Balancing Advent

balancing advent

 This is what I found this morning as I entered the kitchen. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. It’s been that kind of Advent. Rather than lay out my laundry list of gripes, let me just say, we’ve been busy and stressed. Our whole family feels it… as evidenced by the circus Nativity.

Two days ago I had my own stint with acrobatics, when I fell down the stairs in our house. If someone had been recording my fall, I’m sure it would qualify for a least a small frame on AFV. While I am pretty certain there are no broken bones, I am sore. My back is sore, my neck is sore, my shoulder is sore; and don’t ask me how, but even my hair hurts.

My “bounce back” time at over 40 is certainly less than it was 20 years ago. At 3am this morning, my not-so-bouncy-body woke me up. Pain is hard to sleep through so I got up, lit the Advent candles and had a little solitude and silence.

The three Advent candles put off such a glow, I could read these words,

“Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have light of life.” -John 8:12

Our house has large windows that circle the perimeter to let in the light, but this morning at 3am there was no light from outside, no light from inside except the Advent light.

Advent light was more than enough to see by. It was more than enough to bring comfort and calm. It was more than enough to offer healing both to body and soul.

Take a moment to focus your gaze on the circus Nativity, which person stands out to you? Ask the Spirit to show you why this person draws your attention. Reflect upon your life and responsibilities, ask the Spirit to show you some areas in your life that are well balanced. Give thanks. Reflect again, and ask the Spirit to show you some areas that are unbalanced. Tell these to the Father, ask for guidance.

Blessed Trinity, thank you for reminding me that Advent is your open invitation to peace.

Advertisements

“Still Good” Saturday : Quiet, Alone, Time with God

When I was a kid, my mom rarely cooked a meal on Saturday. First, it was our day to clean house and she was too tired to cook; and second there were leftovers in the fridge. Still, every Saturday my brother would ask what we were having to eat and my mother would reply, “Skip its.” At this point both of us would head to the fridge and stare into that endless abyss paroozing over it’s contents. Some items we ignored like macaroni and tomatoes and salmon patties. The first time around they are great! But reheated the macaroni turns to rubber, and the salmon has the smell and consistency of something the dog threw up.  Skip it.

Some items we fought of over like meatloaf with corn. My Dad swears meatloaf is best on the third day. Slice it and put it on toasted bread and you’ll think you’re a king. Still good. Any soups and stews were considered still good.  Beans and cornbread were a staple of my childhood and we could eat them for a week. Never goes bad. Still good.  Add ketchup to the beans and honey to the cornbread and a whole new meal appears. Still good.

I will never forget the time my brother and I were peering into the frigid abyss and spotted leftover cherry cheese cake. This is a family favorite and finding it was like finding gold. My brother grabbed it and headed to the table, unfortunately the constitution of the pie pan gave way and the whole thing fell to the floor. We locked eyes for few seconds. Panic and sadness echoed between us. Our thoughts must have shot back to our previous task of cleaning the kitchen floor (it was Saturday) and we declared simultaneously, “Still good.”  We scooped it up in the pan that now looked like a silver taco shell, took it to the table and ate it. Still good.

For the next few weeks we’ll post some blogs that have previously been run over at http://www.Renovare.org. These are some “still good,” topics that might be helpful to think about again.

 

Solitude: Quiet, Alone, Time with God

I’m sure it started with a smirky look and words with tone. But the fight was on. Two sibling daughters throwing down over a Lego. Yes, a Lego. I was upstairs buried alive by laundry, when the commotion filtered up to me through the floor. As I rounded the banister, in a mad dash to save the dueling darlings, or maybe just to see who would survive, I heard the crash of broken glass.

Getting to the bottom of this was going to be no picnic. It was a barrage of “she started it”s and “it wasn’t my fault”s. So I banished them to the outer regions of time-out. The little one, the instigator of all words with tone, snatched a book off the coffee table as she went sulking to jail.  It’s her favorite, a book of Psalms for children by Marie-Helen Delval, great stuff for the beginning reader. Usually there are no books in time-out, or anything fun, but this day I let it go.

After both girl folk had paid their debt to society and were let out of perpetual nothingness the little one said, “Wow- I needed that.” With my mouth agape, and an eldest sister eye roll, I questioned the why of that statement. “You know when you just need some quiet, alone, by yourself time with God, and you don’t get it- you can go crazy.”

My people went on their merry way and forgot all about that stray Lego. But as my days wind up and wind down and my looks get smirky and I use words with tone, I must admit her words stick. Without a regular dose of solitude, quiet, alone time with God- I do get crazy.

How about you? What are some ways you can carve out some quiet, alone, time with God for your littlest people?

How about some of that time for yourself?

 

Rain on Me

Here in Western Colorado rain is a big deal. I live at 7,800 ft above sea level; I live in high desert. Pinion Pines, Prickly Pear and Sagebrush dot our landscape. Most of our moisture comes in the form of snow in the winter… and in the form of rain in late July and early August.

After the dog days of June and July, hot and dry, fire fears, and sun burns; rain is life. Today as I packed up my things to go and listen to children, I could smell the rain coming. It’s like the sagebrush let off their sweetest smells in anticipation. The cats burrowed in the hay, the goats bedded down. All the earth knew rain was coming and prepared accordingly. The horses were feeling it too, they ran the length of the fence to show me so.

I arrived at my destination and set up my things, invited a child in and listened, Holy Listening.

Rain. Rain was on the lips of the children. “What is it about the rain?” I asked.

“It’s like what new feels like,” said one.

“It’s like God’s says ‘shhh. I’ve got something to say,'” said another.

“I like to play outside when it’s raining. Have you felt it on your face?” asked a boy.

“Well yes, when I arrived.” I said.

“No, not like that. When it’s on your face and your just there to catch it,” he replied.

Humm… when was the last time I stood out in the rain just to catch it. Just to hush up and hear God’s whisper through water, to feel with my skin what new feels like.

Tonight.

Teeth brushed, drinks given, I asked my own children, “Where did you see God today?”

“In the rain,” they both said.

“Today when I was going to the garden and it started to rain. It was soft and strange, but made me feel clean,” says the one who hates to bathe. (I wanted to ask, so was this a good thing?)

“It’s like this, Mom. Rain is like how God wants to help us be like Jesus. It’s strange because, well, people are mostly dry. We know rain keeps us alive and we know we need it to keep clean, but it’s so foreign and God knows it so he gives it to us in little bits.”

 

And a little child shall lead them… I think I’ll go sit outside, I hear thunder.

*Just in case you are wondering… the children gave me permission to use their words.

 

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.”

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