Ordinary Time is just so… Ordinary

During the summer these words bellow from the porches and couches of millions of homes in America: “I’m bored.” Every kid in the free world, having prayed fervently for school to end, is now proclaiming that the day of perpetual boredom is here.

In our culture the tendency is to fill up the summer with camps, classes, and distractions of every shape and color. What would happen if we halted our planning and pondered the wisdom of Kingdomtide, or as it is traditionally called, Ordinary Time?

What is ordinary? Oatmeal for breakfast is ordinary. Laundry, the sun coming up, rain, reading to my kids, mowing the lawn, feeding the chickens, making the bed, napping on Sunday—all ordinary. Without these ordinary actions, our lives lose a sense of rhythm. In fact, without the ordinary we don’t grow, not physically or spiritually. There is nothing fancy or fabulous about a meal of beans and cornbread, except that it sustains our bodies, and thousands of people eat it every day. It is an ordinary meal that does extraordinary things. The fact that the sun comes up every day is an ordinary event most of us ignore, but without it nothing could live.  Jesus was so fond of teaching out of ordinariness, over dinner, in a wheat field. He taught the foundational truths of the universe out of an ordinary body, using ordinary words, to ordinary people.

For six seasons now, we (Lacy and Ben and you!) have looked forward and backward; we’ve celebrated and mourned. Now, during Kingdomtide, we settle in: we find our stride. For 29 full weeks we all have the chance to establish a family rhythm that will grow us and ours.

Many families practice the spiritual discipline of vacation during Kingdomtide, but for most vacation is just one week in the midst of 29 weeks of ordinary. The other 28 weeks are the lazy days of summer, complete with marshmallow roasting, watermelon seed spitting, and bike riding. We intermingle these sorts of activities with the open space of unscheduled time. For children and for their adults, this is the season of rhythms to build a life on.

We might think that the rhythms and lessons of ordinariness will just meander their way into our homes—and maybe this used to be so.  But in a culture built on desire and distraction, ordinariness is endangered. Building a life on the rhythms of ordinariness takes intention and attention. We will have to intend to walk slowly with our kids to the mailbox while stopping and looking at every bug that passes by. We will have to think to grab a stick and play pirate with the neighbor kids. We will have to watch for the teachable moments of forgiveness when siblings quarrel. We will have to be determined to teach the time-honored skill of pancake flipping infused with thankfulness. We will need to plan to lie in the backyard and teach the names of the constellations, or make up our own. During the ordinary routines of eating and sleeping, rest and work, moments will slip up on us that are golden for teaching the way of Jesus. It is our job to lessen the distractions so we will recognize these moments when they come our way. If we do this, our TV’s will grow dusty, our schedule will look empty, and when people ask what our big plans are for the summer, we will say with a knowing smile, “Oh nothing, absolutely nothing.”

A Ramble of Motherings

While Mother’s Day is this Sunday, we celebrated several weeks ago when we were in the UK and I learned that they call it Mothering Sunday.

Mothering Sunday is a similar holiday celebrated on the fourth Sunday of Lent. This year my thoughts are leaning toward, “Mothering Sunday.”

When I take stock of all the mothering it took raise me and all the mothering I still need, one person is a great start, but not nearly enough. My cast of mothers crosses all boundary lines, including gender.

One of my first memories of being mothered is of my PaPete. The memory consists of me standing on the deep freezer in his deli quoting Bill Cosby and being constantly harassed about food. “Are you hungry?” “You can’t eat a pimento cheese sandwich without chips.” “You want hash browns with your eggs.”  If you met him, he’d try to feed you.

My fourth grade teacher, Miss. Walker, did more than teach. She mothered. She said wild and crazy things to me like, “You are smart,” and “One loyal friend is worth more than a thousand popular ones.”

My Aunt Nita mothered less with what she said and more with what she did. Over a Dr. Pepper she’d listen to my hare brained ideas, and give me opportunities. She believed the very best about me.

Jimmy Daniel, my BSU director, mothered me through college. Feeding and challenging me to live into who God created me to be.

The woman who actually claims to be my mother has a lion’s share of courage and a fierce protection of her cubs. I remember a day in middle school when a boy I liked, (who didn’t know I was alive), accidently slammed my hand in a door. My mother, “accidently” let the same door fall on his head. She locked eyes with him and said, “Oops, these doors are tricky, aren’t they.” Incidentally this is also the day I most wished for an invisibility cloak.

Today those who mother me take the shape of friendships; male or female, we mother each other, we nurture, love, and protect.

I burst with gratitude when I see the mothers in my daughters’ lives.

My father mothers like no other. He is a professional enabler, enabling these quirky little girls to follow wherever their hearts lead.

Our neighbor, Peggy, mothers with her stealthy intellect and wise presence.

Jim, mothers by laughing at the jokes of budding joke tellers that fall way short of funny.

Russ, our former worship leader, mothered them into the throne room of God and taught them to dance with their soul.

I suspect they also will require a small army of mothers. There is one Mother though, one whose presence is constant.

God frequently plays the mothering role. God taught me to walk into the dark spaces and then reached in and healed my wounds. (Hosea 11:3-4)  God fed me with words like “You are made in my image.” (Genesis 1:27), and gave me the courage to fly. (Deuteronomy 32:11-12) God has never forgotten me, (Isaiah 49:15) in fact God has tirelessly looked for me when I have gone and gotten myself lost. (Luke 15:8-10) After four decades Mother God still invites me to crawl up on her lap, she rocks gently, whispering that I am safe and her love is the deepest, most pure love that I will ever know. (Psalm 131)

* The image used is from Rector Jonathan’s blog.   http://rectorjonathan.wordpress.com/2010/03/13/a-mothering-sunday-reflection/

Fire is Fun or Minding the Light

My favorite church service of the year is the Easter Vigil.  For those who don’t know, the service is built around the movement from dark to light, the movement from death to life. It has hours (2 hours for us) of Scripture readings that trace “The story.” Adam, Noah, Abraham, Issac…. you get the point, there is singing interspersed and responsive readings. All the while the building is moving from dark to light. The readings are done by candle light (candles that have been lit by the Christ candle) and each person in the congregation is holding a candle as well… for nearly 2 hours.

For nearly 2 hours I sat by children with fire. After an hour and a half one gave up, but honestly its nothing to be ashamed of… she fought the good fight. There were several close calls, like the first time hot wax fell on her hand and she refused the urge to drop the candle into my lap. This is the child who has naturally curly hair and likes to wear it long and wild, and therefore we did slightly exude the smell of burnt hair, but only briefly.

Round about minute forty a sneezing fit nearly blew the light out. But no, she kept it safe and lit.

It was shining bright in the darkness making it possible for us to read and therefore pray with the rest of the congregation. That little light made it possible to worship and to hear “the story.”

When she was too tired to hang on safely, I held it for her. She curled up next to me and slept, after making me promise to wake her for communion. It’s her first communion after being recently baptized and this was a big deal for her.

Managing two candles and a fire friendly paper prayer booklet was a harrowing task. All my senses were focused on not burning the church down.  I had to mind the light.

Mind the Light is a Quaker phrase.  It means to pay attention to the light of Jesus within us, is it bright or dim? Is it going out, or setting our neighbor on fire? There are two ways to be a light to those around us, one is harmful and can leave permanent damage, the other shows the way, brings warmth.

This is what we’re talking about these days. Minding the Light.

In the morning, How can I mind the light of Jesus today? (Bible reading, prayer, solitude, a walk outside, forgiving others, asking forgiveness, making space for mistakes)

In the evening, How did I mind the light of Jesus today?

So it’s the evening of Easter Sunday. Jesus is the light, how are you minding it?

The Opportunity of Night

Nights can be tough for children. The “If I should die before I wake,” sorts of prayers aren’t really helping things. Seriously.

Nights, specifically right before bed, open the space for deep conversations and rich solitude. As a parent I view 8:30 as the finish line to freedom and I fight the urge to rush our end of the day conversations and prayers. Gone are the days when they can’t read the prayers and therefore don’t know I skipped the middle.

Now they read and lead the prayers, good stuff for sure, but it takes longer.

For Lent, I’m practicing slow bedtime. Long conversations and lingering prayers. I’m convinced (or I wouldn’t be doing it) that this time prepares the space for solitude which is quiet, alone, private time with God.

Here’s the Evening Prayer we’re using this season.

Child-Like Friendship with God: Evening Prayer

Together in BOLD and Italicized

May the Lord Almighty grant me and those I love a peaceful night and a perfect end. Amen.

Our help is in the Name of the Lord; the maker of heaven and earth.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen

Luke 18:16-17

But Jesus called for them and said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.’

A time of silence to review the day. (This is where you might ask your “Weed” questions from Good Dirt.)

Psalm 131

O Lord, my heart is not lifted up.

My eyes are not raised too high for thee.

I do not think on things to great or marvelous

Or matters too difficult for me.

But I have calmed and quieted my soul

Like a weaned child with its mother is my soul within me.

I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, Lord make me dwell in safety.

The Lord’s Prayer

Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work or watch or weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ, give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the joyous, and all for your love’s sake. Amen.

Lord, you now have set us free to go in peace as you have promised; for these eyes of mine have seen the Savior, whom you have prepared for all the world to see: a Light to enlighten the nations, and the glory of your people Israel. Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever more shall be. Amen.

 

*Pieced together from Phyllis Tickle’s Divine Hours and Shane Clairborne and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove’s Common Prayer

How to “EAT THIS BOOK”

“He said to me, O mortal, eat what is offered to you; eat this scroll, and go, speak to house of Israel. So I opened my mouth, and he gave me the scroll to eat. He said to me, Mortal, eat this scroll that I give to you and fill your stomach with it. Then I ate it; and in my mouth it was as sweet as honey.”

Ezekiel 3:1-3 is always a hard one to explain to children who have been told most of their lives to keep things out of their mouths.

“If you are going to pick your nose, please don’t eat it.”

“No. You cannot eat the candy you found in the sofa.”

“The gum underneath the table is definitely off limits.”

However, in this passage God is clear, he want Ezekiel to eat the word of God. God wants Ezekiel to place that dry, inky word in his mouth and chew. And perhaps chew some more. God wants Ezekiel to swallow those words and let the process of all that he has eaten become part of his very being. Eugene Peterson translates this command as “Eat this book.”[1]

In Romans 12:2 Paul gives his readers a leg up on how the transformation into Christ likeness happens. We are “transformed by the renewing of our minds.” One way mind transformation happens is when we “Eat this book,” when the words of Scripture become part of our very being.

Often when we expose our children to Scripture we get surface level understanding, but that isn’t all they are capable of. If we want to go deeper with them; we have to speak the language they know best—the language of imagination.

C.S. Lewis said that, “Reason is the natural order of truth; but imagination is the organ of meaning.” [2]

Ignatian meditation is one way to chew and swallow the word of God. It becomes part of our being, it transforms our minds. The practice is quite simple.

  1. Choose a passage of Scripture from one of the Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke or John. A passage that has some action is particularly good. Also choose something short. If you are following along in Good Dirt, you can use the passage from that day. John 6:1-14 is one of my favorites with children.
  2. Pray a short prayer inviting the Holy Spirit to speak through the passage into your hearts. Then read the passage through once.
  3. Remind everyone that they have five senses. Touch, Taste, Sight, Smell, and Hearing. It is with these senses that we experience the world. Invite everyone to close their eyes and enter into the passage using their five senses just as if they were actually there. Read the passage again.
  4. Ask the questions: What did you see? What did you hear? What did you smell? What did you taste? What did you feel? Some responses to these questions might be… I heard a lot of people talking. I saw Jesus. I smelled fish. I touched the bread. I felt hungry. Give everyone a chance to share their experience.
  5. Read the passage through one more time. Do 2 things this time. Ask, who are you most like in the story? And ask the Holy Spirit to speak to you. When you finish share your responses. (Remember that nothing you ever hear from the Spirit will go against the character of God found in 1 Cor. 13: 4-8, and further the words of the Spirit produce the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, and self control.[3])

Once when I was explaining to a third grader why chewing the end off of his pencil and swallowing it was not really a great health choice I said, “It’s not that I don’t want you to eat. I just want you to eat things that are good for you.”

So how about it? Grab a kid or two and give it try. Let us know how it goes.


[1] The translation I’m referring to is the Message.

[2] C.S. Lewis, Selected Literary Essays: “Bluespels and Flanlansferes: A Semantic Nightmare,” Cambridge UP, 1969, p. 265.

[3] Galatians 5:22-23

Light for the New Year, Light for the Neighborhood

Used under Creative Commons License.

Used under Creative Commons License.

Part of Anne Lamott’s story  has stayed with me like a persistent whisper even years after reading her memoir Traveling Mercies. A few families in her childhood opened their lives and gave her a sense of God and his Word and life with him. Her own parents didn’t believe, yet in a 1960’s San Francisco culture of drugs and alcohol Anne was drawn to God. She experienced life with the believing families of various friends and her own sense of a living, personal God took root.

We Quinns live in a busy suburb here in Colorado, surrounded by houses next door, behind, and across the street. Mormons live behind us, several Hindu families from India are down the street, and a mix of other Christian and unbelieving households live all around. Our culture doesn’t mirror Lamott’s of the ’60s, but we have our own demons to be sure. We’ve walked with neighbors through deaths on each side of our home, one a suicide and one a father with Cystic Fibrosis. We feel the weight of materialism, strained marriages, self- and entertainment-focused living, career pressures.  Our street has seen a baby born to an unwed 19-year-old, teenagers crawling out of upstairs windows at night, a marriage happen between singles who shared a back fence, divorce, and lots of pet-sitting, lawn-mowing, house-siting, even a dog swap!

We love the people who share this little piece of Colorado with us. We’ve gotten to know many of them and we spend considerable time with some. I pray for neighbors almost daily as I walk for exercise, we pray for them at family meal times, and we try to follow the Spirit’s moving to share the with-God life as we try and live it. We Quinns are so flawed … we fumble all the time in loving each other and others … we’re so much on the journey ourselves. But somehow–I think it’s like the mustard seed that Jesus’ preached–God’s presence takes hold and He enters lives.

New Year’s Eve each year we get together with the family across the street. Fondue, games, and ringing in the New Year has become a tradition all the kids relish, and this year we added some Good Dirt! Our neighbor kids didn’t understand about “family devotion time” so we talked about it when they came early before dinner. After the long meal around pots and platters of food, we read about Service and talked about what a spiritual discipline is. Our 8-year-old has trouble transferring that word discipline into the “good” category, so we all went round some more together on the concept, and then our teenager read about Jesus, the Light of the world. Our neighbor parents jumped in with ideas on when we might need Jesus’ light in our lives. All the kids agreed that when they’re afraid of monsters, Jesus’ light is a good thing, and sometimes when they’re at school they really need the light of Christ for help.

Those minutes of sitting together focused on Jesus were a bright spot New Year’s Eve; Jesus’ light indeed filled our time together. I hope these kinds of moments continue to fill our year. I want to thank Lacy and Ben for writing Good Dirt, for putting together this blogging community, and for overseeing the process as we all journey together. Jesus’ light is reaching our family in warm, daily ways. And it’s reaching our neighborhood family, too. We’ll never be anyone’s salvation. But Jesus the Savior might be. Yes, come Lord Jesus.

“Whoever follows me … will have the light of life.” John 7:12

Touching Heaven

Just last week we were reading the passage in Luke where the Sadducees are trying to trap Jesus with questions about the resurrection.

As we were reading Anwen’s eyes began to glaze over. I knew just by looking at her she was following her own thoughts. I let her, hoping that the Holy Spirit was teaching her. (I didn’t know I was the one getting the teaching, but more about that later.)

The “water” part of this day was to draw or paint a picture of heaven. After we finished I set her about the task. I watched as the picture began to reveal itself. She is very verbal and talked the whole time, not to me, mind you.

At one point she exclaimed, “Hey, I’m in here.”

And that’s when she traced her hands.

Her hands touching eternity.

Her hands in the thin place where heaven becomes earth.

Her hands in the presence of the Father.

The Father met her flanked by angels and our newly deceased cats.

She knew that in the presence of the Trinity there is glowing, thus the glitter.

Bottles of glitter. She couldn’t get enough. (Our Basset Hound who usually eats anything that falls from the table, including Monopoly pieces, decided glitter is not for her.)

We talked afterwards about heaven being any place that God is. That heaven is both now and later.

I asked her, “When is God with you?”

“Well,” she said, “We work together when I play piano. And when I’m swinging. I can feel the Holy Spirit when I’m swinging.”

My kid, she teaches me.

I think I’ll go dust the snow off the swing set and swing awhile, heaven’s waiting.

Good Dirt: The Backstory

How does a born and raised Southern Baptist end up writing a devotional about the Seasons of the Church? Most major life changes jar us into rethinking our thinking and mine was no different. After far too many years of college and several more as a classroom teacher, I had my own children and decided to stay home. Just to keep things interesting we moved across the country to a rural setting where I knew no one.

In between my days of washing cloth diapers, (Lord, what was I thinking?) sleepless nights, and strained peas, I noticed the earth was living a rhythm. (With all my education and teaching this late revelation is frightening, I know.) Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall all have a steady, life giving pace. The seasons of the earth knead their knowing into the surrounding souls.

Around the same time I read about the life of Corrie ten Boom and noticed how the life of Jesus was worked into her through a daily exposure and reflection of the Scriptures. Further that the Scriptures rooted her so firmly to Jesus and sustained her through the Holocaust is pudding proof.

I began to look around for a devotional resource that might combine an experience of the Scriptures and a rhythm to live by. I found Celtic Daily Prayer which is a collection of prayers and readings from the Northumbria community in the UK. For the next decade it would be a means of grace, a way that the rhythms of Jesus and his life began being woven into ours. This seed would someday grow into Good Dirt.

I learned from Trevor Hudson that “There is nothing in God that is not Christ-like;” and felt that lives steeped in the Gospels would go far in helping families plant their lives in that fact.

While sitting under the teaching of Dallas Willard at the Renovaré Institute for Spiritual Formation I had the idea of a family resource that would combine the richness of the rhythm of the Seasons of the Church and the life of Jesus found in the Gospels. I knew I was in over my head and pitched my idea to Ben Barczi, who was a student as well. He had been living the Seasons for years and had a much better handle on them. Thankfully he liked the idea and we decided to write Good Dirt together. I wouldn’t want to be on this journey with anyone else. Ben is sheer grace. My children call him Brother Ben and that’s as true as it gets.

Good Dirt is a spiritual formation devotional for families and our belief is that those who mark their lives by the life of Christ will be formed and transformed.

We have piloted this resource all over the US. Thank you to those who read the early copies and gave us feedback. Thank you, Elane O’Rourke who edited it for us. Bless her, seriously bless her. I name all these people to say that this is a community endeavor. We stood on the shoulders of giants. (Giants who would laugh at me calling them giants and who would politely and firmly ask me not to call them giants, but obedience has never been my strong suit.) Still, thank you.

Much love,

Lacy

November 6, 2013