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Archive for February, 2006

The Holy Fathers say with one voice: The first thing to keep in mind is never in any respect to rely on yourself. The warfare that now lies before you is extraordinarily hard, and your own human powers are altogether insufficient to carry it on. If you rely on them you will immediately be felled to the ground and have no desire to continue the battle. Only God can give you the victory you wish.

This decision not to rely on self is for most people a severe obstacle at the very outset. It must be over come, otherwise we have no prospect of going further. . . .

We must empty ourselves, therefore, of the immoderately high faith we have in ourselves. Often it is so deeply rooted in us that we do not see how it rules over our heart. It is precisely our egoism, our self-centerdeness and self-love that cause all our difficulties, our lack of freedom in suffering, our disappointments and our anguish of soul and body.

Take a look at yourself, therefore, and see how bound you are by your desire to humour yourself and only yourself. Your freedom is curbed by the restraining bonds of self-love, and thus you wander, a captive corpse, from morning till eve. “Now I will drink,” “now I will get up,” “now I will read the paper.” Thus you are led from moment to moment in your halter of preoccupation with self, and kindled instantly to displeasure, impatience or anger if an obstacle intervenes. . . .

Naked, small and helpless, you now pass on to the most difficult of all human tasks: to conquer your own selfish desires. Ultimately it is just this “self-persecution” on which your warefare depends, for as long as your selfish will rules, you cannot pray to the Lord with a pure heart: Thy will be done. If you cannot get rid of your own greatness, neither can you lay yourself o pen for real greatness. If you cling to your own freedom, you cannot share in true freedom, where only one will reigns.

The saints’ deep secret is this: do not seek freedom, and freedom will be given to you. . . .

The holy Fathers’ counsel is to begin with small things, for, says Ephraem the Syrian, how can you put out a great fire before you have learned to quench a small one? If you wish to set yourself free from great suffering, crush the small desires, say the Holy Fathers. . . .

Thus it does not pay to come to grips with the hard-to-master great vices and bad habits you have acquired without at the same time overcoming your small “innocent” weaknesses: your taste for sweets, your urge to talk, your curiosity, your meddling. For, finally, all our desires, great and small, are built on the same foundation, our unchecked habit of satisfying only our own will.

It is the life of our will that is destroyed. Since the Fall the will has been running errands exclusively for its own ego. For this reason our warfare is directed against the life of self-will as such. And it should be undertaken without delay or wearying. If you have the urge to ask something, don’t ask! If you have the urge to drink two cups of coffee, drink only one! If you have the urge to look at the clock, don’t look! If you wish to smoke a cigarette, refrain! If you want to go visiting, stay at home!

This is self-persecution; in this way does one silence, with God’s help, one’s loud-voiced will. . . .

There are three kinds of nature in man, as Nicetas Stethatos further explains: the carnal man, wo wants to live for his own pleasure, even if it hamrs others; the natural man, who wants to please both himself and others; and the spiritual man, who wants to please only God, even if it harms himself.

The first is lower than human nature, the second is normal, the third is above nature; it is life in Christ.

Therefore give yourself no rest, allow yourelf no peace until you have slain that part within you that belongs to your carnal nature. Make it your purpose to track down every sign of the bestial within you and persecute it relentlessly. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit and the Spirit against the flesh (Galatians 5:17). . . .

We overcome after a fashion, perhaps, our serious and dangerous vices, but there it stops. The small desires we freely let grow as they will. We neither embezzle nor steal, but delight in gossiping; we do not “drink,” but consume immoderate quantities of tea and coffee instead. The heart remains quite as full of appetites: the roots are not pulled out and we wander around in the tanglewoods that hve sprung up in the soil of our self-pity. . . .

Supress your ruinous weakness and your craving for comfort; attack them from every side! Crush your desire for enjoyment; do not give it air to breathe. Be strict with yourself; do not grant your carnal ego the bribes it is resitvely demanding. For everything gains strength from repetition, but dies if it is not given nourishment.

But take care not to bar the front entrance to evil and at the same time leave a back door ajar, through which it can cleverly slip in in another form.

How do you benefit if, for example you begin to sleep on a hard matress but instead indulge in warm baths? Or if you try to give up smoking but give free rein to your urge to prattle? Or if you deny your urge to prattle, but read exciting novels? Of if you stop reading novels but let loose your imagination and quiver in sweet melancholy?

All these are only different forms of the same thing: your insatiable craving to satisfy your own need for enjoyment. . . .

He who truly denies himself does not ask, Am I happy? or, Shall I be satisfied? All such questions fall away from you if you truly deny yourself, for by so doing you have also given up y our will for either earthly or heavenly happiness.

This obstinate will to personal happiness is the cause of unrest and division in your soul. Give it up and work against it: the rest will be given you without effort.

–Tito Colliander, Way of the Ascetics, pp. 4, 5, 12, 13-14, 15-16, 17, 18-19, 23

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Resolution on Administrative Unity

[In re: my post yesterday. NOTE: Referenced photo, signatories and comments follow the text at the link below.]

Posted by from Bishop BASIL on 2/21/2006, 5:02 am
70.231.228.173

+The St Raphael Clergy Brotherhood
of the Diocese of Wichita and Mid-America
Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America

Visit our Brotherhood’s web site for helpful Liturgical Resources
http://www.networks-now.net/litresswraoc

Dear to Christ, Fathers and Brothers:

Blessings once again on this feast of St Blaise.

Below you will find (1.) a group photo of our guest speaker His Eminence ARCHBISHOP NATHANIEL with the members of our Diocesan Clergy Brotherhood who attended our 2006 Retreat this past week at the Spiritual Life Center in Wichita, KS, and (2.) the text of the Resolution on Administrative Unity which was sponsored by our Diocesan Council of Presbyters and approved by acclamation by our Clergy Brotherhood.

I am very pleased to inform you that this morning I received a telephone call from my brother in Christ, His Grace BISHOP JOSEPH of Los Angeles and the Diocese of the West, who informed me that he and his Diocesan Council of Presbyters and Clergy Brotherhood also unanimously endorsed this resolution during their annual Clergy Brotherhood Seminar which was held concurrently with our Clergy Brotherhood Retreat last week. This Resolution will now be sent to His Grace BISHOP MARK of Toledo and the Diocese of the Midwest for consideration by his Diocesan Council of Presbyters and Clergy Brotherhood during their Retreat, February 21st-24th. This means that by the end of this month, should it be blessed by God, this Resolution will be sent to METROPOLITAN PHILIP and the other members of our Archdiocesan Synod of Bishops accompanied by the names of the Diocesan Bishops and several hundreds of priests and deacons — all members of formally established Diocesan Clergy Brotherhoods — who have endorsed it.

Your prayers.

+ B A S I L
Bishop of Wichita and Mid-America
Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America

The Saint Raphael Clergy Brotherhood
of the Diocese of Wichita and Mid-America
Annual Clergy Retreat and Assembly of the Brotherhood
February 7-10, 2006.

RESOLUTION ON ADMINISTRATIVE UNITY

Whereas:

We, the St. Raphael Clergy Brotherhood of the Diocese of Wichita and Mid-America, on behalf of the flock of Jesus Christ, entrusted to us by His Eminence, Metropolitan PHILIP, and from him through His Grace, Bishop BASIL, acknowledge and deplore the adverse condition of administrative disunity in the life of the Orthodox Church in North America;

And we further express our fervent desire for full, canonical unity of administration so that we, together with all our Orthodox brethren on this continent, may fulfill the apostolic, holy, and catholic witness of the One Church:

Be it therefore RESOLVED,

1.) We endorse with conviction Metropolitan PHILIP’s challenge to the Standing Conference of the Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas (SCOBA), made at the 2005 Archdiocesan Convention in Dearborn Heights, Michigan, wherein he stated, “For the past thirty-nine years of my episcopate, I have condemned the uncanonical and unorthodox chaos which exists in the Americas, against all Orthodox principles. I am challenging all members of SCOBA to put on the agenda of our next meeting [in Chicago during October 2006], the question of Orthodox Unity in North America, and we will see who wants to end this uncanonical chaos, and who does not;”

2.) We also ask our brethren of the Clergy Brotherhood of the Diocese of Los Angeles and the West to join us in this endorsement;

3.) We further ask our brethren of the Clergy Brotherhood of the Diocese of Toledo and the Mid-West to join us in this endorsement;

4.) And finally, we stand with His Eminence, Metropolitan PHILIP as he reaffirms his call to the Standing Conference of the Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas that the Conference (SCOBA) will commit itself to the role of leadership in bringing administrative unity to the Church in North America.

Endorsed by acclamation by the Diocesan Clergy Brotherhood of Wichita and Mid-America:

+ BASIL, Bishop of Wichita and the Diocese of Mid-America

[From here.]

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Chilling

Court Documents: Hospital Gave Lethal Injections to Patients During Hurricane Katrina

By John-Henry Westen

NEW ORLEANS, February 22, 2006 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Just after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans rumors circulated that at least one hospital had euthanized patients during the mayhem. LifeSiteNews.com reported in September 2005, that an unnamed doctor admitted to a UK newspaper that such activities had taken place at Memorial Medical Center (http://www.lifesite.net/ldn/2005/sep/05091205.html ). In October another doctor at the hospital confirmed in a CNN interview that he suspected such activities and admitted he left the hospital saying he would rather abandon patients than actively kill them. (see coverage: http://www.lifesite.net/ldn/2005/oct/05101303.html ) Later in October hospital workers were subpoenaed for an investigation (http://www.lifesite.net/ldn/2005/oct/05102806.html ).

National Public Radio now reports on its access to court documents in the case. In a February 16 report, NPR says it has reviewed secret court documents related to the investigation and not yet released to the public. The documents, says NPR “reveal chilling details about events at Memorial hospital in the chaotic days following the storm, including hospital administrators who saw a doctor filling syringes with painkillers and heard plans to give patients lethal doses. The witnesses also heard staff discussing the agonizing decision to end patients’ lives.”

The allegations revolve around a group of patients left on the seventh floor at Memorial Medical Center. This floor was leased to a different entity, LifeCare Hospitals. According to NPR, the patients on the seventh floor were all DNR patients — they had “do not resuscitate” orders.

The report describes the deplorable conditions in the hospital which was left without power, without sewage removal facilities, and in soaring temperatures with looters attempting to enter the hospital.

Not Dead Yet, a national disability rights organization that leads the disability community’s opposition to legalized assisted suicide, euthanasia and other forms of medical killing, points to a section of the NPR report suggesting the staff wanted to eliminate the patients so they could themselves escape.

The NPR report states, “According to statements given to an investigator in the attorney general’s office, LifeCare’s pharmacy director, the director of physical medicine and an assistant administrator say they were told that the ‘evacuation plan’ for the seventh floor was to not leave any living patients behind, and that ‘a lethal dose would be administered’, according to their statements in court documents.”

Commenting, Not Dead Yet, says, “In other words, the only way the staff could evacuate was if they could report there were no more living patients to take care of. This was not about compassion or mercy. It was about throwing someone else over the side of the lifeboat in order to save themselves.”

Not Dead Yet compared the allegations to what transpired at a New Orleans nursing home where 34 residents who were abandoned by staff drowned. “Death by drowning is easy to prove and so the owners of the nursing home are charged with 34 counts of negligent homicide,” said Not Dead Yet. “It’s unclear what will happen in the case of LifeCare medical staff. It’s hard to prove morphine medication overdoses in badly decomposed bodies.”

The group admits the hospital staff “must have been exhausted and scared”, but it says, “that doesn’t make the alleged killings merciful” as some reports have suggested.

Listen to the full NPR report:

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5220802

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I want to recommend to my readers Tito Colliander’s Way of the Ascetics (St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press: 1960/2003).

It begins and ends much like St. Benedict’s Rule. That in itself is a major attraction for me.

If you wish to save your soul and win eternal life, arise from your lethargy, make the sign of the Cross and say:

In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

Faith comes not through pondering but through action. Not words and speculation but experience teaches us what God is. . . .

Arise, then; but do so at once, without delay. Do not defer your purpose till “tonight” or “tomorrow” or “later, when I have finished what I have to do just now.” The interval may be fatal.

No, this moment, the instant you make your resolution, you will show by your action that you have taken leave of your old self and have now begun a new life, with a new destination and a new way of living. Arise, therefore, without fear and say: Lord, let me begin now. Help me! For what you need above all is God’s help. Hold fast to your purpose and do not look back. (pp. 1, 2-3)

Therefore, if you wish to save your soul and win eternal life, arise moment by moment from your dullness, bless yourself with the sign of the Cross and say: Let me, Lord, make a good beginning, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen. (p. 101)

But there are other searching passages:

Now that we know where the battle we have just begun is to be fought, and what and where our goal is, we also understand why our warefare ought to be caled the invisible warfare. It all takes place in the heart, and in silence, deep within us; and this is another serious matter, on which the holy Fathers lay much stress: keep your lips tight shut on your secret! If one opens the door of the steam bath the heat escapes, and the treatment loses its benefit.

Thus say nothing to anyone of your newly conceived purpose. Say nothing of the new life you have begun or of the experiment you are making and experiences you expect to have. All this is a matter between God and you, and only between you two. The only exception might be your father-confessor.

This silence is necessary because all chatter about one’s own concerns nourishes self-proccupation and self-trust. (pp. 9-10)

And:

Hereafter you will consider that everything that happens to you, both great and small, is sent by God to help you in your warfare. He alone knows what is necessary for you and what you need at the moment: adversity and prosperity, temptation and fall. Nothing happens accidentally or in such a way that you cannot learn from it; you must understand this at once, for this is how your trust grows in the Lord whom you have chosen to follow. (p. 10)

I will post more excerpts later.

Although Way of the Ascetics, is available online (Way of the Ascetics; NOTE: Chapter four is missing), let me encourage you to purchase your own print copy.

Preferrably through Eighth Day Books.

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Almost two years ago, the Bush’s federal law on partial birth abortion was declared unconstitutional. We learn today that, the newly-staffed SCOTUS will reconsider the case:

The Supreme Court said Tuesday it will consider the constitutionality of banning a type of late-term abortion, teeing up a contentious issue for a newly-constituted court already in a state of flux over privacy rights.

The Bush administration has pressed the high court to reinstate the federal law, passed in 2003 but never put in effect because it was struck down by judges in California, Nebraska and New York.

The outcome will likely rest with the two men that President Bush has recently installed on the court. Justices had been split 5-4 in 2000 in striking down a state law, barring what critics call partial birth abortion because it lacked an exception to protect the health of the mother. . . .

The federal Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act prohibits a certain type of abortion, generally carried out in the second or third trimester, in which a fetus is partially removed from the womb, and the skull is punctured or crushed.

Justices on a 9-0 vote in a New Hampshire case reaffirmed in January that states can require parental involvement in abortion decisions and that state restrictions must have an exception to protect the mother’s health.

The federal law in the current case has no health exception, but defenders maintain that the procedure is never medically necessary to protect a woman’s health.

Even with O’Connor’s retirement, there are five votes to uphold Roe, the landmark ruling that established a woman’s right to an abortion. . . .

Bush has called the so-called partial birth abortion an “abhorrent practice,” and his Supreme Court lawyer, Solicitor General Paul Clement, had urged justices not to delay taking up the administration’s appeal.

The case that will be heard this fall comes to the Supreme Court from Nebraska, where the federal law was challenged on behalf of physicians. Doctors who perform the procedure contend that it is the safest method of abortion when the mother’s health is threatened by heart disease, high blood pressure or cancer.

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Sofie’s “Our Father”

So, it’s Saturday evening and we decide to eat supper while watching the Olympics. The TV is off, and we grab hands to say the prayer. Sofie begins, “Our Father, how are you today?”

Which . . .

If you think about it . . .

Does sound an awful lot like “hallowed be thy name.”

I somehow kept it together to say a brief prayer. But once that was done, I couldn’t hold back the chuckles.

I like Sofie’s version of the “Our Father” quite a bit.

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Stop everything yer doin’ right now (unless it’s prayin’) and go watch . . .

THIS!!!!!!

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St. Peter’s Second Epistle and Heresy

The email daily devotions from Dynamis have been interesting this week. Here’s a couple from Monday and yesterday.

The Struggle for Orthodoxy on 2 Peter 1:20-2:9:

Sin is the common denominator of all heresy, and the chief sin of every heretic is pride. Any study of heresies during the last two thousand years reveals that arrogant confidence in one’s own ideas invariably draws one away from the “grace and truth” which the Lord “declared” (Jn. 1:17,18).

As the Apostle Peter says: “private interpretation” of the Scriptures with its roots in the “will of man” underlies heretical teaching (2 Pet.1:20,21). For example, in the early fourth century, the Priest Arius, a pastor in Alexandria and a skillful preacher, would not accept the counsel of his Bishop. Instead, he persisted in explaining the nature and Person of the Lord Jesus his own way. He declared that the Lord was a creature, and not God. His Bishop said, “Now when Arius and his fellows made these assertions, and shamelessly avowed them, we being assembled with the Bishops of Egypt and Libya, nearly a hundred in number, anathematized both them and their followers.” Arius remained unbending and forced the famous First Council to be convened at Nicaea in AD 325 to repudiate the false teachings he was promoting so aggressively.

The case of Arius also illustrates the Apostle Peter’s second point about heresy: that, without fail, error will deny the nature and essence of the Lord (2:1). St. Athanasios, in striking back at the Arian heresy, said, “But the Fathers…were forced to express more distinctly the sense of the words, ‘from God.’ Accordingly, they wrote ‘from the essence of God…that all others might be acknowledged as creatures and the Word alone as from the Father.’”

The proceedings of various local councils prior to Nicaea, the First General Council, and of several subsequent Councils reveal that it was prerogative, status, and political advantage that fueled Arianism’s advance far beyond the appeal of the heresy itself. St. Peter’s point was affirmed: “By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words…” (2:3). Greed for power and position follow naturally in the footsteps of arrogant self-will and pride.

The Allure of Heresy on 2 Peter 2:9-22:

In yesterday’s Epistle (2 Pet. 1:20-2:9), St. Peter revealed that heresy originates in the sins of pride and greed for power and position. False teachers prefer their own ideas and ways of presenting what they believe to be truth. Worse, when they are able to attract others to their beliefs, they become even more deluded by the admiration and recognition of followers. As St. Peter notes: while they think they are free, in fact, they are “…slaves of corruption; for by whom a person is overcome, by him also he is brought into bondage” (vs.19). Such is the tragic state of those who teach heresy: “it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them” (vs. 21).

Having spoken about the sins and desires that motivate heretics, St. Peter continues in the present portion from his Second Epistle to teach what attracts followers to heretics and their ideas. From the Apostle’s insights, we may consider the steps we should follow to maintain the struggle for Orthodoxy; for no one, while in this life, is wholly free from sin, nor has entirely “…escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (vs. 20). May we ever be alert not to be “entangled in them and [be] overcome” (vs. 20)! In verses 10-18, St. Peter speaks of people who “walk according to the flesh in the lust of uncleanness,” who “count it pleasure to carouse in the daytime,” who have “eyes full of adultery and that cannot cease from sin,” and who are captivated “through the lusts of the flesh, through lewdness.” This is the common association between wrong theology and corrupt living. . . .

Such inverted teaching has arisen again in the present, with a host of rationalizations for the same lewdness, perversity, and indulgence plainly condemned in Scripture. The attraction of this approach for the unwary is a permissiveness that makes no demands for purity, holiness, or struggle. Orthodoxy teaches otherwise, as St. Thalassios describes: “the keeping of God’s commandments generates dispassion. The soul’s dispassion preserves spiritual knowledge.”

In addition to blatant self-indulgence which attracts some into heresy, there is the further appeal of “self-will” and “freedom” which is promised by “despising authority” (vs. 10). If one chooses to be “free” of direction and authority, then the spiritual, moral, and reasonable safety provided by Holy Tradition and the Fathers is removed. Recall the current bumper stickers that call one to “Question Authority.” Beloved Orthodox Christians, let us affirm and seek the godly protection and shelter of wise pastoral authority, following in the footsteps of the Holy Fathers.

Finally, St. Peter speaks to persons “who are barely escaping from those living in error” (vs. 18). He is referring to neophytes in the Faith – whether new converts or “cradle” Orthodox – those who have not assimilated the basics of the Faith and are not struggling to “put off the old man and put on the new man” (Eph. 4:22). These are vulnerable to being drawn into heresy.

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Kansas Sacramentals

When God made Adam he didn’t stop forming man out of the ground. That’s still how he makes men, or in any case, how he made me. When God saves a man, he saves him through humility, which is to say, through the finiteness, the earthiness, that makes a man what he is. God is the great conservationist. Nothing in our lives will ever be lost to him, and nothing is worthless to his ingenuity. He will save a man however he pleases and with whatever is ready to hand. It is the geography of the soul with which God is concerned. And he will plow a man with the very ground on which he stands.

I am a Kansan by birth and upbringing. I have Kansas prairie grass ground into my skin. I sweat the Kansas rain. And the whirling dust of the Kansas wheatfield speckles my eye and gives me a particular slanted gaze. I have sat in a winter field while my dad drilled wheat for my grandpa. I have melted in the heat of a Kansas summer. I have stood in awe as a springtime thunderstorm turned to whirling chaos. And I have trod a dozen football fields of autumn. My world was embraced by a wide expansive sky. You could feel God in that embrace, even if you never saw him. My very first personal encounters with God were in the crisp winter night skies with stars as pinpoints of light, and in the moon, brilliant and clear, chasing us down the highway home. If he called those stars by name, then he knew me. Time for me was marked by four distinct seasons, creation’s gospels.

I have sat in tents praying for revival with the preacher’s cadence ringing in my ears and the fear of hell filling my heart. I’ve slept in church on my mother’s lap. And I’ve been swatted in church for not respecting God’s house. Among the first of my books was a Bible, and some of the first saints I knew were gnarled old farmers. They knew how to call on God in faith, and for all their failings taught me the same.

It’s been more than a decade since I could call a Kansas address my home. And I see it now only a couple of times a year. But I’ve consumed its earth. I’ve drunk its streams. I’ve breathed its air. It is in me. It is the way God chose long ago to save me. Kansas is God’s grace to me. And because it is, it is my home.

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The Faith of a Little Child

But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “Let alone the little children to come to Me, and cease hindering them; for of such is the kingdom of God. (Luke 18:16)

I continue to be amazed at the evidences of my daughter Sofie’s faith.

Saturday night, I was sitting at the computer and Anna was folding some laundry. Sofie was moving about playing and imagining all sorts of characters and stories. (She has a vivid imagination. Just this morning she pointed out to me, in our living room, no less, an apple tree with George the Monkey, aka Curious George, in it.) Anna and I were talking about daily stuff and hadn’t noticed that Sofie had walked over, stood in front of the icons, and began singing and making the sign of the Cross over herself, and then bowing.

It sounded a bit like: “Jeeeeesus Cry [cross, bow] . . . Jeeeesus Cry [cross, bow]” and there were some “All-looo-yah’s” and “Hoooooly’s” (for the Trisagion) thrown in as well. She did this for something like five minutes as Anna and I watched. She was wholly absorbed in her prayers and singing, completely oblivious to Anna and me as we watched with ever-expanding grins. After a bit, she noticed the silence and our attention and turned to us and grinned self-consciously.

I told her how pretty that was and how proud we were of her saying prayers to Jesus.

I turned to my wife and said, “She knows how to praise Jesus. Yep. She’s ready to be baptized.”

I am amazed by all this, not because I have any skepticism (now) about Sofie and her ability to exercise faith according to her age and development, but because I come from a Restoration Movement background that equated faith with intellectual understanding. Such a view of faith is perfectly understandable if one starts with Enlightenment presuppositions. But then, those presuppositions are not exactly Gospel presuppositions. No, when it comes to faith, the example set by our Lord is that of a child.

Sofie, God’s Wisdom to us, is revealing to me day by day why that is the case.

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