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St. Luke Core Values
By Pearl Homiak

St. Luke parishioners both love God and our fellow man. This was underscored when the results of our Core Values Survey were tabulated and reported (The Evangelist, Summer 2002). But how do we fulfill these core values? To determine this various members of St. Luke parish have gathered on Sundays after Liturgy to "flesh out" the core values. We will present the results of these discussions in the next five issues of The Evangelist.

I. Putting God at the Center of All We Do

What We Know About God. God has a multitude of characteristics, and we found that the more we tried to describe Him, the more difficult it became. We all know He is greater than us. Yet, more than that we know that He is omnipotent (almighty and all-powerful), absolute, and awesome, as well as changeless and perfect. He is holy, divine, eternal, wisdom, and love, while at the same time being loving, forgiving, just, generous, and merciful.

We agree that God is visible and invisible, as well as judging and the performer of miracles. God is everywhere and yet a mystery. He is One God yet Trinity, the alpha-omega (beginning and end), the Way, and the Light. God is Truth, and He saves our souls. He is our Creator, Savior, Protector, Shepherd, and Listener. And this is only a partial list.

Because it is impossible to really know God (to say what He is), the Orthodox Church characterizes Him in negative terms (what God isn't, called apophatic theology): ineffable (unutterable, inexpressible, unspeakable, indescribable, indefinable), inconceivable (unthinkable, unimaginable, unenvisionable), and incomprehensible.

How Do We Know This About God? We first learn about God through human relationships: loving and being loved, joy, sharing, and bearing each other's burdens. But this is only the beginning. "We love [God] because He first loved us" (I John 4:19), and we come to know God through faith (belief, trust, and loyalty). Sometimes we learn this the hard way, such as when wilfullness overtakes common sense. Some of us experience true miracles, perhaps through an unexpected healing. But all of us can continually increase our knowledge of God through prayer and meditation, as well as reading and reflecting on the Bible and other spiritual literature. (It's a lot easier to deeply love someone you know than someone you don't know).How Do We Put God in the Center of All We Do? Surprisingly, the ways are numberless. The most obvious way to put God in the forefront is through prayer. We are actually called to pray constantly (I Thessalonians 5:17). Although this may seem impossible, it becomes more probable as daily focus on God increases.

Prayer and meditation can be done anywhere-at home (morning, mealtime, evening), at work [try bathroom breaks at 9 AM (the Third Hour), 12 Noon (the Sixth Hour), and 3 PM (the Ninth Hour) and pray along the way], while driving, shopping, doing laundry, showering, grooming, etc.

Another way to keep God in the forefront is to praise and glorify Him, and not just at Christmas ("Christ is born! Glorify Him!"). Tell Him He's awesome, changeless, the Way, the Light, and all the other attributes listed above, and do it frequently each day. Also acknowledge His presence in your life: "You always know what I need, Lord"; "You know my needs better than I do"; "You've been so good to me [us]"; and "I can't do anything without You." (We really can't; we often just think we can). Read some of the Psalms out loud to God as you stand in front of your icons at home, especially Psalms 7, 9, 21, 22, 30, 33-35, 40, 42, 43, 51, 56, 63, 66, 67, 69, 71, 89, 95, 100, 102, 104-107, 109, 111-113, 117, 119, 135, 138, and particularly 145-150. This action will change your life!

Listening to Christian programming and music can also be fruitful, as long as they are compatible with Orthodoxy. In addition, The Bible is recorded on audiotapes that can be purchased and played in the car on the way to and from work and other places.

One of the best ways to keep God in the forefront is to develop an "attitude of gratitude." Thank Him constantly. At first it may feel strange, but after awhile it becomes both joyful and calming. Thank him for everything, no matter what. For example, as I drive to work and back, I thank Him for both the green lights (I'm grateful that I can keep going) and the red lights (He knows I need a short rest or that I'm being prevented from involvement in something unpleasant occurring at this moment further up the road). I thank Him for a parking place at the mall (a close place to speed me along my way and a distant place to provide me with exercise). I thank him for safe turns and opportunities to turn in heavy traffic. I also thank him for car trouble (I learn a lot about cars that way) and for lack of car trouble (what a blessing!). I thank Him for cheap gas (it saves me money) and for more expensive gas (which reminds me to keep my eyes open for cheaper gas and/or sometimes walk rather than drive-more exercise again).

Continually thanking God increases awareness of His creation and of the good senses he gave us. It helps us see the good in others, use our gifts to help them, and enjoy life.

There are other ways to keep God in everything we do. When I wash dishes, I often rinse them three times while saying, "Father, Son, and Holy Spirit." Thirteen grapes in my lunch remind me of Christ and the twelve apostles (how "lucky" can an "unlucky number" get?). And I frequently recite the Jesus Prayer during my exercise walks.

Keeping God in the forefront sometimes also involves making tough choices. Turning off inappropriate TV shows (no matter how enticing or "funny"), refusing to gossip or judge other people (that can be tough), or even driving within the speed limit (whew!).

What are the ways that you keep God in the center of all you do? Write them down and transmit them to The Evangelist. Together we can help each other.

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