Digging Thistles

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOne of the greatest enemies of farmers is the increase of weeds amongst their crops. To help fight the infestation of this unwanted vegetation, a lot of time is spent in the preparation of the soil before seeds can be planted. Things have changed over the years and new planting methods have been introduced but still the best soil preparation is done by way of tilling the soil, breaking up the clumps with a disc and dragging the ground to gather rocks and provide a smooth surface for planting.

Tilling the soil is important to eliminate the deep roots of unwanted weeds. The weeds steal all the nutrients from their surroundings and are not a nutritional source for the farmer to feed their animals. However, tilling the soil leaves deep furrows which would not allow a bountiful harvest, so the farmer orders the ground with a disc and harrow to break up large clumps of dirt and eliminate the deep furrows left behind by the plow. And then if necessary, a drag can be pulled over the dirt smoothing out any low spots and catching the surface rocks.

Not all of the farm land is tilled. Some acreage is set aside for pastor and hay. Many times in my youth I was sent out into the pastor and hay fields with a sickle to engage in hand to hand combat with the deep rooted tall weeds called thistles. Since these fields were never plowed, the weedy thistles developed deep roots and became more frequent and multiplied like rabbits in the fence row.

Now my Uncle Bob had another method for eliminating thistles. He would go out to his field with a shovel and a feed sack. Instead of just cutting off the weed at the surface with a sickle, he would dig deep into the soil and pry the root out of the ground eliminating its reoccurrence in the next season. Uncle Bob would place the thistle and its root in the sack and when the sack was full; he placed the sack full of thistles in the burn can and eliminated their very existence by the consumption of the burning fire! “Every tree which produceth not good fruit is cut off and cast into the fire.” [Mt. 7:19]

As Christians we must be good ground” (Lk.8:8) by preparing the soil of our heart with the labor of repentance. Confession of our sins is much needed in eliminating the spread of our sinful thistle seed, but it will take the work of true repentance to thrust sins deep roots from our rich passionate flesh. We need to nourish our seed of love by feeding our hearts with prayer, focusing our mind on God with spiritual reading and the words from our gospel. We want to attend church services regularly as a watchful farmer protecting our crop. We should continue to focus on improving our relationship with God and not allowing the world’s glitter to distract us. And with God’s grace falling down like rain on our dry seed and the warmth of the love from His Son, His harvest will be healthy within us.

FR. Gabriel Weller 10-14

Exaltation of the Cross

What was used to bring death to a condemned criminal is now used to bring life for us wayward sinners. This piece of wood that held the dead body of our Lord could not consume the Alpha, no; this Holy Cross is our bcrucifix piceginning of life without end, encompassed by the loving embrace of our Originator. Our Creator loves His creation!

We celebrate this feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross at the beginning of the church year and at the beginning of another school year! The Church reminds us that only through humility can we embrace salvation. For the Lamb was slain not to pay our debt but to rescue us from our fallen condition and offer us sinners a relationship with God. How hard it is for this mortal man to understand the kind of love that is perfect and not flawed by our human woundedness. Our Creator loves His creation!

And although I have tasted the sweetness of salvation and felt the warm embrace of God, my habitual frame of mind tends to return me to sin like a dog seeking his vomit, finding destructive rest in the comfortable surroundings of my past frequent worldly choices. And then I fall down at the cross confessing my sinfulness and lack of trust in anything other than myself, regaining my path to eternity, and my Father welcomes me home! “O taste and see that the Lord is good.”( Psalm 34:8) Our Creator loves His creation!

Perhaps you too are feeling overwhelmed by the dark shadows of this world. It is time for a change! You are not alone! You are a member of this family. “Come to Me, all ye who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take up My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am meek and humble in heart; and ye shall find rest to your souls. For My yoke is good and My burden is light.” [Mt. 11:28-30] Glory to God who has shown us the Light! Our Creator loves His creation!

Fr.Gabriel Weller

Monkey Bars

In the schoolyard playground stood a tall, long metal piece of equipment that looked like someone had taken a long ladder and bent both ends down and stuck it in the ground. The big kids would climb on this thing and swing from bar to bar and try to go as fast as they could from one end to the other. I was too smonkey-barsmall, too weak and uncoordinated. I had to get help to climb the ladder and then have someone support me by holding my waist as I tried to maneuver the bars. I set my goal to one day master this huge piece of equipment known as the monkey bars!

As time went by, I grew taller and built up my strength, I began to improve my eye-hand coordination and slowly began to work my way up the ladder and down the length of the bars. The more I practiced, the faster and faster I became. Eventually I mastered the monkey bars and at times you could even hear me let out a Tarzan yell as I speed through the course! It took years of practice, patience and growth before I became an expert on that device.

Now days since I am physically all grown up, when I embrace a challenge I expect fast results! I am still impatient! I am not in as good physical condition as I once was but I hope my spiritual condition has continued to improve. We all grow spiritually as we gain dependence on our Creator, less of me and more of Him!

Life is just like that set of monkey bars. Some obstacles seem huge and disappointingly unobtainable. We can maneuver well through life if we are in shape, and then we can complete the course. But when we are weak, we need faith to help us hang on and prayers too increase our strength. We need the support of the scriptures and the examples of hope from the lives of the Saints! But most of all, we need the loving hands of our Father holding us steady, as we navigate the monkey bars of life! Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness. (Isaiah 41:10)

Fr. Gabriel Weller


Most Sundays as I look out into our nave I can see glimmers of young children wobbling around, well out of arms reach of their Mom and Dad, gaining certainty and stability with their new found skills one baby step at a time. The more they practice, the less they fall down and the more they mature. And not to worry, Mom and Dad are always within eyesight and ready to leap into action with a warm embrace if the need arises!

Baby StepsAs time passes by, baby steps turn into running, bicycling and then into driving. The teenage years seem to help lance the attachment of their umbilical cord and our baby has now developed into a mature adult. Mom and Dad are no longer within eyesight but can still be reached by phone or a visit when needed.

In the Gospel reading today, the man whom was overcome with a legion of demons now was delivered from that torment. The healed man was now safe in the warmth of Christ, sitting at His feet. How I too yearn to feel that warmth, that closeness! We who are on this salvific journey have come to realize that there are times we too feel that warm presence and then there are also times we feel the cold bitter wind of the world, chapping at our skin.

After warming ourselves at the feet of Christ, we too, just like the man in the Gospel reading today, are sent back out into the world sharing the light of Christ in a dry well of darkness, maturing in our faith. My path to mature as a Christian has been one of countless baby steps. Now days I find that I keep a close watch on my Father rather than jumping into the emptiness of the vast ocean of unbelief. Am I salty enough to make a difference within the depths of atheism? Am I warm enough to share the love of Christ with those God has dropped along my walk in life?

And during these cold distant times we may feel alone and unstable just as an infant learning to walk, but just like a watchful parent rest assured Jesus is not far, ready to leap into action and intercede on our behalf. Our willingness to reach out or step up when we are needed is what our Father asks of each of us. Forgetting about our wobbly legs and finding stability in His promise. “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.”(Isaiah 41:10) And it is then in times of faithful service that we feel the warm embrace of the great Sheppard and we are reminded of His words of action: “Be feeding My sheep.” [Jn. 21:17]

Fr. Gabriel Weller 11-9-14

Briar Patch

I remember my first time picking blackberries. Uncle Bob rounded up a car full of us youngsters and we headed for Highland County with a trunk full of buckets. And if you know my uncle, we were also loaded up with a wealth of stories about Brer Rabbit and the such; there was no need for the radio, Uncle Bob keep us entertained!Briar Patch

Once arriving at the mountain pasture gate, Uncle Bob parked his Plymouth Fury and popped the trunk, handed us a bucket and pointed us in the direction of the briar patch. I remember that I was a little reluctant being the youngest and hoping not to encounter the bear Uncle Bob had been storying about on the way there.

The patch was loaded with ripe berries and the day was filled with light. I stayed close to my older sisters, thinking I could out run them in case the bear drew near! After an hour or more, Uncle Bob announced that it was time to head home. My bucket was only partially filled since many of the berries I had picked, ended up in my belly instead of in the bucket! This fact was easily recognizable by the berry stains all over my face! Heading home, I entertained thoughts about tasting Aunt Jeans’ blackberry pie and homemade ice cream!

At that young age, I came to realize that in order to obtain the tasty fruit of life; I had to encounter the briar patches thorns. After the berry stains wore off, thanks to lye soap and Aunt Jean’s elbow grease, the evidence of wounds and scratches on my arms, face and hands were obvious. It looked as though I lost a fight with an alley cat, but the fruit I had collected was well worth it.

Obtaining the Fruit of the Spirit is a lot of work as well, and we will have to overcome the thorns and our scars to obtain it, but we must press on! St. John Climacus writes: “Do not be surprised that you fall every day; do not give up, but stand your ground courageously. And assuredly, the angel who guards you will honour your patience.” To be more like Christ means that in our imperfections we must work toward gathering the fruits of love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness and faith. And in this life, the greatest fruit is amongst the thorns: Then Jesus came out, wearing the thorny crown and the purple outer garment. And Pilate saith to them, “Behold, the Man.” [Jn. 19:5] The Fruit of Life has been prepared! Taste and see that the Lord is good, Glory to Thee, O Lord, Glory to Thee!

4-26-13 Fr. Gabriel Weller

Contagious as a Cold

This week as I begin fighting the early stages of a cold that someone shared with me, I reflected on thoughts about how contagious a cold actually is. If someone amongst a group of people is sick, usually someone else in the group is diagnosed with similar symptoms. It may take a day or a week or so, but rest assured, they too will be contagious. The sneezing, coughing and runneth of the nose are visible symptoms that are hard to hide. If my conditions worsen, I will ingest a multi-symptom remedy such as NyQuil and Tylenol Cold formulas to try to overcome this sickness. Hopefully, I will not be infecting you with my germs today!

Sneeze (1)

But there is another kind of sickness that I am battling as well. It is a sickness that always leads to death, it is called sin. If you remember the Gospel reading last Sunday from the Gospel of Luke, Christ has invited everyone into His house to share His Fathers’ love, but those invited made excuses for not attending. Saint Kyril writes: “ God the Father has prepared in Christ for the inhabitants of earth those gifts which are bestowed upon the world through Him, even the forgiveness of sins, the cleansing away of all defilement, the communion of the Holy Spirit, the glorious adoption as sons, and the kingdom of the heavens.” [Ib., 418, 419.] This request is an invitation for you to choose to live and overcome death. What in the world is more important??
Well, we all seem to at times be distracted by the needs of our world. My failure to accept the great invitation is usually surrounded by lack of preparation and laziness. After all, how high a priority is it in our stable of free-will, to even attend church on Saturday Evenings? I wish that I would place more of an emphasis on my salvation and be less distracted! And I wish that I would be a better example of a healthy Christian, oozing with LOVE. Maybe the chemists at NyQuil can develop a multi-symptom relief pill I could pop in my mouth in the morning and would reduce my symptoms of sin and I would seem to be well? But more likely, I would on occasion forget to take it or not go to the store and renew my prescription, and the bottle would be empty. Yes, I am afraid that my freewill at times, enslaves me to the chains of death and I take for granted the great invitation that Christ has given me.
Saint Gregory the Great writes: “Bodily pleasures, when we do not possess them, arouse in us a great desire for them; but as soon as we possess and devour them, our satisfaction turns to distaste. Spiritual pleasures seem distasteful when not possessed, but once we possess them, we desire them.” [Hom. 36, Forty Gospel Homilies, 313; P.L. 76 (col. 1266).]
And on top of all my struggles, we are also expected to invite people to the great banquet. If only my Christianity was healthy enough to be as contagious as the common cold, everyone that I encounter could be infected by it. Whether it is by my release of germs hurled by a sneeze and cough, the things I say; or by the evidence of my runny nose, the physical choices I make to be a Christian. Although many expect Christians to be perfect, but just as battling a cold is an ongoing process, so is our stumbling along the walk of faith in our pursuit of abundant life.
It is always easy to identify someone with a common cold, may it also be easy to recognize us as Christians. Fight the good fight! Accept the invitation that Christ has given you! And as we celebrate to the Nativity of Christ, we must remember that Christ was born so that we may live! Spread the virus of LOVE! Be contagious!

Fr. Gabriel Weller 1-4-15


frito-bandito.1On Saturday Mornings during the commercial break in between the Road-Runner and Bugs Bunny cartoons, there used to be this little guy trying to convince me to eat a certain kind of corn chip. Now he fought for his time amongst the sugar cereal giants of Count Chocula, Lucky Charms and Fruit Loops but as a true Bandito, he secured his share of the market! This guy was going to steal and eat my corn chips if I didn’t keep a careful watch or a “Hawk Eye” on them. His name was the Frito Bandito, “Ah- Yi- Yi- Yi”!

Now in this New-New Year and on this Eve-Eve of Nativity, I want to warn you about another bandito, known as the Poco-Bandito. This “little bandit” steals your precious time day after day. He distracts you from things that are of great importance to waste away on his fattening treats. He is well invested in cable TV, the internet, pages and pages of books, video games, work, and even sleep!

You see, all that is, is God’s! We were formed from the dust of this earth to worship God. There are no healthy substitutes! We must harness our free-will that is easily deceived and rekindle our relationship with our Creator!

In this New-New Year let us increase our earthly existence as Orthodox Christians! We cannot be healthy giving God what is left-over, giving to God the only time we have available because we are allowing earthly distractions to rob us of our treasure.

Make a commitment to push closer to your tithe, which is supposed to be your first fruit, not what is left over after the rent, cable and cell phone bills are paid! He also needs your time and talent! We need 2 Youth Sunday School classes and an Adult Class as well. We need teachers and substitute teachers to fill in so we can ensure that in this opportunity we do not allow the Poco-Bandito to steal away our precious jewels, our children. Galatians 6:10 “As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all [men], especially unto them who are of the household of faith.” We need more room so we can increase this ministry!

There are homeless shelters and soup kitchens needing volunteers. There are people that need someone to care about them enough to take time to call and visit or send a card! We are family!! We need volunteers to head up our trapeza and clean our church and empty the trash and shovel the snow! We need someone to arrive at 9:45 and greet people when they arrive and someone to sell candles as well!

We should also try to read the Bible daily. This is so easy now with the internet and apps for our smart-phones. It only takes a few minutes a day to read the Epistle and Gospel selections. Or you can chose to read the Bible from front to back! You see, we must also tithe our time! You are invited to a wonderful party every week! You see, every time the church doors are open, there is a party! Don’t be a party-pooper!

Matthew 9:37 “Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly [is] plenteous, but the labourers [are] few. “ All you have to do is volunteer, and He will help you love your church through service!

I ask you at the dawn of this Nativity to increase your Orthodoxy! To seek more of what is right and true and not let the world’s Poco-Bandito embezzle the very priceless gift that God gave you, your soul.

Fr. Gabriel Weller 1/5/14


Germs, germs, germs! In the past as I visited a newborn baby, I have been asked to wash my hands, put on a gown and even wear a mask! Medical personnel are implementing procedures to help prevent the newborn and mother from any attack by unwanted disease and germs. When people’s immune systems are weak, scientists believe the person’s body is more susceptible to illness.

Now in contrast to these clean environments, I have helped deliver calves in barnyards in the midst of a combination of straw and manure. I was not asked to wash my hands, put on a gown or wear a mask! Straw ads comfort and warmth but it also has mites. Animal manure can contain bacteria, parasites and viruses ready to infect living creatures. Researchers say that over half of all disease-causing germs found in people originate from animals, including livestock. Of course with the exception of my little dog Emma who is pure as snow!

cow feedingAnd then there are theses germ-free cribs that are used in birthing centers. How much in contrast are theses contaminate-free cribs than where our God was laid at His birth? It was not germ-free, it was a feed manger! Feed troughs can contain a wide range of microbes that occur naturally on, or as contaminants of forages, cereal grains, oilseed by-products and compound feeds. Cereal grains and oilseed by-products are regularly contaminated with fungi occurring as plant pathogens or developing during storage. Was this manger fit for a King?

Our God took on the form of man at this birth which we call the Incarnation. The Gospel says:  “And she brought forth her Son, the firstborn, and wrapped Him in swaddling clothes, and laid Him in the manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.” [Lk. 2:7] He was not born encompassed by gold, silver and the finest silk, but in the poorest, most humble of conditions amongst dirt, germs and animal waste in the only place available to folks with a lowly status. This was God’s plan. He chose not to be One of privilege but to be One of meekness.

Christ our God also chooses now to dwell in our unclean hearts, is there room at your Inn? Jesus is searching for a home where He is welcome. He knows we all are fighting a great battle and He is not expecting to find our hearts pure and spotless. All that He needs is for us to be willing and to be humble, acknowledging that we are contagious with sin and in need of a Savior!   

“Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth” [Col. 3:5] by allowing the One who loves you to dwell in the depths of the manger in your heart!

Fr. Gabriel 12-28-14


Antique Football HelmetIn today’s NFL games, despite the use of scientifically advanced helmets, professional players are suffering from the effects of injuries to their head. We are hearing stories about players and former players that have had life-changing injuries from the game of football. Mark Lovell, PhD, founding director of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Sports Medicine Concussion Program says that even injuries from “A minor hit on the field can take a long time to recover.”

What is a concussion? It is trauma to the head that shakes the brain forcefully inside the skull. Symptoms can include loss of consciousness, drowsiness, confusion, headaches, nausea, blurred vision and loss of memory. The head is a very vulnerable area of the body and we see how rightfully so it is protected in the military, sports activities and even on construction sites with the use of some form of head-gear or helmet.

As professional Christians, we who profess the teachings of Jesus also need to wear a helmet, the helmet of salvation. We believers in the battles of this Earth must protect our vulnerable heads and minds from all blows delivered by the evil opponent. We must wear our helmet of salvation to shield us throughout our journey every day.    

Most of us experience a spiritual concussion at times in our lives. When the hairs on your scalp are plummeted by the arrows of negative thoughts and dark memories and cause you to retreat into darkness, put your helmet on and hold the line! When the sadness of depression shakes your brain violently and disables your ability to function, put your helmet on and know that you are not alone and that you are cherished.

There is much work to do but you are on a team that has been guaranteed a victory! We are all called to be linemen on the scrimmage line of Christianity ready to move the game ball of love forward. Despite our injuries and the enormous size of the competition, we find our strength in Christ. Hope is the greatest source of energy in creation and our cup runneth over! You belong to this team of Light, the team of Hope, keep your helmet on and hold the line!  “Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.” Ephesians 6:13

Fr. Gabriel 12-14-14