Aaahhh… Summer!

Debbie’s already posted a couple of times about how summer is progressing for our family. (You can read them HERE and HERE.) I am so glad that she gets a few weeks off this summer. She’s worked so hard non-stop for the last few years. I know she has missed spending leisurely time with our kids. And I know they have missed it with her as well.

I am also enjoying the slower pace. I feel that as I age, my body quickly acclimates to a more relaxing schedule than when I was younger. Yesterday was a good example. I got home from work about 4:30 pm. Debbie and the kids were swimming at their cousins’ home, so I exercised and went for a nice walk. Later, I took Debbie out for Garden Burgers at one of the family-owned restaurants in Glendora. We’ve gotten to know the owner’s wife, who is Greek Orthodox. So while waiting for our burgers, we had a nice conversation with her about fasting (we’re currently in the Apostle’s Fast) and how to help our kids learn the spiritual importance about fasting. During dinner, Debbie and I had a nice relaxing conversation. After we arrived home from dinner, I went out to water the grass in front of our apartment complex. For some reason, the sprinklers haven’t been turning on, so the grass and bushes are like crispy bacon without the cool bacon aroma. So I spent a nice time in the cool evening, watering the lawn and listening to John Grisham’s Playing for Pizza. Then later, Debbie, Michael and I watched a good cowboy movie called Crossfire Trail, which is based off of a Louis L’amour novel.

No stress. No rush. No scurrying to finish homework or scrambling to get to a meeting.

And as I thought about the slower rhythm of summer, it reminded me that we’re also experiencing a slower rhythm at Church. The Paschal season ended on Pentecost a couple of weeks ago. And as wonderful as Lent, Holy Week and Pascha were, I am enjoying the slower rhythm of the Church. It’s as if the Church is making room for all of us to take the victory and beauty of Pascha and to live it out in the world personally — in our normal rhythms of prayer, fasting, family, friends, work, and play. For me, this is what being a Christ-follower is all about — learning to grow into and embody Jesus’ fullness in real life, to become by grace what Christ is by nature. That’s salvation. That’s mission. That’s life. It really is that simple because Jesus is my salvation, my mission and my life. And being in a Church where this is just normal life for everyone is absolutely awesome!

So, I feel like I’m walking through life more thoughtful and contemplative right now. And while there are things I’d like to write about, even feel compelled to write about at times, to do so without restraint would risk engaging in a flurry that is alien to what is best for this moment and season.

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Shawn Ragan & “Prelest”

I am thoroughly enjoying Shawn’s blog. He is a professional Protestant pastor who is willing to walk away from his job and ministry in order to follow Jesus into the Orthodox Church. His posts are very authentic, well-written, and inspiring.

One of his latest posts, called “Prelest,” discusses an issue I’ve faced personally as well. Spiritual disciplines, such as prayer, fasting and almsgiving, are core practices in Orthodoxy. Because of this, it is easy for us who are naturally self-disciplined to take on the mantle of spiritual disciplines with a bit more ease. Add to that my distorted perfectionism, and I can fall prey to the idea that “more is better.” So if praying for 10 minutes every morning is good, then I’m going to shoot for 20 or 30 or 60 minutes. And if I succeed at this, I fall into a second and more devious trap of judgmentalism toward those who can’t or won’t practice spiritual disciplines with any kind of consistency.

Well, all of that is a spiritual deception called Prelest or spiritual pride. And it is demonic. As Shawn explains in his post, if my spiritual discipline is leading toward spiritual pride, demons will actually empower my spiritual discipline. The idea of demons actually empowering my spiritual disciplines so that they further blind and deceive me is absolutely terrifying to me. Simply engaging in spiritual disciplines is not enough for formation. They can actually hurt me if done incorrectly.

Bottom-line, I must remain humble before the Lord in both my knowledge and practice. Jesus alone is my salvation. And I’m reminded over and over that I need the wisdom and nurture of his Church to help me in my journey towards him.

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