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From the Hearth: Preserving Our Most Precious Gifts

By Keidi Lewis
September 2017, The Word

There are many compelling reasons to become more like Christ and to live out His love. Worthy reasons abound: for the good of mankind, to become sanctified, to heal others with Christ’s love, to draw nearer to other parish members, to strengthen our marriages. In most of these areas I have been able to “fake it,” doing the right thing, being good. It is possible to create a reasonable facsimile of Christ-like behavior, without allowing Christ to do any transforming. I could cheat, and have done for most of my life—until I had children. I am blessed with three daughters, who are God’s sweetest gifts to me and the most terrifying inspiration. For them, I have to know Christ; to them, I have to show Christ.

Recently I sat down to write an informative article about keeping our children in the Orthodox Faith, because the greatest hope we have for our children is that they follow Christ in His Church throughout their lives. My purpose was to research my way to Godly children. I looked at how to increase the factors that are statistically relevant in who stays Orthodox and why or why not. I’m not sure what I was reading at the time, but it must have been scholarly journals because what I churned out was on the boring side of a scholarly journal. The article was full of practical steps to take, statistics on the habits and beliefs of people who call themselves Orthodox Christians, and what statistics show about young people who chose the faith of their parents. There are oodles of data out there, easily found, mostly from Protestants, about why people stay in or leave their childhood faith.

In a nutshell for those curious about the research, kids who keep the faith: 1. Have parents who stay married, talk about their faith during the week, and attend church weekly; 2. Understand their faith, have a strong understanding of what they believe and are not easily theologically shaken--and if their beliefs are challenged, they have a trusted person available to answer questions and discuss doubts; 3. Stay in the habit of going to church once they leave their parents’ house. I added my two-cents to the mix, saying that we have to put our children first in our lives, for we are their picture of God as they grow. We are teaching them who God is with our behavior and in every interaction. We must gather them to us and connect with them at every opportunity, so that their bond with us is stronger than their bond with the world. Worth mentioning are things that do not appear to be a factor in who continues in their Orthodox faith, things like being homeschooled (or not), or church school attendance. My “article” was full of practical steps and statistics--and maybe there is a place for them-- but like so many things in Orthodoxy, the answer is much simpler.

What it comes down to is us, the parents, godparents, and parishes who desire our children to stay Orthodox, becoming more Christ-like. So simple and so difficult, too. But I’m a practical steps kind of person! Is there a checklist, please? Not so, except that we’ve got to get our ducks in a row from an earnest desire to live like Christ, to love like Christ, to keep our focus ever on Him, praying constantly and utilizing the tools of the Church and Her sacraments to help transform us. We must allow God’s love to chip away at the granite in our hearts and the deluding blinders on our eyes. I want to be a humble, peaceful, discerning parent: patient, full of love, forgiving, joyful, kind, responsive to the Holy Spirit, and Christ-like. What child could resist that divine grace and love?

“Become more Christ-like” is the essence of—and answer to—most of the Orthodox Christian struggle. Marriage problems? Become more Christ-like. Parenting issues? Turn to God and your child will follow. Trouble within the parish? Become more Christ-like, for as Abba Dorotheos of Gaza said about believers: “The closer they are to God, the closer they become to one another; and the closer they are to one another, the closer they become to God.” Want to evangelize? Become more Christ-like. St. Seraphim of Sarov told us to: “Acquire the Spirit of Peace and a thousand souls around you will be saved.” Focused on improving yourself? Impossible! That’s moralistic, keeping score. Stop, and focus on becoming more like Christ.

The way to become more Christ-like is luckily not a mysterious secret. It does take effort, but it is not hard-hard, it’s easy-hard--if we let Christ take over.  It requires movement, turning again and again toward God. It requires asceticism--not the dragging-prayer-rope, dour thing I previously thought was asceticism-- but true asceticism: training our souls to meet God in prayer, as if preparing for an athletic event.The Church Fathers agree. Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnika said: “It is of great significance if there is a person who truly prays in a family. Prayer attracts God’s Grace and all the members of the family feel it, even those whose hearts have grown cold. Pray always.” (On Family Life, pg. 81)My parish priest, Fr. Nathan Thompson, doesn’t know the source but is sure that he didn’t say: “Parents should talk to God about their kids more than they talk to their kids about God.” Kablammo!Newly-canonized St. Porphyrios says, “Speak to God and God will speak to their hearts.”  (On the Upbringing of Children. 203) We can forge our kids’ hearts with our prayers.

Father Noah Bushelli writes: “The witness of history and the wisdom of the holy ones reminds us that we need to be pouring our parental fears not into our children’s pure hearts, but into the bottomless abyss of God’s love in Christ and His Saints.”  He paraphrases St. Porphyrios teaching on sanctity and prayer in parenting: “Words hammer the ears; but prayer hammers the hearts.” Ultimately, we know that our children have and will exercise their God-given free will as they decide their own faith. Hopefully by the time they are ready to do so, our prayers will have hammered their hearts into vessels of God’s love. I have to curb my tendency to think:  “Yeah, yeah. Prayer is good, but what am I going to DO!?” For my daughters, I’m going to pray. I’m going to pray for them, and pray for all the children in my church, and beyond. I’m going to pray for myself, that God would purify and illumine my heart, that I would reflect Him more clearly to my dearest ones. Prayer is the essential thing. It’s how we become more Christ-like. If we want our children to grow up and choose Orthodox Christianity for themselves, we will focus our eyes on Christ, spend time in prayer, and only then become more like Him, giving our children a clear path to follow as we journey towards our Savior.

Keidi Lewis, wife, mother of three, and an educator, is a parishioner of Ss. Peter and Paul, Ben Lomond, CA, and writes for the Department of Homeschooling.  She welcomes conversation and feedback at



“Orthodox Christians.” Pew Research Center. 2014 Religious Landscape Study,

“Study says only 18 percent of Christian kids abandon their faith when they leave home.” Beliefnet News.

“Why are so many young people falling away from the faith?” Question of the Week:

Saint Porphyrios, Wounded by Love.  Evia, Greece: Denise Harvey, 2006.

Stetzer, Ed. “Drop Out or Hiatus? Dropouts and Disciples: How many students are really leaving the church?” Christianity Today. May 14, 2014

Shtrbulovich, Elder Thaddeus. Our Thoughts Determine Our Lives. Platina, CA: St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, 2009.

Wheeler, Eric. Dorotheos of Gaza: Discourses and Sayings. The Sixth Instruction;That We Should Not Judge Our Neighbor. Cistercian Publications, 1978.