This is a guest post from Fr. Anthony St Shenouda – a Coptic Orthodox monk from the monastery of St. Shenouda in Australia (who happens to have a great first name!).  Fr. Anthony works with a group called Asaph Tunes – a group that produces contemporary Christian music with Orthodox teaching.  You can read more about their work and their upcoming projects by checking out their kickstarter page.  If you too are interested in guest posting on my blog, please visit my Guest Post guidelines for more info.

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A young lady once asked if she could take a selfie with me.  After agreeing and getting ready for the picture, I noticed she was uncomfortable.  I asked if she is ok and she replied “Can we swap sides because this is not my good side?” At first I thought she was joking, but quickly realized she wasn’t!

In the first chapter of St. Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians, he highlights for us the believers, whom he calls saints, our calling in Christ.  After he tells us that we have been chosen before the foundation of the world, he continuous in verse 4:  “That we should be holy and without blame before him in love.”

So He chose us not for destruction or to send us to hell, but to be “holy and without blame” – that is how He sees us, “holy and without blame”.  He doesn’t focus on your faults or sins but He sees you as “holy and without blame”.

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Usually when I sit down to write a blog post, I start with the question “what is God teaching me these days?”  I’ve always felt that the purpose of my blog isn’t to TEACH you anything, but rather to SHARE what God is teaching me.

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So usually I look for the most interesting lessons to share – practical things that people enjoy reading about like How I Organize My Time and The One Skill You Need to Make Relationships Last and The Word You’ll Never Hear Me Say in Church.

I generally look for topics that are both interesting and lacking in people’s lives.

Today however, I’m writing about a topic that I don’t think you need to hear about.  You don’t need to read about it.  You don’t need to hear a sermon about it.  In fact, when it comes to this particular topic, I’ll bet you already know all the answers and could spit them out without any help from me.

The lesson God is teaching me these days is about PRAYER – a topic that we talk/read/hear much about, but unfortunately DO very little with.

Because prayer is something that I am not particularly good at and I often struggle to do consistently, God usually sends me a clear message every so often to get me back on track.   That message came to me at the end of the summer as I was preparing for the new year and was then confirmed by my father of confession in my most recent visit to him a few days later.

The overarching message can be broken down into three sub-messages.

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Kicked off an exciting new series at The Well yesterday, CROWNS OF GLORY: Lessons from an Orthodox Wedding Ceremony.  In this series, we’ll take a look at the rites and rituals of an Orthodox wedding and see what lessons the Church is trying to teach us through them.

Lesson #1:  Every wedding is actually a funeral.  

That’s not a typo, nor is it a joke.  It’s the truth.  If you aren’t ready to die then you aren’t ready to be married.

What does that mean?  Check out the video above and see for yourself.

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I AM BACK!  And I’ll be on Periscope LIVE today at 12:30 pm EST to discuss today’s post and answer your questions. Be sure to download the app and follow me at FrAnthony to join in the conversation.

Have you ever seen those stickers on cars that say 13.1?  Or 26.2?  I recently learned that those stickers (or magnets if you’re in the 21st century) signify that the person who owns it has run either a marathon (26.2 miles) or a half marathon (13.1 miles).  I never knew that.  But I do now.  Why?

BECAUSE I JUST RAN A HALF MARATHON BABY!  BOO YAH!!!!!

That’s right.  As of last Saturday, this now 40-year-old-senior-citizen-priest officially earned the right to carry one of those 13.1 magnets by completing my first half marathon race.  I actually did it!

But before you go thinking that I did anything special, let me be clear that saying I “ran” a half marathon is a bit misleading.  I ran the first 9 miles with little to no problem; but the last 4 was a different story.

The unfortunate combination of high temperatures (high of 94), extreme humidity (you could feel the grossness from the early morning) and an unshaded running path led me to finish those last 4 miles with a run-walk combination that cost me about 12 minutes in terms of my finish time (not that I’m bitter or anything 🙂 ).

But placing that aside, the point is that I finished the race (thank You God!) and now it’s over.  I set the goal of running a half marathon back in January and I’ve been training diligently close to 6 months.  Now that it’s over, it’s time to share some lessons learned.

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The Mind of the Martyrs

September 12, 2016 — Leave a comment

I may not be able to bring light to THE world;
but I can certainly bring light to MY world.

Yesterday we celebrated the start of a new year according the calendar of the Coptic Orthodox church.  And during this yearly celebration, we always remember the martyrs who died for the sake of the Christian faith.

But what can we learn from those martyrs today?  Do we just honor them for dying and that’s it?  Or is there more?

That was our topic in The Well yesterday – as we looked at the mindset which the martyrs had and how we need to acquire a similar one.  We also looked at a modern day example of someone who has that same mindset and is getting ready to display it in an AMAZING way.

Be sure to watch till the end so you see for yourself.  Trust me; it’s a “once-in-a-lifetime” kind of thing.

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Learning to Blame God

September 7, 2016 — 19 Comments

Certain passages in the Bible always touch my heart – no matter how many times I read them.  Genesis 45 is one of those passages.  It’s the account of when Joseph finally comes face-to-face with his brothers and confronts them with the sin they had committed against him years earlier.

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A quick recap of the story.  Joseph’s family was kind of a dysfunctional one.  He was the second youngest of twelve brothers.  Those ten older brothers didn’t care much for Joseph.  He was somewhat of a brat – an annoying little brother who always got special treatment from their father.

“But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him and could not speak peaceably to him.”  Genesis 37:4

They didn’t like him.  And gradually their dislike turned to anger.  Anger to hatred.  And hatred to murder.

“Now when they saw him [Joseph] afar off, even before he came near them, they conspired against him to kill him.  Then they said to one another, “Look, this dreamer is coming!  Come therefore, let us now kill him and cast him into some pit; and we shall say, ‘Some wild beast has devoured him.’”  Genesis 37:18-19

Uhhh…that’s not good.  Look, I got two brothers and we used to get into fights when we were younger; but there were limits!  We never used weapons.  We never tried to injure one another. And we never threw each other in pits and left one another for dead.  Period.  Those are the rules.

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I’m away on travel once again this week so no new post and no scope today either.  I’m in western Pennsylvania for my second annual week of residency as part of the seminary program I began back in 2014.  Below is a post I wrote after finishing my first week of residency last year about my “lessons learned” from a week back in class.  Hope you enjoy!

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This week was a trip back in time for me.  Since graduating college in 1998, it’s been 17 years since I’ve lived as a student – going to classes, sleeping in a dorm, and best of all, eating cafeteria food for an entire week!

But that’s what this week was for me.  I spent the week at the Antiochian Village in rural western Pennsylvania as part of a seminary program through the Antiochian House of Studies.  The program is mainly a distance study, but does involve one week of residency every year.

So for the past five days, it was like 1998 once again.

  • Classes all day – from 9:30 am – 10:00 pm, with no more than an hour break at any point in time.
  • Sharing a dorm room with two other guys – but thankfully we at least had the luxury of having them give us fresh towels and clean the bathroom daily.  If not, I don’t think we would have survived.
  • And best/worst of all… my true weakness in life… CAFETERIA FOOD!  As much as I love such fine delicacies as bacon cheeseburgers and “seafood mac and cheese” (don’t knock it till you try it), I think I’m ready to go back to a slightly healthier way of eating.

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