"The Cross, is wood which lifts us up and makes us great ... The Cross uprooted us from the depths of evil and elevated us to the summit of virtue"
St. John Chrysostom

"Glory, O Lord, to the power of Thy Cross, which never fails! When the enemy oppresses me with a sinful thought or feeling, and I, lacking freedom in my heart, make the sign of the Cross several times with faith, suddenly my sin falls away from me, the compulsion vanishes, and I find myself free… For the faithful the Cross is a mighty power which delivers from all evils, from the malice of the invisible foe."
St. John of Kronstadt

"Do not seek the perfection of the law in human virtues, for it is not found perfect in them. Its perfection is hidden in the Cross of Christ."
St. Hesychius the Priest

 

The Orthodox Church celebrates the Feast of the Exaltation of the Life-Giving Cross of Christ  tomorrow, as it is celebrated on September 14 each year.   The epistle reading for the Feast is from 1 Corinthians 1:18-24:

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.” Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

*NOTE:  (From the Orthodox Study Bible) " Why is the message of the cross foolishness to unbelievers? 'It is a mark of them that perish not to recognize the things which lead to salvation'(John Chrysostom).  We who bear witness to Christ must not be discouraged when those outside of Him mock, for so did one even Paul himself.  Being saved, present tense, refers to the process by which the Cross transforms us with the power of God."

Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and forever, and to the ages of ages! Amen!

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I started this blog on March 17, 2012 with the post 'Hello World!'  which was really just some common post by WordPress.  My first actual post was simply titledTime To Begin Again and the second post, dated the same day, was Introduction. Both of those posts were extremely brief and didn't have a whole lot of material. It was really just my first feeble attempt at starting to write again.  It didn't amount to much at first but....   That was almost twenty-one months ago!!  Of course, I didn't start writing consistently until about 7 weeks ago...so I would still call the blog fairly young(105 posts today) but I am enjoying it.  I hope you are as well.

I seem to be settling into a routine.

Monday-  Homeschooling

Tuesday - Our Food Story -  natural health and eating

Wednesday- Books

Thursday - Orthodoxy

Friday - Writing

Saturday - Random Quotes/Posts and Random Thoughts on a Saturday

Sunday - well, that would be my day of rest...no posts.      

I've also learned a few things....like how to put in links which I love to do...and finally how to put a picture to the right or left side and have words right next to it....so simple but I'm so slow!  (Yes, I am laughing at myself so you can too--- and now...laugh more...because it doesn't always work and I still can't figure out what I'm doing wrong!!)

When I have time, I read posts from the blogs I follow.  I'd love to read them all every day but................ well, you know.   I have, however,  learned a lot from them!  I like to see other people's writing styles, the topics they write about, and even what other people say in response to their post!

It's exciting to see my followers increase in number and to see which posts get the most views.  My record is 73 views in a day...  that's probably not much for some of those well-known blogs out there but to me that's a big deal and I'm enjoying it.  The posts that have had the biggest number of hits are #1  Our Food Story  and #2 Those People Who Always Smile.  I'm glad people are interested in Our Food Story because that's one of the main reasons I started blogging.  A LOT of people have encouraged me (A big thank you to those people - you know who you are) over the last few years to start telling people our story...how our lives have changed because of food ...and to tell others what we have learned and accomplished in doing so and to just start writing again!!!  As far as Those People Who Always Smile, I'm thinking it must be the catchy title... and I'm also thinking I should do a follow-up to that post...I've had so many other thoughts about it since the day I originally published it!

I LOVE getting comments!!!!                  So please---  if you have a thought--- share it!  🙂

I feel satisfied with the way things are going here...but am open to ideas on improving the blog as well.  I've thought about changing the title...but no AMAZING titles have jumped out at me and said "Yes!  This is what it should be!"....  I guess it's hard to name because I don't just stick to one topic ( I am a gal of many many hats!).  I've said before I know I cover a lot of stuff here rather than just one topic that most of the popular blogs cover...but that's me...  I am passionate about a lot of things and so I'm going to write about a lot of things!  🙂

But if YOU have any ideas..... please pass them along.

Maybe you have an idea for some future posts on the topics I mentioned above...or maybe you have a question.... or maybe even a suggestion on a new title if I ever get around to changing it one day...could be soon...might not ever happen. Maybe you have an idea for a picture book too...lol...don't tell me though if you think you might want to write it yourself!!    And, if you have a suggestion on how I can just blog and write all day long and still get other things done....lol....then you're amazing and I need to know what that suggestion is!!!

Have a great day everyone!!  I hope you get some writing time today if that's what you enjoy---  I really hope I do too!!

2

My little boy likes to scurry over to the isle as the priest walks by with the censor at the beginning of the service so he can deeply inhale the incesne.  He was very upset this past week when there were too many people in our aisle for him to get by in time.  We'll have to remember to stand closer to the end by the isle next time!      

The Orthodox Church service always uses incense in our worship.  The Orthodox Church Liturgy addresses all of the senses and incense, of course, calls upon the sense of smell.  Physical symbols are an important part of worship and incense is one physical reminder of the special purpose at hand while we are present within the church [other physical reminders include water in Baptism, kneeling, etc.] and symbolizes our prayers ascending to God in His heavenly kingdom.

The bible refers to the use of incense in worship. The first mention is in Exodus 25:6, where God listed it among the offerings He desired from the people of Israel.  God also included incense in His detailed directions to Moses for the building of the altar in the tabernacle. And later, God became angry with Israel when they offered incense to foreign gods.  In Psalm 142:2, David says, "Let my prayer arise before you as incense."  In the New Testament, Zacharias was offering incense in the temple when the angel appeared to him and the wise men who came to worship Christ offered gifts of "gold, frankincense, and myrrh".  Incense is also mentioned several times in the Book of Revelation indicating that it is present in heaven.

Incense, however, was not commonly used by the Church during the first three centuries.  This, unfortunately, was due to the the Romans practice of asking Christians to renounce their faith and accept pagan worship and having the person offer incense to the image of the Roman emperor as a test to their renunciation. When this terrible era of persecutions ended, the Church was able to reintroduce incense into worship in its proper way.

Many Orthodox Christians use incense in their homes, the domestic church,  as a  physical and symbolic reminder (one of many). For when we use incense in worship the way we do, it doesn't matter where we are or what we are doing, we are reminded of the  Kingdom of God.

LORD, I Have Cried Out Unto You: hear me! Hear me, O Lord!
Lord, I Have Cried Out Unto You: hear me!
Receive the voice of my prayer!
When I call upon You, hear me, O Lord!
Let my prayer arise in Your sight as incense,
And let the lifting up of my hands be an evening sacrifice.
Hear me, O Lord!

3

I am/was behind in menu planning this month.  I am sitting here coming to the realization the month has already started and I haven't planned the menu!  I've enjoyed the last two months as I prepared the following month's menu at least a week before the month started.  It has really made life easier to plan in advance like that rather than waiting until the evening before I do my weekly grocery store trip to plan the menu and the list.  It takes a little longer to plan for the month but not as long as it used to do the weekly plan since I made up a bit of a draft to always follow.

First I print out a Monthly Menu Planner....  I had one saved to my computer but couldn't find the link.  Here's another that I like:

weekly menu planner pict 300x231 Meal Planning Resources

So now I take a look at the menu and fill in the dates....  Then I look at my regular planning calendar and mark off any days we might not be home for dinner due to previous plans or make note of days we will be out of town for dinner and may need to plan on food to take with us!  Then I mark of Wednesdays and Fridays.  These are days we follow the fasting rules of the Orthodox Church.  The rule permits fish without backbones on these days but does not allow any other animal meat.  We are a little more lenient in our home and allow any type of fish, but try to stick to the backbone rule on at least one of these days.  So Wednesday and Fridays are automatically seafood days and I try, if we have it on hand, to do wild caught salmon once a week.  I am out right now and need to get myself to our best source soon! 

Next is my list of our current favorite Paleo meals:

  • Bacon Spinach Casserole
  • Paleo Chili
  • Mushroom Meatloaf
  • Chicken With Mushroom Sauce
  • Spaghetti Squash with Homemade sauce

And a couple "ALMOST" Paleo Meals:

  • Turkey Reuben Salad
  • General Tso's  Chicken served over cauliflower rice

And, usually - because my family LOVES them and my husband and son volunteer every month to help our church make them...AND because we don't, at this time, want to be 100% Paleo.....  one NOT paleo meal...but used more as a side dish now beside a very large salad...

  • Perogies.   Yep---- wheat AND white potatoes in the same meal...I'm sure the paleo police will come after us for sure but so far we do fine with this ... and I personally think making them a side dish now instead of a main meal is just a nice guilty pleasure that is at still better than what we used to do!  🙂

So with the seafood meals, which I also have a list of convenient easy meal combinations pre-made, that automatically gives me 16 meals already planned!  Throw in about 6 Hot Plates (Stir Frys) that are super easy and Thursday Leftover Days  and that leaves me with only about 4 meals to plan!  These will be my experimental days to try new Paleo Recipes!

Recipe Bonus:

I decided to add this here as some of you may be wondering just what Turkey Reuben Salad is...  It may sound a bit strange... making a reuben into a salad rather than a sandwich but my husband suggested it and I figured if he was willing to give up the sandwiches, I should be supportive and attempt the salad.  Even my 15-year-old likes it 🙂

Turkey Reuben Salad

3/4  -  1 lb. organic deli turkey, thinly sliced

1 jar sauerkraut (raw sauerkraut is the healthiest choice)

1/4 - 1/2 red onion, sliced or diced

organic cherry tomatoes - 1 container

1/4 lb. swiss cheese - cubed or you may use sliced cheese and cut it into nice long strips

Homemade Thousand Island Dressing

Organic Baby Spinach - Extra Large Package...about 12 oz.  [or green of your choice]

I make this salad up "buffet style".  My husband and I like the spinach but my son prefers a nice romaine lettuce and opts to leave the onions off.   I also like to mix baby romaine or baby lettuces with mine.  Try it and let me know what you think!  Meanwhile, I need to fill out that menu planner!!

1

I was going to write about the Theotokos (Mary) today as I always find myself pondering over her... her role in Christianity...her role as Christ's mother.  But I think I am getting ahead of myself as I haven't really written much about the church itself just yet. (And perhaps I would be remiss if I didn't add a small segment about Halloween... a 'festival', not a holiday as a holy day it is not...  so I will mention it briefly at the end)

The Orthodox Church is the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.  No, we are NOT the Roman Catholic Church.  The word 'catholic' means universal.  Therefor, we are the universal church started by Christ and the apostles.  This started in approximately 33 AD.

The "church" was not founded by man as some would have you believe.  The Church is God-given.  "I hope to come to you soon," writes St. Paul, "but I am writing these instructions to you so that, if I am delayed, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the Church of the living God, the pillar and bulwark of the truth."  1 Timothy 3:14-15.  The whole universe is God's Church. The Orthodox Church is, indeed, the first Christian Church.  It is founded by our Lord Jesus Christ just as it is described in the New Testament.  The history of the Orthodox Church can literally be traced back all the way to Christ and the 12 apostles. For the first thousand years, there was only this ONE church until the Great Schism in 1054.  (Perhaps I'll write more on that another day.)

The Orthodox Church is not merely a building.  God doesn't need the building we call a church.  We, the people, do.  We need places to go that are very specifically made to be dedicated to God.  This is where we gather together  with the one sole purpose of worshiping God and dedicating our time to seek His will.   Is that the only place we can worship and seek His will?  No, of course not.  But that is the central place we can always count on that is full of others who also seek to Worship and to be in God's presence. This is where He speaks to us through Scripture readings and offers Himself to us through Holy Communion.  Entering this 'building', one cannot help but know you are in His presence as your senses are filled not of earthly things you leave outdoors but of the Heavenly realm.

The church is also not merely a building because it is not just the physical structure that is the church. The people are the Church.  The clergy and the laity together build this part of the non-physical structure of the church. "But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's own people, that you may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light".  1 Peter .  Therefore, the Church is not to be identified with a mere building but with the people, God's people, in whom He dwells.

There are over 225 million Orthodox Christians worldwide.  I bet you had no idea.  This is because, despite its size, the Orthodox Church seems to be America's best-kept secret!   This is a shame.  The Orthodox Church has deep roots and is steeped in a rich biblical tradition that many thirst for.   The Orthodox Church maintains its original New Testament tradition.  There is a joke about how many Orthodox does it take to change a lightbulb... the answer is none because Orthodoxy doesn't change.  It's true.  While the Catholic and Protestant churches have changed many many things over the years, Orthodoxy does not change.

Well, I think that may be enough for one day.  But some may be wondering what it is we, Orthodox, believe in.  So I will leave you with this.  It is the Nicene Creed:

I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible,  And in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only begotten, begotten of the Father before all ages.  Light of light, true God of true God, begotten not made, of one essence with the Father by whom all things were made for us men and for our salvation, came down from Heaven and was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary and became man.  And He was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate and suffered and was buried and the third day he rose again according to the scriptures.  And ascended into Heaven and sits at the right hand of the Father and He shall come again with glory to judge the living and the dead, whose Kingdom shall have no end.  And I believe in the Holy Spirit, the giver of life who proceeds from the Father who with the Father and the son together is worshipped and glorified who spoke by the prophets. I believe in one Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.  I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins.  I look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.  Amen.

 

And in regards to Halloween.....

The Orthodox Church does not support the celebration of Halloween.  There are some Orthodox Christians that do allow their children to participate in festivities, seeing it as a harmless activity, as surely they are not worshipping any form in such harmless activities.  I, myself, up until recently, still had a few of those 'harmless' decorations that were 'cute'.  I actually just put them away earlier this week and do not plan on resurfacing them other than for perhaps a garage sale.  We have decided to continue handing out treats at the door, at least for the time being, to be neighborly... as we rarely see our neighbors (we live in the country).  Though this activity may change at some point.  I put these decorations away after reading several articles written by priests/bishops of the Holy Orthodox Church.  I will share the links to the articles as I don't feel confident enough to relay their message quite as eloquently and am only adding this on at the last moment this morning.  So if you care to know the whys behind the nonsupport of these so-called 'harmless' activities, you can read here:

Bishop Kyrill of Seattle  On Halloween  October 2012

The Greek Orthodox Church on Halloween

Halloween  OrthodoxWiki

Ancient Faith Radio

 

 

3

That's the title of a book I read a few months back. The author is Byron Katie. She's not orthodox. That's saying something because I rarely pick up self help books anymore as I worry about reading things by non-orthodox authors and how they may not be teaching something that is right or truth in relation to The Church. But this particular book was recommended to me by my homeopath during a very trying time for me.

The book did help me. I have to look past the fact that she's not a Christian, not my definition of Christian anyway. And not Orthodox for sure. But her four questions that she poses as questions that can change your life... well, they do change how one looks at things. The four questions are:

Is It True?
Can You Absolutely Know That It's True?
How Do You React When You Think That Thought?
Who Would You Be Without The Thought?

I tell you, when you are wrapped up in anger, judgement, and negative feelings, those four questions can really help set a better perspective. So it has helped me in those situations. Especially in dealing with my thoughts about other people or myself.

It doesn't help in terms of spiritual questions. One shouldn't be asking God if something is true or doubting whether our faith is true. YES. It is True. And it doesn't matter what I think in terms of that.

But for those everyday things in life when your thoughts are making you stir crazy... it's not God putting those thoughts there and these questions, if used well, can certainly help put a stop to the demons within.

I haven't exactly explained the whole process here very well. One would have to read the book, listen to the book or at the very least, explore the Katie Byron website... I think it's called The Work? I still haven't figured out how to put links on here. I think I did it once but it's been months. If I start writing regularly (hey, this is two days in a row now... woot!) I will spend time learning to do that.

I had a few moments to spare so I took it. This book is on my mind because I think I need to revisit it and I want to loan it to a friend that may benefit from it. Anyone else ever read it?