Archived Prez to Prez

Archived Issues of Prez to Prez

March 23, 2016

Scripture for the Week:
"And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men...." (Col. 3:23)

Thought for the Week: A Holy Space
Recently, we had some clergy couples over for dinner. It was wet and cold outside, so I had them put their bulky coats and purses on my bed.

My bedroom is, to me, a lovely, cheerful space. I have oak furniture that my Yiayia and Papou bought us for a wedding gift. My comforter is older, but still looks fresh and bright. My sweet sister, from the fabric of some lovely old curtains that my Thea bequeathed me, sewed the bed pillows. My other Yiayia crocheted the blanket we use in the winter. The walls are a warm, golden, yellow. The two bed-lamps are large, but fit the space nicely, given to me by a dear friend who no longer needed them. On one wall, is my wedding picture with my amazing husband: we look like two teenagers. I kiddingly tell guests that that is my first husband. They always take a second look before laughing. Thirty years changes a person! An icon of Christ and Panagia hang opposite the bed to greet me each morning. I enjoy this precious space and try to keep it tidy and clean.

At some point in our evening together, each of my female guests mentioned that they were surprised that I had let them see my bedroom. They said they would be too embarrassed to ever let anyone see theirs. I thought about this for a few days. Within our homes there are many spaces: Our kitchen, where our bodily nourishment is prepared, our dining room, where we break bread with our families, our living rooms, where we share many special conversations and play games, our iconostasis where we pray to our dear Lord…and our master bedroom, where our precious children were conceived…where we actually co-created with God in giving life to someone within our own bodies. Such a mystery!

Imagine for a moment the Holy Altar. It is in this sacred space that the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of our Lord. Not an everyday event! It stands to reason that the vessels are gold, that the altar cloth is ornate, and that the tabernacle light does not go unlit. Everything in the altar is created for beauty and function. So it is in our bedrooms. It is in this holy space that we express our deepest feelings for our husbands. It is here that our marriage is consummated and here that we bring a new life into the world. It is also a Holy Space, and as such it deserves respect and dignity.

Take a look around your bedroom. Do you like what you see? Does there exist both function and beauty? How is the bed covering? Lovely and attractive or has it seen better days?  How are the surfaces…tastefully appointed or a little disappointing? How is the lighting? Is there enough of it? How about the paint color? Is it to your liking? The appearance of a space speaks a lot of its inhabitants! We are the children of God, the crown of creation, the object of God’s love and salvation. We must have self-respect and dignity, which is also manifested in the space in which we dwell. Beauty need not be costly, but we ought to offer our best to our spouse, to our family, and to those for whom we offer philoxania (hospitality, love to strangers).

Some of the ancient philosophers emphasized the material world, others the spiritual. As Orthodox Christians, we emphasize both and negate neither. We use God’s creation as a means of growing closer to Him, of glorifying Him and of expressing ourselves as His unique children. We are creative just as He is creative. May we all continue to use this gift, coupled with the knowledge that we are worthy of respect and dignity, to create a master bedroom that is Godly, well appointed, and a sanctuary for us and our precious husband.

Question of the Week:
If there was one thing I could change about my bedroom, what would it be and why? How do I imagine it will impact my marriage if I make this change?

 "Prez to Prez" was created to encourage and support Presvyteres of the Holy Orthodox Church in faith, in love, and in relationship
with their husbands and families.

February 18, 2016

Quote for the week:  “Do not think that love in order to be genuine has to be extraordinary. What we need is to love without getting tired. Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies.”  Mother Teresa

Scripture for the weekTherefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

Thought for the week:  As a presvytera - there are patches of time when I see my husband tired – mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually tired.  Recently, I witnessed my husband walk in the door after a long Parish Council meeting, and without saying a thing, I knew his day was difficult. My wounded warrior was weary.

When warriors are weary, they need to be encouraged. Sometimes this is difficult because we can also feel overwhelmed at the exact same time. It’s during these moments, I pray that the Holy Spirit fill me with patience and grace. I don't remember what I said or did, but I do remember that later that night my husband thanked me for encouraging him.

The way we respond to weariness can make a big difference. In the past, I have might rolled my eyes and ask about the daily drama that was created, followed by my opinion about how he might have handled the situation with one of our parishioners differently. Often times, I am quick to respond with my own ideas, frustrations, worries and concerns without recognizing that simple encouragement and a listening ear is what is needed most. I’ve also noticed, giving him my full attention (not looking down at my phone to see what my kids are up to, or multi-tasking during the conversation) is so important. 

Finally, silently wrapping my arms around him for a warm embrace reminds him that I will always be by his side to love and support him through it all.

Mother Teresa felt that each person she met was Jesus “in disguise.” Just try to imagine how much differently we would treat people if we really looked at them the way she did – especially our beloved weary warriors.  

February 9, 2016

Scripture of the Week:  Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Psalm 51:7, 10
Quote for the Week:  "Trust that God sees you. He hears you and feels for you, so your little matters are very big before His love and your big matters are very small before His might." St. Pope Kyrillos VI

Thought for the Week:   Paper work will be my demise. I despise it, yet it is a necessary component of life. After taking a weeklong trip for my 30th anniversary with my sweet hubby, I finally sat down to catch up, determined to reduce the stacks awaiting me. At first I felt stress, anxiety. Every piece of paper seemed to be screaming at me to take some action…too many actions, too many voices. I started with the most important part first…paying my bills and balancing my checkbook. After that, I went through my bank and receipt files, pulled out as much as I could, and sent it through the shredder. I seemed to be able to breath more easily. Surely, there is a lot more to recycle here! I want to get down to the essentials, to the basics of life and nothing more.

Then I realized what I want. I want white space. Not just any white space. I want a white space that speaks to me, inspires me, invites me to come and make myself cozy and create a nice writing piece or a thoughtful card. I want to feel I am in charge and not the piles and stacks of…IT. Hmmm…can I re-think this desk? Can I make a change? Yes!  Intentionally creating white space in my office, my kitchen, my closet, my schedule… infuses my life with peace, with a desire for more beauty and with a renewed desire to serve those around me.

But, as wonderful as it feels to clear the clutter, we need to recognize that some of life is lived amidst the mess.  Christ’s Incarnation teaches us that He didn’t wait until we “had it all together” to come down and show us how to live in and with Him; He came in the fullness of time, as soon as the moment was prepared.  We are not defined by our clean house, or if everything is filed properly and tidily. We are loved fully, where we are today. 

Psalm 50 so beautifully proclaims:  â€œCreate in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me….Wash me and I will be whiter than snow." No doubt, it feels great to clear the clutter of my desk and make "white space" around my walls. But today, before tackling the next big closet organizing project, I'll stand in front of my prayer corner for a few minutes to shred my worries, ask God to wash me, and invite our loving and compassionate Lord to fill me to the brim full with His abundant mercy. He meets me where I am, and he intends for me to grow toward Him.

Question For the Week:  What is it that is most "cluttering" my physical life right now?  What is it that is most "cluttering" my spiritual life right now?  What beginning steps can I take to clear some of this clutter to create "white space"? 
 

November 25, 2015

Quote for the Week: “There is an essential aspect to the giftedness of our lives, an essential spiritual attitude - and that is thanksgiving. We cannot and do not give thanks for what has not been given to us. And yet we are commanded to give thanks always for all things. The corollary is this: Everything is a gift. We were created to be Eucharistic Beings. We are the priests of the world who unite our voice with the groanings of all creation in praise to the author of our being and our God.”  Fr. Stephen Freeman

Scripture for the Week:  “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

Thought for the Week:  St. Paul reminds us “in all things to give thanks.” During the rush of getting our Thanksgiving dinners prepared, let us take time to reflect and be thankful for our many blessings we might take for granted.  Here are a few to ponder: 

"Our dedicated spouse" ~ Lifelong union with someone loyal and faithful is truly a gift. 

"Harmony and peace in the home" ~  Don’t take for granted the joy of heaven on earth found in a peaceful home. 

"The ability to begin again" ~ Our Lord, is a God of infinite second-chances. Through His grace, mercy, and love, He gives all the opportunity to start anew. 

"Service and ministry" ~ As clergy families, we are humble servants in the Lord’s vineyard.  It is a blessing to be part of a bigger purpose encouraging and supporting our husbands in ministry.  

“Children” ~ as mothers, yiayias (grandmothers), presvtyeres, theas (aunts) or God-mothers we are blessed beyond measure to be surrounded by children.

"Lasting friendships" ~ Let us give thanks when we have true friends that stand the test of time.

Questions of the Week:
Who and what do I take for granted?  How can I intentionally reach out and thank them in a special way?


November 4, 2015

Quote for the Week:   “Although it may appear outwardly that we make our way toward God, the joyful and wonderful truth is that it is God who comes to us.”  Matthew the Poor

Scripture for the Week:  “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us,..  full of grace and Truth” (Jn. 1:14)

Thought for the Week:  Aren’t we all familiar with the saying, “Actions speak louder than words?” Or how about, “Walk the Walk, don’t just talk the talk?”

 We all find ourselves in this most wonderful Orthodox Christian Faith which truly “Walks the Walk!”  And the greatest Model of this is our Good Lord, Christ Jesus Himself.  We all know the familiar scripture reading in Philippians 2:5-11 in which we are urged to contemplate Christ Who "did not consider equality with God a thing to be grasped… but humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross..."  

 Now, you may be thinking, “Wait!  We are in the season anticipating the Nativity of Christ, not His Passion!”  Yet, that is exactly the point.  In this season of the Advent Fast, we are given an opportunity to meditate on what it means that the Creator of all took on human flesh and fully entered into our life circumstance.  And this He did not only for a little while, but for forever!  We contemplate the great love of our Lord who didn’t simply remain at a distance waiting until we “got it,” until we had our “Aha!” moment and finally understood what it means to be a Christian.  No, Christ our Savior is a Good teacher, indeed, THE Good Teacher.  He knew that, if we were going to “get it”, it would require Him being “hands on”.

 As mothers and presvyteres, don’t we resonate with this in our own way?  We are models to our children and godchildren, to our parishioners and friends.  We are definitely “hands on.”  We are teachers and tutors, by our actions and God’s grace seeking to point others to the Good Teacher, our Savior Jesus Christ.

 Now, sometimes, perhaps we wish we could just sit things out, observe from afar, and not get our hands messy.  We’d like to bypass our “incarnation”.  Yet, as our Lord was not “above” the messiness and chaos of this human world, so, too, we are encouraged to not avoid what the Lord brings our way.  Whatever it is, we can take great comfort in knowing that “God is With Us” – the literal meaning of Jesus’ “Christmas” name = Emmanuel!

 Indeed, one could say that our entire life as Christians IS about Incarnation; it’s about putting “feet” to our “words!” So the next time things are messy or crazy, or complicated or difficult, remember that Our Lord in His great love, and via His Incarnation which this entire season is about, KNOWS what we are confronting.  And furthermore, He chose it even for Himself and he knows how to navigate all of our difficult circumstances.

 Our prayer for you during this Advent Fast is that the joy of the reality of our Lord’s Incarnation fills your entire being and radiates out to all of those who your life touches.  May the wonder of our Savior’s determination to take on our very human nature in His desire to truly Be With Us accompany all of us toward that blessed manger in Bethlehem!

 “Why the Incarnation? 

Because in order for us to share in His life,

He had to assume all the conditions of both our life and our death.  He had to become what we are, in order to enable us to become what He is in the fullness of His eternal life and glory.”  (from God With Us, by Fr. John Breck)

Question for the Week? 
In what part of my Christian walk do I struggle the most?  (What are those areas in my life where I would prefer no one would see my missteps?)  Am I willing to allow God to change those areas?  What would be the result in my life if God healed this area?

October 19, 2015

Quote for the Week
“Love your neighbor according to the dictates of the Gospel, not at all according to the dictates and impulses of your heart.” St. Ignatius Brianchaninov

Scripture for the Week
“My heart overflowed with a good word; I tell my works to the King. My tongue is the pen of a swift-writing scribe. You are more beautiful than the sons of men. Grace was poured out on Your lips. Therefore God blessed you forever.” (Psalm 44:1-3, LXX, Orthodox Study Bible)

Question for the Week
Recall a time when someone said something to you that was complimentary and edifying. Now, recall a time when someone said something that was critical or hurtful. Which recollection is stronger and how do you feel about your answer?

Thought for the Week: “A Good Word”
The scripture this week is a prophetic description of the Word Incarnate, taken from Psalm 44, traditionally chanted in Orthros for the Feasts of the Mother of God. Read the whole Psalm, if you are able, as it is quite beautiful and inspiring.

As Christian women, we are called to love our Bridegroom, Christ, and to serve and love our neighbor in a way that leads us into closer communion with Him. There is no closer neighbor to us than our husbands, and ours are a sharer in the Priesthood of Christ. Therefore, we must love our husbands in a way that brings us into closer union with our Lord…no small task! So, here is a little thought about husband care.

The Gospel writer, Luke, introduces the righteous Zacharias and Elizabeth in his first chapter: “So it was, that while (Zacharias) was serving as priest before God in the order of his division, according to the custom of the priesthood, his lot fell to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord. And the whole multitude of the people was praying outside at the hour of incense.”

As Presvyteres, we relate to this passage as our husbands have the unique calling of being ordained into Christ’s holy Priesthood and serving Him at the holy altar. We witness our husbands leading the parish in worship, in the sacraments, and as Fathers to their spiritual children. But, what of our husbands? What are their needs? “My heart overflowing with a good word.” Our husbands need to be loved, cared for, cherished, and built up with our words as Elizabeth undoubtedly did to Zacharias, being as they were, “Righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.”

The quote for this week could easily have said, “Love your husband according to the dictates of the Gospel, not at all according to the dictates and impulses of your heart.” This is easier said than done! This, however, is our calling as Christian women and Presvyteres in the service of our Lord. In addition to preparing and maintaining a Christian home, nutritious meals, and clean laundry, we must also have A Good Word for our husbands. Yes, they need it! Sometimes our husbands can be so strong we forget that they need encouragement, to be built up, and to be edified by, “My tongue (which) is the pen of a swift-writing scribe.” Share with your husband that you enjoyed or were moved by his sermon or teaching. Let him know that you appreciate how he cares and provides for your family. Thank him for his patience and love towards the children. Luke 6:45 says, “Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.” May our heart be filled with prayer, the love of God, and faith, and may Grace pour forth from our lips towards our sweet husbands.

2011 Calendar Year
2010 Calendar Year
 
2009 Calendar Year
 
2008 Calendar Year
 
2007 Calendar Year
2006 Calendar Year

December 13, 2011
Scripture for the Week

And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Quote for the Week
"Pray not to this end--that your own desires be fulfilled. You can be sure they do not fully accord with the will of God. Once you have learned to accept this point, pray instead that “Thy will be done” in me. In every matter ask Him in this way for what is good and for what confers profit on your soul, for you yourself do not seek this so completely as He does.  Many times while I was at prayer, I would keep asking for what seemed good to me. I kept insisting on my own request, unreasonably putting pressure on the will of God. I simply would not leave it up to His providence to arrange what He knew would turn out for my profit. Finally, when I obtained my request I became greatly chagrined at having been so stubborn about getting my own way, for in the end the matter did not turn out to be what I had fancied it would"  (Evagrius of Pontus).

Thought for the Week
“She was bent over and could in no way raise herself up”

Is St. Luke talking about me?  Is he talking about you In that passage we read in church December 4? (How can Christmas be coming so fast?)

In the first half of the 19th century, Metropolitan Philaret of Moscow wrote the prayer many read or recite every morning, “Lord, grant me to greet the coming day in peace.”  It works so well for the times we must hit the deck running in the early a.m. with a quick “In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,” times like the Nativity Fast and Great Lent.  We know these are meant to be times of increased prayer, yet there are so many extra errands of love to be done even though  the dishwasher still needs to be emptied every day not to mention the laundry folded. 

The  twelve lines of the prayer are like a most wonderful sandwich where the first three and the last three connect  us to Christ, while the middle six allow us to run our errands and do our multi-tasking with the assurance that He is with us. If we don’t have time in the morning for our regular prayers we can pray this one while in the car, at the supermarket checkout line, or on the exercise bike.  The prayer’s structure is a reminder that to the extent we connect with Christ at the beginning and end of our day we have the assurance He is “running with us” in between, during those unexpected fender benders and toothaches of life.

The woman in Luke’s gospel passage could  in no way raise herself up.  But Jesus could raise her.  He did and He still does.

O Lord, grant me to greet the coming day in peace.
Help me in all things to rely upon Your holy will.
In every hour of the day reveal Your will to me.
Bless my dealings with all who surround me.
Teach me to treat all that comes to me throughout the day with peace of soul and with firm conviction that Your will governs all.
In all my deeds and words, guide my thoughts and feelings.
In unforeseen events, let me not forget that all are under Your care.
Teach me to act firmly and wisely, without embittering and embarrassing others.
Give me strength to bear the fatigue of the coming day with all that it shall bring.
Direct my will,
Teach me to pray,
Pray, thyself, in me. Amen.

Question for the Week
Am I allowing God to extend His hand into those busiest moments of my day?  Do I hear His voice at my work, during my errands, and as I plow through my household responsibilities?  Am I allowing Him to sustain me, or am I attempting to do this by my own strength?  How do I feel as I reflect on my answers, and is there action I should take as a result?

October 15, 2011
Quote for the Week
Happiness in married life is granted only to those who fulfill the Divine Commandments and treat marriage as a Mystery of the Christian Church (St. Nektary)

Scripture for the Week
To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven (Ecclesiastes 3:1).

Thought for the Week
Have you, or do you know another presvytera who has earned a college or advanced degree since becoming a presvytera? Have you, or do you know another presvytera who has run a marathon or a 10K? If so, you know that the hardest part of any success is simply showing up. Keep on keeping on. Rest when you must, but don’t quit.

We signed that paper for the Archdiocese, agreeing that we would stand by our husband in his calling to serve Christ as an Orthodox clergyman. There was no way, of course, we could have understood everything that standing by our man would mean.

In most marriages (once a year or so) it is normal to think to ourselves, “Who needs this!” Thank God, most of us get past those times and come to the other side of them where all is well again. For marriage is work. Love, we learn as we go on, is more often a verb than a noun.

We need to make sure all is well with us intellectually, physically, emotionally, socially, and of course, spiritually. We need to check out a book that can help us grow, and we need to check in with our doctor. We need to reach out to a good friend, to our spiritual father, to a licensed family counselor when necessary or simply pick up a bouquet of fresh flowers along with our groceries at the supermarket. And on your birthday, on Mother's Day, on another day of your choosing, lie in that hammock, go for a facial or sit in your favorite chair, so that you, who minister to so many, can also be ministered to. One of the best toasts I ever heard at a wedding came from my then 12 year old cousin who addressed the groom, lifted his glass of soda, and said, “Happy wife, happy life!”

A friend who worked as a receptionist in the financial aid office of a top-ranking college told me this sad story: “Often calls or visits would come from individuals who said they needed more financial aid and then would go on to say terrible things about their estranged spouse. I wanted to cry out, ‘The first 25 years of marriage are the hardest, especially at empty nest time. I beg you to hang in there a little longer so that you can get over this bump and cross to the other side.’”

The down times in a marriage remind me that the aging wine we are saving for last is a fine one, indeed.

Question for the Week
Am I able to endure the difficult times of my marriage and life with forbearance and grace? Do I live life knowing that difficulties will come, and that our responses to them are an opportunity for spiritual growth?

May 25, 2011
"CHRIST IS RISEN!"
Quote for the Week
Have faith that is as unshakeable as a rock, so that nothing frightens you...The person who has deep faith within himself, and fixes his attention on the good path, and seeks to improve the condition of his soul and to adapt his thought to the good is happy... The happiness of man consists in faith in God and in good acts which are done with love. (St. Raphael of Lesvos)
Scripture for the Week
"Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide I Me. I am the true vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit" (John 15.4-5).
Thought for the Week: (Abide in Me)B>
Holy Thursday evening, (just a month ago) and a third of the way into the first gospel, we heard those words again:
"Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide I Me. I am the true vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit," (John 15:4-5).
Words quietly peaceful-- so simple, so inviting, so powerful. We heard them on Holy Thursday with "good" ears made receptive from the weeks and days of training that Great Lent offers us.
Now, in the midst of the Paschal season, things have changed a bit. We eat differently. We have a little more discretionary time (although for some, with the children's ball games and activities, especially during these last weeks of school, the spring calendar begins to groan!).
Whether busier or less busy, we can practice mindfulness and paying attention, quietly bringing ourselves back to the "still small voice" of God who offers to abide in us if only we will let Him. Question for the Week
"When in your life have you felt closest to God?"

May 19, 2011
Quote for the Week
"It is the day of Resurrection. Let us be radiant O people. Pascha, Pascha of the Lord from death to life and from earth to Heaven. Christ our God hath passed us who sing the hymn of victory. Christ is risen from the dead!" - Paschal Matins, Canticle One
Scripture for the Week
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life - the life was made manifest, and we saw it, and testify to it, and proclaim to you the eternal life which was with the Father and was made manifest to us - that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you may have fellowship with us; and our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. And we are writing this that our joy may be complete. 1 John 1:1-7
Thought for the Week: Post Paschal Blues
Great Lent and Holy Week are special times of grace, prayer, worship and Christ-centeredness. They help ground our Christian faith from year to year, aiding us in renewal, repentance and re-commitment to our Orthodox Christian Faith. It is for these reasons that the Holy Fathers set this time as a yearly cycle around which our church calendar revolves, helping us to put 'first things first' and to remember 'that which is needful' in our lives. Certainly, the more services in Great Lent and Holy Week we attend, the greater our gains, spiritually speaking, if we are attentive, prayerful and striving for dispassion in our life. But what happens after Pascha? There is certainly a 'lightening' that takes place, in some cases a much needed lightening, which is demonstrated in the fast (during Bright Week), the prayers (the Paschal Hours), and the number of services called for. Liturgically speaking, we remain in the feast for weeks, which is a tremendous blessing in terms of us continuing to reap the fruit and grace that Pascha brings all of us.
But what of the day-to-day living…how can we continue to live in the joy of the resurrection amidst the daily grind we all face? In some ways, we cannot, which explains the need for celebrating Pascha yearly in the first place, but on another level, we must. We must strive and struggle to keep our 'Paschal candle lit' from year-to-year, and to fight the unnatural tendency to sink back to where we were spiritually, to return 'to the vomit,' to be more graphic. The Lord intends us to grow closer to Him year after year, day after day, moment after moment. Certainly, none of us can say that we are the same person we were last year or even yesterday. That IS the joy of the resurrection…the gift of repentance, of movement from citizenship of this earth towards citizenship of heaven. Let us, then, together strive to become increasingly vigilant, prayerful and mindful in the short years of our life, let us leave nothing on the table, let us have no regrets. Let us imitate the blessed Seraphim in proclaiming that 'Christ is Risen!' in season and out, until the blessed day when we witness with our own eyes the risen Christ. Christos Anesti!
Question for the Week: What am I doing to keep my Paschal candle lit and burning?
CHRIST IS RISEN!"

March 30, 2011
Quotes for the Week
"It is possible to grieve for our own sins and yet to rejoice in Christ." St. John Chrysostom
An old lady asked Fr. Thaddeus what she was to do in order that her grandchildren might become pious. He replied, "Let their grandmother always be meek and good; let her never be angry and always be happy (joyful). Perhaps the grandchildren will not become pious, but one day they will remember their grandmother, and the memory of her will make them better people"
Scripture for the Week
"These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full" (John 15.11) "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control" (Galatians. 5.22).
Thought for the Week: (Turn on the Joy!)
St. Seraphim of Sarov addressed those he spoke with as "My joy." French writer Michel Montaigne echoed our Orthodox "joyful sorrow" when he wrote that "the most profound joy has more of gravity than of gaiety in it." At vespers on Sunday of Forgiveness we heard "Let us set out with joy upon the season of the Fast." Those who knew Bishop Gerasimos of Abydos remember him most for his joy. Those who have met Archbishop Anastasios of Albania or our own Archbishop Demetrios know them as men of joy. And those who have visited monasteries in this country and elsewhere often speak of the "joyful spirit" of a particular monastic. When Sophie Koulomzin, long-honored as a pioneer in Orthodox religious education in America, was speaking once to a group of women she talked about how important it is not to run out of joy. "You know as mothers, how awful it is when you run out of milk," she said. "Well it's just as awful to run out of joy!" So ladies, this Lent let's turn off the TV , perhaps the radio, and certainly the complaining. But let's be sure to allow God to "turn on the joy" in our hearts.
Question of the Week
What is it that I think people will remember about me? Does it line up with what I hope people will remember about me? (Warning: If you decide to poll your children on this, just know you'll get radically different answers!)

February 2, 2011
Quote for the Week
Whatever has taken place in the history of salvation – whatever was done by Christ, the Father, and the Holy Spirit – must also take place within me. That’s what it means for me to participate in the life of God. For example, to the extent that I have emptied myself (cf. Phil. 2.7), I experience what the Mother of God felt when she said to the angel: Let it be done to me according to your word. I experience, in other words, her total self-surrender to that which was beyond her capacity to understand. How shall this be? she asked; How can I give birth, since I am a virgin and have not known a man? Was there anything she could understand? The angel replied: The Spirit will overshadow you and you will give birth (cf. Lk. 1.34-38). Did she understand anything? Nothing at all. That is what is meant by Let it be done to me according to your word, which means: ‘whatever you say, just as you said it. Even though I cannot understand it, let it happen just as you say.’ (Elder Aimilianos)
 Scripture for the Week
God is our refuge and strength,an ever-present help in trouble.Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way ,and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea. (Psalm 46:1-2)
Question for the Week
We often go through struggles and wish they were behind us, and by God's mercies, we often DO get through them and they DO wind up behind us. As you look back, what struggles have you had to face? In retrospect, what do you believe God was able to achieve in your life through those struggles?
Thought for the Week
One of our sister presvyteres is reading "The Queen Mother" (A biography of Queen Elizabeth's mother) In light of the movie recently released entitled "The King's Speech" we felt her brief reflection was beautiful, and wanted to share it with you this week.
The Queen Mother became "Queen" when her husband had to bravely accept his role as king, after his brother abdicated the throne. Imagine the struggle in accepting her role as she and her husband had to bravely face the dangers of World War II doing all in their power to keep the nation brave and hopeful. They found their Christian faith to be their inspiration as they continued to struggle against atheism, materialism and egomania. During the dangerous days of World War II, they continued to live in Buckingham Palace "for morale" even though it had been partially bombed and could not be heated adequately due to shortages. What a brave lady she was! She reminds me of presvyteres and the struggles that we have to face, unexpected challenges that we have to take on, and how we are called to support and love our husbands.
Our dear sister, Presvytera Eleni Tsigas, will be taking a break from contributing to Prez to Prez this year. We appreciate all of Eleni's wisdom and insight through the years. We warmly welcome Presvytera Katherine Dumont, from St. Demetrios in Seattle, who will be joining our Prez to Prez writing team. We invite YOU to send in YOUR thoughts, questions, and ideas as well!


January 28, 2011
Quote for the Week
The goal of reading is the application, in our lives, of what we read. Not to learn it by heart, but to take it to heart. Not to practice using our tongues, but to be able to receive the tongues of fire and to live the mysteries of God. If one studies a great deal in order to acquire knowledge and to teach others without living the things he teaches, he does no more than fill his head with hot air. At most he will manage to ascend to the moon using machines. The goal of the Christian is to rise to God without machines (Elder Paisios the Athonite).
Scripture for the Week
Be prepared, in season and out of season (2 Timothy 4:2).
Question for the Week
What am I reading? Is it lifting me up and focusing me on the things God would want? If I don't like my answer, what do I plan to do about it?
Thought for the Week
We presvyteres move. Most of us know all about packing up, leaving the familiar, and heading off in faith to a new chapter. Do any of you who come from temperate climates find yourselves these days adjusting to or coping with deep freezes and long winters?

Snow is calm and beautiful as it falls, and once the sun comes out the bright and picture-perfect sparkle of it all takes your breath away. But some of us have passed our ice-skating, skiing, sledding, shoveling days, and the cold, wind, and ice keep us from getting fresh air and exercise. There are days when even the path to the car and the roads themselves are too icy to be safe. We can become grumpy, lonely, and find ourselves in survival mode.

In winter the ground, too, lies fallow, quiet, waiting. And just as sure as the Lord’s Resurrection followed His Crucifixion, so spring will come again, we’ll be back in our gardens, flowers will bloom and our moods lift. God has allowed these fallow periods, and a deep, quiet acceptance, even contentment, during these times can bear much fruit.

The best thing of all to do during the snowed-in days of winter, at least for this writer, is to read a chapter or two from the Bible every day, then to open and read a few pages from a spiritually edifying work. So many are available to us; it’s just a matter of going online, or of picking up a book or article. This quote is from an interview with Archbishop Anastasios of Albania: “The possibility of Christianity remains to create free people, free from their egomania, from the longing for pleasure and for power, giving them a sense of duty towards every human being.” The entire interview appeared last month on the website at
http://Romfea.gr.
We are so thrilled to welcome a seasoned presvytera to our Prez to Prez team - Presvytera Faye Stylianopoulos from the Boston Metropolis!

January 14, 2011
Quote for the Week
Shelter the sinner if it brings you no harm. Through this you will encourage him toward repentance and reform--and attract the Lord’s mercy to yourself. With a kind word and all possible means, fortify the infirm and the sorrowful and that Right Arm that controls everything, will also support you. With prayers and sorrow of your heart, share your lot with the aggrieved and the source of God’s mercy will open to your entreaties (Saint Isaac the Syrian).
Scripture for the Week
Do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, for they will prolong your life many years and bring you prosperity. Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man. Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones. Honor the LORD with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine (Proverbs 3:1).
Question for the Week
How have I witnessed God’s hand in the lives of those around me this week? How have I witnessed His hand in my life? How do I feel when I reflect upon this?
Thought for the Week
God is good. As presvyteres, we are constantly brought into contact with the various events of people’s lives: births, baptisms, engagements, marriages, sicknesses, deaths, and memorials. On any given day, we can be celebrating an engagement one minute, and receiving an urgent call from the hospital the next. Sometimes, though, events collide and bitter and sweet can occur all within the same day or even mingle within the same event. For those of us who have been fortunate enough to stay in a parish for significant lengths of time, we know that parish families tend to become less “parish” and more “family”: they become yiayias, papous, theas, and theos to our own children and like brothers and sisters to us, and so we truly rejoice at their celebrations, and weep at their losses. Through each event, though, God’s tender mercies are evident. He has opened barren wombs, He has healed broken hearts, He has sustained people through unspeakable loss...and as presvyteres, we witness this firsthand in our daily lives. We are blessed to see God’s handiwork from this vantage point. Perhaps it was this intimate experience with God’s mercies in the extremes of life that allowed the Psalmist to write such profound words of both intercession and praise. May we, too, allow ourselves to see God’s hand moving in the events around us...that we are not tossed about upon the waves of life capriciously, but that the Lord Himself sails with us and holds the power to calm the seas and bring us safely to shore.
Sisters of the Metropolis of San Francisco: We look forward to our sisterhood reunion for the Metropolis of San Francisco. Send in your registration in TODAY of our 2011 Presvyteres Retreat January 21 -23rd.

January 6, 2011
Happy New Year!
Quote for the Week
Do not wish for everything to be done according to your determination, but wish that it is how it should be, and in this way, you will attain peace with everyone. And believe that everything that happens to us, even the most insignificant, occurs through God’s Providence. Then you will be able to endure everything that comes upon you without any agitation ( Abba Dorotheos of Gaza).
Scripture for the Week
And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Phillipians 4:7).
Question for the Week
In what area of my life do I most need peace right now? What concrete steps can I take today toward allowing God to establish peace in that area?
Thought for the Week: On Peace
We presvyteres move. Most of us know all about packing up, leaving the familiar, and heading off in faith to a new chapter. Do any of you who come from temperate climates find yourselves these days adjusting to or coping with deep freezes and long winters?


Snow is calm and beautiful as it falls, and once the sun comes out the bright and picture-perfect sparkle of it all takes your breath away. But some of us have passed our ice-skating, skiing, sledding, shoveling days, and the cold, wind, and ice keep us from getting fresh air and exercise. There are days when even the path to the car and the roads themselves are too icy to be safe. We can become grumpy, lonely, and find ourselves in survival mode.


In winter the ground, too, lies fallow, quiet, waiting. And just as sure as the Lord’s Resurrection followed His Crucifixion, so spring will come again, we’ll be back in our gardens, flowers will bloom and our moods lift. God has allowed these fallow periods, and a deep, quiet acceptance, even contentment, during these times can bear much fruit.


The best thing of all to do during the snowed-in days of winter, at least for this writer, is to read a chapter or two from the Bible every day, then to open and read a few pages from a spiritually edifying work. So many are available to us; it’s just a matter of going on line, or of picking up a book or article. This quote is from an interview with Archbishop Anastasios of Albania. The entire interview appeared last month on the website “Romfea.gr “


“The possibility of Christianity remains to create free people, free from their egomania, from the longing for pleasure and for power, giving them a sense of duty towards every human being.”
Sisters of the Metropolis of San Francisco: Send in your registration in TODAY of our 2011 Presvyteres Retreat January 21 -23rd.

December 6, 2010
Dear Sisters, We apologize for our slow re-entrance with Prez to Prez. Thanksgiving has past and the Nativity Fast is upon us. Yet, today, let's reflect upon giving thanks, not only on Thanksgiving but every day! We are grateful to a precious "seasoned" presvytera who shares the following...
Quote for the Week
Therefore, whoever is walking upon the path of God must give thanks to Him for all the things that come upon him (Saint Isaac the Syrian).
Scripture for the Week
 "In everything give thanks" (Thessalonians 5:18).
Question for the Week
What quality of my spouse/child/friend/co-worker did I experience today for which I am thanksful? Find a way to share this with them.
Thought for the Week: (From an older, seasoned, presvytera come these thoughts this week)
Back in the days when I, like so many of you younger women today, had to run on overload much of the time, feeding and clothing my family, supervising the children's homework, looking out for my husband, trying to keep my home lovely and all of us healthy, dashing around to music lessons, sports activities, doctor and dentist appointments, to work, church meetings and worship services, not to mention keeping in touch with extended family and friends, offering hospitality to parishioners here and there, and a million and one other things . . . whew! . . . I hit on a wonderful idea.
Thanksgiving!
And so it was that at a moment's notice I would declare a certain day, be it in February, May, or early December, Thanksgiving Day. On that day I would allow myself thoughts and prayers only of Thanksgiving, and though the chores and tasks had to continue I would go about them with praise and thanks in my heart and on my lips, consciously deciding not to think about "to-do" lists or problems, but rather gently sweeping away such thoughts and replacing them with ones of thanks for everyone and everything around me.
No one knew about this but me, and I can't begin to describe the transforming power of my little secret on those days, the inner glow of an "attitude of gratitude" which is in any case meant to be ours as Christians. I once heard Oprah speak at a graduation of the benefit of keeping a "gratitude journal," where one writes at the end of the day five things one is grateful for, or simply mentions them in prayer before falling asleep. When one is particularly wound up, anxious or stressed, it is often thinking of that first thing to be thankful for that is the hardest – after the first the others come more easily!
  • Happy Thanksgiving.
  • I thank my God upon every remembrance of you (Philippians 1.30).
  • Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him and bless His name (Psalm 100.4)
  • In everything give thanks (1Thessalonians 5.18a).
  • Therefore, whoever is walking upon the path of God must give thanks to Him for all the things that come upon him (Saint Isaac the Syrian).
  • A heart that is continually moved to thanksgiving is a guide that leads the gifts of God to a person. Saint Isaac the Syrian
  • Praise the Lord from the heavens.
  • Praise Him in the highest. Alleluia (Psalms/Communion Hymn).

November 17, 2010
Quote for the Week
The person who listens to Christ fills himself with light; and if he imitates Christ, he reclaims himself (St. Thalassios the Libyan)
.
Scripture for the Week
“Then Christ will dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:17-19)
.
Question for the Week
Do I have a tough time saying "No" to my kids? Do I have a tough time saying "No" to myself? Is there a possible connection there?
Thought for the Week
What’s playing on your iPod? Did you get my text? What’s your status on Facebook? In this ever-changing world of technology families are more PLUGGED IN than ever before. Recently, my husband held a youth meeting and asked all the teens to get out their cell phones and challenged them to a texting race. On the count of three they all eagerly and frantically moved their thumbs, to write: “This is ___(name)____, and I know that I can call or text my priest whenever I need help!” Wow! In just 10 seconds dozens of messages filled their priest's inbox along with all of their cell phone numbers. Indeed, both kids and adults are challenged daily by a constant stream of e-mails, instant messaging, TV, videos, music, and computer games. Imagine if we would carve out 15 minutes of uninterrupted prayer and stillness with our Lord rather than spend that time on Facebook! Indeed, it is so easy to access entertainment and information at a push of a button. Yet, we must look at how being “plugged in” may also be robbing us of our time and attention. This is precious and valuable time that could be spent in conversations with our children, connecting with our husbands, time in prayer, and reaching out to those in need. Want a shocker? Consider this quote from the Kaiser Family Foundation: "American children and adolescents spend 22 to 28 hours per week viewing television: more than any other activity except sleeping. By the age of 70 they will have spent 7 to 10 years of their lives watching TV." Let us have intentional conversations with our families about time. You may be surprised to find out that you, too, need to scale back your time in front of a screen and seek out more quiet time with God. If we were to re-design our fasting rules for the 21st century, I wonder how difficult we would find it to cut out (or even cut back!) our daily dependence on technology. Perhaps this would be a great challenge for each of us as we contemplate the upcoming fast...to attempt to cut back those wasted minutes and hours in order to make them preciously valuable minutes and hours of time spent with our loved ones.
Texting in the car is dangerous habit by driving teens. Consider showing this video to your teenager and tell them to TURN OFF THE PHONE in the car! http://www.schooltube.com/video/33b1ffcfe6ad4d6ea877/BVTV-Texting-While-Driving.
The San Francisco Metropolis Sisterhood of Presvyteres Retreat will be January 21-23, 2011, at St. Nicholas Ranch. The Retreat Master will be Fr. Meletios Webber, Abbot of the Monastery of St. John of Shanghai and San Francisco in Manton, CA. We look forward to seeing all at the Ranch in January! Make your reservations and travel plans today!
The 7th Biennial NSP Retreat, hosted by the Metropolis of Detroit, will be Octo­ber 7-10, 2011, at the Wooded Glen Conference and Retreat Center in Henryville, IN, near Louis­ville, KY. The speaker will be Presvytera Kerry Pappas. To stay updated, please check the webpage: http://nsp.goarch.org/retreat.html.

October 27, 2010
Quote for the Week
A man advises his neighbor in accordance with what his neighbor knows. Correspondingly, God acts on one who hears Him according to the degree of his faith. A man of forbearance becomes wise, just as does he who is careful to listen to words of wisdom. Do not refuse to learn, even if you are very wise, for the Providence of God avails more than our wisdom. (Abba Mark)

Scripture for the Week
A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. (Proverbs 15:1)

Thought for the Week
We are surrounded by unsaid messages. Too often we rush through conversations and forget to really listen. This week, take time to pause. Even when you have an important point to make or when you’re frustrated or angry. Take time to pause. Think carefully before responding. Listen to the person talking to you, to the world around you, to your heart, to your loved ones. Listen to their words and their unsaid messages. Often times, “a gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Proverbs 15:1

Question for the Week
OK, we've all got one or more topics that bring out the worst in us. You know the one...for some of us, it might pull up every defensive mechanism we possess while for others we may become argumentative...each person reacts in her own way. What is MY "hot button topic"? How do I react when it arises? How can I commit my reaction to one that edifies God?

We welcome your feedback and comments! Send them to our Prez to Prez team: p.tsagalakis@comcast.net, eikona@eikona.com, presdee@worldnet.att.net, nikonia01@hotmail.com, doxa@clearwire.net
With love,
Donna, Pat, Stacey, Candace and Eleni
"Prez to Prez" was created to encourage and support Presvyteres of the Holy Orthodox Church in faith, in love, and in relationship with their husbands and families.
San Francisco Diocese Sisterhood of Presvyteres Retreat will be January 21-23, 2011 at St. Nicholas Ranch. The Retreat Master will be Fr. Meletios Webber, Abbot of the Monastery of St. John of Shanghai and San Francisco in Manton, California. We look forward to seeing all at the Ranch in January! Make your reservations and travel plans today!

October 5, 2010
Quote for the Week
The Cross is that which is brighter than the sun, more brilliant than the sunbeam: for when the sun is darkened then the Cross shines brightly. And the sun is darkened --- not because it is extinguished, but because it is overpowered by the brilliancy of the Cross. The Cross has broken our bond, it has made the prison of death ineffectual, it is the demonstration of the love of God. 'For God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son, that everyone who believes in Him should not perish.' (St. John Chrysostom)

Scripture for the Week
(Remember, Jesus heals!) "Wherever He entered, into villages, cities, or the country, they laid the sick in the marketplaces, and begged Him that they might just touch the hem of His garment. And as many as touched Him were made well." (Mark 6:56)

Thought for the Week
It was a warm and sunny day at the beach during our vacation. My family was enjoying our time in the surf waiting for each wave to roll in and lift us off our feet, laughing and splashing and letting all the daily stresses from the previous weeks fall away from us. I was savoring each sensation and hoping I could hold onto this precious time, and then I turned and saw something that absolutely crystallized everything and burned itself indelibly into my memory banks. I saw a middle-aged couple slowly approaching the surf while gently supporting an elderly woman between them. It was obvious that she was unsteady on her feet, and when I glanced back along the path they had taken, I saw her walker-type cane firmly planted in the sand at the water’s edge, standing like a beacon awaiting her return after her trip into the waves. Each step brought them further into the surf, joy etched itself onto the old woman’s face as the water rushed toward them. The threesome continued to wade further and further into the surf until it was swirling around their waists. Each wave must have certainly brought with it a rush of memories and sensations the woman had long considered out of reach. How glorious a thing was the selflessness of the couple who made this woman’s joy their priority for the day...they willingly gave up their own opportunity for “play time” in the surf to bring that joy to someone else. I soberly reflected, that I might also reach a time in my life when I would no longer be able to navigate sandy beaches and pounding surf on my own and how sorely I would miss the simple feel of powder-soft sand under my feet and the lapping of waves around my legs. It was then I realized the amazing gift this couple had extended their elderly companion...in an action that had not cost them a single penny, they had extended a gift of priceless value. How many opportunities have I missed to provide a similar gift to someone else? May we begin to look around us with renewed perspective at the huge impact we can make in our world through the smallest of actions.

Question for the Week
In what small way can I give the gift of time to someone in my life this week?

We welcome your feedback and comments! Send them to our Prez to Prez team: p.tsagalakis@comcast.net, eikona@eikona.com, presdee@worldnet.att.net, nikonia01@hotmail.com, doxa@clearwire.net
With love,
Donna, Pat, Stacey, Candace and Eleni
"Prez to Prez" was created to encourage and support Presvyteres of the Holy Orthodox Church in faith, in love, and in relationship with their husbands and families.
We ask that you continue to keep Diaconessa Krisann Kontaxis in your prayers as she is so grateful to be covered with God's healing grace and comfort during her fight against breast cancer. October is breast cancer awareness month - Early detection is a women's best defence. It is always encouraged that women do self-examination at the same time each month. In addition, they should have clinical examination by a physician regularly and do a mammogram annually if you are 45 years and over.
San Francisco Diocese Sisterhood of Presvyteres Retreat will be January 21-23, 2011 at St. Nicholas Ranch. The Retreat Master will be Fr. Meletios Webber, Abbot of the Monastery of St. John of Shanghai and San Francisco in Manton, California. We look forward to seeing all at the Ranch in January! Make your reservations and travel plans today!

June 11, 2010
Over the few month our prez to prez team will be taking a summer time break. You'll hear back from us in September.
We hope that you will take a little more time to focus on your family, pamper yourself with a good book, and make time for prayer each day.
Quote for the Week
If we look to correct ourselves and look more intently towards our inner activity—rather than our external, giving precedence to divine help—we can, in turn, be of greater and more positive help to others. We will also achieve an inner serenity that will quietly help the souls of the people we encounter, because spiritual serenity reflects the virtue of the soul and transforms souls. (Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain [Athos])
Scripture for the Week
Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. (Colossians 4:5)
Question for the Week
What outside interferences most inhibit the quality of my spiritual life? What can I do to minimize or eliminate those interferences?
Thought for the Week
Whether or not you have a teenager or college student living at home, most likely you are well aware of the world of texting, internet, facebook, iPods, twittering and iPhones. Technology has taken us to new heights as information is accessible with a quick click of a mouse. Time... Precious time... Imagine at the end of each week if you could receive a detailed report on the hours spent on various websites, checking emails, browsing Facebook - and then compare those minutes to time spent with our Lord in prayer. If you are like me, the tally column would be a bit shocking! Unfortunately, we can be so "plugged in" that we miss opportunities to nurture our spiritual life, our marriages, and lose out on precious time with our children. Each summer, our Prez to Prez team takes a needed break to "unplug." This summer, we hope that we can ALL spend less time in front of a computer screen and more time with our families. We will be rebooting back up in September in hopes to continue encouraging the many sister presvyteres who choose to read our offerings each week. Thank you for your encouragement and support of our Prez to Prez ministry.

June 3, 2010
Quote for the Week
"Neither do walls or rich furniture make a home. Millionaires in magnificent mansions may never know a home. But where there are good relationships, where love binds the family together and to God, there happiness is always to be found. For good relationships are heaven anywhere. Monotony and misery cannot exist where there is love. But the fire of love must be kept burning warmly and brightly with the sweet wood of sacrifice. In teaching us to cross out the "I" out of life, our Lord tells us the secret of happiness; what the Saints call the ecstasy of self-forgetfulness. For divine love is always self-effacing, seeks to give rather than to receive, to serve rather than to be served, to love rather than to be loved, and will sacrifice anything for the beloved." (St. Seraphim of Sarov)
Scripture for the Week
This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit , showing yourselves to be my disciples (John 15:8)
Thought for the Week (Love Notes)
I am a very blessed woman. Each and everyday, my family leaves me love notes. Maybe your family leaves them for you, too! For twenty-five years I have taught, nagged, demonstrated, cajoled, and by every means possible tried to convey to my dear husband and children what is important in life...that is, what I value, what helps make life simpler, and what will lead to optimal health. So each and everyday, I get love notes that affirm that, "Yes, indeed, we are listening, Mom!" For starters, in the morning, I will find my husband's socks and underwear in a little pile on the bathroom floor. The note reads, "See honey, I put them neatly in a pile like you asked!" As I make my way to the kitchen, I peek into the kid's bathroom and find some toothpaste in the sink, an opened tube of toothpaste, and a strand of dental floss on the counter. That love note reads, "I brushed and flossed my teeth like you showed me, Mom!" In the kitchen, I usually find a myriad of love notes. On the counter, I find an unrinsed blender with remnants of berries and yogurt inside. The note reads, "See, Mom, I'm eating more fruits and vegetables like you wanted me to!" On the stovetop, I find a pan that cooked sunny side up eggs. This note reads, "Mom, I am fixing my own breakfast like you taught me!" I find half-filled water bottles in the sink that convey, "I'm drinking more water, Mother!" and half rinsed plates that say, "I brought it to the sink like you asked!" On the entryway stairs, I find unopened mail that reads, "I got the mail like you told me to!" and on the computer desk, I find rough drafts, pens and books that say, "I'm studying and getting good grades, like I promised, Mom!" Finally, when my husband is on his way home from church, he gives me a call and asks, "What's for dinner?" This, too, is a love note. It says, "Honey, I am so hungry and I can't wait to sit with you and partake of your delectable cooking!"
So, as you can see, I am a very blessed woman. I get love notes each and everyday of my life from my husband and children conveying that they love and appreciate me and that they are taking all of my teaching, nagging, demonstrating, and cajoling to heart. I am being listened to, after all!
Question for the Week
What little "love notes" are my loved ones finding from me each day?
2010
Rejoice! For the Holy Spirit is present and fills all things!
Quote for the Week
Constantly, each day, each hour, God is sending us people, circumstances, tasks, which should mark the beginning of our renewal; yet we pay them no attention, and thus continually we resist God's will for us. Indeed, how can God help us? Only by sending us in our daily life certain people, and certain coincidences of circumstance. If we accepted every hour of our life as the hour of God's will for us, as the decisive, most important, unique hour of our lives -- what sources of joy, love, strength, as yet hidden from us, would spring from the depths of our soul! Let us then be serious in our attitude towards each person we meet in our life, towards every opportunity of performing a good deed; be sure that you will then fulfill God's will for you in these very circumstances, on that very day, in that very hour. (Fr. Alexander Elchaninov,
The Diary of a Russian Priest
Scripture for the Week
The Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. (John 14:17)
Question for the Week
Do I look for opportunities to extend Christ's love to those with whom I come into contact? How do I feel when I reach out in love without expecting anything in return? How can I cultivate this desire in my children/grandchildren/godchildren?
Thought for the Week
(Beginning of our renewal)
Just before the Holy Fast of Great Lent and the Feast of Pentecost we celebrate "Saturday of the Souls."
Unfortunately, in the past, the "Saturday of Souls" liturgies have not been too popular and often times it's just me, my husband (the priest) and a few little ole' Greek ladies. This year, our liturgy committee implemented a brilliant idea! They filled small baggies with uncooked wheat (just 1 cup) along with the recipe for Koliva. On the Sunday prior, they invited men and women of our parish to consider making a small batch of koliva, in memory of their loved ones who have died. Now, not only do we have more and more people coming to church - but an entire table of Koliva is offered. Beautiful traditions such as baking proforon and making koliva must be embraced and passed on to the next generation of faithful men and women.
Death is a reminder to each of us how precious time is. Each day, each hour, we are faced with circumstances that can be an opportunity to call upon the grace of the Holy Spirit and respond with love. Do we allow ourselves to embrace stress and anxiety? Are we complaining or angry? Life is too short. Let this joyous feast of Pentecost be a new beginning... a renewal of our hearts and minds.
Remember, the little things can make a big difference. This week, I'll try letting go of the house work and engage my family in a fun game of cards, or a discussion around the dinner table. I'll be taking a walk and going out to lunch with a sister presvytera. It is time reclaim what matters - and the first step is to focus on our relationship with God. Every day, let us call upon the Holy Spirit in prayer "Heavenly King, Comforter, the Spirit of Truth who are everywhere present and fills all things..." Sometimes, we just need reminders that we are indeed like flowers that will only live for a limited time on this earth. Dear sisters, may we blossom season after season growing new branches and finding ways to live joyously in Christ's never-setting light. Embrace what matters!
"Watch your thoughts, they become words. Watch your words, they become actions. Watch your actions, they become habits. Watch your habits, they become your character. Watch your character, it becomes your destiny." (Charles Reade)
"O Lord, the memory of Your Saints is like the Garden of Eden, for all creation greatly rejoices in it. Grant us peace and great mercy, by their intercessions.
"We pray for those who died in true faith and whom You have taken to yourself, that You, as our placable God, place them in the dwellings of the elect and in the land of the living; fill them with Your never-setting light, and grant them Your heavenly joy." (Saturday of Souls, Orthros)
Koliva Recipe (small batch for baggies)
1 cup wheat berries
1/4 cup sugar
1 Tbsp Cinnamon
a dash of cloves
2 Tbsp sesame seeds, toasted
1/4 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup brown raisins
1/4 cup walnuts and toasted almonds (or pine nuts are great too!)
2 Tbsp. chopped parsley
(Pomegranate seeds when in season)
Blanched & Jordan Almonds (set aside)
1/4 cup plain dried bread crumbs
1/2 cup Powdered Sugar
Pray first for the departed servant. Light Candili.
Soak Wheat berries overnight – Rinse Well.
Boil Wheat Berries for 1+ hours (to taste so they are not hard but not mushy)
Rinse & Drain – Lay out on White Cotton Sheet (Do not use towels) (for this small amount I use two pillowcases) Let sit over night.
Add all ingredients together (Except bread Crumbs, Powdered Sugar Whole Almonds & Jordan Almonds)
In bowl or on tray plae Koliva, Cover with Bread crumbs, then add Powdered Sugar. Decorate with Blanched almonds & Jordan almonds in the sign of a cross.

May 19, 2010
Quote for the Week
If you see someone attacked by passions, hate not the brother but the passions attacking him. And when you see someone succumbing to the tyranny of lusts and bad habits, have a still greater compassion for him, lest you suffer a similar temptation - since you are changeable and under the influence of changeable matter. (St. Symeon the New Theologian)
Scripture for the Week
Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up. (James 4:10)
Question for the Week
Am I taking responsibility for and working toward the healing of my own sinful addictions (passions)?
Over the next few weeks, we will be addressing the topic of marital discord. We can only imagine the diversity of women who read this publication and the situations we might touch on that could possibly strike a nerve. We are using a hypothetical inquiry format. Our goal is to bring hope and ways to address areas of difficulty that might otherwise be too painful to raise in routine conversation. We welcome your feedback.
Dear Sister in Christ,
There is something going on in my marriage that is deeply worrisome to me and I haven't been able to share it with anyone before now. My husband is suffering an addiction (to what I will not say at this time) and I don't know what to do. It pains me to see how his addiction is changing him and our relationship. He cannot see it, though, and I often find myself very angry and distancing myself from him. Whenever I try to approach him about it, he becomes immediately defensive. I don't want to live like this, but I don't want to destroy our family life, either. I don't know how to handle this and I'm quite upset and worried.
Dear one—my heart aches along with yours—addictions are rampant throughout our society now and clergy families are not exempt from this suffering. Not every clergy family, but a certain percentage are in the same boat with you right now. It is not abnormal to feel upset, worried by or distanced from the person who is in an addicted state. Your first step, I think, will be to find someone in whom to confide these concerns confidentially, ideally your spiritual father. You need, in particular, both spiritual support and practical guidance at this time. One size does not fit all, and individual situations are best handled/guided on an individual basis, depending on degree of seriousness. You also might want to see a professional family counselor to learn more about the problem at hand and how best to respond. Insurance usually allows for counseling visits—a certain number per year.
Apart from professional counseling visits, many people do not realize that there is an excellent resource available in most areas in the United States (and other countries, too) on any day of the week for low to no cost. Some people call it "cheap" therapy, but it works extremely well. Have you heard of Al-Anon? Let me guess your thoughts--it's a program for alcoholics? You're thinking of AA—it is not the same as Al-Anon. Al-Anon is a support group for family and friends of alcoholics, although, alcoholism does not need to be the primary addiction that brings the group together. The type of addiction (alcohol, narcotics, gambling, sex or overeating to name a few) can vary, but the steps to deal with addicted behavior are the same. And those are tools that Al-Anon is expert at providing. If you have a family member or friend who is addicted to anything, you can readily get concrete help from an Al-Anon support group.
Let me share something with you about myself that could make a difference in how you handle the matter at hand. I grew up in the home of a parent who acted out like an alcoholic, but never drank, i.e., a "dry drunk." Being raised under this influence affected me profoundly. My home life was awash with anger, criticism, judgment and general unhappiness and I absorbed a lot of that destructive influence and poor role modeling. And that parent's behavior continued affecting me even after marriage. Only in recent years, after spending time and money for a psychologist's ear, after a few sessions, that same psychologist encouraged me to join an Al-Anon support group, telling me it would both fit my needs and budget. And, interestingly enough, that is the same advice I had received 13 years prior from a hieromonk in an Orthodox monastery.
The principles set forth in a Twelve Step program are spiritual in nature and utilized by Al-Anon. When applied, they work toward healing any kind of addiction. Al-Anon is a great resource for anyone who is affected by addictions of any kind going on in a family setting. This group provides positive tools to deal with addictive behavior, its focus is to combat co-dependency. At the core, you choose health for yourself and while you find yourself benefitting, this choice also begins to have an effect on the addicted party.
During an Al-Anon meeting, people share (if they desire—or not) on a topic chosen for the session. Sitting in on a meeting, even without contributing to the discussion, can be wonderfully insightful. One learns a bit about what other people are experiencing in their daily lives--their struggles, their victories, their disappointments. There is no cross-talking, no advice given, but attendees do seek to work the Twelve Steps in their own lives. It is a no pressure gathering, people are known on a first name basis and anonymity is honored. Attending meetings have given me some interesting perspectives—in comparison with one's own situation, listening to someone else's can be very enlightening—and inspiring. In many cases, these are people who are struggling without the extra measure of God's grace found in the Holy Mysteries. Nevertheless, God knows, they are coming to a greater measure of health and wholeness and ability to wisely interact with an addicted family member or friend. Participation in Al-Anon can change a person's perspective while encouraging personal growth and accountability for one's own actions and reactions. That, in itself, is very important when living with an addicted person.
Every time I've gone to such a meeting I've felt like I've had a cathartic experience and learned something. Even so, I still find it tough to drive over to the meeting place and walk in the door and allow myself to be vulnerable with complete strangers. Listening and sharing with others, however, one finds genuine kindred spirits. Knowing about this resource and being encouraged that it's OK to "go there," and I do encourage you to "go there" given your current situation, could be a life-saver.
A few years ago, I came across a book written by Fr. Meletios Webber on this very topic. It is called Steps of Transformation: An Orthodox Priest Explores the Twelve Steps. That was before I considered attending Al-Anon meetings and I found it intriguing. I was further amazed when an Orthodox individual (a recovering alcoholic) came into a bookstore where I was working and purchased multiple copies of this book. That person enthusiastically told me of all the books read on the program over the years, it was by far the best and the one to give to others. So, it has the "Orthodox Seal of Approval," shall we say.
Fr. Meletios sets our minds at ease—he explains how one does not compromise the Orthodox Faith by participating in an Al-Anon support group or by following the Twelve Steps. These are simply tools in the struggle to overcome and guard against falling prey to addictive behavior or taking part in enabling it. And what are addictions at their core? The Fathers of the Church speak of "passions," a perversion of the powers of the soul, that is to say, natural powers of the soul which have been corrupted by sin and our withdrawal from God. This inner sickness of soul is rightly linked as the source of addictions.
Now, the looming question…if you participate in Al-Anon, will you be able to free your husband's addiction? I think we both know that only God can bring that about. Coming out of an addiction requires cooperation with God—a repentant spirit and willingness to take steps toward change. Working the Twelve Steps fosters that. As for our part, only through prayer, love and a healthy example may an opportunity for dialogue be opened. In marriage we are called upon in a real sense to save one another. When one is weak the other is called upon to be strong. If you gain health and tools to deal with addictive behavior through a Twelve Step support group, you will give yourself and your husband both a gift and a mercy. I encourage you to look into this and visit a group nearby you sometime soon. God grant you strength, wisdom and perseverance—please let me know how you fare.
With love and prayers from your sister in the Lord.
Please pray, on a consistent basis, for the marriages of the clergy families in our Church and in our nation. We need, more than ever, lights and examples of Christian love in our parishes and in our society. Through the prayers of the Theotokos and All the Saints, especially Joachim and Anna, and Zachariah and Elizabeth, Lord Jesus Christ our God, please protect all clergy families, have mercy upon us and save us.

May 13, 2010
Christ is ascended!
Over the next few weeks, we will be addressing the topic of marital discord and issues facing presvyteres. We can only imagine the diversity of women who read this publication and the situations we might touch on that could possibly strike a nerve. We are using a hypothetical inquiry format. Our goal is to bring hope and ways to address areas of difficulty that might otherwise be too painful to raise in routine conversation. We welcome your feedback and hope you'll consider sharing your thoughts with us.
Dear Sister in Christ,
I hear other presvyteres talking about their spiritual father. I see a priest for confession, but he is part of my husband’s “brotherhood” so I feel awkward about sharing too much about what’s really going on in my marriage. I just stick to acknowledging my sins. If I wanted to find a spiritual father who would be willing to guide me as well as hear my sins, how would I do that? I could really use a sounding board for these heavy stresses and some guidance, too. A few presvyteres I know seem to be happy with the arrangement they have with their spiritual father, but I’m not sure how to approach this idea for myself. What do you suggest?
My dear sister, I’m glad you brought this up. A spiritual father/confessor can provide a presvytera the necessary space to be honest and open about her life experiences, thoughts and confession of sins. The best way to find this man is through prayer and recommendation. You may find someone somewhat nearby or very far away as a result of the search. The important thing is that you find someone to whom you can entrust issues of a confidential nature, because that is part and parcel of that spiritual ministry—confidentiality and prayer—it is a sacred trust. Seek for a man who is known for a generally humble spirit and overall integrity. Start inquiring and see whose name is mentioned time and again.
Some avenues to follow in the search for a spiritual father/confessor:
  • Begin praying routinely and specifically for God’s guidance in the matter. This is the most important aspect of the search.
  • Ask other presvyteres that you like and trust for a recommendation.
  • Consider a priest from another part of the country or from another Orthodox jurisdiction or one that routinely serves an Orthodox monastery if you want to avoid the “brotherhood” aspect of speaking with someone who knows your husband personally. (A quick thought on this: if a priest hears a confession that involves a presbyter he knows, it shouldn't make a difference between the men, because, if the confessor is honest with himself, he'll reckon it wouldn't take much for him to fall into the same pit along with his brother. All priests are suffering temptations and sins along with everyone else and they are empathetic. A spiritual man is cognizant of these things, so do not let this thought deter you from choosing a man who knows your husband. Choose the priest according to his character—humility and integrity.)
  • If you have a relationship with an Orthodox women’s monastery, ask the Gerontissa/abbess for a recommendation
  • Some presvyteres like to confess to and receive guidance from priest-monks, others prefer confession and guidance from a man who is in the married state, with or without children, involved in parish work. One is not better than the other, it all depends on how the Lord leads in response to your heart’s desire to find such a person.
A good spiritual father/confessor is a place of refuge. Mine hears my heart, listens to my sins, offers forgiveness, speaks frankly to me both as a guide and as a man who knows men. He is sympathetic, but not coddling. He encourages me to stay in the struggle, points out my small victories, gives me courage and hope for the sake of perseverance. Most of all, he prays for me. Like most spiritual fathers, he is not always easy to reach, but I am aware that he prays for me, my husband and my family. If I can't reach him when I call, I trust God that the delay is in my overall best interest. Sometimes I write my confession, mail it to him and we talk about it afterwards and he prays the necessary prayers for me over the phone. I try to travel to see him in person, at least once a year, if I’m able.
I have come to the conclusion over time that I would trust this man with my life and in a very real sense, I do. One caution I would share here--guard against trusting yourself to someone who wants to direct your life and decision making. A wise spiritual father will give good advice but not dictate to you exactly what to do. He will pray with and for you and help you to rely on the Lord in all things. Your situation is not exactly like the monk who lives under obedience in the monastery. So, do be careful—be moderate in your expectations and prayerful and respectful of the one to whom you entrust your soul. This kind of relationship can be most beneficial and freeing spiritually. I will pray along with you, that you will find a trusted father/confessor whereby you can pour out your heart without fear and find more relief and strength for our common life.
Love from your sister in the Lord
Quote for the Week
For Holy Communion, the confession of our sins to a father confessor is needed; whereas for our communication with God, the confession of our weaknesses before Him is necessary. (Elder Paisios)
Question for the Week
Have I prayed today for my spiritual father? For those of us that already have one, have I asked God's continued wisdom and protection for him? For those of us who are still seeking a spiritual father, have I sincerely beseeched the Lord to guide me in this critical choice?
Scripture for the Week
The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. (Isaiah 58:11)

May 5, 2010
CHRIST IS RISEN!!!
Over the next few weeks, we will be addressing the topic of marital discord. We can only imagine the diversity of women who read this publication and the situations we might touch on that could possibly strike a nerve. We are using a hypothetical inquiry format. Our goal is to bring hope and ways to address areas of difficulty that might otherwise be too painful to raise in routine conversation. We welcome your feedback.
Letter # 2
Dear Sister in Christ,
Today I’m feeling so stressed out, overwhelmed and void of any loving response toward my husband. I really think the whole parish life is dragging me down. Actually, I'd like to lay blame for most of the problems I’m having on the stress my husband brings home...I didn’t think things were going to be like this when my husband was ordained. He’s miserable, I’m miserable, the kids are acting up but I know they are hurt and discouraged because it’s so obvious to them we’re in bad shape. I’m reminded of the commercial, “Help, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.” Have you ever felt like this?? I feel like a complete failure in every way!
My dear sister, I feel for you. In truth, we are in the kind of position where we oftentimes get pushed to max. If it is possible to extend that margin a bit, our husbands even more so. They routinely shoulder burdens that cannot be shared with any other person. Apart from being situated on the front line of battle where he routinely receives barbs from the enemy, he is also available to respond to emergencies at any hour. He hears confessions, stays busy making pastoral visits, leads prayer services and church activities. He performs administrative work when the church staff is lean or non-existent and responds to reasonable (and unreasonable) requests from a variety of sources. Last, but not least, he ends up receiving “well meaning” advice (abuse?) from individuals at various and sundry times. Is it any surprise then, that at the end of the day, the man is oftentimes bent out of shape? The spiritual warrior is tired, grumpy, hungry, short with his family—needs space to process the day’s experiences. His wife, too, bears a myriad of stresses and responsibilities (too numerable to list!). She finds herself feeling very lonely and/or neglected by the man she married. And, if there are children in the home, she feels like a single parent with no relief. It is not easy to live like this and you cannot do it long-term without God’s merciful undergirding and assistance. My thought is this--it is a heroic thing, in and of itself, to maintain the life of a clerical family—to be a presvytera in this day and age--when temptations/stresses are high and so much is expected of the presbyter and his family. God sees it all! We recognize there are still parishioners out there who think the presbyter does nothing but relax between Divine Liturgies, Sunday to Sunday. Of course, that parishioner usually does not darken the church door apart from Pascha (every other year?) and occasional memorial services. I’m sorry, I have digressed…have a laugh—you know at least one of those people…
Seriously--our personalities in marriage, in parenting, in meeting parishioner expectations along with our Christian faith and desire to be a good example for others are really tried in this vocation. We are often pruned in our family relationships and through experiences with parishioners in what seems a rather merciless way. Between spouses there arise issues of loneliness, anger, frustration, uncharitable comments, selfishness, emotional neglect or coldness, and the list goes on...a whole gamut of unpleasantness that makes us wonder about ourselves, our spouse, God's calling on our lives, etc. Now, I confide in you--I have read the "love chapter" in I Corinthians 13, unable to finish without tears and the conviction that I am void of any sense of love and a complete and utter failure in life. Although men may not show it, they, too, struggle with feelings of fear and inadequacy that are deeply intimidating given the male nature. And I'm reasonably certain you're aware that some parishioners are not shy about making it known just how displeased and unhappy they are with the clerical family God has sent them—where is the love, where is the appreciation for on-going services rendered? The family cannot help but suffer as a result. Presvyteres suffer. We are all suffering to various degrees in our marriage and parish life. In this experience, you are not alone.
As for personal coping when the waters are rough, the Jesus Prayer is more precious to me now than ever. If I have an argument with my husband and I cannot pray my prayer rule out of pain or frustration, I will at least pray the Jesus Prayer on the komboskini. But, apart from that, I have taken on a daily rule to pray it for a particular amount of time because I know it draws the grace of God and I certainly need that consolation and help.
As for other nuts and bolts that help me--I try hard not to say the first thing that comes to mind when I get angry, deeply disappointed or feel otherwise unfulfilled because it has never helped me achieve that for which my heart longs. However, I can't say that I have more successes than failures in this endeavor. I have come to the conclusion over time that the only person I can "fix" is myself even if my actions do not always seem to bear it in practice. The most important thing to remember is that God does indeed love us and our husbands even in our struggles—and that He does want to give us beauty for ashes. I try to exercise my faith, say my prayers, etc., without expectation of spectacular or immediate results in my relationships with others. We are all "in process" and God knows what we need in order to be saved...along with our spouse, children, parishioners, etc.
If it is any consolation, this difficult life we’re leading is actually preparing us to enter God’s Kingdom. Painful and difficult though it may be, we are gaining depth in our hearts and souls through our struggles. We are not expected to live in gloom and doom, rather, with bright hope. But, it seems we must experience the scouring pad within first so that our souls can eventually shine with facets of God—humility, mercy, forbearance, peace, His agape love which is unmistakable in the Christian who knows Him. We may be in the “gloom and doom” stage right now, but it won’t last forever. See yourself “in process.” The Lord lets us struggle, but He will console us and strengthen us as He sees we need it. The life we lead is our “narrow way” for now. I think He wants us to see the “big picture,” not only the struggle today, but the glory of the future to come. In truth, our time is actually rather short. Struggle with me, dear sister, with your husband, children and parish. Doing so will not go unrewarded by the Lord. You will need some help along the way and that is what we want to focus on next—the role of the spiritual father, resources for handling difficult matters at hand, etc. We are weak, but He is strong.
Love from your sister in the Lord
Quote for the Week
For the Lord wishes and admonishes this when He said, 'He who wishes to be first and great among you, let him be the last and the minister and servant of all.' Therefore, it is necessary that service before others be without a reward, nor should it bestow on the server any honor or glory, so as not to contradict Scripture by appearing 'pleasing to men' or 'serving to the eyes.' Not serving men, but the Lord alone, let him keep to the narrow path. Let him submit promptly to the single yoke of the Lord and carry it patiently in order to be brought with pleasure to his end with positive love. (St. Makarios the Great)
Scripture for the Week
"Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord." (Psalms 31:24)
Question for the Week
In John 15:12 it says, “This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you.” How can I choose to embrace this commandment and communicate love to those in my home this week?
We have recently received some wonderful feedback and plan to share a few insightful responses from presvyteres around the country in a few weeks. Feel free to share your comments with us! Email our Prez to Prez team at the addresses at the top of this page.
Love in our Risen Lord,
"CHRIST IS RISEN!"

April 29, 2010
Over the next few weeks, we will be addressing the topic of marital discord. We can only imagine the diversity of women who read this publication and the situations we might touch on that could possibly strike a nerve. We are using a hypothetical inquiry format. Our goal is to bring hope and ways to address areas of difficulty that might otherwise be too painful to raise in routine conversation. We welcome your feedback.
Part 1
Dear Sister Presvytera,
My marriage is teetering on the edge of the marital abyss. Even though things have been rough for years, my husband has finally agreed to seek marriage counseling with me. Now I'm filled with fear, unsure how to handle the situation. I'm guessing other presvyteres might have gone through this or be going through it themselves. Any advice?
Dear Sister in Christ,
I appreciate the courage it took for you to confide your marital struggles to me. I'm empathetic, I have been where you are. And even if it's not discussed openly, some other presvyteres have been there, too. Over time, I've come to believe somewhat few clergy couples would be willing to admit to marital distress (the kind that merits marital intervention), but I believe these kinds of situations are more prevalent than we realize.
It's a mercy that your husband has agreed to pursue marriage counseling with you. Damage control is certainly beneficial and you can both emerge stronger from having done so. May God bless that all goes well for you--that you find a counselor that you both relate to very well and can see both sides of whatever issues arise. To get the desired result, one thing to keep in mind is that both parties need to be willing to make adjustments and see things pertaining to themselves realistically. If this openness exists, then progress can easily be made.
On the other hand, (and this is where counseling has its limits), if one or both of you go into denial about what the counselor notices and advises or if either of you cannot "see" yourself as others do or if there's unwillingness to make changes or corrections by either of you, then you have a stalemate. At that point, you may need to abandon formal counseling without the desired results. A wise counselor will not take you through a long-drawn out period that rehashes problems week after week for an indefinite period. After a few sessions, when all the issues have been brought to the fore and you've been given tools by which to progress toward healing and restoration, if (for one of the reasons already cited) things are not improving, a professional may simply say, "I've given you the best advice I can. It's up to you to work at it now."
If that's the way things turn out, it will likely require a good bit of bearing up and humility to continue persevering with one another for Christ's sake (and your family's). Of course, one size does not fit all when evaluating "where do we go from here?" Some marital situations may require a separation due to imminent physical danger or severe addictions. Infidelity oftentimes ends with a divorce. But, in most cases, healing and restoration is a much more preferable option. Among many reasons, divorce is seldom the relief people think it will be. A good counselor will clarify things of this nature. As for the other types of difficulties in marriage, we should resist the voices in today's society that often encourage us to "throw in the towel."
What kind of approach can you use to "make it work" when you feel miserable and hopeless? Well, there's a way, but it requires a spiritual approach and is not necessarily a quick fix—but, it can bring about very good results over time because God's grace undergirds it. Let's say this--it is a challenge to bear with annoying, unpleasant/unfulfilling marital interactions with patience and prayer, consciously working against irritations or trying to "fix" one's spouse. Instead of this approach, deliberately ask God for forgiveness of sins we've committed, while asking Him to clarify how we ourselves offend others. And, then doing so while endeavoring to provide as much of a healthy, loving environment as possible for the entire family. In other words, create a healing environment. Note that I prefaced this by saying it was a "challenge." I ask that you not become utterly discouraged by this suggestion. Why? Because God does a wonderful thing when we deliberately turn a searchlight on our own offenses and seek His help--He really does help us see ourselves better while giving us a greater measure of grace to work through our difficulties. Rather than declare, “Impossible!" consider, instead, "I can do all things through Christ Who strengthens me," (Phil 4:13) and willingly cooperate with the grace of God and see what happens in your life. This is not a pep talk, I am sharing with you from my heart, based on experience.
(Click here to see a list of short prayers that help turn the searchlight of offenses on ourselves while seeking God's healing grace. These prayers are gleaned from Dee Pennock's newest book, Path to Sanity: Lessons from Ancient Holy Counselors on how to have a sound mind. To gain greater clarity on the meanings behind these prayers, read a copy of Dee's book, published by Light & Life, which is worth every bit the time and money invested.)
Quote for the Week
When we are in trouble or despair or have lost hope, we should do what David did: pour out our hearts to God and tell Him of our needs and troubles, just as they are (Ps. 142:2). It is because He can deal with us wisely that we confess to God: He can make our troubles easy to bear, if this is for our benefit, and can save us from the dejection which destroys and corrupts. St. Hesychius the Presbyter
Question for the Week
In what ways can I more fully love and support my husband? Be specific. Write down these thoughts, without respect to his shortcomings.
With all our love in the Risen Lord,
Your Prez to Prez team
CHRIST IS RISEN!!!

April 20, 2010
CHRIST IS RISEN!!!
Quote for the Week
In moments of despair, know that the Lord is not abandoning you; rather, you are abandoning the Lord. In the name of God, here is how I would order you to live when you are alone: even if you are weighed down by grief, even if you don't want to--always, from your heart, mentally call upon the Lord Jesus Christ, Who dwells in your soul. (An Elder's Counsels to Christians Living in the World)
Scripture of the Week
With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. (Acts 4:33)
Question for the Week
What can I do this week to celebrate and acknowledge how precious my loved ones are to me?
Thought for the Week
Two weeks ago, our school community was shocked by the news that on Easter Sunday at 4:30 am, three young 19 year old boys were killed instantly in a drunk driving accident. At the memorial service, our son was reunited with hundreds of grieving classmates and friends. After hearing the pastor's message about the hope of the resurrection, our son came home especially grateful for our Holy Orthodox faith which continually proclaims, "CHRIST IS RISEN!" Amidst our despair, we know that our Lord will not abandon us! Jesus rose from the dead, trampling down death by His death! My heart aches with pain for the parents, friends and relatives of these three young men who lost their lives too early and too young. This tragedy has served as a reminder that so often we can take life for granted. Do we sweat over the small stuff and worry way too much? Do we live life at such a fast pace we don't allow our souls time to catch up with our bodies? Are we are way too plugged in to our computers and T.V.'s, not allowing enough one on one time with our kids or husbands? Life is precious. Let us live every single day like it may be our last – for we never really know when we, or our loved ones, will take our last breath. "Truly, The Lord Has Risen!"

April 15, 2010
CHRIST IS RISEN!!!
"Today a sacred Pascha is reveal to us. Pascha new and holy, Pascha mystical. Pascha laudable. Pascha which is Christ the Redeemer!"
Quote for the Week
Let our throat become hoarse from crying out the sweetest name of Jesus all day long, and it will become "sweeter than honey and honeycomb" to the noetic larynx--the heart. With no other name will we be able to overcome the passions within us, except with the name of Jesus. With no other name will we be able to expel the darkness from our heart and to have the radiance of luminous knowledge shine forth in our nous, except with the name of Jesus. (Elder Ephraim of the Holy Mountain [Athos])
Scripture of the Week
"Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name." (Philipians 2:9)
Thought for the Week
I love working with young people. They have such an incredible no-nonsense type of honesty that we adults sometimes learn to suppress in our age of tolerance and political correctness. I was doing a lesson with a small group of fifth graders and we came to a question in our workbook about someone we considered a hero. Without the slightest hesitation, little Brandy cheerfully responded out loud as she wrote, “Oh, that’s easy! J - E - S - U -S...Jesus!” She paused slightly then leaned forward toward the other students at the table and leveled a serious look at every one of them while pointing her pencil around the group, “You’d better all be writing down “Jesus” now!” Every student compliantly nodded and dutifully followed her lead. I couldn’t help but smile at the forcefulness of this miniature figure. I was so impressed to witness her simple unquestioning profession of faith, but when I spoke with her aunt a few days later at Open House, I learned that Brandy’s faith was something far from simple. She had endured horrors in her young life that she will spend years working through, and yet, in the midst of it all, she had discovered a Savior who would stand in the gap to love, save, heal, and protect her...she truly saw Him as her hero. Her joy and enthusiasm for life are something her Hero has provided her. I weep to think that perhaps the blessed name of our Savior may not have been my own instantaneous answer to the same question....
Question for the Week
Do I alter my answers to questions in order to remain politically correct? Are there times when I hold my tongue when I know I should speak out? How do I feel when I face those moments and remain silent?

April 6, 2010
Dear Sisters - Rejoice! Christ is Risen!
Quote for the Week
Mark how great the women's perseverance. They had followed Him, ministering to Him, and were present even to the time of the dangers. This is why they also saw all; how He cried, how He gave us the Spirit; how the rocks were rent and all the rest. These women were the first to see Jesus; and the sex that was most condemned first enjoys the sight of the blessings; this sex shows its courage the most. And when the disciples had fled, these women were present... (St. John Chrysostom, Homilies on Matthew)
Scripture for the Week
On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, "Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! (Luke 24:1-6)
Thought for the Week: On Forgiveness
Three of us on the ‘Prez to Prez’ team are blessed to be the choir or youth choir directors of our churches. Many in our sisterhood hold either the same position, or are involved in choir and/or chanting on some level. As such, we get to see with our own eyes, and chant with our own mouths the holy hymnology of our amazing Orthodox Faith. Lent in general, and Holy Week specifically, affords us many opportunities to enter into the saintly and purified minds of our hymnography writing forefathers and foremothers and to get a glimpse into the thinking and pondering of a heart and life undergoing sanctification. We mystically enter into a right relationship with Christ and His Holy Church through the work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of these, our heroes in the faith. We hold dear the hymns that many of us have known from our youth and which we yearly look forward to hearing and chanting. One striking hymn is the Doxastikon of the Praises during the Orthros Service of Holy Pascha.
‘It is the day of resurrection, let us be radiant in the festival, let us embrace one another. Let us call brothers even those who hate us and forgive all things in the resurrection. And therefore let us proclaim: Christ is risen…’
What is most striking is the line, ‘Let us call brothers even those who hate us and forgive all things in the resurrection.’ What a challenge! In our lives as priestly families, we all endure pain and suffering on some level, even, at times, at the hands of those whom we are called to serve. It is inevitable in this world filled with pain and sorrow that some of it will be directed at our husbands and even at our families. And yet, we are to call brothers even those who hate us. We are called to imitate Christ in this way who endured buffeting and scourges at the hands of those who earlier had proclaimed, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” It is our cross to bear, but the Lord warned us that if they hated Him they would hate us. It is encouraging to know that we share this cross in common as a sisterhood, and that through Christ our Lord, even we sinners can be instruments of His love and grace.
May we all have a joyful and peace filled Bright Week, enjoying the many blessings that Jesus, the Risen Lord, has bestowed upon us as priestly families in His vineyard.
Christ is Risen!!!
Question for the Week
Have you ever stopped to think how much more longsuffering we can be with our relatives than with others? How would my attitude shift towards those that persecute me if I considered them as my brothers and sisters?
With all our love to you this joyous Bright Week!

March 28, 2010
Hymn of the Week
“Behold the Bridegroom comes in the middle of the night; and blessed is the servant whom He shall find watching, but unworthy is he whom He shall find in sleeping. Beware, then, O my soul, and be not overcome by sleep, lest thou be given over to death and shut out of the Kingdom. But return to soberness and cry aloud: Holy, holy, holy are You, O God: through the Mother of God have mercy upon us.”
Quote for the Week
Christ loves us in spite of our senseless behavior. He calls to us, is always ready to respond to our cries for help and guide our fragile steps through all the obstacles that lie in our path. He respects us on a par with Himself. His ultimate idea for us is to see us in eternity verily His equals, His friends and brothers, the sons of the Father. He strives for this, He longs for it. This is our Christ, and as Man He sat on the right hand of the Father. (Archimandrite Sophrony of Essex)
Scripture for the Week
Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12)
Question for the Week
What specific steps can I take to guard our home environment during this coming Holy Week? For those of us with young children, how can I make this a rich and positive experience for them?
Thought for the Week
We received an invitation to a 50th wedding anniversary party this week. It was framed with a lovely picture of the expectant bride and groom in their original wedding photo along with a current picture of the couple fifty years later. Looking at both photos, I imagine that experiences and challenges they never anticipated in the earlier years nevertheless intruded, and colored their lives. Many of the choices they made probably closed doors and opened others. Certainly, the long path they actually walked wasn't what they expected it to be. No doubt, there are tough and difficult chapters we need to work through in our marriages both with our husbands and in our relationship with God.
Hopefully, during the rough and difficult patches in our married life we seek counseling and intensify our efforts to mend and heal in our brokenness. During Holy Week, we have this same opportunity to intensify, nurture and grow closer in relationship with Christ, our Bridegroom. It starts with confession. If you haven't already experienced in the sacrament of Holy Confession this month, make an appointment today! Commit fully to attending every Holy Week service possible. Yes, it's work. Yes, it's time consuming. Yes, it's worth it!!! As presvyteres, we have an opportunity to also grow closer to our husbands as we support and love them through this beautiful journey towards Pascha. May we fully participate and embrace this week with joy and anticipation.
Consider, turning off "the world" and turning on the "Grace of God" - Don't allow any outside noise and distractions into your home (radio, internet, tv, dvd, cd, etc.) Make an agreement with your family that you will turn off the TV completely all week. Let us pray more, fast well, and love deeply.
As years pass, may we reflect on the growth, healing, and love we embraced during this memorable Holy Week - May we allow doors to open that transform us, heal us and allow us to start anew in both our marriage and our relationship with God.

March 18, 2010
Quotes for the Week
"The rich man is not one who is in possession of much, but one who gives much." (Saint John Chrysostom)
"For two people in a marriage to live together day after day is unquestionably the one miracle the Vatican has overlooked." (Bill Cosby, Love and Marriage)
Scripture of the Week
“Love is not self seeking, it’s not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrong.” (1 Corinthians 13:5)
Question of the Week
Change is more likely to become permanent when taken in small increments. What is one special way I can express love for my husband this week? (A favorite (fasting) dinner? a quiet candlelit room away from the kids and the noise? a loveletter tucked into his calendar or taped to the steering wheel of his car? - get creative, try it out and share your suggestion with the rest of us - send them in and we'll share some of the best in our next column.
Thought for the Week: (Loving our Men)
There are several things we can put into practice that can help build up our husbands who are so in need of our love and support. Firstly, we need to recognize how much our positive verbal and non-verbal communications mean to them. A compliment after a sermon, a smile after a class, a hug when we see them, our communicated BELIEF in them as good priests and good men, these all mean SO MUCH to our guys, who chose to spend the rest of their lives with US. They sometimes "fish" for compliments if we don’t readily give them, only because it means so very much to them that we express our appreciation for them. They value OUR opinion above all others. If everyone is for them, and we are against them, they have no peace. But if we are for them, they can live with those who are against them. This cannot be overstated. Secondly, we all know that a way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. He is hungry when he comes home, and it means a great deal to him to experience peace and order in the home, a set table, and a pleasant aroma emanating from the kitchen. A tasty meal means more than just "good food," it is an opportunity for our men to connect with us, with our children, and to unwind after a tough day at church. Breaking bread together is vital to our husband’s and family’s well being, following our Lord’s example.
Something else that can be a bit touchy but deserves attention concerning loving our men is the "division of labor" in the home. In a family, the work gets "divvied up" and how this happens will be unique to each of our families. As Greek Orthodox priests, our husbands are expected to work full time and we all know they work well beyond the average workweek of most Americans. We knew this when we allowed them to enter into the priesthood. We must consider carefully, then, if we decide or need to work, because caring for children, a husband, and a home is already a full-time job. It is not practical or right, therefore, to expect our husbands, to take on HALF of the home and children responsibilities. It is TOO MUCH TO ASK. They need some down time, and we are the only ones who can provide this….for the man we fell in love with and chose to spend the rest of OUR lives with. It doesn’t mean they can’t mow the lawn, or help with a meal, or take a child to a baseball game, it just means that the primary responsibility for "things of the home" fall on OUR shoulders. Therefore, we need to do our "doulies," our chores, in a timely fashion, preferably early in the day if we are not working outside the home, or possibly later at night if we do, that we may have peace in our homes, clean underwear in our drawers, and healthy meals on the table when our husbands, who are usually tired and hungry at the end of a day, come home. Finally, something which is even touchier still…our husbands need to share intimacy with a woman who is not so tired that she is cranky, and who has her life together enough to be able to close the door and "shut the world out" with peace and joy in her heart. He needs to be needed, to be loved and cherished, and to be appreciated for who he is as a man.

March 9, 2010
Quote for the Week
Some people seem to have an “easy” and uncomplicated path in life—or so it seems from outside; while for others like you everything seems complicated and difficult. Don’t let that bother you. Actually, from the spiritual point of view, those who really have an “easy” time are probably in danger—precisely because without the element of suffering through whatever God sends, there is no spiritual profit or advancement. God knows each of us better than we know ourselves, and He sends what is needful for us, whatever we may think! )Fr. Seraphim Rose of blessed memory)
Scripture of the Week
Sing to him a new song; play skillfully, and shout for joy. (Psalm 33:3)
Thought for the Week: (a personal reflection from Presvytera Pat)
We all know the feeling of both apprehension and excitement before the visit of a Bishop or Metropolitan. I, like many sister presvyteres, lead the congregation in singing hymns for the Divine Liturgy. When a hierarch comes to visit, the service changes and singers need to prepare especially for the big "Agios Vimatos" (an elaborate version of "Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal..."). Weeks before His Eminence's visit, we began practicing and preparing. With great excitement, our singers gathered together, and at the sound of the pitch pipe, we began - "A- a----g---i--o-----s...", and... what followed seemed like Byzantine music in the 9th tone! Immediately, when we began singing, I realized that the pitch given was the wrong note - everyone was scrambling to find their pitches: basses way too low, altos scrambling, and sopranos off wandering into unknown territory. I begin to sweat, panic, and was completely overtaken by "CDS" (Choir Director Shock). I should have stopped everything, taken a big deep breath and said, "Let's begin again...." But no - we continued... and continued... until finally we all we able to recover on the last "Agios, O Theos."
No doubt, nothing is a bigger test of humility then a train wreck of singers during a hierarchical liturgy. I wanted to break into tears. My daughter Maria took one look at me and grinned ear to ear with her "Oh my goodness, Mom" glance. I regained my composure, and all throughout the liturgy, I kept thinking about how nice it would be if life were easy and uncomplicated. If everything just went as we planned and prepared. But life is messy. Sometimes we end up on the wrong pitch, and regardless of our intentions move off course. Humility, mercy and love... this is the message of Great Lent. Glory to God, TODAY our Church offers us many opportunities to start again. If you haven’t been fasting as well as you hoped, start again today. If you haven’t been giving time to daily prayer, start again today. If you haven’t reached out to that lonely friend or neighbor, start again today. If you haven't been able to attend weekday services, plan ahead and start today. Just because you get off track (or off pitch) doesn’t mean you can’t try again and start over. Let us run the course of Great Lent with continued humility, patience, love and a sprinkle of laughter knowing that God sends what is needful to each of us.
(By the way, at the end of the Divine Liturgy, His Eminence couldn't have been more merciful and loving commenting how extraordinary and prayerful the congregational singing was during the Divine Liturgy. And, after the andithero was distributed, we gathered together to sing the "Agios Vimatos" CORRECTLY one last time. Regardless of how embarrassing the situation, each and every one of our singers, would hit the pillow that evening, knowing that they had the chance to sing it and start again!)
Question of the Week
What point of humor/humiliation can you recall when His Eminence has come to call? Are you able to recall it with a measure of humor and grace or does it make you groan and blush? If the latter is the case, call a sister presbytera and swap your stories; you’ll find instant relief!

March 2, 2010
Quote for the Week
When the devil fights us, we ought to fight him back. Our greatest weapon is prayer. Do not be negligent; kneel immediately and pray to God, and quickly you will feel strong. Prayer is conversation with God. When we experience the joy of prayer, then we will feel great exultation. It is a foretaste of the life of Paradise. But you have to struggle, in order to experience that joy. And - if you struggle mightily - God will give it to you. (+Elder Ieronymos of Aegina)
Scripture for the Week
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (John 10:10)

Thought for the Week

The call came from our cousin early on a Friday morning and rippled shock through our home. I physically shook as I reeled from the news that a local pastor friend had taken his life the day before. A senior pastor at one of the larger local congregations, he was the epitome of pastoral success, one of the objects of a recent article in our local paper about the top ten pastors to watch. However, as the day progressed, the new picture that emerged of this man was alarming. He had sunk into a deep depression that had continued for months. His family, aware of his struggle, was careful to always have someone with him, but rather than improving, his condition worsened. Now, his wife, his children, and his congregation must deal with the fallout from his actions. The underlying question on everyone’s lips is the same: how could we have avoided this ending?

This was a pointed reminder of why "Prez to Prez" started in the first place. It was our goal to build up and encourage one another in our personal walks and in our lives as couples. Yet, I wonder how many of us live with an “elephant in the room”? Something that looms large and presses in on us from every side, but we doggedly try to live and work around the elephant because we cannot bring ourselves to reach out for fear of being judged: an online addiction, substance abuse, a struggle with sexuality, infidelity, or the lack – or loss – of love for our spouse. The truth of the matter is that elephants were never intended to be house pets. This is where it becomes critical for each of us to hone strong enough relationships amongst ourselves to withstand such revelations. No sister (or brother) should sit and suffer in silence. I tend to wonder if the ending of the story above may have perhaps been different if there had been someone to come alongside….


Question for the Week
Is there an "elephant" in my life? Do I have the courage to hone a relationship strong enough to bear revelations that might be hard to share?

Recipe for the Week: Vegan Pasta with Creamy Mushroom Sauce Recipe
Presvytera Stephanie Thomas sent in this wonderful recipe to try from www.vegancooking.com
Ingredients
500 Grams Pasta
2 1/2 Cups Sliced Mushrooms
1 Large Onion (Chopped)
1 Tsp Basil
1 Tsp Oregano
1 Tsp Thyme
3/4 Cup Cooking Sherry
2 Tbsp Tofutti Garlic and Herb Cream Cheese
1 Cup Soy Milk
1-2 Cloves Garlic (Crushed)
Salt and Pepper to Taste

Directions
In a large pot, boil water for pasta. While pasta is cooking, saute onions in olive oil for about 5 mins. Add sliced mushrooms to the onions and continue to saute. Add the herbs and salt and pepper. Once the mushrooms are cooked, add the sherry and mix in the cream cheese. Let the wine and cream cheese sauce reduce a little and then add the soy milk. Add the garlic and let the sauce thicken for a couple of minutes before pouring over the cooked pasta.

February 24, 2010
Quote for the Week
God often permits virtuous men to be tried by something...Whether these trials come from men, demons, or flesh, let it be a cause of thanksgiving. For God cannot show His favor to a man who desires to dwell with Him, except by sending him trials for the sake of truth. (Saint Isaac the Syrian)
Scripture for the Week
So watch yourselves. "If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. (Luke 17:3)
Question of the Week
Is there anyone that I have held bound by my unforgiveness? What active steps can I take toward forgiveness and restoration of a Christ-like attitude within my heart?
Thought for the Week
St. Ephraim the Syrian lovingly and repeatedly proclaims the message of repentance and forgiveness. Making peace with those who have hurt us can be difficult. Often times we read beautiful quotes, sayings or immerse ourselves in the scriptures but cease to act upon God's resounding message.
Three years ago, my husband and I reached out to a mentally ill man who showed up one Sunday morning alone and isolated. We embraced him, invited him into our home and church community. Often, I would take him out to lunch. After years of outreach and help, he suddenly turned on my husband - leaving horrific phone messages, emails and making up stories about our lack of care and attention. My heart aches for him, as I know that he has few friends. We needed to walk away from this unhealthy relationship and now I am left with such sorrow, sadness and yes, a bit of fear. How can I forgive him for all that he has done to hurt our family? How can I let go of all the evil or horrible things he has said about us? I know that at the heart of this situation is mental illness - something that is not his fault. No doubt, I must find a way to seek forgiveness, walk in peace and continue loving.
St. Ephraim writes:
Thus does the Lord speak to every soul: forgive your brother his transgressions and I will forgive you your sins. You shall forgive minor errors, debts of perhaps a few coins or some three pence, and I will grant you thousands of talents. For you have only to forgive, without presenting any gift; but I will forgive you your sins and grant you healing and the heavenly kingdom. And I will accept your gift when you make peace with him who is at enmity with you. When you have no malice, when the setting sun does not find you angry, when you meet all with peace and love—then will your prayer be acceptable and your offering pleasing, and your house will be blessed and you also shall find blessing. But if you do not make peace with your brother, then how will you ask Me for forgiveness? I am your Master; I command you and you do not heed Me. You are a servant; how dare you bring Me a prayer, or a sacrifice, or first fruits of your harvest, if you bear malice toward anyone? If you turn your face from your brother, so shall I turn Mine eyes from your prayer and from your gift.
We know many presvyteres and priests who have felt the sting of betrayal at the hands of those that we have poured love into. The idea of extending ourselves to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, etc. also means trusting that you're not going to be taken advantage of... and the fact is, we will be. No doubt, most of us have experienced this at one time or another. The thing to remember is that we are called to do the best we are able and it is up to God to be responsible for the outcome. We are only called to be pure in our intentions. It is a perfect time of the year to cleanse ourselves of our negative feelings as we journey towards the victory of the Resurrection. Forgiveness is a balm that we need to be applying liberally to all around us.
LENTEN RISOTTO courtesy of Maria Karageorgis on Facebook
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp margarine
1 medium onion finely chopped
1 cup Arborio rice
½ cup white wine
2 ½ cups mushroom broth
5 oz wild mushrooms
1 tsp Salt
½ tsp Pepper
Saute mushrooms in a small amount of olive oil and a ½ tsp chopped garlic. Set aside for later.
In a medium sauce pan melt the margarine and olive oil, then add onions and cook until translucent.
Add rice and cook a few minutes while stirring. Heat should be at low.
Add wine and continue stirring until rice absorbs liquid.
Add 1 cup broth, salt, and pepper and stir until most of the liquid is absorbed.
Continue adding the remaining broth a 1 cup at a time until the liquid is mostly absorbed.
Stir in mushrooms and adjust salt to taste. Remove from heat and serve.
SOME NOTES:
Recipe has been modified for lent. Butter should be used for non Lenten recipe. Extra olive oil can be used instead of margarine. Wine can be replaced with broth. Any broth will work. Any vegetables or other foods such as shrimp or scallops or chicken can be added in place of the mushrooms. These should be cooked in advance and added at the end. Fresh herbs can also be added for flavor at the end. For non Lenten recipe stir in 2 tbsp parmesan cheese at the end.
WE'D ALL LOVE TO HEAR FROM YOU! SEND US YOUR "THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK" TODAY!
Send us your feedback and comments! Send them to our Prez to Prez team:
February 14, 2010
Quote for the Week
Consider that your soul is an image. Before daubing on the true color of the Spirit, erase the bad habits which have become implanted in you, whether it be swearing, lying, uttering insults, foul language, or any other of the disreputable things you are in the habit of doing. Erase the habit, that you may not come back to it after baptism. The bath takes away the sins, but you must correct the habit, so that after the pigments have been daubed on and the royal image shines forth, you may never thereafter blot it out or cause wounds or scars on the beauty which God has given you. (St. John Chrysostom)
Scripture for the Week
"And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you." (Matthew 6:16-18)
Question for the Week
Have I made the necessary arrangements for the sacrament of confession as we enter into this Lenten period? Have I encouraged those opportunities for my children and husband as well? What changes can I make in our home to provide an even more spiritually-healthy environment during this time of inward reflection and growth?
Thought for the Week
Every year, as I make my appointment for my annual physical I become more conscious and aware of my habits and routines. Am I eating right? Are my cholesterol levels elevated? How is my heart and blood pressure? Am I in the habit of a regular exercise routine?
My doctor talks time to ask important questions about my physical and mental health and often suggests certain supplements and life style changes that will impact my overall well-being. Following my check-up, I'm more aware of the good and bad habits that impact my body, mind, and soul.
Joyously, every spring, our Holy Orthodox faith offers us an opportunity for a 'spiritual life check-up' as we enter the transforming experience of Great Lent. We are given this time to pause and focus on that small quiet inner voice of our soul. Lent offers us endless opportunities to grow closer to the risen Lord! Indeed, the spiritual struggle can be difficult. It requires self-disciple, attitude and humility. Listen to St. John Chrysostom urging on the faithful to begin the fast with an attitude of determination and strength.
As the fast begins, “Let us get ready and polish our spiritual weapons; as cultivators, let us sharpen our sickles; as sailors, let us order our thoughts against the waves of extravagant desires; as travelers, let us set out on the journey towards heaven; and as wrestlers let us strip for the contest. For the Christian is at the same time a soldier, a sailor, a plower and a wrestler. St. Paul states, “We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against the powers of evil. Put therefore the whole armor of God” (St. John Chrysostom)
As presvyteres, let us begin our lenten journey with an attitude of great joy! We can lovingly support our husbands by attending services, preparing healthy lenten meals, and do everything in our power to cease from complaining. Our attitude throughout the day will combat the evil forces in our life that keeps us from God and fully loving others. We are invited to pray with a repentant and eager spirit, fast more seriously, and examine the attitude of our heart taking a deeper look at our own spiritual life. We must seek the sacrament of confession (no matter how long it might take to drive to the next town or neighborhood to meet a priest). Let us do everything possible, dear sisters - to polish our spiritual weapons, sharpen our sickles and journey towards heaven!

February 14, 2010
Dear Sisters in Christ,

We have been very blessed to start and be a part of the "Prez to Prez" ministry for the last few years. As is evidenced by our lack of writing lately, we are unable to keep up the pace that we have set for ourselves because of the life stages of our children coupled with the commitments we all have as Presvyteres at home, at church and at work. We value the ministry and hope you feel the same. We need your HELP. In order to keep a weekly or bi-monthly publication going, we need other sisters to submit written 'thoughts' on subjects that are pertinent to the Presvytera and her family. Some of you may have a talent for this and some of you may like to explore and develop your writing abilities. Please consider submitting written thoughts to the Prez to Prez team. We will select writings that we feel speak to our sisterhood and will reserve editing rights. Please send your thoughts in as polished a form as you are able. Seek the advice of those around you if you are unsure if you are conveying what you wish to express, and to check grammar, spelling, etc. Thoughts must be expressed in a positive, uplifting and encouraging manner.

It is a true blessing to use technology in a way that builds up the Body of Christ, and we hope that by opening up the submission process we will bring about the furthering of this ministry, the continued sharing and caring for each other, and possibly the discovery of your own hidden talents.

May our Lord bless you richly as we enter our Holy Lenten Season.

Yours in Christ,

The 'Prez to Prez' team
Pat, Stacey, Donna, Candace, and Eleni

We look forward to hearing from you. Please submit your writing to:
p.tsagalakis@comcast.net, eikona@eikona.com, presdee@worldnet.att.net, doxa@clearwire.net, nikonia01@hotmail.com


February 9, 2010
Quote for the Week
Let us learn upon earth the knowledge that will continue with us in heaven. (St. Jerome)
Scripture of the Week
Jesus is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers-- all things have been created through him and for him. (Colossians 1:15-16)
Question of the Week
Meatfare week begins our gradual step away from our "normal " diet. What "environmentally indulgent" behavior can I begin to pare away this week as well?
Thought for the Week: Good to the Last Drop
Patriarch Bartholomew has been a prolific writer and speaker on being true stewards of God's green earth. May his efforts be blessed as he toils to enlighten and remind us all of this most sacred duty we have as Orthodox Christians. We, as children of God, have the privilege and responsibility of caring for and protecting our environment. This is not a political issue, rather it is part and parcel of being made in the image of God who created the heavens, the earth, and all the life therein. It is a sign of our thanksgiving to Him for all that he has and continues to do for us, sinful though we be!
So, what can we do, in our everyday life, to grow in the likeness of our life-giving, creative God and to fulfill this most sacred duty as stewards of His creation? Much! We CAN make a difference in the world if we only put into practice some basic, environmentally friendly (and thus God-friendly) actions. If you already do these things, may God bless you! If you do not, see where you can improve, even in small ways, to becoming a better steward of our planet earth.1. The manufacturing, packaging, and transportation of products takes a great deal of energy and resources. Buy only what you NEED, USE UP what you buy, and DISPOSE of the packaging in a responsible manner. Don't buy items that use excessive, non-recyclable packaging.
2. Ask your local waste disposal company to provide recycling bins in your area if they do not already. USE your recycling bins if they do! Be careful sorters...it also saves time and energy.
3. Teach your family to conserve energy in your home. Lights should be turned off when not in use, heat should be turned down at night, and showers should not be lengthy.
4. Eat your leftovers, and don't overbuy and waste food. It takes resources, time, and money to grow or raise food. Remember the twelve baskets of bread from the 5,000!
5. Use your tap water (filtered or otherwise) instead of buying water in containers. Research shows that bottled water is not healthier for you, and we are wasting precious resources in the creation and disposing of plastic water bottles. Better to buy quality containers and bring your own water from home.
6. Make water your main source of hydration. Anything else is adding calories and cavities to your body, is using precious resources, and is creating unnecessary waste by-products.
7. Cook from scratch with wholesome ingredients. Choose products grown or made in your area of the country. The simpler we eat, the better it is for our environment.
8. Be organized (yes, be organized!). You will be less likely to buy duplicate or unnecessary items if you know what you have and where it is. Plan errands in a way that minimizes gasoline and car use.
9. Take care of what you own, and teach your family the same. Steam-clean your rugs, keep your walls clean, and don't eat on the couch. You will not need to re-carpet, re-paint, and re-buy items as frequently if you care for what you have.
10. Grow your own food. There is nothing as satisfying, tasty, or stewardly, as growing your own produce! It's the cheapest organic food you will find, and there is no wasteful transporting or packaging.

11. Love the earth. Plant trees and flowers. Go on hikes and enjoy the beautiful outdoors. We will all be more mindful of God's creation if we get out into it more!
January 21, 2010
Quote for the Week
"Nothing makes a man so humble as love. We perform the offices of servants to our friends, and are not ashamed; we are even thankful for the opportunity of serving them. We do not spare our property, and - often - not our persons; for - at times - dangers are also encountered for him that is loved. No envy, no calumny is there, where there is genuine love. We not only do not slander our friends, but we stop the mouth of slanderers. All is gentleness and mildness. Not a trace of strife and contention appears. Everything breathes peace." (St. John Chrysostom)
Scripture for the Week
For as many of you as have been baptized in Christ, have clothed yourself in Christ. (Galatians 3:27)
Question for the Week
This week, how can I extend my love and kindness to others?
Thought for the Week
Over the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday I had the opportunity to visit my sisters in the Washington D.C. area. As part of our “day of service” we volunteered at the “Helping Up Mission” in Baltimore. Before serving lunch, we gathered for a short presentation about how the mission provides hope to the homeless and the many ways Christ was transforming the lives of drug addicts and alcoholics who walk in off the streets.
Words cannot describe how clean EVERYTHING was. Upon arrival, every homeless man is given clean clothes to wear. They are treated with respect and dignity – continually reminding one another that they were created in the image and likeness of God. The pastor shared that we are all clothed in Christ if we choose to open our hearts to His love and grace. How beautiful the words of our baptismal hymn “As many of you as were baptized into Christ, have clothed yourself with Christ. Alleluia!”
Throughout the afternoon, I had the opportunity to work with Ricky, the dishwasher. As eighty men handed us their empty plates and glasses politely and graciously saying “thank you” I watched Ricky spray down each tray with speed and precision. Every so often, he’d shine his big bright smile and tell me about how his life has changed since he found Jesus. When I commented on what an amazing job he was doing as a dishwasher – he said proudly, Dr. King said “Be the best of whatever you are!”
I couldn’t stop thinking of the late Martin Luther King’s words and how each of us need to remember to be the best at whatever we are called to be.
“If it falls your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures, sweep streets like Beethoven composed music. Sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry. Sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will have to pause and say: Here lived a great street sweeper who swept his job well. If you can't be a pine at the top of the hill, be a shrub in the valley. Be the best little shrub on the side of the hill. Be a bush if you can't be a tree. If you can't be a highway, just be a trail. If you can't be a sun, be a star. For it isn't by size that you win or fail. Be the best of whatever you are.” (Martin Luther King Jr.)

January 13, 2010
Quote for the Week
Christ is illumined; let us shine forth with Him. Christ is baptized; let us descend with Him that we may also ascend with Him. (St. Gregory the Theologian)
Scripture for the Week
We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, in order to make your hope sure. (Hebrews 6:11)
Question for the Week
Christ is illumined! We, too, are illumined. Where do I see His light shining in me? In my spouse? In my children? Do I consciously encourage this light to blaze brightly?
Thought for the Week: On Peace and Harmony
"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace and good will among men!" Having just celebrated the Nativity of our Lord, these words ring true and strong in our hearts. The shepherds, the angels, the wise men, the Little Drummer Boy (!), all recognized the King of Kings and it changed their lives forever. How could it not? For they witnessed with their own eyes God incarnate, the Prince of Peace, the Almighty God laying in a manger. How about us? How does the Nativity of our Lord change our lives? "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace and good will among men!" Have we stopped to think just how important a role we mothers/wives/presvyteres play in fulfilling this scriptural verse? We also have been to the manger. We also have witnessed the miracles. There's a song from the sixties that says, "Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me..." We, more than any other member of our household, through Christ, can be such bearers of peace and good will. We mother/wives/presvyteres set the tone of our homes. Our husbands, our children, and even our parishioners look to us for peace and joy. And It is within our dominion and power, through Christ, to be that peaceful, harmonious, and joyous woman. "If Mama ain't happy, ain't no one happy." Ouch! But if Mama is happy, look out!! We're in for a pleasant, peaceful and joyous ride through life. This New Year, may we recognize the power of the Holy Spirit in us to be bearers of Peace, Harmony and Joy. "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace and good will among men!!"

December 18, 2009
Quote for the Week
God has created all people spiritually equal. Every person has the same propensity for good and evil. Every person has the same choice, as to whether to obey God or to defy Him. Yet in other ways, we are very unequal. Some people are highly intelligent, while others have feeble intellects. Some people are physically strong and healthy, while others are weak and prone to illness. Some people are handsome and attractive while others are plain. Those who are gifted in some way should not despise those less gifted. On the contrary, God has distributed gifts and blessings in such a way that every person has a particular place and purpose within a society--and thus everyone is equally necessary for a society to function well. So, do not resent the fact that someone is more intelligent or stronger than you are. Instead, give thanks for their intelligence and strength, from which you benefit. And then ask yourself, "What is my gift, and thence what is my place in society?" When you have answered this question, and you act according to your answer, all contempt and all resentment will melt away. (St. John Chrysostom)
Scripture for the Week
“I will give thanks to Thee, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; wonderful are Thy works, and my soul knows it very well. (Psalms 139:15)
Question for the Week
What are my standards for beauty? How do those standards affect my interactions with others? Has it impacted those I am closest to?
Thought for the Week
As children grow, they become keenly aware of the unwritten rules in their youth culture: what makes you popular, what differences will and will not be tolerated, and what makes you beautiful. This last category hits the girls and young women in our lives the hardest. A few weeks back, a friend of mine forwarded me a link to a series of commercials put out by Dove that target this fragile sector of our population. The message is not one we would typically expect of Madison Avenue. It is a campaign to expose the lies behind the media images they are bombarded with and to encourage them to recognize what true beauty is. I couldn’t stop until I had run through the entire series of commercials. Then, I called my daughters into the room and played them again, pausing to discuss each one. It opened the topic up in a way that mere words could not. I realized that we each have a huge task ahead of us. The task of reaching out to the young women (and future women) in our lives with a godly perspective of what beauty is all about…the media messages have been so consistent throughout their lives, that we need to be just as consistent in delivering the true message.
If you would like to view these commercials (or pass the link on to your GOYA director as possible discussion starters for youth group meetings), here it is: http://www.dove.us/#/features/videos/default.aspx[cp-documentid=7049579]/
Cautionary note: If you decide to play these commercials for others, please take time to preview them first…some of the images may be confusing or alarming for younger viewers.
From the Cannon of Christmas, First Ode
Christ is born: give Him glory! Christ has come down from heaven: receive Him! Christ is now on earth: Exalt Him! O you earth sing to the Lord! O you nations, praise Him in Joy, for He has been glorified.

December 9, 2009
Quote for the Week
Let us entrust our life to God, and may it be done as He wishes. Whatever the outcome may be for us, that's the one that is for our good. For God does not want the perdition of man, but his salvation. There is no need for despair, rather we should have courage and hope in God. Despair is disbelief. He who sincerely believes in God never despairs. You despair because you don't believe in the power of God, Who governs all things. (Elder Ieronymos of Aegina)
Scripture of the Week
"Be still, and know that I am God." (Psalm 46:10)
Question of the Week
When was the last time I marveled at God's abundant blessings in my life? (Yes, we should all find plenty to marvel at!) Have I taken time this week to thank God for my life and for the lives of those I love and for the wonderful gift of time I've been given to spend with them?
Thought for the Week
For several years, our family has worked together at "Camp Agape NW", a very special week of serving kids and their families impacted by childhood cancer. Our son, Nicholas (19) has been a counselor to a energetic seven year old Parker Brown, who has battled with Leukemia since he was two. At summer camp - it was all about extending "Agape" providing endless activities of fun, games and relaxation for every family member. Last summer, Parker was in remission with a full head of hair. Side by side they were smiling, running endless laps through mazes and slip 'n slides. His mom and I became close friends as we snapped pictures of our boys and laughed joyously through every relay race and skit. It was so easy to have a grateful heart - thanking God for every moment of joy around us!
Tragically, last month, just as Parker arrived in Seattle for a life saving bone-marrow transplant, he relapsed and cancer spread like wildfire throughout his little body. This time around, it's different. Nicholas is now sitting at the edge of Parker's hospital bed. He is hooked up to flashing monitors. His head aches and every time he moves, he moans in pain. Parker's bald head moves slowly over as he rests his little cheek on Nicholas' hands which have been folded together in his pudgy little fingers since he sat by his bed side. Parker whispers, "I'm glad you're here." There we are - two moms and their sons. This time it's different. It's silent, except for the sound of oxygen flowing and the rumbling hum of monitors.
It's impossible to understand how any family could walk this journey, hold on to hope, and eventually accept that only God knows the number of days of life ahead. Yet, we are so grateful to our loving God who comforts and protects. We are grateful for Parker's parents who believe in God's grace, mercy and love. For they are not in despair! They are believers... calling upon the Holy Spirit who is our comfort, the spirit of truth, everywhere present and filling all things, the treasury of blessing and the giver of life.
During this Nativity fast, we are well aware that our amazing God is so much bigger than cancer. Conversations with my son, Nicholas, have changed from what's happening in his crazy college social life or texting the updated score of the Husky game to what really matters. This month, our conversations are about compassion, perspective, giving to others with a servant's heart, standing side by side with people who have very messy lives and seeing God's love and forgiveness daily. TODAY, Our Lord comes down to earth as a babe, to be in relationship with each of us. TODAY, He conquers death by death bestowing life to those in the tombs. TODAY, we hold on in prayer, for miracles. It's hard. Parker's presence in our lives makes us confront the realities of our broken world and how painful it is for all who suffer. It forces us all to get "real" and yet, not despair - as we remember our Lord's words. "Be still, and know that I am God."
December 4, 2009
Quote for the Week
Let us allow Christ to speak through us. He desires it more than we do. For He made this instrument and wouldn’t want it to be useless and idle. He always wants to keep it in His hands. Why, then, don’t you make it useful for the Maker’s hand? Why do you allow your soul to be unstrung, relaxed through luxury, and allow the whole harp to be useless to Him? One should keep all its parts completely stretched, well strung and reinforced with spiritual salt. For if Christ sees your soul tuned this way, He will make His music through it. When this has taken place, you will see angels leaping for joy—archangels and the cherubim, too. So then, let us become worthy of His spotless hands. Let us invite Him to strike our hearts. (St. John Chrysostom)
Scripture of the Week
Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. (Isaiah 40:4)
Question for the Week
How would you express your own creative offering to God if you could freely choose? In music, painting, design? How does Handel's music (and his life) make you want to respond to God using your gifts and talents?
Thought for the Week
German-born composer George Frederic Handel was not terribly popular with audiences or the Church of England -- as he often wrote Biblical dramas for secular audiences -- and despite occasional commercial success, he soon met with financial disaster and failing health. Prison was imminent. Then, one last opportunity presented itself as he received a libretto, given to him by a friend, based on the life of Christ and a commission for a Dublin benefit. In what many consider the greatest feat in the history of music composition, especially considering the immensity of the work, he neither left his house nor ate for more than 3 weeks, turning out 260 pages of a manuscript that he titled simply, "Messiah." He was often found sobbing with intense emotion and later described his experience to a friend, quoting St. Paul, "Whether I was in the body or out of my body when I wrote it, I know not." Messiah premiered on April 13, 1741 as a charitable benefit, raising boat loads of money that freed 142 men from debtor's prison. Despite the controversy that still plagued him, a concert a year later in London was attended by the King of England. As modern day composer Patrick Kavanaugh wrote in A Faith & Culture Devotional, "As the first notes of the triumphant "Hallelujah" chorus rang out, the king rose. Following royal protocol, the entire audience stood too, initiating a tradition that has lasted for more than two centuries." One of the most striking aspects of this famous composition is that Handel used it to donate freely to charities, even on the brink of his own financial ruin. One biographer noted, "Messiah has fed the hungry, clothed the naked, fostered the orphan...more than any other single musical production in this or any other country." Another wrote, "Perhaps the works of no other composer have so largely contributed to the relief of human suffering." How striking that the artist and his subject have both saved so many, convincing mankind that there is a God who wants to be in relationship with all of creation. For reflection:
From the Cannon of Christmas, First Ode
Christ is born: give Him glory! Christ has come down from heaven: receive Him! Christ is now on earth: Exalt Him! O you earth sing to the Lord! O you nations, praise Him in Joy, for He has been glorified.


November 26, 2009
Quote for the Week
Take care, beloved, that His blessings, numerous as they are, do not turn to our condemnation in case we do not - through a life unworthy of Him - do with perfect accord what is good and pleasing in His sight. For somewhere it is said: "The Spirit of the Lord is a lamp that searches the deep recesses of the soul." Let us understand how nigh He is, and that none of the thoughts we entertain or the plans we devise are hidden from Him. It is right, therefore, that we should not desert the place His will has assigned to us. (St. Clement of Rome)
Scripture for the Week
Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind, for He satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things. (Psalm 107:8-9)
Question for the Week
Have you ever read the Akathist Hymn entitled "Glory to God for All Things?" Take time this Thanksgiving to say these extraordinary prayers composed by Fr. Gregory Petrov shortly before his death in a prison camp in 1940. The title is from the words of Saint John Chrysostom as he was dying in exile. "Glory to God for All Things" It is a song of praise from amidst the most terrible sufferings. Click on http://www.saintjonah.org/services/thanksgiving.htm.
Thought for the Week: (Offering Praise and Thanksgiving!)
King David had a grateful heart, continually giving praise and thanksgiving to God. All throughout the book of Psalms we read how King David regularly expressed his thanks to the King of Kings. As we celebrate Thanksgiving, let us be reminded of how important it is to give glory to God in all things! Consider, taking some time to read from the book of Psalms. You may want to begin your Thanksgiving meal reading Psalm 100 out loud. Let us strive to live by the example of King David, taking up the habit of giving praise and thanksgiving to our Lord! PSALM 100 - A psalm for giving thanks. "Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth. Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. Know that the LORD is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations. (Psalm 100:1-5)

November 20, 2009
Quote for the Week
Take care, beloved, that His blessings, numerous as they are, do not turn to our condemnation in case we do not - through a life unworthy of Him - do with perfect accord what is good and pleasing in His sight. For somewhere it is said: "The Spirit of the Lord is a lamp that searches the deep recesses of the soul." Let us understand how nigh He is, and that none of the thoughts we entertain or the plans we devise are hidden from Him. It is right, therefore, that we should not desert the place His will has assigned to us. (St. Clement of Rome)
Scripture for the Week
Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well. (3 John 1:2)
Question for the Week
How do I feel when I consider the concept of self-care? Do I struggle to find a clear cut division between God's best for me and my own wants and needs? Or, do I struggle with guilt if I attend to myself because it doesn't fit in with my perspective of who we are called to be?
Thought for the Week: (Taking Care of Ourselves)
As Presvyteres, mothers, and wives, we tend to be women who take care of others. This is a blessed thing! Our Lord taught us to 'love our neighbors as ourselves.' But what about that 'as ourselves' part? We want to care for and love others, but are we loving and taking care of ourselves? We are taught that our bodies are "...temples of the Holy Spirit..." (1 Cor. 6:19). In the wedding Epistle we hear, "No one ever hates his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it..." (Eph. 5:29). How do we know if we are rightly caring for ourselves? In a society which promotes self-worship, and over-pampering of the flesh, this is difficult to discern. We can apply what we hear every time we enter an airplane to this topic: to first put on our own oxygen masks, then to apply them to our children. In other words, when we have the basic necessities of life first, we can then offer those necessities to others. If, in caring for others, we neglect ourselves, we may eventually become a burden to those we are caring for, having the direct opposite effect of what we probably intended.
Here is some food for thought to consider if we are properly taking care of ourselves.
  • Food: Am I feeding myself and my family the healthiest food I can practically afford? Do I eat excessive sugar and white flour which contain no nutritional value? Do I overly depend upon processed foods, fast foods, and quick-fix, prepared foods? Do I eat and serve my family plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables which are packed with vitamins and minerals? Do I eat a wholesome variety of foods?
  • Drink: Do I drink plenty of water each day? Is it my main source of hydration? Am I addicted to soda and other artificial drinks (sugar-free and otherwise) which cause all sorts of ills in the human body? Do I drink sugared coffee drinks every day?
  • Exercise: Am I at my ideal weight? Do I give my body the exercise it needs and craves on a regular basis? Am I disciplined in this year-round? (Walking counts!)
  • Sleep: Do I often sleep eight hours a night? Do I take a nap when I am tired? Do I sit down and rest my body when it needs it?
  • Schedule: Do I maintain a reasonable schedule that doesn't put stress on myself and my family members? Do I say 'yes' too hastily? Do I look and think ahead before making commitments? Do I pace myself? Do I have enough 'alone' time?
These are just a few of the basic areas of life where we all have room for improvement. A host of diseases (mental and bodily) can be avoided if we would only live healthier, disciplined lives. David the Psalmist said, "I am fearfully and wonderfully made, and my soul knows it very well." Let us always keep these wise words in mind that we may better take care of ourselves!
November 7, 2009
Quote for the Week
Tell her that you love her more than your own life, because this present life is nothing, and that your only hope is that the two of you pass through this life in such a way that in the world to come, you will be united in perfect love. Say to her, “Our time here is brief and fleeting, but if we are pleasing to God, we can exchange this life for the Kingdom to come. Then we will be perfectly one both with Christ and with each other, and our pleasure will know no bounds. I value your love above all things, and nothing would be so bitter or painful to me as our being at odds with each other. Even if I lose everything, any affliction is tolerable if you will be true to me.” Show her that you value her company, and prefer being at home to being out. Esteem her in the presence of your friends and children. Praise and show admiration for her good acts; and if she ever does anything foolish, advise her patiently. Pray together at home and go to church; when you come back home, let each ask the other the meaning of the readings and the prayers….If your marriage is like this, your perfection will rival the holiest of monks. (~ St. John Chrysostom, Homily 20)
Scripture for the Week
"Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching." (Hebrews 10:23-25)
Question for the Week
How do St. John Chrysostom’s words in the above quote affect you? Are these words you yourself are willing to freely express to your husband? How would this advice affect your marriage if both of you were willing to heed it?
Thought for the Week
This past week, the San Francisco Metropolis held their second clergy couples’ retreat. Nineteen couples from around the metropolis traveled to the Serra Retreat Center nestled into a hillside in scenic Malibu, California, looking out over the vast Pacific Ocean. Together, we stepped away from the busy-ness of our lives and took time to focus on our marriages and on building community with one another. We re-discovered the importance of putting a priority on our marriages and learned techniques for better and deeper communication with our spouses. We shared our stories, laughed together, celebrated Divine Liturgy together, and remembered what a powerful resource we have in one another. We left with a magnified sense of what it means to be brother priests and sister presvyteres…not just as figures of speech, but as truly family in Christ. It is our fervent prayer that this type of gathering would manifest itself across our Archdiocese. Take time this week to look around at the other couples in your metropolis and reach out in love to one of them. Drop a note, email, text, or tweet or (if you live close enough) set a date to get together. Cultivate and celebrate the blessing we have in our fellow clergy families!

October 29, 2009
Quote for the Week
And then, you also want not to have woes? It can't be. God loves us, but we often do not understand it. If we enjoy everything here on earth, then we will forget God. God gives us opportunities to know Him, if only we take hold of the messages. He finds a thousand ways to make us come to know Him. St. Basil says somewhere, 'Make weakness material for virtue.' No matter what evil comes upon us, if we have patience, it is possible that what we see as evil, will guide us to virtue. The greatest evil is to become estranged from God. (+ Elder Ieronymos of Aegina)
Scripture Verse of the Week
For your obedience has become known to all. Therefore I am glad on your behalf; but I want you to be wise in what is good, and simple concerning evil. (Romans 16:19)
Question for the Week
What is God using in your life right now to teach you patience? Is it something you have yet been able to embrace, or is it something that you are fighting against? Do you think your reaction could change your perception?
Thought for the Week
With the school year well underway, many new and even veteran parents of school-age children struggle to find the right balance between helping children with homework, encouraging independence and keeping peace in the home! Our Prez to Prez team consists of mothers of children of all ages from elementary school to college. We've all dealt with struggles around homework and motivating our kids. Here are a few tips from Dr. Charles Fay from the Love and Logic Institute regarding how to best help your child at home with homework.
Ending Homework Hassles
One mother said it well: "I'm tired of doing battle every evening over spelling words, long division, and book reports. I thought I was done with this sort of homework when I graduated from school!" Listed below are some time-tested tips for helping your child with homework:
Help only as long as there is no frustration or anger.
When homework becomes associated with negative emotions, it's no surprise that kids start to view learning as a real drag.
Help only as long as your child is working harder than you are.
Say "I'll be happy to help you as long as you're working harder than I am."
Avoid sitting with your child when they are about to "get it."
Many kids come to believe that they can only learn new things... or "get it"... if an adult is guiding them every step of the way. Explain this by saying, "Part of my job as your Mom (or Dad) is to help you see that you can learn without me. That's why there will be times when I let you work by yourself." (2009 - Charles Fay, Ph.D Love and Logic Institute Inc.)

Quote for the Week
Gain salvation by conducting yourself in a way pleasing to the Lord God, pleasing Him by all kinds of love. Make this your sole concern--to grow rich in love. He who has love has God within him. (An Elder’s Counsel to Christians Living in the World)
Scripture for the Week
And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. (2 Corinthians 9:8)
Question for the Week
Do I have a healthy, daily routine? Is it aiding in my salvation? Does it prevent me from "stepping out of line?"
Thought for the Week: A Light in the Darkness
Sometimes we want to be big heroes, vocal in our defense of the faith, carrying placards in front of the courthouse that wants to tear down the Ten Commandments, or initiating petition drives against the minority opinions of athiests who want to "White Out" God from our American history books. But sometimes the daily-ness of life gets in the way and we get swept along in the tide, bemoaning the fact that the frog is getting boiled in the water.
Sometimes all it really takes is stepping off the line. When the whole world celebrates the neat orderly appearance of everybody standing in a straight line, and conventional wisdom (which may be neither conventional nor wise) and political correctness (which is always political and rarely correct) rule the day, it may just take the courage of a raised hand or a step out of line to ask, "Hey, what are we doing here? Has anybody stopped to think about what we're really doing here?"
Ever wonder what your purpose is? Ever grapple with the enormity of "What is God's calling for my life?" particularly as presvyteres who may have either external or internal expectations placed upon us to be or do something profound?
What if your calling is simply to step out of line in the daily-ness of life? To live intentionally and to be curious for those around you about why the assumed has to be, well, assumed. Don't be surprised when God blesses your courage.
As a parent, I stepped out of line a few weeks ago when my young son's entire soccer team assumed we would be giving the children "participation trophies" at the end of the season. Did anybody stop to think about what message that really sends? What are we really doing? What began as an apparent fait accompli and frankly a bit of hostility on the part of a few parents -- "well, of course we will, we always do, little Johnny will be so upset if he doesn't" -- turned into the team buying a dozen brand new soccer balls, having all the kids autograph them, collecting all their outgrown gear and sending the whole thing with the team's trainer bound for a mission trip to Haiti. Our children will be getting a small picture frame with a team picture to remember their season at our end-of-the season party. They'll also get to see pictures of Haitian children playing on dirt or cement "fields" with their new soccer balls and our children's outgrown gear as they learn a valuable lesson about our global responsibility and selflessness.
How many times in our daily lives are we afforded the opportunity to get UNcomfortable, to step OUT of line, or to just quietly shake things up a bit? A question here, a conversation in passing here, doesn't require community organizing or major acts of heroism. Perhaps for many of us, our calling may be to live intentionally for our values.
Even a match can bring some light to the darkness.

October 13, 2009
Quote for the Week
With each one of us there is a Guardian who does not miss anything and whose watchfulness never relaxes or grows weak. (Isaac the Syrian)
Scripture for the Week
At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, "Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them, and said, "Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. "Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me; but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened round his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. "Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the man by whom the temptation comes! And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to enter life maimed or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and throw it away; it is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire. "See that you do not despise one of these little ones; for I tell you that in heaven their angels always behold the face of my Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 18:1-10)
Question for the Week
Do I take the time to daily thank my guardian angel for his protection and love?
Thought for the Week
From childhood, I have loved gazing upon images of angels. Perhaps it was the beauty in their radiant Raphaelite faces and their luxurious flowing robes. Perhaps it was my perpetual fascination with the fact that they had wings and could fly. In early childhood, I encountered the cliché paintings of a guardian angel watching over two young charges as they crossed over a bridge. The concept of an angel standing guard over me and keeping me out of harm’s way was comforting. I was taught to pray nightly for my guardian angel, acknowledging the important work it did in my life. As I grew into adulthood, I would sometimes forget this prayer, thinking that guardianship was not as huge an issue “now that I was older”. Fortunately, though, God has continually allowed me subtle (and sometimes, not so subtle!) reminders of my guardian angel’s presence in my life. Imagine if we were able to visit each night with our guardian angel and hear what challenges the day had held: the pit bull that was unable to escape from its yard when I took my morning walk, the would-be attacker who was re-routed before crossing my path while I was out shopping, or the drunk driver who was diverted from hitting my car when I was on my way home this evening. It only takes a casual glance at a newspaper to remind ourselves of how easily we could have become the headline tragedy, and yet, here we are. Our guardian angel stands at the ready to protect us from both physical and spiritual danger. How fortunate that the Church includes these protectors in its theology, its icons and in its prayers. Perhaps today would be a good time to begin the practice of daily praying for and remembering our guardian angels…and to teach this special practice to our children, grandchildren, and godchildren.

October 6, 2009
Quote for the Week
The person who listens to Christ fills himself with light; and if he imitates Christ, he reclaims himself. (St. Thalassios the Libyan)
Scripture for the Week
“Then Christ will dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge - that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:17-19)
Question for the Week
Do I have a tough time saying "No" to my kids? Do I have a tough time saying "No" to myself? Is there a possible connection there?
Thought for the Week
What’s playing on your ipod? Did you get my text? What’s your status on Facebook? In this ever changing world of technology families are more PLUGGED IN than ever before. Recently, my husband held a youth meeting and asked all the teens to get out their cell phones and challenged them to a texting race. On the count of three they all eagerly and frantically moved their thumbs, to write: “This is ___(name)____, and I know that I can call or text my priest whenever I need help!” Wow! In just 10 seconds dozens of messages filled their priest's inbox along with all of their cell phone numbers. Indeed, both kids and adults are challenged daily by a constant stream of e-mails, instant messaging, T.V., videos, music and computer games. Imagine if we would carve out 15 minutes of uninterrupted prayer and stillness with our Lord rather than spend that time on Facebook! Indeed, it is so easy to access entertainment and information at a push of a button. Yet, we must look at how being “plugged in” may also be robbing us of our time and attention. This is precious and valuable time that could be spent in conversations with our children, connecting with our husbands, time in prayer and reaching out to those in need. Want a shocker? Consider this quote from the Kaiser Family Foundation: "American children and adolescents spend 22 to 28 hours per week viewing television: more than any other activity except sleeping. By the age of 70 they will have spent 7 to 10 years of their lives watching TV."? Let us have intentional conversations with our families about time. You may be surprised to find out that you, too, need to scale back your time in front of a screen and seek out more quiet time with God. If we were to re-design our fasting rules for the 21st century, I wonder how difficult we would find it to cut out (or even cut back!) our daily dependence on technology. Perhaps this would be a great challenge for each of us as we contemplate the upcoming fast...to attempt to cut back those wasted minutes and hours in order to make them preciously valuable minutes and hours of time spent with our loved ones.
Texting in the car is dangerous habit by driving teens. Consider showing this video to your teenager and tell them to TURN OFF THE PHONE in the car! http://www.schooltube.com/video/37417/BVTV-Texting-While-Driving

September 25, 2009
Quote for the Week
The beginning of salvation and of the heavenly kingdom for the soul is love. (St. Anthony the Great)
Scripture for the Week
"So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate." (Matthew 19:6)
Question for the Week
What are three specific things I can do over the course of this week to reach out to my spouse and reconnect? (special meal, note tucked into his calendar, text message just to say "ILY", etc.) Extra challenge: Can I think of something different for each day of the week???
Thought for the Week
Life as busy mothers, wives and presvyteres can be filled with many challenges with our overloaded daily calendars. As the Fall routines get underway, our schedules are filled with everything from soccer practices to baklava prep before the fast approaching church festival or social event. Often times, we need to stop and reflect upon our Lord’s honest message to married couples. “So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.” (Matthew 19:6) Often, we can go days or weeks without connecting with our spouse. Remember you are ONE with you husband! As we go throughout each day with our ever busy lives, let us never lose sight of the importance of spending time with our spouse, nurturing our relationship with the gift of time. Maybe that means dropping by the church and making an intentional appointment with the priest! Considering dropping a love letter in the mail with an invitation for dinner out. Life long, fulfilling marriages are built one day at a time. A relationship built on the sure foundation of faith in God and commitment to each other no matter what the days may bring, will stand forever. Take the days one at a time, but don’t take them – or each other – for granted.
All clergy couples of the Metropolis of San Francisco are encouraged to attend our upcoming Clergy Wellness Retreat on November 2 through November 5.
Click here for Information and registration form. (It's just $150 per couple which includes lodging and meals)
September 17, 2009
Quote for the Week
The Cross is that which is brighter than the sun, more brilliant than the sunbeam: for when the sun is darkened then the Cross shines brightly. And the sun is darkened --- not because it is extinguished, but because it is overpowered by the brilliancy of the Cross. The Cross has broken our bond, it has made the prison of death ineffectual, it is the demonstration of the love of God. 'For God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son, that everyone who believes in Him should not perish.' St. John Chrysostom
Scripture Verse for the Week
Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:2
Question for the Week
When I kneel at the foot of the Cross on Holy Thursday evening, what thoughts impress upon my mind and what emotions fill my heart? How can I keep these reactions fresh and alive in my daily encounters with the Cross?
Thought for the Week
On the Cross How blessed we are as Orthodox Christians to have the Major Feasts of our Faith to keep us rooted as we go through each church calendar year! Everywhere around us, we see 'faith traditions' literally losing the ground beneath their feet. Many of their faithful are, and will continue to be, knocking at our church doors as they seek something of substance, something unchanging, something with a true historical context. This past week at our church, a 94 year Episcopalian man became Orthodox. What a witness to the continuing work of the Holy Spirit.
The Feast of the Cross comes at such a beautiful time in the calendar year. We just celebrated the Ecclesiastical New Year, school schedules have begun, and then comes the blessed remembrance of the Cross of our Lord. We hardly ponder it enough...Jesus DIED so that I can LIVE. "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life." (John 3:16) And what do we do? We ADORN the cross, we process around the church with it held high for all to see. As Moses held up the staff in the wilderness to save its onlookers, so we behold the cross of our Lord in the hope of our salvation. We wear it around our necks to proclaim that we are followers of the crucified Christ. How can we BETTER carry our own cross? Do we see the sacrifices that we make as presvyteres as carrying our crosses? Do we grumble and complain? Do we wear our husbands down from lack of satisfaction with our lives? Or do we greet each day with joy and count the sacrifices we make as for the Kingdom of God? Do we teach our children the same? Do we let them wear us down with their grumbling? Or do we teach them that, as Christians, we are all called to pick up our cross for Him who, "...being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."
This is our Lord Jesus Christ. This is whom we serve. This is He with whom we will spend eternity. Let us bend our necks, humble ourselves and pick up our crosses...never looking back...everlooking up and onward toward Christ, His Church, and His heavenly Kingdom.

September 11 2009
Quote for the Week
The sins of the entire world drown in the sea of God’s love, like a stone which sinks when thrown in to the water. (Abbot Nikon)
Scripture for the Week
Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life. (1 Timothy 6:17-19)
Question for the Week
The stories of the saints are offered as examples of lives that were radically and miraculously transformed by the power of God. What area in your life do you desire transformation? Consider your marriage and family life? What needs attention? What needs transformation that only God's grace and power can overcome?
Thought for the Day
Did you know that today, September 11th is the Feast Day of St. Euphrosynos the Cook? So often, we see this icon neatly displayed in our home and church kitchens, but really don't know the story behind the icon. As a monk and the cook in the monastery kitchen, Euphrosynos served the brethren with humility and patience. Even so, he suffered much abuse from the brothers. One night, a priest there had a vision of paradise. Standing in a beautiful garden, he saw Euphrosynos walking by. When the priest asked what he was doing there, Euphrosynos said that he lived there as well and that he gave to others the gifts of the garden. Euphrosynos then placed three apples in a kerchief and gave them to the priest. Just then, the semantron awoke the priest for the night services. However, he found that he still had the fragrant apples from paradise on his bed. At the church, he asked Euphrosynos where he had been. Euphrosynos said, “Forgive me, Father. I have been in that place where we saw one another.” The priest replied, “What did you give me, Father, in paradise when I spoke with you?” Euphrosynos answered, “The three fragrant apples which you have placed on your bed in your cell; but forgive me, Father, for I am a worm and not a man.” Following the church service, the humble Euphrosynos could not be found again. Fleeing human glory, he had left the monastery. His brother monks reverently kept and distributed pieces of the apples from Paradise for blessing and for healing. May we consider the work of a presvytera and diakonessa like that of a humble cook - serving with patience, love and humility in all we do. May we also remember those who died on the September 11th terrorist attack, 8 years ago. May their memory be eternal.

September 2, 2009
Prez to Prez is back! We hope the you had a wonderful summer. We are excited to begin another year of Prez to Prez as we hope to continually encourage and support presvyteres of the Holy Orthodox Church in faith, in love, and in relationships with their husbands and families.
Quote for the Week
The head and beginning of all virtues is, to the extent possible, unceasing prayer to our Lord Jesus Christ, which is called, by way of abbreviation, the prayer of Jesus*; the Apostle says concerning it, ‘Pray without ceasing,’ (I Thes. 5:17). That is, one must call upon the Name of God always, whether we be conversing, sitting, walking, working, eating, or doing anything else. At every time and in every place it is fitting to call upon the Name of God. For by this means, writes Chrysostom, the temptation of the enemy is consumed. Beat the warriors, says St. John Climacus, with the Name of Jesus and a stronger weapon you shall not find either in heaven or on earth. Prayer is the banishment of sorrow and dejection, the germination of meekness and absence of anger, the offering of joy and thanksgiving; innumerable good things are acquired through prayer. Abbot Nazarius of Valaam (+1809)
Scripture for the Week
"Pray without ceasing" (1 Thessalonian 5:17)
Question for the Week
What "bounty" have I been blessed to reap from this summer? (No, we're not talking about the zucchini in your garden!) How can I utilize it to fortify myself in the months to come?
Thought for the Week
(On the start of the Ecclesiastical New Year) September first is upon us... precious summer is drawing to a close and, before we know it, we will be donning long sleeves and jackets again. Another summer will have come and gone. Hopefully we are growing in appreciation and cherishing this special time of year of bright sun-shining, vegetable gardening, flowers growing, birds singing, crickets chirping, water-playing, nature-hiking, non-fasting barbecuing(!), enjoyable reading, and wonderful relaxing . Each year summer becomes more fully lived, knowing it passes all too quickly. Our growing children remind us how special these seasons are, and maturity helps us to relax and make the most of them. What a fitting time for the new church calendar year to begin. It is still warm, the harvest season is upon us, our hearts are filled with happy memories and our bellies are filled with juicy summer produce. Rather than begin the year when things are cold and barren, we begin it when life is in its fullness, bursting forth with all of God's glorious creation. This is what the new ecclesiastical year is for us: a time of thanksgiving, of renewal, of closing one chapter of our life in anticipation of a beginning a new one. Christ is found in the temple and reads from the prophet Isaiah, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, for which cause He hath anointed Me..." (Luke 4:16-30). His earthly ministry begins while we are basking in the love of God as shown through His marvelous creation and bounty. May we, with much anticipation, live fully this new ecclesiastical year; celebrating each Eucharist with joy, growing from our parishes ministries, counting our many blessings, and loving all the blessed souls around us.

Week of May 17, 2009
CHRIST IS RISEN! CHRISTOS ANESTI!
Quote for the Week
Completely have trust in God, leave everything in His hands, and believe that His love will act for your own benefit. Then God will take care of everything, because there is nothing He cannot do; everything is easy for Him. The difficult thing is for man to decide to humble himself and leave everything to God’s providence and love. Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain (Athos)
Scripture for the Week
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13
Question for the Week
Is there some area of your life where God is trying to teach you to trust? (Hint: If it is an area that causes you frustration and unease, then it may well be the place you want to start handing over to Him!) How can I begin to release this area and trust God to take control of it? How does this make me feel?
Thought for the Week: On the Ascension
"Let us who carry bright lights go forth..."
As we approach the Ascension of our Lord into heaven and the leave-taking of Pascha, we are reminded, once again, that all of our efforts, all of our energies, and all of our struggles ultimately find their fulfillment in gaining paradise and living in communion with the Holy Trinity, with each other, and with the blessed saints forever. Sometimes this seems like a mirage; after all we only see the heavenly reality in a mirror dimly. But let us never forget that this is our life's goal, and that without Heaven we are but fools seeking a fantasy kingdom. How do we live our lives in such a way that reflects our deep conviction that someday we will be united with our Lord forever? This is the calling of each of us with our own unique talents, strengths, and circumstances.
One of the main themes of Pascha is the theme of Light. "Come receive the light from the Light that is never overtaken by night.." we chant each year (Orthros of Pascha), and "Let us who carry bright lights go forth...and celebrate the saving Pascha of God." (Ode 5, Paschal Canon). There is also the image of the ten virgins with their lamps. This past week we heard that we were first called 'Christians' or 'Little Christs' in Antioch. How can we be 'Little Christs' if we are not also light-bearers, if the Light is not in us as well? May we all be that 'lamp-stand on a hill,' shining with virtue, love and hospitality, and may we make it our daily toil to be reflectors of the unwaning Light amidst the mundane of our everyday life: To our husbands, children, parishioners, neighbors, co-workers, and to all with whom we come in daily contact. May we remember that as our Lord arose and ascended, we, too, will arise and ascend to His Kingdom of Light, Love and eternal Joy.
Christos Anesti! May you have a blessed week!

Week of May 10, 2009
Beloved Sisters in Christ -
LET US CONTINUE TO REJOICE AND PROCLAIM THE LORD'S RESURRECTION! "CHRIST IS RISEN!"
Quote for the Week
Having received this preaching and this faith, as I have said, the Church, although scattered in the whole world, carefully preserves it, as if living in one house. She believes these things [everywhere] alike, as if she had but one heart and one soul, and preaches them harmoniously, teaches them, and hands them down, as if she had but one mouth. (Saint Irenaeus of Lyons)
Scripture Verse for the Week
In the same way, their wives are to be women worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything. (1 Timothy 3:11)
Question for the Week
Do I guard the words that come out of my mouth as carefully as I guard the words I allow into my ears and vice versa?
Thought for the Week
The journey through Lent is a long one, full of positive struggles, opportunities, grace, and self-reflection. Then comes holy week, that expectant, joyful, grace-filled week that is the highlight of all of our year...finally finding its fulfillment in Pascha, the feast of feasts, the crown and pinnacle of our liturgical year in Christ. Following Pascha, the Church, in her wisdom, continues the feast for forty days as we sing the troparia at every liturgical service and gathering...continuing to squeeze every bit of grace that we can out of the blessed and life-giving resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Then lies the danger...just like the faithful who gathered to welcome the Lord into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, do we quickly forget the palm branches of love that we laid at the feet of our Lord? Do we forget the canon of St. Andrew, the twelve gospels, the cross at Golgatha, the sweet sadness of the Lamentations? Lent and Holy Week are so grace-filled precisely because of the struggle, the heightened ascesis, the abundant worship services. We do not want to again return to the level of commitment to our Lord that we had when we began Lent. We want to continue up that ladder of Divine Ascent, to progress, one rung at a time, towards the eternal kingdom and into the arms of our everlasting Father, through His grace and magnanimity towards us. Dear Sisters, if we are to progress in the spiritual life, we must daily renew our faith, our love, our commitment, and our vigilance amidst a sleeping and satiated society. We must remember our First Love, as often as we can, and remember that in caring for our husband and children we are caring for the very Lord Himself. We have a unique calling: we care for the man who has many in his care. It is no small task. It takes every bit of our fiber to live, daily, the resurrection in our thoughts, in our actions and in our logia...to be that wonderful (albeit, imperfect!) woman our men long to come home to. May we all be women of the resurrected Christ, journeying with our husbands with much toil, living our lives suspended between one Pascha and the next, manifested in the Eucharist, and lived from the depths of our souls. May we be granted a lifetime of Paschas, until the day when we see, face to face, the God whom we have worshipped our whole life long. Christ is Risen and Happy Mother's Day!
Week of April 26, 2009
Dear Sister Presvyteres - "Christ is Risen!" "Christos Anesti!"
Quote for the Week
"This is our festival, that we celebrate God coming to man that man might go back to God our Father. Off with the old man, on with the new! Once dead in Adam, now alive in Christ, born with Christ, crucified with Christ, buried with Christ, risen with Christ!" (St. Gregory Nazianzus)
Question for the Week
Each Holy Week seems to bring with it a different set of emotions, experiences, and understandings. Perhaps a particular verse strikes at our hearts for the first time, or perhaps something out of the ordinary redefines our Holy Week experience. There are so many different directions this feast of feasts may take us. What was that defining moment for you during Holy Week or Bright Week?
Scripture of the Week
"Greet one another with a kiss of love. Peace to all of you who are in Christ." (1 Peter 5:14)


Thought for the Week (A personal reflection from Presvytera Donna Pappas)
I would like to share with all of you one of the beautiful occurrences of last week. It was something extemely simple, but it resonated with me . . . had it not been Holy Week, I probably would have missed it altogether:
The presence of a dove has been used throughout the ages as a sign of hope, of peace, of reassurance that God is truly present. This year, a dove had nested atop a column just outside the side door of the church. We marvelled over her each day, and at the beginning of Holy Week noticed the tiny heads of two little fledglings poking up over the edge of the nest. Each evening we would assess their development and try to predict when they would finally leave the nest. On the evening of the Crucifixion service, the mother had flown off and left her two little ones. On Friday, the little ones were gone as well. It was sad to see the empty spot where they had once been so vibrant and present. On Saturday morning, I entered again through the side door, glancing up at the column out of habit and feeling a little pang of sadness. The service commenced and I took a seat right next to the side door (not my normal place, but the service was starting and I needed to be in a pew). The service proceeded, but then right before Father came out to sing, "Arise!", I heard a soft distinct coo. It repeated twice more, and I moved my head slightly to catch a glimpse of the top of the column through the mottled surface of the stained glass, and there atop the column stood the mother dove. She remained throughout the hymn, cooing her accompaniment and then she was gone. So often we are told how God's creation reacts to our treatment of Him . . . I cannot help but believe that this creature was sent to remind me of this fact . . . if this lowly animal could respond to the Master's resurrection, how much more should we who have the capacity to think and reason?


Week of March 22, 2009
Quote for the Week
Christ wants you never, in any way, for any reason, to cultivate a spirit of hatred, bitterness, anger or ill-feeling. The four gospels proclaim that on every page. (St. Maximus the Confessor)

Scripture for the Week
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go. (Joshua 1:9)

Question for the Week
In the midst of my bodily fasting this Great Lent, what diet am I feeding my soul? Have I taken time each day to seek the Lord’s face and drink in His presence and to allow the Holy Spirit to renew my strength?


We, at Prez to Prez, realize the weightiness of the last couple of confessions, and included them with prayer and trepidation. It is because of circumstances like this that we began this ministry in the first place over two years ago. We, as the body of Christ, pray for our clergy at every Great Litany during our services. May we use that petition as an opportunity to remember the entire clergy family which has never been immune from the attacks of the evil one. May we be true sisters in Christ, reaching out and supporting each other as much as we are able, and living ourselves according to the high calling to which we have all been called.

We continue to present a series of fictitious “confessions” put together by Father Michael Johnson to stimulate discussion of the kinds of issues faced by clergy wives. They are prototypes that touch upon common threads and themes that we may experience being married to priests and even those who are widowed presvyteres.
Confession #7 ~ The Widowed Presvytera
Father, as you know my husband fell asleep in the Lord about seven years ago. And it was completely unexpected. At the funeral the metropolitan was very kind, but I couldn’t help feeling surprised when he and the people kept calling me “presvytera.” I had always thought the priesthood was solely my husband’s and I just had the title as a kind of courtesy. Now I kept asking myself, “What am I supposed to do as a single presvytera?” Except feel lonely. My son is a priest and he seems very fulfilled in that – just like his father. A few months ago, the metropolitan assigned him to a big-city parish. It’s a “promotion” if you think of it that way. Oh, Father – I know I’m just rambling, but my whole life is “just rambling.” The truth is, I really resent the fact that my son’s a priest. I know that’s a terrible sin. But I’m afraid he’ll work himself to death, just like his father did. And besides it puts my son under the metropolitan’s control, and that includes my grandchildren. They can be assigned anywhere. All my dearest friends are here in town. I’d feel lost in a big city – but that’s where I’d have to go now to be close to my son and his family. Meanwhile, I see the loneliness of old age ahead. My husband and I always understood that our marriage would be the only one for each of us. But now that he’s gone, I’ve met the dearest man – someone I can really talk to. Oh, he hasn’t proposed or anything, but he’s widowed too, and we really understand each other. I know I’d lose my title, “presvytera” if I married again. But what does it really mean except that I was once married to a priest? What could a widowed presvytera like me give to the Church that would make that title worthwhile?
CONSIDER responding if this confession hits home for you or did at one point of your life. What advice would you give to this presvytera? You may also choose to respond to the question of the week. Please give your age or your years in the ministry for some perspective. Send your responses to p.tsagalakis@comcast.net and we will share the responses in next week's "Prez to Prez."
Reflections on Confession #6 ~ Our Prez to Prez Voices Across the Country
We wish to thank those presvyteres who had the courage to respond to our series "Confessions of a Presvytera" Confession #6.
Confession #6: Father, I know our confessions are supposed to be about our own sins, but I can’t make this clear unless I bring in another person…namely, my husband. Maybe I’m just guilty of jealousy, but I think he’s seeing another woman. I’m ashamed to accuse any priest of something like that, especially my own spouse, but he’s been acting so strange lately. You know priests are always working late at the parish, so I didn’t used to worry when he wasn’t home evenings. But a couple weeks ago, I had to pick up my daughter from an evening activity at school, and that’s right near the church. So we stopped by thinking my husband would be glad to see us for a couple minutes. And he wasn’t there. When I asked him about it that night, he claimed to be at the hospital on a sick call, but he wouldn’t tell me which hospital or whom he visited. He just snapped at me. My husband never used to be like that. Now I find myself feeling jealous of every woman in the parish, wondering which one it might be. But then, of course it might be a woman I don’t even know. Or am I being unfair, Father? I know my husband’s under a lot of stress, maybe that’s why he’s acting so strange. Do you think this is all in my head?
Sister Presvytera, I'm sorry you are feeling uncertain and confused. However, I can say you are not alone. My mind has also wondered about similar possibilities. If I have learned one thing from my own suspicions, it is that communication is very, very important! At first, I let the possibility of an affair linger in my head and it took on a life of its own. That wasn't fair to my husband - he didn't even have a chance to defend himself! Once I discussed it with him at a peaceful time, all worries were gone. He respected my need to know a little more about his days and I respected him enough to trust him. If, by chance, you do need more than communication, your Spiritual Father can help you through this together. And, to echo the last confession regarding marriage counseling, I wholeheartedly agree. However, one very important yet often-overlooked "qualification" a marriage counselor MUST have is the knowledge that you are going to counseling to STAY together. Ask the counselor about his or her goals and if the goal doesn't include "helping you stay together," I would keep looking for a better match.

~37 and 7 years as prez


No doubt, we have all heard about various situations within our archdiocese that priest have fallen into the pit of unfaithfulness. Sexual misconduct is a serious concern and we all know that priests families are not immune to this tragedy. I know that our Metropolitan is working to communicate these issues to clergy in our metropolis with great care and concern. Bottom line? Communication as a couple is vitally important. If you see your husband completely stressed out, acting strange or feeling that you can no longer trust him - it's definitely time to seek counseling and get help. We are so quick to remodel bedrooms and bathrooms, but have such a hard time addressing the remodeling of our marriages. If you are feeling suspicious - obviously something isn't right. These feelings need to be addressed and shouldn't be 'dusted under the rug.' If your husband is unwilling to go to counseling, this is also a big red flag!

At one point in our marriage, we were dealing with some serious issues and I was tempted to walk away and throw in the towel. Seeking marriage counseling was the best thing my husband and I ever did. Having a third party who listens and helps us to express our concerns has made a dramatic difference in our relationship. We've learned to trust one another again and have learned new skills helping us to work through most of our issues.

~45 - 10 + years a presvytera


We, at Prez to Prez, realize the weightiness of the last couple of confessions, and include them with prayer and trepidation. It is because of circumstances like this that we began this ministry in the first place over two years ago. We, as the body of Christ, pray for our clergy at every Great Litany during our services. May we use that petition as an opportunity to remember the entire clergy family which has never been immune from the attacks of the evil one. May we be true sisters in Christ, reaching out and supporting each other as much as we are able, and living ourselves according to the high calling to which we have all been called.

After reading this weeks "Prez to Prez" - we hope that our widowed presvyteres will lend their voices responding to several subjects addressed in the next "Confessions of a Presvytera"

Again, thank you for your encouragement and support by sharing your amazing responses!
Week of March 15, 2009
Quote for the Week
Nothing comes without effort. The help of God is always ready and always near, but is given only to those who seek and work, and only to those seekers who, after putting all their powers to the test, then cry out with their whole heart: "Lord, help us." (St. Theophan the Recluse)
Scripture for the Week
Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. (1 Cor. 13: 7, 9)
Question for the Week
“Love…bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails….” As I reflect on this passage, how can I apply it to my own marriage?
We continue to present a series of fictitious “confessions” put together by Father Michael Johnson to stimulate discussion of the kinds of issues faced by clergy wives. They are prototypes that touch upon common threads and themes that we may experience being married to priests.
Confession #6
Father, I know our confessions are supposed to be about our own sins, but I can’t make this clear unless I bring in another person…namely, my husband. Maybe I’m just guilty of jealousy, but I think he’s seeing another woman. I’m ashamed to accuse any priest of something like that, especially my own spouse, but he’s been acting so strange lately. You know priests are always working late at the parish, so I didn’t used to worry when he wasn’t home evenings. But a couple weeks ago, I had to pick up my daughter from an evening activity at school, and that’s right near the church. So we stopped by thinking my husband would be glad to see us for a couple minutes. And he wasn’t there. When I asked him about it that night, he claimed to be at the hospital on a sick call, but he wouldn’t tell me which hospital or whom he visited. He just snapped at me. My husband never used to be like that. Now I find myself feeling jealous of every woman in the parish, wondering which one it might be. But then, of course it might be a woman I don’t even know. Or am I being unfair, Father? I know my husband’s under a lot of stress, maybe that’s why he’s acting so strange. Do you think this is all in my head?
CONSIDER responding if this confession hits home for you or did at one point of your life. What advice would you give to this presvytera? You may also choose to respond to the question of the week. Please give your age or your years in the ministry for some perspective. Send your responses to p.tsagalakis@comcast.net and we will share the responses in next week's "Prez to Prez"

Reflections on Confession #5 ~ Our Prez to Prez Voices Across the Country
Here are a few of the excellent responses we received responding to our series "Confessions of a Presvytera"
Confession #5: Father, I have to confess that I’ve really thought seriously about leaving my husband – I know that’s a terrible thing to say. But the truth is, I never wanted to be a presvytera. I mean I never felt called to it like some women seem to. The priesthood was something dear to my husband so I went along. But I had no idea what it was going to be like. You’d think the metropolitan would at least have warned me. Oh, it’s not that I don’t love God and the church. And I know I love my husband, or at least I think I still do – but I never see him. Whenever the kids are home from school, I’m the only adult. Most of the other soccer moms already think I’m a single parent. By the time my husband does get home, he’s usually so tired, we barely have time to talk, or do anything else for that matter. He just collapses in bed. I feel so lonely. I work 40 hours a week and there’s this man at the office that I really admire. He’s so sympathetic when I discuss my problems with him. He’s not Orthodox but he is a good Christian. I think I’m falling in love with him, Father. What should I do?
My dear sister, I don't think there is a Presvytera anywhere that hasn't felt some of your expressed feelings of abandonment or loneliness in their marriage. But I do have a question for you: Would you feel the same way if your husband was a CEO of a big company or Business Representative that traveled constantly? Your feelings aren't necessarily because you are a Presvytera, it is because you and your husband have not seriously look at what really is a marriage.
Marriage is more than just "happily ever after" that we see in the movies. It is the toughest challenge you will ever experience but with the most rewarding accomplishment if you look at what truly is marriage. The whole idea of marriage is one of sacrifice and martyrdom; that both members of the marriage help and sacrifice themselves to each other to the glory of God. It has to be BOTH party's responsibility. This sacrifice is never in self-destruction but because you have the love and support of your spouse and that they are focused on your well-being and growth towards God, your marriage will grow and deepen into a beautiful garden. If you aren’t constantly be diligent, tending to your marriage and weeding out the feelings of resentment, discontent, frustration and pain and focus on God through love, appreciation, affection and support of your husband you will have a marriage that is destined to fail. With that in mind, you and your husband must seek help from a Spiritual Father and marriage counselor. We have too many of our Clergy families in ruin because of the fear of failure; that we should somehow know better and can do this on our own. When Clergy families end in divorce, it doesn't just destroy the nuclear family but the church family as well. The ramifications of this act is felt far and wide throughout the Body of Christ. It is truly an epidemic in our church and we need to seek help to stop the spread of the disease.
Remember, you are not alone in this life. You have the love and experience of the hundreds of Presvyteres in our sisterhood. Please reach out to one or two of us that you feel close to. You'd be amazed in the support you'd get!
~Married for 13 and Presvytera for 10

The advice I would give this prez as sister prez is to stay with your husband. When our husbands made the decision to be a priest we wives accepted to serve God with our spouses like any other spouse.
The long hours can be remedied. Spend “family” time in church with your spouse after all God’s house is about family. When, your husband spends “overtime” because of parish council meetings is it any different if a spouse had to work overtime in any secular job. Also, being thought of a single mom by the soccer mom’s well, don’t their husband’s work on weekends or overtime during the week? When your husband travels, travel with him whenever possible. If your working hours affect the quality of your marriage isn’t your marriage more important? Quit and find a job you love and works in your marriage and kids. The guy in the office won’t be that attractive anymore.

Don't take lightly your feelings for the gentleman at work. TEMPTATION which could be acted upon must be addressed. Temptation by its very nature is deception, a lie. What is evil is deceitfully presented as good, what is harmful as helpful, what is poison as antidote, what is enslaving as liberating, what is foul as fun. Temptation is what a trap is to an animal. It offers something good, but its true intent is to trap and kill. This is the background for Christ's statement about the devil in John 8:44 "When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. Don't allow your frustration with being a presvytera and feeling alone in your marriage allow you to jump into having an affair with another man. You need to seek marriage counseling and get help so that you and your husband can address many important issues that need to be dealt with. Don't hesitate. When things were rough in our marriage (I was unhappy as a presvytera, feeling like a single mom, and growing more distant from my husband) we sought counseling with a professional marriage therapist and we were covered in prayer from our spiritual father. It made the world of difference to both of us. Our marriage is growing in new and beautiful ways and I too, am accepting my service as a presvytera, supporting my husband as a priest, and he is making efforts to pay more attention to my needs and those of our kids.

~Presvytera, married almost 25 years

Week of March 1, 2009
Dear Sisters in Christ,
The season of Great Lent is a time of renewal. It is a time to turn our hearts and minds towards God. It is a time of fasting with joy. It is a time to cease from judging others. It is a time to pray more, eat less and love a lot!
Quote for the Week
"When you fast and are nourished with abstinence, do not store the leftovers for tomorrow, but, as the Lord became poor and enriched us, feed someone who does not want to be hungry, you who hungers willingly. Then your fast will be like the dove who brings and joyfully proclaims salvation to your soul from the flood." (Saint Gregory Palamas)
Prayer of Lenten Season: LENTEN PRAYER OF ST. EPHRAIM THE SYRIAN
Lord and Master of my life, cast away from me the spirit of laziness, idle curiosity, love of power and vain talk.
But grant me, your servant, the spirit of moderation, humility, patience and love
Yes, Lord and King, grant me to see my own faults and not to judge my brothers and my sisters
For You are blessed unto the ages of ages.


Scripture verse for the Week
"He who says he is in the light and hates his brother is in the darkness still. He who loves his brother abides in the light, and in it there is no cause for stumbling." (1 John 2:7-17)


Question for the Week
What have I done for my marriage today? What act of caring or kindness can I extend to my spouse to let him know how special he is?
For the next few weeks, we are presenting a series of fictitious “confessions” put together by Father Michael Johnson to stimulate discussion of the kinds of issues faced by clergy wives. They are prototypes that touch upon common threads and themes that we may experience being married to priests.
Confession #5
Father, I have to confess that I’ve really thought seriously about leaving my husband – I know that’s a terrible thing to say. But the truth is, I never wanted to be a presvytera. I mean I never felt called to it like some women seem to. The priesthood was something dear to my husband so I went along. But I had no idea what it was going to be like. You’d think the metropolitan would at least have warned me. Oh, it’s not that I don’t love God and the church. And I know I love my husband, or at least I think I still do – but I never see him. Whenever the kids are home from school, I’m the only adult. Most of the other soccer moms already think I’m a single parent. By the time my husband does get home, he’s usually so tired, we barely have time to talk, or do anything else for that matter. He just collapses in bed. I feel so lonely. I work 40 hours a week and there’s this man at the office that I really admire. He’s so sympathetic when I discuss my problems with him. He’s not Orthodox but he is a good Christian. I think I’m falling in love with him, Father. What should I do?

Please CONSIDER responding if this confession hits home for you, someone you know, or did at one point of your life. What advice would you give to this presvytera? You may also choose to respond to the question of the week. Please give your age or your years in the ministry for some perspective. Send your responses to p.tsagalakis@comcast.net and we will share the responses in next week's "Prez to Prez OUR VOICES..."

May you have a blessed 40 days of Lent - Kale Sarakostee!



Reflections on Confession #4 ~ Our Prez to Prez Voices Across the Country
Beloved Sisters,

It is extraordinary how each week we received such wonderful responses regarding our Prez to Prez “Confessions of a Presvytera.” This week, pay attention to the wise advice shared by veteran presvyteres with 43, 34, and 13 years of experience! Glory to God!
Confession #4: "Father, to tell you the truth I’m not only a poor presvytera, I’m not even a good mother. I know a priest’s kids should be an example to all the other families, but mine are – well, just like everyone else’s. Maybe even worse. Sometimes I even wonder if they act like Christians, must less Orthodox. They were okay before they became teenagers, of course. I was even convinced that my kids would go from childhood to adulthood without even getting zits. But now sometimes I have to force them to go to church. I’m worried about some of the boys that my daughter is hanging around with. And a woman at our parish told me that her girl saw my son smoking - she thinks it was only tobacco. You should have seen the smirk on that woman’s face when she told me that. I just don’t know how to make my kids be the perfect Christian children they should be."

"Train up a child in the way he/she should go and when he is old he/she will not depart from it." (Proverbs)

Our four children are now ages 30, 33, 38 and 40, and together with their own assorted spouses, children, cats and dogs, are very great blessings to Father and me.

But it wasn't always like that. Not too many years ago there were Sundays that none of them would go to church, and one was definitely a "Christmas and Easter" man for a long time. But today I am inspired by them, and learning from them and their spouses.

Here are some of the words of wisdom passed on to me along the way which helped me get to this point:
  • Our children aren't angels!
  • When they get into their teens, talk to them less about God and more to God about them.
  • Tell them: "In our house everyone under the age of 18 goes to church and that includes you!"
  • Never make them feel too guilty.
  • Don't be hard on them EVERY day. Alternate with days in between for complimenting them.
  • Keep on keeping on.
  • Make special treats for them to eat.
  • Tell them, "I hope you never smoke/pierce your body/get a tattoo/use drugs."
  • Tell them, "Drugs make sick people well and well people sick."
  • When they ask to do something you're not comfortable with, tell them you can't give permission for that, then leave the room quickly, and go to another room, closing the door quietly behind you, and begin praying about the situation. You'd be surprised how many times it works.
  • Trust your instincts, and tell them that as a mom you have to trust your instincts, and your instincts tell you when things will work and when they won't.
  • Tell them you've never been a mom in this situation before, and ask them to judge you 10 years or so down the pike.
  • Remember that "No one ever raised a child without some tears," as a beautiful older neighbor told me once.
  • Try as they get older to do something with them just one-on-one occasionally - a concert, movie, play, lunch out.
  • Pray once around the prayer rope every day you can, once for each of them, "Dear Panagia, protect and guide ___________."
  • Leave them in God's hands over and over.
  • When they are out and you are concerned, pray the Jesus prayer over and over, "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on ____________."
  • Stay on top of what’s happening in their world (Once I visited the local police station to ask the police to show (innocent) me some pot so I would know what it smelled like =)
  • Dear young moms (anyone under 60!), I pray for your beautiful children and for you as you keep on keeping on.
    ~ Age 70, 43 years a presvytera

    I have raised 3 children and they 2 are now in wonderful marriages and parents. As they were growing up I always told them to be good people, not because they were the children of a priest but, because their father and I wanted them to be good children. They made their mistakes, as all children do, but, I never made them feel that they had to be different because they were sons and daughters of a priest.

    When a parishioner would make a comment about any of my children I would just say to them that my children are no different than anyone else's but, I would not get into a discussion with them about it. Any person who says my child will never do this or that has a rude awakening ahead of them because we all make mistakes. Even we wonderful, pious Christians make mistakes. Do not let the parish raise your children, YOU raise your children.

    ~ Happy Presvytera of over 34 years

    Talk about life in a fish bowl! When a married man is ordained, he and his wife open themselves up to scrutiny and then when kids come along...watch out. There is nothing to prevent people from gossiping about the priest's kids, if they are of a mind to. And when those barbs are made known, wounding occurs. Unless Fr. and Presbyera are very strong internally it'll be hard not to feel guilt, sadness or inadequacy about their supposed inability to raise "good Christian children." There is no guarantee kids are going to act as we think they should in front of parishioners or when they're out of our sight. And there's certainly no way to make any Orthodox children--into "perfect" Christian children. Rather than focus on the kids' behavior, focus more on your own wise responses to them...people do watch and can learn valuable lessons from the way you respond to your kids' less than pristine behaviors.

    What to do about the criticizers? Minimize interactions with them inasmuch as possible--you know who they are so try not to engage much if you can help it. Did the critics raise perfect children? Unlikely. So, take their comments with a grain of salt. Recognize, too, that some people like to get a rise out of others--remember the saying, "Don't let them see you sweat?" Well, don't! Rather, seek out those who are sympathetic and loving for Christ's sake. Anyone who's tried to raise children as Christians in this day and age understands the challenges very well.

    In almost every parish there is usually at least one family who is sensitive to the priest's family and their struggles to be a good example for others. Let that family or families be a source of consolation for you. If they are devout, perhaps work out an agreement to pray for each other's kids on certain days or certain times of each day. You can be mutually encouraging in the parenting struggle. My confessor once told me (worry wart that I am) that I should turn every worry that comes to mind into a prayer. It's good advice and certainly applicable to someone in the process of raising teens.

    Take care of yourself so you can be like a lighthouse for your young person navigating on turbulent waters. Actions speak louder than words so, inasmuch as possible, ramp up your prayer life and further develop your inner life. Try not to be dour in the process...remember to smile and be an active dispenser of love and good will in the family. It might not be easy given the stresses clerical families bear, but definitely worth working toward. Use warmth and good humor to keep the atmosphere light. Even your husband will thrive more in this environment. Sometimes moody or potentially wayward kids simply need a strong hug and a listening ear from someone they know really does love them to help keep their canoe upright. Be available to them; respect them, even with their youth and inexperience, as people God made and let it be a rule that they do the same in return.

    Sometimes we can forget, but it is good to routinely commit your children into the protecting care of Panagia, their Guardian Angel and their Patron Saint. Regular praying of the Akathist to the Mother of God Nurturer of Children can give comfort and hope to an Orthodox mother and assurance that young people have been placed beneath the perfect care of the Mother of all Christians. Sometimes kids might overhear a parent praying for them with love and that act alone can speak volumes even in the life of a child who appears otherwise indifferent.

    I think some families might be divided on requiring church attendance. I would say, yes, make it an expectation for Divine Liturgy for sure because it is there that we receive the Lord Himself in the Eucharist--it's the most important thing we do together as a family. If your church has other regular services, vespers, paraklesis, etc., perhaps allow a little leniency as needed. The goal is to help the young person want to go to church for the right reasons--to worship and to be ministered to by the Lord. Ultimately the young person will be making that choice on his or her own, so help them want what's in their own best interest by your own good example.

    Keep in mind that God took a "risk" when bringing us into His family...how often we act inappropriately and yet He is still our Father and is not ashamed to be called that by children who say they love Him but are sinners against His love on a somewhat consistent basis. Rather, the Father sees the big picture--sees our end and is patient with us, abides with us in love, admonishes us through His word and guides us without oppressing. He allows us to make mistakes and still return to loving arms. To that end, we would do well to act similarly with our own children, to envision a positive result, to look for the good today, to set good examples for our kids, to encourage, admonish and forgive our maturing children as necessary all the while seeking discernment from on High.

    ~ 13 year veteran Presvytera

    Just wanted to share one quote I always keep in mind when worrying about my kids. "Don't worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you." Robert Fulghum

    ~ Age 52, 22 years a Presvytera

    Week of February 22, 2009
    Quote for the Week
    Christians should strive in all things and ought not to pass judgment of any kind on anyone, not on the prostitute nor on sinners nor on disorderly persons. But they should look upon all persons with a single mind and a pure eye so that it may be for such a person almost a natural and fixed attitude never to despise or judge or abhor anyone or to divide people and put them into boxes. For this is purity of heart, that, when you see the sinner and the weak, you have compassion and show mercy to them. (St. Makarios the Great)

    Scripture for the Week
    Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. (Luke 6:36)


    Question for the Week
    What is my biggest challenge as a parent? Do I perceive that my challenge is compounded by our life as a clergy family? How do my children view their lives as clergy family? How can I keep the lines of communication open to them as they establish themselves within the church community?


    For the next few weeks, we are presenting a series of fictitious “confessions” put together by Father Michael Johnson to stimulate discussion of the kinds of issues faced by clergy wives. They are prototypes that touch upon common threads and themes that we may experience being married to priests.
    Confession #4
    "Father, to tell you the truth I’m not only a poor presvytera, I’m not even a good mother. I know a priest’s kids should be an example to all the other families, but mine are – well, just like everyone else’s. Maybe even worse. Sometimes I even wonder if they act like Christians, must less Orthodox. They were okay before they became teenagers, of course. I was even convinced that my kids would go from childhood to adulthood without even getting zits. But now sometimes I have to force them to go to church. I’m worried about some of the boys that my daughter is hanging around with. And a woman at our parish told me that her girl saw my son smoking - she thinks it was only tobacco. You should have seen the smirk on that woman’s face when she told me that. I just don’t know how to make my kids be the perfect Christian children they should be."

    CONSIDER responding if this confession hits home for you or did at one point of your life. What advice would you give to this presvytera? You may also choose to respond to the question of the week. Please give your age or your years in the ministry for some perspective. Send your responses to p.tsagalakis@comcast.net and we will share the responses in next week's "Prez to Prez."

    Reflections on Confession #3 ~ Our Prez to Prez Voices Across the Country
    Beloved Sisters -

    We are midway through our series on “Confessions of a Presvytera.” We want to extend a special thanks to all who have responded with their heartfelt thoughts and wisdom. Below are reflections on the third confession.
    Confession #3: “I guess I have to confess the sin of hate. I’ve tried, but there’s this one person in our parish that I just can’t stand. He just got elected to the parish council for another term – and I hate to think what that means. Last year, I know he’s the one who kept my husband from getting a raise. He’s always criticizing, and he seems to think priests do nothing but Liturgy on Sunday and an occasional wedding or funeral. He even complained because my husband scheduled time off on a few afternoons to see our kids after school, because he had to do a service in the evening. I know this parishioner has called our Metropolitan about us more than once. Frankly I can’t even stand to be near him. I do force myself to talk to him when there’s no choice, and I guess I’m civil enough. But I can’t help thinking what I’d really like to tell him. And I’m afraid that someday, I’m going to actually do it!”

    I think that EVERYONE reading these can identify with DISLIKING a parishioner. There have been a few over the years that have left a bad taste in my mouth! What I have found that seems to help ME is to make an effort to say hello to that person and talk to them whenever possible. It was the hardest thing for me to do at first. I had a very heated discussion once with this man (parish council member) over an issue. I left that discussion fuming! The next time I saw him my stomach churned. I do believe that the Holy Spirit gave me the needed "PUSH" to greet him and visit with him. At first he was stunned and I can tell he felt awkward. But when he saw that I wasn't gonna let his opinion bother me, he responded to my greeting. I've been doing it ever since. At times, it's HARD!!
    ~ Presvytera of 32 years

    God uses people and circumstances to prepare us to be citizens of the eternal Kingdom. Nasty people in the parish, especially those who would undermine your husband and family are sometimes tools used to bring about our own needed internal changes. That is not to minimize the pain or anguish that the presvytera may feel. Steer clear of the mistake of thinking you can correct these people because engaging on the same plane will only make you look bad (and probably feel bad for some time to come). It is far better to commit to say a prayer rope daily for those who create problems for your husband and your family. This is the kind of response that pleases God and that He can and does work through. This will be your ministry in the midst of temptation and an important one at that. Be pleasant, but don't feel you need to engage with these people directly. I sincerely believe, from experience, that they cannot see what they are doing. People are at all levels of understanding and maturity in the Church. Unfortunately, there is nothing that prevents them from serving on parish councils and the like so you've got to view this as a way that God works in our lives.

    Here is something from Counsels from the Holy Mountain that I keep on my computer as a reminder:

    "Put up with that person who grieves you and creates temptations. Put up with him joyfully. Pray for him every day. Always try to do good to him, to commend him, to speak to him with love, and God will work His miracle and he will reform. Then our Christ will be glorified and the devil, who sets up all the stumbling-blocks, will be foiled. Force yourself especially to stop criticizing and lying. Your penance is to do one prayer-rope every day for this person who hates you, so that God may enlighten him to repent and do ten more metanoias daily for one month."

    If this person does something against you, overlook it, be patient. Let yourself be wronged, but do not wrong; let yourself be slapped, but do not slap; let yourself be criticized, but do not criticize. When you do all this, then the Son of God, along with the Father and the Holy Spirit, will dwell in your soul. Fight the good fight; overlook the deeds of this person, just as our Christ has overlooked your sins.

    God help you in everything; I know from experience this is hard and people can, at times, be treacherous. Be at peace even in this, because, from what I've come to understand over time, it indicates that God knows you have the ability to bear the trial and He will reward your patience. Trust God's Providence always; He understands your struggle and will bring you through it.
    ~ 13 year veteran Prez

    Been there done that Prez. I had all the board over the house once to talk about renevations to their parish house, and I made apple crisp and coffee and this similar man that you described said, "I think the priest should vacuum too." We were talking about the church at the time, because I would have play group with young moms once a week there for fellowship. I reassured this man that my husband has also been the janitor at church (since they didn't have one) and he has certainly done his share of extra work around the church. Needless to say, we were at that parish for six years and during that entire time my husband got one raise, so we left. This same man, wanted us to pay rent for staying in the parish house for one extra week and then he told me that they are buying the new incoming priest a new car and fixing the tiles in the bathroom. I just told him, " good-luck to you with the new priest." Praying for your enemies is very powerful. Hang in there!

    Always try to remember to hate the sin not the sinner. My husband is ironically in a situation worse than the scenario of confession 3! The good news is, there are more people that are good in our community so this is what we chose to focus on. Our mission is to help those in need and bring them the Good News of Christ.

    Think about what might have happened to a person who directly attacks the integrity of the priesthood. What happened in their childhood that made them a bitter adult? Something went wrong somewhere for a person to be that way. How is the devil using their soul? Is it through greed, jealousy, and the need for power? Who knows what motivates a person to behave like that. If it weren't your husband, this parish council member or parishioner would be annoying someone else. So you might want to ask yourself "why not me?" Christ himself suffered and was betrayed by one of his own Apostles. He was put to death unjustly! Is our parish matter worse than that? Is God turning his back from us or is he refining us? Has he not set the example for us to follow? Are we not gracious and even humbled as the darts fly our way? God has promised to be even closer to us when we are persecuted for his sake.

    I feel Christ's overwhelming love protecting us. I sense his gentle words speaking to me saying, 'don't worry my child, nothing will go wrong, I am here to protect you'. When I am persecuted I have to rely on Jesus Christ to fix the problem. If my husband's salary is in jeopardy, I have to solely rely on Christ to take care of our family's needs. The devil wants us to worry, but knowing and depending on Christ is the only way to have peace. When things get unbearable in the parish I simply wait to see how God will take care of the situation. I start to think, am I taking care of myself? Am I exercising and eating right? Are my children happy? Am I comforting my husband? And all thoughts go to my immediate family. This is where we find true love, happiness, and acceptance. I believe if you work on your family life and enjoy the moments with your children you are truly blessed. God always works things out!

    Remember that God knows the outcome, and he has you and your family in mind. Just because we don't understand why things are happening, it doesn't mean that they aren't supposed to happen. When we work on behalf of Christ in this world we will also take part in a spiritual warfare. Scripture amazingly ?teaches us what to do in a situation, and warns us as to what may be happening and how to fix it. God will never put blinders on his faithful! He teaches us in (Ephesians 6:11-13) "Put on all the armor that God gives you so that you will be able to stand up against the Devil's evil tricks. For we are not fighting against human beings but against the wicked spiritual forces in the heavenly world, the rulers, authorities, and cosmic powers of this dark age." God tells us to wear the belt of Truth, Righteousness as our breastplate, our shoes should announce the Good News Of Peace. And at all times to carry Faith as our shield.

    I love to hold on to God's words in times of distress, " If God is for us who can possibly be against us?" Will God not see a way through this? ??If perhaps things are irreparable in your parish, God will move you onward to a better place. He always has our welfare in mind. It is never as bad as it seems. So it is my suggestion to change your attitude, and be happy anyway, put your full trust in Christ who has plans for you. Focus on your good attitude, and your family. Consider even making some friends outside of the parish. Thank God every time you are persecuted because He draws closer to you. God is preparing great things for you and your family. He is blessing you constantly. I will leave you with His words, Jeremiah 29:11 "I alone know the plans I have for you, plans to bring you prosperity and not disaster plans to bring about the future you hope for". May God richly bless your husband's ministry and your family always.

    ~
    Presvytera - 16 years in the ministry Age: 50

    Week of February 15, 2009
    Quotes for the Week
    My momma always said life was like a box of chocolates…you never know what you're gonna get. (Forrest Gump [Spoken by Tom Hanks] in the movie
    Forrest Gump)

    Why does humility lead up to the heights of righteousness, whereas self-conceit leads down to the depths of sin? Because anyone who thinks he is something great, even before God, is rightly abandoned by God, as one who does not need His help. On the other hand, anyone who despises himself, and relies on mercy from above, wins God's sympathy, help and grace. As it says, 'The Lord resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the lowly' " (Proverbs 3:34, LXX) [St. Gregory Palamas]


    Scripture Verse for the Week
    I will never fail you or forsake you. (Hebrews 13:5)
    Question for the Week
    What do I believe God expects of me when He commands that we love our enemies? How can I effectively put that love into action in my daily life?
    For the next few weeks, we are presenting a series of fictitious “confessions” put together by Father Michael Johnson to stimulate discussion of the kinds of issues faced by clergy wives. They are prototypes that touch upon common threads and themes that we may experience being married to priests.
    Confession #3
    I guess I have to confess the sin of hate. I’ve tried, but there’s this one person in our parish that I just can’t stand. He just got elected to the parish council for another term – and I hate to think what that means. Last year, I know he’s the one who kept my husband from getting a raise. He’s always criticizing, and he seems to think priests do nothing but Liturgy on Sunday and an occasional wedding or funeral. He even complained because my husband scheduled time off on a few afternoons to see our kids after school, because he had to do a service in the evening. I know this parishioner has called the metropolitan about us more than once. Frankly I can’t even stand to be near him. I do force myself to talk to him when there’s no choice, and I guess I’m civil enough. But I can’t help thinking what I’d really like to tell him. And I’m afraid that someday, I’m going to actually do it!

    Please feel free to share if this confession hits home for you or did at one point of your life. What advice would you give to this Presvytera? Please give your age or your years in the ministry for some perspective. Send your responses to p.tsagalakis@comcast.net and we will share the responses in next week's "Prez to Prez."

    Reflections on Confession #2 ~ Our Prez to Prez Voices Across the Country
    It has been a tremendous blessing to receive the beautiful responses to the recent "Confessions of a Presvytera" Below are reflection on the second Confession sent out last week.
    Confession #2: I have to confess the sin of envy or covetousness, or whatever you want to call it. You see, there’s this certain priest’s wife I know who is basically “Mrs. Perfect Presvytera.” Her kids are always well dressed and well behaved, while mine are dirty and unkempt five minutes after I get them dressed – not to mention, if someone’s kids are noisy in church, it’s probably mine. Furthermore, this other presvytera helps teach Bible study at her parish, she seems to know everything about God - and I’ll bet she says the “Jesus Prayer” a hundred times a day. Compared to her, I’m just an ordinary wife and mother. In other words, as a presvytera, I feel like I'm a failure.
    There shouldn't be any standards for what a priest's wife or her children should be like. They should be themselves and not worry about what other people think especially the parishoners. Their first responsibility is to their husband and family and if there's time left, they can help out at church in whatever capacity they feel comfortable in. The fact that they are married to a priest indicates they are good, honest, moral people who try their best to take care of their family. and if that isn't enough for others, so be it. I have been a priest's wife for 39 years, am 67 years old, four children and ten grandchildren.
    Galatians 6:4 (TLB): "Let everyone be sure that he is doing his very best, for then he will have the personal satisfaction of work well done, and won't need to compare himself with someone else." Talk about a freedom verse! This tells me that all I have to do is concentrate on doing my personal best--in whatever work I do, or whatever role I'm in--and I can feel secure and satisfied knowing that God is pleased with me, and I don't need to compare myself with anyone else. One of the dangers of comparing ourselves with others is that it can lead to jealousy and envy--two attitudes that are detestable in God's sight. Scripture says: "Let's just go ahead and be what we were made to be, without enviously or pridefully comparing ourselves with each other, or trying to be something we aren't." Anonymous
    I constantly struggle with living up to the "Perfect Presvytera” persona. Because I am often seen chanting, teaching Sunday School and have an outgoing personality - other presvyteres and parishioners can make the assumption that I have my act together. Well, this is simply a not true. I'm a struggling sinner. I constantly deal with temptation, pride, and the annoying need to please everyone. I think God wants us all to give of our gifts and talents but first and foremost, we must be concerned about pleasing HIM not everyone else. My heart goes out to the presvytera with envy - but more so, the presvytera that is being held to such a high standard of perfection. All of us struggle. I think it's time to invite that "perfect presvytera" out for a cup of coffee and check in to see how she's really doing. You'll find, that she is just as ordinary and in need of a friend as you are. Thank God. Age 45 - too many years of ministry to count
    Regarding the letter sent by the woman who envies the “perfect” Presbytera, perfection is an illusion!!! Some women seem more motivated, or able, to pull off the illusion, but it does not always promote mental health for the mother or the children, to try and pull off that illusion. Its often motivated by an unhealthy self image, that needs to be seen as “perfect,” and behind it is untold anxiety and stress. Perhaps even she was raised by a mother, who had to have things “perfect” and what messages are sent to the children. I also am a firm believer in that every child is born with an inborn temperament, and some children are simply easier to raise! Some children are compliant, and naturally obedient, while others are born with ants in their pants and a strong will. We can’t even compare our own children to each other, let alone to children born of another family. I wonder how many priests are out there, that were really rapscallions when they were little boys, and maybe even teenagers! Somehow God used them, and took them - and God has great and amazing plans for your children, too! God sees the whole picture of our lives, beginning to end. Also know that the mother who seems perfect is probably also beset with her own insecurities, and compares herself to other women and moms, too. There is so much you don’t know about her – how she thinks, how she feels, what things are really like at home. Even if she really is that “perfect,” the only person we need to try and please, is Jesus. He knows that most kids are born to wiggle, and get their faces dirty. He sees your heart, and knows what effort you are making to try and raise your family right and I am sure that He is pleased with you! Do not judge yourself! This is one of the rules of our faith! When my kids were little, someone comforted me regarding my guilt over not spending a lot of time on my spiritual life. She quoted the Bible verse, about “to whom much is given, much is required.” A woman in your situation does not have a lot of time, and thus He does not require it! Remember the widows mite – and how the Lord was pleased, with the little she gave – because she gave it from her heart, and she gave what she had. Do not be so harsh with yourself. He is a good and loving God, and understands our circumstances. Give what little time you have to Him, with as loving and pure of heart as you can, and rest in that. It may be much more, really, in God’s way of looking at things, than those of us who have more time, and give so much less, proportionate to what time we have available to us. Really, most of us are “ordinary” women, and mothers and Christians. And really, I am most comforted by other ordinary women, who struggle with the same things that I do! Perhaps you are more approachable than the supposed “perfect” wife and mother. Most women do not want or require perfection in friend or even a role model – we want to find someone who says, “You, too?” Women flourish, really – by “commiserating” together. Then somehow we are freed, to do what we need to do. I don’t need a perfect friend or role model! I need someone who cares, and is willing to walk the journey and path with me! That is not to say that most of don’t need some help, learning to discipline our kids, or working on our relationship with Christ, or otherwise building some sort of discipline in our lives. But the aim of that is union with Christ, and godly families – not so we can look as good as “so and so.” If you need or want to read some books on raising children, do so - however I suspect you are just normal!!! If you can free yourself from some unholy “shoulds” and bucket loads of guilt, you may relax, and find more energy inside of yourself to do what you really want to do, without the unfair expectations you are putting on yourself. That is the environment where love and growth occurs. ~ age 51, Diakonessa for 11 years

    Week of February 8, 2009
    Quote for the Week
    Time washes away physical beauty, and sickness eats it up, but beauty of the heart is beyond all changes. The former arouses anger and produces jealousy, but the latter is not susceptible to similar passions and knows no vainglory. (Saint John Chrysostom)

    Scripture for the Week
    And above all things have fervent love for one another, for love will cover a multitude of sins. (1 Peter 4:8)


    Question for the Week
    Do I have a "standard" that I attempt to hold myself up against? How did I establish this standard? Is it attainable? Does it differ from the standard I believe God calls us to? How do I feel when I reflect on this?

    For the next few weeks, we are presenting a series of fictitious “confessions” put together by Father Michael Johnson to stimulate discussion of the kinds of issues faced by clergy wives. They are prototypes that touch upon common threads and themes that we may experience being married to priests.
    Confession #2
    I have to confess the sin of envy or covetousness, or whatever you want to call it. You see, there’s this certain priest’s wife I know who is basically “Mrs. Perfect Presvytera.” Her kids are always well dressed and well behaved, while mine are dirty and unkempt five minutes after I get them dressed – not to mention, if someone’s kids are noisy in church, it’s probably mine. Furthermore, this other presvytera helps teach Bible study at her parish, she seems to know everything about God - and I’ll bet she says the “Jesus Prayer” a hundred times a day. Compared to her, I’m just an ordinary wife and mother. In other words, as a presvytera, I feel like I'm a failure.

    Please feel free to share anything that you have learned that may help another presvytera who may be experiencing the issues in this ‘confession.’ We will publish it anonymously the following week. Of course, please seek your spiritual father’s advice on any questions or issues you may have. This does not presume to be a replacement for that special relationship. These ‘confessions’ are merely to touch upon issues that we may have in common to help us realize more than ever, WE ARE NOT ALONE in this life! Please send your responses to our Prez to Prez team: p.tsagalakis@comcast.net, eikona@eikona.com, presdee@worldnet.att.net, nikonia01@hotmail.com, doxa@clearwire.net

    Reflections on Confession #1 ~ Our Prez to Prez Voices Across the Country
    Beloved Sisters - We wish to thank those who took the time to respond to last week's "Confessions of a Presvytera." Below are a few heartfelt responses.
    Confession #1: I have to confess that I just don’t have a spiritual life at all. I try to pray but there’s never time. I have to get up and get the kids to school first thing. Then I work four hours a day. Then it’s back home to get dinner ready and make sure the kids do their homework. I can’t blame my husband, but he’s at church just about every evening, not to mention weekends. By the time I get a few moments to myself, I’m so tired I just fall asleep in bed. I haven’t opened a Bible in years and half the time I don’t even find time for the Trisagion prayers. I know I should be setting an example, but I guess I’m as bad as the worst of our parishioners.
    By way of introduction, I am in my 60's, have been a presvytera for 35 years, and have raised 4 children. When my family was young, the lifestyle described in Confession #1 was very similar to my own. I also felt remorse about my lack of spirituality. Through the years, however, I came to realize that the very things I thought were keeping me away from a more spiritual life were actually my path to salvation. Sharing my husband with the church community to the extent that I felt like a single mother; dragging my children to church services and attempting to maintain order; participating as much as I could in church activities; making an effort to supplement the family income; balancing Lenten dietary restrictions with proper nutrition; hosting visiting clergy and missionaries; overseeing my children's schoolwork, sports, scouting, and music lessons; clinging to my sanity while severly sleep-deprived -- all this was a form of devotional prayer. By fulfilling my duties as wife, mother, and Presvytera, I was accepting God's will in my life and following the road He had set for me.
    In addition to living a dedicated Christian life, there are ways to squeeze some prayer into our busy schedules. Read a short Bible passage and pray with your children at bedtime. Pray before all meals (even at McDonald's). While driving in the car, listen to recordings of hymns and prayers. Recite the Jesus Prayer while doing repetitive tasks such as folding laundry, washing dishes, vacuuming or exercising.
    Finally, learn to forgive yourself and start anew. Some years ago, I visited a revered, monastic Confessor. I knelt before him and recited a list of sins much like Confession #1. He gave me a daily regimen which included prayer, prostrations, censing, and Bible readings. I began to follow his instructions with enthusiasm, but little by little, the chaos of my life distracted me from the routine. The following year, when I visited the Confessor, I had to repeat the same list of sins. I braced myself for a severe reprimand. Instead, I felt a gentle touch on my head and heard these words, "God knows you're human. He knows you will have lapses. When you do, just start all over again."
    ~ Presvytera age 60 + in ministry 35 years
    You CAN blame your husband that you don't have a spiritual life. But, you can also blame yourself. You need to do what it takes to be kind to yourself. You need to communicate with your husband. Your marriage is a partnership. You are not a single parent. He is not a celibate priest, and he needs to balance his professional duties with his marital and parental duties better.
    So, although noble it is that your husband is dedicated to being at Church many hours, he needs to look at his schedule and see where it is really necessary that he is present. He is a husband before he is a priest. If we preach to people to be better spouses and do not ourselves do what it takes to be a better spouse, then we are hypocrites and liars.
    I suggest you speak with your husband and make him aware of your dilemma. Have him read your confession. Married people should be able to confess to one another honestly. If the two of you are unable to come up with a solution so that your lives are more balanced and your time is better managed, then you need to get professional help. You need marital counseling yourselves. And it is OK, for the Clergy couple to need to talk to professionals. I know some may say, "Well, I have a spiritual Father. That is wonderful. Go to your spiritual Father or go to a trained Pastoral Christian Counselor, but go. You need to talk to someone that will give you a plan to live more balanced lives where both of you are sharing the responsibilities of children, and home, as well, as work.
    If Father needs to be at Church on evenings and weekends, then perhaps during the day, he can come home and cook a dinner for the evening meal that can be warmed up so that you can go pray, or exercise, or take some time for yourself. Perhaps, you can get take out one evening, and go to lunch with your husband instead of him cooking, or you cooking. Maybe you could look at each other and remember those days when you did that. You can look at each other that way again. But, if you don't have 3 minutes for God everyday, how are you going to find time to look into your husband's eyes?
    If you communicate your feelings to your husband and there is willingness to change things, then you will find time to pray, to be together more, to have personal time, to have family time, to become happier people and become more able to serve your parish with a happy and peaceful heart.
    I will pray for you my dear sister in Christ. I know God is with you and you will find some time each day to spend with Him. And if you are not at this point to can keep your hands still when you are talking and listening to God, have your time with Him when you are driving somewhere, or cooking, or putting a load of laundry in. Let God be at your side at all times. You are never alone. And then ask God to help you find time to keep your hands still when you are talking with him and just be silent and listen to him. It will happen. Have faith. With God all things are possible.
    ~ Presvytera 46. I’ve been a Presvytera for 16 years. And I love it.
    Thanks for addressing this issue. My spiritual life seemed to plummet down hill about 4 years after my husband was ordained a priest. He began to work more hours. I was overwhelmed with taking care of our young family with very little support and I felt trapped in a church where everyone seems to glare and stare. I started pulling away from God, the church, my husband and began to neglect every part of myself as well. Thankfully, in my despair, I called a good friend I had met at the seminary and shared some of my fears, struggles and worries. I am so grateful for this sister presvytera who really helped support me through a few really difficult years of spiritual emptiness. She pledged to pray for me daily. She called me weekly to check on how I was doing. She didn't lecture me. She didn't preach. She simply loved me through all my tears and ended every conversation with "You know, God loves you and so do I!"
    I'm convinced that the devil tries to do everything possible to pull a priest and presvytera from living a life in Christ. Finally, I realized that I had to make a decision whether or not I was going to allow this to happen. It was the Sunday of the Prodigal Son - and my husband gave a darn good sermon about "making a u-turn back to God." It was then that I made a decision that the devil wasn't going to tear apart my family, my spiritual life, my mental and physical health, or my relationship with my husband. That same night, my friend called and wisely suggested that I should go to confession. Tears, and more tears flowed as I humbly and painfully confessed my sins before God. I will never forget the feeling of my bowed head under the stole of that old retired priest. Days followed and I made a pledge to recite the scripture verse. "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." Every morning, every time I felt tired, overwhelmed or in distress the same mantra "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." Slowly (and I mean slowly) I began to get out of the horrible spiritual rut. My husband and I sought marriage counseling. I began to take morning walks. "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."
    I really believe that two things saved me - the support of a good friend and the sacrament of confession. Sure, I continue to experienced the peeks and valleys through time - but remind myself "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."
    ~ Presvytera 48 years old, now happily married, almost 20 years a presvytera
    From my new perspective as out of active ministry I do find that making myself a priority even for a few minutes has helped my sanity tremendously. Even getting up ten minutes earlier for some peace. My problem and I think that of many clergy wives is that I had been and do have problems with church in general. For so many years because of what was happening in my life, I didn't like church. I would tell this to my confessor and he wouldn't even get it. Of course when I was finally honest with him re: my life and what was truly going on it made sense. Getting past all of that has been hard and I find you can't change overnight.
    A practical solution re: time to pray is that when you are saying prayers before dinner to just take a moment and add your own personal prayers either out loud or to yourself. Also, when you receive an e-mail or a request to pray for somebody do it immediately. You'll find yourself slowly praying more.
    ~Presvytera - age 43, 17 years in active ministry
    Just reading this confession makes me feel better. I thought I was the only one without a spiritual life.
    ~ Presvytera age 48
    I think at some point, we have all been here. Being a good Christian, a good wife, a good mother-this is hard work! There are so many temptations to pour oneself out, giving time and effort to the housework, dressing up to go to work, helping your children and your husband... but you are robbing them of your true self, the one which you rarely see yourself as being: the calm one who is rooted in Christ. Tell your husband you need help! Ask him for specific things, like reading the Scripture of the day aloud to you, or a reminder to pray with the kids as you drop them off at school. Ask him to pray for and with you. Just by being mindful that you are trying to get towards God will allow Him to help you. Ask a sister presvytera to be your prayer partner for a season-she may never give up the habit. It is easy to feel like you are going under, but if you are not enjoying life, you are not the only one who is suffering. This confession definitely hits home for me, even though the particulars don't. For the past few months, I have been struggling to "do the right thing" for my four-month-old son, to give him the advantages of a good environment. Every so often, I have a little epiphany which makes me feel so dumb: how could I have missed that? The most recent one is to just enjoy the baby (augh! my mother was right again!) and not worry so much about my to-do list. Even though I don't get my daily prayers in every day, we are making a habit to say family prayers every morning and evening. The house is slowly getting cleaner (especially if I don't look too closely), and I am feeling better. I may even be a good mommy! And people will be glad to hear from us, even though I am still working on sending out the Christmas newsletter as we have already entered February. ~ 28 years old, 5 years Orthodox, and 1-1/2 years a presvytera; These are the responses after presenting our first “confessions” put together by Father Michael Johnson to stimulate discussion at a recent sisterhood retreat. We will examine some of the issues facing clergy wives. Please feel free to share anything that you have learned that may help another presvytera who may be experiencing the issues in this ‘confession.’ We will publish it anonymously the following week. Of course, please seek your spiritual father’s advice on any questions or issues you may have. This does not presume to be a replacement for that special relationship. These ‘confessions’ are merely to touch upon issues that we may have in common to help us realize more than ever, WE ARE NOT ALONE in this life! Another resource is TLC(The Listening Connection) www.nsp.goarch.org/tlc.html - a ministry where trained listeners (selected from sister Presvyteres) offer listening support to any Presvytera who calls, maintaining strict confidentiality.

    Week of February 01, 2009
    Quote for the Week
    Pray not only for yourself, but for all the faithful, for the whole body of the Church without separating yourself from other believers, pray in a state of union with them as a member of Christ's Church...Prayer for others is beneficial for the one who prays: It purifies the heart, strengthens faith and hope in God and stimulates love for God and neighbor. (St. John of Kronstadt)
    Scripture for the Week
    In the day of my trouble I will call on You, for You will answer me. (Psalm 86:7)
    Question for the Week
    Do I have the courage to dig below the surface with my sister presvyteres? Am I willing to risk asking the "tough" questions, e.g., how is your spiritual life? how is your marriage? etc. If someone asks me the "tough" questions, am I willing to answer them honestly? Am I actively cultivating enough trust in my relationships to risk this kind of transparency?
    Reflection
    Two years ago at the annual San Francisco Metropolis Presvyteres Retreat at St. Nicholas Ranch in Dunlap, California, a group of Presvyteres came together to form what has come to be known as “Prez to Prez.” It is a simple offering. . .nothing fancy or eloquent. . .borne of a desire to help strengthen the clergy families of our Holy Orthodox Church in America. . .families that are becoming increasingly subject to the woes and travails of our time. This year, we were blessed to meet once again, each of us having eagerly awaited the fellowship that transpires between our sister Presvyteres in Christ. The setting is lovely, serene, and wholly conducive to an enjoyable respite. Above the ranch looms the magnificent temple of the Monastery of the Life-Giving Spring, the kindly sisters always welcoming us with their love and Christian hospitality. For the next few weeks, we would like to present to you what became the primary subject matter of this year’s retreat. They are a series of fictitious “confessions” put together by Father Michael Johnson to stimulate discussion of the kinds of issues faced by clergy wives. They are prototypes that touch upon common threads and themes that we may experience being married to priests. In this sense, they are all our confessions, as it is likely at one point or another in our life we may have felt the same feelings as the “confessor.” These confessions may be used for self-reflection and to help us recognize that we are never alone in our feelings and experiences. That, rather, is the age-old deception of Satan, who seems more than ever determined to bring down the Chief Shepherd’s shepherds and their most cherished possession: their precious family. May we all gain insight into our selves and find solidarity in each other through these fictitious but helpful "confessions." Feel free to share your thoughts with us and we will publish them ( anonymously) the following week as we are able. We will include the entire document when we are finished for the sake of future discussions you may have at retreats in your own metropolis. Of course, if there is anything that does "hit home" that you need to discuss, seek your spiritual father or the TLC ( The Listening Connection )—a beautiful ministry where trained listeners (selected from sister presvyteres) offer listening support to any presvytera who calls, maintaining strict confidentiality. Love, the Prez to Prez team
    Confession #1
    I have to confess that I just don’t have a spiritual life at all. I try to pray but there’s never time. I have to get up and get the kids to school first thing. Then I work four hours a day. Then it’s back home to get dinner ready and make sure the kids do their homework. I can’t blame my husband, but he’s at church just about every evening, not to mention weekends. By the time I get a few moments to myself, I’m so tired I just fall asleep in bed. I haven’t opened a bible in years and half the time I don’t even find time for the Trisagion prayers. I know I should be setting an example, but I guess I’m as bad as the worst of our parishioners! Please feel free to share if this confession hits home for you or did at one point of your life. What advice would you give to this Presvytera? Please give your age or your years in the ministry for some perspective.


    Week of January 4, 2009
    Quote for the Week
    “God is both beyond us and with us; God is both above us and within us.” (Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew Encountering the Mystery)

    Scripture of the Week
    Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. (Colossians 3:12
    )

    Question of the Week
    Each year at Christmas my mother-in-law would gift her sons with new underwear. Her rationale was that people tend not to fuss over what they wear underneath their clothes, and yet she thought it immensely important that these most essential of garments be regularly "refreshed". God assures us not concern ourselves with what we should wear materially, yet He encourages us to robe ourselves with the qualities of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Which of these particular "essential garments" have become threadbare for me and need to be refreshed? Are any of them perhaps still sitting untouched within their wrappers? Our Father has a full supply simply for the asking!


    Thought for the Week: On New Years Resolutions
    As we enter the New Year, it is very common to hear friends and family members making New Years resolutions and goals. This is natural as the New Year brings with it the possibility of fulfilling unfulfilled dreams, unfulfilled goals and unfulfilled aspirations. It can be painful to look back on the previous year and see that we haven’t changed some of the things within us that we would like to see altered…change we know that, with God’s help, IS totally possible. How do we bring about that kind of change? How can we view this time of year through an Orthodox lens?
    Repentance is at the heart of our Orthodox faith. It is the foundation of our life in Christ. It gives us a fresh start each day and brings us hope amidst our biggest challenges and worst mistakes. Repentance, is, in a nutshell, a daily…even minute by minute…resolve to amend that within us that falls short of the glory of our Lord with His All-powerful help. Wow. What a hope. What a goal. What a dream come true! It is no coincidence that the Gospel speaks about St. John the Baptist preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. With the Feast of Theophany this week, what better time to renew our own baptismal vows.
    Brain researchers have discovered that one of the functions of sleep, aside from rest for our much-toiling body, is to incorporate and synthesize what we have learned that day. Not only does each New Year bring with it the possibility for change, but each and every day can be a New Year for us, a time to offer up to God our broken selves and find the healing, love and real change that we all desire in our hearts. God is there to help us, but we must be willing to do the hard work. His grace is sufficient, thus we must play our part in the equation. What do you desire? What are your dreams? What do you need to change? What falls short of God’s glory in your life? Offer it to our Lord. Read, study, pray and work hard to educate yourself to overcome your worst habits, fears and sins. Ask God to help you propel yourself forward in Him, toward real, lasting metania. Life is so short, let us not delay, even an instant!



    Week of December 15, 2008
    Quote of the Week
    “Since You came into the world for all, O Savior, therefore You came for me, for I am one of all. You came into the world to save sinners, therefore You came to save me also, for I am one of the sinners. Listen, my soul: God has come to us; Our Lord has visited us. For my sake He was born of the Virgin Mary, He Who is born of the Father before all time. For my sake He was wrapped in swaddling clothes, He who covers heaven with the clouds and vests Himself with robes of light. For my sake He was placed in the lowly manger, He Whose throne is in the heavens and Whose feet rest upon earth. For my sake He was fed with His mother’s milk, He Who feeds all creatures. For my sake He was held in His mother’s arms, He who is borne by the Cherubim and holds all creatures in His embrace. [...] Thus I stand before You, I for whose sake You came to earth. Beholding in me nothing but my need of salvation, You have come to seek me.” (Saint Tikhon of Zadonsk)
    Scripture of the Week
    "For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." (Isaiah 9:6)
    Question of the Week
    They say our image of God as a father is influenced by our own experiences with the father figures in our own lives. Do I tend to limit God's role as an Everlasting Father by my own definition, or do I allow Him to re-define "father" for me?
    Thought of the Week: (Christmas Crisis)
    “Tis the season to be jolly!” Or so we have been told our whole lives. In actuality, the Christmas season can be a difficult, sad or stressful time for many of us. We all know the reasons: the pressure of gift giving on a limited budget, being far away from extended family, fasting when those around us our feasting, trying to be Christ-centered in a materially-centered culture. For all of these reasons, the nativity season can be a challenge as Orthodox Christians, and possibly even more so as families of priests. And yet, we are called to look for the good in everything and for Christ in everyone, and so the Nativity Season offers us unique opportunities to give, to find joy, and to celebrate.
    Let’s take a look in the mirror. Are we frowning or smiling at our loved ones? Are we looking for and relishing in the simple things that make this season bright? Can we find the pleasure, the reason, the Christ amidst the hustle and bustle of this society in which we live? Is feeding our family drudgery or an opportunity? Is over-eating slowly putting out the light in us? Exercise seems to be one of the first things to go when we get busy, but we need it more than ever as the days get shorter (and the buttons get tighter!).
    What positive steps can we take to bless our selves and our families for the next few weeks?
    1. Be systematically organized. Do the important things first. Enlist family members to step up to plate with the laundry and other things that go by the wayside.
    2. Be prayerful. Try to do your prayer rule daily, even if it means while washing the dinner dishes! Something is better than nothing.
    3. Be generous. God seems to give us back more than we ever deserve.
    4. Be playful. Laughter can cut through the thickest gloom.
    5. Be reading. Read the Gospels to your children and grandchildren. Pull out all of the Christmas books.
    6. Be forgiving. This can be a season of short fuses.
    7. Be a Holy Light. Be Faithful. Right there in your own home, in your own church, in your own neighborhood.
    “O Light of the world, shine in the darkest recesses of our hearts. Burn away the gloominess and replace it with the joy of Your salvation. Ignite us with Your Holy Love, and be present in us. Guide us as You guided the Three wise men that we may behold Your ineffable goodness and may become partakers of Your Divine nature, according to your Holy Will. Amen.”

    Week of December 8, 2008
    Quote of the Week
    He who measures the heavens with the span of His hand lies in a manger a spans breath; He who cupped hands contain the sea is born in a cave; His glory fills the heavens and the manger is filled with His splendor. Moses wished to see His glory but was unable to see Him as he wished; Let us come and see Him today as He lies in the manger in swaddling clothes. Formerly there was none who dared to see God and still live, But today all who have seen Him are saved from the second death. (St. Ephrem the Syrian)
    Scripture of the Week
    "And the angel answered and said unto her, The HolyGhost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall
    overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shallbe born of thee shall be called the Son of God." (Luke 1:35)
    Question of the Week
    I remember one Christmas walking in on my then young son standing before the manger scene re-enacting the dialogue he imagined taking place between the wise men as they beheld the Christ child. I was so impressed at how he had carefully arranged them around the stable, but nearly choked as he lifted one wise man from behind his back and "walked" him up to the manger with the words, "Hey, guys, sorry I'm late...did I miss anything?"...Am I allowing myself to become so busy this season that, like this errant wise man, I might actually "miss" what is most important?
    Thought for the Week: On Scuffmarks and Fingerprints
    Halfway down the front of my toilet, I noticed something that made me chuckle today. I saw little scuffmarks. Now normally I don't like to see scuffmarks, or dirt in general, but today when I saw those little scuffmarks and thought about my little son doing his duty in my bathroom, not yet able to reach the floor, I thought, They're still in my home and I'm not that old yet. It was a good feeling. I notice scuffmarks in other parts of my home too--in the kitchen (my older daughters shoes) in front of the glass sliding door (whoever is bringing in wood for the woodstove), and in the utility room (any child coming in from the garage). There's mud in my entry (anyone who has walked in my wet grass or played on the swing set there), fingerprints on my walls (generally the height of my childrens shoulders), and basically a footprint of any family member who has been in any room at any time during the day (all of them). There are almost always recyclables left next to the sink (my husband), and there are greasy spots developing on the cedar breezeway to my kitchen where my younger two jump to see if they can reach yet (they can.) There is generally a tea or coffee cup left on a windowsill somewhere, piano music scattered about the piano, and a new picture on my computer screen ever couple of days. There is grease spattered on my stove, an unwrapped item in the freezer, and a dried oatmeal bowl in my sink left from breakfast. Tonight, when I thought I was certainly finished with the kitchen, my growing child walked in and begged for a bowl of leftover soup. When I returned later, I almost yelled at the same child (and his dad) who had left the dirty bowls next to the sink, but then I thought better. Someday there will be no scuffmarks to clean, no fingerprints to wash, no mud to sweep, no dirty walls to scrub, no empty cartons to recycle, and no dirty dishes that bear testimony of my growing children and well-fed husband. There will be no alarm clocks going off at odd times during the day, no i-tune bills on my Visa, no homework, or books, or pencils, or clothes scattered here and there and at times, seemingly everywhere.

    Sojust for today I am not going to wipe off the scuffmarks on the front of my toilet. :)

    Week of November 24, 2008
    Quote of the Week

    Take heed, then, often to come together to give thanks to God, and show forth His praise. For when you assemble frequently in the same place, the powers of Satan are destroyed, and the destruction at which he aims is prevented by the unity of your faith. St. Ignatios of Antioch, 2nd century

    Scripture of the Week

    I will praise God's name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving. Psalm 69:30


    Question of the Week
    What is it that I am most thankful for? What in my spouse am I most thankful for? What in my child(ren) am I most thankful for? What in my friends am I most thankful for? (Tell them!)


    Thought for the Week: On "Great Fullness"
    A safeguard against many of today’s maladies can be summed up in one important word: Gratefulness. For those of us who tend to forget about gratefulness (as well as neglect to put it into practice), it may help us out a bit if we were to look at this important virtue in a new way: "Great Fullness." Gratefulness connotes "thanksgiving," and "appreciation," some vital attitudes to practice every minute of our Christian life, and especially in this Thanksgiving/Nativity Season. "Great Fullness" connotes the abundant life we are called to participate in with our beloved Lord. It is union with God and harmony with His creation. Gratefulness leads to this "Great Fullness;" the one begets the other which in turn fans the flames of yet more gratefulness. We are Eucharistic by nature, meaning we are called to live a life of thanksgiving to Christ in His Holy Church. It is the calling of every Orthodox Christian…the calling of every living being. It is a high calling, but not easily achieved. The attention and adoration we are called to give our Lord all too often gets misdirected toward ourselves and before we know it, we become self-absorbed, miserable people. And no one knows it better than our husbands and families! (Of course, I am referring to me, not you!)
    How do we break the cycle of "ungratefulness" and embrace the "Great Fullness" our Lord desires for each of us? The answer is simple, but the practice of it challenging. We must become Eucharist-minded women of God. We must live for--and derive life from--every Eucharist we ever receive. We must take preparing for it very seriously, and with attentiveness, vigilance, and gratefulness, become mindful of the reality of receiving Christ inside us. Christ, in this way, becomes for us a well of thanksgiving, a thanksgiving we live and bring out into the world. We thus become "little Christs," lights in a dark world.

    This season, some priests are practicing the beautiful Orthodox tradition of Serando Liturgo, that is, serving forty Divine Liturgies before the feast of Christmas. Many others are trying to offer as many liturgies as possible during this season to strengthen the faithful. We need these Divine Liturgies more than anything else in life: more than Christmas shopping, more than a perfect Thanksgiving meal…more than a spotless home. We need the Eucharist to change our attitudes, to change our lives, to warm our hearts, and to fan the flames of efharstia…thanksgiving, gratefulness, GREAT FULLNESS.

    Week of November 17, 2008
    Quote for the Week
    To fear shame during confession is also from pride; they who reproach themselves before God in the presence of a witness receive peace and forgiveness. (St. Macarius of Optina)

    Scripture for the Week
    Now it happened, on a certain day, that He got into a boat with His disciples. And He said to them, “Let us cross over to the other side of the lake.” And they launched out. But as they sailed He fell asleep. And a windstorm came down on the lake, and they were filling with water, and were in great danger. And they came to Him and awoke Him, saying, “Master, Master, we are perishing!”
    Then He arose and rebuked the wind and the raging of the water. And they ceased, and there was a calm. But He said to them, “Where is your faith?” And they were afraid, and marveled, saying to one another, “Who can this be? For He commands even the winds and water, and they obey Him!” (Luke 8: 22-25)

    Question for the Week
    Are there times when I act (or react) as if I believe God is "asleep at the helm" in my life? What steps do I need to take to build an unshakeable faith that God is with me in all situations and that He has everything well in hand?


    Thought for the Week: (On Surviving the Storms)
    The disciples of Jesus are such glorious examples to each of us. When a storm threatened to take down their boat and drown them all, they knew exactly what to do. They immediately went to our Lord and asked for help. Jesus stood up. He calmed the storm and saved them all.
    Often times, we may have to weather real storms within our marriages and families. (Actually, they might feel at the time more like hurricanes or powerful thunderstorms.) The storms of life can sometimes overwhelm us allowing for depression, increased stress and anxiety to settle in our hearts. Sometimes an argument gets out of control and goes unresolved for way too long. Jesus wants to calm the storms of our lives. He wants to heal and guide us to peace and repentance. Peace within our families, peace with in our church communities, and peace within ourselves. But like the disciples, we must ask Jesus for His help.
    We can call upon Christ immediately during any time of trial through the Jesus prayer, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, Have mercy on me a sinner.” We can shout out to God, “Lord, help me! I need You!” We can call upon the Holy Spirit who is our ‘Comforter, the Spirit of Truth, everywhere present and filling all things…” Through the sacrament of Holy Confession we can receive true peace and forgiveness. Each morning we can call upon Him, getting out of bed, placing our feet on the floor, doing the sign of the cross and saying, “Glory to You O Lord! Glory to You!”
    Figurative storms can be just as frightening and disastrous as literal ones. The means for survival are the same: go directly to Jesus, ask for help, and trust in God. Life isn’t always filled with sunshine, but with His grace, we can learn to survive the storms.
    Nativity Fast - Recipe of the Week (try out this delicious salad dressing on your favorite greens this week)
    PREZ TO PREZ - GINGER SESEME DRESSING
    1 cup canola oil
    2 Tbsp. Asian sesame oil
    1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
    1/2 cup sugar
    1/4 cup soy sauce
    1 1/2 tsp. Ground ginger
    1 1/2 tsp. Dry mustard
    1 tsp. Fresh ground pepper
    2 tbsp. Sesame seeds, toasted.
    Serve on romaine or green leaf lettuce. Add tangerines, or oranges, nuts, celery and red onion. Add wonton strips or sugar coated almonds. Delicious!


    Week of November 10, 2008
    Quote for the Week
    Christian parents bring their children to Him, stand them before Him in that holy school, which is called the Church. Here upbringing is pursued according to all the laws of human development.
    The mother, the object of all the love and tenderness of the child, stands with a reverent expression and prays before the Savior’s icon; the child looks at her, then the image—and does not require long explanations of what it means. This is the first, silent lesson of the Knowledge of God. Archbishop Ambrose (Kliucharev)

    Scripture of the Week
    Esteem her (Wisdom), and she will exalt you; embrace her, and she will honor you. She will set a garland of grace on your head and present you with a crown of splendor." (Proverbs 4:8-9)

    Question of the Week
    What am I doing to actively pursue wisdom? Am I encouraging my children in their desire for wisdom as well?


    Thought for the Week: On Hugging our Children and Grandchildren
    One of the most natural acts in the world is to wrap your arms around your kids and give them a big squeeze. Kids need hugs, kisses, and cuddles for their emotional health, for their healthy attachment to us as parents, and for the ability to love and attach to their own spouses and children when they grow up. But what happens when we don’t feel like hugging our children, or when they no longer want to be hugged by us? Some of this is also natural as our children continue to grow. It can be awkward to hug someone who is bigger than you are! But even big-bodied teenagers need our hugs, and we still need to hug them. How do we overcome the apparent barriers to this act that is essential to human existence?
    First of all, we want to make sure that we keep the doors of communication open with our kids throughout their lives. It is difficult to hug someone that you don’t feel close to, and that goes both ways. For maturing girls especially, it is important that Daddy continues to give hugs and be open to their natural desire for affection from him. Girls who do not receive this affection are more likely to look elsewhere for it. It is equally important that we moms continue to hug our growing girls. Sometimes they seem so ‘grown up,’ but we forget, they are just big kids, after all. Hugging keeps the emotions, which tend to boil over at times, in check and offers a sign of love and forgiveness at the end of a hard day. Boys also need this tenderness and care. Sometimes it is easier for boys to hug Mom, but Dad needs to keep that emotional line open as well. Yes, we want them to become men, but not devoid of affection and love. They need to be tickled and hugged and played with…all kids do. It keeps us young and keeps them growing healthily. And we all need more of both!


    Week of November 3, 2008
    Quote for the Day
    God did not tell us to follow Him because He needed our help, but because He knew that loving Him would make us whole. (St. Irenaeus)
    Prayer of the Week - Prayer of Metropolitan Philaret of Moscow
    Lord, grant me to greet the coming day in peace.
    Help me in all things to rely upon Your Holy will.
    In every hour of the day, reveal Your will to me.
    Bless my dealings with all who surround me.
    Teach me to treat all that comes to me throughout the day with peace of soul and with firm belief that your will governs all.
    Guide my words and deeds, my thoughts and feelings.
    Teach me to act firmly and wisely, without embittering or embarrassing others.
    Give me strength to bear the fatigue of the coming day with all that it shall bring.
    Direct my will, teach me to pray, pray Yourself in me. Amen.
    Scripture of the Week
    “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” (Matthew 5:8)
    Question for the Week
    As I contemplate the upcoming Nativity fast, what almsgiving project would I like to undertake? What advance steps will I have to take to put things in place by the end of next week? (Moms with children: this is a wonderful opportunity to involve your little ones in this very special aspect of the Orthodox lenten experience. Some families create what is known as the "Saint Nicholas Challenge" and try to carry out their project on his feastday - a wonderful way to put him in a holy perspective apart from December 25th!)
    Thought for the Week: On Loneliness
    It would appear oxymoronic, but sometimes the life we live as Presvyteres can breed loneliness. It’s not that we aren’t surrounded by lots of caring people, or that we don’t love our children and the life God has given us, it is just that when your husband is the spiritual head of a community, and he is the focus of so much, and sometimes absent so much, it is possible at times to feel like the ‘odd man out.’ Couple that with a recent move, or ‘an emptying nest,’ and it can certainly spell loneliness for certain seasons of our lives. Some Presvyteres have been advised, early on, to NOT make friends with parishioners. Some have made friends and have been burned. Still others seem to find the delicate balance between friendship and ‘parishionerhood.’ Wherever you fall in the spectrum, know that you are NOT alone. At any point in our life, we may be growing in and out of certain stages and there is bound to be a time when you just feel plain lonely. What can we do when we feel this way? Of course, everybody is different. What may work for some may not work for others. But we would all generally agree that we, as women, need friends. Thank God for koumbari, but they are often far away. We need to have women nearby to talk to, to have a cup of coffee with…maybe not to share every detail of our life, but certainly someone with whom we can share some facets of our life. Secondly, we need to feel married and not like passing strangers in the night with our husbands. This takes time and commitment to accomplish. It takes creativity…it takes flexibility. Thirdly, we need to truly be ourselves and not be what we think others want us to be. This will take off the pressure in life. God created us, and He is the one that we must please and be accountable to. Finally, we need to be growing women… women who are learning, repenting, loving, expanding our minds and utilizing our talents. We need to become comfortable in our own skin and accept the life before us, and become an encourager of others. In this way, we can offer our loneliness to the Lord and become a true companion of others.


    Week of October 27, 2008
    Quote for the Week
    It is patience that is peace amid strife, serenity amid distress and a steadfast base for those who acquire it. Once you have attained it with the help of Christ Jesus...no attacking armies, not even the ranks of demons...will be able to do you any harm. (St. Gregory of Sinai)
    Scripture of the Week
    Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. (Galatians 6:10)
    Question of the Week
    Many of us speak of pressures, deadlines, minor emergencies, and unexpected occurrences as daily fare in our lives. Imagine if we were able to meet each of these with godly patience rather than panic. Do I cultivate the practice of patience in my own life? How can I embrace patience more fully each day?


    Thought for the Week: Enjoying Your Family
    I remember early on in our marriage attending various baby showers and inevitably older moms would say things like: “Enjoy your children…they grow up much too soon!” When we started our family, it was very nice in so many ways…except that my selfish soul wasn’t very used to being inconvenienced and giving so much on a daily basis. Between sleep deprivation and sore nipples, there were certainly times when I thought it couldn’t go fast enough! Now that I no longer have toddlers and my kids are beginning to spread their own wings, I often think of those wise words and I mourn that I haven’t taken better advantage of the time I have had with these precious gifts of God.
    Who can fathom the gift of family? Our God so ordered life that we would experience love, affection, intimacy, union, progeny, laughter, joy as well as suffering, longing, disappointment, and pain. It is through this tremendous legacy of family that our God allows us to find ourselves, to repent of our sins, and to learn His ways amidst persons who share our very DNA. And, in His wisdom, He placed walls around us and put a roof over our heads. In other words, we are a unit, a community unto ourselves and herein lies a part of the mystery of our Trinitarian God and the communal image we share with Him.
    Life is fleeting, and ‘busyness’ abounds. Are we truly enjoying, creating and partaking of the fellowship our family affords us? Of course, there must be homework, discipline, teaching, chores and the like, but even amidst these things, are we stopping and smelling the roses that are our beloved family? None of us can say ‘yes’ perfectly, but thank God for each new day which brings with it new possibilities and opportunities. Hopefully we can continue to grow in, appreciate and enjoy the gift of love that God wrapped up as our FAMILY.


    Week of October 20, 2008
    Quote for the Week
    My desire is to belong to God. Do not, then, hand me back to the world. Do not try to tempt me with material things. Let me attain pure light. Only on my arrival there can I be fully a human being. (St. Ignatios of Antioch)

    Scripture for the Week
    “You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.” (Romans 2:1
    )

    Question for the Week
    Do I use the same measuring stick for myself that I apply to others, or do I hold myself up to an impossibly high standard while allowing more realistic expectations for those around me (or on the contrary, do I impose a higher standard on others than what I expect of myself)? How do I feel about my answer?


    Thought for the Week: On a B+ Average
    Dad always said to us growing up, “Be a B+ student!” As I look back on my life, now, more than ever, I understand what he meant. For a big chunk of our life, we received grades on how we did in English, Social Studies, Science, etc. As soon as we graduated from school, grading was no longer a part of our life (except for the occasional ‘I wasn’t in class!’ or ‘I didn’t read the book!’ nightmare we have now and then). So nobody is grading us anymore. How do we grade ourselves? Instead of studying subjects, we are now living life. Instead of working for grades, we are now working for our families, laboring for our souls and furthering the Kingdom of God. Again we must ask, “What grade would we give ourselves?” St. Paul says that we can’t even judge ourselves, our souls, our salvation, but certainly each of us can take a little bit of time and judge how we are doing in the various aspects of our lives. Better to do it on this side of life! The following is a list of responsibilities we mostly share in common. The question is this: Are we B+ students or are we getting an A+ in some areas and a C- in others? The goal, of course, is to do the best we can to get into a rhythm of life where we can pretty much keep ‘all the balls in the air,’ to use an acrobatic analogy. Take a few minutes to examine yourselves in the following areas and see if you can begin improving your grade point average!

    This week, we encourage you to connect with your husband and do a little self evaluation in each of these areas. Take time to share your findings with each other. This might be effective way to talk about issues, support one another and come up with a family plan to improve your collective GPA as a married couple.

    • Loving your spouse & children
    • Praying with your family
    • Playing with your family
    • Personal prayer/reading
    • Family reading
    • Preparing healthy meals
    • Exercising regularly
    • Attending worship services
    • Keeping up with job responsibilities
    • Staying current on chores/paperwork/email
    • Overseeing kids' chores/schoolwork
    • Maintaining a sane schedule
    • Taking time to rest/vacation time
    • Preparing for upcoming events
    • Volunteering/helping others as able
    • Doing something you like to do
    • Taking joy in each day!

    This isn’t an exhaustive list, but hopefully it is food for thought. Feel free to send an area of life that we may have missed!


    Week of October 6, 2008
    Quote for the Week
    Every work which does not have love as its beginning and root is nothing. (St. John Chrysostom)
    Scripture of the Week
    “Let brotherly love continue. Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels.” (Hebrews 13:1-2)
    Question of the Week
    Do I carry out my tasks propelled by a sincere love for others or do I find myself trudging through my daily activities mostly out of a sense of duty? How do I feel about my answer?
    Thought of the Week: Philoxenia - a Greek word which means “showing kindness to people you don't know very well.”
    As a child, I watched my mother throw elaborate dinner parties with delicious gourmet meals and exquisite bottles of wines. She taught me the value of advanced planning, preparing frozen pans of Spanakopita and Patstitso ready to pull out on the day of a party. Our home seemed spotless ALL the time. My amazing stay-at-home mom was the perfect homemaker waving her culinary wand providing delicious family meals and fabulous parties. Yet, amidst our big, clean and tidy abode, I rarely invited friends over to our home. It seemed that high school kids with their dirty tennis shoes and somewhat messy lives didn't fit in too well.
    When I was 18, I met a magnificent presvytera from Succasunna, New Jersey. She had three active children who in a moment's notice would invite friends (up to 10-20, even 30 at a time) over for dinner, weekend retreats and late night “parea.” Their home was constantly bustling with food, stories, Greek music and, best of all, presence of God. Presvytera’s kitchen was a sanctuary where wonderful conversations about life, love and faith were discussed around the kitchen table. Was her home spotless? No. Did she have spare bedrooms to accommodate all those sleeping over? No way. Would she serve left over cake with white frosting for breakfast? You betcha! Her family’s example of love and philoxenia truly transformed me! Through their openness and agape, I experienced true Christian fellowship and love. Through their example of faith for Christ, I became stronger in my Orthodoxy and later accepted my husband's call to the priesthood. Through their compassion, I grew to understand that even the hopeless and outcasts can be embraced and transformed in the arms of a Christian family where judgment ceases and loves begins. I am forever grateful for their example and witness. Let us strive to be women of God who open our homes with graciousness and love!



    Week of September 29, 2008
    Quote for the Week
    Pray for the forgiveness of the sins of others as you pray for the forgiveness of your own; pray for the salvation of others as you pray for your own, and you will receive from God a wealth of spiritual gifts, the gifts of the Holy Spirit, who loves a soul which is concerned with the salvation of others. (St. John of Kronstadt)

    Scripture of the Week
    May my prayer be set before you like incense; may the lifting up of my hands be like the evening sacrifice. (Psalm 141:)


    Question of the Week
    Do I devote a portion of my prayer time praying for the forgiveness and salvation of others? How can I better incorporate this type of intercession into my prayer time?


    Thought for the Week: Transformation...don’t you love that word? It opens the world of possibilities to us.
    In Romans 12, the Apostle Paul appeals to us to present our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God which is our spiritual worship. He then goes on to say that we should not be conformed to the world but rather be transformed by the renewal of our minds, that we may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.
    Renewal of the mind…how many times have I considered that if I thought differently, I would act differently, i.e., better than I do? Well, there you have it—transformation comes through renewal of the mind--and it comes right from the pages of the New Testament.
    Although a person could spring board in many directions with these thoughts in mind, I am going to focus on the physical because how we feel and look really does have a direct bearing on how we relate to others—our immediate family, our parish, and all those we interact with daily. For many women, weight control is a life long battle.
    Personally, I am a life-time member of Weight Watchers and have been both successful and unsuccessful on the program since the early ‘70s. In recent years, Weight Watchers (and probably other "sound" weight loss programs) has put emphasis not only on what one eats, but on the way a person thinks about food and how it can be used or abused in one’s life. This info helps a person make good choices where the rubber meets the road. One is given freedom to make choices from a sound nutritional program and tools to make it work—one of the tools is utilizing the mind—transforming it to think differently than it once did to achieve positive, healthy outcomes as regards nutrition and health. Yes, thoughts and actions must marry (you cannot think yourself healthy, fit and trim while eating a gallon of ice cream in a sitting), but success is both possible and attainable and maintenance the same. It is possible to continue achieving by changing the way one thinks and acts in relationship to food.
    I don’t know about you, but I am 35 pounds over goal weight right now. One of WW's on-line bulletin boards is titled "Making Connections." I would be happy to "meet" any other Orthodox WW members there and perhaps we can do our best to encourage one another toward improved health and well-being. (Even if you're not a WW member, you can still visit this bulletin board and read if you'd like.) I will be listed as "csanchorage"--if this idea inspires you, meet me there and we'll build some "parea" (fellowship) together. ~Pres. Candace, Anchorage, Alaska

    Week of September 22, 2008
    Quote for the Week
    The Lord, indeed, is the Lover of mankind, so full of tender compassion whenever we turn completely toward Him and are freed from all things contrary. Even though we, in our supreme ignorance, childishness, and tendency toward evil, turn away from true life and place many impediments along our path because we really do not like to repent; nevertheless, He has great mercy on us. He patiently waits for us until we will be converted and return to Him and be enlightened in our inner selves that our faces may not be ashamed in the Day of Judgment. (St. Makarios the Great)

    Scripture of the Week
    Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, "This is what is written: Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations. (Luke 24: 45-27)


    Question of the Week
    What impediments do I place along my path that get in the way of my ability to truly repent?

    Thought of the Week: "Highlights and Lowlights"
    Family dinner time is sacred and in clergy families, sometimes all too rare. When you do gather as a family for dinner time, make it extra special by putting a candle in the middle of the table and playing "highlights and lowlights." Every person gets a turn having the candle right in front of them which means they have the floor and everybody else's lips are sealed and ears are open. The person with the candle shares his or her highlights (good things that happened) and lowlights (not so good things that happened) from the day. The key is everybody gets a turn and everybody is really listening to the person with the candle without interruption or judgment. It's a good way to force "sharing" and especially in large families where quieter members may not get a word in edgewise. If you do close dinner with a prayer or perhaps at bedtime prayers, God can be thanked for the highlights of the day (recounting everybody's highlights), and asked for guidance or deliverance from the lowlights of the day.

    PREZ TO PREZ: RECIPE OF THE MONTH:
    THE GREATEST Lenten Chocolate Cake EVER

    Ladies, no doubt, we all have are trusted recipes that we pull out during Great Lent. But this Chocolate cake is so delicious, you want to make it during the non fasting periods as well. It's moist and delicious. ENJOY!

    Cake
    3 cups flour
    2 tsp. soda
    6 Tbsp. cocoa
    1 tsp salt
    2 cups sugar
    2 Tbsp. (White) vinegar
    2 tsp. vanilla
    3/4 cup vegetable oil
    2 cups cold water

    Measure flour, soda, coca, salt, and sugar into large mixing bowl. Measure vinegar, vanilla, oil and cold water into another small bowl. Gradually add liquid ingredients to dry ingredients forming a paste that is smooth. Add slowly until mixture is very smooth. Pour into a greased 9x13 pan. Bake 40 minutes at 350º.

    Chocolate Icing
    2 cups powdered sugar
    3 Tbsp. cocoa
    3 Tbsp. Coffee (1 tsp. coffee diluted in 1/3 cup water)
    3 Tbsp. Margarine
    1 tsp. vanilla

    Soften margarine and add rest of the ingredients for a smooth glaze icing you put on top of cake after it has cooled.

    Week of September 15, 2008
    Quote for the Week
    Do you believe that the words of your Lord, “Take up your cross…” refers to you personally? If you believe this, then take it up. The Lord has laid it on your shoulders in this present grievous case. Do not say it is too heavy; God knows better the measure of your strength. To some God sends trials and sorrows, brought about by circumstances and in no way dependent on people, these are more easily borne. To others He sends those caused by people, and they are harder, especially when we have done some good to those people. The last case is the hardest to bear. If God sends you this, know that it is precisely what is most useful to you, and to this realization add the inspiring thought: God sees that you are strong enough to bear it and expects you to actually bear it with a good heart, without complaining. So do not disappoint God's expectations. (
    Unseen Warfare [as edited by St. Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain and St. Theophan the Recluse])

    Scripture of the Week
    Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him the Son of Man will be ashamed when He comes in His own glory, and in His Father’s, and of the holy angels. (Luke 9:23-26)


    Question of the Week
    There is a story about a monk who despaired of the cross God had given him and complained of it constantly. God finally relented and offered him a chance to select a different cross. He led the monk into a room filled with several crosses from which to pick. The monk was appalled at what he saw: huge crosses, bloody crosses, crosses with nails. He wandered through the room and finally spied a lovely small silver cross tucked away in a corner. He picked this cross and held it up saying, “I’ll take this cross!” God simply replied, “But that is the cross you already had!” Do I embrace the cross God has given me?


    Thought of the Week: On A Rampage
    Once a month, I become, as if on a mission from God, a crazy woman who has to have her house TOGETHER on a DEEPER LEVEL than ever before. Call it a mature form of PMS if you will. Watch out family, Mom’s on a rampage! Sure, you thought you could keep those stashes of candy in paper bags buried deep in your closet where Mom can’t see them…you thought she wouldn’t notice the bag of moldy clothes…or the gum wrappers…or the worthless toys…or the old homework piling up under your bed, but you were dead wrong. The all-seeing mother finds all things and scoops them up with a single bound and swoosh throws them into the circular file. You thought you didn’t need to separate out clean clothes from dirty and that they could somehow coexist in your dresser drawers, but again, you were dead wrong. The all-seeing mother finds those ‘tares among the wheat’ and, swoosh, flings them into the dirty clothes hamper. You thought you could dump some clean clothes along with the dirty into that same hamper, but once again, you were dead wrong. The all-seeing mother spots the clean items and yells, ‘how dare you create more work for me!’ and with her nimble hands, she re-folds those semi-clean clothes. You thought you could leave your messes behind you, thought you could play before doing your homework, figured Mom didn’t notice that you were in need of a bath, but, alas, once again, you were dead wrong. Not only does she make you clean up your own mess, finish your homework, and cut your dirty nails, she even scrubs the bathtub when you finish, and re-organizes the bathroom cabinets while you are drying off.

    Who can understand this motherly creature? Can her husband? Her Spiritual Father? Her children? Can she fully understand herself? All we can say for sure is, “Beware family! Mom is at it again!!!”

    Week of September 8, 2008
    Dear Sisters in Christ,
    It is with great joy we greet you after a restful summer break. May God continue to guide and direct us all.
    Much love,
    your prez to prez team-- Pat, Stacey, Donna, Candace & Eleni.
    Quote for the Wee:
    Having children is a matter of nature; but raising them and educating them in the virtues is a matter of mind and will. (St. John Chrysostom)
    Scripture of the Week
    Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. (Romans 12:13
    )
    Question of the Week
    What do I perceive as my greatest challenge as a parent (godparent)? (A great question with which to compare answers with your spouse!)
    Thought of the Week
    As school begins again, it is a great time to re-prioritize our lives as parents and as our children’s primary educators. After a relaxing summer, chances are we have become a little lax with things like television (discounting, of course, the Olympics!) and bedtime (discounting, of course again, the Olympics!). It is a good time to look around our homes and see if our physical surroundings are in congruency with our educational standards and goals for our children. So, what does our home say we value? Reading? Praying? Study? Family meals? Creativity? Music? There are little things we can do to bring our home more in alignment with our goals as families. Something we did at our home recently was to ‘de-formalize’ our living room. The kids always ended up in there anyway, and it was the natural gathering place. So we shifted around the ‘formal’ furniture and moved the family rocking chair in there. We put an afghan on the ‘formal’ couch and added comfy, colorful pillows. The coffee table, which held designer pieces, now holds piles of worth-while reading materials, crossword puzzles, and bookmarks so we don’t lose our place in a good story! We added plants and better lighting, and I am pleased to say, it is more inviting than ever to sit down and read a good book! Do what works for you, but do take some time to think if there may be something you can do in your home that will aid you in the challenging and rewarding task of raising Christian children. May the Lord guide and bless our every effort!

    Week of June 2, 2008
    Christ is Risen! As we celebrate the feast of the Ascension this week, let us be ever mindful of our Lord and His everlasting love for us.

    Quotes for the Week
    What is dying? Just the same as putting off a garment. For the body is about the soul as a garment, and after laying this aside for a short time by means of death, we shall take it up again with more splendor. (St. John Chrysostom)

    In considering the tomb and those in the tomb, we weep, But we should not; for we do not know whence they have come, and where they are now, and who has them. They have come from temporal life, released from its sorrows; they are at peace, waiting for the receiving of divine light. The Lover of man has them in His charge, and He has divested them of their temporal clothing In order that He may clothe them with an eternal body. Why, then, do we weep in vain? Why do we not trust Christ, as He cries: "He who believes on me shall not perish, for even if he knows corruption, after that corruption, He will be resurrected and he will rise up Saying, 'Thou art the Life and the Resurrection'"? (St. Romanos the Melodist)

    Scripture for the Week
    The fruit of righteousness will be peace; the effect of righteousness will be quietness and confidence forever. (Isaiah 32:17)


    Thought and Question for the Week
    “Eternal be their memory!” How often we chant this throughout our Orthodox lives, but how do we truly keep the memory eternal? Sometimes, our husbands find themselves the "last keepers" of the memories of their parishioners. This was the case many years ago with Achilles and Marie. Achilles and Marie had married late in life and never had children. They lived into their elderly years, entrusted only to the care of one another. However, Achilles had been a frugal investor and had spent his life investing in stock in companies he believed held great promise…who could have known that the diminutive, unassuming couple in the simple little house in a marginal neighborhood were millionaires who would leave their fortune to the church? Who could have known that, by the time they died, only one parishioner would still remember them and stand beside the grave for that final hymn? We chanted for their memories to be eternal, but wondered who it was that would keep it so. When we walked through their home for the last time, we left with the things that "family" would treasure: old studio photographs of the two of them and their families, love letters, and a few treasured pieces of furniture. Our children have grown up hearing about Achilles and Marie, and their names are on my husband’s perpetual list for commemoration right alongside our own relatives. Their history is now ours and their legacy continues. How can we all find ways of keeping eternal the memories of those who have fallen asleep in the Lord?


    Week of May 26, 2008
    CHRIST IS RISEN!

    Quote for the Week
    “Do whatever falls into your hands, in your circle and in your situation…and believe that this is and will be your true work; nothing more from you is required. It is a great error to think that you must undertake important and great labors, whether for heaven, or, as the progressives think, in order to make one’s contribution to humanity. That is not necessary at all. It is necessary only to do everything in accordance with the Lord’s commandments. Just exactly what is to be done? Nothing in particular, just that which presents itself to each one according to the circumstances of his life, and which is demanded by the individual events with which each of us meets. That is all... If you set about to act in this way in every instance, so that your works will be pleasing to God, having carried them out ac cording to the commandments without any deviation, then all the problems of your life will be solved completely and satisfactorily” (St. Theophan the Recluse).

    Scripture for the Week
    "My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry" (James 1:19).


    Question for the Week
    As I contemplate the quote from St. Theophan the Recluse above, am I content to accept as my true work those things that God places into my hands, or do I feel compelled to pursue labors that I believe I should be pursuing? How do I feel as I reflect on my answer?


    Thought for the Week: On Appreciation
    Last night my husband came home at 11:30 after two meetings and an emergency in between them. I was already in bed, but it felt good to look at him and sleepily say, “You must be exhausted!” He confessed he was and shared a bit of the evening with me, then asked how my evening went. I said, “Very well,” then he asked how the kids did and whether they got along. I was happy to say, “They were great!” He was glad to hear it. I told him how much he was missed and he asked, “How so?” I proceeded to tell him no evening is the same without him around…that we just miss his very presence. He was very pleased to hear that comment.

    Our men are among the heroes of the world. Neither too exalted, nor too lowly, they seem to maintain an even keel no matter what life throws their way. They represent God and His Holy Church, day in and day out. They get tired, but are able to perform their responsibilities diligently, responsibly, and compassionately. One of the greatest gifts we can give them is our full-fledged support. Sometimes we think we are giving our full-fledged support, but actually we are giving something less. The best way we can show them how much we appreciate them and how very much they mean to us is in our everyday conversations. They may be simple interchanges, but if they are done in love, with care in our voices, and joy on our faces, they are so appreciative. May we be Presvyteres and wives who, above all, show our husbands how very much we value and admire them. Sometimes we mistakenly think they get plenty of that from our parishioners, and thus, they don’t need it from us. WRONG! If every person on the earth told them how much they were appreciated, and yet they didn’t feel it from us, they would be in want. But somehow, with our appreciation alone, they can move mountains. Someday we will all look back on our lives and see how, in actuality, that really did take place. Christ is Risen!

    Week of May 19, 2008
    "Christ is Risen!" "Truly He is Risen!"

    Quote for the Week
    To one who labors God sends mercy, but to one who loves, consolation. (St. Ambrose of Optina)

    Scripture for the Week
    We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints— the faith and love that spring from the hope that is stored up for you in heaven and that you have already heard about in the word of truth, the gospel that has come to you. All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing, just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and understood God's grace in all its truth.(Colossians 1:3-6)

    Thought for the Week:
    How do you know when you've finally settled into being a presvytera? Is it when you realize that you know all the local morticians on a first name basis? Or, that you've become adept at controlling three squirming toddlers single-handedly in the back row of the church during Divine Liturgy? Or, when you good-naturedly drive yourself to the hospital when your water breaks because your husband is in the middle of a vesper service? For some, realization comes in brilliantly defined moments that dawn upon the consciousness like the lighting of the Paschal candle during the Resurrection service. For me, this moment occurred on a Sunday after being in our present parish for about a year. I had loved our previous parishes and wondered that I would ever love another parish as much as those. However, on that Sunday, as I watched the congregants approach the chalice, I realized I knew them each by heart and how dear and special they had become to me. We had tasted joys and sorrows together and a lasting bond had been forged... I realized I had fallen in love once more. No longer the quasi-stepmother to the parish (notice our husbands are called "Father", and we're simply labeled "wife of the presbyter"), I had come to love them as if they were my own, faults and all. How about you?

    Question for the Week
    When did you first realize yourself as a presvytera? What emotions accompanied that realization? (Ask your husband the same questions about when he first realized himself as a priest - guaranteed to spark some interesting discussion between the two of you!)

    Week of May 12, 2008
    "Christ is Risen!" - "Christos Anesti!”

    Quote for the Week
    Bring before your eyes the blessings, whether physical or spiritual, conferred on you from the beginning of your life down to the present, and call them repeatedly to mind in accordance with the words: "Forget not all His benefits," (Ps. 102:2). Then your heart will readily be moved to the fear and love of God, so that you repay Him, as far as you can by your strict life, virtuous conduct, devout conscience, wise speech, true faith, and humility - in short, by dedicating your whole self to God. When you are moved by recollection of all these blessings which you have received through God's loving goodness, your heart will be spontaneously wounded with longing and love through this recollection or, rather, with the help of divine grace. (St. Mark the AscetiC)

    Scripture for the Week
    There, in the presence of the Lord your God, you and your families shall eat and shall rejoice in everything you have put your hand to, because the Lord your God has blessed you. (Deuteronomy 12:7)


    Question for the Week
    How do I feel when someone extends a blessing to me? Am I able to accept blessings from others, or do I try to deflect them with a sense of judging myself as unworthy? Am I able to extend blessings to others with liberality? How do I feel when I step out to bless someone else?


    Thought for the Week: On Blessing Others
    I am taking a class at a University, and I sneezed three times (big). I was surprised to not hear a single, “Bless you!” Not that the reason for blessing others when they sneeze is important, but growing up, it was just an opportunity to say those three golden words, “God bless you!” In our faith, we literally bless everything under the sun. We receive blessings, we bless ourselves, we bless our homes, our cars, our food, our crops, and the list goes on. We bless and pray for our country, our leaders, our citizens, etc. We believe that mankind is at the pinnacle of creation, and he has been given authority by God to take part in blessing all of creation. Do we live in a society that is losing that perspective? Possibly. How can you and I continue to perpetuate this important act…this important tradition…this important ‘micro-sacrament?’ It came naturally to our immigrant grandparents. “Kalo, na pas,” my grandmother used to say, meaning, “Go with the good.” Or “Theos mazi sou,” meaning, “God be with you,” said my aunt. My husband’s godmother used to make the sign of the cross on my back when she hugged me. Some of it we do naturally, too. Daddy gives each of the children a blessing before they go to bed. In his absence, we can make the sign of the cross over our children before their goodnight kiss. When our husband is leaving for an important or difficult appointment, we can whisper, “God bless you…or Panayia be with you, Agape mou!” We also can tell our beloved parishioners who are facing life’s struggles, “Kali Thinamis,” (‘good strength’) or “I’ll pray for you,” or “Ehi O Theos,” (God has all). We can make the sign of the cross on the back of our good friend who is close to giving birth while we hug her as well. These efforts don’t come naturally to everyone, but that is okay. We can start where we are comfortable and grow from there. Most people greatly appreciate such gestures, and after a while, it feels very sincere and pleasant to participate in them.

    As we continue in the Paschal season greeting one another with, “Christ is Risen!” may we begin thinking of other small ways to participate in the blessing of all creation from each of our small corners of the world.

    “May the blessing of the Lord be upon our families!

    Christ is Risen! !”Christos Anesti!”

    Video Link for the Week: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iuczNQonTXQ&feature=related
    This week, we want to share a video link with our beloved sisters in Christ this joyous song celebrating our risen Lord! Christos Voskrese! (Christ is Risen)
    This delightful youtube song video is taken from a poem by St. Nikolai Velimirovich who served for a time as the Rector of St. Tikhon's Seminary - truly one of the great Serbian saints of the modern era.

    Translation:
    People rejoice, nations hear: Christ is risen, and brings the joy!
    Stars dance, mountains sing: Christ is risen, and brings the joy!
    Forests murmur, winds hum: Christ is risen, and brings the joy!
    Seas bow*, animals roar: Christ is risen, and brings the joy!
    Bees swarm, and the birds sing: Christ is risen, and brings the joy!
    Angels stand, triple the song: Christ is risen, and brings the joy!
    Sky, humble yourself, and elevate the earth: Christ is risen, and brings the joy!
    Bells chime, and tell to all: Christ is risen, and brings the joy!
    Glory to You God, everything is possible to You, Christ is risen, and brings the joy!


    "Christ is Risen!" - "Christos Anesti!”

    Week of May 5, 2008
    "Christos Anesti!" "Christ is Risen!"

    Quote for the Week
    “Glory be to God for everything! Glory be to God for having created me in His image and likeness. Glory be to God for having redeemed me, the fallen. Glory be to God for having extended His solicitude to me, the unworthy. Glory be to God for having led me, the sinner, to repentance. Glory be to God for having offered me His holy words, like a lamp in a dark place, thus setting me on the path of righteousness. Glory be to God for having illumined the eyes of my heart. Glory be to God for having made known to me His holy name. Glory be to God for having washed away my sins through the bath of baptism. Glory be to God for having shown me the way to eternal bliss. This way is Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who says of Himself, “I am the way and the truth and the life.” (St. Tikhon of Zadonsk)

    Scripture for the Week
    “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 2: 4-7)


    Question for the Week
    Truly, it is impossible to journey through Lent and Holy Week and arrive at Pascha without some change in ourselves that proclaims the message of the Risen Lord. How does my life reflect the message, "Christ is Risen"?


    Thought for the Week: On the Resurrection
    Someone made this astute observation on Holy Friday, “You would think it amazing if we could experience Great Lent, Holy Week and Pascha once in a lifetime, and yet we Orthodox get to experience it year after year.” How true this is! How mind-boggling that through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the Church has poured forth the hymns, readings and traditions that make up what we all know to be Great Lent and Holy Week. While the rest of the world sleeps and slumbers, we rise, “in the middle of the night” to prepare our flasks and meet our Bridegroom, Christ, the King of Glory. In time zone after time zone, Christ is worshipped and proclaimed Risen the world over by faithful Orthodox communities dotting our small globe.

    One of the most beautiful and profound readings of Holy week is this astonishing passage from Isaiah 53…

    Who has believed our message, and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away. And who can speak of his descendants? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was stricken. He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth. Yet it was the LORD's will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand. After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities. Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.
    We, Sisters in Christ, have the advantage of a lifetime of Holy Weeks and Paschas. We just received, once again, the blessing of re-living the Passion, the betrayal, the crucifixion, the descent into Hades, and ultimately the Resurrection of our Lord. Such readings we are blessed to hear, year after year! Such hymns we are blessed to sing! Such holy traditions we witness and take part in! Let us not forget what we have in our Holy Orthodox Church, what Jesus did on our behalf, what a treasury of life we have received from the faithful who lived before us, guided always by the Holy Spirit. Let us move forward in our spiritual lives, discerning our thoughts and actions and earnestly desiring to repent of our sins, allowing them to be nailed to the Cross, and buried with Christ, that we may rise again with Him. May each successive Pascha find us nearer to our Lord, purer in heart, wiser, more compassionate, peaceful, and loving. May we rise with Christ…not just on Pascha but each day of our life, living the joy of the Resurrection in our thoughts, in our words and in our deeds. Christ is Risen!

    Week of April 21, 2008
    Dear Sisters in Christ,

    This week, may we all reflect upon the incredible sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ with thanksgiving and humility, remembering that we are direct recipients of His love, His mercy, and His forgiveness. May we also bear in our hearts the knowledge that our unique role as presvyteres enables our husbands to continue to extend to others this great love, mercy and forgiveness of Christ. May we, like the Theotokos, stand at the cross and ponder all the wonders that we have witnessed in our own lives, never taking for granted the gift of our Faith, our Church, our communities and our families.

    In Christ’s Love,
    "Kali Anastasi!"

    Pat, Donna, Candace, Eleni, and Stacey

    Grant us by Your grace , O Lord, that like the wise virgins who were ready by their good works, our way of life shall also be watchful, that we shall not sit in darkness, with darkened souls, in darkness of mind, but that through prayer we may look forever on the shining splendor of Your grace. Expel, O Lord, by the daily light of Your knowledge the nocturnal darkness of our mind, that being enlightened it may serve You in the purity of its regeneration. (St. Ephraim the Syrian
    )

    Week of April 14, 2008
    Dear Sisters in Christ,
    Many blessings as we head into the last weeks of the Great Fast - May we seek to serve our Lord with great joy and pure hearts.

    Quote for the Week
    Every influence that enters the soul from outside is worked out by its thinking and acting functions, then settles in the heart. Whatever the soul manifests in the outside world first passes through the heart.(St. Theophan the Recluse)

    Scripture for the Week
    “Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10)


    Question for the Week
    We are almost to the end of Great Lent. What, specifically, can I do for each member of my family this week to sustain and encourage them toward "finishing strong"?

    Thought for the Week: (On Serving Christ)
    Whenever I hear the parable of the Last Judgment, sinner that I am, I find myself justifying my imperfect life. When I hear, “I was hungry and you fed me,” I can’t help but think of the countless meals I have served my hungry husband and children. When I hear, “I was thirsty and you gave me drink,” I naturally think of all the liquids from within and without that I have given to my thirsty children. The same goes for, “I was sick, I was naked…” how many hours have we spent nursing sick children back to health, and how many dollars and hours have we spent on properly clothing our ‘naked’ children!! Of course, I know in my heart, I fall well short of this parable, and reckon myself amongst the goats, begging for God’s mercy on my well-intentioned but grossly selfish life. Sometimes it is enough just to get clean underwear in the drawers and a nice meal on the table! Is there any hope for us on judgment day? A beautiful abbess of a monastery once said, resolutely, “yes!” As women, we shared how we wanted to impart the Orthodox faith and be of more assistance to others in their lives, and she simply said, “Put that energy into REALLY LOVING AND SERVING YOUR FAMILY.” What a wakeup call. There is so much to do underneath our own roofs, we don’t need to look far for opportunities to love and serve others. Before we can blink an eye, our children are growing up and leaving our homes.

    Last week, we prayed the magnificent Canon of St. Andrew, at which the famous story of our beloved St. Mary of Egypt is read in its entirety. What an inspirational narrative! A wayward young woman follows the lusts of her heart and enters for seventeen years into harlotry, bringing down countless young men in the process. She comes to her senses through God’s intervention at the entrance of the Church displaying the life-giving Cross. Her therapy? What healed her soul? Like the greats of old, she was driven into the desert where she spent forty-one years battling her former lusts and sinful choices in order to regain life again as a true human person. The Holy Spirit revealed the Christian life to her, alone in the desert, with no community. Did she suffer on earth? Without measure, she suffered. She endured the intense heat of summer and the brutal cold of winter. She fought with all her soul to remain there in that wasteland knowing she could easily ‘walk’ and be back with civilization and her former way of life. She endured forty-one years of hell that she could spend eternity with our Lord, His precious Mother, and all the Saints. She left us an icon of true repentence.

    You and I live in warm homes with comfortable beds and food in our cupboards. We have beautiful families…amazing husbands, wonderful children. Have we sinned? Yes, we have sinned. But to repent, we don’t need to go to the desert. We have a different calling. We simply need to turn and look into the eyes and hearts of our family members and show love, concern and caring. Again, and again and again. Our families are our oasis and our desert. It is the community where we work out our salvation. How can we do this? With God’s help and through our efforts. We are now on the downhill side of Lent. We may be a little grumpy, and tired of legumes and vegetables. We may look forward to not rushing dinner for the services. But each morning, we wake up with another opportunity to serve, love and nurture our closest neighbors: our family. Our husbands are probably craving a little more protein right now. Their bodies are larger than ours, and they often skip meals (something we seldom do!) Make him a nice seafood dinner. Offer his favorite side dishes. Our children are sick to death of peanut butter and hummous. Recognize their struggles. Fix them a special Lenten treat. Most of us didn’t fast as children nearly as much as they do!

    We are not perfect wives and mothers. We don’t always pray and read as we ought. But, we support and love a man who is cultivating a Christian community in the Lord’s vineyard. We are raising responsible children and teaching them to love our Lord, His Holy Church and those around them by our example. When we do these things, we are surely serving our Lord, Jesus Christ. And with God’s mercy and help, we will find ourselves reckoned amongst the likenesses of St. Mary of Egypt, St. Gregory Palamas, and all those who have loved the Lord’s appearing. May the Lord strengthen each of us to love and joyfully serve our families and make the most out of these last few weeks of Great Lent.

    Try this terrific recipe this week:
    Mexican Shrimp and Scallop Soup

    Serves 6

    1 T. oil (can omit oil by microwaving the onions and garlic, or by substituting with margarine)
    1 chopped onion
    3 minced garlic cloves
    3 cups (or more) bottled clam juice
    1 - 15 oz. can white hominy, rinsed and drained
    1 cup salsa verde (tomatillo salsa - check the Mexican food section for an 8 oz. can)
    2 T. finely chopped sun dried tomatoes (like the ones from Costco)
    1 T. finely grated lime peel
    1 lb. uncooked shrimp
    1 lb. scallops (cut in half if they're too big)
    4 T. chopped cilantro

    Heat oil (or margarine), add onion and saute 'til tender. Add garlic, stir 30 seconds. Add clam juice and next four ingredients, simmer 5 minutes. Add seafood and cilantro to tase. Simmer 'til seafood is cooked (shrimp should be pink when done), about 3 minutes. Serve with more cilantro, thinly sliced jalapeno, and lime wedges.

    Kali Anastasi!

    Week of April 7, 2008
    Quote for the Week
    “As I ponder the true nature of compunction, I find myself amazed by the way in which inward joy and gladness mingle with what we call mourning and grief, like honey in a comb.... Compunction is…a gift from God, so that there is real pleasure in the soul, since God secretly brings consolation to those who in their hearts are repenting.” (St. John Climacus, The Ladder of Divine Ascent, Step 7)

    Scripture for the Week
    The world and everything that people want in it are passing away, but the person who does what God wants lives forever. (1 John 2:17)


    Question for the Week
    What am I cultivating in the garden of my soul? Am I sowing "seeds" (which germinate quickly) or "bulbs" (which take a bit longer to produce their blossoms)?


    Thought for the Week: (In the Garden)

    ‘Tis the season to head outdoors and feel the fresh, rich soil in our (gloved!) hands. There is nothing so fulfilling, peaceful and renewing than spending a morning or afternoon in the garden. It gets us out of the house, we hear the bright chirping of our friends, the birds, we see our gardening companion, the earth worm, and we get back in touch with what is delightful and wholesome on God’s green earth. What’s more, we get to use our creativity in a way that is intrinsically part of our human makeup. Why on ‘earth’ don’t we do it more? Here are 10 reasons to motivate us to spend more time in our gardens this year.

    The garden was mankind’s first home. It is here that we feel close to all of creation.
    Beautifying the world around us fulfills our innate desire to create and cooperate with God in nurturing living things.
    Planting and enjoying flowers is uplifting to our spirits.
    The garden provides a wonderful setting for reflection.
    Eating from your own garden is gratifying and healthy, too.
    Gardening is a useful life skill.
    The garden is the basis for much of our art, poetry, color, cuisine, crafts and science.
    Being outside is as important as breathing. It alleviates many of the maladies we, and our children, suffer from today.
    There’s something for everyone in the garden. People of all ages can find an aspect of gardening they enjoy.
    Gardening is a parallel to life. It is no coincidence that our most treasured feast takes place at a time when the earth is aglow with life, sound and color.

    Foremost, gardening helps us keep in mind that our life is but a brief cycle, like the grass and the flowers. We are given life, we live, and we die. And because of God’s great love for each of us, we get to spend eternity with our heavenly Father in, once more, a beautiful garden.

    Try something new this week!
    Here's a great salad dressing recipe -
    GINGER SESAME DRESSING
    1 cup canola oil
    2 Tbsp. Asian sesame oil
    1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
    1/2 cup sugar
    1/4 cup soy sauce
    1 1/2 tsp. Ground ginger
    1 1/2 tsp. Dry mustard
    1 tsp. Fresh ground pepper
    2 tbsp. Sesame seeds, toasted.

    Serve on romaine or green leaf lettuce. Add tangerines, or oranges, nuts, celery and red onion. Add wonton strips or sugar coated almonds. Delicious!


    Week of March 31, 2008
    Quote for the Week
    Jesus said: “Whoever wishes to follow Me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow Me.” The first duty… is to deny oneself. To deny oneself means to give up one’s bad habits; to root out of the heart all that ties us to the world; not to cherish bad thoughts and desires; to suppress every evil thought; to avoid occasions of sin; not to desire or to do anything out of self-love, but to do everything out of love for God. To deny oneself according to St. Paul means to be dead to sin…but alive to God.” (St. Innocent of Alaska)

    Scripture for the Week
    The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and plenteous in mercy. Psalm 103:8


    Question for the Week
    How do I feel when I realize we have passed the mid-point of Lent? Is it relief for being halfway through or panic that I haven't yet achieved the changes I had hoped for?

    Thought for the Week: On the Cross
    We have approached the halfway point through Lent. This Sunday, we commemorated the Life-giving Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is a good thing for us to contemplate the cross at this point, as the recipes start dwindling, the personal prayer life is lacking for all the services, and the will starts waning. Then comes the cross.


    When I think of the cross, I think of my husband’s strong back. Like our Lord, our husbands bear the sins and failings of others, without complaining. Like our Lord, they bear the burdens and pains of others and help in their healing. Like our Lord, they often receive what they do not deserve, and yet they continue to be motivated by love for others and service to our merciful God. The Orthodox priesthood is like none other, and the cross is part and parcel of the Orthodox faith and life.


    Sometimes I forget about my husband’s big cross and focus on my small one…the lack of a normal schedule, the lack of a private life. But, as St. Paul says, “I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him…” (Phil. 3:7-9) How do we bear our cross? With joy? With grumbling? Do we try to lighten our husband’s burdens or are we part of them? Let us examine ourselves as we continue, together with our husbands and children, our Lenten Journey, until we arrive at the foot of Golgotha, at the tomb, and ultimately at the feet of our resurrected Lord. This journey, more than a cross, is a privilege and a blessing.
    Heavenly Father,

    Help us to see our life and all that it encompasses as a precious gift from You. May we look with honor upon our unique role as wives whose husbands serve in your Holy Priesthood. May we support them, pray for them, love them. Bless us, strengthen us, and remind us we are not alone in this holy task. Amen.

    Week of March 24, 2008
    Quote of the Week
    Children, let us cling to self-discipline and not be careless. For the Lord is our fellow-worker. As it is written, “to all that choose the good, God works with them for good.” But to avoid carelessness, we should consider Paul’s words, “I die daily.” If we also live as though dying daily, we won’t sin. This means that, as we rise day by day, we should think that we won’t live through the evening. Also, when we are about to lie down to sleep, we should think that we won’t wake up. For our life is naturally uncertain, and, Providence gives it to us daily. (St. Athanasios)


    Scripture of the Week

    Because Your love is better than life, my lips will glorify You. I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands. (Psalm 63:3-4)


    Question for the Week

    There's a fabulously wistful line from a song in the musical,"My Favorite Year", that proposes: "If the world were like the movies, we would never mistakes, we'd correct our little blunders, and select our better takes." If I could "rewind" anything from this past week and do a "retake", what would it be and how would I have played it out differently? Is there a way I can "rescript" for the future to avoid a similar circumstance?


    Thought for the Week: On Forming New Habits

    We’ve talked about diligence in building new habits. Let’s take it a step further and flesh out some real life examples. We can call this true repentance (metania); that is, transforming our mind (nous) and our actions into something that truly pleases our Lord and gives us a sense of peace and wholeness.

    Let’s say we have a bad habit of being jealous of our husband’s time at the church. He normally comes home for dinner, but tonight he called to tell you he scheduled a pre-marital meeting at the dinner hour so that, although he will come home late, he won’t have to go back again for another meeting. You know this decision is for the best, but your knee-jerk reaction is negative and not positive. You are silent. He picks up on this and tries to explain that he hates missing dinner, but at least he won’t have to leave again tonight. You hang up, not a happy camper. He comes home and you are moody.

    So let’s analyze this scenario. What are the benefits of your negative reaction? Probably none. What are the pitfalls? Many! Your children probably picked up on your negativity. Your husband now dreads coming home, even though he needs the relaxation and peace it offers. He knows there is going to be a reckoning and it’s the last thing he needs right now.

    So let’s rewind and do the whole thing over. Your husband is going to be late, but he will be home for good. You say, “great idea!” You let him know you made a scrumptious dinner and that you’ll keep it hot for him. You say, “I can’t wait to see you! I’ve missed you today!” He says the same. You hang up on an upbeat note.

    So now what are the benefits? Plenty!!! You have not broken fellowship with your husband. You’re husband now has motivation to keep his meeting brief. Every fiber of his being is yearning to come home, and when he arrives, you exceed his expectations with your pleasant demeanor. You have a satisfying time chatting over a leisurely dinner and another brick is added to the edifice of your family life.

    Here’s another possible scenario. You have a love/hate relationship with food. You love how it tastes, but you hate what it does to your womanly figure. You have tried for years without success to form new habits of eating and exercise, and you desire more than anything to fit into a size of clothing you can take pride in. Solutions?? Forget about the food and exercise for the moment. Take a new route. Subscribe to Prevention Magazine. Go to the library and get some helpful (balanced!) books, educating you on the benefits of eating right and exercising regularly (
    The Doctor’s Book of Food Remedies by Selene Yeager is an excellent choice). Make it a habit to study health. Soon, you are going to want to fill your refrigerator with an arsenal of nutritious, colorful, and healthy foods and get your rear into gear!! You will begin applying the concepts you are learning, abolishing your old, bad habits. Education coupled with willpower is a sure winner in forming new habits!

    Dear Lord,
    We are on this earth for such a brief time. Help us to live in ways that honor You and Your image within us. Assist us in giving up the ways of the ‘old man’ and living like a new creation. Make present in our lives, together with our meager efforts, Your promises of an abundant life, free of the shackles of sin and regret. Help us to trust and rely wholly on You while giving our very best efforts in accomplishing these things today, knowing we have received no promise for a tomorrow.


    Week of March 17, 2008
    Quote for the Week
    "God knows the prayer of each person. So He knows very well who is seeking heavenly things only in appearance and who is seeking them from the depths of his being. He sees quite clearly who says the words of his prayer merely with his lips while his heart is elsewhere. He sees who asks for physical health, earthly riches or the praise of others." (St. Basil the Great
    )

    Scripture of the Week
    "The sluggard craves and gets nothing, but the desires of the diligent are fully satisfied." (Proverbs 13:4)


    Question of the Week
    It only takes 21 consecutive days to lock in a new behavior. For many of us, this is a cinch on Monday thru Friday when our lives run on a pretty regular routine, but then comes the weekend and everything seems to explode (or implode, as the case may be). How can we take the offensive and sustain enough regularity over the weekend to keep those changes going? (Too bad we can't live 21 days of consecutive weekends to keep those behaviors locked in!)


    Thought for the Week: On Building Good Habits
    Last week, the thought was on diligence. Proverbs 13:4 asserts that: “The sluggard craves and gets nothing, but the desires of the diligent are fully satisfied.” And Proverbs 21:5 that, “The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty.” And finally, “Diligent hands will rule…” says Proverbs 12:24. Diligence leads to, and is supported by, good habits. Charles Glover, the 20th Services Squadron fitness and sports director at Shaw Air
    force Base claims that, according to research, it takes 21 days to build a habit. It also takes the same time to change a bad habit to a good habit. Why 21 days? Research shows that performing a challenging task for that number of days makes it a part of a person’s life. How encouraging this is! Think of all the bad habits you would like to change in your life…and the good ones you would like to incorporate into your life, and consider that this may only take three short
    weeks to accomplish! Key here is, of course, diligence. Performing a challenging task against all the forces of nature takes perseverance, steadfastness and single-mindedness. Of course, wisdom and discernment must be used in choosing habits that help our souls and bodies. Why not start today? Great Lent is the perfect time to grow in virtuous habits. Think of something that you dislike about yourself…it may be a habit as old as you are. Envision yourself abolishing and converting that something to a desirable trait. Maybe for you it’s jealousy, or anger, or over-eating. Maybe you want to
    become a regular walker, but lack the where-with-all to successfully become one. Or maybe you want to speak more kindly towards your loved ones. Just remember 21 golden days! Push yourself, hold your tongue, practice the opposite of your knee jerk reaction, and fervently, diligently, beseech God’s mercy and help! But pace yourself…if we
    succeed in building only one new habit every six months of our life, we are doing well. Make diligence your faithful friend to maintain your new habit, and thank God for any and all victories. Take joy in your growth! Good habits tend to beget more good habits, and before we know it, we will have a measure of living that we didn’t think possible. And all on account of a seed, planted in our souls at birth, to become more fully a child of God each day of our brief life.


    Dear Lord,
    You have taught us that we are not the slaves of sin, nor the pleasures of this life. Grant us wisdom and strength to grow in Your likeness this Lent, that the sacrifices of time and food may be to some wonderful end, a holier life, a healthier body, more loving relationships. Grant us diligence in accomplishing these things for Your glory, and our benefit, for You are holy unto the ages. Amen.

    ALMSGIVING IDEA
    Consider involving your family and or your parish in an almsgiving project by sending a Pascha greeting card to incarcerated brethren.

    The Orthodox Christian Prison Ministry called “St. Silas Fellowship” http://www.stsilas.org is collecting hand-colored
    Paschal icons for distribution to individual prisoners across America. Would you be willing to color one or more Paschal icons for prisoners?

    Here’s how:
    Download copies of the Paschal icon, carefully color the icons and mail them unfolded to St. Silas Fellowship.

    Fellowship of St. Silas
    Very Rev. Fr. David Ogan
    Post Office Box 822169
    Vicksburg, MS 39182-2169
    (601) 636-8392
    Please color each icon neatly as prisoners often do not receive much mail and sometimes have little or no permission to display what they receive. However, we have heard that Orthodox icons, many times, are permitted as cell decoration. So, encourage your children to color neatly and to choose appropriate colors. Adults can color icons, also. Prohibited materials are glue, glitter or paint so steer clear of those—markers, crayons or colored pencils are acceptable media.
    It’s good to say a prayer for the person who will receive your icon while you color as the recipient is unknown to us—but God knows both the giver and receiver…may it be blessed! Colored icons may be signed by the artist—use first name only. Please do not fold your colored icon.

    Thanks in advance from St. Silas Fellowship prison ministry.

    Week of March 10, 2008
    Dear Sisters -
    Fr. Hopko writes: “The lenten spring is welcomed by Christians in the Church… as the sanctified season… set apart for complete and total dedication to the things of God. It is the “tithe of the year” which tells us that all times and seasons belong to the Lord who has created and redeemed the world:

    The door of divine repentance has been opened. Let us enter with fervor, having cleansed our bodies, observing abstinence from foods and passions in obedience to Christ who has called the whole world to His heavenly kingdom, offering to the Master of all this TITHE OF THE YEAR, that we may look with love upon His Holy Resurrection” (Cheesefare Monday Matins)

    Quote of the Week
    What could be better, higher, more worthy of love and more splendid than our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, Who created the firmament, and adorned everything, gave life to everything, Who keeps everything, feeds everything and loves everything—Who is Himself love, more splendid than all men! Should you not love God above all things, wish for Him and seek Him? (St. Herman of Alaska)

    Scripture of the Week
    Blow the trumpet in Zion, declare a holy fast, call a sacred assembly. Gather the people, consecrate the assembly; bring together the elders, gather the children, those nursing at the breast. Let the bridegroom leave his room and the bride her chamber. Let the priests, who minister before the Lord, weep between the temple porch and the altar. Let them say, "Spare your people, O Lord. Do not make your inheritance an object of scorn, a byword among the nations. Why should they say among the peoples, 'Where is their God?" Joel 2:15-17

    Question of the Week
    There is a huge emphasis on weeding things out of our lives during Great Lent, but what habit or routine would I most like to put into (or back into) my life?


    Thought for the Week: On Diligence
    The famous Nike worker who created the Michael Jordan line of athletic wear was known to say to those whom he met, “Make your bed each day!” What was he trying to inspire in his acquaintances? Diligence! Diligence is the mother of success on many levels, both spiritually and materially speaking. Diligence is the persistent and hard-working effort we put forth in whatever we wish to accomplish in life. It is the force of our God-given will expended, over a long period of time, to some (hopefully meaningful) end. Thus diligence in prayer leads to intimacy with our Lord. Diligence in worship leads to reverence, humility and the fear of God. Diligence in homemaking leads to a family that is well nourished and cared for. Diligence in using our gifts and talents leads to material gain and/or fruit for the sake of the kingdom. How can we grow in diligence? It must be coupled with good habits and a healthy life routine. Diligence helps us to establish habits and routines and yet it takes a routine to help us grow in diligence. Other important virtues that work together with diligence are: resolve, perseverance and single mindedness. There is so very much to be gained by becoming a more diligent person, and Great Lent is the perfect time to grow these personal qualities. Diligence is a mark of our character, and a fruit of our relationship with the Lord. Work though we may, it is Christ who grants us growth in virtue, and we must be diligent in asking Him to bestow upon us all the virtues that lead to eternal life, according to His Holy will. Now, that is something worth being diligent about!!


    Lenten Recipe for the Weekl: Curried Shrimp Kebobs

    Ingredients
    24 Large Shrimp
    2 tart apples
    3 Tbs. Lemon juice
    1 Tbs. curry powder
    1 Tbs. Vegetable oil
    1/2 tsp. Salt
    1/4 tsp. Pepper
    4 green onions cut into 1 inch lengths

    Couscous
    3 cups vegetable stock
    1 1/2 cups couscous
    1/4 cup golden raisins
    1/2 tsp. Salt
    1/4 tsp. Pepper
    1/4 cup roasted peanuts chopped

    Preheat over to broil of prepare grill.

    Peel and de-vein shrimp. Cut apple into 3/4 inch pieces. Place lemon juice, curry powder, oil salt and pepper in bowl. Add shrimp and apples, toss to coast. Thread 2 shrimp, 2 pieces green onion and 2 pieces apple on wooden or medal skewers.

    For Couscous; bring vegetable stock to a boil. Slowly stir in couscous, and all ingredients except peanuts.

    Adjust oven rack 4-6 inches from heat. Broil or grill skewers turning once until cooked 3 min. per side

    To serve, fluff couscous with fork sprinkle with peanuts – Place skewers over couscous and serve!

    Week of March 3, 2008
    Quote for the Week "Imitate the prodigal son: leave the city that starves you. Come and beseech Him and you will behold the glory of God. Your face shall be enlightened and you will rejoice in the sweetness of paradise. Glory to the Lord and Lover of mankind Who saves us!" (St. Ephraim the Syrian)

    Scripture for the Week
    "Beloved, since Christ suffered in the flesh for us, arm yourselves with the same thought, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer by human passions but by the will of God." (1 Peter 4:1-3)

    Question for the Week
    St. Ephraim's words above are striking: "leave the city that starves you". So often, we find ourselves in situations, circumstances, or relationships where we are spiritually starving. Is there a "city" within which I am starving? Is leaving this "city" an option for me? Or, is this a "city" ready for "urban renewal" through the life-changing power of the Holy Spirit?
    Thought for the Week: On Our Lenten Journey
    It will be here in only a few short days…are we preparing for the Lenten shift in our life? The Triodion is in liturgical use, and we have visited with Zacchaeus, the Publican and the Pharisee, and the Prodigal Son. Forgiveness Vespers will mark our official beginning and with Clean Monday the marathon will have begun. What have we learned from our prior Lenten Fasts that we can apply this year? Are we wiser? Do we know ourselves better? Have we a realistic set of goals that we may finish the race with as few scrapes and bruises as possible? Have we made an appointment with our spiritual father to have confession? How is our schedule right now, have we pared down our activities? Are we avoiding enrolling our children in extra-curricular activities this season? These are all questions that may prepare us for the most successful Lenten journey ever. May we take some time to examine ourselves, our schedules, our commitments and our priorities that we may plunge into this Lenten season with preparedness, a repentant heart, an openness to God, wisdom, and soberness…that we may greet our Bridegroom with lamps filled with oil and hearts full of faith and love.


    Week of February 18, 2008
    Quote for the Week
    "Love all God's creation, the whole of it and every grain of sand. Love every leaf, every ray of God's light! Love the animals, love the plants, love everything. If you love everything you will perceive the divine mystery in things. And once you have pereeived it you will begin to comprehend it ceaselessly, more and more every day. And you will at last come to love the whole world with an abiding universal love. Love the animals: God has given them the rudiments of thought and untroubled joy. Do not therefore, trouble it, do not torture them, do not deprive them of their joy, do not go against God's intent. " (Starets Zosima in the novel The Brothers Karamazov, by Fyodor Dostoevsky)

    Scripture for the Week

    “The earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof…the world, and they that dwell therein.” (Psalms 24:1)
    Question for the Week
    How can what we do daily make us better stewards of our God-given world?

    Thought for the Week: On Stewardship of the Earth
    “There is the sea, vast and spacious, teeming with creatures beyond number—living things both large and small” (Psalms 103:25).

    Many of you may have read a news story recently concerning researchers who have been studying the effects humanity has had on our vast oceans. To the surprise of even the researchers, there are only a few corners of the world that have yet to be negatively impacted in some way by humanity. This is grim news. What environmental legacy are we leaving behind for future generations? What is the cost of our lust for more, for better, for cheaper? His All Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew wrote after the first five environmental summer seminars on Halki that:

    “…we have established that the protection of the environment in which humanity lives is a divine commandment. Our position is founded upon God’s commandment to those whom He first created, that they, according to the teaching of our faith, “ labor and tend the garden” in which they were first placed by Him. This is the theological basis for humankind’s role in the protection of the environment. Thus, at the beginning of this new millennium, it is not only our divine obligation to labor and utilize the fruits of His gifts on this terrestrial globe, but also we, as His most humble servants, are responsible for tending of the garden of Eden.”

    This is profound indeed. But how does this impact you and me? How can what we do daily make us better stewards of our God-given world? Plenty! Consider the following:
    • Americans are the number one global trash offenders. Consider the refuse your family creates each week. Find ways to minimize your garbage by shopping for products with less packaging, buying bulk items, and buying only what you need.
    • There are 40 million plastic bottles that go into the trash or become litter each day, claims one non-profit group. These are bottles that could have been recycled. What can we do? Buy re-usable water bottles for our families, and install water purifiers in our homes. When we do use plastic bottles, make a greater effort to recycle them rather than put them in the garbage.
    • Keeping your car well-tuned with proper tire inflation will reduce pollution and save fuel. Map out your errands and trips to maximize fuel efficiency.
    • The average American meal can travel 1500 miles to your dinner plate. Buying local food and products saves the energy it takes to bring it to you. Support your local farmer’s markets!
    • Remember that our Orthodox fasting diet is the least harmful diet to our earth (this will help our fasting attitude!). Make a family garden. Create your own Garden of Eden at home.
    • The chemical choices you make in your garden and home make an impact on your own living environment and on the environment at large. Read carefully; choose wisely.
    • Saving energy in your home reduces the CO2 released into our environment and will also save you money. Get a free energy audit of your home. Lower the thermostat and support renewable energy options in your area.
    • Water is one of our most precious resources. Install low-flow showerheads (your teenagers will live!). Turn down the water-heater temperature. When needing to replace a hot water heater, look into an instantaneous hot water unit--hot water on demand, only when it's needed.
    • ‘Getting out of the city’ will remind you of the sublimity of God’s creation, and will help you make wiser decisions at home to promote and preserve the earth’s beauty. Take your family on hikes, enjoy the splendor of the earth, and be a family that is environmentally educated and steward-minded.
      Being aware of what we do, what we buy, and how it impacts our environment is a great start to environmental stewardship. Let us all think before we act, and once again become ‘tenders of the garden.’ We are all accountable to God for the choices we make…let us use the surplus of information on conservation to help us, as Orthodox Christians, hold the highest environmental standards for ourselves. May we, like the saints, learn to live in harmony with nature and sanctify the world around us.

      “The earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof…the world, and they that dwell therein” (Psalms 24:1).

      Week of February 11, 2008
      Quote for the Week
      What counts in making a happy marriage is not so much how compatible you are, but how you deal with incompatibility. (Leo Tolstoy)

      Scripture for the Week
      Look to the LORD and his strength; seek his face always. Remember the wonders he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced. (1 Chronicles 16:11-12)

      Question for the Week
      What better week than Valentines' to contemplate our spousal relationships? What are the qualities I saw in you that first attracted me to you? How do I feel as I recall those qualities now? What are the qualities that attract me to you now? Do I make the effort to share these with you on a regular basis?


      Thought for the Week: On a Great Marriage
      There are many "okay" marriages dotting the planet earth, but we don’t want "okay" marriages! We want GREAT marriages…the kind God intended us to have! No matter how challenged our lives or marriages might feel at times, it's worth reminding ourselves of ways that WE can impact change, instead of waiting for life or our mates to "fix everything." Here are some things we can do TODAY to improve our marital harmony and enjoyment. In honor of St. Valentine's Day, let us strive to love our husbands as God would have us love them.
    1. Be an understanding wife. Our guys are literally at the front line, and they need to feel special and loved when they step through the threshold of our home.
    2. Enjoy every moment you have with your beloved. He will probably be gone before you are.
    3. Recognize the need for both you and your spouse to take personal time. Try not to keep track of it…ask for it when you need it. Give it when he asks.
    4. Show your husband he is the most important person in your life (after God). Do not think your words can replace or make up for your actions.
    5. Prime your children to love and have understanding for their father and the Church he serves.
    6. Remember your youthful times together. There is nothing to stop us from being romantic, playful, and attractive to one another today.
    7. Be motivated to organize and prioritize your life so that you are prepared to give yourself fully to your husband and family whenever the time arises.
    8. Never forget that a good meal is vital to a man’s life, and gives the key to his heart to his loving wife!
    9. Don’t waste your precious time together on negative conversation.
    10. Be pleasant and upbeat. Look for the good in your life. Let the Lord carry your burdens.
      We have no guarantee of tomorrow. Our Maker alone knows when we will pass from this precious life. Live each day with your husband and family as if it is your last….

      "Dear Lord, give us the strength and desire to have wonderful marriages; bringing glory to You and life to those around us. Amen."

      Week of February 4, 2008
      Quote for the Week
      "For Holy Communion, the confession of our sins to a father confessor is needed; whereas for our communication with God, the confession of our weaknesses before Him is necessary." (Elder Paisios)

      Scripture for the Week
      "Although I am less than the least of all God's people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. His intent was that now, through the Church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence." (Ephesians 3:1-12)


      Question for the Week
      How do you feel when you consider that we, who are "less than the least of God's people", are entrusted with the sharing of the Gospel message to the people around us?


      Thought for the Week: "Chip, Chip, Chip Away!"
      Time seems to slip like sand through our fingers. It feels like there’s never enough of it to do what we most enjoy in life. Not that we mind cooking, cleaning, shopping, chauffeuring, or working outside the home, but these works bring a temporary satisfaction until the next meal, the next load of laundry, the next paycheck, etc. We want to get to other ventures, but few are the days when we are awarded with enough time to start and finish something like framing precious photos, planting seedlings for our garden or inputting addresses for next year’s Christmas cards. There has to be a way, and there is! But it is not necessarily the way WE want it. How many times have we started something we really want to do, only to have meals, laundry, and straightening thrown to the wind? This is NOT the way. We need to take small bites in order to accomplish our goals. It doesn’t take long before a dripping faucet fills up the bucket, and we all know the tortoise’s victory. We just need his PERSEVERENCE. So we have to think differently. An "all or nothing attitude" earns us nothing but frustration. Imagine a mother duck with her ducklings, patiently bringing them along, down the way, across the pond, hither and thither. She doesn’t lose one very often. We are like that mother duck, and the ducklings represent all that our life embodies: wife, mother, worker, artist, musician, hobbyist, whatever makes you uniquely YOU. You must learn to "bring along" all these responsibilities and interests in a way that doesn’t compromise your family or your particular gifts and interests. Sure, there are seasons when you will do well to provide the basics then fall into bed from a job well done. But it won’t be long until you’re itching to paint, or plant, or create. The key is, "Chip, Chip, Chip Away!" Five minutes here, a half hour there, but never at the expense of your cherished relationships. In this way, we can use our God-given talents and interests to enrich our home life, our families, and our communities.

      “Slow and steady wins the race."

      “Lord, grant us patience. And please do it quickly! Amen.”

      Week of January 21, 2008

      Quote for the Week
      "Has a brother been the occasion of some trial for you and has your resentment led you to hatred? Do not let yourself be overcome by this hatred, but conquer it with love. You will succeed in this by praying to God sincerely for your brother and by accepting his apology; or else by conciliating him with an apology yourself, by regarding yourself as responsible for the trial and by patiently waiting until the cloud has passed." (St. Maximos the Confessor)

      Scripture for the Week
      "Let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God–truly righteous and holy." (Ephesians 4:23-24)


      Question for the week
      Is there someone who has "been the occasion of some trial" for me? Has my resentment led to hatred? (Am I even willing
      to admit that hatred in one of its various forms--jealousy, annoyance, etc.--might actually be there?!) Am I willing to lay an axe to the root of this weed and earnestly pray for this person and allowing God's love to supplant my own reactions?


      Thought for the Week: On Cynicism
      If you would like to quickly destroy your soul, there is a simple way: through the toxin of cynicism. Cynicism is to a human person what poison is to a rodent, the bait is irresistible but deadly. Here’s how it works: Rather than look to your own soul and thus your own sins, glance sideways and look to your neighbor instead. Poke fun, be crass, tear down… see not Christ, but a sinner. But only do so if you want to erase all good fruit from your life.
      We are susceptible to cynicism because we seek perfection and project that onto those around us. As well, our physical eyes look outward, and we easily notice the sins of others if we are not practicing vigilance. But the Lord tells us to see with the eyes of our souls…to look to Him and to look within ourselves, and only when we have removed the log from our own eye are we to aid our neighbor in removing the speck from theirs. Only in this way can we protect ourselves from cynicism, this self-delusion and road to utter destruction. Bend your neck, repent of all gossip, sarcasm and cynicism and find Christ in your neighbor. Thus, we will become friends of the Lord.

      It was such a joy to share in the San Francisco Metropolis Sisterhood Retreat in January. We were blessed to have Sister Magdalene of the Community of St. John the Baptist in Essex be our guest speaker. We wanted to include her address, in case any of our sisters and their parish bookstores are interested in ordering her most recent book entitled "Conversations with Children" Communicating our Faith. It is extraordinary! This book is very costly when purchased through booksellers throughout the United States, but if you write directly to Sister Magdalene, she will send you books at 40% off + shipping costs. (Your final payment will need to be made in British pounds). Well worth the effort for a fabulous book - especially for families in your community! Her address is:
      Sister Magdalen
      Community of St. John the Baptist
      Tolleshunt Knights
      Maldon
      Essex CM9 8EZ
      ENGLAND

      Week of January 21, 2008
      Quote for the Week
      "Prayer is a conversation of man with God. He who prays with a broken and humbled spirit is filled with divine gifts and blessings - that is, with joy, peace, comfort, illumination and consolation - and he, too, becomes blessed. Prayer is the double-edged sword that slays despair, saves from danger, assuages grief, and so on. Prayer is a preventive medicine for all diseases of soul and body." (Elder Ephraim of Mt. Athos)
      Scripture for the Week
      "Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." (Hebrews 4:16)
      Question for the Week
      There was a popular song that came out several years ago that had a line in it that was unusually striking. It simply said that "there's more room in a broken heart". Do you recognize this ability within your own heart to receive so much more when it is broken?
      Thought for the Week - Growth in Pain
      Why is it that we grow more through painful situations than through joyful ones? You cut a rose plant and it hastens to grow into ever more beautiful blooms. This is true also in our lives. Sometimes we wish we would not make errors, that somehow God would prevent us from saying and doing things that, even unwittingly, harm others. But it seems God does not always guard us in this way. He knows that it is through these moments of pain, embarrassment, humiliation, whatever the case may be . . . it is then that we have our most lucid moments, seeing the glory and holiness of our Creator and the sinfulness of us, His creation. As difficult as it is, these are the moments to thank God for . . . that we may truly see who we are and use that vision to propel us onto true repentance; that we may, like the rose, blossom forth into a sweetly fragranced flower, and become a witness of the creative energies of the Master Gardener, our Lord Jesus Christ.

      Week of January 15, 2008
      Quote for the Week
      "Be a good tree. Do not fool yourself that you can produce good fruits if you are a bad tree; good fruit comes only from a good tree. So, change your heart and your actions will change, too. Weed out greed and plant love. As “the root of all evil is greed,” so the root of all good is love." (Blessed Augustine)

      Scripture for the Week
      Then he said to them, "Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions." (Luke 12:15)


      Question for the Week
      In what practical ways can I begin to "weed out greed and plant love" in my life?


      Thought for the Week: On Staying Current
      Have you ever been swimming when someone jumps on top of you in the water and down you go, not having taken a good breath? It’s a scary feeling, to be sure. Sometimes we get that same feeling in our day-to-day life…especially as Presvyteres. There is so much for us to manage, sometimes it feels like we are taking a nosedive to the bottom of the pool, and can scarcely come up for air. It may seem like everyone around us is so together…why is it so difficult to keep up?

      Of course, not every Presvytera feels this way. We all have differing numbers of kids, different sized parishes, and differing financial means. But enough do feel this struggle that it is worth exploring. Let’s mention, first off, that being a priestly family necessitates that a great deal of the family/home responsibilities falls on our shoulders. It doesn’t mean our husbands are exempt from helping with the family and around the home, they just truly do not have the discretionary time that other husbands may have. So straight away we must say, it isn’t helpful comparing. Secondly, we chose this deck of cards, and we must accept the hand dealt in our lives. Period. Otherwise any suffering is our own doing. So rather than feel sorry for ourselves, it is much more productive to put some new tricks up our sleeves and get our precious lives in order that we may feel more like free stylers than sinkers. Here are some great principals to keep in mind:
    11. Live within your means. Know your finances at all times.
    12. Give to the church on a routine basis. Put God first, and you will be blessed. You may not become a millionaire, but you will not starve.
    13. Stay current on your chores. Don’t leave for tomorrow what should be done today. It will kick start your day to begin with a clean home.
    14. Live within your given space. It may not be your forever home, but try to keep only what comfortably fits in your current space.
    15. Try to live at 80% capacity of your closet space. It is easier to find things and put away clean items in drawers and closets that are not overstuffed.
    16. Process paper work daily or at set times each week. Always deal with important papers first.
    17. Create a filing system and use it regularly. Continually toss what you no longer need. Create notebooks to organize your family’s current important papers.
    18. Be routine about prayer, a little reading, exercise, e-mail.
    19. Depend upon quality, nutritional food for your daily nourishment. Minimize sugar and processed or artificial products. Avoid eating out. It’s a budget killer.
    20. Shop after the New Year sales for the best prices. Stock up on next year’s gifts. Add a few items to keep your wardrobe current.
    21. Stay focused. Keep your planner with you. Use technology to manage your life.
    22. Do what you enjoy. Make time for friends. Cherish each moment with your husband. Parent and take joy in your children.
    23. Offer your gifts and talents, as you are able. Ask for God’s guidance and grace each and everyday.
    24. Remember that because of you, your parish has a wonderful priest!



      Week of January 1, 2008
      BLESSED NEW YEAR!

      Quote for the Week
      “Without the health of body, material things are of no benefit to you. Without streams of prayer, what you have sown will not be watered. Without the help of prayer you shall not reap what you sow. Without the mercy of the Creator, there can be no good, no blessing. Be earnest then in prayer, and your barns will overflow. Winter and summer be earnest in prayer; for winter and summer prayer is necessary for us.” (St. Ephraim the Syrian)
      Scripture of the Week
      “For He has strengthened the universe so that it cannot be moved. Ready is your throne from the beginning; You are from everlasting.” (Psalms) 92:2
      Question of the Week
      Do I “water” what I “sow” with “streams of prayer”? Or, do I simply “scatter seeds” in hopes that some of them might survive and produce, leaving their watering to others or to chance?
      Thought: On Respect
      I once had the blessing of staying at the home of a beautiful widow of 20 years. She spoke at length about her husband and how much she missed the life they once shared. She said that she was once visiting with a good friend. The conversation turned, and her friend began complaining about her husband. The widow replied to her, “If he only sits on the couch and breathes, you should be thankful for that man in your life.” How meaningful from a woman who had, no longer, even that fair pleasure. What wisdom she shared with me. What conviction! Our husbands do so much more than “sit and breathe,” and how easy it is for us to find fault in them! Rather, we, as presvyteres, ought to regard our husbands with the highest esteem. Does this mean they are faultless or perfect? Of course not! Does it mean we never share thoughts or ideas that may be helpful to them? No. We would betray our role as helpmate if we did. What our husbands need and desire most from us the wise Paul wrote in his Epistle to the Ephesians. We hear it during every wedding service, “However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband (Ephesians 5:32-33).”
      If we obey the second portion of this simple command, we will find most assuredly our husbands will dutifully fulfill the first part with joy and delight. Respect for our husbands increases our endearment to them. It makes us more lovable. Let us make our New Year resolution this: to respect with our whole being the unique, attractive, valiant person we have chosen and joined in sacred matrimony, his priesthood, and all that he represents, with diligence, attentiveness, and perseverance. We will thus protect our marriages, our family, and our communities, as much as is possible through God’s abiding grace and love. May the Lord strengthen and help us each in fulfilling this noble task.


      Week of December 24, 2007
      Your sisters from "Prez to Prez" wishes you a blessed Christmas and a joyous new year!

      "Christ is Born!" "Glorify Him!"
      "Your birth O Christ our God did shine upon the world and through the light of wisdom illumined the universe and to those who held the stars in worship did through a star learn to worship You. Worship You the sun of righteousness and came to know You the Light from on high. Glory to You O Lord." (Apolytikon of the Nativity)
      "Today, the Virgin bears Him who is transcendent, and the earth presents the cave to Him who is beyond reach. Angels, along with shepherds glorify Him. The Magi make their way to Him by a star. For a new child has been born for us, the God before all ages." (Nativity Kontakion)
      The Fourth Wise Man

      What you would like to give Christ as a gift on His birthday?
      Your gift should reflect your offering of love, talents, and treasure.
      Put Christ first, above all in your living and your life.

      Three Wise Men, led by a star, went to worship the Baby of Bethlehem, and gave Him, as gifts, gold, frankincense, and myrrh. They say there was another Wise Man, called Artaban. He was to meet the Three Wise Men in Babylon and then start together the journey to find and worship the Newborn Baby. Artaban sold all his possessions, bought three jewels, a sapphire, a ruby, and a pearl, to present to the Baby, and he set out to join the other three Wise Men.

      On his way, Artaban saw an unknown injured man, and stopped to help him. To do this, he had to sell his sapphire. Because of this, he was delayed. So when he reached Babylon, he found that the other three Men had already departed. He set out alone again. But when he arrived in Bethlehem, he found that the three Wise Men had come and gone, and that Joseph of Nazareth and his family had fled to Egypt.

      "I will leave immediately for Egypt to worship the new King," exclaimed Artaban. But at this point, a solider came to slay a woman's child on orders from Herod. Artaban gave the soldier his ruby and the infant's life was saved. He then hurried to Egypt, where he wandered in vain, searching for the King. Old and weary, after 33 years, Artaban finds himself in Jerusalem. Then he learns that a so-called King of Israel was to be crucified that very day. There upon he determines to ransom Him with his pearl.

      But on his way to Golgotha, Artaban was stopped by a young girl who was being dragged off by two brutal soldiers. He gave them his last jewel, the pearl, to the soldiers to save her, instead. When a little later, Jesus was dying on the cross, Artaban realized that he could neither ransom Him not pay tribute to Him, as it was too late and as he did not have any jewels left. Artaban collapsed from sorrow, but when he was lying face down he heard a soft voice, saying: "I was hungry and thirsty and you gave me food and drink; I was naked and sick and you clothed me and visited me."

      "Not so, my King," protested Artaban. "Thirty-three years I have looked for You, but I have never seen Your Face, not served You, my Lord." But the voice replied: "Whatever you have done unto one of the least of these my brothers, you have done it to me."

      - Taken from Lovely Little Stories by Metropolitan G Polizoides

      As Presvyteres we are given jewels, the jewels of love, talent and treasure. In imitation of the Fourth Wise Man –
      offer them selflessly to the least of those whom you encounter along life’s journey and see the light of Christ in those you serve.
      Christ is born! Glorify Him!

      Week of December 17, 2007
      Don't miss our Metropolis of San Francisco Sisterhood Retreat with Sister Magdalen on January 18 - 20, 2008 at St. Nicholas Ranch and Retreat Center. Please mail your registration form in today! Attached you will find the Registration Form for our retreat!

      Quote for the Week
      He became a servant on earth; He was Lord on high. Inheritor of the height and depth, Who became a stranger. But the One Who was judged wrongly will judge in truth, and He in Whose face they spat, breathed the spirit into the face. He Who held a weak reed was the scepter for the world that grows old and leans on Him. He Who stood [and] served His servants, sitting, will be worshipped. He Whom the Scribes scorned the Seraphim sang "holy" before Him. (Saint Ephraim the Syrian)
      Scripture of the Week: Prophecy from the Prophet Isaiah
      "Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him and he will bring justice to the nations. (Isaiah 42:1)
      Question for the Week
      What does it mean to me when someone is described as having a servants heart? Do I know someone I would describe this way? What is it about him/her that I would wish to emulate in my own life?
      Thought for the Week
      This time of year is so busy as we plow through the endless list of mailings, Christmas programs, last-minute to-do lists, and then, something comes along that completely bring us up short and reminds us of those things most precious. It is an annual Christmas tradition in our family to carol at a local hospice on Christmas Eve. One year, we arrived at the hospice as usual, and the director met us at the door and gave us a short briefing on each patient before we entered each room. The last room was one that we will never forget. The directo's briefing was not nearly enough to prepare us for the sight we would behold on the other side. For there, in the room where there would normally have been a hospital bed, stood a crib, and in the crib, lay a small, delicate baby. Baby Julia had been born with difficulties that her little body could no longer tolerate. This Christmas would be both her firstand her last. As she lay there, our eyes met one another's. Only one song would do for this beautiful slumbering baby: a lullaby for another infant born 2000 years ago--the One into Whose arms she would soon find herself abiding. As we reached the words, Sleep in Heavenly Peace, tears flowed and voices wavered slightly as the emotions welled up within us. As we left, the director smiled and murmured softly, "You know, that was her very first Christmas carol." We left the hospice that night with a different perspective on the preciousness of life, on the blessing of children in our lives, and the comforting assurance of a God who gathers us to Him. May we all find time to pause this week and reflect on those things most precious and needful in our lives.
      Sacred Hymn to Ponder
      At that time, since Mary was of the house of David, she registered with the Venerable Joseph in Bethlehem. She was with child, having conceived virginally. Her time was come and they could find no room in the inn, but the cave seemed a joyful palace for the Queen. Christ is born to renew the likeness that had been lost of old. (Troparion of the Paramony of Christmas
      )


      Week of December 10, 2007
      Quote for the Week
      We cannot be saved by seeking just our own individual salvation; we need to look first to the good of others. In warfare, the soldier who takes to flight to save his own skin brings disaster on himself as well as on the others, whereas the good soldier who takes up arms on behalf of his comrades saves his own life along with theirs. Many of our brothers and sisters have fallen in this battle, wounded and covered with blood, with no one to care for them. There is no one to look after them, no layman, no priest, no comrade, no friend, no brother, because we are all of us seeking our own individual salvation, and thereby spoiling our chance of attaining it. (St. John Chrysostom)

      Scripture of the Week: Prophecy from the Prophet Isaiah
      Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing: for in the wilderness s hall waters break out, and streams in the desert. (Isaiah 35:5-6)

      Question for the Week
      At this time of year, I remember a scene from an old Flintstones cartoon where shoppers were lined up outside the doors of a department store until the doors were unlocked and one particular patron led the crowd in with a cry of, CHARGE!!!, and in they went like a herd of buffalo! As we draw closer to Christmas, our to do lists seem to grow exponentially along with a sometimes overwhelming sense of urgency. Am I willing to set aside my list for a day (or even a portion of a day) to assist someone else who may be struggling with their own list?

      Thought for the Week:On Assets and Liabilities
      We all would like to improve our assets, and decrease our liabilities. The same holds true for our lives. We want to be the greatest asset we can be to our husband, our children, and our community. That is bold, you may say. It is bold and true. We are, so to speak, our husbands greatest assets. If we are for them, it matters not who is against them. We have the power to love, support, and lift up our husbands, even in the most difficult situations. We can be a tremendous aid in their ministry, simply by being a kind, friendly person. A presvytera who is an example of patience and kindness is indeed a blessing to her husband and community.

      A wonderful 94-year-old man once said, "It don't cost nothing to be nice." Ladies, our husbands are priests of the Most High God. Their cross is heavy and large. Let us not be an other thorn in their side, but rather through our virtuous life, let us be builders and not tearers-down of the life God has bestowed upon us. Let us demonstrate exceeding kindness to our husbands and to the people Christ has brought us to serve.

      Dear Lord, grant us words of gentleness and kind-heartedness. Let us look with admiration upon our husbands, letting them know through every compassionate look and helpful action that we are on their side and that they can count on us to bear our cross along side theirs, together serving and loving Gods people. Amen

      Week of December 3, 2007
      Quote for the Week
      “The purpose of the advent of the Savior, when He gave us His life-giving commandments as purifying remedies in our passionate state, was to cleanse the soul from the damage done by the first transgression and bring it back to its original state. What medicines are for a sick body, that the commandments are for the passionate soul.” (St. Isaac the Syrian)

      Scripture of the Week: Prophecy from the Prophet Isaiah
      “Therefore the Lord Himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a Virgin shall conceive, and bear a Son, and shall call his name Immanuel,” which means: God is with us. (Isaiah 7:14)


      Question for the Week
      Inarguably, we Orthodox adhere to the Ten Commandments. How do I “remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy”? How do I extend my keeping of the Sabbath beyond attending Liturgy? Is this an area in which I would like to challenge myself this Advent?


      Sacred Hymn to Ponder
      “Today the Virgin is on her way to the cave where she will give birth in a manner beyond understanding to the Word who is, in all eternity. Rejoice, therefore, universe, when you hear it heralded; with the angels and the shepherds, glorify Him who chose to be seen as a new-born Babe, while remaining God in all eternity.” (Kontakion of the Preparation of the Nativity)


      Thought for the Week: Whole House Clean Up
      Do you ever feel like a librarian, but instead of shelving books, you are shelving your family’s possessions? If every member of your family takes out and does not put away even a dozen items (an underestimation), that’s 60 items to "re-shelf"! Add to this the Advent Season with all the commitments and pressure it can bring, the challenge of Lenten cooking, and before you know it, this pot is going to blow its lid!

      Let us, rather, set ourselves up for success this Advent season. Have a "whole house cleanup" today or ASAP. This means everybody pitches in and helps put everything back in its place, gets the laundry going, does team dusting, vacuuming, and a five minute bathroom rescue for each bathroom. If you can get your husband on the same page with you, this task will be a breeze. Promise that you will bring out Christmas decorations this week if they will help do this today (or if this is too stressful an idea--think of another appropriate reward--they help!).

      Then (here comes the hard part), be unwaveringly ruthless in monitoring and holding people accountable for putting away their own things. Out of place items become more apparent on a cleared counter or empty floor. Require the children to leave their rooms with a made bed and toys put away each morning. It’s a worthy goal and one that will serve them well throughout life. Get it kick started with a reward system. Accent the positive!

      A group effort at reducing/eliminating clutter that stems from bad habits will give you one of the best boosts you can ask for this season. Remember to reward yourself, too, with the things that are important and bring warmth and joy to our lives--a nice meal, Christmas programs, and Church attendance with a peaceful, loving attitude. A "Whole House Clean Up" will provide a homey springboard for your family to really enjoy this special, holy season. Amen!

      Week of November 26, 2007
      Quote for the Week
      "Be attentive towards yourself. Strive to be at peace, be quick to forgive, pour out your repentance and sorrows before the Lord more frequently, act according to your conscience - you will then feel better and attain salvation. Nothing comes without effort. Labor for God and you will be saved." (Abbot Nikon)

      Scripture for the Week
      "Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone."(Colossians 4:2-6)

      Question of the Week
      How lovely is the concept that our conversations should always be "full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone". Salt was a precious commodity which made things more palatable and could also be used as a preservative. What if we allowed God's grace to infuse our responses to others with these special qualities? How can our conversations be "full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that we may know how to answer others?

      Thought for the Week: On Negative Talk
      We all know that our husbands are probably, on occasion, the subject of someone’s dinner conversation. Good or bad may be said, we will never truly know. But does the reverse happen as well? Are our parishioners ever the subject of OUR dinner conversations…good or bad? Nothing will hurt our ministries more than allowing negative talk or gossip to transpire at our dinner tables. Does it mean we never have a conversation with our husband about a parishioner? It depends on the priest, but most of us will probably have SOME conversations (positive or negative), hopefully limited, about our parishioners. The key here is, DISCERNMENT. We all know that there exist in our parishes hurting, sick, and ill-intentioned people. Unfortunately some of these people end up in leadership positions and can be great thorns in our husbands' (and others') sides. They may cause pain in our communities. However, in order to stay above reproach, and to be right in God’s eyes, we must be careful about what we say about these situations, ESPECIALLY AROUND OUR CHILDREN. We, as adults, understand the dynamics of life: the hardship, the difficulties, the realities, etc., BUT OUR CHILDREN DO NOT NEED THIS INFORMATION. It will harm them and distort their view of the priesthood and of our Holy Orthodox Church. Also not talking about others in front of young children, because in their refreshing honesty and lack of filters, your comments will undoubtedly get (embarassingly) repeated! Rather than discuss our parishioners, it would be better to pray for them, to love them and to support our husband in all ways, as he bears the brunt of almost everything in the parish. There is a good rule of thumb we can apply in almost any situation: If we are talking about our own sins, it is confession; if we are talking about the sins of others, it is gossip.

      Week of November 19, 2007
      Quote for the Week
      The Christian, even here on earth, must accustom himself to live the heavenly life, in faithfulness to Christ and His commandments; in fasting, in renunciation, in prayer, love, meekness, gentleness, patience, courage and mercy. How hard will the hour of death be to the person who in his lifetime made idols of money or food and drink, or earthly honors! In that hour none of these things shall serve him, while his heart, because it is strongly attached to them, does not possess the true treasure which would give him eternal life. Let us then be faithful servants of Christ, caring principally for the soul that it may be saved. St. John of Kronstadt

      Scripture of the Week
      You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. 2 Corinthians 9:11

      Question of the Week
      What treasures do I spend the most time and effort storing up? How do I feel about my answer?


      Thought of the Week: On Giving Thanks
      There is nothing more vital, more crucial, and more essential than the simple act of giving thanks. What else can we give to our Creator and Maker? He has no need for our praise, our great deeds, our creations… He has need of nothing, yet He created this lovely world with its infinite possibilities for our sake, and for our salvation. Do we remember to give thanks, if not moment by moment, then day by day? Have we ceased to bear in mind the great gift of our own life, and the lives of those around us? Satan would have this ‘stealing of our memory,’ which leads to a life of discontent, restlessness, and disgruntlement, but clearly God is not the author of this erroneous way of being. What can we give our Lord in thanksgiving for all He has given to us? Here is a little list of reminders to keep us on the straight and narrow of a Eucharistic (thanksgiving-centered) life.
      1. Look for goodness wherever you can find it.
      2. Look for the strengths and talents in those around you.
      3. Affirm, often, those strengths and talents in others.
      4. Be cheerful and a light in a dark world.
      5. Forgive others and yourself quickly.
      6. Repent of your sins with your whole heart.
      7. Give of your time with ardor and devotion.
      8. Greet each person you interact with daily demonstrating your affection and love for them.
      9. Remember the gospel is, for us, a way of life.
      Dear Lord, please give us Your perspective on our life. Help us to see, through Your eyes, Your beloved sons and daughters with fresh eyes, with a love renewed, and with motherly and sisterly affection. Help us at all times to turn to You for inner strength, for you are the Author of Love and of Life. Amen.

      We are truly grateful for our sisterhood -


      Week of November 12, 2007
      Quote for the Week
      True prayer brings with it a sweet consolation of heart, so that many Holy Fathers stood for whole days and nights in prayer, and in their sweet rapture they did not notice the time or the length of their prayer. For them prayer was not a labor but a pleasure. But it is not easy to reach such a state, especially for anyone who from childhood has given free rein to his passions or stifled his conscience. But what in the world, what sciences or art, or what consolations are acquired by us easily, quickly, and without toil? (Saint Innocent of Alaska)

      Scripture for the Week
      Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen. 1 Timothy 1:15-17


      Question of the Week
      How do I perceive the practice of prayer in my life? Is it something I rush toward like a thirsty man toward water? Or do I see it more as a part of my daily routine... just one of the many things to which I need to attend? Do I judge that I need to refresh my perspective of prayer?


      Thought for the Week: On the Parental Inferno
      If we see parenting as a means of salvation, then having children is certainly a means of purifying our lives and hearts. How so? “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven,” says the Lord (Matthew 18:3). Children have a way of helping keep our ‘puffed up’ selves in check…not only by their many needs which we must constantly meet, bringing us a measure of humility and self-sacrifice, but also by their authentic example of being themselves, including their joy, their frankness, and their guilelessness. Children are God’s gift to us, an icon of His holiness and goodness. However, they come with a price, and if we accept it, it is the destruction of our self-centered will.

      But is it only one way? In other words, do we not also bring them salvation? Of course, but not without pain and suffering. It has been said, “Give blood and receive the Spirit.” It is no different with parenting. Our every word, our every facial expression, our every action is constantly being looked upon and received by our own flesh and blood. And if we are willing, the Master Surgeon will wield His knife, cutting away all that ‘misses the mark’ within us, freeing us to become like the very sons and daughters we co-created with Him.

      Dear Lord, please give us the strength and courage to face within ourselves and lay before You all that falls short of Your glory. May we become joyous examples of love and hope, turning to you in all circumstances for strength, courage and perseverance. Amen.

      Week of November 5, 2007
      Quote for the Week
      "Constantly, each day, each hour, God is sending us people, circumstances, tasks, which should mark the beginning of our renewal; yet we pay them no attention, and thus continually we resist God's will for us. Indeed, how can God help us? Only by sending us in our daily life certain people, and certain coincidences of circumstance. If we accepted every hour of our life as the hour of God's will for us, as the decisive, most important, unique hour of our life -- what sources of joy, love, strength, as yet hidden from us, would spring from the depths of our soul! Let us then be serious in our attitude towards each person we meet in our life, towards every opportunity of performing a good deed; be sure that you will then fulfill God's will for you in these very circumstances, on that very day, in that very hour." (Alexander Elchaninov, The Diary of a Russian Priest)

      Scripture for the Week
      But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. (2 Corinthians 3:16)


      Question of the Week
      Do I truly see each day, each hour as a gift and/or opportunity?
      Am I able to discern God’s Hand in the midst of challenging circumstances? Do I recognize God’s call even within the mundane tasks of everyday life? If needed, how can I renew/restore my perspective?


      Thought of the Week: Talking to Our Kids about Sex
      There comes a time in every parent’s life when REALITY strikes. Our teenage son (who is heading off to college next year) meets a special girl. They talk on the phone for hours, chat at bit on IM (instant messaging) and, then, SHE walks through the door – stunning, 5’9 and gorgeous. Racing through my mind are my motherly affirmations: “He knows what’s right!” “He knows about saving himself for marriage.” “He’s a great Orthodox Christian kid with a good head on his shoulders.” “Right?” “Right!”

      Regardless of how much I want to believe that he will make the right decision around the issue of sex – I recognize many worldly forces pulling teens into believing sex before marriage is completely the norm.

      Unfortunately, they see plenty of sexual encounters every time they turn on the TV or watch a PG-13 movie!

      Sure, throughout the years, we’ve spoken about the importance of sexual purity, to be careful not to follow the crowd, to make wise decisions knowing that will affect his future, to avoid temptation and stay in groups, to THINK with the eyes and mind of Christ. But suddenly, I panic at the thought that all of our well-intentioned conversations will be tossed aside and overcome by those raging hormones! Then it dawned on me admonitions about sexual purity have been re-iterated in uncountable conversations with our kids over time. Hopefully, the little voice of mom and dad will speak to them when faced with these big decisions well into young adulthood.

      Following family prayers, we have a common practice in our home which my husband established—we call it “office hours”--a time when we just lay on our kids’ beds and talk about everyday stuff. home, is time for “Office Hours” - a time when we just lay on our kids beds and talk about everyday stuff. Sometimes, it accompanies a back rub or just a quick wrap up of the day’s events, feelings or thoughts.

      I remember having read once, “Don’t wait for an ‘important’ conversation to have a good conversation,” i.e., like right after the bombshell of a girl walks through our door.

      If our kids learn they can trust us with the “little stuff, they’re more likely to come to us about the “big stuff.” Showing that we understand what they are feeling and sharing similar experiences about what we went through when we were their age might open up an entirely new way of connecting. Boldly and openly sharing about the importance of sexual purity is a conversation we need to continually have with our kids – not just once – but over and over again.

      May we continue to pray for our children to make wise decisions with their eyes and minds on Christ.

      Week of October 29, 2007
      Quote for the Week
      "Hold to patience in your hearts, my friends, and put it into action when the situation calls for it. Don't let any abusive word from your neighbor stir up hatred in you, and don't allow any loss of things that pass away to upset you. If you are steadfast in fearing the loss of those things that last forever, you will never take seriously the loss of those that pass away; if you keep your eyes fixed on the glory of our eternal ecompense, you will not resent a temporal injury. You must bear with those who oppose you, but also love those you bear with. Seek an eternal reward in return for your temporal losses." (St. Gregory the Great, Be Friends of God)

      Scripture for the Week
      And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. (Colossians 1:10-12)

      Question of the Week
      In our “microwave” society where everything moves at the speed it takes to simply press a button, we often struggle to cultivate patience. When do I find myself most patient? Am I less patient with those who are closest to me? How do I hold onto patience in my heart?

      Thought for the Week - "IN THE END"
      In a particularly painful time in my life, when nearly every day was filled with stomach-twisting dread, I had a dear friend send me a card. The cover read: "Everything will be okay in the end. If it's not okay, it's not the end."

      I have meditated on that thought nearly every day and in every situation since then. It is an act of utter patience to move through the worst times and the worst situations (or even just mildly annoying ones) with your eye on "the end" instead of the potentially painful "now." The end may be the collapse into bed at the end of the day, it may be the end of a project, or a chapter in your life, or leaving a particularly difficult parish, or the end of your life, or the end of time. To remember that our Lord is King reminds us that He will always make "it" - whatever "it" is - okay. And to remember that our understanding of "the end" may not be His. So if it isn't feeling okay yet, and you thought it was over... it isn't.

      So in the meantime, while our patience is being tested and it may not feel "okay" yet, we must remember that we are only called to be faithful, to do "the right thing", to act with integrity, with the proverbial "what would Jesus do" guidance. We are not called to be successful, we are called to be faithful.

      Week of October 22, 2007
      Quote for the Week
      He who esteems life in this world and judges its values as worth protecting, does not know how to discern what is his own from what is alien to himself. Nothing transitory belongs to us. (St. Gregory of Nyssa)

      Scripture for the Week
      "For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him." (Colossians 1:16
      )

      Questions for the Week
      Do you let your "presvytera" title define you? Do you let your "presvytera" title define you? How are you defining yourself? Or are you letting your title define you?


      Thought of the Week: The Invisible Presvytera
      One of the messages that has circulated the internet is called "invisible mom." It could just as well be called "invisible Presvytera" with a few alterations.

      The story begins:
      I'm invisible...It all began to make sense, the blank stares, the lack of response, the way one of the kids will walk into the room while I'm on the phone and ask to be taken to the store. Inside I'm thinking, "Can't you see I'm on the phone?" Obviously not. No one can see if I'm on the phone, or cooking, or sweeping the floor, or even standing on my head in the corner, because no one can see me at all. I'm invisible. Some days I am only a pair of hands, nothing more: Can you fix this? Can you tie this? Can you open this? Some days I'm not a pair of hands; I'm not even a human being. I'm a clock to ask, "What time is it?" I'm a satellite guide to answer, "What number is the Disney Channel?" I'm a car to order, "Pick me up right around 5:30, please."
      I was certain that these were the hands that once held books and the eyes that studied history and the mind that graduated summa cum laude -- but now they had disappeared into the peanut butter, never to be seen again. She's going ... she's going ... she's gone!
      As presvyteres, sometimes we can feel like appendages to our husbands. We are just "Presvytera" - without a name, without a life beyond the church, without our own foibles, spiritual struggles, hopes, aspirations, or even professional callings. "Presvytera" may carry with it a pre-determined set of responsibilities and characteristics. I'll never forget one former parishioner whose jaw literally dropped when he found out I had not just a "job" but a full-fledged career. The point isn't whether or not we choose or need to work outside the home, but that we are individuals in our own right. The "role" we choose to fill as the wife of the priest is equally individual and sometimes those choices are painfully scrutinized or, perhaps worse, assumed to fit a mold. We can certainly help our parishioners not to take us for granted by being touchable and human. But as the "Invisible Mom" story continues, we must remind ourselves that the choices we make are of utmost importance to our Lord and Savior, and not necessarily to those around us, who may render us either invisible or pre-defined. And perhaps, more importantly, we must remind ourselves that the invisible things we do as presvyteres and mothers do make a difference in the lives of the people that matter most to us, even if they go unnoticed. For it is ‘more blessed to give than to receive,’ and we are called to ‘give, expecting nothing in return.

      The story continues that a friend of the writer gave her a gift, a book on the great cathedrals of Europe, at a time when she was feeling especially irrelevant. "I wasn't exactly sure why she’d given it to me until I read her inscription: "To Charlotte, with admiration for the greatness of what you are building when no one sees." “

      In reading that book, “Charlotte” learned some life-changing truths:
      No one can say who built the great cathedrals - we have no record of their names. These builders gave their whole lives for a work they would never see finished. They made great sacrifices and expected no credit. The passion of their building was fueled by their faith that the eyes of God saw everything.
      A legendary story in the book told of a rich man who came to visit the cathedral while it was being built, and he saw a workman carving a tiny bird on the inside of a beam. He was puzzled and asked the man, "Why are you spending so much time carving that bird into a beam that will be covered by the roof? No one will ever see it." And the workman replied, "Because God sees." I closed the book, feeling the missing piece fall into place. It was almost as if I heard God whispering to me, "I see you, Charlotte. I see the sacrifices you make every day, even when no one around you does. No act of kindness you've done, no sequin you’ve sewn on, no cupcake you've baked, is too small for me to notice and smile over. You are building a great cathedral, but you can’t see right now what it will become."
      At times, my invisibility feels like an affliction. But it is not a disease that is erasing my life. It is the cure for the disease of my own self-centeredness. It is the antidote to my strong, stubborn pride. I keep the right perspective when I see myself as a great builder. As one of the people who show up at a job that they will never see finished, to work on something that their name will never be on.
      A bit later, the writer finishes:
      When I really think about it, I don't want my son to tell the friend he's bringing home from college for Thanksgiving, "My mom gets up at 4 in the morning and bakes homemade pies, and then she hand-bastes a turkey for three hours and presses all the linens for the table." That would mean I'd built a shrine or a monument to myself. I just want him to want to come home. And then, if there is anything more to say to his friend, to add, "You're gonna love it there. "
      As mothers, we are building great cathedrals. We cannot be seen if we’re doing it right. And one day, it is very possible that the world will marvel, not only at what we have built, but at the beauty that has been added to the world by the sacrifices of invisible women.
      Today, let us faithfully pray for our sisters and brothers in Southern California - for "those affected by the fires, their safekeeping, health, and the restoration of their homes and land." let us pray to the Lord.

      Week of October 15, 2007
      Quote for the Week
      "Such is the power of love: it embraces, and unites, and fastens together not only those who are present and near, and visible, but also those who are distant. And neither time, nor separation in space, nor anything else of that kind, can break up and divide in pieces the affection of the soul." (St. John Chrysostom)

      Scripture for the Week
      This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence (1 John 3:19)

      Question of the Week
      Recall a time when you felt the power and depth of your spouse’s/child’s love for you. What was the event? How do you feel as you think back to that moment? (I know a woman who keeps track of these precious times on index cards and flips thru them when she’s feeling low). How can we preserve our recollections in order to draw upon them when we need them?

      Thought of the Week: Orthodox A,B,C’s
      Those of us who are cradle Orthodox may remember our Yiayiathes lighting their incense and candili on Saturday evenings, or maybe they had an electric candili that hung above the cherished family icons. We may remember unsurpassed homemade bread, horta, pastitsio, amazing leg of lamb, and of course, koulorakia and melomakarana. We may remember someone doing metanias and whispering ‘The-e mou’ under their breath. We may remember their perfume, the smell of their home, their garden. These memories planted in our brains ‘the way things are supposed to be,’ but it is not necessarily our reality today. As priestly families, it seems, if anyone were to carry on these traditions it would be us, but this isn’t always the case (although some undoubtedly bespeckle their lives with these cherished traditions.) We know the saying that the shoemaker’s children are often barefoot… does this saying apply to us today? There are several customs worth examining in our lives as Orthodox Christians and priestly families.

      A - ASCESIS - the disciplines of our faith
      Scriptures and Lives of the Saints: Reading. What a concept! It is said that we are reading books less than ever as a nation. The statistics are disparaging. Do we fall into this category? Are we so busy that we are not edifying ourselves, or our children, with precious reading materials? Our lives as presvyteres and mothers can certainly be hectic. We must make greater efforts to carve out time in our lives for reading the Scriptures, the Lives of the Saints, and anything else that would profit our souls and our families.

      B - BLESSING your home with the sweet fragrance of incense
      Thimiato: How nice to walk into a home that has recently been blessed by the holy fragrance of incense. If you regularly cense your home, you experience the connection of church to home a bit more. The act itself sanctifies us, and our homes, and reminds us of the blessings of our home life. Children are thrilled to take part in this meaningful ritual. It would be very beneficial for us to make greater effort in regularly censing our homes on Saturday evenings and before major feast days.

      C- CONFESSION
      Confession: This is a toughy. Ever found yourself jealous of your parishioners who can call and make an appointment with your husband with ease and within close proximity? Ever wish you could regularly have the stole placed upon your head, but you must suffice with a long distance confession? Of course, depending on your circumstance, this may not be the case, but how about our children? It is difficult to confess to your own father, and it is not always convenient or possible for them to confess long distance. Certainly the Lord understands and knows our limitations, but it is certainly worth making greater effort towards more regular confessions and conversations with spiritual fathers for all of our family members.

      This week, take special note of any wasted time that could be used to propel your family towards enriching their minds and hearts with the Holy Scriptures, the Lives of the Saints, and the sweet fragrance of incense, and make the effort as a family to take stock of your daily lives and be regularly accountable to one who, like our husbands, leads us heavenward.

      You can have the daily bible readings sent directly to your email. Sign up today by clicking on this link:
      http://listserv.goarch.org/archives/dailyreadings.html

      Did you know that you can read the prayer of the hour, listen to the weekly audio meditation and search for saints and feasts online by visiting the Online Chapel at:
      http://www.onlinechapel.goarch.org

      Week of October 08, 2007
      Quote for the Week
      If you have upbraided, or passed judgment on, or vexed your brother, your peace is lost. If you have been boastful, or have exalted yourself above your fellow, you have lost grace. If you did not drive away forthwith that wanton thought that came to you, your soul will lose love for God and boldness in prayer. If you are fond of power, or money, you will never know the love of God. If you have followed your own will, then you are vanquished by the enemy and despondency will come upon your soul. If you detest your brother, it means that you have fallen away from God, and an evil spirit has taken possession of you.

      But if you will do good unto your brother, you will gain quiet for your conscience. If you subdue your own will, your enemies will be driven off and you will receive peace in your soul. If you forgive your brother the affronts he puts upon you, and love your enemies, then you will receive forgiveness for your sins and the Lord will give you to know the love of the Holy Spirit. And when you have entirely humbled yourself, you will find perfect rest in God. St. Silouan the Athonite

      Scripture for the Week
      “He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must do as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that you may always have enough of everything and may provide in abundance for every good work.” 2 Corinthians 6-10


      Question of the Week
      To tithe or not to tithe… an often touchy topic for clergy. What is your view on tithing? Are you and your spouse unified in your views? Are you a cheerful giver?


      Thought of the Week: On Loving our Enemies
      Thankfully, for most of us, we are mistreated seldomly. Being in a priestly family brings with it many blessings as well as some hardships. But what of those who do mistreat us? What of those who are less than cordial towards us? Should we consider them our enemies? For the most part, we can cover the mistreatment of others towards us with thoughts of, “I must have deserved it…they must be having a hard day…perhaps they are undergoing some struggle.” In this way, we protect ourselves from exalting over another, or passing judgment on our neighbor. What about those who mistreat our husbands? The same holds true; however, we should pray for the enlightenment of their souls that they would see their error. What of those who mistreat our children? We need to give our children ‘eyes to see and ears to hear.’ They must develop within themselves the discernment and character to see ‘things as they are,’ and to be themselves, even if it means accepting that they are less than esteemed in a fellow peer’s eye. Life is not without difficulties. The struggle lies in how we respond to those difficulties. We are all children of God, and if we can remember that, even amidst affronts and offenses, we truly will become handmaidens of our loving God.

      What a blessing and joy it was for many to be reunited at the national sisterhood of presvyteres retreat in San Francisco. Let us continually be reminded that we have a wonderful support network throughout our sisterhood.

      Week of October 01, 2007
      Quote for the Week
      "My child, be patient with your children. What can we do? Of course they are rambunctious, but they cannot be otherwise. In any case, we must be patient. Do not let things pile up in your soul; do not demand details. For by constantly worrying, you will harm your health and that will be worse. Just overlook their shortcomings and increase your prayer, for prayer works miracles. And then miraculously, without exertion, they will become calm and quiet children. Many children were very rambunctious when they were small, afterwards, however, they became wonderful in everything. The rambunctious children are usually smart, too, and they may achieve much." (Elder Ephraim of the Holy Mountain [Athos])

      Scripture for the Week
      "Train up a child in the way he should go; And when he is old, he will not depart from it...” Proverbs 22:6


      Question of the Week
      "Am I preparing my children for independence? Do I allow them the power of choice in "small" things so that they may wisely utilize their power of choice when the "big" things come along? Do I resist the impulse to orchestrate or micro-manage when it comes to my children's lives? How do I feel as I reflect upon my answers?"


      Thought for the Week: On the Holy Task of Raising Children
      If you are on the "back nine" of raising children, you know that the first nine years of raising children feels like a century, and the last nine feel like a fast forward movie. Thank goodness for pictures and videos! What is this holy task before us, and how do we navigate the varied personalities of our unique children? Children are a lot like plants, they need food, water, sunshine, a little pruning and weeding, and they will grow before our very eyes. Getting them to bear fruit, however, takes a little more work…as every fruit grower knows. Here are four essentials our children need in order to become the godly people we desire them to be.

      First, our children need clear boundaries that don’t change from day to day (or hour to hour!). This takes a lot of backbone on our parts as parents. We must learn how to love our children enough to follow through with our beliefs and values.

      Secondly, our children need clear icons of Godly parents. They need to see parents who practice the commandments, who pray and read regularly, who joyfully attend church services, and who treat each other with love, humility, and respect.

      Thirdly, our children need a spiritual/social life at home. They need to pray and read with their parents, to be able to ask questions freely, and to have many opportunities to discuss their lives, their days and their experiences with interested and caring parents.

      Finally, our children need lots and lots of love. They need hugs, kisses, encouragement, fun, laughter, cuddling, and wholesome pastimes…even through the teenage years. Together these things will produce in our children Godly character, faith, love, and ultimately salvation.

      "Train up a child in the way he should go; And when he is old, he will not depart from it...” (Proverbs 22:6)

      Many of us will be attending the National Sisterhood Retreat in San Francisco this weekend. What a joy it will be to gather together with our beloved Metropolitan Gerasimos, Fr. Spencer Kezios and our sisters in Christ. Let us know if you have any feed back for our Prez to Prez ministry.



      Week of September 24, 2007
      Quote for the Week
      It is only when we pray fervently, that we feel calm, warm, at ease, and bright in soul, because then we are with God and in God; but as soon as we cease thus praying, then temptations and various troubles begin. Oh, most blessed time of prayer! (St. John of Kronstadt)

      Scripture for the Week
      "Continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings which are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus." (Timothy 3:15)


      Question of the Week
      If my prayer life were a patient, what would its status be? Would it have a clean bill of health? Would it need to get some exercise? Would it be a candidate for the emergency room, or might it be so fruitful that it is giving birth in the maternity ward? How do I feel about my answer?


      Thought of the Week: On Poutiness
      Every now and then it happens to the best of us: Poutiness. We know it’s wrong and not befitting of a Christian woman…so why do we sometimes display this un-Christian behavior and what can we do to eliminate it? It would first be worthwhile to examine why we pout. Here are two scenarios: 1. You have a lot of chores to accomplish and your kids are resisting helping you. 2. Your husband is home two hours later than he said he would be.

      So here is some perspective. With the first example, you need to consider why your kids are resisting you, and there are several possibilities:
    25. You are not filling their little "emotional piggy-banks" as much as they need (spending time with them, playing with them, etc.), and that lack of "heart-string" attachment to you makes them resist rather than obey you.
    26. You are asking too much of them without a seeming end to it.
    27. You are not willing to work through the discomfort it takes to help our children grow into responsible people by compelling them to help, and you pout, or give in, rather than virtuously struggle.
      The solution: Make sure you are giving as well as pleasantly asking to receive from your children according to their ability and capacity for work (which is usually greater than we think). Put a cap on work, and pencil in fun activities. Toe the line as necessary. Strength can be dressed with a smile.
    The second example involves a different strategy.
    1. You know your husband’s heart…that it is good and full of all the right intentions. Remember that fact even as you are waiting for him and especially as he walks in the door.
    2. Bring your actions into congruence with the above truth (especially as he walks in the door!)
    3. Demonstrate that you trust something legitimate came up, and mention that you missed him, but are glad to see him NOW. He may FALL OVER DEAD from your positive response, but it’s good to have a few surprises left in your marriage. He will remember this incident next time, and will fight harder to come home to such an understanding and empathic wife.
    In the end, poutiness demonstrates weakness of character and hurts us, and those we care about the most. Squash that little black beetle in your life and replace it with a graceful butterfly!
    Week of September 17, 2007
    Quote for the Week
    If artists who make statues and paint portraits of kings are held in high esteem, will not God bless ten thousand times more those who reveal and beautify His royal image? For man is in the image of God. When we teach our children to be good, to be gentle, and to be forgiving—all attributes of God; to be generous, to love their neighbor, to regard this present age as nothing, we instill virtue in their souls, and reveal the image of God within them. This then is our task: to educate both ourselves and our children in godliness; otherwise what answer will we have before Christ’s judgment seat?. . . Let us be greatly concerned for our wives and our children and for ourselves as well. The good God Himself will bring this work to perfection, so that all of us may be counted worthy of the blessings He has promised. (St. John Chrysostom)

    Scripture of the Week
    Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Phillippians 2:9-11)


    Question of the Week
    How have I seen the image of God revealed in my spouse/child(ren) this week? How does this strike me as I contemplate God's work in him/her/them?


    Thought for the Week
    When my husband was ordained as a presbyter, a thought occurred to me: “We’re in God’s army now!” Yes, in my mind, I saw it as an induction. I felt all the joy of his elevation, an excitement for the future, a relief that this milestone had been reached, etc. But in truth, like the first steps in the Christian life, we were just starting out on the clerical journey which has its own ups and downs and unique lifestyle.

    A military wife has similar challenges to ours. A military family finds itself under orders, obedience is necessary, there is often no choice involved as to where the family will find itself living or for what length of time. Hours are long, wives seldom know the details of their husband’s assignments, salaries are often less than desirable, mom is often left on her own to raise the children, keep the family going, etc. Sometimes she’s the one who almost single-handedly engineers family relocations, soothes fears, encourages her family members, pulls it all together. She is truly a superwoman in the flesh!

    As presvyteres, we can benefit from relationships with military wives as we have much in common. A military wife can be a model for us; she can become a genuine friend for us (and vice-versa). She can actually understand something about us as a unique common thread already draws us together. We can support one another in love and friendship in a special bond as we’re as close to peas in a pod as there ever was.

    Recently we focused a bit on the idea of relocation as part of clerical life. I solicited the input of an army wife in our parish who, since her arrival, has genuinely reached out in a loving way to me as her presvytera. I have developed a special closeness to her as I realized in a short amount of time just how much we have in common by our lifestyles alone. Her overall positive attitude, her ability to roll with the punches, to look for the good wherever she finds herself, the sacrifices she makes for her family without complaint—her friendship is like a breath of fresh air! In a positive way, she encourages me toward repentance and change in my own attitudes.

    My Orthodox military sister has been sent all over the world with her family and often without the ministry of a local church—she’s really missed it, but perseveres in faith. As presvyteres, God has granted us a special blessing--we may find ourselves assigned here and there over the years and this can be frustrating, but we still have the Church (and all it offers us) in our midst.

    My military sister in Christ gave me a link to this site: http://www.marriedtothearmy.com which has some super articles about making a house a home; getting ready for a move, appreciating where you are sent, etc. Look under these tabs, specifically: Moving, Lifestyle, and Army Wives.

    If you have a military wife in your parish, get to know her well if you haven’t already. You may be missing out on a genuine blessing otherwise. Keep in mind that these dear women need our particular support and prayers--many wives are living with the risk of losing a beloved husband and father to her children. Let us reach out in love while allowing ourselves to be blessed and ministered to by our military wives.


    Week of September 10, 2007
    Quote for the Week
    'Those trusting in the Lord are like a mountain of Sion,' (Ps. 124/125:1). What is the force of the addition of 'Sion'? I mean, instead of simply saying 'like a mountain,' why did he make mention of that particular mountain? To teach us not to be brought down by misfortune nor drowned in it, but to depend on hope in God and bear everything nobly - wars, conflicts, alarms. For this mountain, too, was once deserted and bare of inhabitants, and in turn recovered its former prosperity, regaining its ancient popularity with an influx of inhabitants and manifestation of marvels. So, too, the noble man is not brought down, even should he suffer countless troubles. Do not, then, look for a life without hazards or strife or hardship, but for one that is not undermined by hazards. (St. John Chrysostom)

    Scripture of the Week
    The Lord said: "If anyone wishes to come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it. (Mark 8:34-35).


    Question of the Week
    As we remember the events of September 11th, it reminds us how fragile life is and how so often we can take much for granted. Today, consider how you express appreciation to your family and friends?


    Thought of the Week: The Three-Day Rule
    Have you ever bought all the raw materials for a back yard project, only to find the materials still sitting in your driveway two months later? Why do we let things like this happen? We certainly have the best of intentions. Maybe we need to implement the Three-Day Rule in our life! It goes like this: if you do not plan on starting a given project within three days, DO NOT BUY THE MATERIALS FOR IT. Why not? Because it ends up being a burden in our life and one more unfinished thing ‘to do.’ It may seem like a small thing, but when you add up four or five or more unfinished projects coupled with our other daily responsibilities, it puts more pressure on our backs and more stress on our minds. It can bring feelings of over whelmedness when there are too many unfinished projects hanging over our heads. So beginning today, vow NOT to add one more new item to your project list until you complete those that are already underway. Finish painting that room, repair that old shutter, weed what needs weeding, then you will see clearly what needs to be done next in your life. Make this fall a time of finishing uncompleted projects and you will add peace of mind to your life. You also may find yourself playing with your kids more or even desiring to get away on a date with your hubby! The binding chains of incomplete projects are definitely chains worth breaking.


    Week of September 3, 2007
    Quote for the Week
    Let God intervene between you and your purpose, instead of letting your purpose intervene between you and God. (Mother Gavrilia, The Ascetic of Love)

    Scripture of the Week
    "May your unfailing love be my comfort, according to your promise to your servant. (Psalms 119:76)


    Question of the Week
    This time of year, I become extremely purposeful as I prepare for another school year. My husband likens me to a steamroller at full tilt as I gather back-to-school clothes and supplies for the kids, preparing my own classroom and wrapping up all the loose ends from the summer. I am sure many of us can relate to the endless to-do list. Let us pause to ask ourselves if we are willing to allow God to intervene between us and all those demands to which we may have enslaved ourselves?


    Thoughts for the Week
    A few weeks ago, we invited your comments regarding "What makes a home a home" and the challenges of relocating for clergy families. Here are some of your thoughts.
  • The Scriptures remind us that our citizenship is in heaven (Phil 3:20 NKJV) so my understanding is that we should not expect to feel “at home” or truly settled anywhere short of God’s Paradise. There’s always a tension in that we have not arrived at the destination God has in store for us and that our salvation is being worked out through circumstances—which often include parish reassignments. The old adage “Bloom where you are planted” often works for me.
  • Years ago I read a book by well-known Protestant author, Edith Schaeffer, mother of Frank Schaeffer, the same Frank Schaeffer many recognize as an Orthodox Christian today. Mrs. Schaeffer was a pastor’s wife and a mother. I refer to her book titled “The Hidden Art of Homemaking.” In it she makes suggestions about how to make a place of residence feel like home, inciting creativity in imitation of our Creator. It is a book worth reading. The Schaeffer family moved a number of times over the years and established L’Abri Fellowship in Switzerland, where they raised their children. Even during times spent in hotel rooms or pensions, Mrs. Schaeffer packed a pretty cloth, a candlestick and added flowers or other homey touches to bring beauty and peace into mundane or otherwise temporary settings. Mrs. Schaeffer has been a fine example of a creative, loving, optimistic and faithful follower of Christ, always seeking the best for her family—she is now in her late eighties. I read this particular book about 30 years ago and it made quite an impression on me. If you want a better feel for the book and its contents, search for it on Amazon.com and read the reviews. ( Pres. Candace, Anchorage, AK)
  • I have talked to other clergy families about this over the years. It is least fun to move for teens, in my opinion, as this is when friends are a big support, and also when they start thinking of leaving home for college, etc, but a move for this age is not impossible. Our oldest had attended 5 schools by the time he was in sixth grade. He says "I miss many of my friends, but if I get married, I will have a lot of friends at my wedding."
  • My second son had attended four schools by the fourth grade. (This guy has been happy thoughout our moves, never questioning why daddy might be going, only concerned that he be near his father.)
  • I made an effort to help my kids attend and enjoy the Metropolis of Boston camp. Not only was this a great camp, it helped broaden the kids circle of friends from the school and parish level to the metropolis group. It is a supportive place that the kids can return to see old friends, no matter where we may eventually move. Many metropolises have summer camps, and I think this is especially important for clergy families. This camp helps kids stay in touch by sending newsletters, and by providing year-round activities for the kids.
  • It is important that we not groan too much about moving. I once inadvertently drove a potential presvytera away by admitting that one move had been an adjustment for our kids. This woman was a teacher, and was rather concerned that everything be perfect for her kids. Her husband would have made a great priest, too.
  • Moving has place the onus of being a presence in the life of my family. I started out with a busy career. Now, I try to make sure that our time as a family is at least as important to the kids as what they do with friends and in school. I do this by working part-time, but have no doubt that I could work full-time with the support and availability of Father to be with the kids. Most of us know this, but busy moms who want to earn money do sacrifice some of this time, and then they have to catch up with their kids on days off. I came to the conclusion that my younger kids moved more easliy because we had been home with them during their pre-school years, but it could be other things--their personalities, etc. The thing that makes a move most difficult, I think, is if the parents have hired a nanny to care for the child, and not only does the kid leave his friends and home, but also their primary caregiver.
  • Many professions and businesses require that employees move from state to state. Comparing ourselves to someone who remains in one place for an entire career is an unrealistic comparison, and a standard that we will not meet as clergy families. (Respectfully, Presvytera Maryann Tonias, MS, RN)
  • Before you invited us to respond, I was reading and saying, wow! I'm glad they addressed this issue! (Carolyn)
  • Thank you all once again for such great and useful info....God bless you (Michelle [Chicago])

    Week of August 27, 2007
    Quote for the Week
    There is nothing we can offer to God more precious than good will. But what is good will? To have good will is to experience concern for someone else's adversities as if they were our own, to give thanks for our neighbor's prosperity as for our own; to believe that another person's loss is our own, and also that another's gain is ours; to love a friend in God, and bear with an enemy out of love, to do to no one what we do not want to suffer ourselves, and to refuse to no one what we rightly want for ourselves; to choose to help a neighbor who is in need not only to the whole extent of our ability, but even beyond our means. What offering is richer, what offering is more substantial than this one? What we are offering to God on the altar of our hearts is the sacrifice of ourselves. (Saint Gregory the Great)

    Scripture Verses for the Week
    "Be watchful, stand firm in your faith, be courageous, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love." (1 Corinthians 16:13)


    ("And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." Romans 8:28)

    Question for the Week
    Is there someone I know who is suffering right now that I can reach out to in a real and practical way? (See suggestions below for ideas). Am I willing to reach out to someone I may not know well? What is it that prevents me from reaching out and what can I do to overcome my reluctance? (Note to moms: Reaching out to those who are grieving is a wonderful practice to cultivate in your children...little ones love to make cards, draw pictures, or pick out special "gifts" for people with "boo-boos"...allow them to join you in this process).

    Thought for the Week: What’s Wrong with Being Polite?
    Most of us have been bred with the utmost focus on good manners. Sometimes, “good manners” means not sticking your noses in other people’s business, not bringing up topics that might be difficult, not saying the “wrong” thing, and keeping everything cheery (and superficial!). Particularly as presvyteres, we often think we just need to keep a smile on our faces. But, sometimes being “polite” is not what we need to do for one another. Sometimes being “real” is the Right Thing to do.

    As Presvyteres, we are often assigned the characteristics of empathic confidante, we often assume ministerial-type duties – either because it is a natural gift or because it is assumed (did we acquire this ability through osmosis at our husband’s ordination?) And yet, when we are truly needed to support our sister presvyteres in the faith, our “polite upbringing” may take over, causing us to do nothing for fear of doing something wrong.

    Perhaps the most precious ministry we can offer is to support somebody during adversity through prayer and through tangible acts and words of kindness.

    Here are some ideas:
  • DO pray for guidance from the One who loves us perfectly. Get on your knees and pour out your heart for the person who is hurting and ask for guidance as to how to best love and nurture them.
  • DO offer specific support, not general suggestions. "What can I do to help?" will rarely be met with a response, as people who are hurting often don't know what they need. But "I have an extra meatloaf. Can I bring it over on Tuesday or Wednesday?" is much better and affords you the chance to spend some time with the person.
  • DO make arrangements to clean the house, take the children out, arrange for a spa visit or some form of appropriate recreation.
  • DO talk about it. Bring up the subject because the person most likely wants to talk about it and if he or she doesn't, they’ll let you know directly or indirectly through their response.
  • DO pick a day (e.g., the 1st of each month) and call to say, “You’re in my thoughts.”
  • DO give support, but don’t judge.
  • DO cry with them. Tears are a means of expressions and feelings.
  • DO embrace, love and listen. Be an active listener, asking questions that encourage her to explore her emotions or experience as fully as she is able.
  • DO send cards and letters with personalized messages, no matter how lovely Hallmark's printed message might be.
  • DON’T offer platitudes or clichés, even if you think you’re quoting the Bible. For example, "It was God's will; everything happens for a reason" or "It'll be for the better." Rarely is death, loss or serious adversity God’s will for our lives. God is there to carry us through the adversity with His immeasurable love, with His ability to transform and heal.
  • DON’T offer comparison stories. You won’t ease their pain by recounting a worse situation.
  • DON’T look for ways to justify or ease the pain of what has happened. Pain, grief, anger, guilt, depression, betrayal...whatever the person is feeling is appropriate for right now... do not try to move them to some other emotional state.
  • DON’T underestimate the power of prayer and our communion as one Body. Miles may separate friends, families, and our sisters in Christ, but our prayers and participation in the Eucharist bring us together as one body, united in our pain, our suffering and our hopes.

    Of course, different kinds of adversity require more specific suggestions, but generally, common sense and "what would I want” are excellent guiding principles.

    And finally, use critical events in life, even another’s life, to re-examine your own. Death, loss and the tragedies of life are acute reminders of our mortality and our own fallibilities. How can comforting another help you “get real” with your own stuff? Can it catalyze very honest conversations with your loved ones? Sometimes the truth behind Romans 8:28 (“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”) is not just for those at the center of the pain, but also what happens to those around the person who is suffering; that they also may be transformed through the tragedy.


    Week of August 20, 2007
    Quote of the Week
    "Neither do walls nor rich furniture make a home….millionaires in magnificent mansions may never know a home. But where there are good relationships, where love binds the family together and to God, there happiness is always to be found. For good relationships are heaven anywhere. Monotony and misery cannot exist where there is love. But the fire of love must be kept burning warmly and brightly with the sweet wood of sacrifice. In teaching us to cross the "I" out of life, our Lord tells us the secret of happiness; what the Saints call the ecstasy of self-forgetfulness. For divine love is always self-effacing, seeks to give rather than to receive, to serve rather than be served, to love rather than to be loved, and will sacrifice anything for the beloved. Only then does love become a clean and holy fire in the heart, and not an ugly flare of lust." (St. Seraphim of Sarov
    )
    Scripture of the Week
    "Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law." (Romans 13:8
    )
    Question of the Week: What is home? Where is home?
    For many presvyteres, life is a series of establishing new homesteads, usually far from our home of origin, and often repeatedly so. What is the "thing" that makes a new community, a new parish, a new house, a new city, state or part of the country feel like "home" and bring us the peace that "home" should bring?
    Thought of the Week: Where Do You Hang Your Hat?
    One element of our lives as Presvyteres that certainly binds us together is the subtle knowledge that where we ‘hang our hat’ today may not necessarily be the place where we hang it tomorrow. For many of us, ‘moving’ is a bit of a feared word, for others the word may bring relief but for all of us, moving can be a part of our life whether we want it or not. In some ways, times have changed. Many bishops and metropolitans are more sensitive to their clergy families’ needs and do not uproot them against their will. Still, there are many instances when a clergy family must uproot and take residence in a city they may know nothing about. How do we deal with some of the anxiety surrounding moves (or even their possibility)? This is especially difficult when you really like your parish and the community in which you live. What can we as Presvyteres do? Certainly no one has all the answers, but certainly there are some thoughts on which to ponder.
    1. Some priests consider being called upon by their Metropolitans to move as God’s immediate will, while others are more vocal in respectfully saying that they would rather remain where they are. We, as Presvyteres, may discuss these matters with our husbands.
    2. We, as clergy families, may or may not understand fully why we must leave a parish. In other cases, the reasons are more identifiable. A sit down appointment with our metropolitans as a couple could facilitate a greater understanding of the situation on both sides.
    3. Unless we are moving to a more affordable area, moving can put a big financial strain on a family that is already barely hovering above their means. This should respectfully be communicated to the Metropolitan and the new parish.
    4. Housing costs today are much greater today than in the past. If you have finally bought a home, chances are not always in your favor of finding even a comparable home. If you are moving to one of the more expensive cities, this is certainly not the case without the financial help of family or the new parish. Still, some clergy families may benefit or break even from a move, financially speaking. Either way, this is an important factor in any move.
    5. A new move may or may not bring you closer to your extended family.
    6. Moving may negatively impact our children’s lives and our own emotional/social stability. However, a timely move may also do the opposite.
    7. ‘Starting over’ can be exciting, but it also may be painful and difficult, depending upon your family’s stage in life. Certainly no one looks forward to finding new doctors, new friends, and re-establishing anew the whole family routine. These things take time and require a lot of mental, spiritual and emotional strength on our part.
    Being in the ministry, we know that our lives are not in our own hands, that we are called to serve Christ wherever that may be. We can be assured that He is with us, and keep an open hand to what may transpire in our life, as difficult as it is. We can also cultivate a relationship with our metropolitans as clergy couples and let them know how blessed we are at our present parishes and communicate with them our true feelings about possible moves. We must learn to make home wherever we find ourselves and there serve with our whole hearts our husband, our children and our parish family, knowing that in the Kingdom we will blessed a hundred-fold.
    WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU - This week, our Prez to Prez team felt that this issue may strike home with many presvyteres. We'd like your feedback to share with our sisters who are going through the transitions to new parish assignments. What has worked for you in this situation? What makes a new place feel like "home"? Your thoughts with both practical and spiritual advice for how to cope with a parish reassignments are welcome. We will compile some of your thoughts and share them in our upcoming Prez to Prez emails.
    May God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you really CAN make a difference in this world, so that you are able, with God's grace, to do what others claim cannot be done.
    Don't forget our 2007 National Sisterhood of Presvyteres Retreat - October 5-8, 2007 at the Mercy Retreat Center in Burlingame, California (10 minutes from the San Francisco airport) - Make arrangements today to join us!
    The deadline to return your registration forms is August 25. It is sure to be a fabulous weekend. If you need to download another copy of the registration form, it is available on the NSP website-www.nsp.goarch.org/whats_new.html

    Week of August 13, 2007
    Quote for the Week
    Know and remember that the matter of your salvation is always near to the heart of the Theotokos, the Mother of God, for it was for this that the Son of God, by the favor of the Father and the cooperation of the Holy Spirit, chose her out of all generations and was incarnate of her in order to save the human race from sin, the curse, and the eternal death, or everlasting torment. As the matter of our salvation is near to the Savior, so likewise it is near to her. Turn to her with full faith, trust and love. (St. John of Kronstadt)

    Scripture of the Week
    The LORD is my strength and my song;he has become my salvation.He is my God, and I will praise him,my father's God, and I will exalt him.Exodus 15:2


    Question of the Week
    I remember a quip delivered at a Christian conference by a speaker on the topic of salvation. He charged that if Christians truly were a joyful people, someone ought to notify our faces of the fact! How am I living out my salvation? Do I daily radiate the joy of one who has been called by God? Or, do I wear a face that emphasizes an attitude of suffering for the Kingdom?


    Thought of the Week: Back to Basics
    School and fall schedules are just around the corner. This is a prime time to survey our homes and schedules and to take some time to ensure helpful systems are in place to support the flurry of activity that seems to hit after Labor Day Weekend.

    Help your children rid their closets and drawers of worn or outgrown clothing. Remember, if YOU like it but THEY don't, it won't be worn and is just taking up valuable space! Help them do this process 2-3 times yearly. It is easier to maintain drawers and closets that aren't over packed with clothing and other stuff. (Hint: hand-me-downs are helpful ONLY if they are being worn. Keep or store only those clothes that your children SAY they would like to wear and bless others with the rest!)
    Put a handle on the daily paper deluge! A legal size filing cabinet can be very helpful. Make a file for each of your children with their name and grade on it. Throughout the year, store those papers that are special or important, and make sure their name and grade is on each one. Exceptional papers or artwork will be ready to pull out to make displays for grandparents and for other occasions. Make files for all your household needs, being sure to occasionally purge them. Also, have some current files handy for on-going projects that need to be referred to often. This will keep your desk area clutter-free.
    Take advantage of auto-bill paying. It saves time and stamp money. A handy reminder for these is to write on the top of a 3x5 card the bill name, and below make 12 entries (6 on each side) with the month and payment amount. At the end of each month, enter the amount in your checkbook and highlight the month paid on the index card. Be sure to promptly balance your checkbook each month.
    Have you ever made a master grocery list for your home? Go through your home and list EVERYTHING you buy on a regular basis. Create a 3-4 column page using headings like dairy, frozen foods, and cosmetics, and list ALL of these items. Ideally fit it on one side of a page. (Click for a sample Master Grocery List and Meal Planner.). When it is time to grocery shop, plan your menus for the week (with flexibility), print the master grocery list, and go through each column, placing a circle next to those items that you need to buy. This takes time, but is well worth it. As you shop, fill in the circle next to the items you obtain. This process saves time spent going to the grocery store, saves money as you shop with a list in your hand, and saves the headache of running out of items at home that you forgot you needed. Your initial grocery bill will be very large, but as you begin to be more properly stocked with needed items at home, you will begin saving money and developing a clear idea of what items you really NEED to run your home smoothly.
    Be routine! Organize your life such that you accomplish what you need to do daily. Make sure you pray, that you know what is for dinner, that you throw a load of laundry on, and that you and your family perpetually pick up after them selves. Do not forge ahead if you have not accomplished these things. Daily maintenance is much easier than weekly or monthly overhauls.
    Enjoy your life and each member of your precious family!

    Don't forget our 2007 National Sisterhood of Presvyteres Retreat - October 5-8, 2007 at the Mercy Retreat Center in Burlingame, California (10 minutes from the San Francisco airport) - Make arrangements today to join us! The deadline to return your registration forms isAugust 25! It is sure to be a very special weekend. If you need to download another copy of the registration form, it is available on the NSP website, www.nsp.goarch.org/whats_new.html.

    Week of August 6, 2007
    Quote of the Week
    When you are about to pray to our Theotokos, be firmly assured that you will not depart from her without mercy. It is proper and right so to think, so to have confidence in her. She is the all-merciful Mother of God, and her merciful gifts, incalculably great, innumerable, have been declared from all ages by the Church. (St. John of Kronstadt)


    Scripture of the Week
    "This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence." (1 John 3:19)


    Question of the Week
    The verses of the Paraklesis touch each of us in different ways at different points in our lives. Which verse(s) strike(s) you most meaningfully this year? What is it that makes it so profound?


    Thought of the Week: On the Dormition Fast
    How do we nurture within our lives a relationship with the Mother of God? Many of us may not have grown up with the vision of a Yiayia who whispered her name as a matter of course throughout the day. Some women seem to cling to her, while for others it takes a great deal more effort. One way to help build our relationship with her, in this season of barbequed hamburgers and ribs, is to honor the fast to the best of our ability. Let our kids see us fast willingly, without grumbling. Let us teach them that we will be happy to see Panayia in church each evening at Paraklesis, having honored her by fasting throughout the day. Our Archbishop once quoted a Polish woman who said “…vork (work) never kills!” The same is true with fasting. It isn’t always pleasant, but it certainly does not harm us, but rather, helps us (especially if we take a little extra calcium!). Let us dive into some of our finest vegetarian cookbooks and make this fast a surprisingly pleasant occasion. Salt makes any veggie a delicacy! Let us put in the forefront of our minds why we are fasting (self-denial that we may be filled with the grace of God) and consider that, in the future, the skill of self-denial will aid our children in numerous ways. And remember this: next to Christ, nobody knows self-denial better than the Theotokos herself.


    Don't forget our 2007 National Sisterhood of Presvyteres Retreat - October 5-8, 2007 at the Mercy Retreat Center in Burlingame, California (10 minutes from the San Francisco airport) - Make arrangements to come!

    Week of July 30, 2007
    Quote for the Week
    My child, if you want to live amongst people, you must watch the following: do not criticize anyone at all; do not ridicule anyone; do not become angry; do not despise anyone. Be very careful not to say 'so-and-so lives virtuously,' or 'so-and-so lives immorally,' because this is exactly what 'judge not' means. Look at everyone in the same way, with the same disposition, the same thought, with a simple heart. Accept them as you would accept Christ. Don't open your ears to a person who judges. (Stories, Sermons and Prayers of St. Nephon: An Ascetic Bishop)


    Scripture for the Week
    “This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.” (Deuteronomy 30:19)


    Question of the Week
    As clergy, many of us find ourselves the guardians of far more information about parishioners than what we would sometimes prefer. It is hard sometimes to constantly be taken into people’s confidences and remain neutral and loving. Do I make the conscious effort to accept each person as I would accept Christ? What do I do to keep myself in check? Is it working?


    Thought for the Week: On Stress
    Stress: the malady of our age. What causes it, and what can we, as Christian women, do to avoid it? Firstly, we must recognize that some stress is healthy and normal. When a child falls, the stress we feel propels us to respond quickly to an urgent situation. The stress we feel when we are put on the spot in public helps us to think carefully before responding. But the ‘stress that makes you a mess,’ now that stress has to be dealt with. How? Here are a few helpful ways.
    • Live within your means. Out of control budgets bring anxiety into our lives. Trust God for your basic needs.
    • Live simply. Pare down. Stick to the basics.
    • Be a disciplined person (think: Disciple).
    • Slow down. If you are constantly rushing, you are doing too much.
    • Do things you enjoy. They are God-given, calm us, and bring us joy.
    • Pray daily. Even if you don’t feel like it. God rewards our efforts.
    • Smile. Even if you don’t feel like it. It will aid in your struggle against sin and remind those around you that you love them.
    • Eat healthily. Get a good night’s sleep (7 hours).
    • Exercise regularly. It defeats depression, balances mood swings, and clears our minds (and our arteries!).
    • Get outside everyday. Garden. Admire others’ gardens. God’s green earth is food for the eyes and water for the soul.
    • Remember God’s promises. Have Godly thoughts. Live a Heaven- bound life.
    • Practice the faith. Worship with your whole heart. Prepare weekly for Holy Communion.
    • When you fail at these things, pick yourself up by the scruff of the neck and continue practicing these things!
      Week of July 23, 2007
      Quote for the Week
      “From the beginning, set out with prayer on the path of salvation, and then you will become a Christian; a meek, silent example, attracting others to this path.” (St. Anatoly of Optina)


      Scripture for the Week
      “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight.” (1 Peter 3:3-4)


      Question of the Week
      Meek? Silent? Whoa! For many of us, “meek” and “silent” would not be the top descriptors when it comes to presvyteres. Where am I in the midst of St. Anatoly’s quote above? How do I feel about this?


      Thought for the Week: Lighten Up!
      There are many good reasons and varying ways in which we can all ‘lighten up’ a bit. The basic premise is this: We are all on the ‘Trip of Life’ and it is most helpful if we are carrying only that which is helpful and necessary for our salvation and our abundant life in Christ. Let’s start with attitude. Are we cheerful? Do we look at challenges as defeats or opportunities? Are we hopeful? Do we remember daily that our Lord desires for us the joy and love that He lives each day? Are we thankful? Even when circumstances are difficult, does the Lord see in us a grateful heart, looking for the good in each situation? Are we faithful? Do we daily live the precious faith that has been handed down to us at great cost and personal sacrifice? Let’s move to scheduling. Are we doing, or trying to do, too much? Are we disciplined with our time, choosing only those activities and responsibilities that aid us, and our families, toward a healthy life of love, joy and salvation? Are we putting God first in our life? Are we making time for relationship building? Now let’s think about our physical surroundings, including our bodies. Do we need to lighten up here, too? Are we systematically doing something about it? Do we feel free to be propelled through space, or does our weight or our possessions tie us down? There is great freedom in living as lightly and simply as possible. God gave us this magnificent world to aid us in our journey to grow closer to Him and thus each other. Let us ‘lighten our load’ that we may be free to serve Him, and each other, and enjoy the few blessed years we each have on this small earth He created just for us.

      Week of July 9, 2007
      Quote for the Week
      “Cheerfulness consists in not regarding these things as our own, but as entrusted to us by God for the benefit of our fellow-servants. It consists in scattering them abroad generously with joy and magnanimity, not reluctantly or under compulsion, (II Cor.9:7). Further, we ought cheerfully to empty ourselves of that which we stored up in the hope of the true promise God has made to us of giving us a hundredfold reward for this. For since God knows that we are all wholly possessed by the lust for possessions and mad desire for wealth and how difficult it is for us to tear ourselves loose from them, and how those who in various ways have been deprived of them despair of life itself, He has made use of the corre sponding remedy. St. Symeon the New Theologian (10th century)


      Scripture of the Week
      "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body." (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

      “ Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9:7)


      Question of the Week
      I love the concept of finding cheerfulness in letting go and “traveling light”. Over and over we hear how “clutter” weighs down the spirit, and St. Symeon (see above) seems to echo this message. Are there possessions that have become my “clutter”? We all know the things I mean: those things that pull down, bury, or suffocate. Am I willing to release them to travel a little lighter in my life? What’s holding me back from experiencing the joy God will give in exchange for them?


      Thought for the Week: You Are What You Eat

      Years ago, we were taught in school that, “You Are What You Eat.” This makes intrinsic sense. After all, we are the sum of our decisions, and we decide what we put in our mouths each day of our lives. We know how important it is for us as Christian women to live at our optimal weight, not only to feel and look our best, but to be as effective as possible as wives, mothers and whatever else it is we do (or want to do.)

      Keeping this saying in mind, try this little activity: Take a good, hard look at your body (in your undergarments) in front of a full-length mirror. What do you see? Are you pleased? Disappointed? Thankful? Discouraged? Now throw on a robe and go take a good, hard look at your kitchen pantry. Is it filled with wholesome, whole grain snacks? Healthy nuts? Quality cooking ingredients? Or is it filled with sugary, processed, and fattening foods? Refined flours? Boxes with too many ingredients on the side panel? Now, take a look at your refrigerator. Is it filled with lean meats and cheeses? Colorful, fresh fruits and veggies? Healthy leftovers? A few condiments? Or is it filled with soda (even diet drinks are not healthy!), processed meats and cheeses? Wilted produce? Budding chemistry experiments? You Are What You Eat! What are you eating? Take a few minutes and throw away anything that isn’t healthier than cardboard or that you don’t want to wear on your hips. Yes, toss it! If it isn’t healthy, it is hurting you. You saw the mirror! Be brave! Now, organize your cupboard and refrigerator by food groups. Toss, clean and make it inviting! Showcase the food you want you and your family to eat. It is good to eat, so long as you are making good food choices! Finally, vow to increase your fruit, vegetable, legume, lean meats, natural dairy and whole grain consumption. Refuse to buy anything with ingredie nts you can’t pronounce, or that does not naturally fall into one of these major food groups. Add a little daily exercise, and the results may surprise you!

      "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body," (1 Cor. 6:19-20).


      Week of July 2, 2007
      Quote of Week
      You find no difficulty in washing your clothes; how much easier is it for the Lord to cleanse you from every stain, although you are bound to be tempted every day. When you say to the Lord, 'I have sinned,' He answers, 'Your sins are forgiven you; I am He who wipes them out and I will remember them no more,' (Matt 9:2; Is 43:25); 'as far as the east is from the west, so far have I removed your sins from you; and as a father shows compassion to his sons, so will I show compassion to you,' (cf. Ps. 103:12-13). St. John of Karpathos

      Scripture of the Week
      “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” (Ezekiel 36:26)

      Question of the Week
      “As far as the east is from the west, so far have I removed your sins from you; and as a father shows compassion to his sons, so will I show compassion to you.” Is this something I completely embrace? Or, are there those sins for which, though confessed, I have not yet forgiven myself? What will it take for me to finally show myself the compassion the Lord so freely gives?


      Thought for the Week: On Forgiveness
      Why do we, at times, find it difficult to accept the Lord’s forgiveness? Do we believe with our whole heart that He died on the cross for our sins? Do we want His death and suffering to have been in vain? That is what we say with our actions when we don’t accept the Lord’s forgiveness. And why don’t we accept His forgiveness? Often times it is our pride. “How could I have done such and such, how could I have made such a big mistake?” The greatest illustration of the Lord’s forgiveness in the Gospels involves Saint Peter. Not once, not twice, but three times He denied the Lord. And Jesus proved His forgiveness for this action in two ways. First, when He rose from the dead, He made it a point to say to the women, “…tell the disciples and Peter.” (Mark 16:7) He knew Peter was tormented by His sin, much like we are tormented by our sins and shortcomings. The Lord wanted him to know that He forgave him and loved him. Secondly, He later confronted Peter and asked him three times if he loved Him, one for each time that Peter denied Him. Peter trustingly gave the best answer he could each time. “Yes, I love you, Lord.” “Yes, I love you, Lord.” “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” (John 21:15-17) And Jesus made Peter one of the greatest shepherds of all time. Peter lived and witnessed miracles with our Lord and still He needed His forgiveness. How much more are we bound to sin against our Lord, but do we, like Peter, weep bitterly when we do? This is the great example of Peter. Let us humble our selves and weep for our sins. Let us ask our Lord’s forgiveness and proclaim our love for Him. And let us show by our repentance that we believe He has forgiven us. For “…as far as the east is from the west, so far have I removed your sins from you; and as a father shows compassion to his sons, so will I show compassion to you.” (Psalm 103)

      Words inscribed on the Statue of Liberty
      "Give me your tired, your poor,
      Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
      The wretched refuse of your teeming shore,
      Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
      I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
      - Emma Lazarus, "The New Colossus." inscribed on the Statue of Liberty, 1886.

      May you have a safe and joyous 4th of July

      Week of June 25, 2007
      Quote for the Week
      “As to those who are good and kind but are not believers, we cannot and must not judge them. The ways of the Lord are inscrutable; let us leave these good people entirely to His judgment and to the grace of His Providence. He alone knows how and why He has built the argosy of humanity, and the small boat of each one of us, such as it is.: (St. Marcarios of Optina)
      Scripture of the Week
      “Then the sovereignty, power and greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven will be handed over to the saints, the people of the Most High. His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all rulers will worship and obey him.” (Daniel 7:27)
      Question of the Week
      There seems to be a generalized belief among Christians that non-believers are such because they have chosen to reject Christ. On the contrary, many non-believers are such because they have never truly been introduced to the gospel story…it is not so much a rejection than a complete ignorance of the choices available. Which of these perspectives do I hold? How does it influence my interaction with non-believers?
      Thought for the Week: On Judging our Neighbor
      We live in a very complex and complicated world. Daily, we come face to face with people, ideas, and values with which we disagree, or with which we only partly agree. This is ‘living in the world, but not being of it,’ and it is a painful, but necessary working out of our beliefs and of our own salvation. It trains us to cling to the teachings of our faith and to appreciate the truth of our rich tradition as Orthodox Christians.
      What is to become of the fine and kind people around us who don’t, at least outwardly, profess Christ? The good thing is, we are free from making such judgments. St. Paul says, we can’t even judge ourselves (1 Cor. 4), and our Lord teaches us not to judge, lest we be judged (Matthew 7). We are charged not to judge on this level, and we are the better for it. Who can know the heart of a man except God alone? The beauty of Orthodoxy lies here: we do not, and cannot know the outcome of any man’s life, except through the grace of God revealed to us through their acquired holiness. All people have within them the possibility for choosing God until their last breath. Thus, we CAN make a difference in people’s lives. This ought to elevate our desire to love and encourage all people, to treat them with the greatest respect and love, and to live the Gospel through our actions. If even we, unworthy sinners, can make a difference in our neighbor’s salvation, we know truly that God has become a man and that He has made His dwelling place in us.
      May you enjoy the warm days of summer!

      Week of June 18, 2007
      We write you all with deep sadness with the news of the passing of our beloved Presvytera Sophronia Tomaras. She had a short but courageous battle with lung cancer. All who knew Presvytera Sophronia will remember her warm embrace, humor and keen intellect. In the Pacific Northwest she was deeply loved and respected by all. "Everlasting be her memory!"

      Words of sympathy can be sent to the Fr. Anthony Tomaras, Presvytera Irene & Fr. Stephen Supica and Charlie Tomaras as the family home at 10024 Kopachuck Dr. N.W., Gig Habor, WA 98335.

      Quote for the Week
      One must try at all costs to keep spiritual peace and not be disturbed by insults, but bear them with equanimity, as if they do not relate to you. Such an exercise will give our heart peace and make it a dwelling for the Holy Spirit. (St. Seraphim of Sarov)

      Scripture of the Week
      "I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained. Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you." (Phillipians 3:14-17
      )

      Question of the Week: A reflection on the recent celebration of Fathers Day
      It has often been said that our perspective of God is shaped by our perceptions of our own fathers and/or father figures. How has your image of God as Father been shaped by the fathers in your life? Do you preach one image of God for everyone else, but uphold a completely different image when it comes down to your own personal relationship with Him?


      Thought for the Week: Taking Time to Stop
      I noticed a quote on a bumper sticker which read "Plenty of people miss their share of happiness not because they never found it, but because they never stopped to enjoy it." How true! Often times we find ourselves pressed for time, racing through life without taking time to stop and enjoy it. In January, The Washington Post did an interesting "subway experiment" inviting world famous violinist Joshua Bell to stand in the corner of one of Washington D.C.'s busiest subway stops in L'Enfant Plaza and play his violin. Over a thousand people passed by on their way to work not stopping to notice the brilliant playing of this virtuoso violinist (whom people pay over $100 a ticket to hear perform in concert halls around the world.) Hard to believe, only one woman stopped for a period of time to enjoy the music of this brilliant violinist. How easy it is to pass by life without taking time to stop. Our loving Lord awaits - let us stop in prayer. Our family and friends need our attention and time. Let us be mindful of how we spend our days and how we cherish moments. As we enjoy the long nights of summer, let us stop to notice the beautiful things around us - taking time to stop
      If you'd like to read the article or see video of Joshua Bell's Subway Experience click on the link below:
      http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/04/04/AR2007040401721.html

      Week of June 11, 2007
      Quote for the Week:
      “If you want to suppress sorrow with a gloomy frame of mind, then embrace good-naturedness and array yourself in joy without anger.” (St. Nil of Sinai)


      Scripture of the Week
      “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27
      )

      Question of the Week
      What is my greatest sorrow? What is my greatest joy? To which do I give the greater power and influence in my life?

      Thought for the Week: ‘Kalo Na Pas’ (‘Go with the good’) —A favorite saying of Greek Yiayiathes
      Perhaps one of the greatest challenges to humanity in this life is to see good where no good seems apparent. As Christians we are called to goodness and joy, and like the kingdom, it must be taken by force. In other words, God doesn’t take us kicking and screaming to heaven, nor does he force us to be joyful and take delight in His good earth and all of creation. This is something he leaves in our court, and we must pick up that ball and run with it. How? We must look for the good if we are to ‘go with it.’ Goodness is all around us, yet we must search for it, find it and cherish it. We can start with our neighbor. That man who just cut you off on the road has a soul and is made in the image of God. Yes, he put your life in danger, but he is also putting his own life in danger. Whisper a prayer, not a curse. Your teenager’s room is a mess, but you notice that she is being very responsible with her homework. Mention it to her. The person who is bagging up your groceries is pierced in several prominent places and is darkened with tattoos, dyes, and black clothing. Smile, wish him a pleasant day, and pray for God’s blessings on his life. The news is bad, the water is dirty, and the food is contaminated. Yet we all, amazingly, have food, clothing and shelter, and are healthy. We are living longer than ever before. We can worship our God in our Churches, do our cross in public, and place our votes without fear. We can choose how to spend our time, how to spend our dollars, and how to use our talents. Everyday, we can choose to ‘go with the good’, with Christ Himself and his holy Mother and all the Saints. We can go anywhere with a smile on our lips and a prayer in our heart.


      "He who seeks good finds goodwill" (Proverbs 11:27)

      Week of June 4, 2007
      Quotes for the Week
      Quote for the Week
      Whoever lives in the past is as if dead. Whoever lives in the future in his fantasy (or imagination) is naive, because the future belongs only to God. The Joy of Christ is found only in the present, in the Eternal Present of God. Mother Gabriella, The Ascetic of Love


      Scripture for the Week
      “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)

      Question of the Week
      Is there something from my past that I continually allow to pull me down? Is there some humiliation, oversight, or tragedy that still wields control over me? Or, do I tend to constantly gird myself for events that will most likely never occur? Do I allow myself to worry and fret over mere conjecture? Have I talked with my Spiritual Father about putting these things away in order to embrace God’s plans for the present?

      Thought for the Week: On Busyness and Intimacy
      We live in a society that pushes the limits when it comes to overextending oneself. Some of this is due to the technology that enables us to travel across town in a matter of minutes, to talk to people at any time or place, to write at the speed of light, to research information on any subject with the push of a button, and to buy groceries without the help of a single person. We take all of this for granted, and for the most part, technology is ‘neutral’ morally, yet it enables us to do more, more, more. With wisdom and discernment, we can certainly use technology to our advantage, but it takes discipline and a strong mind to make it work for us and not the other way around. Activities are another limit pusher. We can commit to so many things that we find ourselves more in our cars than in our homes. This can be a stressful way to live. Our homes also require a great deal of attention and time. Carving out time to maintain our homes and create a peaceful home life is difficult in a culture that emphasizes, go, go, go. What is the price to be paid for all of this hustle and bustle? Often times it is the most precious commodity: our relationships. Children’s questions become annoyances, getting out of the house on time becomes the goal, throwing the house together for company becomes the modus operende, and reading and playing give way to television and self absorbing activities. And what of intimacy with our husbands? Time with friends? It can become one more thing “to do.” In our ever-changing society, we would be wise to step out often and look at our lives from the outside. How can we savor time more as a family? How can we increase the quality of time spent with our husbands? How can I enjoy the NOW that God has gifted me today? May we beseech the Saints and our Guardian Angel to ‘order our lives aright,’ and to make the most of each day.

      "Tomorrow’s a Mystery, Today is a gift, that’s why it’s called the present.”

      Week of May 28, 2007
      Quotes for the Week
      Live in constant glorification of, and thanksgiving toward, God; for the greatest sin is ingratitude, and the worst sinner is the ungrateful person. Elder Paisios the Athonite

      Scripture for the Week

      When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.” (Acts 2:1)

      “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” (John 14:26)


      Question of the Week
      “So, what do you do for fun?” I was asked this question last week, and it literally stopped me in my tracks. It was a fairly simple and innocuous question, but I had only stone silence for my response. I managed to stumble through something that sounded coherent, but the question continued to nag at the back of my mind. Had I gotten so caught up in the busy-ness of plowing through my daily to-do list that I had failed to allow for any form of enjoyable downtime? I have a ton of things that I do because I simply think those are the things I’m “supposed” to be doing… would God consider me a wise steward of my time based on the way I was portioning it out? And so, I am passing this simple question along for each of us to consider: “What do you do for fun?” Hopefully, many will have a much quicker and ready response to this question than I.
      Thought for the Week: An Attitude of Gratitude
      The longer we live, the more we realize how much we have to be thankful for in our lives. Yes, our homes will never be the spotless, showcase spaces we see in the magazines, and yes, our children are not perfect, and yes, we sometimes fall into the same pattern of sin we had hoped we had abandoned years ago, but the truth is this: everyday we wake to a new morning with new possibilities and new opportunities for more loving, more caring, a little better perspective and certainly more growing. What a fallacy that learning is for the young. Sure, their little minds are more porous than ours, but certainly there is room in our aging brains for new pathways, new outlooks and new hope. As each day comes and goes, we ought to cling with thankfulness to God for the precious time He has allotted each of us. A wise friend once said in passing, “Garbage day saddens me, because it means one more week of my life has passed.” Every day, every hour, every minute is precious precisely because it is a gift to us from our Lord to be cherished, to be a steward over, and to be thankful for. As we enter the more carefree, summer days, may we continue with thankful hearts to glorify God each waking hour.
      Prayer for the Week
      Heavenly King, Comforter, the Spirit of Truth, who are everywhere present and filling all things. Treasury of blessings and Giver of Life, come and dwell among us. Cleanse us of every sin and save our souls, O Gracious Lord.
      Our prayers are with our beloved sister Presvytera Sophronia Tomaras who is in her final weeks on earth - struggling with lung cancer. We also pray for her daughter, our sister presvytera - Pres. Irene Supica and Fr. Stephen as well as Fr. Anthony and Charlie Tomaras.

      Week of May 21, 2007
      Quotes for the Week
      “Do not forget prayer—it is the life of the soul.” (St. Nikon of Optina)

      "The Elder taught that the basic element of the spiritual life in Christ, the great mystery of our faith, is unity in Christ. It is that sense of identifying with our brother, of carrying the burdens of one another, of living for others as we live for ourselves, of saying "Lord Jesus Christ have mercy upon ME" and for that "ME" to contain and to become for ourselves the pain and the problems of the other, of suffering like they suffer, of rejoicing like they rejoice, their fall becoming our fall and their getting up again becoming our getting up again." (Elder Porphyrios)


      Scripture of the Week
      “The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.” (1 Peter 4:7-11)

      Question for the Week

      What is my gift? Am I being a faithful steward of that gift, or have I allowed outside distractions and pressures to diminish my use of those gifts? Are there changes I need to make in order to utilize this gift as God intended? (If you have not yet discovered the gift God has given you, or if you believe that you truly have no gift, please seek out the wisdom of a trusted father confessor or spiritual father…do not become discouraged in this, but persist in seeking it out…share this struggle with your spouse and pray about it together).

      Thought for the Week: Praying for our Husbands
      There is no more important person to pray for in our lives than our blessed husband. Yes, we should pray for our children. Yes, we should pray for our friends, and family and the world. But the one with whom we are yoked…physically, emotionally, and spiritually, HE is worthy of our prayers. Most of us do this naturally: during his sermons, as he teaches a Bible Study, when he’s out at a late night meeting. Our husbands need our prayers and good wishes and support and encouragement. Yes, they NEED these things. Do not underestimate the power of YOUR prayers and support. Sometimes we mistakenly think that our husbands, by virtue of being priests, DON’T need our extra efforts, our compliments, or our encouragement. But the truth be told, there is no one’s opinions that matter to them as much as ours do, so long as we are keeping the 5:1 ratio!!! (Five times as many positive actions/comments/etc. as negative). There is a beautiful passage/image to dwell upon when praying for our husband’s ministry:

      How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity! It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaron's beard, down upon the collar of his robes. It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion. For there the LORD bestows his blessing, even life forevermore. (Psalm 133:1-3)

      May we be that "oil" in their life, may they feel that unity with us, their blessed spouse, and may they experience, more than anything else, our unfailing prayers, love and support.


      Prayer for the Week: A PRAYER FOR THE PRIESTHOOD
      O Lord Jesus Christ, enkindle the hearts of all Your Priests with the fire of zealous love for You, that they may ever seek Your glory; Give them strength that they may labor unceasingly in Your earthly vineyard for the salvation of our souls and the glory of Your all-honorable and majestic name: of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit: now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.

      Week of May 14, 2007
      "CHRIST IS RISEN!"
      Quote for the Week
      “We, traveling on the journey of this life and calling on God to help us, ought to be divesting ourselves of this hideous garment and clothing ourselves in new desires, in a new love of the age to come, and thereby to receive knowledge of how near or how far we are from our heavenly homeland. But it is not possible to do this quickly; rather one must follow the example of sick people, who, wishing the desired health, do not leave off seeking means to cure themselves.” (Saint Herman of Alaska)
      Scripture of the Week
      “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:16-19)

      Question for the Week
      When I was in college, I received a copy of Hind's Feet in High Places by Hanna Hurnard, a beautiful allegorical tale of the Christian walk that follows the story of a young crippled girl named Much Afraid who journeys up the mountain with the Shepherd in order to attain the High Places where she will be delivered from her disability and receive a new name. Along the way, she encounters spiritual challenges which she must overcome in order to reach her goal. As I contemplate the words of St. Herman, am I willing to trust the Shepherd as He leads me to places that I humanly see as unattainable?

      Thought for the Week
      As we say our last “Christ is Risen,” for the season, it is worthy to reflect on the way the Lord’s resurrection has and is affecting our lives. God truly fulfilled His promises to the Church that He would ‘not leave us as orphans,’ but that He would ‘send His Holy Spirit to guide us unto all truth.’ One of the most beautiful legacies He left us that proves His love for us is the ecclesiastical calendar that reminds us time and time again of His savings acts of grace and mercy for us, His children. Let us make the most of each festal season as it comes and goes, using them as a spring board to delve deeper and deeper into our faith and to grow more assured each year of His abounding love and kindness towards us, His sons and daughters. May we, with joy, live the truth of the resurrection in our hearts and in our lives that those around us may know “…how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.”

      May you have a wonderful week.

      Please continue to pray for our beloved sister Presvytera Sophronia Tomaras who is currently undergoing lung cancer treatment. If you would like to write her a word of encouragement, her address is: 10024 Kopachuck Drive NW., Gig Harbor, WA 98335-5997


      Week of May 7, 2007
      "CHRIST IS RISEN!" "CHRISTOS ANESTI!"

      Quote for the Week
      “My children, always remember Jesus so that in all your weaknesses you may find the appropriate medicine. Are you in pain? By calling on Jesus you will find relief and enlightenment. Are you in affliction? Call on Jesus and behold, consolation will dawn in the realm of your heart. Are you overcome by discouragement? Do not neglect to set your hopes on Jesus, and your soul will be filled with courage and strength. Are you bothered by carnal thoughts that allure you to sensual pleasure? Take the consuming fire of the name of Jesus and set fire to the tares. Are you oppressed by some worldly affair? Say: "Enlighten me, my Jesus, how to deal with the matter which lies before me. Work it out in accordance with Thy holy will." And behold, you will be at peace and will walk with hope.
      In all and through all, set the name of Jesus as a foundation, support, adornment, and protection, and do not be afraid of the enemies. But when you go through anything without Jesus, then you should be afraid. Without medication do not expect to be healed---putrefaction will be the result. Make an effort in the prayer, my child, and then you will experience enormous benefit and refreshment and repose of soul.” (Elder Ephraim of the Holy Mountain [Athos])

      Scripture of the Week
      "Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven.” Matthew 10:33-35

      Question for the Week
      In construction, the "foundation" must be put into place before the rest of the house, and it must be substantial enough to carry the load of the entire structure. The "supports" are the framework of the house rising up from the foundation. They are responsible for transferring the loads down to the foundation and provide a place for the skin of the house to be attached. The "adornment" equates with the interior design element of the house…it should be a reflection of the personality of the occupant. The "protection" is the alarm system installed to keep the contents of the house safe. Elder Ephraim uses this construction analogy to exhort us to place Jesus in each of these elements of our lives. If my life were viewed as a structure, would an onlooker see Jesus in each of these elements? How do I feel about my answer?

      Thought for the Week: On the “Emptying Nest”
      There is nothing like a child “leaving the nest” to put you in a tailspin and fill you with self-doubt and regret. How many mothers around us said, “Enjoy your children and motherhood, it passes so quickly!” This is certainly true…if only we could see that throughout these busy, sometimes arduous, days filled with activity, chores, and commitments. Try as best you can to take a deep breath, find your bearings, and really ENJOY each and every day God has given to you and your family. Say “no” more to others, and “yes” more to your children! Smell their warm necks, cuddle their warm bodies, and be playful and fun. Still “mother” them, hold them to their responsibilities, and certainly help them develop self-discipline, but smile a ton, laugh a lot, and remember, IT DOESN’T LAST FORVEVER!!
      As we reach this point of mid-pentecost -let us continue to joyfully proclaim: "CHRIST IS RISEN!" "CHRISTOS ANESTI!"



      Week of April 30, 2007
      "CHRIST IS RISEN!" "CHRISTOS ANESTI!"

      Quotes of the Week
      “As darkness disappears with the appearance of light, so does all sadness and anger disappear from the fragrance of humility.” (St. John of the Ladder)

      Scripture of the Week
      “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such "wisdom" does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.” (James 3:13-18)

      Question for the Week
      What are my ambitions? What drives these ambitions? What is my attitude toward others who have already achieved what I have yet to realize in my own life?

      Thought for the Week: On Backward Vision
      As persons in general, and as Christians in particular, we have been afforded the great ability of being able to envision our life from the opposite end (remembrance of death). In other words, we can imagine the point of our death, and look backwards at what our life may, or may not, have been and make changes according to that ‘backward vision.’ This is a great opportunity offered to us through our mental capacities by the Lord and a great aid in repenting of our sins. If we allow it to, it can spare us from much pain and suffering in our life and help us be filled and fill others with the love and affection we all desire. How so? As we progress through life, we allow passions to be formed in us (“From the years of my youth many passions combat me…” Matins Service). These set the stage for unhealthy and sinful ‘default’ behaviors to become our modus operandi and are as hard to remove as a pole set in concrete.

      It is only through the blessed and grace-filled sacraments of Holy Confession and Holy Communion, prayer, our will, and that backward vision of meeting the Lord and not wanting to be ashamed of our life that can aid us in our struggle to overcome and be victorious over the gripping and lingering sin in our life. May we use this blessed gift to repent and allow the Lord victory in our life over all that falls short of His Glory, His Might, and His Love. Christos Anesti!


      Let us continue to proclaim the joyous message of the resurrection - "CHRIST IS RISEN!" "TRULY, HE HAS RISEN!"

      Looking for a new terrific Saturday morning breakfast idea?

      Prez's Banana Filled French Toast
      This is the best recipe...and quite easy. All you need to start is a loaf of purchased french bread...unsliced. (a few days old is just fine!) Slice the bread into pockets. Don’t use the ends. Start slicing the first slice all the way through the loaf, the second only 3/4 of the way (to make a place to stuff your bananas) through, the third all the way through and so on. This makes a slice that is hinged.

      The rest of your ingredients are:
      1 loaf of bread (mentioned above)
      2 bananas, not overripe
      1/4 cup brown sugar
      1/4 cup pecans (can be omitted for picky PK's)”
      3 large eggs
      3/4 cup milk
      1/2 tsp vanilla
      1/4 cup unsalted butter

      Slice the bread as we discussed above, with each slice being about 1/2 inch (1 inch total). Peel and slice your bananas. Lay the bananas in the pocket, and sprinkle brown sugar/nut mixture on top. Mix together your eggs, milk, and vanilla. Dip each french toast piece into egg mixture and place into skillet with melted butter. Fry until brown. Add more butter if it runs low. Keep warm in oven if you are cooking for a crowd.

      Enjoy these wonderful banana toasts with powdered sugar, sprinkle with a little cinnamon, maple syrup, or even whipped cream.



      Week of April 23, 2007
      "CHRIST IS RISEN!"

      Quote for the Week
      "If you wish that God should speedily give you hearty faith in prayer, strive with all your heart to speak and to do everything in regard to other people sincerely, and never be deceitful in your dealings with them. If you are straightforward and truthful with others, then God will give you straightforwardness and sincere faith also in reference to Himself." (St. John of Kronstadt)

      Scripture for the Week
      But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart" (that is, the word of faith which we preach): that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. (Romans 10:8-10)

      Question of the Week
      How truthful am I? Am I sincere in what I say? Have I allowed the seemingly innocuous (but deadly) white lie a foothold in my daily exchanges? How do I feel about my answer? Is there any action I need to take?

      Thought for the Week: On Truth - “To thine own self be true…” (Hamlet)
      Being a truthful and truth-filled person in a society overflowing with half-truths is no easy endeavor. Daily we encounter ideas, philosophies, and beliefs that embody not the truth, but only a portion of it, and it can lead to confusion (and exhaustion) as we strive to live and perpetuate the truth of our faith in our own lives and the lives of those we love, and when possible, to the world around us. The Lord told us it would be difficult, “Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves.” (Luke 10:3) The inner conflict that we bear is evidence of the difficulty of such a life. One saint wrote to the effect that in the last days, to cross oneself would be an equal feat to St. Anthony living in the desert. So is it in our times, when God is forgotten, and, as Mother Rafaela writes, “we live like atheists.” Prayer is our greatest ally and brings peace to a mind and heart which daily must with vigilance and great attentiveness examine and encounter a culture opposed to its own. The Lord knows our struggles and the inner martyrdom that we suffer as we try to practice His commandments in a society that has seemingly forgotten them. May the joy of our Resurrected Lord fill us with new life and strength to “fight the good fight,” and thus receive the imperishable crown together with all His glorious and faithful saints and enter His Kingdom of truth, and peace and love. Christ is Risen!

      Let us continue to celebrate the resurrection of Christ with faith and love.


      Week of April 16, 2007
      Quote for the Week
      “Divine compassion brought it about in a wonderful way that when the doubting disciple touched the wounds in his Master's body, he cured the wounds of our unbelief. Thomas' unbelief was of more advantage to our faith than the faith of the believing disciples because when he was led back to faith by touching Jesus, our minds were relieved of all doubt and made firm in faith. And so after His resurrection Jesus allowed His disciples to doubt. But He did not desert him in his doubt. It is much the same as when before His birth He desired that Mary have a husband, who had not yet married her. The disciple who doubted and touched became a witness to the truth of the resurrection in just the same way as the husband of His mother had been the guardian of her perfect virginity.” (St. Gregory the Great)

      Scripture for the Week
      “After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.” (Acts 1:3)

      Question of the Week
      I observe the absolute miraculous when I behold Christ’s birth and resurrection. When someone needs a miracle, I can muster faith that would move mountains believing that God can provide what is needed. Yet within my own circumstances, my earthbound intellect sometimes overrules my faith and causes me to doubt that God would perform the miraculous within my own life, my own family, my own marriage. Do I truly believe that nothing is impossible with God? Is it something I accept without limitation, or do I subconsciously put constraints on what miracles God can perform when it comes to my own life?

      Movie recommendation on this theme: “Facing the Giants” (now available on DVD) is a wonderful choice for a family movie night and is sure to spark some profound discussion.


      Thought for the Week
      We are very blessed as Orthodox, as we have many pre-ordained opportunities/seasons for renewal throughout the year. Pascha, is of course the crowning of these opportunities. Having spent a good deal of time fasting, praying, worshiping, and in many ways turning our normal schedules ‘upside-down,’ we receive the chance to make a ‘fresh start’ in our life. Sure, we all want to get back to our ‘normal routines,’ but if we only do that, we have not profited from the very purpose Great Lent is supposed to achieve in us. Thus, this is a wonderful time to take inventory and re-vamp our lives a bit. Remember, even small movements in the rutter of the ship can change its course, and so it goes in our life. A few small changes can have a big ripple effect on our own personal growth and thus on all those whose lives we daily effect.

      Here are a few areas to consider:
      1. Am I a good steward of the time God gives me each day?
      2. Do I (and my family) watch too much television and videos?
      3. Do we all read enough meaningful books?
      4. Do we pray as regularly as we ought?
      5. Do we prepare for Holy Communion each time it is offered?
      6. Do we attend church services joyfully?


      May we, this Paschal Season, carry the flame of Christ in our hearts and live the love and joy that we received from Him…the crucified and resurrected Savior of our souls. Christ is Risen!


      May we continue to joyfully proclaim: "CHRIST IS RISEN!" "CHRISTOS ANESTI!"

      Week of April 9, 2007
      Quotes for the Week
      “Today the Angels leap with joy and all of the Heavenly Powers rejoice, elated because of the salvation of mankind. If because of the repentance of a single person there is joy in Heaven and earth, more so is this true because of the salvation of the world. Today did Christ liberate the nature of man from the tyranny of the devil and restored it to its previous nobility.
      Were there not the Resurrection, then how could the truth of God have been preserved, when so many evil people flourish and so many good ones suffer and end their lives in suffering? Where do all of these people receive their just reward, if there is no Resurrection?” (St. John Chrysostom)
      “We were created for eternal life by our Creator, we are called to it by the word of God, and we are renewed by holy Baptism. And Christ the Son of God came into the world for this, that He should call us and take us there, and He is the one thing needful. For this reason your very first endeavor and care should be to receive it. Without it everything is as nothing, though you have the whole world under you.” (Abba Epiphanios)
      Scripture for the Week
      “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” Ephesians 2: 4-7
      Question of the Week
      So many of us spend the bulk of our days focused on others – perpetually giving, but rarely finding the time and/or opportunity to receive. How do I feel when I contemplate the above Scripture reading and consider what it would be like sitting together with Christ in the heavenly places? This, truly, is the ultimate in receiving…will I know what to do with it?
      Thought for the Week: A Heavenly Vision (Isaiah 6:1-7)
      There is a beautiful image of heaven presented to us from the Prophet Isaiah: In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another: "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of His glory." At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke. "Woe to me!" I cried. "I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty." Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, "See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for."
      With a little imagination, this could be an image of our own Divine Liturgy…the priest in the flowing robes at the altar, the angelic hosts depicted in vivid iconography and portrayed by the choir in its hymnography singing “Holy, holy, holy,” the temple filled with the smoke of incense…we, the unworthy servants fervently praying and beseeching that the Lord will make us worthy once again of His precious Body and Blood…and rather than being consumed by the Holy fire, we receive forgiveness of our sins.
      Imagine, if you will, that life consisted not primarily in homework, TV, shuffling hither and thither, a zillion commitments and tasks, but rather that life centered on the Creator of our souls and bodies, on worshiping Him, on having fellowship with our brothers and sisters in Him, and on serving others in His Holy name. Imagine living this heavenly worship, here on earth and also in heaven, where beauty surpasses any image of splendor and grandeur that we can even begin to muster. This is what Great Lent is for us…a profound taste of that heavenly worship and meaningful fellowship with all who share that same love for God and to which we will all hopefully be deemed worthy at the end of our lives. Let us each live and strive for this ‘heaven on earth,’ even amidst the laundry and the hustle and bustle of life. Christos Anesti!!!
      May you have a wonderful Bright Week. May the risen Lord bring you encouragement after the journey of Lent, Holy Week and Pascha!
      Week of April 2, 2007
      Quote for the Week
      “Let those of us who have wisely finished the course of fasting And who celebrate with love the beginning of the suffering of the Passion of the Lord, Let us all, my brothers, zealously imitate the purity of self-controlled Joseph; Let us fear the sterility of the fig tree; Let us dry up through almsgiving the sweetness of passion. In order that we may joyously anticipate the Resurrection, Let us procure like myrrh pardon from on high Because the Eye that never sleeps observes all things. O Savior, consider those of us who have appeared at the season Of Thy passion, worthy to worship also Thy Resurrection, O Eye that does not sleep.” (St. Romanos the Melodist)

      Scripture for the Week
      No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it. (1 Corinthians 10:13)

      Question of the Week
      Holy Week – the Week of Weeks for Orthodox Christians everywhere, comes in triumphantly with the joy and exuberance of Lazarus being raised and Christ’s heralded entry into Jerusalem. As the week progresses, though, Palm Sunday’s splendor slowly disintegrates into what must have been an unbelievably surreal turn of events for his disciples. Through our services, we have the opportunity to walk this path alongside the disciples - to taste and experience their horror, disillusionment, and disbelief. Yet, when all seems darkest, we join the apostles to rejoice in Christ’s miraculously-delivered Resurrection…a joy beyond the comprehensible. What is there in this journey that touches me most deeply? Where do I experience God most fully in what His Son has done for me?

      Thought for the Week
      In the pre-communion prayers, there is a final prayer by St. John Chrysostom which begins, “I stand at the door of Thy Holy Temple, yet I do not put away my grievous thoughts…”
      Lent is a purifying time. We seem to see around us the ‘chaff being separated from the wheat,’ faithful people making great efforts to attend the services and confess their sins, and we wonder in our hearts, “Am I the chaff or the wheat? Will the Lord accept me into his kingdom? Or will I be shut out like the maidens with no oil in their lamps?” We see how we have succeeded these last 40 days, how we may have grown…yet, perhaps more glaring, we see how we have fallen short, and instead of focusing on the glory of the Lord, we may focus on our own personal failures. This is the time to raise our chin and look to the Lord for His great loving kindness and mercy and to say, “I have sinned like the harlot and I am not worthy to gaze on Your Holiness!” None of us is worthy, and if we can come away from Lent with that sense alone, we actually have succeeded. For more than anything, we must learn to depend wholly on Him, our Lord and Master, and to realize that without Him our life is barren and without purpose. As Presvyteres there is so much to distract us from this vision, this high calling, so many temptations to forget that after all, we are simple servants of a great and wondrous King. Let us forget ourselves and finish the course of this race with our eyes firmly set on the Lord: His humility and kindness, His strength and mercy, His power and love, and His Glorious Resurrection and Kingdom without end. Let our “Christ is Risen!” come from a humble and unpretentious heart which bows down to the King of Glory who will raise up our unworthy souls and bodies and bring us into His Heavenly Kingdom to live with Him forever. Let us put away our grievous thoughts that ‘the King of Glory may enter in!’ Kali Anastasi!!

      Wishing you all a joyous Resurrection - Kali Anastasi!

      Week of March 26, 2007
      Quote for the Week
      Do you have faith in God? If you do, lay it down then as a basis for all your behavior. With it, face everything that comes your way in this life--be it joy or grief. Do not allow your faith to change every day according to the vicissitudes of this life. Do not let success increase your faith in God, neither let failure or loss or illness weaken or undermine it. Have you accepted to live with God? Put, then, all your trust in Him at once. Never try to recant or regress in the least. Keep faithful to Him even unto death. (Matthew the Poor, Orthodox Prayer Life, The Interior Way)

      Scripture for the Week
      "My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge." (2 Colossians 2:2-3)

      Question for the Week
      God's faithfulness to His children is constant. It is inconceivable that He might be more faithful at one point in our lives than at another. As humans, we lack that same constancy. As I near the completion of Great Lent and approach Holy Week, where is my faithfulness to God? If I were to show it on a graph, would it be climbing upward, holding steady at a healthy level, descending, or falling off the chart altogether? What do I think I need in order to get it where it needs to be?

      Thought for the Week
      I was living in Los Angeles when the 1984 Olympics occurred. I remember the excitement of attending some of the track events, and like most Los Angelinos, I was captivated enough to follow the televised events as well. I remember most distinctly the women’s marathon that year. I sat transfixed watching the runners come in toward the finish and was focused on one runner in particular. She was just yards away from the finish. Her eyes were glazed over, her feet seemed to be moving on some convoluted type of autopilot as she arduously moved herself forward, and then her legs seemed to turn to rubber and she collapsed to the ground. Her head lifted toward the finish, exhaustion enveloping every fiber of her body, and yet she struggled for the strength to raise herself from her prone position. Slowly, painfully, she rose… staggering first in one direction and then the other. She no longer seemed to have any concept of who or where she was… yet, step by step, she continued toward the finish line. You could see her coach calling encouragement to her, and I wanted so badly to come alongside her and help her… I felt as if my own heart were bursting. My eyes stung with tears watching this display of determination as she crossed the line and collapsed into the arms of her waiting coach. I think of this woman and reflect on this image as we, too, complete our Lenten marathon and the finish line is within our sights. Let us encourage one another to complete this race with excellence, with fervor, with determination, and with the exhilaration of those who run the race with the type of victory in our sights that glorifies God.

      Lenten Recipes for the Week
      Let's try a few new recipes cooking with potatoes: http://www.vrg.org/recipes/potato.htm

      Let us do all things with faith and great love.

      Week of March 19, 2007
      Quotes for the Week
      "Repentance is an effect of faith. For unless a man believes that the object of his addiction is sin, he will not abandon it; and if he does not believe punishment is impending over the transgressor, and salvation to be the portion of him who lives according to the commandments, he will not reform." (Saint Clement of Alexandria)

      "Young people must be made to distinguish between helpful and injurious knowledge, keeping clearly in mind the Christian’s purpose in life. So, like the athlete or the musician, they must bend every energy to one task, the winning of the heavenly crown." (Saint Basil the Great)


      Scripture for the Week
      "Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death." (2 Corinthians 7:10)

      Question for the Week
      For many clergy families Great Lent becomes a whirl of activity and the presvytera often finds herself thrust into shouldering the lion's share of overseeing kids' activities, handling household catastrophies, co-ordinating schedules while trying to come up with creative lenten fare for meals. All this takes energy...lots of it. So, when I read Saint Basil's exhortation to "bend every energy" to the winning of the heavenly crown, what does this mean to me in the context of my Lenten journey?

      Thought for the Week: What is the Role of the Presvytera?
      Do we dare ask such a question? Absolutely!! Is it different than what is expected of any Christian woman? Hardly, at all. The role of the Presvytera is to love and seek Christ and His righteousness, to love her husband the whole of their life, to be a dedicated mother who teaches and prepares her children for a life in Christ and His Holy Church, and to ‘love the parishioners into the kingdom of heaven.’ If we succeed in these things we have brought glory to God, we have honored our husbands, and our children will call us blessed. We will have been an aid and not an adversary in our husband’s ministry, and we will have peace in our hearts. In this way, too, we will “bend every energy to one task, the winning of the heavenly crown,” as St. Basil so beautifully exhorts us. Let us encourage each other in these things, and the rest, as our Lord says, ‘will be added unto us.’

      Prayer for a Child in a Clerical Family
      Holy Lord, King of heaven and earth,
      Look down with mercy and compassion upon our family and our home.
      Grant health and everything good to my parents (father and mother, Papa and Mama, dad and mom) so that they may take care of me and everyone in our church.
      And help me to do what is good and pleasing to You and to them.
      Amen.


      Lenten Recipe for the Week Masbit il Darwish "Monk's Rosary"--Eggplant Potato Stew
      from Sally Kassab - Boston, Massachusetts

      Can be served on its own or over steamed rice

      1 onion, julienne cut
      2 potatoes, diagonal cubes or wedges
      2 garlic cloves, chopped
      4 zucchini or yellow squash, cut on diagonal
      1 eggplant, cut into large cubes
      1 can garbanzo beans, drained
      1 can whole tomatoes OR 4 fresh tomatoes, peeled, chopped w/juice
      1/2 tsp salt
      1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
      1/4 cup oil

      1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Layer the above ingredients into a stew pot in the order presented above. Cover and bake for 30 minutes.
      2. Stir and continue to bake uncovered until liquid is absorbed, approximately 15 minutes more. Serve hot with pita bread and fresh cut vegetables.

      As we prepare for the Feast of the Annunciation this Sunday, let us reflect upon the words of St. Romanos the Melodist
      "What I see I am not able to understand, for it passes human understanding. How is the bush that endures fire not consumed? How does the lamb endure the lion, or the swallow the eagle, and the servant his Master? In mortal womb, in a manner uncircumscribed, Mary bears my Savior as He wills it, So that every man may proclaim "A virgin gives birth, and after the birth remains a virgin." (On the Annunciation)


      Week of March 12, 2007
      Quote for the Week
      "Our most important task, perhaps, is the Christian enlightenment of ourselves and others. We must go deeper into our Faith—not by studying the canons of Ecumenical Councils or the typicon (although they also have their place), but by knowing how God acts in our lives; by reading the lives of God-pleasers in the Old and New Testaments (we read the Old Testament far too little; it is very instructive); by reading the lives of Saints and the writings of the Holy Fathers on practical spiritual life; by reading about the suffering of Christians today and in recent years. In all of this learning our eyes must be on heaven above, the goal we strive for, not on the problems and disasters of earth below."

      "Do you have a notebook for taking down quotes from Holy Fathers in your reading? Do you always have a book of Holy Fathers that you are reading and can turn to in a moment of gloom? Start now—this is essential!" (+Fr. Seraphim Rose)


      Question for the Week
      Let us reflect upon Fr. Seraphim Rose's question. Have you considered keeping a notebook for taking down quotes from the Holy Fathers you're reading? (If the book is one you own, you might prefer highlighting in order to streamline the process. If you happen to encounter quotes worth saving while surfing the internet, why not create a document you can copy and paste them into? This way, they won't become misplaced, or worse, wind up as part of a toddler's coloring spree!)

      Scripture for the Week
      “Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place.” (Ephesians 6:14)

      Thought for the Week: Your Life as a Mirror
      Do you remember giving a concert for your parents when you were little, and when you saw them in the audience, you waited and waited until they met your gaze…and when they did, your arms went flaying all over the place waving ‘hello’ with a humungous grin on your face? Such is the power of a smiling parent. When we are first born, we spend countless hours studying the face of this special, big person we come to know as ‘Mom’ while she is nursing us, feeding us a bottle, changing our diaper, or just holding and chatting to us. This face and every expression it makes leaves a stamp in our remarkable, youthful, brain. As we see her face daily, we learn to quickly discern what she is thinking, doing, feeling, etc. We come to realize that her face expresses joy, sadness, hopefulness, disapproval, etc. We are permanently bonded to, and imitate, the face of the one we know so well.
      We find mirrors elsewhere in our lives. Our churches are adorned with them, for the face reveals the person. "Prosopo" which is Greek for face, shares the same root with the Greek word for personality (prosopikotita). In seeing Christ’s face, we recognize His humanity and Lordship, and we desire to mirror His Holy image…in seeing our face, our children see our personhood, and they mirror what they see. What icon do we portray? Are we intentional in showing joy despite life’s hardships? Do we walk with furrowed brow, head down, or chin up, crow’s feet and sparkly eyes? What do our children and husbands see when they behold our face? We all need to be reminded now and then, that to those we love, our Life is a Mirror!

      Week of March 5, 2007
      Quote for the Week
      I beg you, for the love of God, do not stop saying the prayer of our Christ (Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner) not even for a moment. Your lips should continuously murmur the name of Jesus Who destroys the devil and all his plots. Cry out incessantly to our Christ, and at once He will hasten wholeheartedly to help us.
      Just as iron cannot be grabbed or even approached when it is red-hot, the same thing happens with the soul of him who says the prayer with the fervor of Christ. The demons do not approach it---and how could they? For if they draw near it, they will be burned by the Divine fire which the Divine name contains.
      Whoever prays is enlightened, and whoever does not pray is darkened. Prayer is the provider of divine light. This is why everyone who prays well becomes all radiant, and the Spirit of God dwells in him. If despondency, indifference, listlessness, etc., approach us, let us pray with fear, pain, and great noetic vigilance, and we will immediately experience the miracle of consolation and joy by the grace of God. It is not possible for a person who prays to hold a grudge against someone or refuse to forgive him for any fault whatsoever. Everything is reduced to ashes when it comes near the fear of the Jesus prayer.
      So, my children, struggle in the salvific and sanctifying prayer of our Christ, so that you may become radiant and holy. Elder Ephraim of the Holy Mountain (Athos)
      Hymn from Lenten Vesper
      "By enlightening our souls through fasting. O Lord may we be enabled to behold Thy cross in joy - in fear to bow before it. The cross illumines They voluntary sufferings. Grant us to behold them, O Lover of all."
      Scripture Verse for the Week
      "I appeal to you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect." (Romans 12: 1-2)
      Thought for the Week: The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse: Have they entered your marriage?
      John Gottman, author of “Why Marriages Succeed and Fail,” offers us tremendous insight into what makes a successful, stable, lasting marriage, and conversely, he identifies the distinct, downward spiraling cascade of interactions and emotions that sabotage and bring marriage to a sad end. The ‘Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse’ are four warning signs that the most precious relationship in our life, our marriage, is entering troubled waters. Like preventative medicine, knowledge is key here…for it is possible to carefully dissect where our marriages are going awry and pinpoint those causes so that we may restore the joy and love that God intended for all of us in this most precious sacrament. Here are the warning signs, from least to most dangerous, in a nutshell: (quoted and paraphrased from pp. 71-102)

      The First Horseman: Criticism. Criticism enters our marriage when we allow our complaining to involve attacking our spouse’s personality or character rather than a specific behavior. This involves terms like ‘you always,’ or ‘you never…’ coupled with assaulting remarks (‘you are so selfish’). It can lead to ‘kitchen sinking,’ the tendency to add on a list of negative criticisms with our initial remarks. Complaining can actually be quite healthy to a marriage. Expressing anger and disagreement (through ‘I’ statements) though rarely pleasant, makes for a stronger marriage in the long run as long as we stick with a specific event. (“I was hoping you would have been home sooner…I needed to go…”) Criticism assumes the bad, rather than the good, in our spouse and should be avoided like the plague, for it prepares the way for worse things.
      The Second Horseman: Contempt. What separates contempt from criticism is the intention to insult and psychologically abuse your partner. With our words and body language, we’re lobbing insults right into the heart of our spouse’s sense of self. These actions are fueled with negative thoughts about our spouse…he’s stupid, incompetent, disgusting, a fool. These messages come across as well through our words, our actions, and our facial expressions. Contempt can be the result of one escalating issue between the couple that begins to pervade other areas of their interaction. As a consequence, the couple ceases to compliment and express mutual admiration of each other, or to remember why they fell in love in the first place (three perfect antidotes). Contempt involves: Insults and name-calling, hostile humor, mockery, and negative body language and should be banned from our Christian marriages.
      The Third Horseman: Defensiveness. With the entry of each horseman, our marriages grow from bad to worse. Defensiveness follows on the heels of contempt. When contempt enters our marriage, we begin to act in a defensive manner, i.e., we begin to feel victimized by each other, to defend ourselves, and to not take responsibility for setting things right. It is a natural response, but it further deteriorates the marriage. Here are some common forms: Denying responsibility, making excuses, disagreeing with ‘negative mind reading,’ cross-complaining, reverse blaming, whining, negative body language. Defensiveness obstructs communication and pits us against our spouse, whom we at one point willingly met at the altar!
      The Fourth Horseman: Stonewalling. The couple is nearing rock bottom. Exhausted and overwhelmed by our attacks, our spouse eventually stops responding, even defensively. Stonewalling is the emotional detachment and distance a spouse makes as a result of our allowing the prior three horsemen to take a foothold in our marriage. Some see it as the ‘last straw’ to separation or divorce, and it can be, but it must be understood that stonewalling is a response to habitual criticism, contempt and defensiveness in the home. It is a powerful reaction of silence or icy distance to a talking spouse. Interestingly, men are usually the stonewallers, and women the criticizers in a marriage. If stonewalling takes permanent residence in our home, it takes serious hard work and soul searching to save the marriage. As in everything in life, marriage takes work and care. In order to live the full life in Christ He intended us to live, we must be active, life-long learners seeking insight, wisdom and practical applications to help our marriages be the loving and intimate safe haven we all desire. In so doing, we will be able to teach others to achieve the same marital joy through our example and encouraging words.
      Questions for the Week
      Am I applying liberally in my marriage the antidotes to contempt? Do I remember to compliment my spouse? Do I remember to express to my spouse those things that I admire about him? Do I take time to think back to what attracted me to my spouse in the first place?
      Lenten Recipe for the Week: Yemista me Ryzi: Aliki's Stuffed Vegetables with Rice from Nancy Gaifyllia
      Here's a version of stuffed vegetables, and a great way to get our kids to eat healthy meals they might not otherwise touch! If there's any filling left over, freeze it and use it another time.
      INGREDIENTS: 1 spring onion, finely chopped 1 bunch of fresh parsley, finely chopped 1 pound of zucchini, grated 2 medium carrots, grated 1/2 eggplant, peeled and grated 1/2 + 1/2 cup of olive oil 4 firm tomatoes 4 medium zucchini 4 small eggplants 4 peppers (green bell, or banana) 1 1/2 cups of long grain rice 1 tablespoon of sea salt 1 teaspoon of freshly ground pepper toasted breadcrumbs
      PREPARATION: Wash the vegetables carefully and dry. With a paring knife, cut the caps off the tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant, and both ends off the zucchini and set aside. With a spoon, scoop out the pulp and seeds from the eggplant, zucchini, and peppers, and discard. Scoop out the tomato pulp, chop well, and set aside. Lightly salt the interior of all vegetables (Tip; Scoop out vegetables leaving a thin shell, about 1/8 inch.) In a pot, heat 1/2 cup of olive oil and sauté the onion for about 2-3 minutes. Add grated zucchini, eggplant, and carrots, and cook over low heat for 10 minutes. Add the tomato pulp and continue to cook for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool for 15 minutes, and put in a bowl. Add the rice, salt, and pepper, and mix well with a spoon until blended. With a spoon, fill vegetables loosely with the rice mixture, place in a roasting pan packed closely but not squashed, with caps covering the tops and ends. Place tomatoes (and small bell peppers if used) upright, lie the others on their sides. Pour 1/2 cup olive oil and 1/2 cup water over the top, sprinkle the tops of the upright vegetables with toasted breadcrumbs, and bake at 450F (230C) for 1 hour. Halfway through, turn the vegetables that are placed on their sides.
      Note: If the vegetables start to get too brown before cooking time is up, cover with foil. Yield: serves 4

      Week of February 26, 2007
      Quote for the Week
      "In order for there to be spiritual fruit, certain conditions are necessary: good seed (word) and good soil. The seed matures in the presence of patience. There are so many instances where a person, not seeing the fruit he expected, has fallen into despondency, with all his work for nothing. One must have the determination to endure everything. Only then can one hope to receive what he wishes. In your patience possess ye your souls." (Luke 21:19) [St. Nikon of Optina]

      Scripture of the Week
      "Finally, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things." (Philippians 4:8)

      Question for the Week
      Have you ever looked closely at a rhizome? Ugly, shriveled, misshapen...and yet, once it's placed in the ground and given the proper environment and nourishment, its shoots push up through the soil and burst forth into riotous color within the garden. Their present beauty defies their former unloveliness...the beauty was there all along, but needed to be called forth into existence by the proper conditions. Do I see beauty within my spouse/child(ren) where perhaps they only see unloveliness? What encouragement and love can I provide to coax forth that beauty so that they may realize the fullness of God's desires for them?

      Thought for the Week: How’s Your Homecoming?
      There is a very special time each day when a family re-unites after going its separate ways…it may be one big ‘homecoming,’ or it may be in spurts as our older ones take on more independent living. But whether they’re six, sixteen, or sixty, these few minutes can be the most important of their day as they re-connect with, us, those who love and care most about them. What’s key here is our eyes, our mouth and our heart. Do they portray warmth, and love, and concern? Are they self-focused or other-focused? Do they show understanding and compassion or do they reveal personal burdens and crisis? As in everything in life, training is the key. For the horse, we put on bit and bridle. What can be put in our mouths? Words of prayer, blessings, kind and affectionate terms, a smile. These supercede any bit and bridle, for though you can lead a horse to water, you cannot make him drink; and joy is a beverage that cannot be force-fed upon anyone. Practice makes perfect, and even if the words and the smiles feel pretentious, God knows the intention of our hearts and will bless our efforts a hundredfold. Let’s make the ‘homecoming’ of each of our loved ones an event they will never forget.
      Lenten Recipes
      Looking for sandwich ideas for lunches for your family? Just click on the link below:
      http://tcgalaska.com/htgoc/Fastingrecipes/SANDWICHIDEAS.htm

      Week of February 19, 2007
      Quote for the Week
      "Whatever gentleness you use in speaking with others, that very same gentleness will Christ use with you. With whatever measure you measure out to others, with that same measure will He apportion out to you. Just as you forgive the failings of others, He forgives yours. With whatever love and gentleness you seek Him, likewise will He appear to you." (Elder Joseph the Hesychast)
      Scripture for the Week to Memorize
      “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” (Colossians 3:13)
      Question for the Week
      The greatest cause of burnout is often listed as unresolved anger. Unresolved anger cannot exist unless there is an absence of forgiveness. Am I approaching burnout? Where is my anger, and with whom or what am I angry? Am I willing to make the choice to forgive and to allow God's gentleness to wash away all remnants of my anger?
      Thought for the Week
      As we begin this blessed season of Great Lent, let us approach this journey with joy! Let us give extra time and attention to our prayer life, fasting, reading of Holy Scripture and reaching out to others. It is imperative for each of us to receive the Sacrament of Holy Confession during Lent. This week, take time to open your bible and read the bible verses below:
YOU SAY
 GOD SAYS
BIBLE VERSES
You say: "It's impossible"
God says: "All things are possible."
Luke 18:27
You say: "I'm too tired."
God says: "I will give you rest."
Matthew 11:28-30
You say: "Nobody really loves me."
God says: "I love you."
John 3:16 and John 3:34
You say: "I can't go on."
God says: "My grace is sufficient."
II Corinthians 12:9 and Psalms 91:15
You say: "I can't figure things out."
God says: "I will direct your steps."
Proverbs 3:5-6
You say: "I can't do it."
God says: "You can do all things."
Philippians 4:13
You say: I'm not able." 
God says: "I am able."
II Corinthians 9:8
You say: "It's not worth it."
God says: "It will be worth it."
Romans 8:28
You say: "I can't forgive myself."
God says: "I forgive you."
I John 1:9 and Romans 8:1
You say: "I can't manage."
God says: "I will supply all your needs."
Philippians 4:19
You say: "I'm afraid."
God says: "I have not given you a spirit of fear."
II Timothy 1:7
You say: "I'm always worried and frustrated."
God says: "Cast all your cares on ME."
1 Peter 5:7
You say: "I'm not smart enough."
God says: "I give you wisdom."
I Corinthians 1:30
You say: "I feel all alone."
God says: "I will never leave you or forsake you."
Hebrews 13:5
    • Lenten Recipes
      Each week during Lent, Prez to Prez will direct you to a website to help you plan delicious and healthy Lenten meals for your family. This week's recipes & kid friendly ideas can be found on the website "The Vegetarian Kitchen" by Nava Atlas - www.vegkitchen.com

      Week of February 12, 2007
      Quote for the Week
      We are feeble. We can do nothing by our own power. No matter what great work it may be, it is all external, earthly. According to the will of God and His inscrutable judgments everything will return to nothing. Everything is temporary, and we must value it only insofar as it serves us for our salvation. We must just remember one thing, and only one thing, to care for the salvation of our soul, and leave everything else to the will of God. We must humble ourselves. (St. Nikon of Optina)
      Memorize the Scripture for the Week
      "Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you." (1 Peter 5:7)
      Question for the Week
      My teenage son slumped into the car one afternoon upset that upon arriving to school that day he learned that he had prepared for the wrong final and instead had to take one he had not yet studied for. He had gone into this final with an "A", but because he hadn't reviewed for it yet, did poorly. He had "lost" the grade he had worked so hard for all semester. I let him get it out of his system for a bit, but then reasured him that life would go on, and that, as far as anyone knew, what had occurred would have no power to jeopardize his salvation, He could simply embrace the lesson he learned (i.e., always double check your schedule) and continue on his path. By the time we arrived home, a page had already been turned and a new chapter begun.
      Do I allow myself to "stew" over circumstances which have no bearing on my salvation? Do I fret as much over those issues that DO bear on my salvation? How do I feel about my answers?
      Thought for the Week: On Money (or the lack thereof)
      One of the greatest challenges of a priestly family is MONEY. We know our husbands earn every cent they make, and yet compared to worldly standards, or with our kids in private schools, or in just trying to own or rent a home in outrageous places like CALIFORNIA or NEW YORK CITY, money is a challenge! Some of us work to make ends meet... or to own our own home…or to make it so our children ‘stack up’ on one level or another. Some of us stay at home, another challenge, knowing our ‘earning power.’ These are the sacrifices we make to serve our Lord and his Holy Church. We have it better than ANY generation before us, so we are thankful. We feel the pressures of a culture that is ‘acquisitionally dependent.’ So we make do, we get by, we scrimp here, and cut there. This is good. And normal. And a serious life in Christ. We all know most of our husbands would be hired by some high-falutin’ company in about 2 seconds if they tried, but they have chosen to serve the Lord. And so have we. Right by their side. So consider the sacrifices you are making to be holy unto the Lord. If you are going to complain, complain to Him, and then bow down and worship the God who has blessed you in ways unquantifiable. Show your children that you are happy to live the life you are living. Manage your finances to the best of your ability (since you are probably the one doing it!). And smile at the future, knowing that our God supplies, maybe not all our wants and desires, but certainly our needs. And this is what was promised to those who SERVE and LOVE Him.

      Week of February 5, 2007
      Quotes for the Week
      You must bear the spiritual infirmities of your brother gladly, and without annoyance. For when someone is physically ill, we are not only not annoyed with him, but we are exemplary in our care for him; we should also set an example in cases of spiritual illness. (St. Moses of Optina)
      May the Lord give you the wisdom and the strength to bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ, as well as love and peace. May the mistakes, faults and sins of the brethren be mine. (St. Moses of Optina)
      Scripture for the Week
      “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2)
      Question for the Week
      There are times when we see the burdens of others and marvel at how light our burdens seem in comparison. However, there are times for many of us when our burdens become so weighty that we doubt that we can bear up under them. In both these instances lies the beauty of bearing one another's burdens, i.e., I'll carry your burdens to God for you while you carry mine. Do I have someone with whom I am actively doing this? (Spouse, sister presvytera, brother priest, relative, friend, etc.) Is there someone else whose burdens I would gladly bear? What am I waiting for?
      Thought for the Week: Sclerosis of the Heart
      scle·ro·ses: A thickening or hardening of a body part, as of an artery, especially from excessive formation of fibrous interstitial tissue.
      There are many fatal diseases today that deal with sclerosis, from the Greek term, scleros, meaning hard or scarred. There is Multiple Sclerosis (MS), Scleroderma, and Atherosclerosis; all known debilitating diseases to mankind. But nothing can compare to the spiritually fatal disease that we will call ‘Sclerosis of the Heart.’ MS may destroy the body, but ‘Sclerosis of the Heart’ destroys our very soul. For us Christians, this is an especially heartrending tragedy; for we have the antidote, and the treatment is free if we only desire it. The medication is simple and effective, and it comes in a form familiar to all of us. Its common name is repentance. It’s free but it comes with a price, it’s simple but never easy. For the hardening of our hearts is one of sin’s most progressed states, and though treatment can be completely effective, it takes tremendous desire and courage on our part, coupled with something which can not be found solely on earth: Divine Intervention. The therapy must include both for a complete recovery. What are the causes of this treacherous disease? Pride and selfish love top the list, as well as cowardliness, fear, envy, laziness, bitterness, and judgementalness, to name a few. The disease must be identified, and the medicine, a bitter pill, must be taken, lest, in the end, the patient lose both body and soul. The saving grace of the remedy is this: the health of those who undergo treatment may not only be fully restored, but even elevated to a higher level than previously considered possible. Thus, all who undergo this ‘therapeutic process’ may even be canonized. And that is a state of health worth attaining.
      Here's a great idea sent in from our sister, Presvytera Elizabeth Schroeder in Portland, OR
      Recognizing the rigors of the life of a clergy family during Lent, we've consciously taken a "Pre-Lenten Getaway" for several years. We went a couple of times to Yosemite, where they rent out cabins, and stayed for two nights. We've gone to Ashland and taken in a play (besides, it's off season there, which means you can get a great room in downtown Ashland for less than $100!). We're still deciding what to do this year, but it has to be a time that we can *just be family* for a couple of days. I think we'll only be able to get away for one night this year, which doesn't meet our ideal of two nights, but it's better than nothing! Then we always try to also get away during Bright Week, and celebrate the fact that we're done with all that work and can rest now. This mini vacation really helps to bolster us up for Lent, which is very demanding on clergy families. I consider it a necessity. ~ Elizabeth

      Week of January 29, 2007
      Quote for the Week
      He who yields receives three and a half measures; he who decides to admonish and correct receives only one measure; sometimes he does not receive even that, when he gets upset and upsets the other person. (St. Ambrose of Optina)

      Scripture for the Week
      "Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you." (1 Thessalonians 4:11)

      Question for the Week
      The Amish have a belief in finding joy in each of their daily tasks. Each job is undertaken as if it alone were the one thing God asked of them that day. Am I able to find joy in my daily routine? How can I allow God to refresh my perspective?

      Thought for the Week: THE PREZ TO PREZ FIVE-MINUTE BATHROOM RESCUE
      So many of us consciously or un-consciously do the things we were taught or shown by our mothers. By and large, this can be a good thing, however; there are some things worth leaving by the wayside. How you clean your bathroom may be one such thing. Most of us probably clean our bathrooms weekly, when things are generally to the point of ‘pretty filthy,’ then we don our grungiest clothing, get out all the chemicals and spend 45 minutes on our hands and knees cleaning the place ‘til it’s spic and span! What if we did something different? What if instead of spending 45 minutes at one time, we spent maybe five minutes, but more frequently? What if we never let our bathrooms get to the point of even getting grungy? This is the thinking behind the Five-Minute Bathroom Rescue. (This brilliant trick was developed by a (desperate) home-schooler with eight children…)
      1. Grab a large bottle of alcohol. Throw some on a handful of toilet paper. Quickly wipe down your mirrors. (They won’t streak-you’ll get the knack of it)
      2. Throw some more alcohol on it and quickly wipe down your counter top and sink area. Throw it in the toilet
      3. Grab some more toilet paper and throw some alcohol on it. Quickly wipe down your floors and the bottom area of your toilet. Throw it in the toilet and flush.
      4. Do the t.p./alcohol routine one last time and wipe down the rest of your toilet. Throw it and flush.
      5. Grab toilet bowl cleaner and a brush and, quicker than a blink, swish your toilet bowel and flush.
      6. Voila!! You have a disinfected bathroom with half the chemicals, labor and resources than you usually use. Clean your shower/tub on a different day or while you are showering, or use the shower spritzer stuff and a squeegee and reduce the cleaning time there as well!

      Life is just too short to spend a whole day cleaning each week when daily maintenance does a better job in a fraction of the time. Smile, your bathroom is clean!!
      Enjoy a fast free week!

      Week of January 22, 2007
      Quote for the Week
      It is not good to place our hope in our works. If we have no love or humility, we will receive no benefit from the works, even though we performed them. Humility alone is powerful enough to save us. We should sincerely try to acquire humility and hope in the merits of our Savior and His mercy. (St. Macarius of Optina)
      Scripture for the Week
      And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. (Colossians 1:10-12)
      Question for the Week
      What is my definition of humilty? Is humilty something I readily embrace? Compare your answer with that of your spouse - it's interesting to note how each of us may perceive it just a bit differently.
      Thought for the Week: Less is More
      We seem to be learning in America that there is a cap to the busyness, the possessions, and the calories we can exert on our lives. We live in an era where time is at a premium and yet in regards to our choices, the sky is the limit. Although not all choose to heed the warning signs of a life that may be out of balance, (i.e.: depression, high blood pressure, over-whelmedness, sleeplessness, etc.), we also live in an era where research is highly regarded and professionals can be both well trained and helpful. "Less is more" is one mantra that can help us live a life that is simple, focused and fruitful…all traits the scriptures teach as worthy of our high calling as Disciples of Christ.
      Busyness: there are so many choices as to how we and our families can spend our time…do your commitments prevent you from sitting down to the family meal each evening? Does the running around bring peace to your soul and increased virtue to your family members? LESS BUSYNESS MAY LEAD TO A HIGHER OVERALL QUALITY OF LIFE.
      Possessions: Can you adequately care for and maintain all the things you own? Is it difficult to vacuum your home and clean your surfaces for the clutter that exists there? Do you feel you don’t get to do the things you enjoy for all the maintenance in your life? FEWER POSSESSIONS WILL FREE YOU UP TO SPEND MORE QUALITY TIME WITH FAMILY AND FRIENDS.
      Calories: Do you eat more than you need to? Do you honestly live as healthy a life-style as you are able to? Are you and your family benefiting from all the research that is being done on the Mediterranean diet coupled with a regular exercise program (hint: it’s not about baklava and melomakarona!!)? LESS BODY MASS WILL FREE YOU UP TO ENJOY THE LIFE GOD HAS GIFTED TO EACH OF US, giving us greater health, lower doctor bills, and more fun in the sun!!
      The next time you have an opportunity to schedule, buy or eat something, let the "Less is More" mantra guide your actions that we “…may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that (we) may have great endurance and patience…joyfully giving thanks to the Father.” (Colossians 1:10-11)

      Week of January 15, 2007
      Quotes for the Week
      "The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence you murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate.... Returning violence for violence multiples violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that." ( Martin Luther King Jr.)

      "The first and most essential means of making peace with those who offend and persecute us is to pray for them according to the commandment of Christ." (St. Leo of Optina)

      Scripture for the Week
      "Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

      Question for the Week
      If my level of spiritual wealth were a bank account, would it be full and interest-bearing or overdrawn with "insufficient funds"? How do I feel about my answer? (This is a great question to share with your spouse.)

      Thought for the Week: On the Small Compline
      If we were to be asked by someone whether or not we prayed regularly, how would we respond? Of course, we ALL pray, but do we pray regularly…with fervency, faith and love for God? When we don’t pray, do we miss it? Are we eager the next day to meet with God once again?

      Our Orthodox Faith is chock full of hidden treasures, and one such treasure is the Small Compline or Apothipnos. It literally means, "after dinner," and is worth its weight in gold when it comes to our life in Christ. The wonder of this service is that it is a small catechesis, teaching us how and what we ought to pray for. It contains all the basic elements of our faith in a beautiful, compact and simple service that is both doable and profitable in our busy lives. The service can be read quietly in maybe 12 minutes, or better yet, prayed out loud with our family members in maybe 15 minutes. The beauty of this precious little prayer service is that it is easily memorized and can be learned by children of all ages. Six year olds can say and learn some of the prayers as readily as our 17 year olds. As its name indicates, it is to be prayed after dinner. Your creativity and readiness to add this sublime prayer service to your life is all you need to feel as if you are truly devoting time each day in prayer and giving your children an example of faith and love for God in your home. You can pray it in the car on the way home from dinner out…you can have someone read it in front of a kitchen icon while the others are quietly doing the dishes, or, of course, you can stand, as we ought, in front of our iconostasis, light our vigil lamp, and there offer our prayers to God. It might be a nice time to quietly hold your children in your arms as you take turns reading the prayers. This service will certainly fortify our souls and give us the grace we all need to live fruitful and holy lives. There is no better way to end our day.

      Sisters - Let us continue to cherish each day and take time to pray everyday! If you would like to print out the compline Prayer service please see:
      www.ocf.org/OrthodoxPage/prayers/Compline.html.

      Week of January 8, 2007
      Quote for the Week
      It is possible for happiness to exist (in marriage), but with one presupposition: the spouses must have acquired spiritual wealth, loving God and keeping His commandments. In this way they will end up truly loving one another and will be happy. Otherwise they will be psychically poor, they won’t be able to give love and they will have demonic problems that will make them unhappy. (Elder Porphyrios of Evia)

      Scripture for the Week
      "Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such "wisdom" does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.

      But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness." (James 3:13-18)


      Question for the Week
      In the hurried bustle of life, it's hard not to ruffle people's feathers now and then whether it's a spouse, a child, friend, co-worker, neighbor, etc. Sometimes it even occurs without our realizing it until much later. With whom do I need to seek peace?

      Thought for the Week: Do You Have a 5:1 Ratio?
      Each of us has a unique marriage and each of us has developed (or is still developing) the style and manner by which we relate to our spouses. According to John Gottman, PH. D., a major researcher of married couples and writer of the book “Why Marriages Succeed or Fail,” there are three general categories of successfully married couples. The first type is the Validating couple. They tend to be peaceful in their interactions, with a keen ability to listen and understand each other’s point of view and emotions. They can validate their partner, even if they don’t agree with them. Most people consider this the ‘ideal’ marriage; however, Gottman has discovered it is only one of three successful types of marriages. The second type is the Volatile. These couples tend to bicker and compete on some levels. They can argue on a grand scale and have an even grander time making up. Neither partner is withdrawn in this type of marriage, and there is a high level of engagement during discussions. Settling conflict can be heated and persuasive in Volatile couples. The third type is the Conflict-Avoidant marriage. These couples tend to be conflict minimizers, and very little may get settled when they air their differences. They may ‘agree to disagree’ often. These couples may appeal to their shared philosophy of marriage, accentuating the positive and accepting the rest.

      Gottman has learned some important lessons in what makes a lasting, stable marriage…marriages which appear to be so different from one another as demonstrated above. One is that what is key in any marriage is the ability of the couple to resolve their conflicts which are inevitable in ANY relationship. He doesn’t believe that to “never fight” is a sign of health in a marriage, but believes couples grow precisely by RECONCILING their differences. This is how couples become more loving people and experience the fruits of marriage. Another prime factor is what he calls the magic “5 to 1 Ratio.” What separates a happy, fulfilling marriage from those in deep marital misery is a healthy balance between couples’ positive and negative feelings and actions. The positivity…touching, smiling, paying compliments, laughing, etc., must be 5 TIMES GREATER in a marriage than the negativity. This may explain why any of the above marriages can be both stable and successful. So what is your ratio, and what can you do to improve it?

      Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor.
      For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow, but woe to him that is alone when he falls...
      For he has not another to help him up. And if two lie together, then they have warmth,
      But how can one be warm alone? And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him.
      -from Ecclesiastes 1:9:12

      Week of January 3, 2007
      "Christ is Born!" "Glorify Him!"
      We wish you and your families a joyous NEW YEAR!
      Quote for the Week
      The grace of God is the life of our souls. Our soul cannot be alive without the grace of God. For as our body lives by the soul, so our soul lives by the grace of God. Pray, then, always; and sigh unto God—that He give you His grace, and that He preserve you in it. We need the grace of God every minute. For this reason, sigh often from the depths of your heart. St. Tikhon of Zadonsk Scripture for the Week.
      "Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness." (Lamentations 3:22-23)
      Question for the Week
      If God had a medical chart for my soul, what diagnosis would be written on it? What do I think He would prescribe?
      Thought for the Week: Putting Our Homes on a Diet
      Since we are in the season of making weight loss resolutions, why not put our home on a diet as well? “Put my home on a diet?” you may ask. Absolutely! With all of the stuff that has poured into our homes for the last few weeks, (months, years…!) it is high time for our homes to lose some weight. Where to begin? Start with what bothers you the MOST. Take a walk around your home, imagining you are a realtor. How does the garage look, like a maxed-out storage unit or a carport? How about your linen closet? Do you have more sheets and towels than you know what to do with? And how about your bedroom? Is it a sanctuary or a catch-all room? Give yourself ONE hour and start sorting ONE area. Decide what items you do not need or love, then bless OTHERS with them. DO NOT take the whole area apart, merely sort and pull out what you do not need or do not love. Put the excess items in a bag and into your car as SOON as you are finished. Vow to take them to your charity of choice within the week. DO NOT save the items for a garage sale, otherwise your home will have only shifted its weight around, and lost nothing.
      What are the pitfalls to a good home weight loss program? The first temptation is to take the WHOLE area to be gone through APART, and take HALF the day doing it! In the meantime, Rome is burning…dinner isn’t ready and there are three loads of laundry to be done. We must be disciplined in our weight loss program by taking baby steps and giving ourselves one hour to do one area only. It usually takes even less time than this! In no time, you will be a pro and spend a fraction of that time whipping areas into manageable shape. The second temptation is to become so overwhelmed by looking at all your items that your emotions flood and you become paralyzed. Better to put blinders on and just start with a small section within the given area. Just relieving an area of five or ten percent of its contents can make a BIG difference. Finally, (and this is unique to military wives and Presvyteres), you may think to yourself, “But I may NEED this someday…I can’t AFFORD to replace it and I may MOVE sometime in the future!” You only need to reassure yourself that if you aren’t using the item now, you probably won’t in the future. You will have to decide if you would rather have a storage unit or a carport for a garage! In the meantime, remember Super Nanny’s wise words, “Clutter equals stress!” Ladies, let’s have as stress-free a 2007 as possible. May the Lord help us all!!
      Sisters - Let us continue to cherish everyday!

      Week of December 26, 2006
      "CHRIST IS BORN!" "GLORIFY HIM!"

      Quote for the Week
      "Heaven and earth are united today, for Christ is born! Today, God has come upon earth, and man has gone up to heaven. Today, for man's sake, is seen in the flesh He who by nature is invisible. Therefore let us give glory and cry aloud to Him: Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, which Your coming has bestowed upon us, O Savior, Glory to You! (Great Vespers of the Nativity)

      Scripture for the Week
      "The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned." (Isaiah 9:2)

      Question for the Week
      As I contemplate the Icon of the Nativity and consider the Blessed Joseph as he struggles to come to grips with the miracle that God has wrought, what questions of faith nag at the corners of my mind? As presvyteres, we sometimes are reluctant to admit those questions because we don't accept them as befitting our role, but this week let us carry them to the Miraculous Babe who, though God, came to earth and took on the body of man. It is precisely these questions of faith that will strengthen our faith where it is weakest.

      Thought for the Week
      One of the greatest challenges in the life of a priestly family is that of time. There are several ‘hero’ vocations (policemen, doctors, pastors) that require the husband to be away from his family at odd hours and in abundance, for the sake of helping others. The Greek Orthodox Priestly life is no exception. In some ways, it is even more magnified as we so greatly value the relationship that our clergy have with their parishioners in confession, visiting the ill, counseling, etc. Add to that mix the numerous meetings and sacraments due to our active parishes, and the lengthy services of our Orthodox Faith, and you have the recipe for a Presvytera who can feel like a widow or single mother for certain (or all) seasons, depending on your community. Thankful we all are for the ‘day out of the office,’ and hopefully many are they who take advantage of it, as they are able. Still, the reality remains that the Presvytera can spend many evenings and weekend days alone, or ‘sharing her husband’ as during sacraments, etc. St. Paul reminds us that our ‘struggle is not against flesh and blood (each other), but against the enemy and his demons,’ (Eph. 6:12) and yet, at times, it is our husband who feels like the enemy.

      How do we overcome feeling alone and the ill will it can breed? First of all, we can remember that if we feel overextended and exhausted, our husband feels that, too. We, to a great degree, mirror their life and must pick up the slack at home when they are under pressure. It is easier to be in touch with OUR OWN feelings while forgetting that our husbands HAVE FEELINGS, TOO. If we can remember that simple fact, we can recognize foremost, that we are on the SAME TEAM, together serving the Lord through those around us (our family and parish). Secondly, we can remember that although our situation may be difficult, there are others whose lives are EVEN MORE DIFFICULT than our own. This will remind us to be thankful for the sacrifices of time that we make for our Lord’s sake. Thirdly, we can remember that OUR LIFE IS WHAT IT IS. We can daydream or wish for something different, but it does not change or excuse us from the responsibilities and sacrifices we are called to bear. Think of the nuns waking up EACH NIGHT to pray for the love of God. It is only for a short time in the life of our growing children that we are called to such difficult actions. Finally, we can remember that the saints and the angels are there cheering us on to smile, to love, to be gracious, to be selfless. They have already won that race and they WISH THE SAME FOR US. Enlist their help in developing the inner strength and disposition to say to the Lord, ‘…my soul is weary…direct my footsteps and strengthen me according to your word.’ (Psalm 119)

      May we unite, as sisters in Christ with a unique calling, and support and love each other, and our husband ‘soldiers in Christ,’ that we may receive that wreath of glory and hear the most golden and priceless words, “Well done, GOOD AND FAITHFUL handmaiden, you have been faithful with a few things…enter into the joy of your Lord!” (Matthew 25)


      Week of December 20, 2006
      Nativity Preparation Reflection
      "Draw near, angelic powers! Prepare the manger. O people of Bethlehem! The Word is coming into the world; the Wisdom of God is approaching. O Church, receive the signs of love. People, speak with joy of the the Mother of God! Blessed is Your coming, O our God, Glory to You! (Orthros Service)

      Prayer for the Week
      Prepare us, O God, to celebrate the coming of our Lord and Savior. Open our hearts wide to make room for Him. Prepare our souls to obey your commandments. Steady our feet upon the rock of your Word which abides forever. Amen.

      Scripture for the Week

      "So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying 'Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Emmanuel, which is translated, God with Us!" (Matthew 1:22-23)

      Quote for the Week
      He said, 'We do not only need words, for at the present time there are many words among men; but we need works, for this is what is required - not words that do not bear fruit.' (Abba James)

      Question for the Week
      Do I have works that have borne good fruit? So many times we are so busy "doing" that we fail to stop long enough to recognize that God has accomplished something wonderful along the way.

      Thought for the Week: On Routinek
      The sun rises in a glorious fashion each morning. We witness its trek across the sky and appreciate and find comfort in its setting as we prepare for the passing of another day. The seasons, too, come...each with their own beauty and offerings. The Great Feasts also cycle each year, recreating within us faith and love for God and each other. The world is filled with the holy order and routine of God. We, as His creation, are called to also reflect that holy order and routine in our lives. As Father Anthony Coniaris so aptly said, "We are called to master life." And we can not master, or be stewards of, our life without Godly order and routine. But, like a juggler, we can only add a ball at a time, otherwise the juggling wheel collapses and we find ourselves discouraged and feeling like failures. Some were born with an innate sense of Godly order and routine; the rest of us have to scramble and strive for this essential life skill. What do you do well? What seems to not be a problem for you? Loving your kids? Attending services? Being a pleasant wife? Thank God, for those are two or three feathers in your cap towards your goal of creating Godly order and routine in your life. Where are you lacking? Laundry abilities? Meals? Daily Prayer? Paper work? Pick one or two of these items and begin diligently working on incorporating them into your life. You CAN do it. You were CREATED to do it! Let's all be co-creators with our loving God in getting our lives into a Godly order and routine. When you've mastered those, add another, and another, until the "Peace of God which surpasses all comprehension" comes to dwell in you, a Godly wife, mother, and Presvytera.

      Wishing you and your family a blessed week as we prepare for the Feast of the Nativity.


      Week of December 13, 2006
      Advent is the time for us to respond to His Love!

      Quotes for the Week
      "Much experience is needed before we truly realize our infirmity and are humbled, and this is acquired not quickly, but with much time. Our falls themselves bridle our arrogance and humble us against our will. But before God it is better to be a sinner with repentance than a righteous man with pride." (St. Macarius of Optina)

      "The perfect Christian is always a bearer of peace and joy." (St. Clement of Alexandria)


      Scripture for the Week:
      "May God Himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." (1 Thessalonians 5:23)

      Nativity Preparation Reflections
      "You are truly the pure golden censer, the dwelling of the Trinity whom no space can contain, O Virgin Mary, for in you the Father was pleased; in you the Son came to dwell; and by His overshadowing, the Holy Spirit made you the Mother of God. (Orthros Service)

      Question for the Week
      Some people experience peace in their prayer time in the quiet morning hours. Others find it while experiencing the wonders of God's majesty at the edge of an ocean or the peak of a mountain. Still others find peace by simply resting in God's presence and allowing it to wash over them. Do I have a place in my life where I experience true peace? Do I make the effort to journey there on a regular basis?

      Thought for the Week
      FASTING! Just the mere sound of the word can send shivers down an Orthodox Christian woman's spine. But it needn't be so. Fasting has been gifted to us by the Church through the Holy Spirit for our salvation. And with all the medical research being done today on healthy diets, we can be confident that God has given us this wonderful gift to help us save our bodies as well as our souls. So where to begin? Well, we can start by re-thinking our food pyramid when a fast rolls around. Think this way: Veggies/fruits, seafood/shellfish, whole grains, and legumes. Fasting times should become our healthiest times of the year. We should breeze through the cold season for the number of vegetables our families are eating! And with all the vegan recipes available on the internet, we have no excuse for not cooking up fresh, aromatic, tasty meals for our precious little or not-so-little ones! Try this on for size: Pasta with fresh pesto (recipe below), grilled shrimp and a bountiful green salad. Or this: A platter of sliced wheat baguette, each mounted with fresh tomato bruschetta, a platter of peeled and cut rounds of oranges drizzled with honey and cinnamon, and a healthy bean side dish (it doesn't have to be the main dish). Be creative! Let fasting periods be a time of celebration in your home of the bountiful harvest with which the Lord has blessed each of us.

      Fresh Pesto:
      2 cups of packed basil leaves
      1 cup olive oil
      4 T pine nuts
      1 t salt
      Puree in your blender until smooth. Toss over 1 to 1.5 lbs of hot pasta.

      Pesto can be made in early fall, when it is in plenty, and frozen flat in quart freezer bags (squeeze out excess air). It will retain its color through the winter months in your freezer.


      Action for the Week
      Sisters - we need to make time! Make an appointment to receive the Sacrament of Holy Confession!
      Someone once said that we were designed for confession. Secrets in general are hard to keep, and, if they are not confessed, rarely go away of their own accord. Rather, they have a way of making life harder, heavier, and unbearable as time passes. The Apostle James (5:16) wrote: "Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed."


      Week of December 5, 2006
      Quote for Week
      Everything that you gain in your inner battles will be reflected in your life in God. Struggle against every passion which arouses in you critical thoughts about others. Do not accept what the enemy suggests to you against someone who is unjust towards you. Whether you are alone in your room or in company, every critical thought, every negative inner movement, create a crack in your spiritual fortress and in that of your community. No thought is born or passes without consequence. With good thoughts, you will be able to see in every person that you meet someone very beloved. With negative thoughts, on the contrary, your facial expression and your psychological energies will spoil your relationships and affect the environment around you. When grace is with us, we do not see the defects of others; we only see the sufferings and the love of our brethren. (Archimandrite Sophrony)

      Scripture Verse for the Week
      "I am the door. If anyone enter by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture" (John 10:9)

      Question for the Week
      Have I allowed critical thoughts to affect my relationship with someone (friend, parishoner, spouse)? Am I willing to allow God to take my thoughts captive and bring healing to that relationship?

      Thought for the Week: 'Tis the season to be...STRESSED!
      If this sounds like you, be of good cheer! Life is happening in and all around us and it means we are trying to live it to the best of our ability. It also means we are still walking and breathing on God's green earth. But why the STRESS? Stress happens when we don't think we have time to do all that we have to do (or that we THINK we have to do!). It's the sense that I can't really handle all that I feel responsible for. But the truth is, our Creator gave us 24 hours in a day, and if HE thought it was enough time, it MUST be. He WILL not give us more than we can handle. So how do we avoid being stressed this Holy Season? Steven Covey says, "Begin with the end in mind." It is great advice for a busy Orthodox family in America today. Think of the end goal...Christmas Day, a worshipful liturgy with your faithful flock and family, time spent with friends and family, a few gifts under the Christmas tree. Glancing backwards: A fast well kept, happy children, a welcoming, hospitable home, a husband who feels your encouragement and care. THESE are our goals for December, ladies!!!! We aren't Martha Stewart and we don't even want to be! But we can each express our individuality this month, in small touches around our home, in our loving relationships with our children and family, in helping someone in need. What matters this month is Christ, and Christ glorified, in our hearts, minds, souls and homes. The rest, as they say, is details. To this end, may we all have a peace-filled Advent Season, replete with love, joy, harmony, and some good, old fashioned fun!

      Nativity Reflection
      If our greatest need had been information,
      God would have sent us an educator;
      If our greatest need had been technology,
      God would have sent us a scientist;
      If our greatest need had been money,
      God would have sent us an economist;
      If our greatest need had been pleasure,
      God would have sent us an entertainer;
      But our greatest need was forgiveness,
      so God sent us a Savior.

      Week of November 28, 2006
      WATCH THIS VIDEO: A powerful message from Father Roman Braga who is a 78 year-old Romanian priest-monk who was imprisoned in a Communist gulag for eleven years. In this brief Frontline (PBS) interview, he discusses his transformative experience of faith found in solitary confinement.
      Direct link:
      http://media.pbs.org/ramgen/wgbh/pages/frontline/1801/braga.rm

      Quote for the Week

      We must be certain that Divine Providence always cares for us and arranges everything for the good, even in situations opposing us. (St. Leo of Optina)

      Scripture Verse for the Week
      "You therefore... be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus" (2 Timothy 2:11)

      Question for the Week
      What situation is "opposing" you right now? Can you perceive God's care and provision in the midst of it? Don't just look for it...expect it with certainty for He most surely loves us!

      Thought for the Week: Journeys and New Beginnings
      The magi didn't get there in a day. It was a long journey and they didn't even know where they would end up, they just knew that the Lord was leading them. And they trusted that, and it was enough just to trust. And He delivered. Big time.

      During the journey, there's a lot to think about, but there's not a lot to worry about. Everything will be okay in the end. If it's not okay, it's not the end.


      A little Prez to Prez Humor
      Well, I managed to do it. I spent $60.00 on 3 or 4 long sleeve, non-descript t-shirts for my teenage daughter at ‘American Eagle.’ Now, I’m not complaining. It’s better than buying 3 or 4 very descriptive shirts that you know will be at her navel after the first washing. The funny thing is, it took me a week later to look around and realize I was actually buying fashionable clothing. You know, body hugging, long shirts with little color and thin enough for summer wear. Anyway, it’s better than the short shirts. As a matter of fact, I never actually bought those. I just let them wear their 5th or 6th grades clothes for a few years, and the longer you wore them, the more in style they became. Such is the life of a PK!

      Week of November 23, 2006
      Quotes for the Week
      We must give thanks for all things to the Lord, Who has rightly given us difficulties that we may learn patience, which is more beneficial than comforts and ennobles the soul. (St. Moses of Optina)

      President Abraham Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Day Proclamation from 1863
      "The year that is drawing toward its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and beautiful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever-watchful providence of Almighty God…No human counsel hath devised, nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, Who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy...It seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American people. I do, therefore, invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father, Who dwelleth in the Heavens...." (Abraham Lincoln)


      Scriptures for the Week
      "And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” (Colossians 3:17)

      "Speak to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father." (Ephesians 5:19-20)
      “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus,” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

      Question for the Week
      What specific qualities do I see in each of my loved ones that I thank God for? Have I ever shared this with them? Am I willing to acknowledge qualities in myself that I should thank God for? Have I thanked Him for those?

      Thought for the Week
      Thankfulness and joy are closely related. Generally, our thankfulness tends to depend upon our circumstances, and yet we are called to be thankful in all circumstances. This is why the Lord, through His servant, St. Paul, says: “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus,” (1 Thess. 5:18), and this is why St. Seraphim could call anyone who crossed his threshold ‘My Joy.’ He had learned in all things to be thankful. When we are deterred from being on time or are inconvenienced in some way, we ought to give thanks. How many times do I see a terrible accident and think ‘that may have been me’ had I not been detained just a few minutes before. Instead of grumble, we ought to thank our Guardian Angel, whom the Lord yoked to our life at baptism, for all things, in all places. May we have a truly thankful and joyful Thanksgiving, teaching our children, like the Veggie Tale tune:
      “’Cause a grateful is a happy heart.
      I’m glad for what I have, that’s an easy way to start.
      For the love that we share, ‘cause He listens to our prayer,
      That’s why we say ‘thanks’ every day!!”


      Looking for some fun ways to celebrate Thanksgiving with your family? Here are a few ideas from Family Fun magazine.

      http://familyfun.go.com/parties/holiday/specialfeature/thanksgiving_mgi_ms/

      Wishing you and your family a very special week of giving thanks.
      December 6, 2010
      Dear Sisters, We apologize for our slow re-entrance with Prez to Prez. Thanksgiving has past and the Nativity Fast is upon us. Yet, today, let's reflect upon giving thanks, not only on Thanksgiving but every day! We are grateful to a precious "seasoned" presvytera who shares the following...
      Quote for the Week
      Therefore, whoever is walking upon the path of God must give thanks to Him for all the things that come upon him (Saint Isaac the Syrian).
      Scripture for the Week
       "In everything give thanks" (Thessalonians 5:18).

      Question for the Week
      What quality of my spouse/child/friend/co-worker did I experience today for which I am thanksful? Find a way to share this with them.
       

      Thought for the Week: (From an older, seasoned, presvytera come these thoughts this week)
      Back in the days when I, like so many of you younger women today, had to run on overload much of the time, feeding and clothing my family, supervising the children's homework, looking out for my husband, trying to keep my home lovely and all of us healthy, dashing around to music lessons, sports activities, doctor and dentist appointments, to work, church meetings and worship services, not to mention keeping in touch with extended family and friends, offering hospitality to parishioners here and there, and a million and one other things . . . whew! . . . I hit on a wonderful idea.
      Thanksgiving!
      And so it was that at a moment's notice I would declare a certain day, be it in February, May, or early December, Thanksgiving Day. On that day I would allow myself thoughts and prayers only of Thanksgiving, and though the chores and tasks had to continue I would go about them with praise and thanks in my heart and on my lips, consciously deciding not to think about "to-do" lists or problems, but rather gently sweeping away such thoughts and replacing them with ones of thanks for everyone and everything around me.
      No one knew about this but me, and I can't begin to describe the transforming power of my little secret on those days, the inner glow of an "attitude of gratitude" which is in any case meant to be ours as Christians. I once heard Oprah speak at a graduation of the benefit of keeping a "gratitude journal," where one writes at the end of the day five things one is grateful for, or simply mentions them in prayer before falling asleep. When one is particularly wound up, anxious or stressed, it is often thinking of that first thing to be thankful for that is the hardest – after the first the others come more easily!
      • Happy Thanksgiving.
      • I thank my God upon every remembrance of you (Philippians 1.30).
      • Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him and bless His name (Psalm 100.4)
      • In everything give thanks (1Thessalonians 5.18a).
      • Therefore, whoever is walking upon the path of God must give thanks to Him for all the things that come upon him (Saint Isaac the Syrian).
      • A heart that is continually moved to thanksgiving is a guide that leads the gifts of God to a person. Saint Isaac the Syrian
      • Praise the Lord from the heavens.
      • Praise Him in the highest. Alleluia (Psalms/Communion Hymn).

      November 17, 2010

      Quote for the Week
      The person who listens to Christ fills himself with light; and if he imitates Christ, he reclaims himself (St. Thalassios the Libyan)
      .

      Scripture for the Week
      “Then Christ will dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:17-19)
      .
      Question for the Week
      Do I have a tough time saying "No" to my kids? Do I have a tough time saying "No" to myself? Is there a possible connection there?
      Thought for the Week
      What’s playing on your iPod? Did you get my text? What’s your status on Facebook? In this ever-changing world of technology families are more PLUGGED IN than ever before. Recently, my husband held a youth meeting and asked all the teens to get out their cell phones and challenged them to a texting race. On the count of three they all eagerly and frantically moved their thumbs, to write: “This is ___(name)____, and I know that I can call or text my priest whenever I need help!” Wow! In just 10 seconds dozens of messages filled their priest's inbox along with all of their cell phone numbers. Indeed, both kids and adults are challenged daily by a constant stream of e-mails, instant messaging, TV, videos, music, and computer games. Imagine if we would carve out 15 minutes of uninterrupted prayer and stillness with our Lord rather than spend that time on Facebook! Indeed, it is so easy to access entertainment and information at a push of a button. Yet, we must look at how being “plugged in” may also be robbing us of our time and attention. This is precious and valuable time that could be spent in conversations with our children, connecting with our husbands, time in prayer, and reaching out to those in need. Want a shocker? Consider this quote from the Kaiser Family Foundation: "American children and adolescents spend 22 to 28 hours per week viewing television: more than any other activity except sleeping. By the age of 70 they will have spent 7 to 10 years of their lives watching TV." Let us have intentional conversations with our families about time. You may be surprised to find out that you, too, need to scale back your time in front of a screen and seek out more quiet time with God. If we were to re-design our fasting rules for the 21st century, I wonder how difficult we would find it to cut out (or even cut back!) our daily dependence on technology. Perhaps this would be a great challenge for each of us as we contemplate the upcoming fast...to attempt to cut back those wasted minutes and hours in order to make them preciously valuable minutes and hours of time spent with our loved ones.
      Texting in the car is dangerous habit by driving teens. Consider showing this video to your teenager and tell them to TURN OFF THE PHONE in the car! http://www.schooltube.com/video/33b1ffcfe6ad4d6ea877/BVTV-Texting-While-Driving.
      The San Francisco Metropolis Sisterhood of Presvyteres Retreat will be January 21-23, 2011, at St. Nicholas Ranch. The Retreat Master will be Fr. Meletios Webber, Abbot of the Monastery of St. John of Shanghai and San Francisco in Manton, CA. We look forward to seeing all at the Ranch in January! Make your reservations and travel plans today!
      The 7th Biennial NSP Retreat, hosted by the Metropolis of Detroit, will be Octo­ber 7-10, 2011, at the Wooded Glen Conference and Retreat Center in Henryville, IN, near Louis­ville, KY. The speaker will be Presvytera Kerry Pappas. To stay updated, please check the webpage: http://nsp.goarch.org/retreat.html.

      October 27, 2010

      Quote for the Week
      A man advises his neighbor in accordance with what his neighbor knows. Correspondingly, God acts on one who hears Him according to the degree of his faith. A man of forbearance becomes wise, just as does he who is careful to listen to words of wisdom. Do not refuse to learn, even if you are very wise, for the Providence of God avails more than our wisdom. (Abba Mark)

      Scripture for the Week
      A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. (Proverbs 15:1)

      Thought for the Week
      We are surrounded by unsaid messages. Too often we rush through conversations and forget to really listen. This week, take time to pause. Even when you have an important point to make or when you’re frustrated or angry. Take time to pause. Think carefully before responding. Listen to the person talking to you, to the world around you, to your heart, to your loved ones. Listen to their words and their unsaid messages. Often times, “a gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Proverbs 15:1

      Question for the Week
      OK, we've all got one or more topics that bring out the worst in us. You know the one...for some of us, it might pull up every defensive mechanism we possess while for others we may become argumentative...each person reacts in her own way. What is MY "hot button topic"? How do I react when it arises? How can I commit my reaction to one that edifies God?

      We welcome your feedback and comments! Send them to our Prez to Prez team: p.tsagalakis@comcast.net, eikona@eikona.com, presdee@worldnet.att.net, nikonia01@hotmail.com, doxa@clearwire.net

      With love,
      Donna, Pat, Stacey, Candace and Eleni
      "Prez to Prez" was created to encourage and support Presvyteres of the Holy Orthodox Church in faith, in love, and in relationship with their husbands and families.
      San Francisco Diocese Sisterhood of Presvyteres Retreat will be January 21-23, 2011 at St. Nicholas Ranch. The Retreat Master will be Fr. Meletios Webber, Abbot of the Monastery of St. John of Shanghai and San Francisco in Manton, California. We look forward to seeing all at the Ranch in January! Make your reservations and travel plans today!

      October 5, 2010

      Quote for the Week
      The Cross is that which is brighter than the sun, more brilliant than the sunbeam: for when the sun is darkened then the Cross shines brightly. And the sun is darkened --- not because it is extinguished, but because it is overpowered by the brilliancy of the Cross. The Cross has broken our bond, it has made the prison of death ineffectual, it is the demonstration of the love of God. 'For God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son, that everyone who believes in Him should not perish.' (St. John Chrysostom)

      Scripture for the Week
      (Remember, Jesus heals!) "Wherever He entered, into villages, cities, or the country, they laid the sick in the marketplaces, and begged Him that they might just touch the hem of His garment. And as many as touched Him were made well." (Mark 6:56)

      Thought for the Week
      It was a warm and sunny day at the beach during our vacation. My family was enjoying our time in the surf waiting for each wave to roll in and lift us off our feet, laughing and splashing and letting all the daily stresses from the previous weeks fall away from us. I was savoring each sensation and hoping I could hold onto this precious time, and then I turned and saw something that absolutely crystallized everything and burned itself indelibly into my memory banks. I saw a middle-aged couple slowly approaching the surf while gently supporting an elderly woman between them. It was obvious that she was unsteady on her feet, and when I glanced back along the path they had taken, I saw her walker-type cane firmly planted in the sand at the water’s edge, standing like a beacon awaiting her return after her trip into the waves. Each step brought them further into the surf, joy etched itself onto the old woman’s face as the water rushed toward them. The threesome continued to wade further and further into the surf until it was swirling around their waists. Each wave must have certainly brought with it a rush of memories and sensations the woman had long considered out of reach. How glorious a thing was the selflessness of the couple who made this woman’s joy their priority for the day...they willingly gave up their own opportunity for “play time” in the surf to bring that joy to someone else. I soberly reflected, that I might also reach a time in my life when I would no longer be able to navigate sandy beaches and pounding surf on my own and how sorely I would miss the simple feel of powder-soft sand under my feet and the lapping of waves around my legs. It was then I realized the amazing gift this couple had extended their elderly companion...in an action that had not cost them a single penny, they had extended a gift of priceless value. How many opportunities have I missed to provide a similar gift to someone else? May we begin to look around us with renewed perspective at the huge impact we can make in our world through the smallest of actions.

      Question for the Week
      In what small way can I give the gift of time to someone in my life this week?

      We welcome your feedback and comments! Send them to our Prez to Prez team: p.tsagalakis@comcast.net, eikona@eikona.com, presdee@worldnet.att.net, nikonia01@hotmail.com, doxa@clearwire.net

      With love,
      Donna, Pat, Stacey, Candace and Eleni
      "Prez to Prez" was created to encourage and support Presvyteres of the Holy Orthodox Church in faith, in love, and in relationship with their husbands and families.
      We ask that you continue to keep Diaconessa Krisann Kontaxis in your prayers as she is so grateful to be covered with God's healing grace and comfort during her fight against breast cancer. October is breast cancer awareness month - Early detection is a women's best defence. It is always encouraged that women do self-examination at the same time each month. In addition, they should have clinical examination by a physician regularly and do a mammogram annually if you are 45 years and over.
      San Francisco Diocese Sisterhood of Presvyteres Retreat will be January 21-23, 2011 at St. Nicholas Ranch. The Retreat Master will be Fr. Meletios Webber, Abbot of the Monastery of St. John of Shanghai and San Francisco in Manton, California. We look forward to seeing all at the Ranch in January! Make your reservations and travel plans today!

      June 11, 2010

      Over the few month our prez to prez team will be taking a summer time break. You'll hear back from us in September.

      We hope that you will take a little more time to focus on your family, pamper yourself with a good book, and make time for prayer each day.
      Quote for the Week
      If we look to correct ourselves and look more intently towards our inner activity—rather than our external, giving precedence to divine help—we can, in turn, be of greater and more positive help to others. We will also achieve an inner serenity that will quietly help the souls of the people we encounter, because spiritual serenity reflects the virtue of the soul and transforms souls. (Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain [Athos])
      Scripture for the Week
      Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. (Colossians 4:5)
      Question for the Week
      What outside interferences most inhibit the quality of my spiritual life? What can I do to minimize or eliminate those interferences?
      Thought for the Week
      Whether or not you have a teenager or college student living at home, most likely you are well aware of the world of texting, internet, facebook, iPods, twittering and iPhones. Technology has taken us to new heights as information is accessible with a quick click of a mouse. Time... Precious time... Imagine at the end of each week if you could receive a detailed report on the hours spent on various websites, checking emails, browsing Facebook - and then compare those minutes to time spent with our Lord in prayer. If you are like me, the tally column would be a bit shocking! Unfortunately, we can be so "plugged in" that we miss opportunities to nurture our spiritual life, our marriages, and lose out on precious time with our children. Each summer, our Prez to Prez team takes a needed break to "unplug." This summer, we hope that we can ALL spend less time in front of a computer screen and more time with our families. We will be rebooting back up in September in hopes to continue encouraging the many sister presvyteres who choose to read our offerings each week. Thank you for your encouragement and support of our Prez to Prez ministry.

      June 3, 2010

      Quote for the Week
      "Neither do walls or rich furniture make a home. Millionaires in magnificent mansions may never know a home. But where there are good relationships, where love binds the family together and to God, there happiness is always to be found. For good relationships are heaven anywhere. Monotony and misery cannot exist where there is love. But the fire of love must be kept burning warmly and brightly with the sweet wood of sacrifice. In teaching us to cross out the "I" out of life, our Lord tells us the secret of happiness; what the Saints call the ecstasy of self-forgetfulness. For divine love is always self-effacing, seeks to give rather than to receive, to serve rather than to be served, to love rather than to be loved, and will sacrifice anything for the beloved." (St. Seraphim of Sarov)

      Scripture for the Week
      This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit , showing yourselves to be my disciples (John 15:8)
      Thought for the Week (Love Notes)
      I am a very blessed woman. Each and everyday, my family leaves me love notes. Maybe your family leaves them for you, too! For twenty-five years I have taught, nagged, demonstrated, cajoled, and by every means possible tried to convey to my dear husband and children what is important in life...that is, what I value, what helps make life simpler, and what will lead to optimal health. So each and everyday, I get love notes that affirm that, "Yes, indeed, we are listening, Mom!" For starters, in the morning, I will find my husband's socks and underwear in a little pile on the bathroom floor. The note reads, "See honey, I put them neatly in a pile like you asked!" As I make my way to the kitchen, I peek into the kid's bathroom and find some toothpaste in the sink, an opened tube of toothpaste, and a strand of dental floss on the counter. That love note reads, "I brushed and flossed my teeth like you showed me, Mom!" In the kitchen, I usually find a myriad of love notes. On the counter, I find an unrinsed blender with remnants of berries and yogurt inside. The note reads, "See, Mom, I'm eating more fruits and vegetables like you wanted me to!" On the stovetop, I find a pan that cooked sunny side up eggs. This note reads, "Mom, I am fixing my own breakfast like you taught me!" I find half-filled water bottles in the sink that convey, "I'm drinking more water, Mother!" and half rinsed plates that say, "I brought it to the sink like you asked!" On the entryway stairs, I find unopened mail that reads, "I got the mail like you told me to!" and on the computer desk, I find rough drafts, pens and books that say, "I'm studying and getting good grades, like I promised, Mom!" Finally, when my husband is on his way home from church, he gives me a call and asks, "What's for dinner?" This, too, is a love note. It says, "Honey, I am so hungry and I can't wait to sit with you and partake of your delectable cooking!"
      So, as you can see, I am a very blessed woman. I get love notes each and everyday of my life from my husband and children conveying that they love and appreciate me and that they are taking all of my teaching, nagging, demonstrating, and cajoling to heart. I am being listened to, after all!
      Question for the Week
      What little "love notes" are my loved ones finding from me each day?
      2010
      Rejoice! For the Holy Spirit is present and fills all things!

      Quote for the Week
      Constantly, each day, each hour, God is sending us people, circumstances, tasks, which should mark the beginning of our renewal; yet we pay them no attention, and thus continually we resist God's will for us. Indeed, how can God help us? Only by sending us in our daily life certain people, and certain coincidences of circumstance. If we accepted every hour of our life as the hour of God's will for us, as the decisive, most important, unique hour of our lives -- what sources of joy, love, strength, as yet hidden from us, would spring from the depths of our soul! Let us then be serious in our attitude towards each person we meet in our life, towards every opportunity of performing a good deed; be sure that you will then fulfill God's will for you in these very circumstances, on that very day, in that very hour. (Fr. Alexander Elchaninov,
      The Diary of a Russian Priest

      Scripture for the Week
      The Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. (John 14:17)
      Question for the Week
      Do I look for opportunities to extend Christ's love to those with whom I come into contact? How do I feel when I reach out in love without expecting anything in return? How can I cultivate this desire in my children/grandchildren/godchildren?
      Thought for the Week
      (Beginning of our renewal)
      Just before the Holy Fast of Great Lent and the Feast of Pentecost we celebrate "Saturday of the Souls."
      Unfortunately, in the past, the "Saturday of Souls" liturgies have not been too popular and often times it's just me, my husband (the priest) and a few little ole' Greek ladies. This year, our liturgy committee implemented a brilliant idea! They filled small baggies with uncooked wheat (just 1 cup) along with the recipe for Koliva. On the Sunday prior, they invited men and women of our parish to consider making a small batch of koliva, in memory of their loved ones who have died. Now, not only do we have more and more people coming to church - but an entire table of Koliva is offered. Beautiful traditions such as baking proforon and making koliva must be embraced and passed on to the next generation of faithful men and women.
      Death is a reminder to each of us how precious time is. Each day, each hour, we are faced with circumstances that can be an opportunity to call upon the grace of the Holy Spirit and respond with love. Do we allow ourselves to embrace stress and anxiety? Are we complaining or angry? Life is too short. Let this joyous feast of Pentecost be a new beginning... a renewal of our hearts and minds.
      Remember, the little things can make a big difference. This week, I'll try letting go of the house work and engage my family in a fun game of cards, or a discussion around the dinner table. I'll be taking a walk and going out to lunch with a sister presvytera. It is time reclaim what matters - and the first step is to focus on our relationship with God. Every day, let us call upon the Holy Spirit in prayer "Heavenly King, Comforter, the Spirit of Truth who are everywhere present and fills all things..." Sometimes, we just need reminders that we are indeed like flowers that will only live for a limited time on this earth. Dear sisters, may we blossom season after season growing new branches and finding ways to live joyously in Christ's never-setting light. Embrace what matters!
      "Watch your thoughts, they become words. Watch your words, they become actions. Watch your actions, they become habits. Watch your habits, they become your character. Watch your character, it becomes your destiny." (Charles Reade)
      "O Lord, the memory of Your Saints is like the Garden of Eden, for all creation greatly rejoices in it. Grant us peace and great mercy, by their intercessions.
      "We pray for those who died in true faith and whom You have taken to yourself, that You, as our placable God, place them in the dwellings of the elect and in the land of the living; fill them with Your never-setting light, and grant them Your heavenly joy." (Saturday of Souls, Orthros)
      Koliva Recipe (small batch for baggies)
      1 cup wheat berries
      1/4 cup sugar
      1 Tbsp Cinnamon
      a dash of cloves
      2 Tbsp sesame seeds, toasted
      1/4 cup golden raisins
      1/4 cup brown raisins
      1/4 cup walnuts and toasted almonds (or pine nuts are great too!)
      2 Tbsp. chopped parsley
      (Pomegranate seeds when in season)
      Blanched & Jordan Almonds (set aside)
      1/4 cup plain dried bread crumbs
      1/2 cup Powdered Sugar
      Pray first for the departed servant. Light Candili.
      Soak Wheat berries overnight – Rinse Well.
      Boil Wheat Berries for 1+ hours (to taste so they are not hard but not mushy)
      Rinse & Drain – Lay out on White Cotton Sheet (Do not use towels) (for this small amount I use two pillowcases) Let sit over night.
      Add all ingredients together (Except bread Crumbs, Powdered Sugar Whole Almonds & Jordan Almonds)
      In bowl or on tray plae Koliva, Cover with Bread crumbs, then add Powdered Sugar. Decorate with Blanched almonds & Jordan almonds in the sign of a cross.

      May 19, 2010

      Quote for the Week
      If you see someone attacked by passions, hate not the brother but the passions attacking him. And when you see someone succumbing to the tyranny of lusts and bad habits, have a still greater compassion for him, lest you suffer a similar temptation - since you are changeable and under the influence of changeable matter. (St. Symeon the New Theologian)

      Scripture for the Week
      Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up. (James 4:10)
      Question for the Week
      Am I taking responsibility for and working toward the healing of my own sinful addictions (passions)?
      Over the next few weeks, we will be addressing the topic of marital discord. We can only imagine the diversity of women who read this publication and the situations we might touch on that could possibly strike a nerve. We are using a hypothetical inquiry format. Our goal is to bring hope and ways to address areas of difficulty that might otherwise be too painful to raise in routine conversation. We welcome your feedback.
      Dear Sister in Christ,
      There is something going on in my marriage that is deeply worrisome to me and I haven't been able to share it with anyone before now. My husband is suffering an addiction (to what I will not say at this time) and I don't know what to do. It pains me to see how his addiction is changing him and our relationship. He cannot see it, though, and I often find myself very angry and distancing myself from him. Whenever I try to approach him about it, he becomes immediately defensive. I don't want to live like this, but I don't want to destroy our family life, either. I don't know how to handle this and I'm quite upset and worried.
      Dear one—my heart aches along with yours—addictions are rampant throughout our society now and clergy families are not exempt from this suffering. Not every clergy family, but a certain percentage are in the same boat with you right now. It is not abnormal to feel upset, worried by or distanced from the person who is in an addicted state. Your first step, I think, will be to find someone in whom to confide these concerns confidentially, ideally your spiritual father. You need, in particular, both spiritual support and practical guidance at this time. One size does not fit all, and individual situations are best handled/guided on an individual basis, depending on degree of seriousness. You also might want to see a professional family counselor to learn more about the problem at hand and how best to respond. Insurance usually allows for counseling visits—a certain number per year.
      Apart from professional counseling visits, many people do not realize that there is an excellent resource available in most areas in the United States (and other countries, too) on any day of the week for low to no cost. Some people call it "cheap" therapy, but it works extremely well. Have you heard of Al-Anon? Let me guess your thoughts--it's a program for alcoholics? You're thinking of AA—it is not the same as Al-Anon. Al-Anon is a support group for family and friends of alcoholics, although, alcoholism does not need to be the primary addiction that brings the group together. The type of addiction (alcohol, narcotics, gambling, sex or overeating to name a few) can vary, but the steps to deal with addicted behavior are the same. And those are tools that Al-Anon is expert at providing. If you have a family member or friend who is addicted to anything, you can readily get concrete help from an Al-Anon support group.
      Let me share something with you about myself that could make a difference in how you handle the matter at hand. I grew up in the home of a parent who acted out like an alcoholic, but never drank, i.e., a "dry drunk." Being raised under this influence affected me profoundly. My home life was awash with anger, criticism, judgment and general unhappiness and I absorbed a lot of that destructive influence and poor role modeling. And that parent's behavior continued affecting me even after marriage. Only in recent years, after spending time and money for a psychologist's ear, after a few sessions, that same psychologist encouraged me to join an Al-Anon support group, telling me it would both fit my needs and budget. And, interestingly enough, that is the same advice I had received 13 years prior from a hieromonk in an Orthodox monastery.
      The principles set forth in a Twelve Step program are spiritual in nature and utilized by Al-Anon. When applied, they work toward healing any kind of addiction. Al-Anon is a great resource for anyone who is affected by addictions of any kind going on in a family setting. This group provides positive tools to deal with addictive behavior, its focus is to combat co-dependency. At the core, you choose health for yourself and while you find yourself benefitting, this choice also begins to have an effect on the addicted party.
      During an Al-Anon meeting, people share (if they desire—or not) on a topic chosen for the session. Sitting in on a meeting, even without contributing to the discussion, can be wonderfully insightful. One learns a bit about what other people are experiencing in their daily lives--their struggles, their victories, their disappointments. There is no cross-talking, no advice given, but attendees do seek to work the Twelve Steps in their own lives. It is a no pressure gathering, people are known on a first name basis and anonymity is honored. Attending meetings have given me some interesting perspectives—in comparison with one's own situation, listening to someone else's can be very enlightening—and inspiring. In many cases, these are people who are struggling without the extra measure of God's grace found in the Holy Mysteries. Nevertheless, God knows, they are coming to a greater measure of health and wholeness and ability to wisely interact with an addicted family member or friend. Participation in Al-Anon can change a person's perspective while encouraging personal growth and accountability for one's own actions and reactions. That, in itself, is very important when living with an addicted person.
      Every time I've gone to such a meeting I've felt like I've had a cathartic experience and learned something. Even so, I still find it tough to drive over to the meeting place and walk in the door and allow myself to be vulnerable with complete strangers. Listening and sharing with others, however, one finds genuine kindred spirits. Knowing about this resource and being encouraged that it's OK to "go there," and I do encourage you to "go there" given your current situation, could be a life-saver.
      A few years ago, I came across a book written by Fr. Meletios Webber on this very topic. It is called Steps of Transformation: An Orthodox Priest Explores the Twelve Steps. That was before I considered attending Al-Anon meetings and I found it intriguing. I was further amazed when an Orthodox individual (a recovering alcoholic) came into a bookstore where I was working and purchased multiple copies of this book. That person enthusiastically told me of all the books read on the program over the years, it was by far the best and the one to give to others. So, it has the "Orthodox Seal of Approval," shall we say.
      Fr. Meletios sets our minds at ease—he explains how one does not compromise the Orthodox Faith by participating in an Al-Anon support group or by following the Twelve Steps. These are simply tools in the struggle to overcome and guard against falling prey to addictive behavior or taking part in enabling it. And what are addictions at their core? The Fathers of the Church speak of "passions," a perversion of the powers of the soul, that is to say, natural powers of the soul which have been corrupted by sin and our withdrawal from God. This inner sickness of soul is rightly linked as the source of addictions.
      Now, the looming question…if you participate in Al-Anon, will you be able to free your husband's addiction? I think we both know that only God can bring that about. Coming out of an addiction requires cooperation with God—a repentant spirit and willingness to take steps toward change. Working the Twelve Steps fosters that. As for our part, only through prayer, love and a healthy example may an opportunity for dialogue be opened. In marriage we are called upon in a real sense to save one another. When one is weak the other is called upon to be strong. If you gain health and tools to deal with addictive behavior through a Twelve Step support group, you will give yourself and your husband both a gift and a mercy. I encourage you to look into this and visit a group nearby you sometime soon. God grant you strength, wisdom and perseverance—please let me know how you fare.
      With love and prayers from your sister in the Lord.
      Please pray, on a consistent basis, for the marriages of the clergy families in our Church and in our nation. We need, more than ever, lights and examples of Christian love in our parishes and in our society. Through the prayers of the Theotokos and All the Saints, especially Joachim and Anna, and Zachariah and Elizabeth, Lord Jesus Christ our God, please protect all clergy families, have mercy upon us and save us.

      May 13, 2010

      Christ is ascended!

      Over the next few weeks, we will be addressing the topic of marital discord and issues facing presvyteres. We can only imagine the diversity of women who read this publication and the situations we might touch on that could possibly strike a nerve. We are using a hypothetical inquiry format. Our goal is to bring hope and ways to address areas of difficulty that might otherwise be too painful to raise in routine conversation. We welcome your feedback and hope you'll consider sharing your thoughts with us.
      Dear Sister in Christ,
      I hear other presvyteres talking about their spiritual father. I see a priest for confession, but he is part of my husband’s “brotherhood” so I feel awkward about sharing too much about what’s really going on in my marriage. I just stick to acknowledging my sins. If I wanted to find a spiritual father who would be willing to guide me as well as hear my sins, how would I do that? I could really use a sounding board for these heavy stresses and some guidance, too. A few presvyteres I know seem to be happy with the arrangement they have with their spiritual father, but I’m not sure how to approach this idea for myself. What do you suggest?
      My dear sister, I’m glad you brought this up. A spiritual father/confessor can provide a presvytera the necessary space to be honest and open about her life experiences, thoughts and confession of sins. The best way to find this man is through prayer and recommendation. You may find someone somewhat nearby or very far away as a result of the search. The important thing is that you find someone to whom you can entrust issues of a confidential nature, because that is part and parcel of that spiritual ministry—confidentiality and prayer—it is a sacred trust. Seek for a man who is known for a generally humble spirit and overall integrity. Start inquiring and see whose name is mentioned time and again.
      Some avenues to follow in the search for a spiritual father/confessor:
      • Begin praying routinely and specifically for God’s guidance in the matter. This is the most important aspect of the search.
      • Ask other presvyteres that you like and trust for a recommendation.
      • Consider a priest from another part of the country or from another Orthodox jurisdiction or one that routinely serves an Orthodox monastery if you want to avoid the “brotherhood” aspect of speaking with someone who knows your husband personally. (A quick thought on this: if a priest hears a confession that involves a presbyter he knows, it shouldn't make a difference between the men, because, if the confessor is honest with himself, he'll reckon it wouldn't take much for him to fall into the same pit along with his brother. All priests are suffering temptations and sins along with everyone else and they are empathetic. A spiritual man is cognizant of these things, so do not let this thought deter you from choosing a man who knows your husband. Choose the priest according to his character—humility and integrity.)
      • If you have a relationship with an Orthodox women’s monastery, ask the Gerontissa/abbess for a recommendation
      • Some presvyteres like to confess to and receive guidance from priest-monks, others prefer confession and guidance from a man who is in the married state, with or without children, involved in parish work. One is not better than the other, it all depends on how the Lord leads in response to your heart’s desire to find such a person.
      A good spiritual father/confessor is a place of refuge. Mine hears my heart, listens to my sins, offers forgiveness, speaks frankly to me both as a guide and as a man who knows men. He is sympathetic, but not coddling. He encourages me to stay in the struggle, points out my small victories, gives me courage and hope for the sake of perseverance. Most of all, he prays for me. Like most spiritual fathers, he is not always easy to reach, but I am aware that he prays for me, my husband and my family. If I can't reach him when I call, I trust God that the delay is in my overall best interest. Sometimes I write my confession, mail it to him and we talk about it afterwards and he prays the necessary prayers for me over the phone. I try to travel to see him in person, at least once a year, if I’m able.
      I have come to the conclusion over time that I would trust this man with my life and in a very real sense, I do. One caution I would share here--guard against trusting yourself to someone who wants to direct your life and decision making. A wise spiritual father will give good advice but not dictate to you exactly what to do. He will pray with and for you and help you to rely on the Lord in all things. Your situation is not exactly like the monk who lives under obedience in the monastery. So, do be careful—be moderate in your expectations and prayerful and respectful of the one to whom you entrust your soul. This kind of relationship can be most beneficial and freeing spiritually. I will pray along with you, that you will find a trusted father/confessor whereby you can pour out your heart without fear and find more relief and strength for our common life.
      Love from your sister in the Lord
      Quote for the Week
      For Holy Communion, the confession of our sins to a father confessor is needed; whereas for our communication with God, the confession of our weaknesses before Him is necessary. (Elder Paisios)
      Question for the Week
      Have I prayed today for my spiritual father? For those of us that already have one, have I asked God's continued wisdom and protection for him? For those of us who are still seeking a spiritual father, have I sincerely beseeched the Lord to guide me in this critical choice?
      Scripture for the Week
      The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. (Isaiah 58:11)

      May 5, 2010
      CHRIST IS RISEN!!!
      Over the next few weeks, we will be addressing the topic of marital discord. We can only imagine the diversity of women who read this publication and the situations we might touch on that could possibly strike a nerve. We are using a hypothetical inquiry format. Our goal is to bring hope and ways to address areas of difficulty that might otherwise be too painful to raise in routine conversation. We welcome your feedback.
      Letter # 2
      Dear Sister in Christ,
      Today I’m feeling so stressed out, overwhelmed and void of any loving response toward my husband. I really think the whole parish life is dragging me down. Actually, I'd like to lay blame for most of the problems I’m having on the stress my husband brings home...I didn’t think things were going to be like this when my husband was ordained. He’s miserable, I’m miserable, the kids are acting up but I know they are hurt and discouraged because it’s so obvious to them we’re in bad shape. I’m reminded of the commercial, “Help, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.” Have you ever felt like this?? I feel like a complete failure in every way!
      My dear sister, I feel for you. In truth, we are in the kind of position where we oftentimes get pushed to max. If it is possible to extend that margin a bit, our husbands even more so. They routinely shoulder burdens that cannot be shared with any other person. Apart from being situated on the front line of battle where he routinely receives barbs from the enemy, he is also available to respond to emergencies at any hour. He hears confessions, stays busy making pastoral visits, leads prayer services and church activities. He performs administrative work when the church staff is lean or non-existent and responds to reasonable (and unreasonable) requests from a variety of sources. Last, but not least, he ends up receiving “well meaning” advice (abuse?) from individuals at various and sundry times. Is it any surprise then, that at the end of the day, the man is oftentimes bent out of shape? The spiritual warrior is tired, grumpy, hungry, short with his family—needs space to process the day’s experiences. His wife, too, bears a myriad of stresses and responsibilities (too numerable to list!). She finds herself feeling very lonely and/or neglected by the man she married. And, if there are children in the home, she feels like a single parent with no relief. It is not easy to live like this and you cannot do it long-term without God’s merciful undergirding and assistance. My thought is this--it is a heroic thing, in and of itself, to maintain the life of a clerical family—to be a presvytera in this day and age--when temptations/stresses are high and so much is expected of the presbyter and his family. God sees it all! We recognize there are still parishioners out there who think the presbyter does nothing but relax between Divine Liturgies, Sunday to Sunday. Of course, that parishioner usually does not darken the church door apart from Pascha (every other year?) and occasional memorial services. I’m sorry, I have digressed…have a laugh—you know at least one of those people…
      Seriously--our personalities in marriage, in parenting, in meeting parishioner expectations along with our Christian faith and desire to be a good example for others are really tried in this vocation. We are often pruned in our family relationships and through experiences with parishioners in what seems a rather merciless way. Between spouses there arise issues of loneliness, anger, frustration, uncharitable comments, selfishness, emotional neglect or coldness, and the list goes on...a whole gamut of unpleasantness that makes us wonder about ourselves, our spouse, God's calling on our lives, etc. Now, I confide in you--I have read the "love chapter" in I Corinthians 13, unable to finish without tears and the conviction that I am void of any sense of love and a complete and utter failure in life. Although men may not show it, they, too, struggle with feelings of fear and inadequacy that are deeply intimidating given the male nature. And I'm reasonably certain you're aware that some parishioners are not shy about making it known just how displeased and unhappy they are with the clerical family God has sent them—where is the love, where is the appreciation for on-going services rendered? The family cannot help but suffer as a result. Presvyteres suffer. We are all suffering to various degrees in our marriage and parish life. In this experience, you are not alone.
      As for personal coping when the waters are rough, the Jesus Prayer is more precious to me now than ever. If I have an argument with my husband and I cannot pray my prayer rule out of pain or frustration, I will at least pray the Jesus Prayer on the komboskini. But, apart from that, I have taken on a daily rule to pray it for a particular amount of time because I know it draws the grace of God and I certainly need that consolation and help.
      As for other nuts and bolts that help me--I try hard not to say the first thing that comes to mind when I get angry, deeply disappointed or feel otherwise unfulfilled because it has never helped me achieve that for which my heart longs. However, I can't say that I have more successes than failures in this endeavor. I have come to the conclusion over time that the only person I can "fix" is myself even if my actions do not always seem to bear it in practice. The most important thing to remember is that God does indeed love us and our husbands even in our struggles—and that He does want to give us beauty for ashes. I try to exercise my faith, say my prayers, etc., without expectation of spectacular or immediate results in my relationships with others. We are all "in process" and God knows what we need in order to be saved...along with our spouse, children, parishioners, etc.
      If it is any consolation, this difficult life we’re leading is actually preparing us to enter God’s Kingdom. Painful and difficult though it may be, we are gaining depth in our hearts and souls through our struggles. We are not expected to live in gloom and doom, rather, with bright hope. But, it seems we must experience the scouring pad within first so that our souls can eventually shine with facets of God—humility, mercy, forbearance, peace, His agape love which is unmistakable in the Christian who knows Him. We may be in the “gloom and doom” stage right now, but it won’t last forever. See yourself “in process.” The Lord lets us struggle, but He will console us and strengthen us as He sees we need it. The life we lead is our “narrow way” for now. I think He wants us to see the “big picture,” not only the struggle today, but the glory of the future to come. In truth, our time is actually rather short. Struggle with me, dear sister, with your husband, children and parish. Doing so will not go unrewarded by the Lord. You will need some help along the way and that is what we want to focus on next—the role of the spiritual father, resources for handling difficult matters at hand, etc. We are weak, but He is strong.
      Love from your sister in the Lord
      Quote for the Week
      For the Lord wishes and admonishes this when He said, 'He who wishes to be first and great among you, let him be the last and the minister and servant of all.' Therefore, it is necessary that service before others be without a reward, nor should it bestow on the server any honor or glory, so as not to contradict Scripture by appearing 'pleasing to men' or 'serving to the eyes.' Not serving men, but the Lord alone, let him keep to the narrow path. Let him submit promptly to the single yoke of the Lord and carry it patiently in order to be brought with pleasure to his end with positive love. (St. Makarios the Great)
      Scripture for the Week
      "Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord." (Psalms 31:24)
      Question for the Week
      In John 15:12 it says, “This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you.” How can I choose to embrace this commandment and communicate love to those in my home this week?
      We have recently received some wonderful feedback and plan to share a few insightful responses from presvyteres around the country in a few weeks. Feel free to share your comments with us! Email our Prez to Prez team at the addresses at the top of this page.
      Love in our Risen Lord,
      "CHRIST IS RISEN!"

      April 29, 2010
      Over the next few weeks, we will be addressing the topic of marital discord. We can only imagine the diversity of women who read this publication and the situations we might touch on that could possibly strike a nerve. We are using a hypothetical inquiry format. Our goal is to bring hope and ways to address areas of difficulty that might otherwise be too painful to raise in routine conversation. We welcome your feedback.
      Part 1
      Dear Sister Presvytera,
      My marriage is teetering on the edge of the marital abyss. Even though things have been rough for years, my husband has finally agreed to seek marriage counseling with me. Now I'm filled with fear, unsure how to handle the situation. I'm guessing other presvyteres might have gone through this or be going through it themselves. Any advice?
      Dear Sister in Christ,
      I appreciate the courage it took for you to confide your marital struggles to me. I'm empathetic, I have been where you are. And even if it's not discussed openly, some other presvyteres have been there, too. Over time, I've come to believe somewhat few clergy couples would be willing to admit to marital distress (the kind that merits marital intervention), but I believe these kinds of situations are more prevalent than we realize.
      It's a mercy that your husband has agreed to pursue marriage counseling with you. Damage control is certainly beneficial and you can both emerge stronger from having done so. May God bless that all goes well for you--that you find a counselor that you both relate to very well and can see both sides of whatever issues arise. To get the desired result, one thing to keep in mind is that both parties need to be willing to make adjustments and see things pertaining to themselves realistically. If this openness exists, then progress can easily be made.
      On the other hand, (and this is where counseling has its limits), if one or both of you go into denial about what the counselor notices and advises or if either of you cannot "see" yourself as others do or if there's unwillingness to make changes or corrections by either of you, then you have a stalemate. At that point, you may need to abandon formal counseling without the desired results. A wise counselor will not take you through a long-drawn out period that rehashes problems week after week for an indefinite period. After a few sessions, when all the issues have been brought to the fore and you've been given tools by which to progress toward healing and restoration, if (for one of the reasons already cited) things are not improving, a professional may simply say, "I've given you the best advice I can. It's up to you to work at it now."
      If that's the way things turn out, it will likely require a good bit of bearing up and humility to continue persevering with one another for Christ's sake (and your family's). Of course, one size does not fit all when evaluating "where do we go from here?" Some marital situations may require a separation due to imminent physical danger or severe addictions. Infidelity oftentimes ends with a divorce. But, in most cases, healing and restoration is a much more preferable option. Among many reasons, divorce is seldom the relief people think it will be. A good counselor will clarify things of this nature. As for the other types of difficulties in marriage, we should resist the voices in today's society that often encourage us to "throw in the towel."
      What kind of approach can you use to "make it work" when you feel miserable and hopeless? Well, there's a way, but it requires a spiritual approach and is not necessarily a quick fix—but, it can bring about very good results over time because God's grace undergirds it. Let's say this--it is a challenge to bear with annoying, unpleasant/unfulfilling marital interactions with patience and prayer, consciously working against irritations or trying to "fix" one's spouse. Instead of this approach, deliberately ask God for forgiveness of sins we've committed, while asking Him to clarify how we ourselves offend others. And, then doing so while endeavoring to provide as much of a healthy, loving environment as possible for the entire family. In other words, create a healing environment. Note that I prefaced this by saying it was a "challenge." I ask that you not become utterly discouraged by this suggestion. Why? Because God does a wonderful thing when we deliberately turn a searchlight on our own offenses and seek His help--He really does help us see ourselves better while giving us a greater measure of grace to work through our difficulties. Rather than declare, “Impossible!" consider, instead, "I can do all things through Christ Who strengthens me," (Phil 4:13) and willingly cooperate with the grace of God and see what happens in your life. This is not a pep talk, I am sharing with you from my heart, based on experience.
      (Click here to see a list of short prayers that help turn the searchlight of offenses on ourselves while seeking God's healing grace. These prayers are gleaned from Dee Pennock's newest book, Path to Sanity: Lessons from Ancient Holy Counselors on how to have a sound mind. To gain greater clarity on the meanings behind these prayers, read a copy of Dee's book, published by Light & Life, which is worth every bit the time and money invested.)
      Quote for the Week
      When we are in trouble or despair or have lost hope, we should do what David did: pour out our hearts to God and tell Him of our needs and troubles, just as they are (Ps. 142:2). It is because He can deal with us wisely that we confess to God: He can make our troubles easy to bear, if this is for our benefit, and can save us from the dejection which destroys and corrupts. St. Hesychius the Presbyter
      Question for the Week
      In what ways can I more fully love and support my husband? Be specific. Write down these thoughts, without respect to his shortcomings.
      With all our love in the Risen Lord,
      Your Prez to Prez team
      CHRIST IS RISEN!!!

      April 20, 2010
      CHRIST IS RISEN!!!
      Quote for the Week
      In moments of despair, know that the Lord is not abandoning you; rather, you are abandoning the Lord. In the name of God, here is how I would order you to live when you are alone: even if you are weighed down by grief, even if you don't want to--always, from your heart, mentally call upon the Lord Jesus Christ, Who dwells in your soul. (An Elder's Counsels to Christians Living in the World)
      Scripture of the Week
      With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. (Acts 4:33)
      Question for the Week
      What can I do this week to celebrate and acknowledge how precious my loved ones are to me?
      Thought for the Week
      Two weeks ago, our school community was shocked by the news that on Easter Sunday at 4:30 am, three young 19 year old boys were killed instantly in a drunk driving accident. At the memorial service, our son was reunited with hundreds of grieving classmates and friends. After hearing the pastor's message about the hope of the resurrection, our son came home especially grateful for our Holy Orthodox faith which continually proclaims, "CHRIST IS RISEN!" Amidst our despair, we know that our Lord will not abandon us! Jesus rose from the dead, trampling down death by His death! My heart aches with pain for the parents, friends and relatives of these three young men who lost their lives too early and too young. This tragedy has served as a reminder that so often we can take life for granted. Do we sweat over the small stuff and worry way too much? Do we live life at such a fast pace we don't allow our souls time to catch up with our bodies? Are we are way too plugged in to our computers and T.V.'s, not allowing enough one on one time with our kids or husbands? Life is precious. Let us live every single day like it may be our last – for we never really know when we, or our loved ones, will take our last breath. "Truly, The Lord Has Risen!"

      April 15, 2010
      CHRIST IS RISEN!!!
      "Today a sacred Pascha is reveal to us. Pascha new and holy, Pascha mystical. Pascha laudable. Pascha which is Christ the Redeemer!"
      Quote for the Week
      Let our throat become hoarse from crying out the sweetest name of Jesus all day long, and it will become "sweeter than honey and honeycomb" to the noetic larynx--the heart. With no other name will we be able to overcome the passions within us, except with the name of Jesus. With no other name will we be able to expel the darkness from our heart and to have the radiance of luminous knowledge shine forth in our nous, except with the name of Jesus. (Elder Ephraim of the Holy Mountain [Athos])
      Scripture of the Week
      "Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name." (Philipians 2:9)
      Thought for the Week
      I love working with young people. They have such an incredible no-nonsense type of honesty that we adults sometimes learn to suppress in our age of tolerance and political correctness. I was doing a lesson with a small group of fifth graders and we came to a question in our workbook about someone we considered a hero. Without the slightest hesitation, little Brandy cheerfully responded out loud as she wrote, “Oh, that’s easy! J - E - S - U -S...Jesus!” She paused slightly then leaned forward toward the other students at the table and leveled a serious look at every one of them while pointing her pencil around the group, “You’d better all be writing down “Jesus” now!” Every student compliantly nodded and dutifully followed her lead. I couldn’t help but smile at the forcefulness of this miniature figure. I was so impressed to witness her simple unquestioning profession of faith, but when I spoke with her aunt a few days later at Open House, I learned that Brandy’s faith was something far from simple. She had endured horrors in her young life that she will spend years working through, and yet, in the midst of it all, she had discovered a Savior who would stand in the gap to love, save, heal, and protect her...she truly saw Him as her hero. Her joy and enthusiasm for life are something her Hero has provided her. I weep to think that perhaps the blessed name of our Savior may not have been my own instantaneous answer to the same question....
      Question for the Week
      Do I alter my answers to questions in order to remain politically correct? Are there times when I hold my tongue when I know I should speak out? How do I feel when I face those moments and remain silent?

      April 6, 2010
      Dear Sisters - Rejoice! Christ is Risen!
      Quote for the Week
      Mark how great the women's perseverance. They had followed Him, ministering to Him, and were present even to the time of the dangers. This is why they also saw all; how He cried, how He gave us the Spirit; how the rocks were rent and all the rest. These women were the first to see Jesus; and the sex that was most condemned first enjoys the sight of the blessings; this sex shows its courage the most. And when the disciples had fled, these women were present... (St. John Chrysostom, Homilies on Matthew)
      Scripture for the Week
      On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, "Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! (Luke 24:1-6)
      Thought for the Week: On Forgiveness
      Three of us on the ‘Prez to Prez’ team are blessed to be the choir or youth choir directors of our churches. Many in our sisterhood hold either the same position, or are involved in choir and/or chanting on some level. As such, we get to see with our own eyes, and chant with our own mouths the holy hymnology of our amazing Orthodox Faith. Lent in general, and Holy Week specifically, affords us many opportunities to enter into the saintly and purified minds of our hymnography writing forefathers and foremothers and to get a glimpse into the thinking and pondering of a heart and life undergoing sanctification. We mystically enter into a right relationship with Christ and His Holy Church through the work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of these, our heroes in the faith. We hold dear the hymns that many of us have known from our youth and which we yearly look forward to hearing and chanting. One striking hymn is the Doxastikon of the Praises during the Orthros Service of Holy Pascha.
      ‘It is the day of resurrection, let us be radiant in the festival, let us embrace one another. Let us call brothers even those who hate us and forgive all things in the resurrection. And therefore let us proclaim: Christ is risen…’
      What is most striking is the line, ‘Let us call brothers even those who hate us and forgive all things in the resurrection.’ What a challenge! In our lives as priestly families, we all endure pain and suffering on some level, even, at times, at the hands of those whom we are called to serve. It is inevitable in this world filled with pain and sorrow that some of it will be directed at our husbands and even at our families. And yet, we are to call brothers even those who hate us. We are called to imitate Christ in this way who endured buffeting and scourges at the hands of those who earlier had proclaimed, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” It is our cross to bear, but the Lord warned us that if they hated Him they would hate us. It is encouraging to know that we share this cross in common as a sisterhood, and that through Christ our Lord, even we sinners can be instruments of His love and grace.
      May we all have a joyful and peace filled Bright Week, enjoying the many blessings that Jesus, the Risen Lord, has bestowed upon us as priestly families in His vineyard.
      Christ is Risen!!!
      Question for the Week
      Have you ever stopped to think how much more longsuffering we can be with our relatives than with others? How would my attitude shift towards those that persecute me if I considered them as my brothers and sisters?
      With all our love to you this joyous Bright Week!

      March 28, 2010
      Hymn of the Week
      “Behold the Bridegroom comes in the middle of the night; and blessed is the servant whom He shall find watching, but unworthy is he whom He shall find in sleeping. Beware, then, O my soul, and be not overcome by sleep, lest thou be given over to death and shut out of the Kingdom. But return to soberness and cry aloud: Holy, holy, holy are You, O God: through the Mother of God have mercy upon us.”
      Quote for the Week
      Christ loves us in spite of our senseless behavior. He calls to us, is always ready to respond to our cries for help and guide our fragile steps through all the obstacles that lie in our path. He respects us on a par with Himself. His ultimate idea for us is to see us in eternity verily His equals, His friends and brothers, the sons of the Father. He strives for this, He longs for it. This is our Christ, and as Man He sat on the right hand of the Father. (Archimandrite Sophrony of Essex)
      Scripture for the Week
      Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12)
      Question for the Week
      What specific steps can I take to guard our home environment during this coming Holy Week? For those of us with young children, how can I make this a rich and positive experience for them?
      Thought for the Week
      We received an invitation to a 50th wedding anniversary party this week. It was framed with a lovely picture of the expectant bride and groom in their original wedding photo along with a current picture of the couple fifty years later. Looking at both photos, I imagine that experiences and challenges they never anticipated in the earlier years nevertheless intruded, and colored their lives. Many of the choices they made probably closed doors and opened others. Certainly, the long path they actually walked wasn't what they expected it to be. No doubt, there are tough and difficult chapters we need to work through in our marriages both with our husbands and in our relationship with God.
      Hopefully, during the rough and difficult patches in our married life we seek counseling and intensify our efforts to mend and heal in our brokenness. During Holy Week, we have this same opportunity to intensify, nurture and grow closer in relationship with Christ, our Bridegroom. It starts with confession. If you haven't already experienced in the sacrament of Holy Confession this month, make an appointment today! Commit fully to attending every Holy Week service possible. Yes, it's work. Yes, it's time consuming. Yes, it's worth it!!! A