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My God Loves Me

April 19, 2014

Yesterday was Good Friday.

I went through my day doing my typical Good Friday things (yes, I have things that occur most Good Fridays)–wondering what in the world the kids were doing up so early on a non-school day…..strawberry picking….wildflower admiring….rushing to make said strawberries into jam before it was time to leave for church…and church.

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On the way back from the strawberry patch, the kids were happily occupied on electronic devices.  I plugged my headphones into my phone and queued up The Garden by the Liturgists.

A week or so ago, Rachel Held Evans mentioned on her blog that she did a reading for The Garden.  I discovered on iTunes that The Garden is a series of three of mediations and songs, followed by a long contemplative prayer.  It looked interesting to me, so I downloaded it.  Being Good Friday and all, I listened to Friday and it’s accompanying song.  Then I skipped to the 19 minute contemplative prayer.

It was at this time that I learned that driving does not bide itself well to true contemplative prayer.  I quickly decided to modify the speaker’s instructions to “be free of distractions” and to “close your eyes.”  I chose to get us home safely rather than following all of his directions.  However, since everyone was happily occupied, I went ahead with the mediation–doing so with my eyes open and distractions abounding.

Breathe in–fill me with God’s love.  Breathe out—send God’s love out into the world.  Breathe in–fill me with God’s love.  Breathe out–send God’s love out into the world.

My God loves me.  My God loves me.  My God loves me.  My God loves me.  My God loves me.  My God loves me.  My God loves me.  My God loves me.  My God loves me.

What a fitting mantra for that Good Friday.

That evening we attended church with a service of only scripture and music–no mediations, not homily’s–just scripture and music.  We raised our voices in song, surveying the wondrous cross and acknowledging that it was us–me, myself in fact, that crucified Thee.  The candles were extinguished as the natural light faded as well, the church slowly darkening between unlit candles and the setting sun.

I left the service with scripture echoing through my head–Jesus, remember me when you come into my kingdom…..My God, my God, why have you forsaken me…..Father, forgive them….It is finished.  I knew, when I solemnly and silently, left the sanctuary that it was my sins that killed Jesus.  I am no different than the Pharisees, even though I would like to think I am better than them.  There was no choice but for Jesus to die because of me and the rest of humanity.  He died because I am a sinner.  I left, asking for Jesus to remember to me, asking for God to have mercy on me, a sinner.

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From the service, Curtis and I headed to the labyrinth behind the church.  I walked slowly, arms crossed across my chest, feeling shameful for my humanity.  I looked down at the path I was supposed to take, looking up just to navigate around the tree.  Oh God, have mercy on me, a sinner.  Remember me, Jesus, when you come into your kingdom.  Oh, the feelings, pressing down on my shoulders, pressing me into the earth.  Oh God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

As I walked though, my mantra from earlier in the afternoon started seeping in.  My God loves me.  My God loves me.  My God loves me.  My God loves me.

It’s true, I realized.  My God loves me, even though I am totally human, sinning regularly through my words, my actions, and my thoughts, through the things I have done and the things I have left undone.  That very evening, on the way to service, I felt an awful lot like Peter when a non-Christian neighbor asked me where we headed out to for the evening (we had a sitter).  I replied dinner—I couldn’t admit to a church service on Friday night….so much like Peter in the garden of Gethsemane.  My God loves me.  I let my arms fall to my sides, walked with more confidence, and looked around at the deer that came to join us at dusk at the labyrinth.

I don’t quite understand how Jesus’s resurrection proves the love of God.  I just know it does, just like I know his death proves his love.  Instead of getting rid of those sinners roaming around Israel at the time, Jesus died.  Jesus could have called down the power of the heavens (like in the Old Testament) and caused plagues or darkness or any number of things to wipe out everyone who sinned against him.  Jesus could have responded in violence and anger.  Yet he didn’t.  His words towards the end were, “Father, forgive them,” not “Father, smite them down, every last one of them who have broken your laws.”  He treated the sinners who recognized him and who accepted fully their humanity with gentleness and love.

My God loves me.  I don’t know how.  I can’t explain it, but I know that’s the lesson to be had in Good Friday.  My God loves me.

Wrestling with Holy Week

April 17, 2014

DSC_2670Over the past four months, I’ve realized something about myself.

Jesus makes me uncomfortable.

I love the Bible, as I’ve written many, many times.  I love praying the Psalms, I am convicted and reassured by the prophets, and I approach the laws of the Torah (first five books of the Old Testament) with curiosity.  I know I am a beloved child of God  and that I was created to worship God, love God, and love others.

Holy Week though?  Those last chapters of the books of the Gospels?  They make me unsure.

Ann Voskamp wrote recently about falling in love with Jesus over and over again.  In her post, she referenced a friend who said she didn’t know if she ever fell in love with  Jesus in the first place.

Was she talking about me?

I didn’t have a dramatic conversion experience.  Falling in love with Jesus seemed as likely as falling in love with my mom and dad.  I grew up knowing I was loved by God.  I knew I was a sinner.  I know I need God’s forgiveness and grace on a daily basis.  I fail to love God with my whole heart.  I fail to love my neighbor as myself.  I need forgiveness for the things I have done and those things I have left undone.  I know God forgives me and there is nothing that can separate me from the love of God.  Nothing. However, I wouldn’t describe my love for Jesus as falling in love over and over.  I love Jesus and God like I love my parents.  I always have.  I always will and it’s not defined my warm, fuzzy feelings and giddiness.

Jesus though?  What of the crucifixion?  What of Jesus’s resurrection from the dead?  What does Holy Week mean?

Can I admit these things?

Earlier in the year, we talked about salvation and the cross in Sunday School class.   Salvation fits into my love of the Bible and God.  Salvation looks like peace in the midst of the storm with images from the Psalms immediately coming to mind:  For God alone my soul waits in silence, for my hope is from him.  He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress.  I shall not be forsaken (Ps. 62:5-6). The monastic in me is comfortable with being in the moment.  I embrace the idea that I am being saved constantly and that I can experience salvation now–not just after I die.  Salvation helps me live like I belong to someone, not like I am roaming aimlessly.  Even Jesus spoke of the Kingdom of Heaven (and salvation) as being here and now–salvation is at hand now….salvation is within you now.  Salvation is living life humbly–recognizing we need God, we can’t do it by ourselves.  If we are queen (or king), we don’t need anyone else.  Salvation reminds us that we do and that all of us do–it is not just extended to me and people like me.  The Kingdom of Heaven is for everyone–the poor, the homeless, the socially unacceptable, those without any power, those who are invisible.  Salvation is being saved from ourselves and our exaggerated sense of self-importance.  Salvation is about being welcomed back into the community where we are all equals, without social or economic hierarchies.DSC_2620

Amazingly, while the concept of salvation and the Kingdom of Heaven challenged me, it was the lesson on the cross that has lingered in my head for months.

What exactly did the Jesus’s death on the cross accomplish?  Was it really necessary?  How has it changed my life?

I struggle to answer these questions.  My darling husband stated in that Sunday School lesson that it was not the will of God for Jesus to be killed.  Jesus was killed because we are imperfect, flawed humans.  We like things to stay how they are.  We don’t like social structures upset.  We don’t like the weak to be called strong, the meek to inherit the earth, or the criminal to be told they will sit with Jesus in heaven.  We like hierarchies and knowing who is and who is out.  We like to be right and to know that we are the chosen people–”they” are not, but we are.  We like to think that the rich and powerful have been given their gifts because God loves them more and they have done the right things.  Jesus disrupted all this thinking and turned things upside.  Of course humans would kill him–he was telling the establishment (society and the religious) that being good and following laws wasn’t enough.  Being rich and powerful wasn’t enough, according to many of Jesus’ teachings.  There’s a reason that prophets were killed and sent to live on the outskirts—loving God and neighbors like Jesus instructs isn’t an easy thing.

While it may not have been God’s will for Jesus to have died, I suspect that there was really no other option for Jesus knowing human nature.  Our pride and desire to maintain the status quo killed Jesus.

But what of the resurrection?  While I believe that Jesus’s resurrection has defeated death and sin, I don’t really understand what that means.  Death’s defeat is one of the most ambiguous things about my theology.  Because I believe our job is to bring the Kingdom of Heaven to earth, I don’t know what that means for the after-life.  I struggle with how Jesus’s resurrection changes my everyday life.

That’s it.

This week I am forced to think about the hard things—cruxifixion…..resurrection….their significance.   I think of how Jesus died, not just on his cross, but without a fight.  The events of Holy Week speak to me more of how I deal with others than of anything else.  I love Easter Sunday–the flowers, the music, the Hallelujah chorus, and trumpets.  I love the packed churches.   Easter is so much more than that though.  That is what I am wrestling with.

 

 

 

Spiritual Practice of Parenting: Loosening my Grip

April 8, 2014

When we were at family camp a couple of weekends ago, I went to the parent devo (devotional for all of us older folks).  As is often the case, I found the crack where the light gets in (to quote Leonard Cohen’s Anthem) to be the comments of some parents instead of the words of the pastor.

In the Atlantic a few weeks ago, there was an article about parenting, specifically about parenting out of fear and over protection.  The author described a place in North Wales, Great Britain called “The Land.”  Kids from the community are allowed to go there without parental supervisor (there is one play worker who is on site to assist as necessary) and create, experiment, and imagine.  This playground isn’t made up of soft surfaces and safe playground equipment.  Instead, the kids play with old tires, boards, retired furniture, and boxes.  Making fires in the fire pit is an acceptable activity for kids.  Sounds unsafe, right?  The synopsis of the article was this:  We are hampering our children’s creativity and independence by managing, scheduling, hovering, and protecting them. (To check out the article, click here.  It’s long, but well worth reading).

One woman at the parent devo referenced this article and another father added his perspective.  It is better, he said, to let our kids take chance and make mistakes now (in the elementary school years) so they have the opportunity to learn how to make good choices.  The risks associated with bad choices now aren’t quite as life changing as some of those choices they are making in middle school, high school (driving a car!!), and college.

As I listened and later read the Atlantic article I thought, “Do I agree or disagree with this?”  and “How does this affect how I am parenting?”  Like so many other middle class parents, I worry and have the tendency to try to control situations my children are involved in.  When we go to the park or someone’s house, I have a hard time letting my middlest in particular play because I worry he will play too rough and hurt someone else.  (He never has seriously hurt someone, by the way.  It was my oldest, my daughter, who broke someone’s collarbone when he came to our house.)  I listen in to their words and remind them all to be gentler.  I make sure my kids always wear their bike helmets when they ride their bikes, don’t climb to high up trees, don’t go around the block by themselves, and am hesitant to let them ride in the back of the truck down a river bed.

Am I really helping my kids though?

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Last weekend, we went camping.  It was a one nighter, so our campsite choices were limited.  We took the site that was given to us and I was unsure at first.  There was huge granite rock right next to the tent pad with few trees (no good climbing trees) and minimal grassy areas.  It was one night and what was available, so that’s where we were.

The kids were absolutely thrilled with the place.  There was a path leading out of the back of the campsite they wanted to explore.  I took a deep breath, told them to stick together and said, “Ok.”  After a bit, they returned, found the hammer, and started busting rocks (no, we didn’t have safety goggles either).  Curtis and I sat by the fire and read our books.  Occasionally I would listen in and hear words like, “pirates,”  “brother and sis,” and know that while the kids were right next to us, they were deep within their own world.  I relaxed into not actively supervising them and realized it was all good.  My kids were old enough to explore together and play together (they’re almost 9, 7, and almost 5).  When we took a picture in the evening light, Curtis told them to sit on a big rock.  “That’s the castle,” John told us.  Saturday night, our kids had their picture taken in the castle.

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The Castle

Our good moods extended the rest of the weekend.  Before we left for camping, the kids were picking at each and unhappy.  I can’t imagine what our day would have been like if we hadn’t gone camping. (Well, actually I can.  We’ve done that day too many times).  After we got home, Curtis was cleaning out his shop (aka the garage).  John and some of the neighbor kids were making “tea.”  Isaac was making a launcher for a soccer ball in the back of the pick up truck.  Everyone was so happy and none of the adults were interacting much with kids.

I learned years ago my kids are happiest when I am not with them all the time.  When Madeleine gets into her dark moods, the best thing for her is for her to find something to do by herself.  Her something else can involve her brothers, but it can’t involve adults.  She needs to imagine, create, explore, and experiment on her terms, not according to adults.  John has always searched this out.  They don’t really need as much as we would like to believe.

Raising kids is all about loosening our grip on them.  We need to let them make mistakes.  We need to let them fail and suffer the natural consequences of their choices.  We need to encourage them to do hard things, knowing we are behind them, but that we will not do it for them.  Being parents mean that walking around in this world are beings that can break our hearts in ways that are unimaginable.  Tightening our grip on them doesn’t help them grow into responsible, caring, generous adults.  Things still happen to our kids that we can’t control–they’re behind in their language development or reading, they have life threatening food allergies, they become sick with cancer, they are hurt in accidents we can’t control, or their little bodies fail to grow and develop like they should.  Tightening our grip doesn’t make them safer.  All it does is make us think we are in control.  We’re not though.  No matter how much we wish we were in control, we are not.  Our hearts will probably break a hundred times because we can not keep our children safe, no matter how hard we try.

Since we don’t have The Land in our neighborhood (I suspect the whole idea of that would appall our homeowner’s association), I need to learn to loosen my grip in other ways.  I need to give my children the independence they crave.  I need to take a deep breath, tell them to stick together, and let them go explore this world.  When they do, they may find castles or pirates or rocks that need busting.  I need to say a prayer for courage to let them go and become the people they were created to be.

Rock busting.

Rock busting.

Friday Found Graces (on Saturday)

April 5, 2014
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Whoops!  Where did Friday go?  Oh yeah, I remember.  It was sucked under into the quotidian.  Everyday life kept me away from the computer and posting a week’s worth of found graces passed me by.  I was acutely aware of some of that non-photographable found grace moments, like a meeting with the reading specialist at the kids school.  She was willing to take time out of her busy day to give me activities to do with my struggling reader at home, even though she isn’t currently seeing him at school.

Family Camp last weekend was a wonderful found grace.  The camp we were at was designed specifically for families.  The amount of detail behind everything made us feel spoiled all weekend.  Rocking chairs strategically placed…Adirondock chairs on the back porch of our cabin…..the appetizers before supper….the popsicles delivered to our cabin for my strep-py child….quiet nooks to read or build with legos….water inviting us to immerse ourselves or at least get our feet wet, reminding me of our need for the living water…no cell service (woohoo!  Best part).

We also discovered this week that we have baby owls in our owl box.  One morning this week I saw two little eyes peaking out at me.  I was too mesmerized to run for my camera.  Isaac also ate two strawberries off of his strawberry plant and I promptly penciled in a date to go pick berries because I must have more strawberries not from a store (they are so much better!!).

And now to the found grace…

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Bluebonnets to admire while we sat in traffic made rush hour more bearable.

 

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Collards from our own little garden. So yummy, I ate the leftovers for breakfast.

What I’m Up To-March 2014 Edition

March 31, 2014

Spring has come to the AusTex.   We made our annual spring trip to the garden center and bought some color for our brown beds.  We also picked out our vegetable plants for our small raised bed garden.  Isaac and Madeleine each chose their own plants as well–Isaac brought home a strawberry plant and Madeleine selected marigolds.    IMG_2105

 

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Spring Break comes in March as well.  We stayed in Austin and found special things to do, like our favorite playground ever.

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Curtis worked on the great deck rearranging. Moving deck furniture meant we needed to end the zipline elsewhere, so he spent a weekend building a platform. The kids love it and use it as their quiet spot when they need one (only one kid will fit!).

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We trekked for the fourth time to family camp!  We first attended family camp in the early years of it’s existence (we think we may have been there for one of their first camps).  It had been four years since we’d been back so it was interesting to see how it changed has changed in the past 6 years.  We will not be waiting 4 years to attend again!  The kids loved riding in the back of the truck as we drove up the river to get to our camp.

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Isaac loved rock climbing.  He scampered up the thirty foot climbing wall just like he was spiderman (who happened to be on his t-shirt) twice!  As usual for Isaac, his climb was accompanied by sound effects and lots of cheering himself on.

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I also climbed the medium wall!  It was only my second time climbing, so I felt quite pleased with myself.  I’m not as young as I once was.  My legs were sore for the day after.

 

Books:

Found by Micha Boyett.  I loved Micha’s book.  I identified strongly with her description of struggling to find time to pray after the birth of her children.  Parts of her book almost brought me to tears because it hit so closely to home.  Whenever I sit down to write about this book though, I find myself at loss for words.  I may need to reread it before I am really ready to write about it.  I’ve started my sharing my collection of found grace on Friday’s.

Blue Parakeet by Scot McKnight.  I didn’t love this book, but I didn’t dislike it either.  I found myself skimming the beginning and the end, and felt it was a little repetitive.  However, I really agreed with his premise–it is impossible to take every thing in the Bible literally.  Without realizing it, we all apply filters and pick and choose what we believe and follow and the parts we don’t.

Sabbath as Resistance: Saying No to the Culture of Now by Walter Brueggeman.  This was a short book, but not a fast read.  It took a bit of time for me to switch reading gears to academic to read Brueggeman. Brueggeman suggests that the Sabbath is so much more than an Old Testament day of rest.  The Sabbath is stating that all are equal in the eyes of God (because the Sabbath was for everyone–not just the rich).  The Sabbath was also an alternative to the Egyptian model of production, the model of scarcity (we never have enough), and the anxiety producing society the Israelites were a part of prior to their Exodus.  Brueggeman correlates the ancient Egyptian culture to our current culture and says that we too need to break away from a society of competition to a society of neighborliness.  I really want to write more about this book at some point.  It was quite thought provoking.

Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo.  This was the SheLoves book selection of the month.  While the book reads like fiction, it is nonfiction, which I became acutely aware of halfway through.  I kept hoping things would clean up neatly like in novels–the characters would rise above and live a better, more stable life.  However, this book takes place in a slum of Mumbai, India.  I knew I couldn’t hope for the resolution of a novel.  This book challenged me and my North American lifestyle and thought patterns (What can I do to help “save” them?  How can I fix the corruption?)  It wasn’t a book about North American influence and fixing though.  It was a book about being present with the struggles of the people by being made aware of them.

A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki.  This was our neighborhood book club choice of the month.  While it had some good points and the writing was wonderful, I didn’t enjoy this book, nor would I recommend it.

Overcoming Dyslexia by Sally Shaywitz, MD.  Part of my dyslexia education reading.  At times this book read a little too much like propaganda (No Child Left Behind is wonderful!!  Open Court curriculum is the best!!  Whole language is evil!!), but I was still able to find some helpful ideas to do with my struggling reader.  Not my favorite dyslexia book (maybe my least favorite of the ones I’ve read so far).

Pie by Sarah Weeks.  This was the book I read along with Madeleine this month.  I loved So B. It by the same author and wasn’t disappointed with this book.  This book was delightful and had the wonderful theme of doing what you are good at, not trying to be other people.  I scoured the internet afterwards for the elusive pie crust recipe Weeks teases us with the entire book.  Just so you know, this is a fictional book and the pie crust recipe is also fictional.  While there are actual pie recipes throughout the book, you need to use your own favorite pie crust recipe. Coincidentally, Madeleine finished reading this book on 3-13, so we celebrated pi day (3.14) the following day with Shenandoah Valley Style Peanut Butter Pie.

New Under the Sun by Kevin Major.  Meh.  I was excited when I found this book at the library.  It promised me a book on Newfoundland–with teases of history and culture of the area.  Instead I found a book about a man writing about a grown woman and explaining what the grown woman was like.  It was too heavy on sex (and a bit unbelievable from a woman’s perspective–I get tired of men writing about how women experience sex).  It reminded me again that I am a bit of a prude and that I should go off of book recommendations rather than picking random books up at the library.

Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley.  This was a book recommendation I found on someone’s link up to Leigh Kramer’s What I’m Into.  Another lesson on taking recommendations.  I really enjoyed this book.  I liked his name choices (Daffy and Feely as nicknames for Daphne and Ophelia) and that his main character was a middle school aged girl with a rampant curiosity and love of chemistry.  I am looking forward to reading another book in the Flavia de Luce mystery series.

Food

The girls and I ate at Salty Sow, which we did in fact, find too salty.  The big two and I ate at Zocalo for our spring break excursion IMG_1915and we all loved it, as usual.  I also went with a friend to The Steeping Room and that was as fabulous as usual.  We ate authentic Chinese food from Asia Cafe, which was strange but delightful.  The seasonings were wonderful—enough but not so overpowering we couldn’t taste the incredible smoky richness of the black mushrooms.  We went to Michi Ramen with Curtis’s dad and stepmom for a rainy Saturday, post museum lunch.  I also had to try Whole Foods Texas Ramen and now I don’t ever need to eat that again

I made a double batch of Mint Chocolate Cookies (I couldn’t find mint chips, so I used Andes Mint pieces), which were devoured quickly.  In our CSA box, we are getting lots of lettuce.  We’re enjoying Taco Salad, Nicoise Salad, and Bun Chay.  We’ve also been slammed with cabbage.  This season’s favorite cabbage salad is Cabbage Salad with Hot Bacon Dressing.  It’s been a good eating month, because there’s also been Slow Cooker Ropa Vieja and my very own recipe for Gemilli Pasta with Wilted Kale and Sausage.  For Fat Tuesday we had sausage with Sweet Onion Marmalade (and man was that sweet onion marmalade good!), along with chocolate cupcakes with peanut butter frosting (I made just the frosting at the bottom of the recipe and used my mom’s chocolate cake recipe).

Movies and TV:

It was a sad movie and TV month.  I watched children’s movies.  We discovered a sweet animated movie called A Monster in Paris.  We love the soundtrack as much as the movie.  Curtis started watching Chuck again, way back in the beginning.  I watch sporadically now–once he gets to the later seasons and episodes I’ve never seen I’ll watch more.

Once again, I’m linking up with Leigh Kramer’s What I’m Into

More Found Grace

March 28, 2014

I loved sharing my #foundgrace (check out Micha Boyett’s blog and book, Found, for more information about found grace) so much last week, I thought I’d share again….

For some reason, it’s been an emotionally hard week.  Sadness overcame me and lingered for a few days when I read the comments on Jen Hatmaker’s blog.  Such hatred and meanness in the name of Jesus.  It broke my heart.  Regardless of whether I agree or disagree with someone’s interpretation of the Bible (because we all have but interpretations—I don’t think many of us read the original Bible in Greek, Hebrew or Aramaic), I hope I can refrain from insulting and expressing hatred to another person because of their opinion about how best to love God.  The whole World Vision debacle saddened me as well–as much as anything that children’s lives were dramatically impacted because people disagreed with others.  Jen Hatmaker and Rachel Held Evans had beautiful posts that I thought were necessary.  I was surprised how emotional it all made me.  How can we as a Christian church proclaim the love and grace of God when we are so full of hatred and anger for each other?  This can not be God’s will, can it?

The sadness meant I looked a bit harder this week for God’s grace in my life.  Like so many things, because I was looking for it, I found it.  One boy needed some quiet time by himself and found a perch in tree to play with legos.  Both boys have things that are theirs only (gymnastics and baseball) which use their unique gifts, talents, and interests.  There was also an answer to prayer when my middlest, who has struggled with school this year, won a silver medal at the Math Pentathlon tournament last week (he won 4 of games and lost only 1!).  I must admit I cried a bit when my husband texted me to tell me that the boy won his last game (and consequently won the silver medal).

Without further words:

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From my reading of the Psalms yesterday when I had no words of my own:

Out of the depths I have called to you, O Lord; Lord, hear my voice : let your ears consider well the voice of my supplication.

If you, Lord, were to note what is done amiss : O Lord, who could stand?

For there is forgiveness with you : therefore you shall be feared.

I wait for the Lord; my soul waits for him : in his word is my hope.

My soul waits for the Lord, more than watchmen for the morning : more than watchmen for the morning.

O Israel, wait for the Lord : for with the Lord there is mercy;

with him there is plenteous redemption : and he shall redeem Israel from their sins.

Psalm 130 from Common Prayer by Claiborne, et al.

Loving on some Liturgy

March 25, 2014

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Liturgy-from the Greek word, leitourgia, meaning public worship.  Soul food, disciplining our spirits, participating in the work of God through active prayer and worship.  An invitation to participate, not just observe.  A dialogue and divine drama in which we are invited to be the actors.  An invitation to be part of God’s story and the story of our lost ancestors and saints.  (definition from the introduction of Common Prayer by Claiborne, et al).

I grew up Mennonite, as I may have mentioned before.  Back in the 70′s, 80′s and early 90′s when I was immersed in the Mennonite church, I learned about our church history.  In high school Bible classes, I learned how the Mennonites grew out of the Reformation in Switzerland, Holland, and Germany.  Like many during the Reformation,  Mennonite founders struggled with the Catholic church and what it represented in that age–the Inquisition, martyring heretics, Mass in Latin, relics, Purgatory, infant baptism, and the power structure of priests, bishops, and the Holy Roman Empire.

In the early beginnings of the Mennonite church, the home churches that met in secret to avoid persecution and martyrdom, liturgy was discarded along with all other things Catholic.  Anything contrary to the early Christian church, as described in Acts and Paul’s letters were set aside and viewed as man-made versus God inspired.  Mennonites were not (and still are not) liturgical.  These days, they follow the common lectionary of most churches, but liturgy is not a weekly occurrence.  Of curse, people complain with the order of worship is changed, but the responsive reading, weekly saying of the Lord’s Prayer, words said over communion are not set in stone.  There is space for the Spirit to move and influence worship on a weekly basis instead of being roped to tradition and set prayers and reading

My first introduction with liturgy came at a church I showed up at because the hill it sat atop of was covered with bluebonnets in the spring.  My church choices have been rather haphazard.  I often drove by this church on the way home from work and in the spring time, I noticed it more than usual.  The hill was awash of blue with three crosses sitting at the top of the hill.  I decided to visit this Episcopal church, knowing very little about Episcopalians, except that they were the American offshoot of the Anglican church, and the Anglican church was formed by Henry XIII so he could divorce a wife.   It didn’t matter.  I was drawn by the urging to think of God as I drove home from work and saw bluebonnets and empty crosses.

I must admit, I didn’t love the Book of Common Prayer the first time I encountered it.  I attended my small Episcopalian church for about a year, singing in the worship team (old school praise and worship with guitars and the like).  I visited some Sunday school classes, including one on joining the church.  I liked the common cup of communion and kneeling for prayers during the service.  Then I learned about the prayers and liturgy.  After my Mennonite upbringing, in which we were all called into the royal priesthood, being able to communicate with God equally–clergy and laity had the same lines of communication, I cringed when I told my prayers needed to come from the Book of Common Prayer.  I fled the community I was so gently and kindly being drawn into.  I returned to the small Mennonite church, were my prayers could be my own and not dictated from a book.

I didn’t stay long back at the Mennonite church.  The same reasons I decided to leave in the past remained the same, so I found myself looking for a church again.  Again I stumbled upon a church–this time a Methodist church downtown (which I ended up at because the first Methodist I attempted to attend that morning did not have the early service they advertised on the sign.  I remembered their was a Methodist church downtown, so I headed there).  Not all Methodist churches are the same (just like not all Mennonite and Episcopal churches are the same either).  This church was high church–big on liturgy, organ music, choirs.  I was drawn in because of those things and because there was no Book of Common prayer instructing me how to pray.  That church has stuck and my views on liturgy have changed.

For Ash Wednesday, I attended an Episcopalian church closer to my house.  As the priest said the words over communion, I felt myself relaxing into communion, taking big gulps of air and feeling like I was home.  The words were the same as those said over communion at my Methodist church.

My daily practice now consists of liturgy.  In the mornings, I say my morning prayers, staring every day with:

O Lord, let my soul rise up to meet you, as the day rises to meet the sun.

and ending with:

May the peace of the Lord Christ go with you, wherever he may send you

May he guide you through the wilderness, protect you through the storm

May he bring you home rejoicing, at the wonders he has shown you,

may he bring you home rejoicing, once again into our doors.

I know in the middle of my time, I will read a Psalm, a New Testament reading, and an Old Testament reading.  I will pray for others and pray the Lord’s prayer.

It is a big, cleansing breath of air that sets (or re-sets in many cases) my day.  The same words ground me in who I am, whose I am, and who always goes with me.  As part of my Lenten practice, I have added evening prayers (compline) in which I can ask forgiveness for those things I need forgiveness for in my day and in which my sleep is blessed.  I never realized what a good reminder blessings for sleep and dreams could be for remembering that God is with us always, waking and sleeping.  For Lent, instead of midday prayers (at lunch), I am reading my little book of prayers:  Breath for the Soul:  Reflections on Prayer by Joan Chittister.

I need liturgy.  I need to be reminded over and over what my purpose in life is (to worship God and love others) and praying three times a day is what I do to keep reminding myself of that.  I am fortunate in that my day lends itself to that time.  I know when I return to teaching, I will be challenged to find the rhythm and the quiet for morning and midday prayers.  Part of my gift of being at home is having more control over my time.  I know this rhythm won’t work for everyo.  However, for this season of my life, it works for me.  It helps me come back over and over to striving to love God with my whole heart and soul and mind and to love my neighbor as myself.  My prayers and readings make my faith a communal faith, not an individual faith.  While I pray by myself every morning and evening, I know that today, as I read about the Annunciation (Mary being told she would be pregnant with Jesus), Christians around the world are reading the same passage and praising God for sending Jesus to us through Mary.  As I pray my evening prayers, I am praying with the Northumbria Community in Ireland.  I am part of a community of saints as I pray the same prayers as others.  Although I am alone, my prayers join others who pray the same words, read the same Psalms, and follow the same liturgical calendars.  More times than I can count, the scripture reading at church is the same as one I have read the prior week.  When I spend more time with one scripture–both at home and then at church, I am able to become a deeper part of God’s story.

I am fortunate that my day lends itself to that time.  I know when I return to teaching, I will be challenged to find the rhythm and the quiet for morning and midday prayers.  Part of my gift of being at home is having more control over my time.  I know this rhythm won’t work for everyone.  However, for this season of my life, it works for me.  It helps me come back over and over to striving to love God with my whole heart and soul and mind and to love my neighbor as myself

DSCN1250(Prayers come from Common Prayer:  A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals by Claiborne, Wilson-Hartgrove, and Okoro and Celtic Daily Prayer by Andy Raine and the Northumbria Community.  I’m also exploring the Divine Hours by Phyllis Tickle).

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