it out of my own delight!