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 Eyes to See

Often in Good Dirt we asked reflective questions. These are great for children beginning in about late 2nd grade depending on the child, but any earlier and it goes something like this…

On Mark 10:32-45, “What has the Son of Man come to do? How can you serve others today?”

After asking this young children will often look at you with a blank stare, or if you’ve got a budding comic on your hands it might be more like, “I think he’s come to eat dinner with us. And Legos are my favorite.”

For children under the age of roughly eight, the beauty of the Seasons of the Church are in the ritual. (“Rhythm” if you are not Catholic.) It’s the daily opening of the Bible and quietly listening to the same stories that will seep in over time, over years. The reflective questions are of little help.  The questions will help the older children and certainly the adults, but the younger folks don’t quite have the language to express what they know is true. Their knowledge of the subject is limited.

I know you’re thinking, “Just what do they know?”  They know that goodness is something they want. No kid wants bad stuff. None. In my years of teaching I never saw a kid who wanted to be bad. Yes, there were many who couldn’t find their way to goodness, but they always wanted it.  Goodness is a characteristic of God.

They know that truth is good. They may not always tell the truth, but they always want the truth told to them. No child likes deceit.  Truth is a characteristic of God.

They will always stop and wonder at beauty. Children under the age of eight will still follow a butterfly around the yard just to catch a glimpse of it’s beauty. They will pick the petals of a rose to feel the beauty in their fingers. Beauty is a characteristic of God.

So how do we teach them the language they need? How do we help them connect with the goodness, truth and beauty of God?

When you tuck them in for the night ask,

“When did you see something good today?” Then remind them that God is good.

What made you happy or sad today? (This is telling the truth about themselves. This is the first truth we learn.)

What did you see today that was beautiful?

Don’t choose all of these. and don’t look for a specific answer. Let them simply work their knowledge of God into language. It’s a bit like when they first learned to talk. Lots of babbling, many mispronunciations, joyful laughter and celebration.