Prayer *and* Fasting


It seems that I can pray or I can fast but I have a hard time doing both. 

During Great Lent, it is easy for me to keep the fast.  As an old hippie,  I already have vegan leanings and relish the opportunity to dust off my old vegetarian cookbooks.   However, I find that I have a very hard time maintaining my prayer rule during Lent.  I asked a monastic friend, Father Lawrence, why this might be and he said it’s spiritual warfare.  What did Our Lord say to His disciples who were unable to cast out a particularly nasty demon?  “These come out only through prayer and fasting.”   Prayer and fasting are spiritual weapons that when used together can give us victory over demonic powers.  Therefore, it makes sense that we would be tempted to slack off in either prayer or fasting.    When I am overcome by feelings of despondancy and sloth during prayer time,  I need to remember that this is exactly the effect the demons are hoping to produce in me. 


Getting a Christian Education at UCSC

I was thinking today how easy it is to be a Christian at one of the country’s most liberal universities, the University of California at Santa Cruz.  For starters, I think there must be some kind of rule that prevents the professors from speaking badly about any religion, including Christianity.  I have never heard an instructor make a negative comment about Christianity in a lecture.  In class discussions,  students might blame all the ills of the world on Christians but never the teachers.

It’s actually pretty easy to get a good Christian education if you choose your major carefully.  If you choose Evolutionary Biology or Feminist Studies, you will run into trouble for sure but if you major in European History,  you will find numerous opportunities to write papers on various Saints and episodes from church history.  I’ve written papers on Saints Boris and Gleb,  church mosaics in Ravenna,  the Old Believers of Russia,  and the monks of Lindisfarne.  I once gave a power point presentation about a local Russian parish, complete with icons.  These papers and presentations were all well received, I’m happy to report.  This quarter I’m taking courses on Russian history,  Russian literature,   the Italian Renaissance and Latin America.   All four classes offer good possibilities for Christian-oriented research papers.

Another advantage to attending a New Agey sort of college is the vegan menus at the dining halls which makes keeping the fasts a breeze.   Today I had some vegan pizza and a vegan cookie plus a bowl of veggies.   There is always a vegan entree plus side dishes, soy milk, and all the fruit and veggies you can eat.  No excuses, Xenia!

“The Adventures of Johnny and Talia”

Years ago, I had a web site for kids which I called “Beantown.” Since these were the days when the Internet was young and web pages were simple, Beantown was a bit of a success. The site centered around the continuing adventures of two Christian kids named Willy and Grace who, along with Flop the dog, got into Nancy Drew-type scrapes in a fictitious coastal town in California. (This was before the TV program “Will and Grace” came on the scene, to my dismay.) The site had Bible stories and projects kids could do, related to the current story. This was back in the day when web sites had guest books and I was amazed at how many kids read Beantown. People from all over the world signed the guest book and one lady wrote that she used Beantown as Sunday school curriculum! Beantown was simple. It was just stories with simple graphics. I had an “Ask Aunt Betty” feature where I attempted to answer visitors’ Bible questions.

I haven’t worked on Beantown since I became Orthodox. Willy and Grace were not Orthodox. I’ve thought about reworking the site, making them Orthodox, but that seems all wrong somehow. Instead, I am going to launch a new site called “The Adventures of Johnny and Talia.” It will be just a simple as Beantown and may not be the hit Beantown was because the Internet has gotten a whole lot more complicated, but I am optimistic and enthusiastic.

Web Sites to Organize Your Life

I love organizational web sites.  Here’s some I use almost daily-  I hope you find them as useful as I do!

For garderners,  there’s  Dave’s Garden.  This site offers an elaborate system where you can keep track of every plant you own from the time you first put the seeds in the ground til you eat the mature crop. The system takes a little bit of studying to figure out  but once you’ve crossed that hurdle, it’s easy and fun to use.  All of this is free but you need to sign up for a paid membership to use the discussion forums.

Ravelry is like MySpace for knitters.  Sometimes I think this site is too good to be true!  You can store info about your personal knitting projects,  keep tabs on your supply of yarn and needles,  download knitting patterns, and much more.  But the main charm of Ravelry is the community.  There are hundreds of special interest groups you can join.  I’m a member of a groups for Orthodox knitters, knitters in Monterey, vegetarian knitters and knitters with chihauhuas!  It’s all too cool. Each group has it’s own discussion forum and most of them seem to be pretty lively places.  If you love to knit (or crochet) and are a little geeky,  you’ve just gotta join Ravely.  It’s free to join but there’s a waiting list. 

Fitday is, in my opinion, the most useful site for those of us who, for various reasons,  need to keep track of our food intake.   It’s not a diet program like eDiets but it does just about everything else eDiets does and for free.  It generates graphs, tells you if you consumed enough vitamin A last week, tracks your exercise,  etc.   If you need to gain or lose weight or need to keep track of your calcium or fat intake,  this is the site is just about perfect.

I use Yahoo’s calendar to keep track of appointmensts, events and school assignments.  I find it a little frustrating to use at times but it does the job.  I imagine Google’s calendar is just as good.  If anyone knows of a better calendar for keeping track of homework assignments,  please let me know.

I hope you all are sailing well on the sea of Lent.  And thank you to Pat for the daffodils!

When school is over, then I’ll […]

Today is the Sunday when we remember St. John of the Ladder’s great (and terrifying) book, The Ladder of Divine Ascent.  This book could be sub-titled How to Become Christ-like in Thirty Excruciatingly Difficult Steps.  Chapter one is about renouncing the world and getting rid of the things that distract us from Christ.  As I was listening to Fr. Thaddeus’ homily this morning, I realized how much college distracts me from the things of God. So many nights I fall asleep reading and miss my prayers.  So many days I’m unable to attend week-day services.  So many week-ends I’m so tired or bogged down with course work that I never have people over for a meal. So many emails have gone unanswered.  So many Bible readings have gone unread because I have to read for school.  All my sentences these days start out with an apologetic “Well, when school is over,  then I’ll [….].   I’ll invite my god daughter and her husband over for dinner, I’ll weed the garden, I’ll attend week-day matins and evening vespers, I’ll read all the Christian books gathering dust on my shelves, I’ll fix my husband good dinners,  I’ll read books to my granddaughter,  I’ll walk the dogs, I’ll answer all my emails, I’ll read  through the Bible, I’ll bake bread again, I’ll knit my older daughter the afghan I promised her a few years ago…

Lord have mercy.

“The Island”

I just watched the Russian film “The Island.”  The main character is an old sailor (Fr. Anatoli) who washed up upon the shore of a remote Russian monastery.  He’s a bit of a fool for Christ but people visit him to be healed, to the vexation of some of the more conventional monks on the island.  The best scene is the one where Fr. Anatoli nearly chokes his abbot to death with a smokey fire to show him that his (the abbot’s) life is choked with many comforts. The great thing was that the abbot got the message and thanked him.   Fr. Anatoli heals people and even casts out a demon, using only the prayers that we all say every night from our own prayer books.  We all can be Fr. Anatoli.

Fr. Anatoli’s job at the monastery was hauling coal, using a delapidated wheelbarrow.  He did this as unto the Lord. It reminded me of the book An Ordinary Man by Paul Rusesabagina. This is the book upon which the movie “Hotel Rwanda” was based.  Paul R. saved over 1000 souls from the Rwandan Genocide by being a good hotel manager. When asked about his bravery he always replied “I’m just a hotel manager.” 

I think we spend a lot of time worrying what God’s will is for us.  Do people still use that old evangelistic come-on “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life?”  How much time has been wasted trying to discern what God’s will is for our lives?  Just do the job you have to the glory of God and you will be in His will- no need to search further.  Pray, worship, and love your neighbor and you will be in God’s will, even if your job is hauling coal or managing a hotel.  As Blessed Augustine said- Love God and do what you want.