Prudence True

The Art of Wisdom

through Ancient Words

(Ctrl-End to reach bottom of page)


  A Random Sense of Holiness 

2 August 2010

Dear Souls -

      If you pay attention, the simplest interaction with a stranger may make a lasting impression. Today I awoke thinking of a woman I met several years ago in Costa Rica. Even at the time I understood this young woman's impression on me was cemented in my mind, though my friends with me noticed nothing unusual about her at all. But for me, there was a random sense of holiness about the woman.

     The young woman, about eighteen years old, sat just beyond the edge of a popular surfing beach selling bracelets she made by hand. Even from a distance she struck me as interesting. Maybe it was the way she hunched over her work, or maybe it was something else altogether. But when I approached her I was struck right away by . . . a sense of Holy. It surprised me, and not just a little. I looked around to see if anyone else noticed, but they didn't. Though I suspect there were angels around her, they were not obvious, in an ordinary way.

     A detailed description of her isn't necessary. She looked like a three dimensional version of the Theotokos (Holy Virgin Mary). She didn't look like an icon, or a Renaissance painting; she was the human image of a living Theotokos. And, though I don’t by nature recite Scripture, my ears buzzed with:

     "For I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and your gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me." (Mt 25: 35, 36)

       I knew I was buying bracelets. My friends wandered off, and I stood with the young woman and talked. We chose the colors of bracelets she would weave for my family, which they still wear on their wrists today. As we spoke, I noticed her leg covered with long, deep, life-threatening scars.

       She said her father's dog attacked and almost killed her. Her leg was severely injured in the attack, and she felt lucky not to have lost it. I knew her story was true, the evidence was the scars. She told me she couldn't return to her father's home, so she left Brazil and traveled with her boyfriend. She was homeless.

       I wanted to help, but not offend her. So I bought the bracelets and gave her a generous tip, feeling in my heart it still wasn't enough. She was hungry, hurt, and homeless. I struggled with the idea of giving her much more, but knew she expected much less.

       In the end, I received more from her than I gave;

       I felt a random sense of holiness which lingers today.

     But, here lies a path towards wisdom.

        Yours, Prudence


  A Closed Door Theology  

5 August 2010

Dear Souls -

     If you experience a random sense of holiness, then you're bound to notice the opposite. The opposite of holy jumps out from behind corners, or stares you boldly in the face. This is someplace I choose not to dwell under any circumstances (no fancy theology here, that is another blog elsewhere); some sneak a peek at the opposite of holy, I don't.

     When those who choose to peek at the opposite of holy infringe on my closed door theology, I'm aggravated. If this happens at church, then I crawl out of my skin. Closed door theology requires a tightly sealed door, maybe even with towels stuffed in the cracks to keep out the stench. If you choose to take a quick peek, then a rush of bad air will smack you in the face.

      The opposite of holy isn't obvious to everyone, I suppose. But it's hard for me to understand when to me it looks like a flag waving over someone's head. I'm not brilliant, and I've made countless mistakes when I open the door to someone with a flag waving over their head. Close door theology takes practice, and so far I've had a lifetime to notice when I mess up. When a flag is waving over the head of someone who sits in the center of a circle, it's awkward. As you know, the opposite of holy is a master of trickery and deceit. Closed door theology works well, but at times you must avoid the center of the circle.

      Closed door theology takes discipline, but it's worth the effort invested. The sting of your errors will help you keep the door sealed shut to the opposite of holy. And the more tightly sealed the door, the more you notice the stench when malodorous air leaks into your space. Of course there are situations which place you right in front of the opposite of holy, and for me darting off is the option of choice. The master of trickery most of the time uses tools of deception which don't require much effort. If your door is sealed shut, you're not worth the chase.

      Focusing on the opposite of holy is a theology of it's own, though I've never understood the desire to see in the dark. If you linger in the dark, then run for the light; it's the safe zone. Theology of the dark is unnecessary and will devour you bit by bit. Seal the door shut, and don't stand in the doorway speculating about the opposite of holy. It will suck you into a vortex under the pretense of something else. Remember the opposite of holy is the master of trickery and deception; you can't win once you open the door unless you run for the Light.

      Closed door theology is not complex, and with practice you know right away when the door requires a barricade. Watching others dancing in the doorway is not a pretty sight, but if you warn them they tend not to listen. The opposite of holy didn't become the Master of Trickery and Deceit because of a lack of skill.

      Carry these simple tools with you at all times:

       Steer Clear

       Close the Door

       No Peeking

       Run for the Light    

       But, here lies a path towards wisdom.

        Yours, Prudence


  The Eyes of Your Soul  

6 August 2010

Dear Souls -

     If you ask me, I would tell you the eyes of your soul are a very private space. Perhaps this is why in the modern age we tend to bury them deep inside and forget they exist altogether. The eyes which give us sight to look both ways when we cross the street so a car doesn't knock us over, are not the same eyes which warn us against the opposite of holy. They are not the same eyes which give us a feeling in our gut when we forget to look both ways.

    I believe we are all born with good strong gut feelings, but as we develop our sophisticated intelligent reasoning mind, we over-ride our gut until it withers away. When the feelings in our gut wither away and only operate under extenuating circumstances, then we've shut the eyes of our soul. If they've been closed for years and only open on special occasions, then their absence goes unnoticed. In our Western fast-paced, success dominated culture the eyes of the soul are not valued. But, heavy value is placed on academic knowledge - it's quantifiable. Measuring the eyes of your soul is an abstract and puzzling concept in a society where we place more value on the car you drive (though I like my car a lot), than on our heart.

    Some cultures and faiths retain a value of the eyes of the soul, even here in twenty-first century America. They have retained a high regard and value for the sense and feel of their faith, situations, and experiences. Perhaps these cultures place less value on a quantifiable measure such as intellectual knowledge. But placed together at a table in a restaurant, the one peering across the table with the eyes of his soul may not have much to say. His knowledge is unquantifiable, and perhaps difficult for him to verbalize. The eyes of the soul are not dinner conversation in most circles.

     If you decide you now need those eyes of your soul which you neglected for decades, then you're in a pickle. You can't just wander into your closet, dig around in the back, pull them out, and put them on. You can't run off to the local mall and buy them, and you can't run into church (any Church) and find them behind the pews. Of course, God can give you the eyes of your soul in a matter of seconds, but then again He may not.

      The eyes of your soul are hiding deep inside you. They are right there with you tucked away quietly waiting for you to pull them out and put them on.

       But remember, they're not fashionable wear here in America.

     But, here lies a path towards wisdom.

        Yours, Prudence


  Thank you, Saint Paul  

10 August 2010

Dear Souls -

     My gratitude flows in many directions, at times traveling along obscure tributaries into the wilderness. On a rainy day, I find the sun shining through the cloudy sky. Piled under a load of work, I daydream my way through the tasks. Because at all times I know God's got his hand on my life.

     Today, though, my gratitude runs on a clear smooth path right to the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America for featuring an article on their website regarding the homilies of Fr. Jon Braun available on my site. Bringing the homilies of Fr. Jon to a wider audience is happening with the support of those working for along with the broad powerful reach of the Web.

     With visitors from around the world, sharing the breadth and depth of Fr. Jon's wisdom isn't all that hard here in the twenty-first century. I don't have to travel across the ocean on stormy seas, or sleep on mats in the dirt, and I never go hungry. Without leaving my cozy home, I'm extending an arm across the world with a few clicks. It just isn't fair, St. Paul never had the chance to use the internet. His work was done with travel by land and sea, with sweat and hard work.

      I'm not traveling anywhere by myself, and with help the help of others I will launch the homilies of Fr. Jon to an audience beyond St. Paul's wildest visions.

      My gratitude flows along obscure tributaries, and way off into the cyber-wilderness . . .

      The path of giving back leads to places beyond my own simple limited sight.

    But, here lies a path towards wisdom.

        Yours, Prudence


   Saints and the Big Screen  

13 August 2010

Dear Souls -

     The truth is . . . I have a touch of stage fright (or rather keyboard fright), with the eyes of the Antiochian Christian Archdiocese of North America peering towards TRUE WISDOM RADIO. Thank you for sending your flocks this direction, as my simple soul reaches out sharing sights and sounds from the eyes of my heart with the greater cyber-jungle.

     This weekend I will travel to the city and see Gone with the Wind on the big screen. Ducking away from popular culture is one of my favorite activities, and it's easier than you think. Maybe I have some natural talent for avoiding mainstream, but with practice I'm an expert. The surprised expression on someone's face when they encounter my ignorance of almost all of popular culture, brings me great joy. Time is a precious commodity, and I prefer to spend my free moments avoiding all forms of brain clutter.

    On occasion though, popular culture surprises me. Yesterday I saw the new movie Charlie St. Cloud (a social obligation, for me). The movie was playing in only one theater in the entire urban area, which was a hint I missed, and I never expected teen idol Zac Efron to play the lead as a big screen saint. Charlie St. Cloud saw visions of departed souls right before his eyes. At times he was unable to tell if the vision was a vision or not, and of course others did not see anything at all.

    Charlie struggles with his life in this world, spending time somewhere in a space in between. The movie dapples with concepts of heaven and visions of light, both topics not popular with Hollywood's current fascination with submersion into the dark (vampires). As a gift from a friend, Charlie receives a saint pendant which inspires insight into the meaning of his visions, and he then applies his own gift for the good of others.

     While the movie has some usual Hollywood flaws, I'm impressed it is on the big screen. In the current entertainment industry climate, bringing a movie with a true heart to the big screen is rare.

      But then again, vampires are no match for the Saints,

      at least not for me . . .

A Message
     But, here lies a path towards wisdom.

        Yours, Prudence


   Celebrity Priests  

14 August 2010

Dear Souls -

      When a topic strikes me, I take it and go . . . even if I think the subject may land with a thud. This morning I found myself pondering the concept of celebrity priests. Raised in the Orthodox Church, those two words (celebrity and priest) never intersected to my knowledge. Now though, their paths cross in my mind.

       Perhaps the best known contemporary priest here in America is Fr. Edward Beck, a Catholic priest of the Passionist Community. Fr. Beck has written several books (of which I've read two), he is the Religion Correspondent for ABC News, and hosts the segment FOCUS ON FAITH for the popular morning show, Good Morning America. Fr. Beck is handsome, articulate, kind (my cousin has met him several times and corresponds with him on occasion), and is exactly the image the Roman Catholic Church needs right now amidst their priest crisis.

     If you ask the American public to name an Orthodox Christian priest, I'm afraid you would receive a lovely blank stare and a long period of silence. But, most Americans can probably name both the current Pope and the last Pope. In my ignorance, I'll admit I'm hard pressed to give you the proper name of any Orthodox Patriarch (I'm sorry, but I get confused).

     Does the Orthodox Church need a Fr. Edward Beck to put the public face on Orthodoxy here in America?


     I don't believe so.

     I'll tell you why.

     If you give me a minute.

     Because a self-promoting Orthodox priest does not represent the Orthodox faith in a way which is Orthodox at all.

     Now I've done it. You're all angry with me.

     But this is the truth.

     Bling, Fluff, and Bells contradict a faith drawn from the heart. And there is a reason the desert fathers went to the desert and not to the heart of the City.

     Sharing the message of the Orthodox faith is important. But this must be done without compromising the tenets of the faith. Using the pretense of evangelism to launch priests to a platform of self-promotion is counterproductive. Other models of Christianity have mastered the art of the Bling Pastor, and Orthodoxy should not try and outperform this overused model.

     If you are an Orthodox priest and you crave celebrity, then you are in the wrong spot.

     The homilies of Fr. Jon Braun were sitting on his bookshelves at home gathering dust, and I retrieved them and posted them here on TRUE WISDOM RADIO. Fr. Jon was on the celebrity Bling Pastor path until he became an Orthodox priest. He is a gifted preacher and resembles Clint Eastwood almost as much as Clint Eastwood does (except the spaghetti Western part), but in his mind Bling Pastor and Orthodox priest were not a compatible mix.

     Because an Orthodox priest shares his message in a way consistent with a heart directed towards God, not towards self-promoting bling.

     Those in America and the rest of the world will come to the Orthodox faith through the fine touch of God, not through Orthodoxy adopting a model consistent with our celebrity hungry contemporary society.

      I respect the hard work of Orthodox priests everywhere. But the responsibility for sharing the Orthodox faith belongs to us all. We each have talents and gifts . . .  and the burden does not rest entirely in the hands of those with the word Father in front of their name.

     Because in some ways their hands are tied,

     by tradition.

     But, here lies a path towards wisdom.

        Yours, Prudence

P.S. This is not written with any specific priest in mind . . .



15 August 2010

Dear Souls -

      Sunday morning.

      Going unnoticed takes talent and skill. At church I'm pretty sure the priest never knew my name growing up. If I was lucky he confused me with my sister. He knew my parents and family well, but I just blended in with the crowd. Even now, I've been at gatherings with the bishop on countless occasions, and only met him once (thanks to a friend who discovered my slinking into the background talent). At our small parish today it's next to impossible for me to hide, but I try.

     Hiding from sight and blending in feels natural for me. Though I'm not shy, I would rather lurk behind the scene. For me it is simple,

      because I know God is there at church.

      And He sees it all exactly as it is . . .

      But, here lies a path towards wisdom.

        Yours, Prudence


   An Orthodox Church Nomad  

17 August 2010

Dear Souls -

        At heart I'm an Orthodox church nomad. Maybe my Orthodox heart is nomadic by nature, or maybe by nurture; it doesn't matter either way, because I'm content with a nomadic Orthodox church spirit. This nomadic trait doesn't often transfer to other Christian faiths, since worship services without priests, communion, or incense are uncomfortable for me.

       The Orthodox Church offers a degree of consistency across all segments of worship. The small differences which lead to countless quibbles make little difference in my eyes. Sometimes I hardly notice the small differences at all, or maybe they add a touch of individuality to a consistent, ancient Divine Liturgy. Each Orthodox church offers the same menu, a franchise with the same service. Sometimes they speak my language, and sometimes they don't. I prefer English services here in America, since this is all I know, but I grew up hearing portions of the Divine Liturgy in Arabic.

       This past Sunday I attended a predominantly convert parish, and next Sunday I will attend a predominantly Arabic parish. The difference between the two churches is palpable. I love the energy those newer to Orthodoxy bring to church (although at times even I was confused when, where, and why we were crossing ourselves). And I have a deep appreciation for sharing Orthodoxy with those from diverse backgrounds. Looking around (yes, sneaking peeks) during Liturgy and observing the deep reverence for the Orthodox faith I saw in those scattered around the church touched me. It was clear Orthodoxy has branched far beyond the roots which brought the Faith here to America. The church reflected our American culture perhaps more closely than I will see next week at the ethnic Orthodox parish (isn't our American culture an ethnicity?). But, at the Arabic parish there is a relaxed comfort to the Liturgy which I value for the peace it represents. The steadiness of those born and raised as Orthodox Christians has an energy too . . . a depth permeating from their heart and perhaps not as obvious to the sneak peeks of others. Ethnic Orthodox Christians clung to the Orthodox life raft as the sea of Protestant America swirled past, and now others too are reaching for this Orthodox life raft.

      When I return to my home Orthodox parish in a few weeks, I will feel a renewed sense of awe for the familiar Liturgy within a familiar setting. At my home parish I see a mix of the energetic and the casual, with a blending I believe is the essence of Orthodoxy here in America.

      The subtle differences between the Orthodox parishes I visit in my wanderings matters little, because with every Orthodox Church the Divine Liturgy is steeped in a full richness of Tradition.

      But, here lies a path towards wisdom.

        Yours, Prudence


   Beyond this Moment  

19 August 2010

Dear Souls -

     Reading takes me beyond the moment, and I navigate each day seeking a small space of time to read. Lately I've taken to selecting books from those available at church, so this past Sunday I purchased We Shall See Him as He Is by Archimandrite Sophrony (Sakharov). My criteria for selecting this book was simple: I could not understand why the Orthodox parish I was visiting had at least a dozen new (brand new!) copies of this book stacked on the shelves of their small back-of-the-church bookstore. Was this book required reading for Orthodoxy and nobody ever told me?

    For over two decades I tried at various times to read The Orthodox Church by Bishop Kallistos Ware. I finally completed the book this past year. Although known as a classic on Orthodoxy, I found it sleep inducing even on a bright sunny day. I'm not alone in my opinion; I rescued the book unread from a family member's giveaway bag recently, as she confessed a longstanding unmet goal of reading the entire book. We exchanged looks, and she extended her hand with renewed good intentions . . . and the book remains, no doubt, on her shelf unread.

     Elder Sophrany offers

     simple thoughts from his wise soul,

     for us ordinary simple souls . . .


      "Pride is the principle of evil, the root of all tragedy, the sower of enmity, the destroyer of peace, the adversary of divinely-established order. In pride lies the essence of hell. Pride is the 'outer darkness' where man loses contact with the God of love."

                  (We Shall See Him As He Is - Archimandrite Sophrony, Sakharov, 1988, p. 30)

    But, here lies a path towards wisdom.

        Yours, Prudence


   Concerning Ourselves  

20 August 2010

Dear Souls -

      Please forgive my ignorance, but it is impossible for me to understand how the brilliant spiritual treatise We Shall See Him as He Is, is common reading for countless simple Orthodox Christian souls. The Orthodox Church I know is for ordinary souls and is not all about ourselves.   

       Archimandrite Sophrony writes at the age of ninety-two of his life as a monk:

       "I do not know of an experience that might serve as a sum total of all others, especially where initial and intermediate states are in question. Even if for a moment or two our spirit approaches perfection of vision in Light, the perfection is still only relative and in our earthly career does not continue fixed.

       In short, the extraordinary opulence of bestowments from on High cannot be depicted chronologically, in due sequence, and I abandon the attempt."

                    (We Shall See Him As He Is - Archimandrite Sophrony, Sakharov, 1988, p. 97)

      No, I don't live in a monastery, and asceticism is beyond me. Archimandrite Sophrony lived in and founded one of the great Orthodox Christian monasteries. He and I are both born and raised as Orthodox Christians, and beyond that we have little in common. My soul and his soul may (if I'm extremely lucky) cross paths somewhere outside time and space. His spiritual expertise is double-black-diamond expert, and not meant, I don't believe, as common fodder for the ordinary and simple souls of this world. Did he write his autobiography as a road map, or to convey an important message?

     The Orthodox faith is not founded on concern for ourselves and our personal tally of spiritual success. Self-focused faith is of little value . . . and pouring over deep spiritual writings of an expert may lead to dangerous self-deception. You are what you are, and God sees it all as it is. Thinking my soul is on a path parallel to Archimandrite Sophrony, (even if I can read his book purchased from the back-of-the-church bookstore for fifteen dollars) misses the point he makes clearly time and again:

                          "Love's first step is toward God; the second, towards his neighbor."                        

                                               ( Archimandrite Sophrony, Sakharov, 1988, p. 72)

      I cannot understand faith which skips over essential steps at the beginning and launches itself into the realm of saints. But most of all I'm confused by Orthodoxy as a pretense for a Faith concerning ourselves.

    Simple thoughts from my simple soul . . .

        Yours, Prudence


  Concerning Ourselves with Others  

23 August 2010

Dear Souls -

       With a heart of Love . . .

    But, here lies a path towards wisdom.

        Yours, Prudence


  Our American Orthodoxy  

24 August 2010

Dear Souls -

      If I were much wiser I would avoid this topic entirely, but I'm committed to sharing my perspectives on Orthodoxy in the truest and least offensive way possible. I was blessed with the Orthodox faith at birth, and my family is deeply rooted in Orthodoxy. But I am an American by birth and raised in a country which is mostly not Orthodox Christian. If you are not Orthodox Christian by birth, then you started out, most likely, as a Christian of another sort and then converted to the Orthodox faith. And now you, too, are an Orthodox Christian here in a country where the Faith is a minority.

      There are other countries where the Orthodox faith was the primary Christian faith, and if you go back in time to the start of Christianity, then there was only one sort of Christian . . . now there are a gazillion sorts of Christians of all colors, shapes, and sizes. The only sort of Christianity I know and understand well is Orthodoxy. Perhaps I can understand Roman Catholicism a touch because this is another Apostolic faith, but if I wander any distance from those two points, then I'm lost in a deep dark forest. So, for the most part I steer clear, and use the smile and nod approach . . . I listen politely when others ramble on about their sort of Christianity.

       Some sorts of Christianity here in America are loud and correct on all accounts. They do not allow room for the views of other sorts of Christianity, and in general do not want to hear about the Orthodox faith. I know this for a fact because I'm somewhere between the ages of Princess Diana and Mother Teresa, and I have had the opportunity to experience my whole life as a minority Christian. Yes, I too could be a big and loud Christian, but for what purpose? There is room for all here within the Orthodox faith and others will find their way.... When they want to hear, they will listen, and then it will not be a shouting match.

       At the present time here in America, other sorts of Christians are discovering Orthodoxy. And at the same time Orthodox Christians are arriving in America, as they always have, seeking a life where they can freely practice their faith. Orthodox Christians in the twenty-first century are fleeing the countries where Christianity originated, which now have a dwindling Christian population.

       In this country our Christian population includes Orthodox Christians of all different types. We have some from the old country, who are grateful for worship free from persecution in our American Orthodox churches. And we also have some who recently discovered the Orthodox Church, with backgrounds from their previous sort of American Christianity.

      The Orthodox Church: Outgrown Clothes

      This past Sunday I attended Divine Liturgy at an Orthodox parish where many of the parishioners are from the old country. The contrast between this parish and the convert parish I attended last Sunday is stark. The ethnic parishioners were practicing their faith within the traditions of their old country. The atmosphere of the church was relaxed, noisy, and something of a whirlwind. Cellphones rang, people wandered in and out at all times, and the choir was, at most, understated. This church would have driven those parishioners last week back into their cars and across town to the Church with a Cheery Pastor and a loud rock band.
       But this old country church had standing room only. The church was packed full, with people lining the walls in the back without chairs. (They had plenty of unoccupied chairs last week, since everyone stood the whole time . . . maybe we can work out a deal to share the extra chairs?) This hectic old country church exceeded the maximum occupancy sign over the door (160) by enough people to concern even the most casual fire marshal. And I know this church has elaborate plans for expansion, but lacks the funds, permits, moon alignment . . .

        Our American Orthodox Church needs a plan for expansion. We need an identified model for Orthodox growth, or we may enter a phase of stadium Orthodoxy (where you must pre-register online for communion). Is this the American model for Orthodoxy we want, or would we prefer controlled steady growth with an established expansion plan.

        The Orthodox Church here in America is outgrowing its old clothes and needs to go shopping for new garments which fit. Expanding our churches over and over is not the solution. Adding more churches may look less impressive on the outside than big shiny Orthodox domes, but is more effective on the inside. Each church should start a sister church following an identified plan for the growth of Orthodoxy. We must build a business model using the talent and expertise available to us from within our Church. We do not need mega-Orthodox churches. We need lots of small, quaint places for Orthodox worship within the neighborhoods where people live, in addition to the central churches where those fleeing from persecution can gather and connect within the traditions of their old country Orthodox faith.

         Orthodoxy has standing and sitting room for everyone. But if you stand, could you please make sure you are not blocking the view of those who sit?

         And either way . . .

         Love God with all your heart,

         and Love your neighbor, too.

    Simple thoughts from my simple soul . . .

        Yours, Prudence


  Just Because . . .  

27 August 2010

Dear Souls -




















John Mayer - Photographs by Me
                                                                     It is all
                                                                         in the BALANCE

       Simple thoughts from my simple soul . . .

        Yours, Prudence

                                                                                                                                       (Ctrl-Home to reach top of page)