The Feast of All Saints

Happy All Saints to you!  This is one of my favorite Church feasts, though not one I celebrated until recently.

I love all sorts of things about All Saints’ Day.  I love that Halloween (my least favorite “holiday”) is past and people are going to take the skeletons and tombstones  out of their lawns.  I love remembering the cloud of witnesses who have gone before.  I love to celebrate the fellowship of the saints we have with us today.

All Saints is Moriah’s baptism anniversary, so we always have a little party.

There is just a month left in the Church year.  Still time to finish strong.  This final month is all about finishing: appreciating the fellowship of believers across centuries, realizing the abundance of blessings God has given us at Thanksgiving, and celebrating Christ the King and his eternal Kingdom.

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Wondering how to finish strong when the stores have already pulled out their Christmas decorations and shopping countdowns are posted everywhere you look?  I have a few suggestions:

For All Saints’ Day: take time today to celebrate a loved one who has died. That might mean pulling out your grandmother’s tea pot, or resurrecting your aunt’s recipe for cornbread or pierogies.  Reading your grandfather’s favorite verse. Watching your dad’s favorite movie.  For us it will mean planting bulbs in the garden in honor of my friend Jerry who died last spring. They will come up in the spring and remind us of his vibrant, abundant life.
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We’re singing my favorite hymn tomorrow in church: For All the Saints.

For all the saints, who from their labors rest,

who thee by faith before the world confessed,

thy name, O Jesus, be forever blest.

Alleluia, Alleluia!

There was a time during medical school and residency when I was so tired I used to weep at those words– I was so jealous of their rest– but now I can sing joy and an appropriate sense of longing.

For Thanksgiving:

Set the tone for a month gratitude by starting to count your blessings now.  Wrap a shoebox in paper, cut a hole in the lid, and encourage your family to write down or draw a blessing they are thankful for from the year. On Thanksgiving, open the box and read them aloud.

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For Christ the King Sunday:

C.S. Lewis’s The Last Battle is a great read-aloud for this month leading up to this Sunday.

Likewise, bringing the Kingdom in daily ways– serving our neighbors, a canned or coat food drive– are ways to honor the Kingship of Christ.

In honor of All Saints’ Day, Let Us Keep the Feast: The Complete Year is being released today. That link is to the paperback, but it’s also available as an ebook or pdf through Doulos Resources or Amazon. It’s full of resources for a celebration of the church year and ways to see God in your daily walk.  (Jessica is hosting a giveaway of the book here!)

If you have a special way you celebrate the saints in your life, please share in the comments.

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LUKTF: Pentecost and Ordinary Time

Sunday was the Feast of Pentecost.  Normally we spend our day celebrating the Spirit’s empowerment of the Church and Owen’s baptism anniversary.  This year, since we were traveling, we will celebrate Owen’s baptism on Trinity Sunday (the Sunday after Pentecost).

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Pentecost dinner, 2010

We’re heading into the part of the Church year that is often forgotten.  It’s much easier to celebrate a holiday than a season, and Ordinary Time (from Trinity Sunday till Advent) is quite a long season.  Yet for me, it’s the time when each day becomes holy and I find myself growing like a garden.

My chapter of Let Us Keep the Feast: Pentecost and Ordinary Time, is out.  Here’s the link to order from the publisher, and here’s the link from Amazon.  It’s meant to be an encouragement to live your time as sacred—all of it, even the ordinary moments.  In the fall, the full set of booklets will be released as a book.  I’ll keep you posted.

 

Celebrating Epiphany

I have new energy for celebrating Epiphany this year.  I’m not sure where that came from- a good break these past two weeks? a snow day to prepare?- but I am going to enjoy it while it lasts.

Normally, I think Epiphany is one of the harder seasons of the church year.  Not that Epiphany itself is hard, but it’s not like Christmas which everyone (and their local Walmart) have suggestions for how to celebrate.  Epiphany is a quieter season, like Ordinary Time, and takes a little more thought.

Like Christmas, Epiphany is a holy day (January 6) as well as a season (running from January 6 to Ash Wednesday, which this year falls of March 5).  Traditionally, Epiphany celebrates the bringing of Light to the nations and recognizes the Magi’s visitation of Jesus.  (Eastern traditions focus on Jesus’ baptism.)

For Epiphany (the day) we have:

  • made French Galette de Trois Rois (Three Kings Cake)
  • played Find the Baby (hiding a small baby Jesus doll, often the one from our crèche)
  • made glittery crowns
  • made star cupcakes
  • played follow the leader, with the leader carrying a star.

but obviously not all at the same time.  This year, I am teaching children’s church, so we will read about the Magi and Herod, play Find the Baby, and follow the star.

For the season, we will:

  • light lots of candles, to represent Jesus as Light of the World.
  • cook lots of international food and spend time learning about the countries and how to pray for them.
  • support World Vision and Samaritan’s Purse as they bring Light to the nations.
  • read Matthew 2:1-12.
  • star-gaze.  Right now we can see Jupiter (it’s so bright!) in the east soon after dusk.  Try here for a weekly digest of what to look for in the night sky.
  • sing the first verse and chorus of We Three Kings as our sung grace.
  • make a little extra time in my day for prayer.

I also am excited to find new traditions in Let Us Keep the Feast: Epiphany and Lent.

What traditions draw you to the Light of the World and lead you to bring his light to the nations?

Lenten Intentions

There’s plenty of time to seek the Lord this season.  It’s not too late.

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A Holy Experience has several really gentle, fruitful Lenten offerings: The Trail to the Tree, which we did last year, and this year’s offering: a dedicated place in your home to seek and offer forgiveness.  I think it’s a lovely, concrete idea that will be food for us all around here.

We also received a (Caleb Voskamp) beautiful Cradle to the Cross wreath.  We used it at Advent, and I’m excited to use it as a visual reminder for Lent.

What I don’t want to do, though, is weigh myself down with more burdens.  More to-dos.

I sensed God calling me this year to give up my morning writing time– just for this season of Lent– in favor of prayer.  My writing isn’t bad. On the contrary, I think it’s good for me.  But prayer is better, and I think I will be more determined to find other time to write… while I don’t make other time to pray.   I am eager and excited to begin this discipline today.

And when I fall down, and just.don’t.bother to turn on my alarm… I will pick myself up. Dust off my knees, and get down on them again.

Blessings to you this Lenten Season.

Lent, 2012

There’s plenty of time to seek the Lord this season.

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A Holy Experience has several really gentle, fruitful Lenten offerings: The Trail to the Tree, which we did last year, and this year’s offering: a dedicated place in your home to seek and offer forgiveness.  I think it’s a lovely, concrete idea that will be food for us all around here.

We also received a (Caleb Voskamp) beautiful Cradle to the Cross wreath.  We used it at Advent, and I’m excited to use it as a visual reminder for Lent.

What I don’t want to do, though, is weigh myself down with more burdens.  More to-dos.

I sensed God calling me this year to give up my morning writing time– just for this season of Lent– in favor of prayer.  My writing isn’t bad. On the contrary, I think it’s good for me.  But prayer is better, and I think I will be more determined to find other time to write… while I don’t make other time to pray.   I am eager and excited to begin this discipline today.

And when I fall down, and just.don’t.bother to turn on my alarm… I will pick myself up. Dust off my knees, and get down on them again.

Blessings to you this Lenten Season.  If you’re willing, would you just drop a note in the comments to share what you are hoping for during this season?

Advent: a Time for Charity

I love the church seasons.  I love that Christmas is twelve days of feasting.  I love that Advent and Lent are long enough for some contemplation and habit-forming.

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We like to focus charity during Advent.  The scriptures of the season certainly support this: Isaiah 61, Luke 3, Matthew 11, Luke 1:46-55.  And our family needs more than just a day here or there to build a new habit.  Advent is long enough that we can spend time daily thinking about the poor both far and near, and how we are called to serve them in love.

Specifics in how we flesh that out have included many things (never all in one year):

  • reading about St Nicholas’s acts of charity
  • giving the children a budget to spend from the World Vision (or Samaritan’s Purse, or World Relief) gift catalogs
  • helping them choose some of their more gently used toys and clothes to donate to a shelter
  • participating in a coat drive or food drive
  • sponsoring a family for a holiday meal
  • Operation Christmas Child, or giving gifts through Angel Tree
  • baking cookies to give to our neighbors
  • shoveling snow for our neighbors
  • giving the money from our Kindness Jar (where we put loose change, allowances, fines I levy for unkind acts, bonuses I pay into the jar when I see unexpected acts of kindness between the children) to a charity of the children’s choice
  • a discipline of daily prayer specifically for the needs of a group– Karen refugees from Burma, for example– or friend who is sick

At the end of Advent, some of these habits have continued– have penetrated our hearts in a new way.  In way that brings God with us.  Emmanuel.  Isn’t that what we’re waiting for?

Find more posts on Keeping Advent at Kerry’s Blog, A Ten O’Clock Scholar.