Holy Week Idea


Here are the candles Sam set out for us before church.

My dear friend Jerusha passed along this great idea to mark Holy Week.  But you have to prepare early, so I’m sharing it now.

Their family used no electric lights during Holy Week last year.  For morning and evening light, they used only candles.  I loved this idea, but had no candles in the house last year (and I was not shopping for Holy Week– sort of a consumer-fast) so it couldn’t happen.  But candles are on my grocery list for this week.  This year, with Easter a good three weeks later than last year– and Daylight Savings having already happened– the difference won’t be as noticeable.  But I still think it will be meaningful for us as a family.

Fasting from electric light has so many spiritual applications for us as Christians.  It brings to mind all the ways that I look for light from the world instead of from the Light.  It makes me cognizant of my own consumption.  It connects me to those around the world where there is no electricity.  Clearly I’m not going to unplug my refrigerator… but I could turn off the computer for the week.  And he TV.  And the radio.  I’m looking forward to this Holy Week fast.

How will you mark Holy Week?

What I learned in Lent

This is a repost from 2011.  I have to say, I wasn’t so excited when I noticed that the reason I’m off the computer this year sounds pretty familiar…

Some of you may recall that my Lenten discipline was to be off the web for Lent.  I had great theories that it would give me lots of time– margin— to spend reading scripture, being more attentive to my children and my family and my spirit.  That I would come out at Easter better.  Able to sustain a deeper level of engagement with ideas and people.  I can’t say it was a rousing success.

Yes, I was off the web.  In fact, I was so off the web that I missed the deadlines (at all three local rec centers) to register my children for spring soccer.  Whoops.  And I spent much of Lent sick with three different viruses in succession, and then knee surgery.  Not much margin was going on.

And what did I discover about myself?

That really, I have a very short attention span.  Yes, I had more little bits of time to spend in prayer and reading… but I don’t feel like I used them to their best advantage.  I learned that my use of the web–  reading blogs, occasionally (more often than I’d like) reading through random bits of gossip about people I haven’t met who star on TV shows I’ve never watched as if I were in some dentist’s virtual waiting room– is a symptom of my shallowness, not the cause.

I also read through the book of John.  My friend Amy and I were laughing about the difference between how the gospel of Mark tells a story– just the facts, ma’am– and how John tells it is about ten minutes of standing time in church.  And it turns out that my brain is much more of a Mark-fan than a John-fan.  I’m not proud of this, but there it is.

But I’m trusting that God can take my weakness and use it for his good, even if it means some growing pains in the process.

On the up side, I came to the conclusion that this blogging space serves a very useful function for me.  Thank you for visiting and sharing your thoughts with me.  It’s a true encouragement to me, and I look forward to being here with you again.

(Don’t miss Jessica’s thoughtful post on what she learned during Lent.)

Lenten Thoughts

Driving to work the other day, I saw a bald eagle soaring overhead. Then I saw two more– a total of three bald eagles. Soaring. Two were adults, with a juvenile who was following.

Seriously, I almost wrecked the car.

Okay– now about Lent. Somehow Lent always sneaks up on me. I want to have plans, to have a six-week vegetarian menu plan set. I want to have considered deeply and prayed about what discipline will get to the root of my corrupt self, to let God shine his light on the darkness in me…

And every year, right about now (Shrove Tuesday), I almost fall over in shock. Whoa– it’s Lent? Already? The house is full of meat. There are no candles in the house. I haven’t thought a bit about what discipline I’d like to follow.

And if I’m honest, it’s probably because I like it this way. Epiphany is a good season for me — a season of light, and sharing, and home and hospitality. But Lent? Lent is a season of reflection and discipline and prayer and fasting.

Those aren’t my strengths.  And yet, those are exactly the areas where I say I’d like to grow.

I’d also like to take up bird-watching. I’d like to be a person who’s planned ahead for what I might see– for what is likely to be out there at this time of year. I’d like to have an idea of what a wood peewee or a golden vireo looks and sounds like, so that if I saw one, I’d be able to say, “Wow! That’s a wood peewee!” instead of asking myself, “Wow– what’s that bird? It’s got wings and feathers, and it’s brown…” I’d like to see the bald eagles– who live around here, multiple pairs of them actually– when I’ve prepared to see them, when I’d have a chance to get out of the car and watch them soar without the likelihood of causing a six car pile-up. But that would take planning ahead, and patience. And time.

Which is exactly what Lent is: planning ahead for Easter. Taking time. Learning patience.

And maybe in the process, I’ll learn to soar, like that fledgling eagle.

This is a repost from a few years ago.  Maybe this year I’ll see another eagle.

Lent, 2013

(The Lenten tree is going in a new spot this year.)

I think I need to be off the blog for Lent, friends.  This space is a source of joy and encouargement for me (thank you!), but it’s also a gateway drug.  I get on the computer and then can’t get off.

Clicking here leads to another click there, and all of a sudden I’m craving Cheetos and reading gossip online.  My children notice when I’m online a lot.  I notice when I’m online a lot, and I don’t like how I feel.

I hope to spend the time I would have been here, praying and reading actual books.  With pages.

I will post some photos and a few of my previous Lenten thoughts here, in case your soul is stronger than mine and you are in search of some encouraging words.

Here’s hoping to be back after Easter bursting from the grave of self I keep digging.

Love defeats Death

Of course I’m not talking about the kind of “love” you can buy in a Hallmark card or give with a candy heart. Or even the kind of “love” that is supposed to come standard in many modern vehicles advertised during the Super Bowl.


But love– true love– is the reason we go to church today and humble ourselves. We ask for ashes to be put on our heads, to remind us of the death we deserve. The death we even, at times, seek.

The death that was overcome by Love so strong that death couldn’t hold it in the grave.


Will you join me this Lent to  contemplate Love and its power to defeat death?

Bringing the Gift

For the past few years, I have been making the Communion bread for our church.   Some weeks the bread is better than others, but it has always been a joy for me to make.

Recently our priest asked me to let him know how much it costs, since “you shouldn’t be bearing that burden solo.”


The recipe is simple: yeast, water, honey.  Flour, salt and oil.  I feel like the widow at Zarephath trying to measure and calculate what portion of the bag of whole wheat flour I use for the recipe.  2 2/3 cups of flour is 14.7 oz.  A double recipe takes 28.15 oz of flour, or 36 % of a 5-lb bag of flour.  A double recipe makes 16 loaves, or 4 weeks of bread.  3 tbsp of honey is…


The bread I make comes out of the supplies I always keep in our kitchen. The same ingredients I use to make all our meals.  The bread I bring to share for Communion is part of the very fabric of our days.  To separate out what I bring to the Lord’s table is somehow wrong– though I understand our priest’s intent– because it suggests that any offering I bring to the church can be separated from the rest of my life.

How I wish that all areas of my life were as integrated as my kitchen.

End of Christmas: Beginning of Epiphany

I hope you had a joyful Christmas, and that it lasted more than ten minutes on Christmas morning.  Now we’re heading into Epiphany.


One of my favorite parts of Christmas is the music.  We try to hold off on singing a lot of the traditional songs and carols until Christmas Eve (which makes them that much sweeter) but we prolong the joy by singing them lots during the twelve days of Christmas.  In particular, we sing O Come, All Ye Faithful as our grace.

Now that we’re heading into Epiphany, we will sing We Three Kings for our Epiphany grace.  Or maybe this year, we’ll sing God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.

The Wise Men are almost at the stable, the Christmas decorations will come down, and we will celebrate our church’s name feast Sunday.  Then I will light as many candles as I can every evening (and morning) as the darkness creeps in.   Their light draws me away from the rush into a quieter place: a place of contemplation and prayer.  Will you join me?

Advent, Week 2

We’ve been continuing with school, and adding in a few Christmas/Advent read-alouds: Geraldine McCraughrean’s The Jesse Tree, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, A Christmas Carol (Jim Dale’s wonderful reading on CD), Christmas in the Barn, King of the Stable, and King Island Christmas. I’m still waiting for a few more I found at Better World Books.  (And thanks to Elizabeth Foss for the picture book recommendations.)


Peppermint Bark happened. The children are very motivated to help when they get the crumbs at the end.  (I am including links to everything today, lest you are mislead to thinking I have any original ideas.)


I picked up Dorothy Sayer’s Busman’s Holiday (the sequel to Gaudy Night, so you know it was dangerous for me). Somehow we managed still to get school done.

And our homeschool group carolled at nursing home near us. Joy to the World.  No more let sin or sorrow reign. Amen.


Now I’m trying to figue out how to share with my children what happened in Connecticut.

I’ll leave you with my favorite prayer from the Book of Common 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.

First Week of Advent

I prepped this lovely craft from Spell Out Loud for our church luncheon.  Then my two girls were sick, and I told them they had to stayt home with Sam.  Both were crushed.  (Sadly, I suspect this had more to do with missing the craft than missing the service.)


In the end, Sam and the girls made the paper chains, and no one at church did.


We also set up the creche on the mantle.  When I wasn’t looking, an unexpected wise men showed up.


Our Christmas books have come out of hiding, and we’ve been enjoying How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree, Fancy Nancy’s Splendiferous Christmas, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever and The Night Before Christmas.  I found some new treasures on Better World Books, so I’m looking forward to their arrival.  Are there any I should put on my wish list?