Lacy Finn Borgo

"Still Good" Saturday: In Search of Celebration

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This blog was originally posted at www.Renovare.org. Celebration: Knowing that every good gift is from God and a reason to party.

Of all the disciplines I’ve practiced over the years Celebration is the one I have struggled with the most. Celebration often begins with gratefulness, which leads to joy and when done right carries over into a jig.  While I start well, I just can’t seem, with much consistency, to pull off the joy and the jig.

I have spent the majority of my life with children and this is not an issue for them. They are perpetually party ready. I have been to countless tea parties and been asked to dance by people under three foot tall at least twice a week for two decades. But I’m always feeding off their celebration, it’s rarely my own.

Lately though I’ve been paying attention to their partying ways, trying to grab a few bread crumbs from the celebration table. I found that they don’t even count their blessings! For shame, they aren’t even overtly thankful!  After spending an evening with six of my favorite young friends, I realized Celebration begins with an all encompassing sense of safety. These children can party because they feel safe.

Here’s the difference…. When I start to count my blessings, I do begin to feel joy and the jig, but before I can say “party streamers”, my joy is hijacked by the need to feel safe. The “what if’s” begin to ring in my ears, and I’m back where I started.

But my young friends live in the land of safety, they are free to party at a moment’s notice.

Listening to Richard Foster has given me many gifts, but maybe one of the greatest is the saying, “The Kingdom of God is not in danger.”  Dallas Willard often said, “The universe is a perfectly safe place to be.”  Anybody with ears or eyes knows this is crazy talk. The world is not safe– but the kingdom of God is. Our God is a redemptive God and there is nothing he can’t turn around for good- and that’s some serious safety.

So the LORD and I are working this out. I count my blessings and he says, “See, I can be trusted. You are safe.”  I’m going to keep gathering crumbs from my young friends, but I’m also practicing the merengue just in case.

 

What is the root of celebration in your life?

Tell us about a time you have celebrated with children.

"Still Good" Saturday: Study and Its Faithful Companion--Submission

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This blog was originally posted at www.Renovare.org. I knew it was coming and frankly, I couldn’t wait. My children can argue the hind leg off a dog and I was really looking forward to our Ignatian Meditation time with John 2:1-12, the Wedding at Cana. The point of this story is so obvious. I mean it’s so clear, to a mother who after a summer of bickering children hides in the pantry.

When Mary called Jesus’ attention to a chore that needed to be done, he obeyed her. Yes, some might say he gave her a little lip, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.” But in the end, he obeyed his mother.

(As as I side note, when I was fantasizing about my children obeying their mother, my fantasy did get away from me and I heard my daughter respond after asking her to clean her room, “Woman, what concern is that to you and me. My hour has not yet come.” I was struck instantly with a migraine and had to lie down.)

I digress. The morning came and we began our usually ritual of reading the scriptures with our senses. And then we asked the Holy Spirit to speak to us. And I told the Spirit, “Here’s your chance to really push that ‘obey your mother’ message.” (Um… yeah, pray for me.) We ended our time together by sharing a word, or a phrase, or an image the Holy Spirit had given us.

Tween daughter, “I love that only the servants and I guess his disciples, and his mom knew.[That he changed water to wine.] He didn’t brag or charge money or tell anyone.”

Newly Nine year old daughter, “I think someone who likes to laugh turns water into wine, not into grape juice.” (Maybe too much TV for this kid.)

Nothing. No one got my message. Instead they got God’s.

A parent must respect the spiritual person of his child, and approach it with reverence, for that too looks the Father in the face and has an audience with Him into which no earthy parent can enter even he dared to desire it.  

-George MacDonald

You see the Tween, she’s been serving at a soup kitchen. And the Newly Nine shares a ritual with her Dad of smelling the corks from wine bottles. They rate them and discuss funny things like, this smells similar to paint thinner, or old socks. These messages from the Holy Spirit are just for them, because he knows their hearts so well.

When we engage in the discipline of study with our children, or even within ourselves, submission must be our ever present companion. It seems so much easier to submit myself to the teaching of the Holy Spirit than it is to submit my children.

In my greatest moments I want them to learn directly from God; I want to be looked through— a transparent parent, pointing the way, not becoming it.

"Still Good" Saturday: Guidance Through Incarnation

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This blog was originally posted at www.Renovare.org Our child friendly definition of guidance is this: listening to the counsel of God and others who love us.

Each night before I go to bed, I go outside and make a last check of all the animals. Here in the country there are no outside lights. Robert Frost is right, “the woods are lovely dark and deep,” but I would like to add that without a light, they are dangerous. Sometimes my fears are real, like that coyote that I hear howl as I make my rounds, and sometimes they are imagined—the branches that look like monsters ready to pounce. However if I grab a flashlight as I head out the door all things change. I know where I am at all times, wild animals generally run from light, and those imaginary monsters simply don’t exist. Guidance is a light. Often through the scrip­tures God lights our paths, through the advice of others he keeps us safe. This is the receiving end of guidance.

The “dishing it out” side is another story. As a parent and a teacher let me just lay all my cards on the table and say guidance is tough stuff. It requires so much energy! It is messy. And sometimes it’s heartbreaking.

As a teacher I can bark orders and give guidance from a distance. I can keep myself separate by only caring about what goes on at school, issuing assignments and grades like a well oiled machine. But no one actually learns anything of value and the distance is unmistakable.

As a parent I can also bark orders and give guidance from a distance. I can be unmovable, issuing the wages of good and bad behavior, all the while muttering under my breath, “Do as I say, not as I do.” But children won’t “Do as I say, not as I do”; they will do as I do. Children will try an array of creative techniques to fill in the relational space they feel.

Guidance through incarnation looks completely different. Jesus gives us the perfect picture.  Jesus says, “Do as I do,” and then he takes it even further, “Do as I do… and here, let me help you.” And with that he stepped forever into humanity with hands on guidance. He gave us proximity.

Incarnation is God stepping into humanity, and a result is presence—proximity. “The Kingdom of God is here,” is a declaration of proximity.  Jesus declares proximity without pretension. We are still free to shun his guidance, but he won’t leave, he won’t abandon. Our sensibilities may be dulled to this gift of proximity, but he is always there.

As parents we can participate in incarnation through our presence. Like Jesus we offer our presence, even when our guidance is rejected. We cannot do it without the strength of the Spirit. We need this incarnation as well as offer it.

Today, how is God calling you to guide your children through incarnation?

"Still Good" Saturday: "An Ounce of Pretension is Worth a Pound of Manure"*

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This blog was originally posted at www.Renovare.org. Over chocolate toast this morning, (Hey, It’s a birthday breakfast—cut us some slack.) the girls and I engaged in a little Ignatian meditation on John 1:43-51. After exploring what we saw, heard, taste, touched and felt within the passage, we began to focus on what the Holy Spirit was saying specifically to us.

The Birthday Girl said, “There are angels everywhere! I mean everywhere! They are bringing buckets of help from heaven all the time.”

The Tween said, “I really have no idea. I’ll have to think about this all day.”

And myself, well, I was speechless. I was convicted.

Is there something about Jesus’ declaration that in Nathanael there is no deceit–

connected to Nathanael’s statement about the shenanigans of Nazareth that in turn is–

connected to Nathanael’s declaration and belief in the Son of God?

Children are born without duplicity. They are what they are, and it all hangs out at the Walmart. A person without duplicity would easily say, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Nathanael is not playing to the crowd, he is not trying to please or deceive anyone. His life drips with simplicity. And from that simplicity he was able to spot the truth, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”

Simplicity helps us see clearly. Duplicity clouds our vision with expectation, fear, and worry.

A person without duplicity, a person without deceit, is the one who can spot the truth and follow it. A person without duplicity, a person without deceit, can be vulnerable in a relationship with God and with others.

The young folks who live in my house and raid my chocolate stash are under the sphere of my influence. I can create spaces where they choose to engage deceit, or duplicity just to survive. Or I can create spaces that are safe places to be who they are, to say what they think, to tell the truth about themselves and tell the truth about God.

There are many way to create these healthy, simple spaces.

  • Give children a growing self government. Train them for increased independence.
  • Be available and vulnerable. Tell the truth about yourself.
  • Offer children the same respect you would give an adult.
  • Listen and encourage truth telling even when it may not be what you want to hear.
  • All of the above suggestions are found in Richard Foster’s The Challenge of the Disciplined Life

*To quote the theologically sound movie Steel Magnolias, “An ounce of pretension is worth a pound of manure.”

I’m carrying this around today, asking for forgiveness and starting again.

How do you create these safe, simple spaces in your home?

*It’s a joke.  I have no idea if it’s theologically sound or not. But it’s a darn good movie on truth telling in relationships.

"Still Good" Saturday: The Very Best Way to Be Human

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This blog was originally posted at www.Renovare.org. “Please don’t leave your gum on the table.”

“In our house, we don’t call people fat.”

“The goat cannot come inside.”

“Use your fork, please, not your fingers.”

“Spitting from the balcony doesn’t make friends.”

In all homes there are rules; rules that make living together possible and on many days pleasant. Recently, I was reading Rob Bell and Don Golden’s book called Jesus Wants to Save the Christians: A Manifesto for the Church in Exile. In this book they write about the Jews being rescued from Egypt and how when they finally made it out, God gave them the Ten Commandments to teach them how to be human again. As slaves they were treated like things, property to be owned and manipulated, but as free people now they would need to learn to govern themselves.

Learning to govern ourselves well is the fullness of humanity. As a side note that is particularly central, learning to govern ourselves greatly affects those around us for good or ill.

But what does governing ourselves well, look like?

Jesus tells us, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’Matthew 22:37-39

Dallas Willard often said the question of how to live a good life is a question we are born asking. Children want to know how to live a good life. Like the Jews we need to learn, and continue to learn, how to live in the fullness of what God created us to be—human. The Ten Commandments do just that. They show us how to live the very best way. They are stepping stones, path markers that show us the good, true, and safe path that many have followed before us.

There are various rules in my household, but not many of these will carry over when my children leave home. For example, they may not have a goat or a balcony for that matter. But they will always be human, and the Ten Commandments will teach them the very best way to be just that.

Here are two good books for learning together the very best way to be human.

The Ten Commandments by Sophie Piper http://www.paracletepress.com/the-ten-commandments.html

This small book presents the Ten Commandments one at a time while drawing on passages from the Psalms, Proverbs, the prophets and Jesus. It’s poetic and thoughtful, filled with insight. The illustrations are lovely. I have found myself returning to this book as a reminder of God’s great love and purpose for human beings.

The Three Questions written and illustrated by Jon J. Muth

This beautiful picture book addresses the three great questions, "When is the best time to do thing?" and "Who is the most important one?" and "What is the right thing to do?" It is based on a story by Leo Tolstoy.

May you join with your children and lean deeply into who God created you to be-- human.

 

"Still Good" Saturday: Big Seed-Little People

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This blog was posted in its original form at www.Renovare.org. A curious phenomenon occurs in elementary schools each year as children meander into their classrooms for the first time. Children scan the room looking for their desk, their locker, their space. Then they plunk backpacks down and begin a process of dominating their spaces. Some children arrange these spaces for as long as the person in charge will let them, others unload haphazardly, but all will settle their goods in their kingdom. Similar behavior can be seen on this first day in the lunch room, on the playground, and usually during Physical Education class.

Physical Education, class because laying kingdom boundaries has a definite connection to the body, the practical tool of carrying out the human will. This wonderful phenomenon is also observed, sometimes with shock and other times with elation, by new parents as their formerly soft and sweet baby begins to assert her independence in the form of tantrums and grand declarations of, “No” and “I can do it.” This is not a switch in personality, but a seed that is planted in every human by God.

In the natural world, seeds take time to germinate and push their spouts up through the protective dirt. This precious seed in children follows a similar route, pushing up through protective family members declaring to the world razor sharp dominion.  The Bible calls this seed the image of God; placing this seed in human beings is the pinnacle act of the creation story.

Each child has been born with the image of God. Without being told or prompted they declare their dominion. Naming is an example of an exercise in dominion easily seen in children. In Genesis 2 God names Adam and rivers. Adam functions in his dominion by naming animals.  Children naturally name and have a desire to know the names of people and things around them.  They instinctively know they were born to rule. But how they rule determines the fullness with which they will bear the image of God.

Within them they contain the capacity for relationship with God. As this relationship grows they will learn to govern with love of God and neighbor as guiding principles. They can grow in the reality of the kingdom of God and the fullness of his image. Although the theology behind the image of God can be complex, explaining the image of God to children doesn’t have to be. Children are innately aware of their own dominion. They also have less social baggage that can get in the way of seeing God and growing in his image. The Wisdom book of Proverbs speaks of this training.  As parents and trainers of children we are to train children to see and live from the image of God within them.

We introduce them to their relational life with God, while training them to govern their kingdom from the place of the image within.

"Still Good" Saturday: Children Are Horrible Hiders

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This blog in it's original form was posted at www.Renovare.org Confront a three year old with, “Did you eat the candy out of your brother’s Christmas stocking?” And you will likely get a, “No.”  But their bodies will tell the truth. Their eyes will look away, their shoulders will curve inwardly and some will fidget.

The Candle Light Christmas Eve service is one I would never miss. Rows and rows of children wiggling with fire is a delight to the eyes. (And frankly a bit of an adrenaline rush as I visually locate the fire extinguisher and count the exits.) Their excitement for Christmas morning cannot be hidden in their bodies. They simply can’t pull it off.

It’s why children dance in the worship service while adults try to contain them. We, adults, have learned to hide the joy of the Lord in our bodies, they have not… yet.

One of the ways we help children in their life with God, is by helping them to keep their parts connected. Mind/emotions/thoughts and feelings, connected to spirits/hearts and bodies.  There are many ways to foster this connection. Here are a few…

  • Acknowledge that bodies are good. We get lots of feedback from our culture saying that certain kinds of bodies are good and others are not. We, as followers of an Incarnate God, say, “No way.” All bodies are good. We even get feedback from some in the Christian community saying that bodies are bad. Granted often what we do with our bodies is destructive, but that usually comes from separating the body from the spirit. Turning a person into a thing. Bullying is an example of this. So is sexism and racism.
  • One of my greatest struggles, when my children were small, came in the form of confronting "The Public Tantrum."  The “I know you are upset, but we are in Target and you need to shape up,” said through clinched teeth while half the store has stopped and is staring. The mind/emotions are indeed upset and the body is simply living in sync.  As children grow older they do need to learn the appropriateness of, “there is a time and place for everything;” but forcing them to shut off emotion to satisfy my own embarrassment is not healthy for either of us. Each situation is different and each person is different, so it's hard to find one solution, but I think the place we start is by listening. Stopping and actively listening. Then we think,  how can I acknowledge emotions and help my child move them into appropriate expressions?
  • Help their experiences of God to flow into their bodies as well as their minds. When we experience God in all our parts we grow strong and balanced. Try assigning parts and acting out the miracles of Jesus. Try praying with your body.  Roy DeLeon’s book, Praying with the Body is a great place to start. Read Psalm 23 aloud, invite your children to act it out with their bodies.
  • Take frequent nature walks and name all the bodies you see, including the human ones. Pray simple prayers to thank God for his good creation.

How do you keep parts in sync? (Both yours and the people who leave their gum on your kitchen table.)

 

 

*An insightful book that talks about the parts of the person is Dallas Willard's Renovation of the Heart.

"Still Good" Saturday : Quiet, Alone, Time with God

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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 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

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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.

 

A Prayer: Be the Gardener of My Soul

My eldest daughter's favorite prayer book is Richard Foster's Prayers From the Heart. We have been working the opening prayer into our days lately and thought you might find it helpful.

 

Be The Gardener of My Soul

Spirit of the Living God, be the Gardener of my

soul. For so long I have been waiting, silent and still--

experiencing a winter of the soul. But now, in the strong

name of Jesus Christ, I dare to ask:

Clear away the dead growth of the past,

Break up the hard clods of custom and routine,

Stir in the rich compost of vision and challenge,

Bury deep in my soul the implanted Word,

Cultivate and water and tend my heart,

Until new life buds and opens and flowers.

Amen.

 

Richard Foster, Prayers From the Heart. Harper One:New York 1994. 3.

Ordinary Time is just so... Ordinary

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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

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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

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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

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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

Anwen's 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