Monthly Archives: March 2015


Men Just Don’t Trust Women [HuffPo]
“This is part of the reason why it took an entire high school football team full of women for some of us to finally just consider that Bill Cosby might not be Cliff Huxtable.”

Looking for happiness in all the wrong places [Science Daily]
Gratitude is the antidote to dissatisfaction. Even science says so!

5 Ways to Become a Better Listener [Verily]
A few good reminders.

What My Self-Respect Looks Like [The Butter]
“My self-respect no longer hinges on how I look to others. Today, my self-respect means valuing my health, showing care for my body, and prioritizing my needs above the opinions of passersby.”

We Need to Stop Devaluing Femininity [Ravishly]
“When people ask ‘Why can’t girls just play with a regular doctor kit?’ I always wonder why the pink kit can’t be the ‘regular’ kit? I mean, I know why, but it’s frustrating to constantly see the more masculine-leaning version of any given toy being hailed as the status quo, while the feminine version is pooh-poohed as being silly and unnecessary.”

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It is essential that every action is mixed with humility. Whether you are praying, or fasting, or turning away from the world, or fulfilling an obedience for the sake of God and do not think that you are doing something good.

St. Macarius of Optina

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Singled Out: How Churches Can Embrace Unmarried Adults [Christena Cleveland]
“Singleness isn’t a junior varsity version of marriage. It’s an entirely different sport.”

Writing Women Characters as Human Beings [Tor]
“Putting a female character into a stereotypically ‘male role’ is not the only way to make her interesting or strong.”

Disrupting Domesticity: Take care [The Butter]
A post about cohabiting and kindness, with a dose of wisdom for any healthy relationship. Specifically: “Ashley, we’re on the same team. You don’t score points against someone on the same [darn] team.”

God Is Always With You: An Interview with Fr. Roman Braga [OCA]
On monasticism, marriage, prison, suffering, freedom, and learning to love God.

What are some ways we can find Christ today, in the American society?
Well Christ first of all is in you. Christ is not just some nice guy. He is God and God is within you.

Life is a liturgy.

Please pray for the repose of Fr. Thomas Hopko. If you’d like to listen to some of his lectures, you can do so here.

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When Lent is Different

Is your Lent different than others in your church? Being a convert, I had an early, and probably unhealthy, association of fasting seasons solely with food.

I’ve grown accustomed to the crowds discussing their various fasting survival skills. Some complain that they will not look at hummus or PB&Js or couscous when this is all over. Others swap bean or lentil recipes and how to make X be just as filling as the non-Lenten version.

But what if your Lenten journey looks much different than others in an outward sense? I look around coffee hour and know that there are those who are pregnant or nursing mothers. I know several who already require a gluten-free, Paleo, or other specific diets where a vegan version just can not work for the sake of their health. I know of priests who have lifted fasting requirements for those who are grieving a recent death of a loved one.

Here’s some encouragement from the Antiochian Archdiocese:

Fasting is more than not eating food. Saint John Chrysostom teaches that it is more important to fast from sin. For example, besides controlling what goes into our mouths, we must control what comes out of our mouths as well. Are our words pleasing to God, or do we curse God or our brother?

Fasting is not an end in itself. Our goal is an inner change of heart. The Lenten Fast is called “ascetic.” This refers to actions of self-denial and spiritual training which are central to fasting. (

As a convert, the emphasis on food and the equating of food with fasting was HUGE for me. Lent means going vegan for 6 weeks. I’m supposed to fast on Wednesdays and Fridays because that’s what I’m supposed to do. A few years ago after overhearing a conversation among some other converts, I realized that fasting is something a catechumen or new convert can latch onto easily to “feel Orthodox.” You can’t commune, so you try a few other things to fit in, like adventures in making your own hummus. (Yes, there are multiple stories behind that comment…)

To the relief of our cradle brethren, we eventually chill and realize that fasting is not about the food. From the Orthodox Christian Information Center:

Fasting is not merely a restraining from food. During the days of the fasts, the Church sings, “While fasting bodily, let us also fast spiritually…” True fasting includes deeds of Christian mercy. It is an alienation of the evil-one, a restraint of the tongue, a laying aside of anger, a cutting off of vices and an exposure of falsehood… Thus, for a Christian, fasting is a time of restraint and self-education in all respects, and a real Christian fast gives believers a great moral satisfaction. (

If fasting is about the ascetic or self-denial, it is no wonder that we have exemptions for persons in certain circumstances. What good is it for the church to demand that those with medical or dietary needs ignore what is best and be so ill that they can not pray? They are already under a rule of self-denial, even if not the diet the Church prescribed.

We just ask that before you stand next to us, please brush your teeth, especially if you had bacon.

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To human beings it seems hard and difficult to still the mind so that it rests from all thought. Indeed, to enclose what is bodiless within the limits of the body does demand toil and struggles, not only from the uninitiated but also from those experienced in inner immaterial warfare. But he who through unceasing prayer holds the Lord Jesus within his breast will not tire in following Him.

St. Hesychios the Priest

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At Last, a Council for the Ages? [First Things]
Touches upon topics the upcoming great council in 2016 will likely discuss

Medicating Women’s Feelings [New York Times]
Asks whether female emotionality is really something that should be treated

The Big Bang is okay [Second Terrace]
Fr. Jonathan on Orthodoxy and science 

We Shall Have to Answer for All Before the Absolute Good [Pravmir]
Metropolitan Hilarion on the day of judgment

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Take away temptations and no one would be saved. This does not mean, however, that we should lead ourselves into temptation on purpose, but as we struggle according to God and look out for ourselves, we shall encounter temptations coming from His fatherly endearment, from the demons’ envy, from our carelessness and inexperience, from the cunning of men, etc. But the goal is one: to struggle with patience and perseverance, reflecting that nothing happens without the will of God. Therefore, we need patience and gratitude.

– Elder Ephraim of the Holy Mountain

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Mindset: fixed or growth?

One of the hazards of my line of work is Too Many Good Books, one of many reasons I love my job. My boss’s latest recommendation is Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck. The topic is, essentially, how to view yourself and the world in a way that generates success.

Dweck distinguishes between two paradigms, a fixed mindset and a growth mindset.

If you have the fixed mindset, you believe that your talents and abilities are set in stone—either you have them or you don’t. You must prove yourself over and over, trying to look smart and talented at all costs. This is the path of stagnation. If you have a growth mindset, however, you know that talents can be developed and that great abilities are built over time. This is the path of opportunity—and success.

One of my favorite examples was from the very beginning of the book. Dweck was studying how people deal with failure by giving kids puzzles to solve. As the puzzles grew harder, the kids reacted in a variety of ways. And a couple of them said things like, “I love a challenge!” Or, “You know, I was hoping this would be informative!” Dweck was flabbergasted:

What’s wrong with them? I wondered. I always thought you coped with failure or you didn’t cope with failure. I never thought anyone loved failure. Were these alien children or were they on to something?

Spoiler: they were on to something.
Because their focus was on learning from the puzzles, they were willing to do hard work—that fed into how they saw themselves, that was part of what they expected they’d have to do. It wasn’t scary and it didn’t hurt their confidence. Failure was the first step and an expected part of things, not a statement on their inherent worth or abilities.

On the other hand, the kids who thought that intelligence was a fixed factor felt threatened by their failures. If they couldn’t figure out these puzzles, then maybe they weren’t smart after all, and that was a terrifying thought. So they’d make excuses, blame factors outside their control, and give only a half-hearted effort. Anything was less scary than the thought that they couldn’t succeed even if they really tried. If they really tried and failed, then that meant that they were failures, and they’d never be good enough. That fear and hopelessness, predictably enough, led to more failure.

As Malcolm Gladwell put it,

After [the kids] were finished, one group was praised for its effort and another group was praised for its intelligence. Those praised for their intelligence were reluctant to tackle difficult tasks, and their performance on subsequent tests soon began to suffer. …They begin to define themselves by that description, and when times get tough and that self-image is threatened they have difficulty with the consequences.


The book uses examples from business, sports, the arts, and science to show how a fixed mindset creates limitations, and how a growth mindset allows our failures to be a stepping-stone to future success.

The thing is, the fixed vs. growth mindset affects more than just our intelligence and our jobs. It affects our relationships in business, family, friendships, and romance. It affects our satisfaction with life in general. And, I think, it affects our spiritual lives. In the Orthodox mindset, salvation is a process. Theosis, right? We are being saved. We are becoming. Our struggles are a good thing, because they’re opportunities. It takes a lot of grace, and a lot of hard work, and a lot of picking ourselves up when we fall. That’s the growth mindset, right there.

I was fascinated by the book’s section on relationships.

When people with a fixed mindset talk about their conflict, they assign blame. Sometimes they blame themselves, but often they blame their partner. And they assign blame to a trait—a character flaw.
But it doesn’t end there. When people blame their partner’s personality for the problem, they feel anger and disgust toward them.
And it barrels on: Since the problem comes from fixed traits, it can’t be solved.

So, if your partner cuts you off when you’re telling a story, they are self-absorbed. Or if they don’t do their share of the chores, they are messy. And that’s it, end of story, you can live with it (begrudgingly) or break up and try to find someone less annoying.

Contrariwise, couples with a growth mindset aren’t threatened by their conflicts. They’re just problems to fix, no big deal—it’s an opportunity. Your partner cuts you off? Huh, maybe if you sit down together to look at communication styles, you can discover a way for you both to feel heard and valued. The dishes are piling up? OK, time to figure out A) what you consider a clean house and B) how you want to accomplish that together. Cool, it’s skill-building time!
It’s not easy, but it is a more pleasant way to experience the world.

The book itself feels a little repetitive, and the anecdata can be a bit much at times. Still, I’d recommend it—there’s more nuance in growth vs. fixed mindsets than in the old advice to “just work hard.” And the thing about mindsets is that they aren’t set things. Most of us have fixed mindsets in some areas, but we aren’t stuck with them. There’s a lot of freedom in that thought.

If you’re interested in a short article written by Dweck on mindsets, click here.

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Where Are All the Women Hermits [Aeon]
“To be alone, after all, is to admit to that rare quality: a contentment with one’s self.” A wonderful look at solitude, freedom, and identity. And Mary of Egypt, always a favorite.

People on sinking ships do not complain of distractions during their prayer [Eclectic Orthodoxy]
“Genuine prayer is honest prayer, laying before your Father in heaven the actual desires of your heart—never mind how childish they may sound. Your Father knows how to cope with that.”

The Chapel Veil and a Woman’s Rights [1 Peter 5]
“The chapel veil is an affirmation of the woman’s dignity in the presence of the Lord, and of her right to pray alongside men.”

Do You Need Ordination? [St Lydia’s Book Club]
Thought-provoking. Whether or not it’s true, I like the way the question was turned around.

Memory Eternal to Fr Matthew Baker [GoFundMe]
Please give as you’re able, and pray for the Baker family.

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The first duty of a Christian, of a disciple and follower of Jesus Christ, is to deny oneself. To deny oneself means to give up one’s bad habits, to root out of the hear all that ties us to the world; not to cherish bad desires and thoughts; to quench and suppress bad thoughts; to avoid occasions of sin; not to do or desire anything from self-love but to do everything out of love for God. To deny oneself means, according to the Apostle Paul, to be dead to sin and the world, but alive to God.

– St. Innocent of Alaska

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