We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand. ~Isaiah 64:8

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Weekly "Big Rocks"

This is part of a series I'm doing on the "Big Rocks" and planning, which is part of a theme I'd like to do more thinking and writing about "Rhythm, Reverence and Time".

A couple of years ago, I tried using Flylady. I found that, once adapted to suit me, it helped me get my days and weeks in order. Recently, however, I’ve fallen off the wagon a bit. The holidays always seem to do this to me…and I’ve been taking my time getting back on. But it is TIME!

Planning out my week’s activities keeps me from getting to the end of the week with only the bare minimum accomplished. Without planning, my days just have a way of slipping by, how about you?

Here’s how I plan:

To Do – Make my “to do” list. Make a plan for what to do when (I put a notation down for which day of the week I plan to accomplish what). Refer to this each day to see what you need to do. I like to transfer those “today” items to a sticky note and stick that on my weekly planner page. I use a priority system: A- for those things that MUST be done today, B- for those things that should be done today, C- for those things I might like to get done today, but can wait on if I need to. I have a LOT of “C”, a number of “B” and just a few of “A”.

Each day, I’ll devote a bit of my time to a certain type of task:
Monday – correspondence;
Tuesday - zone cleaning (a little each day, but a bigger project today);
Wednesday – bills;
Thursday – meal planning;
Friday – household cleaning (the weekly chores);
Saturday – family work day (big, family projects) and errands;
Sunday - planning for the next week; missionary support work

Calendar – Look at my family calendar (hubby, kids’, personal) for events, and thinking about whether or not these events require anything special from me or the family as a whole and plan accordingly. (hubby’s late meeting may mean I need to plan to a late dinner; daughter’s ballet means I need to plan transportation; etc.) I WRITE DOWN those things I need to do – I can’t rely on my memory. Then when I review my calendar each day, I won't make mistakes like I did today. (Missed son's Drama Class!)

School – Plan lessons for the week. I especially note on my calendar those projects or assignments that might take a bit extra of my time…or that need supplies I may not have on hand. Then I need to schedule in the time to work with that child and any errands that need to be done to get supplies.

Chores – Review chore lists. Using Flylady’s Zone system, keeps me on track with getting all the cleaning done around the house. I look over the week’s Zone and note what needs to be done from the suggested list. Also, I’ll make a note of any extra chores (monthly or annual type) that might need to be completed.


Because we get a produce delivery on Thursdays, my meal planning is not done with the rest of the planning. I do this on Thursdays:

Meal plan – Get my meal plan done. I make a note of any food supplies I may need. Also, noting any prep. work I might want or need to do ahead (thawing out the meat; chopping onions early in the day to use later). Then I add the food supplies to my grocery list and the prep. work to my “to do” list. Because we homeschool, I plan out Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner and snacks, too. I live by the dinner plan, but the other (breakfast, lunch and snacks) or more like suggestions.

Next time … the daily schedule.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Blogging - why the "mommy blog"?

Jimmie from One Child Policy Homeschool has an interesting post on blogging as Mother Culture. She has hit the nail on the head for so many of us "mommy" bloggers, certainly for me (see that over there in my side bar in my "about me" section!).

For me, blogging and blog reading provides me with a link to the world around me, but not a passive link like television. Blogging encourages one to read, think, and respond in a way not possible for at-home (and especially homeschool) moms in their daily lives. Oh, we might get the occassional coffee date with friends, but that is often devoted to catching up and talking "shop" - and always too short! Here's a sample of some of my recent "mother culture" reading via blogs:

Mere Comments
Behind the Veil
Hearts of Darkness
Child-Men
A Grown Up for President

And you'll see more in my "Recently Shared" list in the sidebar.

So, do you find blogging is one type of Mother Culture for you? If so, in what way? Leave a comment -or if you blog about it, leave a link.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Having Compassion

Have you been following the Compassion bloggers in Uganda? I've been following two bloggers I particularly enjoy: Rocks in My Dryer and BooMama. Their responses to what they've seen in Uganda have been so full of honesty and love. They've done a wonderful thing by bringing us into some some sort of contact with the real lives of the children Compassion helps. They are on their way home now, but you can still read their blog posts.

It is an honest and honorable human impulse to want to help when we see someone in need. And even more so a Christian one. However, something that I struggle with is *how* to best help. We've all seen and heard about how help from the West can often turn out badly - through corruption (in country or in the charitable organizations) or by having unintended consequences. Last night I stumbled onto an article in City Journal that brought to mind this other side of charity. The side we don't want to think about, but must:

Kenyan economist James Shikwati agrees that handouts thwart the emergence of a culture of self-reliant problem solving and that they breed corruption to boot. When a drought afflicts Kenya, he says, Kenyan politicians “reflexively cry out for more help.” Their calls reach the United Nations World Food Program...

When the requested grain reaches Africa, a portion of it “often goes directly into the hands of unscrupulous politicians who then pass it on to their own tribe to boost their next election campaign.” Much of the rest of the grain gets dumped at less than fair market value. “Local farmers may as well put down their hoes right away,” Shikwati says. “No one can compete with the UN’s World Food Program.”

Please don't misundertand me, Compassion and similar organizations that invest in the lives of individuals do a good job of living out the principles of Christian charity without slipping into the paternalism that ruins lives and economies. But, seeing this article just after reading about the work Compassion is doing made me think about how to apply some of the ideals discussed in the City Journal article to the work we do as a church.

How do we ensure that our foreign (and local) mission work is truly uplifting the people we work with? What are some warning signs or pitfalls to avoid? How do we respond to physical needs without falling into the trap of paternalism? One of the ideas the article mentions is encouraging entreprenuers in the population. How can churches do that - any ideas? What are some types of mission projects we could do that would actually inspire and support entreprenuerial activities?

Monthly "Big Rocks"

At the beginning of this year, I posted a bit about rhythm, reverence and time and getting my "Big Rocks " in my jar first. I started with the largest rocks first: the semi-annual ones. For my family, those are the seasonal observances and celebrations relating to the church year. I want these to be what we plan our family activities around, because I believe the church seasons help to shape our theology in important ways. They provide our family rhythm and instill reverence toward the the right things: God and His Church.

Now, I need to spend some time thinking and planning the monthly "big rocks". These are: My personal hobbies; Enjoy God's Creation with family; and Creative, Cultural, Educational events for myself and for the whole family. It is easy to want to do these types of things, but life sometimes just happens and this stuff never gets planned. In my world, if it doesn't get planned, it doesn't get done.

So, I look at the things that are important to meet each of these needs and determine when and how they'll happen. Each "rock" won't happen every week and maybe not even every month. But a plan will help set aside the time to see that they do happen with some regularity. Otherwise, I'll wake up on January 1, 2009 disappointed that I still have not finished that (fill-in the blank with favorite hobby project) done or make it to my local museum.

Here's my basic plan for these monthly "rocks":

  • Decide what creative pursuits are the most important to me and my family, and what hobbies I actually have the money, time and space to accomplish. There are many things I enjoy doing, but there is only so much room in the jar, after all! The creative pursuits I've chosen to focus on this year are: scrapbooking, crochet, and photography. I also enjoy sketching, but I'm able to work that in while doing art with my kids. Scrapbooking is the one that seems the hardest for me to accomplish. I've decided to set aside one weekend day each month to spend working on those scrapbooks. This should help me keep this year's up to date. Maybe I'll even be able to catch up from years' past.
  • Look at our calendar and determine what days we have that make sense to set aside for family "nature days". Hubby in particular is a "nature nut", so I like to save these for when he has a day off or on weekends.

  • I've discovered that my local Arts League has a weekly email alert to notify me of upcoming events. I can look over their listings and decide what I might like to take part in. (Many museums, science centers, arts organizations are utilizing email for similar alerts. Check this out in your town!) I'm going to select events each month or so to attend with the family. This month's is an exhibit of Chinese porcelain. The museum hosting this exhibit has FREE admission on Tuesdays from 5-10pm.
  • Another important aspect is planning some regular cultural or creative time for myself. If I don't plan these ahead of time, I'll never actually take the time to enjoy taking a day to shoot some film or do some sketching, visiting a museum, or attending a concert, play, or lecture. Each month I'm going to plan to take do something along these lines - by myself or with friends (or hubby).

That's my plan, how about you?

Friday, February 15, 2008

Home as a classroom

You know you are a homeschooler when: you covet your friends' playroom with comments like "oooo, I'd love to have this room for school"; you must take meals to the couch because the kitchen table is covered with school projects; your dining room sports interesting decor like timelines, historical maps, art projects; each room has a set of bookshelves (overflowing) - and even some of your hallways have bookshelves!



Any of that sound familiar?



If you are a homeschooler, you know that one of our perennial questions to one another is: "So, where do you do school?" The most common answers are: kitchen table, dining room converted into a part-time school room, a spare room (basement or playroom) made into a school room, and sometimes - "just wherever we are". That's what makes this meme at The Heart of the Matter so much fun!



In our homeschooling endeavor, we've tried a number of different places around our home, and I'm quite surprised where we've ended up.



When we started homeschooling in 2003, we used our kitchen table. I liked the central location and the way it encouraged us to "school through life" rather than have education be some seperate thing. After a few months, our supplies outgrew the small shelf I had in the kitchen, and we purchased a nice, tall cabinet in which to store books and daily supplies. We stayed at the kitchen table for about a year and a half, when I began having trouble containing my preschooler and toddler while I was doing school with my student. So, one week in the Spring semester of 2004, I bit the bullet...it was time to sacrifice the playroom.



It was actually a bit of a hard decision. The playroom had really become sort of the kids' "zone". How easy it had was to shuttle them off to the PLAYROOM! But, it had to be done we just got too distracted by all the "house" stuff if we were in the kitchen. I found someone selling some nice storage cabinets for our ever-growning supplies. We had an extra kitchen table from my parents we could use for our school table. And it would be delightful not to have to clear the school stuff up every day for lunch and then again for dinner. In fact, I could walk out of the school room, shut the door, and feel "DONE".



I relished setting up our fun school room. We had a futon, table, shelves, radio, white board, maps, and posters. The toddler had her special boxes of toys and the preschooler had his own "school" stuff. I had dreams of them playing so nicely while my student and I worked diligently. Well, the room itself was nice...but by the end of that year, I was waning in my appreciation for the school room.



We stuck it out through the rest of that school year and even started the next school year in our school room. But by the Spring semester of our 3rd year, I'd had it with the school room. When we were in the room we felt totally on top of each other. I was perpetually woried about kids messing with school stuff when friends came to play (I was determined to keep part of it as a play area). And I felt like our school was totally seperate from the rest of our lives. That was definitely not our vision for homeschooling.



Last spring, we abandoned the school room and returned to the kitchen table. The remnants of the school room are still there. The table has become a "drop point" (you know where you just drop stuff you don't have time to deal with) and my storage cabinets now hold books and supplies we don't need very frequently (or are holding for the younger kids). It is slowly evolving back to a playroom



So, we are back at the kitchen table...and on the couch...and in the study...and at the dining room table...and the kitchen counter...and I think you get the picture. We stretch out as we feel the need. In particular, I love being able to run a load of laundry or do some meal prep while still able to answer a question or direct a straggler. It just feels more like what HOMEschool should be.



We've re-enlisted the original school cabinet for school supplies and books we use on a daily basis. Here's a picture of the table in use...and in the background you'll see the cabinet with the doors open for school. When closed it blends right in with our kitchen cabinets:







Those books we use on a weekly basis are kept in our study, which is just a few steps away. I still have to clear the table for meals, but we've begun using the kitchen "bar" area for lunch which eliminates one meal. We LOVE this set up because it suits our family and our visiion for home education.

So where do you homeschool?

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Bloggers in Africa

I recently became aware of a program by Compassion International involving a group of western bloggers (maybe all American, I'm not sure). Compassion has arranged to take this group of bloggers to Africa and have them blog about their experiences there.

One of my favorite bloggers, Rocks in my Dryer, is there right now, and she's blogged about her first day. You don't want to miss it!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Valentine's Day Fun for Homeschool!

If you didn't know it already, Thursday is Valentine's Day! Get ready to have some homeschool fun and learn about God's servant - St. Valentine.

Here's a quick round-up from the 'net:

Specifically homeschool-oriented

Who was St. Valentine?

Some other fun and interesting sites
  • Annie has great holiday resources.
  • With a name like "St. Valentine's Net" you'll expect lots of links (don't miss the "around the world" link).

Some of my favorite books:

A good, gentle introduction to Saint Valentine with lovely mosaic-style pictures.


Gail Gibbons always does a fine job.


Froggy's special Valentine is a sweet surprise! (hint: you moms will all say "AWWW!")

Happy Valentine's Day!

More on Confession (Updated)

On Saturday, I posted a self-examination I found to prepare oneself for confession (either private or with a priest). Sam and Kate both had some great comments. Today, in my GoogleReader, I came across this story about a resurgence, or maybe a better word is re-emphasis, on confession coming from the Diocese of Pittsburgh (RC). (HT: GetReligion) :


...search for a regular confessor whose spirituality is compatible with theirs, who will get to know them well enough to see their patterns of sin. From such knowledge comes guidance to grow in holiness....

And some quotes from Anglicans:

Thomas Becon (1512-1567), Chaplain to Archbishop Cranmer:
There is nothing so good and of so great excellency, but it may be abused. The abuse thereof is taken away, and not the thing itself. That confession hath been greatly abused it cannot be denied...yet ought it not therefore to be rejected and cast away, but rather restored to the old purity, and to the use for the which it was first instituted.
That auricular confession is a thing of much weight and grave importance...it engraffeth in us a certain humility, submission, and lowliness of mind, and sepresseth all arrogancy and pride....

Charles Chapman Grafton (1830-1912), Bishop of Fond du Lac (Wisonsin):
In this holy mystery (confession) Christ comes seeking us. As if we were His only care, He makes search for us as the Good Shepherd. He comes to find us in our wandering, to rescue us from the thickets werhein we have been caught, to take us up trembling and with bleeding feet, and in His own arms to bear us safely back to the Fold.

Herbert H Kelley (1860-1950), Founder Society of the Sacred Mission:
The plain fact is that this intense resentment we feel at confessing to anybody is the very essence of the whole business. Sin is selfness, self-concentration, and that is, isolation. By its very essence it is the secret of the soul....

In very wide circles, the practical loss of the habit of confessing to a priest - as a quite normal thing - has led to an almost complete loss of any sense of sin....Then if we will not face the trouble and humiliation of confession, we take refuge in that indifference which is so terribly common.

These quotes were culled from Love's Redeeming Work: The Anglican Quest for Holiness, which is a compilation of writings from Anglican theologians.

Updated to add: The Happy Catholic has linked to an interesting article on confession. Is it the season of Lent, that I'm noticing articles on confession because it is one the mind....or is the Lord trying to tell me something? Sometimes it does take a good "2X4" as my pastor likes to say.

Indolence vs. Industry

Indolence vs. Industry

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Ember Days

One of my Big Rocks for this year is being more purposeful in my observance of the church year, especially traditional days for fasting. I'm particularly interested in observing "Ember Days" as a way to spend regular time is prayer and fasting with the Church.

Ember Days are optional for Anglicans, and Roman Catholics are no longer obligated to observe these days of traditional fasting. The Eastern Orthodox church has never observed Ember Days. Even though Ember Day observance is optional, there is no sense in not making use of an ancient tradition.

Wondering what the heck is even up with Ember Days? Here's some info from Wikipedia:

In the liturgical calendar of the Western Christian churches, Ember days are four separate sets of three days within the same week—specifically, the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday—roughly equidistant in the circuit of the year, that were formerly set aside for fasting and prayer.

These days set apart for special prayer and fasting were considered especially suitable for the ordination of clergy. The Ember Days were known in the medieval
church as quatuor tempora (the "four seasons"), or jejunia quatuor temporum ("fasts of the four seasons").


The Ember Weeks—the weeks in which the Ember Days occur—are the week between the third and fourth Sundays of Advent, between the first and second Sundays of Lent, the week between Pentecost and Trinity Sunday, and the calendar week after Holy Cross Day (September 14) (the liturgical Third Week of September).
This week (February 10-16) is the first Ember Week of the year. I will be fasting (one meatless meal) and spending some extra time in prayer each day. Ember Days are traditional time for ordinations, and this website suggests prayer for clergy and Christians in their vocations on Ember Days:

Wednesday:
Almighty God, the giver of all good gifts, in your divine providence you have appointed various orders in the Church: Give grace to all who are [now] called to any office and ministry for your people; and so fill them with the truth of your doctrine and clothe them with holiness of life, that they may faithfully serve before you, to the glory of your great Name and for the benefit of your holy Church; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Friday:
O God, you led your holy apostles to ordain ministers in every place: Grant that your Church, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, may choose suitable persons for the ministry of Word and Sacrament, and may uphold them in their work for the extension of your kingdom; through him who is the Shepherd and Bishop of our souls, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Saturday:
Almighty and everlasting God, by whose Spirit the whole body of your faithful people is governed and sanctified: Receive our supplications and prayers, which we offer before you for all members of your holy Church, that in their vocation and ministry they may truly and devoutly serve you; through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Want to read more? Try here. And here. And here, too.

Do you observe Ember Days? Please share!

Friday, February 8, 2008

Good Confession

I wanted to post this last week for Ash Wednesday, but we were all under the weather with the flu.

While we are not required to go to a priest for confession, Anglicans are expected to do a self-examination before communion, and we make a general statement of contrition during the service. Other than that we are a bit on our own.

While getting prepared for Ash Wednesday services, I came across a good guide for self examination based on the Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes. I'm going to use this regularly this Lent and probably beyond.


The Ten Commandments

I am the Lord your God, and you shall have no other gods before me.
Has God been the source, center and hope of my life? Have I put myself, others or things before God? Have I failed to trust in God’s existence, love and mercy? Have I failed to pray to God, to worship Him and to thank Him for His blessings? Have I tried to serve God and keep His commandments faithfully? Have I murmured or complained against God in adversity? Have I praised and glorified God through my words and deeds?

You shall not make for yourself a graven image in order to worship it.
Have I valued anyone or anything above God? Have I given to anyone or anything the love, honor and worship that belongs to God alone? Have I made and idol of any person, idea, occupation, or thing?


You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.
Have I blasphemed God’s holy name in any way? Have I sworn a false oath? Have I broken any solemn vow or promise? Have I entered into an agreement, promise or contract against God’s law? Have I cursed or used foul language?


Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.
Have I worshiped regularly on Sundays and major feast days and have I helped others to do the same? Have I worked unnecessarily on Sundays or major feast days or caused others to do so? Have I spent the Lord’s Day in a wholesome and edifying ways?


Honor your father and mother.
Have I loved and respected my parent s as I should? Have I neglected them or failed to help them? Have I disobeyed them, deceived them or caused them pain by my words or deeds? Have I treated all my family members with patience and love?


Thou shall not kill.
Have I caused the harm, injury or death of anyone? Have I wished my own or anyone’s harm or death? Have I been cruel to animals or destroyed any life unnecessarily?


You shall not commit adultery.
Have I committed any immoral acts alone or with others? Have I caused others to commit immoral acts? Have I committed immoral acts in my heart?


You shall not steal.
Have I taken anything that was not mine from anyone or from anywhere? Have I cheated anyone? Have I caused others to steal or cheat? Have I tried to find the owners of lost things I have found? Have I damaged or destroyed anything that belonged to another? Have I defrauded anyone of rightful wages? Have I paid my debts? Have I given to the poor and to philanthropic causes in proportion to my means?


You shall not bear false witness.
Have I given false testimony against anyone? Have I spoken evil, told lies or spread rumors about anyone? Have I disclosed to anyone the sins and faults of another? Have I made careless statements or done anything else to harm the name and reputation of another? Have I engaged in idle gossip?


You shall not covet.
Have I looked with envy jealousy or hatred toward the possession talents or achievements of others? Have I desired the downfall or loss of others out of evil intent that I might benefit? Have I grieved that God has bestowed greater blessings on others than on me?




The Beatitudes

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Have I truly recognized my complete dependence on God? Have I been proud arrogant and self-righteous in my ways? Have I been selfish, possessive and self-seeking? Have I sought after status power and wealth?


Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Have I endured difficulties and afflictions with faith and patience? Have I felt sadness for the sufferings of the poor, the hungry, and addicted; the sick, the lonely and the sinful of the world? Have I truly been sorrowful for my sins and faults?


Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
Have I tried to serve or rather to dominate others at home, school, work, office, Church and elsewhere? Have I nursed against anyone? Have I been resentful, bitter, unforgiving or insulting and abusive to others? Have I loved my enemies?


Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
Have I truly yearned for God’s will to be done in all things? Have I worked for justice in my family, society and the world in ways with in my reach? Have I tried to cultivate a righteous life through prayer, fasting, worship, receiving Holy Communion and deeds of love toward others?


Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
Have I shown compassion and help toward the poor, hungry, lonely and needy around me? Have I tried to understand and forgive others? Have I been indifferent judgmental or legalistic?


Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Have I loved goodness, purity and holiness? Have I succumbed to evil motives and intentions? Have I given way to impure thoughts, words or deeds? Have I been guilty of bias and prejudice? Have I been hypocritical, pretentious or self-indulgent to sinful passions?


Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
Do I have God’s peace in my heart? Have I been unfairly angry, aggressive or impatient? Have I worked for peace at home, work, Church and in society? Have I been irritable, polemical, or divisive?


Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Have I complained when persecuted for God’s sake? Have I prayed for my persecutors? Have I failed to defend anyone in the truth for fear of humiliation or persecution? Have I had the courage to stand up for what is right despite criticism, ridicule or persecution?


Blessed are you when they revile you and persecute you on my account; rejoice and be clad, for your reward is great in heaven
Is the joy of Christ in my heart even in trying moments? Have I been pessimistic despondent or despairing? Have I truly delighted in the promise of God’s treasures in heaven?

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Lenten Reading - book reviews

Sherry at Semicolon was very kind to link to the Anglican Family Lent carnival. She's got some GREAT reviews for lenten reading. Go by and check it out!

Recipe Swap Box

Randi at I have to say... is hosting a Recipe Swap Box! How much fun! If you have some favorite recipes you'd like to share go put your link in her "Mr Linky"!

Here are some of my favorite Winter recipes:


Hernerakaa (Finnish Yellow Split Pea Soup)

Roasted Winter Vegetables

Turkey-Barley Soup scroll down a bit for the recipe

Tuna Tetrazzini

Not wintery - but a favorite for breakfast anytime: Dutch Baby - good with any kind of fruit.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

An Anglican Family Lent



As I tried to write a "welcome" for this carnival, I ran into a problem: It is hard to write an upbeat, friendly, warm-fuzzy intro for a carnival that features posts about fasting, spiritual disciplines, repentence, contrition and so on. How do you welcome someone to that?



But, I do welcome you. Heartily!



Jeanne, my co-host, and I pray you'll be encouraged and challenged as you enter into Lent.



The Activities Coordinator from Life on the Planet gives us the history of her family's multi-denominational journey to Lent with humor and good advice.


Jill, a "kindred spirit", shares her plans for Lent as her family continues exploring ancient Christian practices at her blog Praiseworthy Things. I'm going back to read more about her "Easter Garden".


How do you include young children in Lent? Two Square Meals is bringing her two very young children gently along the Lenten journey - and asks for your ideas, too.



Newcomers to liturgical worship, Jamie from Class Notes, gives us her "rough draft" for Lent.



A little encouragement - no, exhortation to prick your heart as you enter into Lent from Laura of My Quotidian Mysteries.



At A Telling Place, Kate, a Scottish Episcopal blogger, offers a glimpse into the beginnings of her Lenten plans, including: a painting for Lent, a novel recommendation and a book for spiritual reflection and a link to a Lenten group blog.



Amy has put together a phenomenal Lenten series at On A Joyful Journey. Her series of posts includes: nitty gritty "how to", a self-examination, suggestions for Lenten devotions, fasting inspiration, and more.



A thoughtful post on how Ash Wednesday and all of Lent affects us spiritually from Catherine of Everyday Life as Lyric Poetry



Renee at Dulce Domum has posts on some of her plans for Lent and a great sermon to listen to as we begin our Lenten season.



Jeanne from At A Hen's Pace, my co-host for this carnival, provides us with a look at the lenten disciplines she and her priest-husband focus with their family: confession, fasting, and engagement.



Haille has a bunch of links to Lenten ideas - sort of a carnival, too! I found her post and asked her if I could include it. There are some neat ideas there!



And finally, I've put together a series of posts on Focus, Spirit, and Discipline for the family during Lent.



Thank you to all those who have submitted posts to this carnival. You've made it another successful Anglican blog event!





A comment about this carnival...

Jeanne and I began these carnivals with last year's Advent carnival to share the joy of the church year, but also to reach out other Anglicans in the blogsphere. It was very successful on both counts! If you are an Anglican blogger (or a kindred spirit) who is new to these carnivals, please leave a comment. We'd love to include you in any future events.



If you missed the submission deadline, please feel free to leave a link in the comments. Not a blogger, but want to participate - share your Lenten traditions in the comments!

Focus, Spirit, Discipline - a Lenten series

I have a funny story about how I started observing Lent. (Hey, that's good, start off Lent with humor. Perhaps wry is a better word than "funny".) Ok, so I have a wry story about how I started observing Lent.

Bear with me.

During my senior year of college, the thing to do was to head down to New Orleans for the week leading up to Mardi Gras for the, ummm, festivities. It must have coincided with Spring Break or something, because we were there for almost a week. It was everything you can imagine. The food was good; our behavior was not. (although, I must say we were pretty tame participants)

On the way home, one of us asked, "So, if we've participated in Mardi Gras, I guess we've got to give up something for Lent, right?" Well, it did seem like a fair trade off. So, I gave it a try.

I've no idea what I "gave up", but I'm sure it was pretty innocuous. And it probably didn’t last very long.

Over the next few years, as I made the long, slow journey back to biblical Christianity, I also got more serious about observing a good Lent. Lent has become, for me, a season to be re-grounded in my faith.

DH and I want to offer our kids a good Lent. We'll be trying to do that in three ways:

Our Focus of Lent - The Triduum as high point

Our Spirit of Lent - Recommitment to spiritual practices

Our Disciplines of Lent - Living out commitments to prayer, fasting, almsgiving

Our Focus of Lent

Each year, there are aspects of Lenten observance and discipline that I add to our family's Lent (and some I try and then don't repeat). This year's newest addition is making sure that the focus of our Lent season is the Triduum - the Holy Three Days. The Triduum is one of the most ancient parts of the church year, and should be the highlight of it. The trick, for me, is to see Lent as a time of preparation (like Advent is for Christmas) for the Triduum and not allow it to overshadow the Triduum, or the Easter season.

In order to make sure that we do not miss the Triduum as we wrap up Lent and prepare for Easter, we are going to plan well ahead for these three days. This really is key with all my church year observances - plan, plan, plan and then WRITE IT DOWN.

(photo of our Alleluia banners decorated and ready to be unfurled on Easter morning)


Here's my plan:

We will limit visitors to our home and our own excursions. All cleaning and any errands for Easter will be completed prior to Maundy Thursday. Our menus will be planned and shopped for ahead of time including: simple fast day menus for Good Friday and Holy Saturday and special Easter feast dishes and treats.

I'm contemplating limiting all TV, games, videos, etc on these three days, but especially Good Friday. My kids will certainly balk, but I think it will really help us set an appropriate tone for the Triduum. (When I think of watching TV on Good Friday, I'm reminded of the way I felt after 9/11. Television - other than news to see what was happening - seemed wholly inappropriate. I'll never forget how disturbed I was when normal programming resumed.)
  • Maundy Thursday (which is really the last day of Lent and not included in the Triduum) we'll attend our church's service which usually involves footwashing and always communion.

  • Good Friday will be a quiet day and will probably include a Good Friday "Three Hours" service. I'm contemplating offering a children's Stations of the Cross at my home. (I will follow up with those plans as the date gets closer.)

  • Holy Saturday, an a-liturgical day, we rest with Jesus in the tomb and prepare for his Resurrection. We'll dye eggs, prepare some of our special Easter treats, and do some special crafts.

  • Easter Sunday - need I give details? Church, Feasting, Laughter, Music and ALLELUIAS!

My goal is to keep these three days ever in my mind as the high point of the church year - with Easter being the pinnacle, while on the journey of Lent.

Read the rest of this series.

Our Spirit of Lent

There seem to be a number of "takes" on what the spirit of Lent should be, but I believe it comes down to: repentance of our sins, recommitment to spiritual disciplines, and encountering the sufferings of Christ. In other words, reuniting ourselves with the Good Shepherd.

Some idea for infusing your home with the spirit of Lent:
  • Consider setting up a family altar area, if you don't have one. A small table or shelf will do. A simple display of a bible, cross and a candle makes a lovely altar area. You might consider using the church year colors in some way (a piece of cloth, or ribbons). My picture below shows my altar area set up still for Ordinary time, but you get the idea. Use this as a gathering point for family prayer and devotions.



  • Simplify your meals during Lent. While you may already be fasting, it can be beneficial to make a point of offering simple fare during most or just certain days of Lent. Friday is a traditional day for fasting or abstaining from meat, so it might make a good day to offer a simple soup and bread meal. Offer a simple meal on the traditional fast days of Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.
  • Help younger children focus on the Good Shepherd by setting up a quiet corner with some godly play on the Good Shepherd theme. Coloring pages, felt sets, figurines, play sets (PlayMobil and Beulah Enterprises both carry something), and so on can easily be found.

  • Many Protestants eschew the crucifix in favor of the empty cross. But, during Lent, a crucifix may help your family focus on Christ's sufferings. Replace it with an empty cross on Holy Saturday.

  • Tie purple ribbons in various places around the home as a reminder of the season and also a call to prayer. (religious art, perhaps door handles, refrigerator/pantry, and other locations where a prayer reminder seems appropriate)

  • Provide your kids with icon/mosaic/stained glass-style images and coloring pages on Lenten themes. You might try here and here.
  • Give your kids a visual explanation of what Jesus did on the cross - make a Lenten cross. On this cross, they pin their sins over the course of Lent. The sins are removed on Good Friday, but the pins are left in the cross. Then on Easter Sunday, use the same pins to hold flowers on the cross.

  • Offer times of quiet - perhaps daily, but atleast on a regular basis. During these times avoid anything entertainment-oriented (TV, video games, standard radio music). Rather choose some quiet, reflective, spiritual music. I highly recommend this online "station" where you can hear "Classical music for the church".
  • On Good Friday, strip your family altar, drape your cross in black and keep a quiet day as best you can with children. Be ready with lots of quiet activities for them.

Read the rest of the series.






Our Disciplines of Lent

There are three areas of discipline we will be engaging in this Lent: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.

Now, you say, shouldn't you be doing those ALL year? Well, yes. But Lent offers us a time to re-double our efforts...to go a bit beyond our normal practices...to perhaps recommit to those disciplines we may have recently let slide...or to begin something new.


Prayer
We want to foster family prayer beyond our usual meal grace and nighttime parent-child prayers, so we have decided to begin family prayer times twice a day: morning and evening. Now, we know we won't manage to get both in every day, but we've set that as the goal for Lent.

The key here is to keep this short and sweet. Literally: Short. Sweet.

We have a family altar set up in our study which serves as a nice gathering point. A bible, cross and Christ Candle are on display with a ribbon corresponding to the church season color wrapped around the base of the candle and cross. (One child is my designated candle lighter and one is my snuffer. They love these "jobs"!)

We gather, light the Christ Candle, and read prayers from the The Anglican Family Prayer Bookfor Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer. We also do the weekly prayer cycle (a different prayer focus for each day) in the morning. In the evening, we offer up personal prayer needs.

For Lent, we will add:

  • On Ash Wednesday, this book has a gentle explanation of the meaning of the ashes and a lovely prayer derived from the Book of Common Prayer.
  • On Fridays, we will close our evening with the Lenten Litany from the above book.

  • For Good Friday, I'm considering hosting a Stations of the Cross for children.

Personally, I'd like to recommit to mid-day prayer for myself using my Anglican Rosary. Dear Neighbor has loaned me her copy of Praying With Beads: Daily Prayers for the Christian Year, which I enjoyed using during Epiphany and will continue for Lent during my mid-day prayer time. I guess I need to purchase my own copy, though!

Each week, I will present a new christian symbol to display on the family altar. These are lovely woodcut-style designs from a great resource:Rings, Kings And Butterflies: Lessons on Christian Symbols for Children. The author offers a symbol each week to correspond with the liturgical year (and the Lectionary) with some background information, activities, and further bible reading.


Fasting
As a family we will enter into "fasting" on Fridays by forgoing our usual Pizza Night and instead having a simple bread and soup meal. I like the idea of finding a way to fast as a family rather than only as individuals. We've never done this before, and I think it will be an encouraging time for us all.

In the book A Continual Feast: A Cookbook to Celebrate the Joys of Family and Faith Throughout the Christian Year, the author explains the historical approach to lenten fasting which "has involved two things... : a reduction in the amount of food eaten...and a change in diet." Modern Roman Catholics refrain only from meat, while Eastern Orthodox Christians have a much more austere fast during Lent (often no meat, dairy, fish, wine, or olive oil on most days of Lent). The point of any fasting is not to do "good works" to their own end, but to offer these self-denials as sacrifices to God.

If you desire to eat more simply, A Continual Feast has many great recipes (not only for Lent, but for the WHOLE church year). Here are some examples of traditional lenten fare the author suggests: Italian Pasta e Fagioli (pasta and bean soup), French Onion Soup (made with vegetable stock), Rumanian Lenten Eggplant, Medieval Lenten Salmon Tart, Pretzels, Greek Palm Sunday Fish, and Rosemary Buns.

My own fasting will involve a few areas: skipping a favorite treat (Starbucks), a focused fast on Fridays (beyond what we do as a family), and giving up my late-night hours.


Almsgiving
Often you hear, "donate the money you save through fasting or simple meals to charity", but I find it hard to figure out the actual difference in cost - beyond a "guess". I think I really have to stick with giving a predetermined amount of money from something not purchased. Since we will not be purchasing pizza dough each week, we'll put money into our alms box. My Starbucks money will also go there.

I'd also like to find a way for the kids to earn some money to contribute to the alms box. If you have any ideas, please share!

This year our alms will go to help a special orphanage-support mission in China. They are working over time right now trying to help provide necessities to the orphanages hardest hit by the recent severe winter weather there. Some of these orphanages are in usually temperate areas and have no heat, so they are unprepared for the snow and ice. The orphanage where Dear Neighbor's new daughter lived in one of these orphanages. Here is a recent report from that orphanage:

Chenzhou CWI, Hunan – still facing the most difficulties of the orphanages we’ve reached. They’ve had no electricity or running water for 8 days and there is almost no possibility that power will be restored before New Year’s Eve (the 6th of February.) Because of the blackout, the hospital is closed. 20 children are ill and being cared for by institution staff as well as they can. The banks are closed so staff is contributing personal funds to buy food, coal and diapers. Prices are skyrocketing as all roads to Chenzhou remain impassable.


Please consider giving! (see the red button on the link page)

Read the rest of the series.

Shrove Tuesday - Pancake pictures and recipe!

Oh - quick, zip over to my friend Jean's blog for a look at some DELICIOUS pancakes - she even shared her recipe.

If you try these out or have your own recipe (or photo), leave a link in the coments!

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Shrove Tuesday - celebrating in the home and links!

So, what's up with Shrove Tuesday / Mardi Gras / Carnival? Why is this celebration such an important part of Lent in the liturgical traditions (especially Anglican and Roman Catholic)? Seems a bit odd to usher in a season of penitance and spiritual asceticism with a day of frivolity, excess, and indulgence, doesn't it?



Gertrud Mueller Nelson, in her book To Dance With God: Family Ritual and Community Celebration, compares "Fat Tuesday" to cleaning out a drawer. In order to do a thorough job, one must dump out all the contents of the drawer in order to set it back in order. Shrove Tuesday (or Mardi Gras) is the dumping out and the rest of Lent is the setting back in order. This is exactly how I clean, so it makes a great deal of sense to me! This day of wildness and excess helps us get ready to enter into the seriousness of Lent.



(The picture is from the Pancake Day Race at Olney in Buckinghamshire which has been held for more than 550 years.)



So, how does your friendly, bloggyneighbor and Anglican celebrate on Shrove Tuesday? Read on!



In the past, we've been blessed with a parish that put on a great Shrove Tuesday celebration with lots of pancakes and some Cajun cooking, too. However, this year, since we are borrowing space from another church, we are unable to have a parish celebration. Instead, we'll have to be a bit creative and find ways to celebrate this day in our home.



It is traditional to eat something sweet and fried, so the kids and I will go out for Krispy Kreme doughnuts (oh, to be near the home of the original Krispy Kreme!) either mid-morning or after lunch. But our real celebration will begin in the evening!



Shrove Tuesday celebrations can certainly be done with just your family, but how much fun and more festive to include extended family or friends! We are getting together with our neighbors for our celebration. Here's what we have planned:



  • Costumes: both families have extensive dress ups, so we will let the kids dress up in the wildest costumes they can!

  • Food: Anglicans love their pancake suppers on Shrove Tuesday, so we will have dueling griddles going with pancakes and sausage. Nothing fancy - just "Aunt Jemima"!

  • Alleluia banner: "Burying the Alleluia" is a new part of our Lent this year. We will do this by making a big "Alleluia" banner at our Shrove Tuesday celebration. (Dear Neighbor and I will have plain banners with "Alleluia" written on them for the kids to decorate - one for each family.) At the end of the evening, these will be rolled up and put away until Easter.

  • Close in silence: At the end of the evening, the costumes will come off, we'll light some candles, and gather for a short prayer. Then we'll go home quietly, ready to enter into a faithful Lent.

Some more fun links:



Do you have any plans for Shrove Tuesday? I'd love to hear about your favorite traditions - or a memorable Fat Tuesday! Leave a comment (and link if you have one)!

Jeanne from At A Hen's Pace has an excellent guest post full of ideas and recipes for Shrove Tuesday - so go by and visit!