Archive for September, 2013

Life Savers

September 28, 2013


When I was young, I loved Lifesavers candy. Well, that isn’t exactly true. You see, Life Savers came in 5 flavors. I didn’t like the green one at all. I would toss it away or give it to someone (gosh, wasn’t I the generous soul?).  The other flavors I could tolerate well enough, but the prize was the red one. I would take my time peeling back the paper and eating the other flavors until the red one would appear. It was a happy moment when my patience would be rewarded with that delicious red flavor. Actually, I would have been happy if all of them had been red.

Why were they called Life Savers? In 1912, candy manufacturer Clarence Crane  invented Life Savers as a “summer candy” that could withstand heat better than chocolate. The candy’s name is derived from its similarity to the shape of lifebuoys used for saving people who have fallen from boats. The name has also inspired an urban legend that Crane invented the candy to prevent children from choking, due to his own child having choked on a hard candy.

Interesting, but what does this have to do with faith or salvation?

Sometimes I hear people say that Orthodoxy is too complicated. We tell them to “taste and see that the Lord is good”. They tell us that there are too many flavors and some of them they don’t like. Fasting is one of those Orthodox flavors that can be hard to swallow. A discipline of prayer is also difficult. Fasting and prayer taste green and we can spend a lot of time avoiding them. I remember a friend who had a non-Orthodox wife. One day he was pushing hard for her to convert, and she responded that she could not fast. He pressed a little harder, and she said that she could fast some, but she just had to have cheese. He later asked me if that would be acceptable, so I told him we would have one order of Orthodoxy with cheese. Actually, she never did convert. She told him that no one was going to tell her what to eat or what not to eat. He replied that that is exactly what Eve said!

Then there are flavors of Orthodoxy that are tolerable.  We don’t mind them too much and it isn’t that they are unpleasant, but they aren’t the red ones. The long services can be a bit tough, so that’s not a red one. We stand a lot and that’s not a red one. Then there’s the sermon – hmmm, that one feels a bit green. Confession – what can we say about that? We recognize the flavor, but it can be hard to get excited about. There are other flavors that we tolerate and even enjoy a little..

If I were to ask you what part of Orthodoxy is red for you, what part(s) you really savor,  I wonder what you would say? To me, the best red in Orthodoxy is the Eucharist. When Christ is present on the Altar, giving Himself to us, that is the best.  Another red for me is when brothers and sisters dwell together in a unity of mind and soul.  I really love that one. Another red is to see someone come into the Faith. Sweet indeed.

There are other reds, but I will stop at these because something has dawned on me. What if the whole pack could become red? What if I could savor each flavor of Orthodoxy?  What if I realized that each part of Orthodoxy is a red life saver? There are no greens or oranges in Orthodoxy, just reds. The problem is some of them still taste green to me, and while others are sweeter,  I just tolerate them really. This is sad because I desperately need a life saver, so what gives me the luxury of picking and choosing which one I will enjoy and which one I will not. I remember that the word “heresy” means “to pick and choose.” You see, fasting really is a life saver, and so is prayer, and attending church services, and so on. A drowning man can hardly wait for a particular color of life buoy. Still, if I valued all of them……

Those who came to understand that all of Orthodoxy is red are called  saints. I hope that someday, my pack of Orthodox Lifesavers will all be red. What a sweet day that will be, for that will be the day that I truly begin to save my life.


September 14, 2013



How many friends do you have? I mean real friends, not acquaintances There is a difference between the two.  So how do we describe a real friend?

1. Loyal:  the idea is that no matter what happens, this person will stay by your side.

2. Loving:  this person will spend time with you and will express their feelings to you and will want a relationship with you.

3. Trustworthy:  A friend will cover my mistakes and not talk about it. They will never turn on us.

4. Helpful: If we need a hand, they are there to help.

How does Jesus square up to the list? Is he my friend?

1.  Loyal – Yes, no matter what I have said or done, he remains by my side and has never left me.

2. Loving – he laid down his life for me, how much more loving can you be? He shows me his heart through his words and in his body, the Church.

3. Trustworthy – Yes, He has proven worthy of my trust. I have tested him many times with my foolishness, but he remained true. What He says, I can take to the bank.

4. Helpful – Yes, I’ve been through some rough times, and his love saved me.  I know that sometimes the best help he can give me is to say no.

Now, let’s turn it around. Am I a friend to Jesus?

It’s an important question, because a theologian once wrote that a saint is nothing more or less than a friend of God. That’s a simple definition. Well, I feel like I am a friend. Let me test it.

1. Loyal? Oh dear – sometimes yes, sometimes no.  I think in a general way, I’m loyal. But then there are times…you know the way Israel use to be in the OT.

2. Loving- yes,  of course I love God. Well, to be honest,  it’s more a fondness really. After all, Jesus measured our love when he said, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” So I show  the quality of my love by what I do, not by how I feel. I feel a lot, but  I don’t  “do” very well.

Here’s an example. A man wanted to show his wife how much he loved her. So after dinner he began to recite romantic poetry. After listening for a while, she asked, “Yes, but will you pick up your socks?”

Friendship is not just quality, it is quantity as well.  Suppose on my wedding day, at the end of the service, I told my bride that I would see her only on Sundays for an hour or two. I think I would be single now.  We love to spend time with real friends. How much time do I spend with Jesus? Oh dear.

3. Trustworthy – I know Jesus is worthy of my trust, but am I worthy of his trust? I mean how many times have I promised him something and then failed to do it.  I’m not very trustworthy at all.

4. Helpful – Well, I have helped Jesus at times, taking care of someone, or working in the Church, or helping at a charity, and so on. But I must admit that I really believe Ben Franklin more than Jesus Christ –God helps those who help themselves. I really do spend more time helping myself, than helping Jesus.

So, maybe I’m more of an acquaintance of Jesus, than a true friend. I know a lot about him, and I have a fondness for Him. I’m in love with the idea of Jesus, but a true friend I am not.

Maybe we can “do lunch.”