Time to Get Ready for All Saints Day

Many hands make light work

Many hands have gone before

All Saints Day is November 1st but many churches will celebrate on Sunday November 3rd. Remembering those who impact our lives, those who have gone before and those who are still with us is an important part of our faith.

The Episcopal Church website explains:

We step aside from the flow of the propers and celebrate all the saints. We stop. We notice, We are surrounded by a flock of witnesses in our midst – many who have gone before us, some we are just now releasing, and still more with a full life ahead of them.

I love the Anglican tradition of renewing our baptismal vows on this day. Reminding ourselves of the journey we have taken personally is a good place to start in remembering the saints of God. In this tradition, all baptized Christians, living and dead known and unknown are considered saints of God. This means everyone including ourselves.

So as you get ready for All Saints Day think about your own faith journey. Remember the faithfulness of God in your past. Notice the movement of God in the present. Think about your hopes and dreams for the future. Get ready to celebrate all that you are as a saint of God.

But don’t stop there. This is a special day for celebrating. Here are some suggestions:

St Aidan’s Episcopal church on Camano Island where we worshipped yesterday is planning a special “remembering” table that will be set up in the nave. The congregation is invited to bring photos or small memorabilia of dear ones who have gone before us and place them on the table. During the worship on All Saint’s Day there will be a special blessing of the photos and memories.

Hold an All Saints’ Day party – a great alternative to Halloween. Get everyone to dress as their favourite saint, or to bring a picture of this saint. During the festivities get everyone to share a story about their saint and the impact he or she has had on their lives. Or you might like to get participants to guess who each person represents.

Plan a family heritage party. Invite people to do some work beforehand researching their family history and particularly the Christian saints who were a part of it.  Ask them to bring photos and stories to share.  Finish with a time of prayer for all those that have gone before us.

Several years ago when my youngest brother went to Greece where my father comes from he found out that it is possible that our family name Aroney comes from the name Aaron and that our family probably originated in Jerusalem many centuries ago.  It is probable that one of the reason they began the journey out of Jerusalem first to Constantinople then to Rhodes and finally to the tiny island of Kithera at the bottom of the Peloponnese mountains is because they became Christians.  There are a number of Greek orthodox priests in my father’s family history and my Aunt Mary was a very devout Greek Orthodox Christian.   I know less about my mother’s family history but would love to find out where her family too has had profound encounters with God.

Plan an All Saints Day pilgrimage. Again this might require some before time research.  Explore the Christian heritage of your community.  Where did the first Christians come from?  How did they interact with the native peoples?  Where was the first church established?  Who were some of the early Christians who impacted your community.  Plan a pilgrimage walk to the site of the first Christian community and if possible have a time of prayer and possibly even a eucharistic celebration to remember those who have gone before.

What are your ideas for celebrating All Saints Day this year? It is a great alternative to Halloween and we would love to hear what you are doing.

Here are some other posts I have written on All Saints Day that you might enjoy.

Coming Home for All Saints Day

Freeing the Saints from Their Hallmark Holidays

Surrounded by Prophetic Voices – Clouds of Witnesses that Call Us Out of Numbness

A Prayer for All Saints Eve

 

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Interruptions that Bless Our Lives

This has been a season of interruptions for me, events that disrupt the normal rhythm of my life, sometimes with joy, sometimes with sorrow. The last couple of days have been no exception.

With Jeff Pratt at the Mustard Seed Village

Monday I spent to Jeff Pratt  whom I know from my days on the mercy ship Anastasis. Jeff currently leads YWAM Axiom and Axiom Global Monastic Community. Like me, Jeff describes himself as a contemplative activist. He leads retreats and pilgrimages and challenges people to a more radical whole life discipleship that embraces both contemplation and activism towards the marginalized in our world.

Jeff and I shared stories, resources and ideas about contemplative living. We planned for possible collaborative efforts in the future. We drove up to the Mustard Seed Village site, shared coffee at Camano Coffee Roasters, and chicken masala and wonderful tomato basil salad back home at the Mustard Seed House.

Tuesday I headed out to Shelton, 1 1/2 hours south of Seattle, for the funeral of my best friend’s mother in law. It is just a month since my own mother died and as you can imagine this was a bitter sweet occasion for me. Being together with good friends, and sharing stories about Jane Mackey’s life brought back vivid memories of my own recent loss. Grieving together strengthened our friendships and our lives.

Rich and Cheryl Mackey with their sons Scott, Brett and Wade

It is so important to leave space for these types of “interruptions”. I am a strong believer in the need for disciplined daily, weekly and yearly rhythms but I also know that it is often these unexpected events that shape our lives and grow our faith the most. Both of these events enable me to see all of life with more contemplative eyes, encouraging me to really look and deeply listen to all that happens around me. They create a deep gratitude within me for the many blessings God brings into my life.

How do you make space for this type of “interruption”?

Celebrating Our Interdependence

July 4th Celebration

July 4th is Independence Day here in the U.S. I know its coming because I keep receiving emails that tell me I need to buy this, go there, eat and drink something else.

This is a celebration I struggle with and not just because it once again focuses on  consumption. I particularly struggle with the ways in which this celebration is linked to Christian faith with songs of praise to the nation of America being sung in church. Independence means we don’t need anyone else. Independence means we can do it alone, be self sufficient, live in isolation from the rest of the world. Hidden in the midst is an assumption that this type of living means freedom too. I talked about this last year in my post The Call to True Freedom. The values of independence are so counter to the values of the kingdom of God. 

None of this is true and I think it is time we both recognized and celebrated the fact. My freedom often comes at the cost of oppression for others. My disconnect from responsibility to God’s world wide community and to the earth on which we live can mean suffering, pollution and destruction.

Last year I linked to this great article by Chris Smith Celebrating Interdependence Day with 40 suggestions on how to celebrate interdependence.  This year I have come across a number of other suggestions on how to celebrate our interdependence.

Justin Mayfield sent me an invite to the Front Yard BBQ movement encouraging us to celebrate in our front yards not our back yards and even invite a few neighbours in. It reminded me of the first Easter I spent in Greece over 30 years ago. The open invitation to come and enjoy the feast still stirs my soul with wonderful memories of Godly hospitality. 

Whitney Standefer sent me a link to the 3rd Annual Inter-Dependence Day celebration  in Chimacum WA with food, fun and even a talent night. 

There is even an Interdependence Day movement that we can join – not celebrating on July 4th but a world wide celebration in September – this year in Dublin Ireland. 

This year we are celebrating with an international day – Celebrate the Americas. We will share fun, food and celebrations from all over the Americas… and with my nephew and his wife here from Australia even a little contribution (pavlova) from Down Under.

So how are you planning to celebrate our interdependence this week? Perhaps we can put together a resource list for next year and incorporate your suggestions. 

Earth Day Is Coming – Why Should Christians Care?

I posted this last year from Earth Ministry and thought that it was definitely worth reminding ourselves again of why we as Christians should be concerned for God’s good creation. I had hoped to write another Earth Day reflection for today but the Inhabit conference consumed too much of my time this weekend.

You might also like to check out some of the Christian organizations that are concerned for creation and some of the prayers I have posted in the past for this day:

Good Seed Sunday – Celebrate with A Rocha

Evangelicals Do Care About Creation

Prayers for Creation

Renewal – Students Caring for Creation.

Earth Day To Do List from The Soulsby Farm

Garden Blessing for Earth Day

Earth Day Liturgy

And the two postcard style prayers I wrote earlier for this year:

Earth Day Meditation.

A Garden Blessing for Earth Day 2013

Godspace

Sunday April 22nd is Earth Day but why should Christians care? Over the next few days I plan to post statements from several different religious organizations that are concerned for creation.

The post below comes from earthministry.org. It very eloquently articulates my own reasons for being concerned for God’s good earth. Earth Ministry is a Seattle based creation care advocacy group. They have initiated the Washington Interfaith Power and Light project which organizes an interfaith response to climate change.

Spirituality

Creation itself inspires us and calls us to care.  Many people have had their most profound spiritual experience in nature. As we behold the power and love of God in a mountain range, a sunset, or in the timelessness of the ocean, we can’t help but be moved.  But creation also includes humans – our families, communities, and created landscapes.  God created all things of Heaven and Earth and…

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Practice Resurrection – Plan a Party for Your Mother

Together with my Mum - Australia 2011

Together with my Mum – Australia 2011

Last night on Facebook, I posted that I had just booked tickets for Tom and I to go to Australia in June to celebrate my mother’s 90th birthday. I was amazed at the response, not just the “likes” it received but at the comments by those who remembered special times with their own mothers and fathers. One person shared about taking her mother to Israel when she was in her 80s. Another mentioned that she is heading to Sweden to celebrate her mother’s 85th birthday. Another grieved the fact that she had lost her mother when she was still young and had no opportunity to enjoy the celebrations we are relishing.

When my Dad died nearly 4 years ago, I made a commitment. I decided that I would head down to Australia twice a year to spend time with my Mum. It has not always been easy. The flight is long and gruelling, the work doesn’t stop while I am away and the financial pressure sometimes has me questioning my decision. But the fruit of these visits is immeasurable. The special memories of these last few years are more than I could ever imagine.

Time spent with loved ones needs to be a priority in our lives. If we are too busy or too stressed to party with family and friends then we need to question our priorities. The kingdom of God begins with a great banquet feast and I think that every time we gather with friends and families we catch a glimpse of what that will look like.

Maybe it is not your mother that you need to plan a party for. It could be a friend you have not seen for a long time. Or it could be for your colleagues and co-workers. Or for your neighbours. Celebration is at the heart of God’s kingdom. Jesus’ critics complained that he spent too much time partying – eating and drinking with friends. And he enjoyed that wedding at Cana so much that he made it even more fun for people by turning water into wine. Unfortunately too much partying is not often a criticism people accuse Jesus’ followers of much these days.

So take some time this morning to think about how you could plan a “resurrection party” for those you know and love. What would you need to let go of to free up the time necessary to make it happen?

Making New Year Resolutions that Stick.

Olympic mountain view

Olympic mountain view

It is the beginning of a new year with incredible potential. We have enjoyed the excitement of fireworks and New Year parties. All of us have hopes and expectations for the months that lie ahead. We eagerly make resolutions about what to eat, when to pray and how to live, knowing that most of these will be discarded before the month is out. Sitting here looking out my office window at the beautiful snow covered Olympic mountains, it is not hard for me to believe that this year holds incredible new possibilities. But I know that by the end of summer the snow will be gone and the hope and promise they offered may be gone too. So how do we make resolutions that stick?

For Tom and I, our refocusing prayer retreats which we take every three months are an important part of our yearly rhythm which helps keep us on the path we believe God wants us to follow. The end of year retreat we have just returned from was no exception.

Retreats are not just important for us as individuals, they are also important for us as an organization. Taking a retreat with your staff or ministry team is something I would highly encourage at this season. Over the years,  our MSA staff retreats have totally reshaped the ways we function as an organization. They led us to develop a rule of life, helped us to reimagine ourselves as a community that discerns together the will of God for our organization and pointed us towards the discernment process we use each week in our team meetings. As you can imagine, how we prepare for the new year is a common theme for me at this time of the year. Next week I will share some of the insights I have gained from reading Parker Palmer’s book A Hidden Wholeness but today wanted to repost a revised version of the spiritual audit I have used for years to help me rethink my spiritual journey.

Look back over the last week or month

  • Consolations: what has life gaining and deepened your sense of connection to God?
  • Desolations: what has been life draining and made you lose that sense of intimacy with God?
  • How is God speaking to you through this?
  • What are the major pressures in your life?  Where do you think the pressure comes from and what are the underlying causes?
  • How do these affect your spiritual well being?
  • In what ways could they be harnessed so that your heart could be broken open to new possibilities for a better future?
  • What daily and weekly events set the rhythm for your life?  Which of these contribute to your spiritual well being and which distract from it?

How well are you maintaining your spiritual life:

  • What gives you joy in your spiritual journey at present?
  • Where do you sense God is currently at work in your transformation?  What would give God the most opportunity to continue that work?
  • What do you do on a regular basis to nurture your spiritual life?
  • What are the major distractions that interfere with regular spiritual disciplines?

How has God spoken to you in the last week:

  1. through prayer
  2. through scripture
  3. through the needs of others
  4. through the words of others
  5. through other means

What changes is God prompting  you to make in order to further your spiritual growth:

  1. In your daily or weekly commitments and rhythms?
  2. In your spiritual routines?

How will you ensure that these changes are adhered to?

  1. What is one new practice you would like to institute to help maintain your new resolutions?
  2. What is one relationship you could nurture to provide accountability and encouragement as you walk this journey?

You may also like to revisit some of the other posts I have written in past years that address some of these issues.

Leading Spiritually – A Series on Leading with Discernment

Welcoming the New Year – What Do We Expect?

Tools for Prayer – Moving Beyond Chronic Randomness to Intentionality

Did Jesus Lead a Balanced Life?

The Spirituality of Rhythm

Godspace 2012 in review

Thank you for making this year the best ever on Godspace. The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

About 55,000 tourists visit Liechtenstein every year. This blog was viewed about 260,000 times in 2012. If it were Liechtenstein, it would take about 5 years for that many people to see it. Your blog had more visits than a small country in Europe!

Click here to see the complete report.

And if you would like to help make 2013 even better please consider a small donation to Mustard Seed Associates so that we can upgrade the blog,  get rid of the distracting ads, expand the circle of writers and publish new prayer and liturgical resources.
  MSA is a 501c3 not-for-profit organization. All donations are tax deductible.

Advent in a Jar – A New Resource by Jill Aylard Young

I realize that it is a little late for Advent this year but I wanted to share with you the resource that MSA Board member put together after reading resources recommended in the post Celebrating Advent with Kids . It might be a little late for this year but certainly something to consider for next year.

Advent in a jar by Jill Aylard Young

The attached PDF file contains all you need to build your own “Advent Calendar in a Jar”. Simply download the file, print out the pages, and cut the paper into little cards to put in your own Jar. On these slips of paper are activities that you can do as a family or individual in preparation for Christmas.

You will choose 24 slips of paper for your Jar, one for each day of Advent. Then during Advent you will draw one slip out of the jar each day and complete the activity until all the slips are gone and Christmas has arrived. (Note: If you can’t complete a particular activity on the day you draw it, schedule it on your calendar for another day and draw a different one for that day.)

  1. Pray for Christ to bless this project so that it will create space in your life or family’s life for his presence and working in you this Advent/Christmas season.
  2. Decide whether this is something you want to do as an individual or as a family. The slips of paper with stars are geared for families and those with candles are geared for individuals. Feel free to mix and match if you like.
  3. Choose 24 activities2 that would be doable for you and/or your family, but also ones that will stretch you in helpful ways. You can select from the pre-made slips of paper and you can use blank ones to write your own. Also try to select a variety of activities, those that are service-oriented, those that are fun, and those that are reflective.
  4. Fold each slip of paper and place it in your jar, which you can decorate as you choose.

Have Fun as you anticipate the coming of our Lord!

Always Winter and Never Christmas An Advent Reflection by Travis Mamone

Always winter but never Christmas

Always winter but never Christmas

Today’s post in the Advent series Let Us Wait As Children Waitis written by Travis Mamone. Travis is an author, a blogger, and an all around wayfaring stranger. He is the author of the e-books “In Praise of the Doubting Thomas,” and “O Come Emmanuel.” He has written for such publications as Provoketive Magazine, Relevant Magazine, The Upper Room, and Burnside Writers Collective. His work appears in the books “Not Alone: Stories of Living with Depression” (Civitas Press, 2011), and “Finding Church” (Civitas Press, 2012). He has also contributed to the Something Beautiful podcast. He lives in Easton, MD and blogs at www.travismamone.net

—————————————————————————————————————

Around this time every year, I feel strangely melancholy. Like Charlie Brown, I know I should be happy; Christmas is coming, remember? While I am glad I can finally listen to A Very Special Christmas Vol. 1 over and over again, I still have this underlying feeling of gloom.

Maybe it’s the weather. After all, it is that time again to put away the flip-flops and t-shirts, and break out the heavy coats and sweaters. Plus, the days are getting shorter, so when I get off work it looks like the middle of night outside.

But I think it’s something much deeper than that.

Call me a party pooper, but I can’t help but think about all the people that won’t have themselves a merry little Christmas. I think of the homeless man trying to keep warm, the little girl wondering why her poverty-stricken parents say they’re not going to have a Christmas this year, and the lonely man who is thinking about ending his own life. I also think about my own life and all of the mistakes I’ve made during the past year, and all of the unresolved issues that are waiting for me in the new year. Maybe I am the Charlie Browniest of all the Charlie Browns in the world after all.

It’s no wonder that one of my favorite Christmas songs is “Sister Winter” by Sufjan Stevens, one of the saddest Christmas songs ever. Most Christmas songs are about simply having a wonderful Christmastime. However, if you struggle with mental illness like I do, you know that the dark and cold winter can make you sad. Instead of thinking about all the good times you’re going to have with your loved ones, you can’t help but cry from all the pain you’ve experienced in the past year. December doesn’t just mean Christmas and New Year’s Eve; it also means having one last good cry before the year ends. And I think this song sums it up perfectly:

Oh my friends I’ve
Begun to worry right
Where I should be grateful
I should be satisfied

Oh my heart I
Would clap and dance in place
With my friends I have so
Much pleasure to embrace

But my heart is
Returned to sister winter
But my heart is
As cold as ice[1]

Or maybe it’s all just part of the Advent season.

As we light the Advent wreath and sing “O Come, O Come Emmanuel,” we think about how this world, this life, isn’t how God originally intended it to be. We think about the Second Advent, when all will be made new again, by meditating on the First. We pray for God to give us grace “that we may cast away works of darkness, and put upon us the armor of light”[2] as we prepare ourselves for the coming of Jesus.

Advent reminds me of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, where it was “always winter and never Christmas”[3] in Narnia before Aslan came. I know it sounds like the title of a bad emo song, but once you think about it, this world does seem like it’s in a state of always winter and never Christmas. We see so much darkness every time we watch the news:  war, poverty, crime, corruption, hatred, etc. It seems like we’ll never see the light; we only catch a few glimpses of the occasional flicker.

So maybe all of this melancholy is just my spirit groaning with creation to see the world restored (Romans 8:22-23). Maybe on a deeper level, I know that this isn’t the best we can do. Maybe the reason why I haven’t given up yet is because I know, deep within my heart, that another world is possible.

And one day we will see another world. One day Christmas will come, and then the snow will melt away. One day will see, as Brian McLaren writes it, “the beginning of a new spiritual-historical age or era.”[4]

But first, we must wait. It only when we experience Advent—the season of waiting and preparation—that we can experience Christmas.


[1] Sufjan Stevens, Sister Winter, 2006 by Asthmatic Kitty Records, mp3.

[2] The Book of Common Prayer (Church Publishing Incorporated, 1979), 159.

[3] C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1950), 19.

[4] Brian McLaren, A New Kind of Christianity: Ten Questions That Are Transforming the Faith (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2010), 197.

A Celtic Advent – The Creative Breath by John Birch

Large candle

Large candle

The following liturgy was provided by John Birch, a Methodist Lay Preacher and worship leader living in Wales for around 20 years. He has become increasingly aware of the rich heritage handed down by the early Christian Saints who set up home in the wilder regions of this beautiful country. This Celtic style liturgy for the first Sunday of Advent reflects this.  Instead of the usual Advent themes of hope, peace, joy and love, John uses the themes of breath, light and darkness, obedience and birth for the four themes. This liturgy is for the first Sunday of Advent. You can check out the other liturgies and resources here.

Responses are in bold print

Symbols: A large Candle and beneath it a bowl of water

The candle is lit

(A few moments of silence)

‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.’
‘… And the Spirit (the breath) of God was hovering over the waters.’

(John 1:1-3, Genesis 1:2)

Lord of the morning
of dawn chorus
rising sun
mist on water

Lord of the noontime
of chattering voices
laughter and fun
sparkling water
everyone

Lord of the evening
of quiet breeze
setting sun
gentle waters
day that’s done

 

O Lord, our Lord
How majestic is your name in all the earth
You have set your glory above the heavens
And from the lips of children ordained praise
O Lord, our Lord
How majestic is your name in all the earth

 

Creative God, breath of all life
Through whom all things
are created and sustained;
all sons and daughters
flocks and herds,
all birds of the air
and fish of the sea
You walked this earth
as child and Creator
You touched the soil
quenched your thirst
embraced this world
brought life and light
love and laughter
into dark and death-filled lives
Creative God, breath of all life
Through whom all things
are created and sustained
We bring to you our sacrifice
of a contrite and willing heart

O come, Thou Wisdom from on high,
Who orders all things mightily;
To us the path of knowledge show,
And teach us in her ways to go.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come again and with us ever dwell

 
(A space for music to be played or sung – a Taizé chant would be most appropriate)

 
‘Now I know that the LORD saves his anointed; he answers him from his holy heaven with the saving power of his right hand.
‘Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.
‘They are brought to their knees and fall, but we rise up and stand firm.’

(Psalm 20:6-8)

 

(A moment of silence – During the silence, you may like to read and reflect on the words that have been read, gaze at the candle – or simply enjoy the peace and calm)

May this eternal truth be always on our hearts
That the God who breathed this world into being
Placed stars into the heavens
And designed a butterfly’s wing
Is the God who entrusted his life
to the care of ordinary people
became vulnerable that we might know
how strong is the power of Love
A mystery so deep it is impossible to grasp
A mystery so beautiful it is impossible to ignore

 

(Scripture reading – possibly the Gospel reading for the day)

 

(A space for a hymn or song to be sung/said)

(Intercessions – A circle prayer.
Imagine throwing a pebble into the centre of a pond, and the circles of ripples that move out from the centre.)

We pray firstly for those closest to us, our immediate family and closest friends – for their health, needs, joys and fears.
(Silent prayer)
God of creation, God of Salvation
Hear the prayers of our hearts

We pray for our extended family and friends who we might not see each week – for their love and concern, for their wellbeing.
(Silent prayer)
God of creation, God of Salvation
Hear the prayers of our hearts

As the ripples reach out toward the land we pray for those who we only have contact with annually or less – for a blessing this Advent-time
(Silent prayer)
God of creation, God of Salvation
Hear the prayers of our hearts

And as the ripples reach their furthest point we pray for this world and its people – for the needs of this week and the future.
(Silent prayer)
God of creation, God of Salvation
Who speaks to us through thunder and whisper
Who loves us as if there were but one of us to love
Hear the prayers of our hearts

 

Lord, thou hast given us thy Word for a light to shine upon our path;
grant us so to meditate on that Word, and to follow its teaching,
that we may find in it the light that shines more and more until the perfect day; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

(Jerome, c 342 – 420)

Read more at: http://www.faithandworship.com/Advent/Advent_Celtic_Christian_Celebration.htm#ixzz2DLSEmYtl
Under Creative Commons License: Attribution