Archaeological Music and the Splendor of Big Band

Big Band

Several months ago Caroline and I went on trip to Asheville, North Carolina. While there we stopped in a bar, Jack of the Wood, which happened to have as their evening entertainment a band named, The Soggy Poboys. The Soggy Poboys were (are) a seven member group who have resurrected the sweet sounds of Big Band, which, in my opinion, happens to be an art long lost in our society. The seven gentleman consisted of two trumpets, a saxophone, tuba, guitar, piano, and percussion. Since then, they have unleashed in me a thirst for this music, which I have been quenching through the likes of Pandora (an internet radio station for those out there inclined towards this genre).

That night, as wind circulated through the brass, filling the air as it did, it created in me a very nostalgic experience. My grandfather LOVED Big Band music. In an instant, my thoughts were flooded with the few memories I have of Pap Ray placing a record on the player, lifting his head towards the sky as he soaked in its sounds, then grabbing my Grandma Marge for a brief shuffle down in the basement.

Big Band music is a beautiful thing, and for several reasons. Artistically, I find certain pieces to be beautifully simple, while others wonderfully intricate as each instrument complements the rest at just the right moment. Secondly, in the event there are actual lyrics, the message is so pure and wholesome that it leaves the human spirit filled with nothing but good things. Such an occurrence rarely happens with music in modern times, I feel like. Nowadays, music is made to feed on our fallen passions, not quicken our virtuous nature. It brought joy to me to see The Soggy Poboys not only embracing this wonderful craft, but rocking it at near perfection. I hope they inspire others to do the same. The experience left me wanting much, much more, and I’m grateful for that.   

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The Church Militant in our Culture

photo (15)

Recently, I’ve thought about the distinctions of Church Militant and Church Triumphant like I never have previously. And for me, given that my life and situation is here in America, I’m doing this within the context of our modern American Society. Christians in other parts of the world learn this same distinction in different contexts, no doubt, like those in the Middle East, but my purpose here will be to shed light on those seeking to live a Christian life here, in our culture. “Church Militant” meaning of course, the Christians on Earth who fight against sin, Satan, and the rulers of darkness of this fallen world. “Church Triumphant” meaning, those who are in heaven with Christ, alongside the Saints and Angels existing with Him in perfect love. Each of these distinctions, of course, comprise the One Church.

Over the centuries and decades, through such things as the subjective nature of Protestant doctrine, an organic interpretation of the Constitution’s First Amendment, and laws facilitating the many varying cultures and religions that comprise our society – the United States has become a thoroughly secular State. Valuing no Creed above another, no religion above another, and by pursuing an American identity of “non-identity,” our government’s official stance on religious matters has become “no stance,” all the while holding up tolerance as the highest virtue. As such, government in our land recognizes no particular truth, affirming that each person is free to pursue their own truth, while placing each faith on the very same level – Judaism, Islam, Witchcraft, Orthodox Christianity, and everything in-between. If it is true that the United States was at one point “Christian,” we are now truly “Post-Christian,” and the longer I exist within it I’m finding that post-Christian, at its essence, is anti-Christian.

This condition of spiritual pluralism is exactly where we find ourselves in 21st Century America. And while each person is free to believe exactly as they wish, not only in terms of civil freedom, but through the Trinity’s gifting of free-will on the human soul – this does not make our beliefs truth. On the contrary, from the Christian perspective, we would then have a million false-truths springing forward from the mind and hearts of fallen Man, who is darkened by sin. In the event any government chooses not to embrace any particular spiritual creed or outlook, this government will inevitably be formed by some other worldview altogether, if even unbeknownst to them. Having intentionally removed God from the Nation’s conscience, naturally, the worldview then becomes Secular Humanist, which is what we are beginning to see in the Western World.

The Secular Humanist worldview removes from the human person, God’s image, and places him at the very height and center of the cosmos. Having removed the human person’s identity from him, who is Christ, the primary consequence is that he no longer sees himself, nor understands himself, as a fallen creature. The fallen desires of the human heart – lust, greed, etc. – are no longer seen as “fallen” in the Secular Humanist worldview, but can only be seen as “natural” through this worldly prism. And if they are truly natural, then to refuse and not indulge them is quite “unnatural.” Any acetic refusal of such desires becomes “contrary to nature.”

As Secular Humanism matures, society begins to raise up and establish itself around our fallen passions, and they become the object of our unhindered indulgence, particularly sexual passions. Another natural result is the devaluation of human life, as God’s image has (theoretically) been stripped from us. This is where we are now as a society now… it is relatively new although has been a long time in the making. The culture that has come to accept such a vision will hate the person who voices Traditionally Christian perspectives.

In this environment, everything is working against the salvation of the Human Person. Not only evil spirits and persons, but government is also encouraging and facilitating our descent into a base and passionate existence. For the Christians who choose live and walk according to the Spirit, in the light of virtue, who so much as even acknowledges the existence of a base and passionate human condition – they will be hated. So it is in this context that we in America are apart of “Church Militant” to the fullest possible extent. Such secularism is fully opposed to the Christian gospel. By God’s grace, however, one day we will be triumphant. As the Scriptures say, with Him all things are possible. Alexander Solzhenitsyn once said about our culture, “there is plenty of freedom, but little truth.” I am tempted to think that what overt persecution of the Church could not accomplish, Western Secularism just might. It is the spirit of anti-Christ.

The Church Triumphant unceasingly prays for us, however, before our kind and merciful Savior. There is no place He is not, and no suffering (in whatever form) where He isn’t. Taking stalk of society is necessary if we are going to understand the nature of our struggle as Christians, and combat it properly. Those of us who seek to live an authentically Christian life here, need to know that in order to do so, we have to be completely opposed to the greater society around us, all the while filled with Christ’s love and humility.

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Where is the Western Outrage?

Curious to know where the Western World’s disgust is with the actions of the Ukrainian government? We are civilized and peaceful people, right? In my heart, I know that we are. The reason it is nowhere to be found, is because we never hear a word about Ukraine’s brutality over here in the US… only a complete approval of everything they are doing. Our administration and the media are turning a blind eye to the slaughter of people in Eastern Ukraine because it does not fit our anti-Russian narrative – and such narrative serves our geo-political ambitions. In this way, the US and the EU are giving Ukraine their full approval to continue the brutal campaign against their own citizens, bombing hospitals, schools, churches, and everything in between, slaughtering civilians left and right – meanwhile reserving any and all disgust for those who fight back… calling them “Russians.” They are UKRAINIANS. I cannot help but think it is our buddies, the new and self-appointed Ukrainian Government who is the foremost aggressor here.

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The Corporate Nature of Divine Revelation

the apostles post

In our society, the Protestant doctrine of Sola-Scriptura has thoroughly embedded itself within our religious consciousness, and it makes sense that this would be the case. America was founded with the intention of making this land Protestant, after all. From the very beginning the English Puritans, themselves of the Church of England, upon arriving in what would soon be called New England, found an absolutely blank spiritual canvas. For the first time in Protestantism’s 200 year history, it no longer had to define itself in light of a previously Catholic Culture. Reformed Christianity was now outside the shadow of the Church it set out to Reform, and as such, was free to be authentically itself. Its fruits, now 300 years in the making, exist plain as day for everyone to see, encompassing thousands of denominations, each of which claim to be biblical yet believe very differently about God, Man, and the World.

The central tenant of Reformed Christianity is that each person receives divine revelation personally, individually, through contemplating the Bible. “The Bible alone is sufficient to lead each person into the truth”… is the claim of Protestantism’s foundational doctrine, a belief held in common by each denomination throughout our land. Generations have come and gone, and by now, each of us finds ourselves in the situation where this is our spiritual inheritance. We have become so submerged in it, so indoctrinated by it, however, that rarely does anyone step back and question this very provocative presupposition.

 Has it any basis in Scripture?

If we start by looking at the Jews in the Old Testament, we see that God did not set apart a book, but a community of people, Israel, through which He begun the process of revealing Himself to the world. Through Abraham and his lineage of Isaac and Jacob, God revealed Himself to this community, who received the Ten Commandments through the Prophet Moses, and then the entirety of the Jewish Law. Their Scriptures were written and received within the context of Community. The Jews did not read their Torah as autonomous individuals once it had been written, but rather, always understood such Scriptures within the framework of the Tradition of the Community who received them. They were not “Sola-Torah” in their religious life, though the Torah was integral in their religious life. When referring to themselves they always did so as Community, as the people of “Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” They never defined themselves in relation to their Scriptures; “the people of the Torah” is an understanding that is nowhere to be found, anywhere in the Bible. While the Hebrew Scriptures were perhaps the crown jewel of their Tradition, it did not constitute the entirety of it.

This same communal dynamic exists in the New Testament Church, though it should never be forgot, that the Church is the very same community as Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – there is complete continuity in Her – as sons and daughters by faith in the risen God-Man, not by literal ancestry.

When Christ was risen from the dead, extending His covenant to the ends of the World, to both Jews and Gentiles at Pentecost – the fullness of Divine Revelation was given to the World in the Church. This fullness of Divine Revelation is the Person of Jesus Christ… it is not the Bible. As such, the Bible testifies, it bears witness to the pre-incarnate Word of God who became flesh for our sake… but the Bible is not the Word Himself. The Word of God is a Person, not a book. Truth is a Person, it is not a book. However exactly as in the Old Testament, where God first established Himself in the Community which then produced their inspired Scriptures with time – so too the New Testament Church was established at Pentecost, then from Her came forward the writings we now know as Scripture. These Scriptures cannot be understood individualistically, apart from the community who not only wrote them, but also canonized them, setting them apart as Holy Scripture. In the event the Bible is sought to be understood individualistically, outside the context of the Apostolic Community, it will inevitably be taken in any theological direction anyone wants, at the whims of the individual’s private presuppositions. Such individualized opinions now constitute congregation after congregation in America’s thousands of denominations throughout our Country. And while they each may have some truth at varying degrees, thank heavens, they are filled with heretical teachings that will not lead someone to an authentic life in Christ. The relationship will be hindered by false truths, naturally harming authentic communion with our Lord.

The truth of Jesus Christ has been revealed to the World and delivered in its fullness to Christ’s Body, the Church, and here it has existed unaltered for 2,000 years, continually. As such, each and every person must lovingly submit to the truth the Church has received and stewards with love. Within this Community, the Scriptures take on their meaning. Here they are the crown jewel of Tradition, though Tradition all the same. Here the Bible is as it should be.

Come and see.

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Humanity’s Tremendous Spectrum, and the News


As one who keeps a close eye on the daily news, it is very easy to be overwhelmed by all the negative headlines. Story after story seems to highlight mankind at their most fallen. Murder, lust of power, greed, and treachery attract the most prominent headlines on every news source. On occasion, interspersed between these you will find an uplifting story or a cute cat video, but for the most part it is tragedy after tragedy of one kind or another, all day every day. It is very easy to lose faith in mankind after being submerged in this for even a short period of time. All we see are human beings at their worst, at our most fallen… at our darkest.

If it wasn’t for the Church, the memory of humanity’s most pure, our most loving, our most humble would be wiped away from the knowledge of the Earth, forever. If it wasn’t for the Church keeping the memory of Her Saints, there would be nothing to combat and contrast the great evils we so prominently see day after day in the news. Fortunately for us, however, the Church keeps the memory of such people and we can spend a portion of every day contemplating – experiencing to some degree – the great heights of love, mercy, and self-sacrifice that humanity can ascend to (and has ascended to) in Christ. And what a marvelous reality it is.

Sadly however, most people do not spend any time contemplating such people, and as such, have a very limited view (the worst view) into humanity’s tremendous spectrum, which stretches from the most evil to the most holy. To combat the news – if we can focus on the holy men and women who have been lifted up by the Church as examples, and come to a place where we admire and love them for their virtue, I have no doubt we will be lifted up by their prayers into the heights of heaven within our hearts, more deeply into the Trinity’s great love.   

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The Varying Splendor of the Saints


I am nearing the end of Saint Basil the Great’s book “On the Holy Spirit,” and the deeper I make my way into it, the more I find myself struck by the thought “I am in the midst of a masterpiece.” Trying to savor the experience, I am gingerly making my way through the pages. However just as great wine needs to be consumed in order to be savored, and no matter how intent any person is on cherishing the experience, the process will eventually result in an empty glass. Saint Basil’s book will soon come to an end, and when it does, I will be sad but grateful.

Through this book, I am realizing more deeply just how tremendously beautiful Trinitarian theology is when it is authentic and orthodox, as well as the extent of the difficulties the Church had to overcome in order to safeguard and properly articulate the mystery of the Trinity.

It is so difficult, impossible even, to pluck a portion out from this book and speak of it alone – virtually every paragraph and thought is significant – but I am going to do exactly this. The following struck me when I read it:

“Who is so ignorant of the good things which God has prepared for those who are worthy that he does not understand the crown of a righteous man is precisely the grace of the Spirit. On that Day spiritual glory shall be distributed in perfect abundance, as each receives a share proportionate to his uprightness. In the Father’s house there are many mansions, meaning that some saints are of greater radiance and dignity than others: “…star differs from star in glory. So it is with the resurrection of the dead.” ~ Saint Basil the Great, section 40.

Even in the Kingdom, where the Trinity’s love permeates all things, where all pain, suffering, and sorrow have been blotted out from human existence – some saints will shine more brightly than others with Christ’s love – there will be saints more radiant and saints less so.

We have been given this earthly life for repentance, and through repentance, we are brightened by Christ’s love. This union of love between God and man is salvation itself and the very essence of heaven, which can be experienced in this life. To the extent that we acquire it here, we take it with us into Christ’s presence and will be given more, proportionately, according to His great wisdom. Human beings are spiritual beings enfleshed in physical matter making us the crown jewel of God’s creation. Just as we can be filled with heaven, we can also be filled with hell, and either to an infinite extent. The condition of our souls determine how we will experience the Lord’s presence in the Kingdom. In fact, it determines how we experience this life here and now. Work to obtain spiritual gifts, heavenly virtues – these are all that matter, and through them we will have all thing as they were meant to be. Seek to be bright, here and there. 

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Strengthening America

A friend of mine posted this article, however by the time I formed my comment, he had deleted it. Rather than dismiss it altogether, I’ll post the article and comment here.

His article:

My comment:
I was speaking with someone about this the other day, who referenced Pat Buchanan. Our current policies, for good or for bad, are definitely lending themselves to the creation of “nations within a nation,” which at the end of the day, are all but impossible to assimilate. Via my conversation with this guy, this naturally creates the need for our government to become more like an arbitrator between diverse cultures, and less like a coherent republican body which tends to the diversity within its common culture. By assuming the role of arbitrator here at home, I can’t help but think it’s turning our ambitions more global, with the imperialistic desire to cultivate the “oh-so virtuous” diverse, pluralistic, and secular society wherever we can (middle east, europe, russia), where no creed is held above the other, and tolerance for everything (even sin) is the supreme virtue. If the US really wants to strengthen itself in the long term, I believe our efforts would be best directed inward, towards the (organic) facilitation of the common culture (as opposed to any top down attempt), than by assuming the role we have currently and recently – evangelists of a post-Christian society together with the EU. But of course the ball will continue to role as it is. I just can’t help but think it’s useful to recognize the direction.

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The Super State and Her Demands


In today’s environment, it should come as no surprise when a member of the European Union embraces gay marriage. It’s extremely common-place, having become the new norm throughout Western Europe (the Western World, actually, but for the sake of this conversation – Europe). For the traditionalist, for this reason and others, it would not be unfair to say that these societies are distancing themselves as far as possible, as quickly as possible, from the Christian heritage that once adorned their culture. In fact, such a heritage is now looked upon as baggage in the most prominent of circles, the first of which is in Brussels, standing as an obstacle, a hindrance, to the new secular progressive worldview which they desire to cultivate so badly. Such a worldview, it should be noted, is thoroughly embedded in the economic packages of the European Union, and with these packages, they draw their members into the fold of their ever growing Super State. Conformity to the worldview is not demanded outright, of course, but is attained in time by various forms of political, social, and economic pressures. The Super State is still made up of distinct cultures, or countries; these just so happen to be conforming to a common mind, one which has each moving further away from their traditionally Christian heritage towards something new altogether: a society that sets up “tolerance,” prosperity, and the worldly pleasures of this temporal life as its highest ideal (“tolerance” in quotes to denote everyone but traditional Christians).

What should be surprising, however, is when a country like Denmark, a member of the European Union with legalized gay marriage, now makes it mandatory for all Christian churches to perform gay marriages, which happened recently. Through this mandate, Denmark is insisting that all Christians abandon an unwavering Christian moral conviction for 2,000 years, for the new one.

To be fair, Denmark is a religiously diverse place. In terms of Christians, they are overwhelmingly Protestant although the Catholic Church is there too. Orthodox are there as well, but as a *very* small minority. This new legislation won’t affect many of the Protestant Churches who happily perform gay marriages already, although it will affect some, to be sure. It will affect all the catholic ones, however, who cannot obey this legislation and must endure any persecution that comes their way as a result. For them and for anyone who opposes the legislation, the challenge and Christian calling for each human heart will be to love each and every homosexual who seeks this out, unconditionally, sincerely, as well as each person who accuses them of hate – an accusation that is bound to come their way. Personally, I’m not sure I could do the latter, which highlights the depth of my spiritual immaturity.

I can’t help but wonder, what will the European Union say about this new legislation? In my heart of hearts, I hopes they will denounce it. Call me a pessimist but I don’t seeing happening, at all. And if they don’t, their silence will inevitably be seen as approval and the other “States” (i.e. Nations) are bound to follow suit in time. Even more scary, however, is the fact that all these European Union Member States are also members of the military alliance, NATO. I do not believe it is inconceivable that one day in the future, if and when the Super State is finally unified in these new convictions and has them ratified in law (which may not be far off), in the name of “tolerance,” they come after other countries who oppose them – those more informed by traditional Christianity. Before this happens, however – if it happens – of course the European Union would first opt to wage an economic war on such societies, seeking submission in this far more kind and humane manner.

As with most political arrangements in this life, there is a good and bad side. I get the good aspects of the EU. Increased economic prosperity, relaxed boarders for her members, supposed prevention of further war. I personally believe the bad far out weights the good when it comes to the European Union, and that the only war it will prevent is war between Western countries, including historically Eastern countries within the alliance. Those outside it who look on with suspicion (also those within), I think are right to do so. I am among them.



Initially this legislation was thought to include all churches, however it appears to only include the Church of Denmark, which is a State run Lutheran entity. The other churches apparently will not be forced to perform such services.

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Cancer Ward – and spiritual nurishment


A few days ago I picked up the novel, “Cancer Ward,” for the sole reason that Alexander Solzhenitsyn has grown to become one of my greatest heroes. What I love so much about his life is that he was a man for truth. He searched after it with all his faculties, all his capabilities, and fought against the lies of the Soviet Regime when Russia was dominated by atheistic communism in the 20th century. And the way he went about this I find to be so beautiful and admirable. He did it through art, specifically by writing novels. Raised as a Christian as a young boy, eventually in his teens and twenties he chose to embrace the communistic ideals that were sweeping the nation of his day. Shortly thereafter, he came to see very vividly the distortions and lies that this ideology imposes on the human person and on the world. He re-embraced Christianity and from then on his whole life was spent trying to expose the Soviet lies by the power of art, through story.

I have never done anything like this before, but I am going to try to write about my experience with his novel, Cancer Ward, as I make my way through it. I can only hope to remain committed to this goal.

Inspired by his personal experience of having cancer and being treated in a cancer ward, he uses this premise to represent the Soviet Union in a microcosm at that time. The story begins with a dignitary, Pavel Nikolayevich, who gained a considerable amount of worldly respect, a promising future, a wife and family, who now finds himself in a cancer ward because of a growing tumor on his neck. Everything he had done previously, and all the opportunity he still has left before him feels taken away in an instant. Having come from a place of truly believing in the power and influence he had attained, he now feels utterly powerlessness and fragile.

Within the first three chapters there is another character in the novel, Kostoglotov, who distrusts the treatment he is being given at the Ward, leading him to say the following:

This autumn I learned from experience that a man can cross the threshold of death even when his body is still not dead. Your blood still circulates and your stomach digests, while you yourself have gone through the whole psychological preparation for death – and lived through death itself. Everything around you, you see as if from the grave. And although you’ve never counted yourself a Christian, indeed the very opposite sometimes, all of the sudden you find you’ve forgiven all those who trespassed against you and bear no ill-will toward those who persecuted you.

It’s interesting to me that at the threshold of death, only here, in this place, was he able to latch onto eternity’s love. Needless to say, the human person is a complex being with a very deep inner reality. We are made for eternity inspite of the fact that much of history is spent trying to fasten ourselves to worldly endeavors. We are prone to pay the utmost attention to all things physical – as good as they are, as good as they can be – while neglecting the spiritual side of our existence as persons. And, of course, it is good to pay close attention to our physical needs. This is a true aspect of our personhood so to neglect them would be detrimental to all things spiritual. However it is so easy to *only* see and concern ourself with this part of human life, to the complete exclusion of the spiritual. It is easy to convince ourselves that the physical reality is all there is, that there is nothing else to this life. After all, we can see, touch, and taste the physical world, and cannot experience the spiritual with any of our physical senses. The spiritual aspect of our being requires a different mode of perception altogether – in Scriptural language “the eyes of our heart.”

Perceiving eternity within us, we should be watchful and vigilant of the condition of our souls as humans. When love enters the heart, we need to be careful to latch onto, nurture, and cultivate it. When we see someone in need, we need to have compassion, doing acts of mercy when, where, and how we can, seeking to become a compassionate person. Striving to be humble, we should put everyone’s good before our own no matter what. Conversely, when hate rises within us, we need to extinguish it and not allow it to grow within us. When self-righteousness and pride show themselves, we need to fight and root these evils out, lest they pull us into hell, away from our Savior. Watchfullness of our hearts is supremely necessary if we are going to fight evil and thereby fill ourselves with everything good, true, and beautiful – Christ Himself. If we are not fighting our fallen nature and working with Christ to be filled by the Holy Spirit, hell’s cruelty will permeate us. But how much better is it to be with the Lord.

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The Fruits We’re Known By


I wrote this to a Christian friend and figured I would record it here. We were talking about the importance of “fruit” in a Christian’s life, about what fruit is and what fruit is not.


I am of one and the same mind when you say that bearing fruit is essential. It is absolutely essential. As our Lord says, “we will be known by our fruits.” But there is a subtle nuance that I think is important. We cannot do good works and understand these to be fruit (which appear before men as fruit) and expect them to be the foundation of our communion with Christ. Otherwise, “we will have our reward in full.” Afterall, we can’t work our way into heaven. It is in this sense I would say that Christ Himself, the Person, the God-Man, has to be our foundation, our “chief cornerstone.” And such a foundation is more than a personal relationship, it is the most intimate union mankind can possibly have and experience. He fills our hearts with His very life and we become Temples of the Holy Spirit. Everything He is, He gives to us and we are illumined. We truly participate in His divine Trinitarian life and are brightened from within. That’s why I prefer to use “communion” over “personal relationship.” It is a stronger word that by no means denies a personal relationship, but speaks more deeply to the essence of our life in Christ. It is a Scriptural word that sadly is often translated as “fellowship.”

If Christ has truly made His abode in our hearts, we will be purified by His love, because He is love. Our fallen humanity in Christ is taken up, purified, and healed by His divinity, and we become people of divine self-sacraficial love ourselves. Obviously this is a process that has a beginning but has no end, because Christ is infinite. There is no limit to the heights of humility, kindness, and love that we can ascend to in Christ. And for the those who have climbed these heights, he or she is the most amazing miracle who bears witness to Christ in the fullest possible sense. I guess it should also be said, however, that the more purified we are in Christ the more deeply we are aware of our own sinfulness and can say in humility like Saint Paul, “I am the chief of sinners.”  But ultimately humility, kindness, love, etc., these are our fruit. The virtues are fruit. If we have truly become a person of love and humility then we cannot help but manifest these realities to everyone around us, doing good works from the heart, largely striving that these be done in secret. I liken good works to flowers that are ultimately rooted in the soil of the virtues. Cultivate the soil of our hearts so the seed can grow “five, ten, a hundred fold.” Needless to say our works can be rooted in vice too. Most news headlines bear witness to this. Saint John says, “we will be known by our love.” I am starting to believe this more and more.

I understand your tendency to respond with “I am a Christian” to the question “what denomination are you.” I used to have that same response, but I no longer do. From my perspective, it was a way to cast off all the divisions which I saw as arbitrary and divisive, and get to the heart of the matter. I chose to attend a Non-Denominational church for the same reason, to get away from all the division and into something that wouldn’t define or align itself by such things which I saw as harmful. Soon enough, through the promptings of a timely friendship, I was introduced to the Orthdodox Church. It took me two full years of “courting” Orthodoxy, for lack of better words, before I came to the place where I could be no place else.

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