Summer Sundays – Coming to Church

As the summer heats up, some Christians might be tempted to skip church for a few Sundays so they can enjoy the summer or just recreate as is often good for us to do (see my post Vacation and Recreation).  Some may think vacation is also a good excuse for skipping church.  It is good for us however to remember why we “go to church” in the first place.

This is why the Church assembles weekly in the Eucharist, not merely to offer petitions, but to remind us that communion with God requires sacrifice. Each Sunday we remember all that the Lord has done for us – “the cross, the tomb, the resurrection on the third day, the ascension into heaven, the enthronement at the right hand of the Father, and the second, glorious coming” – and we are moved to eagerly offer everything we have in return, proclaiming, “Thine own of thine own we offer unto you.” (Demetrios S. Katos, “The Foundations of Noetic Prayer”, Thinking Through Faith, p. 64-65)

“Going to church” is offering our life to God and joining all who offer their talents, resources, time and hearts to God.  We enter into communion with our fellow Christians and with our Lord.  We join our sacrifice to His to give thanks to God and to receive the blessings of eternal life.

Vacation and Recreation

One might get the impression from the monastic tradition of the Church that the life of a Christian is all work and no play.  Yet, the monastic tradition is nothing if not brutally honest about what it means to be human – our limits, our foibles, our weaknesses.  So, it shouldn’t be surprising that even in the strict spiritual tradition of the desert fathers we find a story (in several variations) of the human need for rest and relaxation.  The stories of the desert fathers often contain humor in them, or the humor is obvious in the story.  Here is one story where Abba Antony realizes he and the monks are being observed by a layman who is scandalized to see the Abbot jesting with the monks.  The Abbot realizes he needs to soothe the ruffled feathers of the scandalized layman.

There was somebody in the desert hunting wild animals and he saw Abba Antony jesting with the brothers. The elder wanted to convince the hunter that he had to come down to the level  the brothers from time to time. He said to him: “Put an arrow to your bow and draw it.” He did so. He said to him: “Draw again,” and he drew. Again he said: “Draw.” The hunter said to him: “If I draw beyond its capacity my bow will break.”

Said the elder to him: “So is it too with the work of God. If we draw on the brothers beyond their capacity, they will quickly break. So it is necessary to come down to the level of the brothers from time to time.” The hunter was conscience-stricken when he heard this and went his way greatly benefitted by the elder. The brothers withdrew to their place strengthened. (Give Me a Word, pp. 33-34)

While we enter into our summer vacation season, we can appreciate the gift that God gives us to enjoy life, to recreate our hearts and minds.  While it is true we are to continue practicing our faith in every circumstance, we also are to pray, give thanks and rejoice as part of our Christian life (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).  It is true that we cannot take a vacation from God, we still can take a vacation to renew our gratitude to our Creator.

On Recreation

Sunset over the Grand Teton mountains

Even the desert fathers believed it necessary to rest and recreate.  Below is story about St. Anthony defending his fellow monks when they once were observed jesting and enjoying themselves by a man who disapproved of such behavior among monks.

So vacations are time to have some fun while enjoying the blessings of God’s creation, even things millions of years old or extinct!

Some have been brought back from near extinction as humans realized we really can have a negative impact on creation or a positive one – human choices and behavior matter.

Even if God takes millions of years to form things, He has all the time in the world to bring His will to fruition.

The animals themselves seem to enjoy frolicking in God’s creation.

So too we humans enjoy God’s creation and each other’s company.

Grand Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone National Park

Though it was June and we saw plenty of snow, not everything white is ice or snow.  The hot springs make beautiful formations from the minerals they spew forth.

Sunrise at Cooke City, Montana, facing west.

From the desert fathers:

“There was somebody in the desert hunting wild animals and he saw Abba Anthony jesting with the brothers.  The elder wanted to convince the hunter that he had to come down to the level of the brothers from time to time.

He said to him: ‘Put an arrow to your bow and draw it.’  He did so.  He said to him: ‘Draw again,’ and he drew.  Again he said, ‘Draw.’  The hunter said to him: ‘If I draw beyond its capacity my bow will break.’  Said the elder to him: “So it is too with the work of God.  If we draw on the brothers beyond their capacity, they will quickly break.  So it is necessary to come down to the level of the brothers from time to time.’

The hunter was conscience-stricken when he heard this and went his way greatly benefitted from the elder.  The brothers withdrew to their place strengthened.”  (GIVE ME A WORD,  pp 33-34)

You can see all the photos I took on my tour of Yellowstone and environs at  2018 Yellowstone Vacation (just click on any icon to view the set of photos).  You can see a select few photos at Yellowstone Favorites and Vacation Favorites.  Meanwhile, back home our best friends awaited our return:

Visiting Washington, D.C.

Was able to spend a few days with my son in D.C., which was a joy.  

If you want to see a Collection of my Washington Photo Sets, just click on the link and then click on any of the thumbnail photos to enter the sets.  Once in any set the thumbnail versions of the photos of that set are visible.  Click on the Slide Show link in the upper right hand of the screen to see full size versions of the photos in that set.  

A set of various things I saw in DC can be found at Washington DC Sights.

The DC buildings (paid for by we the people!) truly are impressive,

 The Library of Congress is the most ornate, artistic and extravagant building that I saw in my days in the nation’s capitol.  

DC creates an American mythology mixing an endless collection of monuments to American heroes and leaders with  historical figures of fame from the ancient past and mythological gods and goddesses as well as anthropomorphicized virtues and vices.  Power and might is the message, though interestingly enough little of the current president is evident in the city, unlike the cities and states run by dictators which display more images of their current leadership than their past.

We really had a beautiful evening view of the Reflecting Pool, Lincoln & Washington Monuments (DC at Night) complete with a shining full moon on a cloudless night. 

We took the guided tours that were scheduled through Congressman Mike Turner’s (R- OH) office.  We toured the Supreme Court, the Capitol Building and the Library of Congress.  We also did the Bureau of Engraving and Printing.  Each of the tours was informative and worthwhile.   Among other things, I learned that the U.S. hasn’t printed any bills greater than a $100 bill since the mid-1940’s.  Checks and credit cards have made the larger bills obsolete.

 I still find God’s creation and creatures to be the most beautiful to see (The National Zoo, Geckos at the National Geographic, US Botanic Garden).   Geckos are a most versatile and fascinating creature, a wonder of God’s creation and one that has evolved into a wide variety of divergent and adaptable reptiles. 

The orchids at the US Botanic Garden were a joy to look at and had a beautiful fragrance.   As usual I took few of people (none of me) and John makes a cameo in a couple of the photos.  You can view some of my Favorite DC Photos.

Best of all, I got to spend time with my son who was a patient tour guide and made lots of allowances for my making the visit into a photo safari.  We did a lot of walking, and saw an incredible number of things in a few days.

2010 Vacation

Plumeria

I had opportunity for the first time in several years to take a vacation – a time of recreation.

Orthodox Christianity picks up from St. Paul the notion of a new creation – which is not just the restoration of creation to some pre-fallen condition, but the complete renewal of all things in Christ.

A vacation too can renew, give us new eyes and new hope.

Glory Bush

It can help us to see beauty again, which in turn reminds us of the existence of truth, and thus of God.

For me, since purchasing a camera a year or so ago, taking pictures has been very “restorative” and “recreative.”

It has been a good hobby, prompted me to walk a bit more, and to pay attention to the beauty which God has placed in the world all around me.

The Sea with innumerable creatures

I vacationed in order to experience creation anew, to renew my own sense of the Creator, to whom I give thanks for what He has created and allowed me to enjoy.

You can see all of my sets of photos of my vacation at My 2010 Vacation.  Just navigate around the thumbnail pictures and pick whatever set you want to look at.

If you are mostly interested in my floral pictures (my favorite theme), just click on the link, and then once on the page, click on the “slideshow” button to see all of the photos.

If you want to see just a few of my favorite photos (very subjective), click on the link, and then once on the page, click on the “slideshow” button to see all of the photos.

Sunset on the Pacific

If you want to see mostly Julie or myself, click on Julie and Iand then once on the page, click on the “slideshow” button to see all of the photos.

Otherwise you can just navigate around my flickr page to look at whatever you want. 

I share my photos because I think we each are supposed to make something beautiful in the world and then share it with others so that they can see beauty.  I hope that when we see beauty we will reject evil of any and every kind, and embrace and allow ourselves to be embraced by God’s love.

See also my Vacation: Enjoying God’s Creation

Vacation: Enjoying God’s Creation

For the most part Julie and I have been just hanging around.   Like what could possibly go wrong 600 feet above the ocean with a big smiley face over your head?

Otherwise I’m just enjoying God’s beauty in creation.

For those who thought I shouldn’t just take photos of the flora:

That’s about all for now, even good days come to an end, and sometimes spectacularly.

Eventually I will have photos posted to my flickr web page, but that will have to wait for another week.  No use overdoing it on vacation.

See also my Vacation