Something happened to me lately that still amazes me. It lives inside me in the space where I hold my breath. It is something that speaks to me of faithfulness and of no thing being lost.

After the movie, O Brother Where Art Thou came out years ago, I used to love singing “I’ll Fly Away.” I would sing it around the house while I was working. The lyrics made me uncomfortable, but I loved the tune. Soon, though, our little girl, Joss, grew up from an infant to a 3 – 4 year old and I had to stop singing the song because whenever I sang it she would burst into tears. The lyrics bothered her deeply, especially hearing her mom sing them.

Her tears made me realize just how much I did not agree with the words of the song. I decided that I wanted to rewrite them so that they would reflect what I believed. Well. That was about 10 years ago and just last week, I finally rewrote them.

What brings me to awe is that I tried, off and on, during those years to change the lyrics and it never happened. It felt like wrestling a cat. Then our church had a season (just this last Spring) of looking at some passages in Revelation and gaining a new vision of worship. After that imagination expanding time I began to read N.T. Wright‘s Surprised by Hope. In it he shows how un-scriptural many hymns are in their imaging of heaven and earth and the time to come.

He writes that, “‘God’s kingdom’ in the preaching of Jesus refers not to postmortem destiny, not to our escape from this world into another one, but to God’s sovereign rule coming ‘on earth as it is in heaven.'”

That is a view that makes sense of why things matter here. To hold this view causes me to work, to live, to inhabit God’s kingdom now, here on earth; until it is as it is in heaven. N. T. Wright goes on to write that “Heaven, in the Bible, is not a future destiny but the other, hidden, dimension of our ordinary life — God’s dimension, if you like.” We live in time, but God lives outside of time and He is still present to what was, is now and is to come. Some day we will live outside of time as well; when he brings the fullness of His new creation about.

So these were all the ingredients stewing in the pot of my imagination when I went away to have some alone time at my parent’s cabin. Near the end of my time I sat down and lo and behold, I rewrote the lyrics for I’ll Fly Away. When I was done my scalp tingled and I felt like God and I had just had a jam session. I was experiencing his faithfulness. I was experiencing my faithfulness. We had been holding the desire to rewrite the lyrics and here they were. I felt like I was learning what ‘in the fullness of time’ means. I didn’t have what I needed all those years ago to write this, but through those years of learning and experience I gained what was necessary and was ready to write. I hope you enjoy these updated lyrics:

Heaven’s Come to Stay
Adaptation of “I’ll Fly Away” by Jaime Gjerdingen

Some bright morning when this time is over,
Heaven’s comin’ to stay;
Home will be through New Jerusalem’s doors,
Heaven’s comin’ to stay.

Chorus:
Heaven’s come to stay O Glory
Heaven’s come to stay (in the morning)
Even if we die, Halleluia, by and by,
Heaven’s come to stay.

When the shadows of this time have gone,
Heaven’s comin’ to stay;
We’ll be like birds from prison bars flown,
Heaven’s comin’ to stay. (Heaven’s come to stay…)

Oh how glad and happy when we meet,
Heaven’s comin’ to stay;
All those resting in eternal peace,
Heaven’s comin’ to stay. (Heaven’s come to stay…)

Just a few more weary days and then,
Heaven’s comin’ to stay;
We’ll be walkin’ New Jerusalem’s land,
Heaven’s comin’ to stay.

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Into my Wilderness

February 13, 2013

You are Lord of blown apart places

desolate places,

places without hope.

 

You are there,

sitting,

upon my soul’s heap of ash.

 

You Are.

 

Stability bringing

support.

 

You Are.

 

Silence bringing

thought.

 

You Are.

 

Withme bringing

my arising.

            There are many simple and lovely ways to connect the liturgical seasons of the year with our home lives. Following are some our family has practiced and some from other sources.

            Since we are about to enter the season of Lent, we will start there.

Some helpful instructions for parents:

            Although many of these ideas may seem focused on people who live with children they are adaptable to any living situation.

            Do not try to preach or force these times within your home. Let the idea or event carry the energy forward. Bring yourself as a participant to it. You do hold the leadership of the overarching activity and idea; but enter into it for yourself and be there with the others in your living situation. That keeps the space ‘open’ which helps others to be themselves in it.

Re-enacting Holy Week Experience

            A few years ago, our family decided to stay home through the Holy Week celebrations. On the evening of Good Friday, we still wanted to do something to mark the night. We began messing around with Legos and ended up wondering if we could build a Jesus that would fit on a cross our son and his friend had made. We got to work and figured it out.

            We placed the cross with Jesus on it in a prominent spot of the house and lived with it that evening until bedtime. At that time we took Jesus off the cross and wrapped him up in white flour sack towels. We laid him in our fireplace and closed the glass doors; signifying his burial in the tomb.

            Now, something I had not anticipated when we began our little adventure was that I was ‘aware’ of him in the ‘tomb’ all through Holy Saturday. We tend to make a fire each weekend night and we had to forgo one that night. It impacted and lent a weight to Holy Saturday that I, as an evangelical, had never experienced before. Even though not having a fire for one night is a small thing; because of the reason it felt weightier.

            Then, early Easter morning, my husband snuck downstairs and ‘remade’ Jesus. He was a standing, ‘whole’ man again. He placed him on our dining room hutch and we put chocolates at his feet. Craig also opened the tomb doors and you could see in to the messy white towels that he’d been wrapped in. He posted a sign above the fireplace doors that said, “He is not here! He is risen!”

            When the kids came down, they noticed the tomb and everyone jumped and began looking around for him; questioning what had happened.  We told them to look for him and the one who found him was the one who got to pass out the treats. As we ate our chocolates, we told each other, “He is risen!” and replied to each other, “He is risen indeed!”

Variations on the theme

          You could use your stove, microwave or other closeable item for the tomb if you do not have a fireplace.

          You could make your Jesus out of Sculpey (one in crucified position and one resurrected) or other malleable, dryable clay.

          This idea can become repeatable for every year. As our kids have grown, they are not so ‘in’ to making Jesus out of Lego; so we might make the Sculpey versions and then bring them out each year for this activity. As the kids get older, it might just be the parents entering in and making it happen; but even if it is quiet and a smaller circle, they may participate in their own ways.

Table Centerpieces

            The dinner table is a consistent place of incredible opportunity to stage the colors of the liturgical year. For Lent, the color is purple, and the images are ones of wilderness or desert.

            For my Lenten centerpiece this year I am going to use a beautiful and precious purple scarf laid directly upon the table. On that I will place a copper bowl with a large, squat, lavender scented, purple candle. Around the candle I’ll sprinkle sand, rocks and bits of twigs.

            Every time we sit down at the table for dinner, just the act of lighting the centerpiece becomes a moment of noticing and remembering the season of Lent. If more than one person lives in the home, it is amazing how each wants a turn to light it; it is an honor and a gift.

            During Lent we also read a book together after we are done eating; this year we will be reading, “Listen with your Heart” by M. Basil Pennington. This practice has created wonderful times of questioning and conversation around the table that sometimes deepens our experiences of the season.

Transition from Lent Table to Maundy Thursday Table

            On Maundy Thursday I will take my Lenten centerpiece, empty it and fill it again with water. I will place a small, white hand towel with it in the arrangement. We might wash each other’s feet or hands before or after Maundy Thursday dinner, or tell the story of the Last Supper. I’ve often found that just changing the centerpiece usually elicits questions and is the invitation to remember what happened that night. I have learned to not force things, but to let each year unfold our experience as a home community together. Even if we do not ‘do’ anything around the centerpiece; just the lighting of it may be enough.

Transition from Maundy Thursday to Good Friday

            For Good Friday, I will bring back the Lenten centerpiece and when we’re done with dinner ask everyone to remain at the table while we remove it completely. The table will remain bare all the way through Holy Saturday until Sunday morning.

This act reminds me of how the altar is stripped on Good Friday in many churches. Also, it echoes the removal of the light from the church that happens in a Tenebrae service. If you have never been to a Tenebrae service, I highly recommend it. It is a feast of story and image that can move God’s people into the darkness of presently remembering his death and, although long in duration, it is accessible for young elementary kids on up.

Transition from Holy Saturday to Easter Morning

            Easter morning I will bring back the Lenten centerpiece but changed, transformed! Everything that was purple will be white, the liturgical color of celebration. I will place a white cloth under the copper bowl with a big white candle in it. Then… then! Instead of filling the bowl with sand, rocks and sticks around the candle I will fill it with a favorite family candies and treats! It is a day of celebration, feasting and joy! I will probably scatter some candy pieces outside the bowl to signify the overflowing richness of God’s blessing and joy with and for us and for those around us.

A Twist on a Table Centerpiece

            Here is the link for a wooden ‘From the Cradle to the Cross’ wreath that is useful for Advent and Lent!

            http://adventtolenttoascensionwreath.blogspot.com/

            I am using it in our Kid’s Chapel at Abbey Way and it is a lovely and adaptable wreath to use.

Variations on the Theme:

          Works of Mercy Tree: Place rocks or sand (or other small weight producing items) into a vase or decorated tin can. Arrange dead branches so that they stick up out of the base resembling a bush or tree. Cut out paper stock ‘leaves’ (or any shapes you wish), punch a hole in the top of them, write an act of giving/mercy idea upon it. Thread yarn/ribbon/string/jute (you get the idea) through it and tie it in a loop to hang on the tree branches.

 

          Here is a great Lenten table idea: a sand meditation set. It is easily adaptable to the idea listed above.

http://fromthesheepfold.blogspot.com/2011/03/lent-at-home.html

          From the same blogger, here is a lovely idea of making a Lenten Garden centerpiece:

http://fromthesheepfold.blogspot.com/2012/04/try-this-easter-garden.html

Once again, I would stipulate that any of these ideas are very adaptable and are not dependent on whether you live with kids or not; for adults to revisit ways of expressing their spirituality that they experienced as children (or might have missed and can now experience) is important for continual spiritual freshness and growth.

Creating Prayerful Places

            Biblically, people went to the desert/wilderness to focus in on their prayer lives. It was often a time of self-examination and listening for God’s direction in their lives. Lent is a perfect time to explore new ways to practice prayer and integrate the fruits of prayer into our lives.

Prayer Altar

            You may take an area of your house; a closet, a small table, a corner in a room, and make a prayer table/altar there. Some ideas to include on it are: icons, candle, flowers or items from nature, fronts of greeting cards that create prayerful, meditative moods, a purple cloth, small bell or gong, prayer beads/rosary. Keep the altar simple, but place items upon it that have meaning for your household and help create a quiet, reflective space for yourself and others.

Make Prayer Beads

            Here is a great web resource for making a set of personal prayer beads. These are sometimes a tactile aid for prayer.

            http://thelittleways.com/how-to-make-sacrifice-beads

Make Pretzels

            Eastern Europe has a tradition of making pretzels for Lent because it is a bread item that does not contain the traditional Lenten abstaining food items. The shape of the pretzel is an image of arms in prayer and the word “pretzel” in German means “little arms.” Here is a great link that explains the tradition and has a recipe.

https://www.rca.org/sslpage.aspx?pid=2601

Variation on the Theme:

          Make a particularly large pretzel and create a table centerpiece around it.

Space for Confession

            Lent is a traditionally a time of self-examination and confession. You might take time as a household to have a time of confession together. Here is a process that works well and allows people to enter together into the vulnerability of confession without force or overexposure.

            Take a candle, bowl and slips of folded paper and have it located in the center of the group (if doing with others) or in front of you (if doing it by yourself). Explain to the group what is going to happen and how to engage with the activity.

          Everyone will use the slips of paper to record the confessions that they hear God leading them to in a quiet, prayerful time that will follow the instructions.

          Begin by lighting the candle and inviting God’s Presence among you. Then spend time through quiet music, scripture readings or silence to give people time to enter into self-reflective, listening for God’s Word, prayer.

          When they have written their confessions on their slips of paper they bring them, folded, and put them in the bowl.

          When everyone is done you may take the bowl of papers and light them on fire. Allow everyone to be present and see the ‘sins’ burn up. Often this concrete of an activity around sin can help people believe God when he says that He forgives our sins and that they are gone.

Variations on the Theme:

          If the bowl is fireproof, that is great, if not, you can place them in a fireplace, a pot on a stove or a pot in a sink.

 

 

The Power of a Blessing

November 6, 2012

A few years ago, I made up a night-time blessing song that I sing to my kids. I like for it to be the last thing they hear from me for the night. It is a variation of Psalm 23.

In the name of the Father, and the Son, and Holy Spirit,
I give you to the Good Shepherd
To sleep in His green pasture
Beside the still waters
Where He satisfies and restores
Your soul while you sleep
Alleluia, Amen.

When singing the opening line invoking the Trinity, I trace a cross on their foreheads  I have consistently been amazed and blessed back as they respond by tracing one on my forehead and joining me in singing the blessing as I sing to them. What began as my blessing them has turned into a blessing for both of us. I have been surprised by how long this blessing has remained ‘alive’ to them. There are still times when my teenager will let me bless him and sometimes he startles me with coming and blessing me first.

Something that we didn’t expect but that has become endearing to us about this blessing is that it contains the word Alleluia in it. At our church, Abbey Way Covenant, we ‘bury’ our Alleluias during Lent. That means that we stop using the word all through Lent until it ‘rises’ again at our Easter morning service. Because we do this blessing so much, we noticed how hard it was to stop using ‘Alleluia.’ We began to even ‘groan’ in very small ways because we had to make an effort to stay present to the song and make sure we did not say it. By the time Lent is over we have formed the new habit of not singing the word. We just silently leave it out and then finish by singing ‘Amen’ at the proper time (like the song B-I-N-G-O). When Lent has passed and Easter has come, we find ourselves in the silly position of remembering to put the ‘Alleluia’ back in. It is a very simple instance of the power of a concentrated season of intent and the possibilities that it might hold in our lives.

Well. Today I received a fresh surprise around our blessing song. Zion asked if she could make a video on my phone. After saying she could, she promptly took it and herself off and I didn’t see her for awhile. About a half-hour later she came back and showed me this:

I understand, just a little, what I have heard musicians tell about feeling like their songs take on a life of their own after they share them. I am enjoying watching the powerful little life this song has in our family.