———–I-WALK-THE-LINE———-

straight_and_narrowSome years ago when I was spending my summers on the farm with my grandparents, occasionally I would take off on my green banana bike and pedal 3 miles down the gravel road to visit my Aunt Jean. Living on a neighboring farm, Aunt Jean and her sister Aunt Josephine would take turns feeding the farm hands and I could learn a lot listening to the conversations at the dinner table. After hearing many stories and filling my belly with homemade bread and plenty of home-cooking, the farm hands would go back to their chores and I would leave the kitchen to escape dish duty and find Aunt Jean’ stack of 45’s. I’d fire up the old record player, place the vinyl on the turntable and listen to a song recorded by Johnny Cash: “I Walk the Line.”

 
In the song, ole Johnny had fallen in love and decided he would realign his life on the straight and narrow. Of course we all know saying and doing are two different things and usually it takes a lot of work! The greatest love we experience here on this earth is one of choice and to achieve this great measure of love, we have to make sacrifices.

 
As we here in the Gospel reading today, we always have a choice. Clothe me, feed me, bring me in out of the weather and give me something to drink. All of these requests ask us to sacrifice our time and money. A person with faith will want to help others. But by helping in these ways, are we just barely scratching the surface resolving their apparent needs or are we taking the time to look deeper. Have they simply had some bad breaks in life or is it their brokenness that keeps repeating these symptoms over and over again? It takes time and caring to really love! It takes mercy!

 
Along the straight and narrow path there always seems to be bumps and curves as we try to mirror the life of Christ. For someone to say that they are a Christian is to acknowledge that in life, they try to walk the line or it is say that they seek righteousness. The Lenten season offers many opportunities for sacrifice and plenty of paths for us to walk the line of righteousness. I have often said, what in the world is keeping us away? Well it is the world and its’ golden emptiness that seduces us away from the warm loving embrace of our Creator.

 
Great Lent offers each one of us a personal spiritual renewal. It is a time of struggle for us physically and spiritually. During this time of struggle we tell our stomachs no and we tell the world no, and Christ reappears as a priority in our lives. It is during this time that we embrace the words of Johnny Cash and say: I walk the line, because Jesus is mine!

 
Visit the shut-ins, volunteer at the soup kitchens and help your neighbor! And when that final time comes and we encounter our last judgment, will Jesus be ours and a life eternal or will it be obvious that we instead chose to serve the world and ourselves? “For narrow is the gate and straitened is the way that leadeth away to life, and few are they who find it. [Mt. 7:14]

Fr. Gabriel Weller 2-19-2017

85 lbs of baggage

I just returned from a week-long trip cross country and I drug 85 lbs of “necessary” luggage with me. It was a trip in which I needed to portray two separate identities, one as an electronic security professional and one as an eternal security clergy member of the Orthodox Church. airport bagBoth of these careers require me to dress in a certain manner and have a different style of work clothes. When I arrived at the airport, the TSA folks x-rayed and sniffed the suitcases for everyone’s safety. My little carry-on roller was free but my large suitcase cost me a twenty-five dollar fee. I took 85 lbs of baggage with me and returned with more stuff than I took!

 
Just as the airline charges me for extra baggage, in life there is a cost for maintaining all of my junk. I always seem to drag along with me scars and soreness from the past. It seems as though wherever I go and whatever I do, I am somewhat entangled with my history. My actions and reactions are mostly based upon my learned survival experiences. Even in my marriage I sometimes enter into my combat mode because a memory of hurt or distrust is still embedded in my heart and usually has nothing to do with my wife but, there it is, overreaction! Fight or flight!

 
Over the years I have been able to be rid of some of my unwanted baggage by means of confession, communion, prayer and forgiveness. But now, a year older and even more snow on my roof I still have a lot more stuff to surrender. I want to be dependent on Jesus but I seem to keep one hand clinging to my carry-on baggage.

 
As we enter into the Lenten season I ask this question, how much baggage are you dragging around? Why do we find comfort in own pity party? When I was younger and stronger, I never gave it a second thought to the amount of extra weight I was dragging around. But now I am beginning to realize how tiring it is and how much precious time I have been wasting. Remembering wrongs only injures my ability to be about my Father’s business. “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall affliction, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?” [Rom. 8:35]

 
If I continue to choose to limit my understanding of love based upon what I have experienced here on Earth I will be cheating myself of becoming the man God has called me to be. Instead of loving others as Christ does, my choice to treasure and continue to drag the baggage of mine and others sinfulness cripples my salvific attempt to draw near to the One who truly cherishes me. ‘God, be gracious to me the sinner.’ [Lk. 18:13]

Fr. Gabriel Weller 2/5/2017

Leaky Battery

For the safety of our new home, I installed solar lights to illumine the driveway and entry into our cabin. The new lights have a battery that is charged by the rays of the sun during the day and when darkness begins to creep up the mountain, a photocell sends current to the bright LED and it produces light. Now after several months we have noticed that some of the lights do not last all night Leaky-Battery-4and occasionally they all are dark in the wee hours of the morning. I have found several reasons for the differences. A few lights are shaded part of the day, a few lights have inferior batteries and then one or two of the lights are probably lacking in their circuitry. And then if sunshine is sparse one day, the solar collector is incapable of recharging the battery fully which reduces the number of hours of illumination we will see that night.

 
We humans also have batteries. Not the kind that catch fire on airplanes but we definitely have a power grid that energizes our mind, body and soul. We need food and water to regulate our body temperature and produce energy and much needed nutrients to sustain our bodily temple. Our mind, body and soul also need exposure to light. Now our human batteries can only be fully charged when we bathe in the Son, Jesus. Just like those solar lights enlightening my path to safety, sometimes our light burns brightly into the darkness and yet other times the darkness lasts much longer than out light. If we spend our time trying to recharge our batteries by the artificial light of our widescreen TVs, laptops and smart phones, our human battery will not realize a full charge. There are way too many shadows found in those man-made artificial light sources and a host full of demons waiting to befriend you and take you farther away from the pure source of energy, and allowing our batteries to leak and lose their charge. The circuitry of our mind needs to be rewired because time is precious and for our salvation we must seek to be fully recharged in the light of Christ, bathing in Christ-like love with each person we meet. The selfless love we share recharges the batteries of others. And we can only become more like Christ if we seek Him more than we seek the world and its’ darkness!

 
Here in the season of Epiphany, the Uncreated energy enlightened the world with the voice out of the heavens, saying, “This is My Son, the Beloved, in Whom I am well pleased”. The Holy Spirit descends upon Him in the form of a dove. The Father, Son and the Holy Spirit made themselves known. The Light of the world covered Himself in the dark waters of the Jordan liberating us all from the shadows of sin by purifying our souls as we are baptized. St. Basil the Great affirms that the blessing of water came to us as a “mystical tradition” and that the water, through the prayer and blessing of the priest, receives a “quickening power of the Holy Spirit.” Through this heavenly power the water we bless at Theophany receives the power to bless those who drink from it or are sprinkled with it and the water lasts for years without corruption.

 
We mystically enter into the waters of the Jordan here at Theophany and we sing: “as many as were baptized in Christ have put on Christ”. May the great Creator reshape and recharge your leaking batteries into a brilliant source of energy overcoming the shadows and illuminating the world.

 

Fr. Gabriel Weller 1-22-2017

FLAPJACKS

Whenever we have the opportunity to eat pancakes, syrup must play a vital part of the meal. My wife and I have very different techniques in enjoying our flapjacks. I carefully place a glob of butter in between the top and bottom layer and then circle the cake with just enough pancakes-imagesyrup to touch and flavor each and every bite, occasional adding fresh berries or a little jelly to enhance the experience. And when I am enjoying my last bite, my plate has been wiped dry, not wasting a drop.

 

Now for my wife, there is never enough syrup. When we visit our favorite breakfast place, Bob Evans, even before the waitress is able to land all the saucers and plates of what we have ordered on the table, my wife briskly informs her that she will need more syrup! She enjoys her pancakes totally submersed and wringing wet with the sugary maple liquid we call syrup. It seems as though she should order syrup with a side order of pancakes. And when she has finished, there is still a lake of syrup in her plate, awaiting anything else that she could chose to submerse. Well for my wife and me, we do not associate eating flapjacks without adding syrup!

 

As a human being, we too need ingredients added! What did Saint Paul’s instruct to the church in Galatia! For if we confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, than we must possess the fruit of the Spirit, love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faith, meekness, and self-control. [Gal. 5:22-23] Without these qualities it is like a plain ole pancake without any toppings!  Blessed Jerome writes: “What deserves to hold the first place among the fruits of the Spirit if not love? Without love other virtues are not reckoned to be virtues. From love is born all that is good.[“Epistle to the Galatians,” 3.5.22, P.L. 26:419B-420B (510-512), cited in ACC, VIII:89.]

 

When people get to know you, are you a plain ole pancake without any toppings or are you wringing wet with the sweetness of Christ-like love? In this season of Nativity we are reminded that everything should be covered with the syrup of love! For it is love that God sent His Son into the world and it is love that the Son sacrificed himself for you. You are loved! You have a purpose in this life! Be like my wife’s flapjack, wringing wet with the syrupy sweetness of love covering everything and everybody you encounter in your life with prayerful love, warmth and joy.

 

Fr. Gabriel Weller 12/25/16

Reflector or Refractor

Now that we are settling into our cabin we are trying to get use to the 8 foot descent of our driveway. It is somewhat gradual but none the less it is a drop. At the bottom of the driveway is our porch. There is a 12 inch thick 12 foot tall retaining wall holding our driveway and garage in place. Well, that leaves quite a drop off so we installed a guardrail to help prevent anything or anybody from going over the wall!

 

refectorWhen we arrive home at night as we descend down to our cabin, the guardrail is hard to see so I installed reflectors on the posts to readily help us identify the possible danger. The soft reflected glow of light alerts us to the possible danger and helps ensure our safety.

 
In town, reflectors are everywhere. We see them on bicycles, construction workers, vehicles, joggers and pedestrians. I even noticed them around the edge of a stop light. All of these products reflect a light source usually bouncing it back to the light source. When light is reflected, there is a loss associated with the bouncing back due to the change of direction of the light, the type of material of the reflector and the working condition of the reflector. Obstacles or dirt on the reflector, weather such as fog, snow and rain and physical damage to the device greatly affect the performance of how much light is bounced back as well.

 
We humans are also reflectors. In the epistle reading from Ephesians, we here: “walk worthily of the calling in which ye were called, with all humility and meekness, with long-suffering, bearing with one another in love, giving diligence to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” We reflect the light of the Creator in our day to day walk in life. We are instructed in Eph. 5:8 to “Be walking as children of light”. The world is being seduced by darkness and desperately needs His reflectiveness.

 

For the safety and sanctity of life, we need to brilliantly reflect the Light of Christ. Not obstructed by dirt and debris by missing church services but shining as a beacon in the midst of a mighty storm, keeping our lens polished by the reading and study of the bible and writings of the church fathers, and the cleansing of our soul with confession and the Body and Blood of Christ continually washing away the layers of weathering life has applied to our heart.

 
There is a lot of danger in the world today and we are descending down a dark treacherous slope leading us farther and farther away from the safety of our great Sheppard. May the uncreated light of Christ reflect in your life brilliantly and protect you and your loved ones from the entanglements and snares of the evil one. Be a great reflector! Glory to Thee!

Fr. Gabriel Weller 12-11-16

The Chance Of Monopoly

The parable in the Gospel reading this morning takes me back to a board game I use to play many years ago. When the weather was bad or darkness arrived way before bedtime, my sisters and I would play the game of monopolyMonopoly for fun. Having two older sisters kept me on my toes as they wheeled and dealed their way into financial security. Often times we had to reference the rules to ensure no one was cheating or bending the rules and taking advantage of the little guy!

 
One of things I most liked about that game was the uncertainty or chance we took with every move we made on the board. Much like life, we never know what is around the corner and what decisions we may face. Around and around the board we go as the years of our life hurry by.

 
In the game of Monopoly, the person with the most stuff wins! In reality of this life we live, the one who loves God more than stuff and more than oneself is the winner. However, “stuff” can bring blessings and bare spiritual fruit if we are thankful and use our possessions in a Godly way. There is a famous quote from a desert Father “he who has received a gift from God, and is ungrateful for it, is already on the way to losing it”.

 
St. John Chrysostom compares the good wealth of a man to the Manna sent by God to the Jewish people as they were wandering in the Desert of Sinai. The people were allowed to take as much as they wanted and were satisfied. We know that many of them were greedy and desired to collect more to be put into storage. They discovered that the excess food molded quickly and went to waste. Selfishness brings rot and waste to our blessings from God. St. Peter of Damaskos wrote: “when God is thanked, He gives us still further blessings, while we, by receiving His gifts, love Him all the more and through this love attain that divine wisdom whose beginning is the fear of God.”

 
In the Gospel, “But God said to him, ‘Fool, this night they demand thy soul from thee; and what thou didst prepare, for whom shall it be?’ “Thus is the one who treasureth up for himself, and is not rich toward God.” [Lk. 12:19-21] Saint Basil instructs us in this manner: “Are you not a grasper of everything? Are you not a robber? You who treat as absolutely yours what you receive that you might dispense to others. He who strips another man of his clothing, is he not called a robber? And he who does not clothe the naked when he could, should he not be called the same? That bread you hold in your clutches that belongs to the starving. That cloak you keep locked in your wardrobe that belongs to the naked. Those shoes that are going to waste with you, they belong to the barefooted. The silver you buried away, that belongs to the needy. Whomsoever you could have helped and did not, to so many have you been unjust. I have spoken to you as best I could. For you who respond, the blessings are ready that were promised you. For you who do not respond, the sentence is already written; and I pray most earnestly that, reflecting upon this bitter counsel I am giving you, you may escape those penalties; that your riches may become instead the price of your redemption, and that you also may attain to those heavenly good things.” [Ib., III:332, §§ 7, 8.]

 
As we navigate around the board in life, we are to invest monoply-hatout gifts wisely by keeping what we need and giving generously to those in need. For if we give God control of our monopoly, there is no such thing as chance, only ample opportunity. You cannot out give God!

 
Fr. Gabriel Weller 12/4/16

DO YOU SEE THE LIGHT??

We humans don’t like the dark. When it is dark, we stub our toes as we try to navigate and we hear noises that we can’t identify the origin of. We need light! The human body needs the full spectrum of light supplied to us by the sun to function and stay healthy. And for those night owls that function best at night, they still need light to read, drive cars, work and so forth. We are not like nocturnal mammals that have rods in their retinas that make enhanced night vision possible.

 
For our safety and comfort we can easily flip a switch and enlighten our lives. It takes energy to create light. Illuminating light within our homes is usually 25% of the monthly electric bill. I have been excited to purchase and install only LED light bulbs in our cabin. Although the price of the led bulb is still a little high, the savings on my monthly electric bill and the savings in energy use was the determining factor for us. The old incandescent bulbs only converted 2% of their energy usage to light and the rest was wasted in heat. The new LED bulbs use about 15% of the electricity needed to produce the same amount of light as the old bulbs and generate a lot less heat. And NIT is currently developing a new light source that will be 40% efficient.

 
But the best attempt that we humans can generate to cross-glowing-1acreate light has a great loss of energy. Even with the new 40% bulbs, we will still be wasting 60% of our created source of energy! But God’s energy is different! The word energy means “working in” and the uncreated energies of God are always working! There is no power outage!

 
At home if we don’t pay the light bill, our energy provider disconnects us and our home goes dark. God’s energy is uncreated and ever-present. You can turn your back on God and deny His existence and allow darkness to overshadow your soul, but His existence is all around you. Everything that is, is His!

 
The energies of God enlighten our souls. We participate in God’s energy, described numerously in scripture as glory, life, love, virtue, and power. We see God’s energies in the sacraments of the church, the forgiveness of sins, miracles and the healing of our soul and body.

 
We marinate in His energy like bathing in the sun, becoming more and more like Him. When you are in the sun, you will fill the warmth and your skin will darken and freckle. I can still picture my Grandmother Hazel sitting on the back porch with her meat hammer, pounding the toughness out of what we were having for supper. God’s energies are pounding out my head-strong gristle intertwined with my deep-deep well of free will, bringing me with my stubborn feet dragging into His tenderness of grace and His everlasting light. “For with thee is the fountain of life: in thy light shall we see light.” (Psalm 36:9) I must be a really tough piece of meat! Don’t give up on me Father, keep on pounding!

 
The uncreated Light and the knowledge of God “illuminates every man that cometh into this world.” God’s act is pure light, and when the Lord appears to us, he always appears as Light. In Holy Scripture we read: “In Your Light we shall see light.” Don’t let the divine energies running through body and soul be wasted! Deny power interruptions from the evil one and flip on your switch and let Him shine!

Fr. Gabriel Weller 11/20/2016

Puppy Dog Kisses

What caught my attention in the Gospel reading today was in verse 21: “even the dogs, which came were licking his sores.”[Lk. 16:21] Now I am sure that we have all heard the suggestion made to let Lassie lick our wounds 22222222221for a faster healing. Is it a fact that dog saliva can help heal human wounds? Scientific research has concluded that there are compounds in dog saliva that act against infection and encourage healing. However, in contrast to the healing ability, dog saliva also has a risk of causing serious infection introduced from the bacteria and organisms also found in a dogs’ mouth. Maybe after Lassie used some mouthwash it would be safer???

 
But in the Gospel story, dogs were licking Lazarus’s wounds because his sores were exposed and not hidden. Saint Kyril writes: “They licked his wounds, and that, as it seems was not to injure them, but rather as sharing in his suffering and attending him.” [Commentary, P.G. 72:358AB (col. 828).] God’s created, caring for God’s created, truly man’s best friend. Sorry cat people.

 
The Orthodox Fathers tell us that Christ is also referring to sins when he speaks about these sores. Lazarus’s sins were exposed where as the rich man sins were well hidden in his self- righteousness and wealth. He has covered his shortcomings with layers of worldly distractions. When we go to confession, Saint Gregory the Great writes: “holy teachers give us instruction during the confession of our sins, they are touching the wounds of our hearts with their tongues.” I suppose Mouthwash is optional there as well!

 
In the Gospel reading, the poor beggar was known by God because his name is recorded here in the scripture. The rich man, however, has been too busy indulging in the riches of this life and abandoned his relationship with God and therefore his name is not known! Is wealth a sin? Saint Ambrose tells us: “Lazarus was a pauper in this world, but a rich man before God….Yet not all poverty is holy or wealth sinful, but as excess dishonors riches, so sanctity commends poverty.” [Ib., Bk. VIII, § 13.]

 
The beggar Lazarus teaches us that to truly love God is a life-struggling act of humility. The first shall be last, love others more than ourselves, and do not cling to things of this earth which at the end of our time on this earth, have no heavenly value. And just maybe one day if we reach the depth of humility and Theosis as did the servant Lazarus, we too might find ourselves being carried by angels to the bosom of Abraham!

 
May our Lord God bless us, keep us and have mercy upon us!

Fr. Gabriel 11/16

Splinter

When you work with wood you enviably get splinters in splinteryour flesh. For some time now, I have been working on our log cabin and have come to know this frequently all too well. I keep plenty of Band-Aids and electrical tape in my truck for administering first aid and a tube of triple-antibiotic to battle against infection.

 
If the splinter is causing pain, I remove it. In order for me to remove the splinter I need a knife or pair of tweezers to aid me in digging the splinter out of my flesh. I also need plenty of light and I now, with my ageing eyesight, need my reading glasses to magnify the injury!

 
If I can’t see the splinter even with my magnifiers, I can still feel that there is something foreign under my flesh. Sometimes I realize this immediately depending upon the size and nature of the splinter. However, sometimes I am unaware that I have acquired a splinter until an infection sets in and my skin turns red and it becomes tender to the touch.

 
I also suffer the effects from another type of splinter, but this one lodges in my heart and adheres to my soul. These splinters are foreign objects and should not be found in my temple of God. But I have even grown accustomed to their existence and chose to continue on in life ignoring the soreness and the infections they have caused.

 
These splinters come from the jagged edges of sin and they hide in the darkness of my self-justifying intellect. I like to feel good about myself and my actions, and therefore ignore their existence! I allow the sinful splinters to separate me from the loving embrace of my creator which is the beginning of an infection that can literally threaten my life. Their existence distracts me from the light of Christ and I cling to the darkness seeking a place to hide them.

 
Saint John Chrysostom says: “As a wound, so long as it is embedded and concealed, running beneath the surface, it enjoys not a bit of attention, so also sin, as long as it is hidden, being as it were in darkness, is daringly committed with full license. But as soon as it is made manifest, it becomes light; not indeed the sin itself—for how could that be?—but the sinner. For when he has been brought out to light, when he has been admonished, when he has repented, when he has obtained pardon, hast thou not cleared away all his healed darkness? Hast thou not then his wound? Hast thou not called forth his unfruitfulness into fruit? For no one hides a blameless (irreproachable) life; whereas things which are hidden are hidden by darkness covering them.” [Hom. 18, P.G. 62:127 (col. 122); cf. Bl. Theophylact, P.G. 124:408 CD (col. 1108).]

 
When I realize I have caused someone pain, I need to examine my flesh for the jagged splinter by seeking first-aid from Christ by self-examination and exposing the splinters to the Light by study, confession, prayer and fasting, and then applying a heaping amount of the antibiotic of heartfelt forgiveness and the ever-healing Blood of Christ frequently.  The night is far spent; the day is at hand. Let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light.[Rom. 13:12]

 

Fr. Gabriel Weller 10/24/16

LINE IN THE WATER

As I stood there along the bank of the lake I instructed the youth that were fishing with me: “You can’t catch a fish if your line is not in the water.” After all, there is a difference between catching fish and fishing! And since results were not happening fast enough, my companions had a tendency to keep reeling in their line to make sure bobbertheir bait was still on the hook! And it usually was unless the youngins threw it off the hook with one of their many casts into the water showing off all their bionic strength! As far as catching fish that day, with all of the casting activity on the surface of the water, the fish probably swam away to safer waters.

 
Well, perhaps I was lacking as a fishing instructor! After all, I have never been a great fisherman or hunter, but not yet quite a vegetarian either. You see, in the red neck dictionary the definition of a vegetarian is “one who can’t hunt or fish!” But here in our Gospel reading today, these men were professional fishermen, making their living and feeding their family by the filling of their nets! These men knew every way and everything there was to know about catching fish!

 
Peter and Andrew were having a tough time fishing. They patiently fished all night and did not catch a thing. There nets remained empty. But after a fishless night, the grace of Christ made what was impossible, possible. Not only were the nets filled but they were full of fish even with tears in the nets. And there was enough fish caught to fill two boats and the boats were overloaded and began to sink!

 
In my life, my nets have known emptiness too! There have also been times when I didn’t even get in the boat but chased empty pursuits that did not sustain me! I also know there have times in my prayer life when my nets have continually been empty! As Christians even when our nets are empty, we need to continue fishing. “If you do not feel like praying, you have to force yourself. The Holy Fathers say that prayer with force is higher than prayer unforced. You do not want to, but force yourself. The Kingdom of Heaven is taken by force (Matt. 11:12).” – St. Ambrose of Optina.

 
We need to keep our lines in the water with disciplines of prayer, fasting, worship and charity even we it seems all hope is lost and our harvest is fruitless. The measure of a Christian is most accurately measured during these times when we have exhausted all of our efforts and our nets seem empty! Therefore, by resisting and fighting evil, we help to establish the Kingdom, or more correctly, we enter it and take possession of it.

 
We have one goal in life, seeking and serving God. And as God’s servant we are to be fishers of men. So many times we get distracted by worldly goals and get ourselves blown around by the storms of life. Yet we can be successful even with holes in our nets! We just need to remember the basics, keeping our equipment ready and maintained, our Christ-like bait fresh and on the hook, and of course keeping our line in the water with constant prayer and worship! And with the grace of Christ, our boats will be filled. We’ll catch ‘em and He’ll clean them!

 

Fr. Gabriel Weller 10-9-2016