Holy Days

Resurrecting Hope

resurrection toy

At this writing it is Holy Week, arguably the saddest week of the year. This week, my Lord dies, hope dies and we are left with nothing but the empty space of Holy Saturday. There is a commonality among the children at Haven House. Each time I sit with a child in spiritual direction, I first ask them to choose a picture of Jesus with children from a stash of many. This is our rhythm when they come. They choose the picture of Jesus they most need to see and then together we turn on a battery-powered candle to remind us that God is with us. Then they are invited to share their thoughts about the picture. Children who have heard Bible stories usually tell me something about Jesus’ death, even children who know little about Jesus know about his death. Some even know the gruesome details. The children at Haven House know death; they know emptiness, loneliness, and hopelessness. Often I will say, “Did you know, God brought him back to life?” Without fail, I am met with blank stares and even disagreement. Death they know, resurrection they can’t imagine.

So in the last two weeks during spiritual direction (We call it Holy Listening.) we have used a wooden play set of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus to play out the whole story—resurrection and all.

I tell the story first and then invite the children to play with the pieces and retell. They are invited to add their own twists and turns, as this is how they make His story, their story. Interestingly, this is also how they mourn their own sorrows. In the death and sadness of Christ they are able to express their own pain. We keep the candle near, to remind us that even in great pain, and great sadness, God is near.

We are careful to include Jesus’ resurrection each time. In the resurrection of Christ there is hope and joy-- and as one child taught me, forgiveness. In the story he told of the resurrection—Jesus went chasing after the soldiers who were guarding the tomb. “Hey, no wait,” he said, “I forgive you, come back.”

Hope lives in Jesus’ resurrection.

The hope that says God is with you in your greatest pain.

The hope that says God is with you even if you are buried under shame, doubt and fear.

The hope that says “Hey, no wait. I forgive you, come back.”

The hope that says there is something better, unbelievably better, coming.

 

Sabbath Moments

Our pastor is doing a series about the 10 commandments this summer. Our children's curriculum is following that series so the entire family hears the same thing each week. A few weeks ago was our turn to teach the kids. We even got to choose which commandment we wanted to teach on. We thought teaching the Sabbath would be easy...but to children? As we thought about it...do no work...rest...take time to do nothing and reflect...we thought about our kids...WHO DO NOTHING! Haha... don't take that the wrong way. Our kids have and do chores. They have animals that they care for. They maintain their own rooms. They do things for our elderly grandparents. But not without being asked. Not without direction to do so. If we let our kids just go for a day they will find random devices to play on or jump on the trampoline for hours or draw/write in their rooms or just plain play/waste the day away. It irritated me that I was thinking my kids whole lives are Sabbath! So we thought and pondered some more.  This is not a direction given to adults only. My kids have relationships with God so it is as much for them as for me. So what did we learn in trying to teach kids about keeping a Sabbath?

1. It does not have to be a certain day.

2. Kids are great Sabbath keepers. They are not bound up in the busy busy American lifestyle. They live to relax and recharge.

3. I need to watch and learn from them...there is a time for everything. A time to play, a time to dance, a time to clean, a time to let it go!

4. During certain times of the year Sabbath moments are all we can get. My kids are busy during school and more relaxed in the summer...my schedule is always full but I can find a moment to redirect my thoughts to Jesus.

5. Sabbath is not just a relax and do no work day. It is a set aside (holy) time to reflect on Jesus and HIS work and worth in our lives.

6. Kids know how to relax but need to be trained (as we all do) to be intentional about focusing on Jesus.

7. Some of my favorite Sabbath moments are...

a. Late afternoon (almost) every day Mike and I sit down together and have a glass of something and just be...if only for a few minutes.

b. I love to hang out laundry. I have been known to work from the outside in on my round clothesline. It is peaceful and smells like Jesus in the middle of that circle

c. Music...dancing with my people...pretending we are the band...singing in the kitchen

d. Mowing the lawn

e. Going to the mountains, beach, forest, canyon, lake, anywhere natural where again you can smell Jesus and see just how creative he is

f. Just that 5 minutes before we fall asleep.

I could go on and on because this taught us to look for and appreciate those moments. Those moments where we can make it an intentional Sabbath. We want to teach our kids that "down time" can be productive in our relationship with Jesus and to the kingdom of God.  So Happy Sabbath Friday!

 

A Life That's Cruciform

© JD Warrick, used under Creative Common License.
© JD Warrick, used under Creative Common License.

It's those bedtime questions that can require the very most we have to give.

I remember hearing Chuck Swindoll say one time that for parents, it's those moments we're tucking them in when kids are the most talkative. Don't rush through bedtime with your kids, he encouraged. They'll do anything to delay switching off the light. Talk to them. Listen to them. Take advantage of their open hearts and listening ears no matter how tired you are and no matter how ready you are to be done with parenting for the day.

Austin, my 11-year-old, asked this one as I was giving him a final kiss at the end of a trying day, to put it mildly. Our 8-year-old had been through two meltdowns, our high schooler had been home sick from school and then had gotten his braces tightened. We'd been to music lessons which meant a late dinner. The boys had been squabbling.  Fishing poles and line were spider-webbed around our family room in an effort to de-tangle. And Austin and I had just finished studying for a surprise test. It was time for bed.

"Mom, if Jesus asked God a question on the cross--'My God, why have you forsaken me?'--then how could Jesus and God be just one God?"

The Trinity. Who really understands it? And how do I talk about it, and Jesus' most difficult moment here on this earth, to a tired pre-teen when I am feeling on the edge of sanity myself? Many times we've talked about the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as 3 persons in one God, like an apple or an egg or a pumpkin--all different parts of one whole. That's the best way for our human brains to grasp what we can't really get. And this is what I pulled from down deep on this night. "Because the Bible tells us that Jesus cried out to God, we know he was talking to his Father. But the Bible also tells us  that Jesus is God, and that the Lord our God is One. So, even though our minds have a hard time really understanding it, it's true. Someday we'll understand it much better."

Now that I'm rested and the fishing poles are put away, I'm thinking a little more coherently. Not about my words to Austin, but about this place of mystery in our lives. The way we all deal with the unknowing that is an undeniable part of our Christian faith. As parents, and as people in relationship with God, we want to nail down the answers. We want to figure it out and learn it so we can defend it, and more, so we can live in an inner place of comfort.

I'm reading a book that pokes at this tendency of ours to want neat and tidy answers. To beneat and tidy people. It's titled Chasing Francis by Ian Morgan Cron and is the fictional story of a pastor who has a breakdown of sorts and travels to Italy to encounter Francis of Assisi in his millenia-old surroundings.

In talking with a few priests who are hosting him, the pastor begins to see his own unknowing, his own brokenness, with new eyes.

"You'll never be able to speak into their souls unless you speak the truth about your own wounds," one of the priest says. "They want a leader who's authentic, someone trying to figure out how to follow the Lord Jesus in the joy and wreckage of life. They need you, not Moses."

And then the priest says, "Do you know how Simon Tugwell described Franciscanism? He called it 'the radically unprotected life,' a life that's cruciform in shape. ... Maybe living the unprotected life is what it means to be a Christian."

That night with Austin and a house full of tangle--it was the right night for a question without a good answer. It was the right night to remember Jesus' agony in relationship with his Father. And, perhaps my weary attempt was what it needed to be. The mystery of God, the cries of our suffering Servant, and the untidiness of me--they're things my kids need to see. And that image of the cross, I hope it comes to mind every time I'm spent and need to share just a little more of myself.

*The TAU cross shape in the photo above is the one that Francis of Assisi used in all his writings, minus the head. He painted it on the walls and doors of places he stayed and used it as his only signature. The TAU is a letter in both the Hebrew and Greek alphabets and has long been used as a sign of the cross. This stained glass is found in the St. Francis of Assisi Parish, Sacramento, CA.

A Twelve Day Party

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If you are just now joining Good Dirt families, Welcome! You are not late to the party, you are just in time.  In fact, welcome to one of the most holy seasons of the year, Christmastide. During Christmastide we celebrate the "pinch me I'm dreaming" miracle of God entering humanity, God wading into joy and pain.

During Christmastide we are engaging in the 12 Classical Spiritual Disciplines Richard Foster writes about in Celebration of Discipline. However in Good Dirt, we engage in them family style. You can still pick up a devotional at Amazon. http://www.amazon.com/dp/1482697459/ref=cm_sw_su_dp

Or you can download it for free at http://www.scribd.com/doc/178534327/Good-Dirt-Advent-Christmastide-Epiphany-Volume-1.

Join us in the next 11, nearly 10 days as we enter the open space of a life with God through prayer, meditation, study, fasting, simplicity, solitude, service, submission, confession, worship, guidance, and celebration.

If these feel overwhelming and not so child friendly check out our child friendly definitions. http://gooddirtfamilies.com/tools-for-tilling/

Happy Christmastide!

All Saints Day

by Ben Barczi

I'll start off with an admission: sometimes, I feel like God is asking too much. Some days it's all I can do to keep from being a total grouch to everyone around me. And here comes the call of discipleship: become like Jesus!

I don't know about you, but sometimes it feels too much to ask that I be a student of Jesus. I want to give up and settle for just squeaking by into heaven, thank you. (I have to imagine that some of you can resonate with me here.)

That's why it feels fitting to me that we're starting this year of blogging on November 1: All Saint's Day. We have a great bunch of families who are preparing to share their journey through the year with you, and I'd love nothing more than for all of us—readers, bloggers, and editors alike—to set all of this right in the middle of the long, long family of saints.

Because I need to hear that a lot of people, just as doubtful and frayed and sketchy as I am, discovered the eternal kind of life that God promises. It wasn't easy, but it was good. And there they stand—centuries of them—encouraging me to join the with-God party.

Eugene Peterson helps me see this in his translation of Hebrews 11-12, what we know as the Hall of Fame:

I could go on and on, but I’ve run out of time. There are so many more—Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, the prophets. . . . Through acts of faith, they toppled kingdoms, made justice work, took the promises for themselves. They were protected from lions, fires, and sword thrusts, turned disadvantage to advantage, won battles, routed alien armies. Women received their loved ones back from the dead. There were those who, under torture, refused to give in and go free, preferring something better: resurrection...

Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!

All Saints is the day we take a look back and remember—we're not the first ones on the scene. Others went before us. And they've left us records over millennia that God is good. That God is loving. That God helps us. That God is with us. That life with God is really good.

And that, my friends, shoots some adrenaline into my soul.

This year we're living the story of Jesus: Birth, life, teaching, healing, suffering, death, resurrection, ascension. We're going over the story again. And again. But as we do, let's remember that we're part of a long family, who have spent centuries going over the story again and again. And let's take courage—just like God was with them, he is with us. Amen!

Family Activity: Today, take time to tell each other stories of someone you know whose life shows God's goodness. (Maybe a relative, or a friend, or a teacher. If you have a picture, all the better.) What do these stories teach you?