Monthly Archives: August 2014

Words of Wisdom

It is not possible for us to become holy and to be saints in an hour! We must therefore progress from modest beginnings toward holiness and purity. Even were we to spend a thousand years in this life we should never perfectly attain it. Rather we must always struggle for it every day, as if mere beginners.”

St. Symeon the New Theologian

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Nearly Orthodox: Book Review

Bias alert: Angela Doll Carlson is a friend and we belong to the same parish. But that shouldn’t stop you from reading it!

Nearly Orthodox

Perfect cover for this book

I’m wary of conversion stories. Depending on what stage the convert wrote them in, they can be a bit too triumphalist or naif for my tastes. Angela Doll Carlson’s book, Nearly Orthodox, does not suffer from either of these.

Some converts enter the church enthusiastically and zealously. Angela entered it with trepidation.

It’s important to have stories from converts who made the choice to convert even if they had reservations. Sometimes we can get too caught up on the aesthetics of Orthodoxy; since many other Christian expressions do not offer the richness that come part and parcel with an Orthodox service so those things can be appealing to inquirers who feel that something is missing from their current practices. However, Orthodoxy can seem severely outdated or politically incorrect, causing inquirers to curb their enthusiasm (I mean, we have actual patriarchs).

However, it is evident from the pages of her book that her desire to know and serve God is strong. In here are stories about growing up Catholic; Angela’s punk rocker years; the side trip to Protestantism; marriage and family life; and vignettes on being an inquirer, then a catechumen, then finally her conversion. Angela puts her story out there in a vulnerable way that I can’t help but admire.

This is an absorbing read. I would recommend this book especially to inquirers or catechumens who have reservations about how strange Orthodoxy can be, and to those who feel they might not fit some sort of expected “convert” mold.

Update: Win a copy of the book here!



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Linkage: Seraphic Singles edition

Sadly, Auntie Seraphic (aka, the blog’s Fairy Godmother) has decided to close up her blog. Fortunately you can go back and read her archives here.

Below are a few highlights:

Good “summary” post of various Seraphic Singles concepts

On Core Values

On Unrequited Love

On Complaining

On Crushes

On Being Friendly

On Having a Past

Thank you for sharing your wisdom and experience with your readers all these years, Seraphic!

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Pearls Before Swine

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How ’bout that local sports team

Like last week’s post, this reader question also came to us via the questions from the search terms.

how to respond to rude are you dating questions
Depends on the type of question. A cheerful “So honey, are you seeing anyone?” from a parent can be answered with, “Sure, Friend and I see Otherfriend and Acquaintance regularly to play poker. Oh, you mean dating? Nothing to write home about, but I’ll tell you when there is. By the way, how’s your XYZ project doing?”

Sometimes it’s awkward because you’re just getting to know someone, or you’ve been on a series of bad dates, or for some other reason you’re not not-dating but you’re also not ready to announce a relationship to one person in particular. For that, I suggest an airy “Oh, here and there, you know.” And then change the subject to the local sports team or their children or that book you just read.

If they specifically ask if you’re dating Theophilus, and you aren’t, just say “nope!” cheerfully and move on. If you are (or it’s that awkward transition stage), and you don’t want to talk about it yet, just laugh and say “You know I’d tell you if I had news to announce.” Whether you’re not telling because you don’t have news or because you don’t have news to announce, well…none of their business. Then change the topic.

If it’s from an acquaintance or someone who has no business asking, you can just say, “No.” Smile if you want to, or don’t. Let it hang in the air. If they start the awkwardly-insulting reassurances, check off your bingo card and maintain your smiling, expectant silence til they trail off. (What are you expecting? Oh, maybe that they’ll clue in and stop talking now. Or maybe that they’ll choke on the foot in their mouth.) Maybe if they feel awkward enough they’ll stop asking. One can hope….

Sometimes the question is asked in a rude way, with snide undertones. There’s always, “No, are you?” Which—assuming they’re married—is fairly rude in response. But funny. Honestly though…there’s nothing wrong with you for being single. There’s plenty wrong with being rude. It’s okay to misunderstand the question, or if you’re really fed up to change the subject as if you didn’t hear them. “Are you dating anyone yet?” “I loved the weather this last week, did you get to enjoy it?”

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Friday Linkage

Blessed feast!

Links for today:

Be lucky – it’s an easy skill to learn [Telegraph]
Fun and informative article

Two Phrases That Can Change Your Life [LinkedIn]
Even though this is on LinkedIn and ostensibly about work, it’s one of the best things I’ve read on thinking about boundaries in general

One Theory of Marriage and Kids [Atlantic]
In tautological news for today, happily married women are happy.

The Death of Dating [Ethika Politika].
Argues that careerism is partially to blame for the hookup culture.

Date’s Flaws Coming At Woman Faster Than She Can Rationalize Them [The Onion]
Rings painfully true

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True contentment is a thing as active as agriculture. It is the power of getting out of any situation all that there is in it. It is arduous and it is rare.

— GK Chesterton

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Male Friends and Boundaries

This started out as an answer to one of our questions from the search terms, but it got so long I figured it deserved its own post.

male friends and boundaries
Ooh, boundaries. Tricky subject, but what a marvelous thing. I love boundaries, they’re great. In this circumstance it basically boils down to this: Be courteous. Pay attention to the choices you make and the words you use.

First of all, it doesn’t have to be weird or awkward. Yes, you’re technically potential romantic partners, so what? So’s half the world. There is potential awkwardness in spades though, so being intentional about your words and actions is a very good thing. Over time you’ll develop a rhythm, a sense of what works for you, and you won’t have to think so hard about whether XYZ is okay. You’ll just know how you feel about it, whether it works in this friendship or doesn’t.

For a start, don’t ever imply he’s somehow not a man / not a real man / doesn’t count as a man / not a man you’d like to date; that’s ridiculously disheartening when it comes from a guy friend, and it’s no better when done to them. Obviously don’t imply that you want to date them, unless you do, because that would be confusing and weird. But don’t act as though they’re undateable or less-than-dateable, and don’t say things like “there are no decent single men around here” or “why aren’t there any good-looking Orthodox guys?” Ouch. Think before you speak, and don’t try to blow past it by saying “Well, you don’t count!”

Oh, and for heaven’s sake don’t introduce him as “Eusebius who is just a friend and of course I’d never date him.” Yes, I’ve seen that, and it’s demeaning and rude. I know that gossip is frustrating, but pre-empting it by insulting him or by drawing attention to the fact that you’re not dating is not going to help. If someone confuses Eusebius for your boyfriend, smile and say you aren’t dating. It’s not a big deal. In this regard, treat Eusebius like a single girlfriend: speak warmly and respectfully about him, because he’s a cool dude and totally dateable, you two just aren’t interested in dating each other.

By the way, try and keep your signals clear. If you’re a banter-y type, banter with Eusebius the way you’d banter with a girlfriend, not the way you’d flirt with a date. If you’re not sure you can tell the difference, ask your bluntest, most perceptive girlfriend how you’re coming across.

Especially with very young women, I sometimes see a sort of intimate playfulness that’s sweet and meant in fun, but isn’t entirely appropriate—the sort of extended cuddling that excused with “but he’s like a brother!” Seriously, who snuggles like that with an adult brother? Cf. Seraphic on that. I’m all for hugs (hugs are awesome) but if I want to curl up for a while with my head on a friend’s shoulder, I pick a close girlfriend.

It’s a bit different if he’s married, because then you want to pay attention to keeping two relationships healthy: with your friend, and with his wife. Even if you and she aren’t friends, if you’re friends with her husband then you’re more than acquaintances, and you want to be extra-thoughtful. Besides, if you really value your friend, you don’t want to set him up for a fight with the person he values most in the world.
To begin with, while hugging hello and goodbye is usually fine, never do anything unless you’d do the same thing while she was watching. It’s one thing to go bowling just the two of you if you’ve known each other since you met in your 3rd grade bowling league. It’s another if you’re just getting to know each other, especially if things seem a little off-kilter with his wife. If you’re not sure about the dynamic, hang out in groups, or with the spouse included. And—this is a big one—it’s probably a bad idea to be the person he goes to when he needs to vent about his wife. That can create a really bizarre dynamic. He has guy friends, family, a father confessor—you are not his only emotional outlet. Or at any rate you’d better not be, that’s not a healthy dynamic. If possible, get to know her a little. Being friends with one spouse doesn’t mean you have to be friends with (or even like) the other, but it helps if you can see them as a whole person.

If at any point you get a weird feeling about things (whether he’s married or single), just bring another friend along. Text him to let him know that Philonella is coming with you because she hasn’t been to the movies in forever, or because you thought the three of you could have a really awesome chat about Tolkien. Having Philonella around can take an edge off the awkwardness, and she can also tell you if there are observably-weird undertones.

Also…talk to him. If he really is a friend, have a conversation about what works and what doesn’t. If you value the friendship, then bother to communicate.

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The Thing About the Mother of God [Malheure]

What Battling Depression Teaches You About Love [Thought Catalog]

On Faith and Anxiety [The Toast]

Embracing the Spiritual Side-Effects of Fear [The Sounding]

Report from Iraq [Patheos]
Pray. Pray. Pray.

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“We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

Viktor Frankl

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