I'll Come Speak

    I write and speak on all sorts of topics: ancient Christian spirituality and the Eastern Orthodox faith, the Jesus Prayer, marriage and family, the pro-life cause, cultural issues, and more. You can contact Cynthia Damaskos of the Orthodox Speakers Bureau if you’d like to bring me to an event. This Calendar will let you know when I’m in your neighborhood.


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Crucifixion Icon

[NPR, "All Things Considered," November 5, 1997]

Jesus is lying on his side on my dining room floor, leaning against the radiator, balanced up on one finger and one toe like a gymnast. He is flattened, just a sheet of painted wood, and from pointed toe to the tip of his halo he is about four and a half feet tall. For protection, for storage, Jesus is swathed in a blue tablecloth that has been knotted around his ankles and pulled up over his head. When I push it aside I can see his form, a crucified body without a cross. His extended arms are like the wings of a bird; he floats in sorrow, head sunk toward one shoulder, eyes shut, face washed with death.

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Bible Misquotes

[NPR, "All Things Considered," October 6, 1997]

I was thumbing through a high-brow magazine the other day and came across an interesting essay on the virtue of Hope. But before I'd finished the first page I caught them in an embarassing blooper. The author stated that hope is ranked alongside faith and love in the 23rd psalm.

In case you didn't catch the faux pas, run through the 23rd psalm in your mind--you probably memorized it in kindergarten. Yes, "the Lord is my shepherd is there," and the part about the valley of the shadow of death, but there's no mention of faith, hope, and love. For that, you have to flip to the other end of the Bible, to St. Paul's first letter to the Corinthians. In his famous meditation on love in chapter 13, he writes, "So faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love." --Now, does it ring a bell?

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Free Love Didn't Come Cheap

[Christianity Today, October 6, 1997]

In the middle of the room there was a woodburning stove. The small iron door was open on this chilly day, and the red flames could be seen leaping within as if in time to music. For there was music, too, a marching song, and the little girls who circled the stove marched around it in time. The girls were not happy.

Each girl was holding in her arms her favorite doll. One by one, each girl marched up to the open door of the stove. One by one, each girl threw her doll into the "angry-looking flames."

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Clipboard Ladies, Forward March

[Books & Culture, September-October 1997]

I was an easy mark. As a comfy-dressed middle-aged lady in tennis shoes, ambling through the mall a little after noon, I clearly was not a lawyer in clickety heels on a tight lunchhour, not a harried mom with a chocolate-smeared toddler. As I rounded the bend by the fountain I walked right into a swarm of Clipboard Ladies, and was snared.

"Would you have a moment to answer a few questions?" asked one, zooming up to me with a perma-prest smile.

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Truth and Beauty

[NPR, "All Things Considered," June 24, 1998]

He was an Episcopal priest, but he was standing in an Eastern Orthodox church on this Saturday night and thinking about Truth. At the altar a gold-robed priest strode back and forth swinging incense, moving in and out the doors of the iconostasis according to rubrics that were as yet unfamiliar. Golden bells chimed against the censer, and the light was smoky and dim. Over to the left a small choir was singing in haunting harmony, voices twining in a capella simplicity. The Truth part was this: the ancient words of this vesperal service had been chanted for more than a millenium. Lex orandi, lex credendi; what people pray shapes what they believe. This was a church that had never, could never, apostatize.

She was his wife, and she was standing next to him thinking about her feet. They hurt.

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Embarassment's Perpetual Blush

[Christianity Today, July 14, 1997]

* Selected for Best Spiritual Writing 1998 *

 As I saw my children swept up into the night sky I knew I had made a terrible mistake. I held the baby in my arms, but the two older ones--Megan, 7, and David, 4--were locked behind the bar of a ferris wheel in a shopping-center carnival. They had begged and clamored until I agreed to let them board the contraption but now, as they rose into the night, they panicked and began to scream. David's little legs were kicking as he skidded sideways on the slick metal seat. I saw how easily he could slip beneath the narrow bar and fall to the asphalt below.

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Why Humans Mate

[Adapted from Real Choices, Conciliar Press, 1997]

Glance around any room where people are gathered and a curious pattern emerges: they tend to be in pairs. At a church, a concert, a movie theater, a male head is usually near a female head of roughly the same age. Other creatures gather in herds or flocks, or peel off as solitary loners, but humans prefer the couple bond. They gravitate toward it naturally; it’s how they seem to want to go through life. Why?

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Thrift Shop Treasures

[NPR, "All Things Considered," May 20, 1997]

I've walked a hundred miles in another woman's shoes, and I don' t even know her name. I've ironed her blouse, hemmed her skirt, and carried her handbag. She's not one person, but a composite of dozens, women of all ages and races and creed.

But there is one thing they all had in common: they were all mostly my size.

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The Dilemmas of a Pro-Life Pastor

[Christianity Today, April 7, 1997]

In his darkened office Pastor Stan put his head in his hands. It had been a difficult phone call, and Marcia was beginning to cry when he hung up. The baby, in the background, was already crying. Usually, the baptism of a baby is a joyful part of the Sunday service, but this time Pastor Stan had said no. Marcia wasn't married, so he had told her it would be a private ceremony. To put her and her baby up in front of everybody, as if it were the same as any other family, just seemed wrong. The church would be practicing make-believe morality, looking the other way. It would mean pretending sin wasn't wrapped all around this situation.

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[NPR, "All Things Considered," March 31, 1997]

I don't think I want personal advice from gas pumps. The other day, while standing at a self-serve pump, I heard the machine give a peremptory beep. I turned around and, in the tiny screen that usually offers specials on soft drinks, this message was reeling by:

"Each Day Silently Affirm That You Are The Type Of Person With Whom You Would Want To Spend The Rest Of Your Life. Each Day Silently Affirm That You Are The Type Of Person With Whom You Would Want To Spend The Rest Of Your Life. Each Day Silently Affirm..."

I was moved to some affirmations that weren't all that silent.

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