We are what we repeat

I’ll be putting this meme somewhere that I can see easily see it. I need the reminder.

Neuroscience tells us that what’s going on in this quote is a function of something called myelination. Myelin is a chemical that allows signals to travel faster in our neural pathways. We build up myelin by repetition. The more we do something, the stronger the pathways in the brain needed to get it done. That’s why “practice makes perfect.”

Myelination doesn’t just affect learning skills, it also shapes things like character and attitudes. Choosing to be positive will make us a more positive person, because we are strengthening the “positive” pathways in our brains. The same is true for negative thinking.

In the words of the 20th-century Eastern Orthodox monk, Elder Thaddeus:

Our thoughts determine our lives.

Lock down, protest – fasting, liturgy

“The Symbolic World,” Jonathan Pageau

I’ve been following the work of Jonathan Pageau for a couple of years now. An Orthodox icon carver from Montreal, Canada, Pageau has developed a large body of commentary (particularly on YouTube) on modern culture, narrative, and the Story that keeps getting told over and over again throughout human history.

In this video, Pageau talks about the religious imagery in the protests following the George Floyd killing in Minneapolis. In the video notes, Pageau writes:

From kneeling and chanting to contrition and acts of communion, the protests used catharsis as a means to a form of religious ecstasy, which was made more intense because of the Covid-19 lockdown.

The intent is not political commentary but a reflection on how the protests, within the context of the Corona virus outbreak, reveals how “religious” human beings really are. Ritual, fasting, offering are all woven into the fabric of our being.


People of every culture have looked at themselves, at their respective values, worldview, and accomplishments, and thought, “Surely, this is as good as it gets. Surely, we’ve arrived.”

In truth, every one of them (including our own) is transient. Christians should know this. Wherever and whenever we may be, we are sojourners.

We have not arrived until God has said, “Now. Now you have arrived. Enter into the joy of your Lord.”

Continue reading “Sojourners”

Saints Peter and Paul

Today is the feast day of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul. Both of these great apostles had times in their life when they turned their backs on Christ – Peter when he denied Jesus three times during our Lord’s Passion, and Paul when he led the persecution of Christians after Pentecost. But through repentance they were reconciled to the Lord and became his great champions.

God knew what these two men were capable of, he had an important part for them in his plan, even when they were at odds with him. God sees into the depths of our souls. He knows our gifts. He sees the contribution that we can make towards building up his kingdom. And to unlock all of that, it takes movement on our part. Trusting in God’s mercy, we need to reach out to him with a repentant heart. God never turns away from those who turn to him.

We will get through this

The following is quoted from a Facebook post by Fr. Christopher Metropulos. A good read. Stay faithful. Stay hopeful. And always favor the better angels of our nature.

“Keep your chin up and marshall on folks. Only God knows what is in store for us in this world. We must have faith in the one thing that doesn’t change and that is our Lord. Please read this email that was recently sent to me to get a good prospective on life.

“For a small amount of perspective at this moment, imagine you were born in 1900. On your 14th birthday, World War I starts, and ends when you are 18. Later in the year, a Spanish Flu epidemic hits the planet and runs until your 20th birthday. On your 29th birthday, the Great Depression begins. Unemployment hits 25%, the World GDP drops 27%. That runs until you are 33. The country nearly collapses along with the world economy. When you turn 39, World War II starts. You aren’t even over the hill yet. And don’t try to catch your breath. On your 41st birthday, the United States is fully pulled into WWII until you are 45. At 50, the Korean War starts. At 55 the Vietnam War begins. When you are 62 the Cuban Missile Crisis threatens to end life on our planet as we know it. When you turn 75, the Vietnam War finally ends.

“Perspective is amazing. Yes, we are in a challenging time nowadays. Try to remember everything that those born in 1900 endured and accomplished, and have faith that we will endure as well. Let’s be smart, and help each other out – we will get through all of this.”

I see color…. and I love it

Over the past couple of days, I’ve seen some posts on social media stating that, “I don’t see color.” I get it. We should not measure a person’s worth by the color of their skin. Every human being has the same value in the eyes of God, all of us made in the Divine image and likeness. This basic Christian teaching shaped our culture’s foundational belief that all people are created equal. No argument from me there. But I have to say that I do see color. And I love it.

My parish is made up of people from various backgrounds. A good number of our parishioners are converts to Orthodox Christianity, people who found Eastern Orthodoxy somewhere along their journey. Many of our parishioners are “cradle Orthodox,” people who have been Orthodox since they were small children. Most of the people in this second group come, either directly or through their ancestry, from one of the world’s historically Orthodox countries.

The largest ethnic group in our church is the Macedonians, whose forebears founded our parish in the late 1940’s. The second largest ethnic group in our parish is the Ethiopians. (Needless to say, we also have Slavs of every stripe, Ukrainians, Russians, Serbs…) Being neither Macedonian nor Ethiopian, it has been a great blessing to me to have been embraced by both of these communities, as they’ve shared with me their respective history, cultural heritage, and language (that last one is a work in progress).

It has even been a greater joy to watch the various ethnic backgrounds of our parish come together to share their culture with each other. Ethiopian kids dance in our Macedonian dance group. Macedonian and Ukrainian women gather throughout Lent to make Pysanky, Ukrainian Easter eggs. Americans of German descent joyfully call out “Indeed He is Risen!” at Pascha in their ancestral tongue (and when you hear that in German, there’s no arguing the point). And we’ve filled the dance floor at our annual Macedonian Ball with people dancing to Ethiopian music. But even that is not my greatest joy.

It has been said that the most racially divided time in America is Sunday morning. Not at St. Nicholas Orthodox Church in Fort Wayne, Indiana. One of my greatest joys at St. Nicholas – and one of the things that I’ve missed most because of COVID-19 restrictions on church attendance – is looking out at the congregation and seeing that beautiful blend of black and white faces, all standing as sisters and brothers in the faith, praying to the same God who made us all, and partaking of the same Body and Blood of our Lord which unites us in an indissoluble bond of Divine love.

In every face that we look at, we discover the face of Christ. And, yes, I do see color in those faces. I see that color as part of an amazing human mosaic that depicts the radiant face of our Creator himself. And when we bring all those colors, and ethnic backgrounds, and personal histories together in a spirit of mutual respect and good will, everyone in the room is richer for it.

An offering of Glory

Here’s an excerpt from a Bible study on John 17. Will post the full episode later this week.