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orthonorm
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« on: July 28, 2010, 02:13:00 AM »

Hello All,

First, I would like to thank everyone who has had a hand in keeping this forum open, so people like me can come here and ask questions. I also thank everyone who takes their time and energy to answer the many questions here no matter how poorly formed or contentious.

Second, I will try to keep my post short (EDIT: I think I failed at this) and allow any greater details come out if they might be helpful.

OK.

In short, I've felt pulled or pushed in one way or another toward the Gospel of Christ for nearly as long as I can remember. This wrestling match over the last five years or so with the Gospel has brought me closer and closer to the Orthodox Church.

I belong to no Christian denomination and have not since I was quite young and left the church (small "c") I attended.

One part of my struggle has come to an end. I truly believe that the Orthodox Church is the most beautiful and faithful expression of the rich history of the preaching of the Gospel on earth: theologically, pastorally, etc. I thank God that the selfish hand-wringing over figuring out which Church agrees with me is gone. I want to submit to what my heart knows and have grown tired of trying to fit the Body of Christ into the clothes I have made for her.

My fear: I simply can't begin to live the Gospel. I believe the Gospel. There is too much I am afraid to give up (even that which I want to give up!). I know it is a matter of personal piety to say "no one" lives the Gospel "perfectly". Of course. And frankly, few even try very hard to do so. But I've known and seen those who do and as moving as it is, it is also damn scary.

I believe and am afraid of what following the Gospel will certainly and possibly entail. It is embarrassing to admit such reservations to those who belong to a Church where so many have shed their blood to preserve the Gospel.

Is this a question appropriate to this board? I think so. To those who see this as a more pastoral issue, I agree. I have spoken with the few Orthodox I know. Most are cradle Orthodox and pardon statement, lifestyle Orthodox.

I've spoken with a local parish Priest. He has been wonderful. But he is extremely busy and I do not wish impose myself upon him too much. We have spoken three times over the last two years.

A recent talk / sermon by Thomas Hopko I had the privilege of hearing has really brought these issues to a sharper point. I just cannot casually "join the Church". Perhaps it is better to stand outside the Church than to enter it knowing one will be at best laodicean.

All your thoughts and prayers are greatly appreciated. When you reply, I would appreciate it if you could mention if you were a convert and your age.

Thank you very much.

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« Reply #1 on: July 28, 2010, 07:00:50 AM »

I am 46 & have been Orthodox for 5 years and would just like to say that I still live my life in a most ordinary fashion struggling with many of the same issues of conscience that were with me before I turned to Christ. The main difference is that I know that these must be addressed by submitting my conscience to God and strive to keep His commands to love Him & my neighbor in focus. The basic way to do this is to pray, fast (talk to a priest about fasting), & give alms (per matthew 6:1-18) It is in the sacraments of confession & the Eucharist that are the true medicine of healing.

The best fear to have is a fear of God with wisdom realizing that is where our salvation depends. Yes there is a sense of cost of discipleship but personally I know I can never do "enough" but God expects works to accompany our faith (ephesians 2:8-10) but that we are also "unprofitable servants" (Luke 17:10). God accepts our brokenness (Psalm 51:17, 50:17 in Orthodox Psalter). Just try to be calm & cool & free yourself from excess worries (enough exist in day to day life). Although in the ark of salvation, we do not see ourselves as any more saved than our neighbor who is non Orthodox Christian or even non Christian because the command to love God & neighbor seem to negate such assumption so to pray for & help others within our means is the best focus (also remember the Beatitudes, except the last are not exclusive to Christians). Hope this can be of help.
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« Reply #2 on: July 28, 2010, 08:04:34 AM »

Welcome to the forum orthonorm! ...Or should I say welcome out of lurker mode  Grin

Don't be afraid to take the step you know you should take. It is unreasonable to expect of yourself to become hesychast and a living saint the day you join the Church.

Joining the Church is the first step1 of a lifetime of struggle and repentance. Don't hesitate to start the journey.

1) I'm sure there are steps before this also but surely you get my point Smiley

Oh, I converted a few years back. I was born 1982.
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« Reply #3 on: July 28, 2010, 09:34:14 AM »

It's babysteps. God does not play the "all or nothing" game although the devil would like us to think so.

Come to the church. Fight one temptation at a time. Forgive all, including yourself, for the inability to fight all sins. Count on God's mercy even when the devil suggests us we are a lost case. For in God we shall be victorious despite of our weaknesses and defeats.
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« Reply #4 on: July 28, 2010, 10:12:18 AM »

I can certainly share your feelings. Before my chrismation, I actually became physically sick, to my stomach, from fear. I knew that once I became Orthodox, there were no more excuses and no turning back. I had to face up to myself, honestly and without excuses, acknowledging my sins and working out my salvation with fear and trembling.
It was like facing chemotherapy or a difficult surgery. But it was also something that I knew I had to do, in order to save my life.
For me, Orthodoxy is therapy or a course of treatment for sinners. You're not left alone to struggle hopelessly, in darkness and ignorance. The Church has a course of treatment for you, and you also receive God's grace through the Sacraments to strengthen you and give you hope.
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« Reply #5 on: July 28, 2010, 11:02:45 AM »

orthonorm, welcome!

I was chrismated this past July 17, after decades of study and prayer.  If you are true to yourself, standing outside, looking in is not an option.  Nothing short of partaking in all that Orthodoxy has to offer will do.  Being the most miserable of sinners, I approach God fearfully every day, and strive to attain perfection throughout the day, and every day I fall, and God picks me up again.  That is the key--God picks me up again through prayer, fasting, confession, and the Eucharist!  

You are not alone! Smiley

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« Reply #6 on: July 28, 2010, 12:34:39 PM »

Do you love Christ?

Maybe you answer, "Yes, but not with my whole heart and totally like He wants me to."

But do you love Him?

If you answered yes, forget about the "but..." There are many men and women of great holiness who have spent decades in the Church, some always in prayer, and, if they're honest, really honest with themselves--like the saints--they would first call themselves the worst of sinners--sincerely--and say that they  have not even begun to keep Christ's commandments and live the Orthodox life. But this is their desire nonetheless and they dedicated themselves to this because they love Christ. Why do they love Christ? Because He loved them first.

So, my friend, do not listen to doubts telling you that it's better to live outside the Church because you cannot live as the Gospel requires. God desires a relationship with us. He is our Father, not some taskmaster. I assume you have read the Gospels, that you have seen how gentle and kind our Christ is. He does not condemn sinners--only those who claim to be righteous and need no repentance. You know something of your shortcomings and weaknesses. Commend them to Christ and seek Him in His Church. It is the devil which tells us, "You're not worthy. You'll never live up to it, so don't bother trying." Don't listen to the devil. Listen to Christ, Who says, "Come to Me all you are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest."

God be with you, friend!
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« Reply #7 on: July 28, 2010, 01:16:00 PM »

Hello All,

First, I would like to thank everyone who has had a hand in keeping this forum open, so people like me can come here and ask questions. I also thank everyone who takes their time and energy to answer the many questions here no matter how poorly formed or contentious.

Second, I will try to keep my post short (EDIT: I think I failed at this) and allow any greater details come out if they might be helpful.

OK.

In short, I've felt pulled or pushed in one way or another toward the Gospel of Christ for nearly as long as I can remember. This wrestling match over the last five years or so with the Gospel has brought me closer and closer to the Orthodox Church.

I belong to no Christian denomination and have not since I was quite young and left the church (small "c") I attended.

One part of my struggle has come to an end. I truly believe that the Orthodox Church is the most beautiful and faithful expression of the rich history of the preaching of the Gospel on earth: theologically, pastorally, etc. I thank God that the selfish hand-wringing over figuring out which Church agrees with me is gone. I want to submit to what my heart knows and have grown tired of trying to fit the Body of Christ into the clothes I have made for her.

My fear: I simply can't begin to live the Gospel. I believe the Gospel. There is too much I am afraid to give up (even that which I want to give up!). I know it is a matter of personal piety to say "no one" lives the Gospel "perfectly". Of course. And frankly, few even try very hard to do so. But I've known and seen those who do and as moving as it is, it is also damn scary.

I believe and am afraid of what following the Gospel will certainly and possibly entail. It is embarrassing to admit such reservations to those who belong to a Church where so many have shed their blood to preserve the Gospel.

Is this a question appropriate to this board? I think so. To those who see this as a more pastoral issue, I agree. I have spoken with the few Orthodox I know. Most are cradle Orthodox and pardon statement, lifestyle Orthodox.

I've spoken with a local parish Priest. He has been wonderful. But he is extremely busy and I do not wish impose myself upon him too much. We have spoken three times over the last two years.

A recent talk / sermon by Thomas Hopko I had the privilege of hearing has really brought these issues to a sharper point. I just cannot casually "join the Church". Perhaps it is better to stand outside the Church than to enter it knowing one will be at best laodicean.

All your thoughts and prayers are greatly appreciated. When you reply, I would appreciate it if you could mention if you were a convert and your age.

Thank you very much.

"Everything you do, all your work, can contribute towards your salvation. It depends on you, on the way you do it. History is replete with monks who became great saints while working in the kitchen or washing sheets. The way of salvation consists in working without passion, in prayer….

May God give you the strength to keep your spirit, your mind, and your heart in the spirit of Christ. Then everything that happens to you can very quickly be radically transformed. What was tiresome and discouraging will disappear, transfigured by your desire to be there where Christ your God is…." - Blessed Elder Sophrony

http://fatherstephen.wordpress.com/2010/07/23/everywhere-present-2/

I should also point out that I am a convert. I am 22 and the third anniversary of my baptism will be on August 19, 2010.
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« Reply #8 on: July 29, 2010, 12:01:04 AM »

Welcome to the forum. 

I'm a convert, 26 years of age

Don't let a busy priest put you off.  If you wait for a slouch of a priest what kind of insight do you expect to receive?!  That was a major stumble in my conversion, I didn't want to bother a priest who was very busy and I think that we both suffered by it.  Me in all of the time and struggle and confusion that could have been avoided if I'd just been straight forward with him.  In the long run he suffered as well, in a way, in having to correct all sort of self-tuned ideas I'd developed and acquired on internet forums!

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« Reply #9 on: July 29, 2010, 12:32:15 AM »

Welcome!

take it a step at a time, always pushing yourself a tad past your comfort level. Realize that becoming Orthodox does not mean you will live a perfect, sinless life. Every Christian on this forum, struggles. Some more than others I am sure, but struggling to live the life is a part of following the Gospel. Realize that God loves you and your struggle is strongly noted. The transition of becoming Orthodox is easier for some than others. But regardless, each individual has the capability to become a great Christian.

I don't know how appropriate it is to say this and to put someone on the spot, but I don't care. An example of someone who struggled on their path to Orthodoxy is Ukiemeister. I remember speaking to him during his pre-Orthodox days, and now I can honestly say his spiritual evolution has led him far past myself! It's great to see such things, and it often motivates me also. No journey is straightforward and easy, but I think it is safe to say that those who struggle the most often find the success that much more gratifying and fulfilling.

About myself: Technically I am cradle Orthodox. I was baptized as a child, however, I was raised in an agnostic-borderline atheist household. My departure from God that began really ever since the baptism I now know to be a blessing. Since during my teenage years I began to take interest in spirituality and after years of searching eventually found myself most impressed and connected to God through none other than Orthodoxy!

good luck on your journey and we are all here to help you along!
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« Reply #10 on: July 29, 2010, 01:26:06 AM »

Don't let fear stop you.  I was chrismated a year and a half ago.  Since I became Orthodox, it seems that people from my past whom I still struggled to forgive in 2006 when I began attending, I finally forgave somewhere along the way.  So now I believe I have only two people to forgive, people I know now, rather than people I haven't seen for many years.  And it's an incident that only happened recently.  The old hurts are melting away with the help of the church life, sacraments and prayer.  These things are also helping me deal with this fresh hurt.  Considering the trouble I had getting over hurts while Protestant, I think becoming Orthodox has given me fresh and radical tools that actually work.  Not that I'm over this new thing yet.  Tongue  But with the old hurts and wounds healed up, I have more energy to focus on dealing with the new one.
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« Reply #11 on: July 29, 2010, 01:35:40 AM »

Thanks to everyone so far all the replies and encouragement. Rather reply to each post I particularly found helpful or would like to reply to in a separate post, I will try to keep them together in this one. If such method of replying is frowned upon here, please let me know.

I can certainly share your feelings. Before my chrismation, I actually became physically sick, to my stomach, from fear. I knew that once I became Orthodox, there were no more excuses and no turning back. I had to face up to myself, honestly and without excuses, acknowledging my sins and working out my salvation with fear and trembling.

Thank you for your honest self-disclosure. The part I bolded might be cliche nowadays, but cliches exist for a reason and I certainly can relate to the gravity of the decision.

My own "fear and trembling" I find to be embarrassing as I mentioned above because of the relative banalities I am afraid to give up. And I hold onto them in light of so many who died and sacrificed so much to witness to the Gospel.

So, my friend, do not listen to doubts telling you that it's better to live outside the Church because you cannot live as the Gospel requires. God desires a relationship with us. He is our Father, not some taskmaster. I assume you have read the Gospels, that you have seen how gentle and kind our Christ is. He does not condemn sinners--only those who claim to be righteous and need no repentance. You know something of your shortcomings and weaknesses. Commend them to Christ and seek Him in His Church. It is the devil which tells us, "You're not worthy. You'll never live up to it, so don't bother trying." Don't listen to the devil. Listen to Christ, Who says, "Come to Me all you are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest."

Thank you for the words of kindness and encouragement. But I do take seriously these words after the Sermon on the Mount:

Quote from: NIV
Matthew: 21"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' 23Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'

One of the times I had the opportunity to listen to Fr. Thomas Hopko, he spoke about the Sermon on the Mount and he emphasized these words. I do not raise this to argue Christ's mercy and love, but to suggest the seriousness I take His commandments for those who would follow him.

Don't let a busy priest put you off.  If you wait for a slouch of a priest what kind of insight do you expect to receive?!

Thank you for sharing your experience. I just want to make clear, that while the parish priest is a busy man, it is certainly my pride parading as false humility which has play the greater part how few times we have spoken.

Sloga, thank you for your excellent words and testimony and kind advice!


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« Reply #12 on: July 29, 2010, 01:50:14 AM »

Thanks for listening reading my concerns and offering your help and encouragement.

Part of my posting here is to make public my desire to join the Church in a safe manner. Since I am far from what anyone would call a Christian and far from being part of the Orthodox Church, I do not want to share these concerns and desires with too many lest I get caught up in a theological / denominational debate. I don't want to let my pride paint a certainly inaccurate and poor picture of Orthodoxy.

It is a strange thing. There is so much I want to let go of and yet of I am afraid of doing so.

But as many have mentioned above: one step at a time. It is a good a reminder and I smirk at the fact I have to hear that yet again, after so many years in recovery.

This weekend I will be attending Vespers on Saturday and the Hour and Divine Liturgy on Sunday, asthma willing.

Any magic tricks to deal with a very small church and a priest with zealous hand on the censer?  Wink
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« Reply #13 on: July 29, 2010, 01:55:59 AM »

BTW, Ukiemeister, thank you for the link to Fr. Stephen's blog. I've enjoyed reading a couple of the entries and have added it to my aggregator.

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« Reply #14 on: July 29, 2010, 09:26:00 AM »

Welcome to the Convert Issues Forum Orthonorm!

I hope that you will find the Convert Issues forum to be place where you as an inquirer may ask their questions about the Orthodox Faith in a safe and supportive forum.  WE try to provide an understanding of the basic teachings and practices of the Orthodox churches. WE try to keep our answers direct and simple with sources if possible,

For those who are converts, this forum is a safe place to discuss issues that arise after one converts in a safe and supportive forum without retribution or recrimination. WE try to avoid jurisdiction debates and you may find a the topic that will be split and sent the appropriate OC.Net forum to continue the discussion or debate if it strays from the guidelines of our Forum Purpose.

Again I want to welcome you warmly to the Convert Issues Forum and hope you will enjoy your time as a member here.

In Christ,
Thomas
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« Reply #15 on: July 29, 2010, 09:39:01 AM »

Welcome to the forum Orthonorm Smiley!
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« Reply #16 on: July 29, 2010, 09:53:57 AM »

I know of a young man in a local parish, who being a convert since the age of 12 with his family went on a pilgrimage with an Orthodox School to Greece and Romania during Great Lent. When he saw how integrated the worship and faith was in the villages (not the cities), he came back and told his parents how much he wanted to live a fuller Orthodox life than what he saw here in the U.S. He wanted to go to Orthros. He wanted to stop his daily work when the bells of the church rang to join other Orthodox in their worship of the Most Holy Trinity. What saddened him was that he siad one could not live that life in urban American parishes. He said that since it was impossible to live the Orthodox Life in America , he stopped going to church stating "You can not be Orthodox in the US, its too secular." After several years of praying by his family, he feeling empty and knowing something was missing in his life approached a local priest to discuss this issue. The priest explained to him the principle of hamartia (Greek, from hamartanein) "to miss the mark". The priest explained that we all miss the mark in living the perfect Christian life, even in the villages of Greece and Romania, however it is the striving for that goal of "True Worship" (Orthodox) and "true Practice" of Life (Orthopraxis) that we will obtain the crown promised by St Paul. The result of this is that the young man encouraged his priest to offer more daily services, which he attends. He has started  creating a culture in his own parish that is leading to a more village mentality of culture in his local Church and he has become  active in pursuing his own salvation by living the Orthdox Life in America that he once thought was impossible . I hope that you too will be able to talk with an Orthodox Priest about your issues and find your answers.

Thomas

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« Reply #17 on: July 29, 2010, 09:59:48 AM »

There is so much I want to let go of and yet of I am afraid of doing so.

Join the club - we may even have t-shirts made up! That's why I think there's the "working out" part. It is work, but we're given the "tools" and the support to do it.
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« Reply #18 on: October 21, 2012, 04:06:25 AM »

Will the real orthonorm please stand up, please stand up.
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« Reply #19 on: October 21, 2012, 05:08:50 PM »

I'll admit Jason, this is really out of my league since I'm not an emotional-pastoral-advice type of guy, but I will give it a shot. But feel free to dismiss anything I say because I myself am struggling with several issues as well with my faith.

All that matters is trying. Try to live the Gospel. If there is anything I have learned in life, it is that I screw up, and I will screw up again in the future. It's a part of life. But after every screw up I have to always pick myself back up and try again, until I screw up again, and repeat. I don't think that anyone is going to do it perfectly, but we can at least try as hard as we can.

I personally do not have faith anymore in God's promises. I don't understand why I should try to live out the Gospel if it seems like evil is such a more powerful force in the world and that goodness only causes us to become miserable, be hated, and is so much harder to practice opposed to evil. I don't understand how we could have faith in God's promise of eternal justice and that good will prevail when evil is so much more powerful.

But obviously you do not seem to have these doubts, so my only advice to you would be DON'T fall into the situation I am in. Keep trying as hard as you can to live out the Gospel. DON'T look back or stray like I have, but stay on course, and pray for me.

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« Reply #20 on: October 21, 2012, 09:08:48 PM »

James you just replied to a 2 year old thread...
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