A Safe Place to Entrust Your Support

Tragedies take place. Our great nation responds with generosity and grace to those in need.  In response to tragedies, Americans offer phenomenal amounts of support, financially and beyond.  Statistics support this claim, as does my personal experience from living through Hurricane Harvey.

A greater tragedy is born when that support is taken advantage of by charlatan organizations that prey on American good-will and absorb donations for their own benefit.  Statistics indicate, and personal experience illumines a reality that many large scale, well-known, self-proclaimed charity organization maintain overhead costs over 40%, 50% and 60%! Where are our dollars going?

There is a sage place to entrust your support!

International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC)

IOCC responds to human need, including tragedies across the globe.  With over 25 years of history, IOCC has maintained overhead costs at a level less than 10%. Furthermore, IOCC engages both public and private grants to address human need — to the point that every dollar offered by an individual (you and me) translates to over $10 of aid.  IOCC is a tremendous non-profit that transcends the experience of charity organization into a beautiful experience of Christian ministry!

I value the experience of IOCC to the extent that I send monetary donations to them, and I offered 9 years of service to IOCC as an executive board member from 2008-2017.  I do not promote IOCC because I was a board member and I am a supporter… I promote IOCC, I served as a board member and I give money because I trust IOCC and believe in what it does!

In response to the fires in California, in response to the fires in Greece, in response to human need — you can entrust your support to the IOCC!

Opportunity & Hope

Hope is the fuel of Christian pilgrimage.  We should all be focused on hope…

Liberty assumes and finds breath in the experience of hope rooted in opportunity.  Simply stated, where there is opportunity, hope is fueled and people excel!

Our great nation is the product of individuals’ innate and powerful yearning for hope — so desired and valued that they fought, struggled and bled in order to secure the experience of opportunity for future generation so that they too may hope.  As a result, the dynamism and impact of the United States of America!

The past several generations, generations like mine that have never truly experienced need, yet are fully immersed in desire, have been impacted by a challenging ideal — that our society is expected to provide results to individuals, rather than an opportunity to achieve those results.  Blatantly articulated by former President Obama, who while speaking recently in South Africa introduced the idea of universal income, where the government provides income to individuals even though they have not worked for it.  A guaranteed result, rather than a guaranteed opportunity.  Providing opportunity was the bedrock securing liberty in America, how can we skip the stage of opportunity?

I fear that voiding the experience of opportunity and moving ahead to guaranteed results has and will continue to instigate a dormancy of stewardship amongst citizenry.  How could the words of Khalil Gibran (made famous by President Kennedy) be appreciated or honored: “Ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.”  

Without engaging opportunity at a foundational level, it would be exceedingly difficult to truly invest in hope.  Without struggle, there is no victory.  Without the Cross there is no Resurrection.  Absent this lineage of thought, it is easy to understand my generation’s (and those immediately before & all those after) confusion with needs and desires.  How it is possible for a teen to throw a temper tantrum because they do not have the latest iPhone, how a recent college grad assumes they have been discriminated against because they were not provided a corner office after the first month on the job, and how the nanny-state has grown in a country founded on the idea of liberty.

But…  we can find examples that go against this trend.  I was so pleased to have read a recent article about a young man who walked 20 miles to his first day of work because his car broke down and he did not want to miss his first day!  He valued the opportunity of employment to such an extent that nothing would hold him back — truly an American experience!

Side Note: the article articulates that in the wee hours of the mornings, local police saw the young man walking, picked him up, bought him breakfast and gave him a ride.  Support our men & women in BLUE, they support us!

Bravo to this young man!  He engaged the opportunity to work, did it with great honor, and the results came.  To the point that his boss actually gifted him his own car!

Even indirectly, when opportunity is valued prior to the expectation of results — hope abides.  The proof: thanks to this young man, I grow in my hope for this great nation, which I am blessed to call home.

Will the Saints Get Involved in Politics?

The world has been focused on the summit between President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.  Depending upon which media source one trusts — many people are polarized as to their support and expectations of this meeting.  I say that most people’s thoughts are fueled by the media source that they trust, because most people are unaware of how to build their own thoughts and opinions anymore.  We living in an age and society where information is the most easily accessible that it has ever been, so accessible that knowledge is rarely earned anymore.  In the pursuit of knowledge we have become apathetic.  We have become content with opinions and conviction based upon a few minutes of google searching and the voice of a likable opinion commentator.  Don’t believe me?  Go talk to a protester on the street, protesting any topic, and ask a substantive question about their grievance… you will believe me afterward.  It is a sad irony. Endless information is within reach, and we shun it, choosing rather to favor someone else’s internet assembled thesis.  Plato, the Apostle Paul, and Thomas Jefferson are all shaking their heads.

Might I suggest another source?

I am a firm believer that knowledge to be applied is knowledge that must be earned.  I encourage everyone to read a book a week (at least per month) from diverse disciplines and begin arming yourselves with earned knowledge to engage the world!  But, there is another way to engage that has great impact…

Prayer. Let’s even ask the saints to get involved.

Rooted in Scripture (John 2:1-12) and countless experiences from history, Christians affirm that God responds when one intercedes for another.  When the one interceding is a saint — a holy person by virtue of their union with God — He truly responds.

July 15th was the feast day of both Saint Donald and Saint Vladimir. The patron saints of those named Donald and Vladimir… making any connections here?  I am certain that President Trump draws upon his personal history as a negotiator and businessman, together with briefings from multiple experts in preparation for these meetings.  I am certain that President Putin draws upon his training as a KGB agent, political history and advice from advisors in preparation for these meetings.  I do not know if either of them rely upon prayer, or ask the saints for guidance and help.  What I do know is that we all have the ability to pray and to ask the saints to get involved.

Yesterday, I asked Saints Donald and Vladimir to somehow get involved in these meetings, so that some kind of productive benefit may come from the meeting of these world leaders — in a way that benefits God’s people.  It does not need to be on my terms, or even in a way that I can discern; I simply asked that they pray to God that His people may somehow benefit from this summit.

In every Divine Liturgy, we ask the Lord to guide our civic leaders, so that through their good works we may lead peaceful and serene lives.  I believe that we need all the help we can get, and in addition to the prayers of the Divine Liturgy, I will keep asking the saints to get involved as well!

Will the saints get involved in politics?  That depends… will you ask them to?

Book Recommendations

I am frequently asked for recommendations on books, especially books that pertain to Orthodox Christianity.  Here are a few books that I recommend for select reasons…

Introductory Book to Orthodox Christianity: Introducing the Orthodox Church, by Father Anthony Coniaris.  Father Coniaris has written over 100 books, all of which make tremendous connection between the reader and the practical experience of Orthodox Christianity. I highly recommend anything that he has written!

Historical Introduction to the Orthodox Church: The Orthodox Church, by Bishop Kalistos (Timothy) Ware.  This is a classic introduction to the Orthodox Christian Church through a historical lens.  I also recommend, The Orthodox Church (Denominations in America), by Father Thomas Fitzgerald.  This book provides one of the only researched accounts of the Orthodox Christian Church’s history in North America.

Growing into a Deeper Understanding of the Faith: The Mountain of Silence, by Kyriacos Markides. This personal account of pilgrimage tells the story of a journey from an experience of ‘cultural orthodoxy’ to a more substantive experience of the faith.  Becoming Orthodox: A Journey to the Ancient Christian Faith, by Father Peter Gillquist, tells the story of coming to the Orthodox Christian Church from an American Protestant background.

Something a Bit ‘Deeper:’ Soul Mending, by Father Deacon John Chryssavgis.  The first time I read this book I began underlining each part that i wanted to return to later for deeper thought and contemplation… after 10 pages I found that I had underlined almost every sentence!  Once again, Father Chryssavgis offers a refreshing expression of Christianity that is joyous and makes you want to work harder at being a better Christian.  The Sacrament of Love, by Paul Evdokimov.  This book is a tremendous examination at the experience of love and personhood.  Be prepared, it is written in typical European style – sentences can last for paragraphs, and the concepts are deep. You may need to read and reread sentence after sentence, but if you are willing to stretch yourself this book is tremendous!

From time to time I will offer a few book titles that I recommend on varied topics. For now, enjoy these classics and let me know what you think!  Happy reading!

International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) Responds to Crisis World-Wide

IOCC is one of the leading Non-Government Organizations (NGO) in the experience of charities.  For almost 25 years, IOCC has been actualizing the work of the Gospel by serving/loving those in need, in multiple corners of the world!

Currently IOCC is ministering in several countries, including our own!  Look at the following examples of how IOCC is living the Gospel currently at home and abroad:
In response to the floods in Louisiana:


In response to migrant crisis Syria:


To learn more about Internation Orthodox Christian Charities, visit: www.iocc.org

Trust the Tall Guys

While growing up, my father would consistently tell me to ‘stand up tall,’ as ‘height is a gift from God!’  As I continued to climb the height chart at school, I would take note of historic figures who were tall – always impressing me was my favorite founding father of our great nation – President George Washington, who stood a minimum of 6’2”, which was impressive in his day.  Yes, I know that one of our great state’s founding fathers, Governor Samuel Houston, stood 6’6” tall, but we have to remember… everything is bigger down here in Texas!

At first President Washington impressed me with his physical stature.  As I got older, he impressed me with his military leadership, and political savvy.  As I mature, President Washington impresses me with example of dedication to a foundation of faith in God.

Each day, even when entertaining heads of state, President Washington would move to a quite space where he would dedicate himself to prayer.  A man who was in a position to be adored, if not worshipped, by a country, humbled himself to bended knees twice daily – recognizing that only with a foundation of faith in God could he lead the blossoming experience of America!  Perhaps the extra effort that it took a man standing 6’2” tall to prostrate himself helped to remind him of his dependency on God?

6’2 isn’t bad.  Imagine what President George Washington could have done if he was 6’6” (like Governor Houston), or even 6’9”!

Tired of the Circus?

The political landscape of our great nation is tiresome, and perhaps at times, frustrating.  Regardless of political stance, it is difficult in today’s environment to maintain a ‘glass is half full’ mentality given the sophomoric and non-substantive discourse being offered.

Circulating the internet over the last several months is a quote being attributed to General George S. Patton, “Politicians are the lowest form of life on earth.” I have been unable to confirm if General Patton actually said this, however, perhaps the very fact that this quote is being circulated as of late reflects the general public’s disgust with the political system and those nourishing themselves through it?  Even to the point where outlier candidates are receiving some traction, and a new television documentary covering the 2016 Presidential Election is titled, “The Circus.”

Although I advocate staying informed in our local society and vesting oneself as an educated voter, I do warn that seeking eternal integrity, or even consistency, in politics is a prescription for depression.

There is good news however… each Sunday morning you have the opportunity to journey to a place and experience where we may invest our hope, and find the doorway to eternal good!  Do not despair, maintain hope!  Bring your hope to Saint Basil the Great Greek Orthodox Church this Sunday at 10AM for the celebration of the Divine Liturgy.

Through our shared experience of the Divine Liturgy we may invest our hope and evoke the only real change that will improve our lives!