36th birthday. Amazing Grace. Liturgy of Life

On my 36th birthday

The hands of the clock meet with a gentle tick, it is midnight, my 36th birthday had begun. I clear my throat at my daughter’s bedside,  searching for the words of Amazing Grace, urging her eyes to close with my sleepy voice, gruff and wavering.

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now I’m found,
Was blind, but now I see.

“Mama, I’m scared,” she says, “I don’t know why,” she says, as I tuck the blankets around her chin.

’twas Grace that taught,
my heart to fear.
And grace, my fears relieved.
How precious did that grace appear,
the hour I first believed. 

I don’t tell her that I’m just like her, that I too wake up startled with the realization of how fragile my life is, haunted by the reality that the death I fear is guaranteed and the only question is how much grief I will endure between now and then.  I don’t tell her that each year the earth’s history contains more suffering than it did the year before or that she will one day lose everyone she loves.

I stroke her forehead. She squeezes her stuffed giraffe.

Through many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come.
’tis grace that brought me safe thus far,
and grace will lead us home.

36 years ago I was pushed into this world in a puddle of blood and cries of pain.  Yet I was greeted with the glistening eyes of my young mother, her arms eager to embrace me.

And I remember that joy is cumulative too, that suffering births hope. It is our nature to seek resurrection.

The Lord has promised good to me,
His word my hope secures.
He will my shield and portion be,
as long as life endures.

Her eyes shut, I can see her long lashes even in the dim light. I tug my bathrobe tight around me and shuffle back to bed. I savor the sound of my husbands breath, I relish in the little girl now sound asleep who has more trust in me than I deserve. I pull my blankets up around my ears and slip back to sleep grateful for the new year ahead.

 

When we’ve been there ten thousand years,
bright shining as the sun.
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise,
than when we first begun.

36th birthday. Amazing Grace. Liturgy of Life

 

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7 Reasons to Join the Liturgy of Life Reading Group – 2016

It’s hard to believe it has been almost a year since my first post here. Blogging through 2015 has changed my life. My mind and heart have grown and stretched each day by reading, writing and connecting with many of you.

 

In 2015 Liturgy of Life (did you ever even realize it is LOL for short? love that) hosted an online reading group, together we read five books about the Christian faith, home and family. Now as 2016 is quickly approaching (feels a bit too quickly actually) I am excited to announce the 2016 Reading List and invite you to read along.

7 Reasons to Join the Liturgy of LifeReading Group2016

This year I’m adding a new Link-Up function at the bottom of every post pertaining to the reading group (you don’t have to be reading at my pace just be on the same book, for my week by week reading plan click here).

 

So I know you are holding your breath and just dying to know what the 2016 reading list is.  Drum Roll Please.

 

Seven Quick Takes:

Why You should Join the Liturgy of Life Reading Group

 

1. A Grief Observed, CS Lewis.  We will spend the first part of 2016 looking at grief and pain in the Christian life.  A Grief Observed is simply C.S. Lewis’ journal from the months following the death of his wife.  It gives insight into how to love and support those around us who are grieving and raises important questions for a Christian to struggle through as we face the pain in our world.

(We will read this book for 4 weeks, January 17th-February 13th)

 

2. The Problem with Pain, CS Lewis. I swear I’m not obsessed with CS Lewis, this book just seemed to be the best follow up to A Grief ObservedThe Problem with Pain is the most intellectual book we will read (for all of you academics out there, you are welcome, for the rest of us, I’m sorry but it will be a good challenge for us). Here the same Lewis writes about the reasoning and logic that can help ground a Christian as they deal with grief.

(We will read this book for 10 weeks, with a break after the first two chapters to do some reading on Lent and Easter (see below) so the dates will be February 14th-27th and then April 3rd-May 28th, this is  short but dense book so I’m hoping by breaking it in half it will help us to digest it a bit easier).

 

 

3. Silence by Shusaku Endo.  This is the must read off this list.  Silence is one of the best novels I have read, coincidentally it is also being made into a feature length film which will come out in November.  It is a story of a priest in the persecuted church in Japan. It is placed in the early 1900’s but remains ever so relevant as we ponder the persecution of Christians all around the world today.

(We will read this book over 5 weeks May 29th-July 2nd)

 

 

4. Animal Vegetable Miracle, Barbara Kingsolver. About halfway through the year we will move from a focus on suffering to begin looking at the patterns of the natural world, where grief and celebration are both a part.  Kingsolver is not Christian but her perspective on the rhythms of life and contentedness to place, nature and community bring insight to the American Christian worldview. This book is an easy to read memoir of a year of local eating and farming. It has a lot of information about food culture in America as well as some decent recipes.

(We will read this book from July 3rd- November 18th )

 

 

5. Let Us Keep the Feast, compilation, edited by Jessica Snell. This book is a great review of the major liturgical seasons Snell’s compilation gives a brief history of each liturgical season and some simple ideas of how to celebrate them at home.

(We will read this book in two sections, we will read the chapters on Lent, Holy Week, Easter and Pentecost  from February 28th- March 2nd, and then Introduction, Advent, Christmas and Epiphany from November 20th through December 15th)

 

6.  I hope that reading these books will change your life and I am excited to hear from you.  Please comment here or join the discussion by liking the Liturgy of Life facebook page, linking up anytime you are reading and blogging along with us or joining our facebook discussion group.

 

7.  If this list isn’t enough for you here is a quick re-cap of the 2015 list.

 

 

 

 

It has been an awesome year, thank you for being part of it.

Erica

 

For some other fun quick-takes check out the Link-up at thisaintlyceum.com

Thoughts on Calling,
The Persecuted Church
and Me

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“Where do you live? Do you work? What does your husband do?” These questions are the basis of small talk, and even when they are asked in all kindness and sincerity I dread them. It isn’t that I hate to answer, it’s just that the answer needs about an hour of explanation rather than the expected two minutes.

I already have a tendency to be a bit socially awkward so instead of having an answer prepared I end up mumbling something incoherent,

“Well, ug, we moved out to the middle of nowhere last year and we really felt like it was the right thing  . . . and so I quit my job . . . but then my husband lost his job . . . and so we moved into town, now we are trying to follow God on to the next step  . . . oh right, the next step , hmm (by this point I’m fully flustered and sputtering). Well, um, we are still sorting that out, but our lease is up in two months so hopefully we will have an answer by then . . .  we are thinking about moving back to Mexico.” I shrug my shoulders, my voice trails off, I laugh a little to lighten things up and try to change subjects as quickly as possible.

It isn’t surprising that my story is met with so many confused stares.  Like I said, it takes about an hour to give the full explanation and I am no good at being concise (if you can’t tell that from this blog you should ask my husband. It takes me 25 minutes to ask him if  I look better in the blue jacket or the pink one).

And beyond my communications failures I am also one of those people that really wants to fit in. I want to have a normal life and a simple story. But each year, rather than becoming simpler, I find our story becoming more complex, not just to explain but even to understand for ourselves.

What are we doing? Why don’t we just settle down?

Right now in the Liturgy of Life reading group we are reading The Cloister Walk by Kathleen Norris, it is essentially a poetic memoir of her time in a Benedictine monastery and I was interested in her thoughts on calling. She quotes Walter Brueggemann’s book, Hopeful Imagination,

“. . . a sense of call in our time is profoundly counter-cultural . . . the ideology of our time is that we can live ‘an uncalled life,’ one not referred to any purpose beyond one’s self . . .”

Brueggemann is referring to the the idea of the American Dream. We can be and do anything we want. And while this isn’t always true (certainly some of us have better odds than others), in the US, especially now with our increased mobility and access to technology, we have many open doors. No longer do we become a shoemaker because our last name is Shoemaker. We are free to become whatever we are capable of becoming. And while this is exciting, it can be tricky to navigate as a Christian. With so many options it is tempting to decide our path and then to find security in real estate and a retirement plan rather than in God (not that I’ve got anything against a retirement plan, I’d actually really like to have one someday).

Discerning a calling is not a sign of spiritual greatness. It is something that is required of us all. We are each unique and exist in a time, place and in a circle of relationships that belongs to only us. God asks the same thing of each of us, that we would live for Him, which means we use the skills and gifts that He gives us for His glory. But because we are so different, our particular path is  going to result in something beautifully unique to who  and where we are.  God doesn’t keep His plan hidden from us, He wants us to find it. But we have to want it.  We have to take at least the first step and choose to follow Him.

I was recently looking at the Voice of the Martyrs website,  they are a group that supports persecuted Christians around the world.

I came across a video called  Liena’s prayer which depicts a story told in a letter that Voice of the Martyrs received. Liena is a Christian in Syria and  one night she was praying about  her calling in ministry. As she sat down to pray and all she could hear was the voice of God asking her if she was willing to give Him all of he self, if she was ready to lay down her life for her faith in God.

She prayed and felt that indeed she was willing to die if that is what God asked. The following day she prayed again and this time she hears the voice of God asking her if she is willing to give up the life of her husband. She continues to pray and she and her husband together decide that they are both willing to die if that is what God required.

The third day she sits down to pray, this time she hears the voice of God asking her clearly if she is willing to surrender her children to Him. Their family is known for sharing Jesus with others, it is not safe for them in their country anymore. In anguish she and her husband pray and fast.  She sits down with her children and explains that they may see violence. She reminds them that their lives are a gift given by God belonging to Him alone and their purpose is for God’s glory. She tells them that if God would have them stay safe they will be safe and that if God would let their lives be taken they will be taken up into His eternal love.

At the end of her story she questions herself, is she being a good mother, is it more important to keep her children safe or to live a life so full of the love of God that it is worth dying for?

My own situation certainly doesn’t feel  as urgent as Liena’s. And my heart aches for the heavy decisions she must make to be a Christian in her country. She forces me to look at  myself, am I willing to walk this path?  Am I  willing to surrender all so that I can be free to do the work that God calls me to?

So this is a long answer to those small talk questions. Right now our family trying to find God’s call for us before we take our next step. It isn’t that we are oblivious to our financial and physical needs anymore than Liena is unaware of the true danger she is in. We would certainly rather God take us to cozy house with a fire place and a shady  back yard (and for many God may lead to exactly that sort of cozy spot) than to a desert or a foreign country.  But we also hope that when we look back on our life we will have left  behind a legacy of good works, having lived the best life that only a sovereign God could have chosen rather than be left wondering what we missed.

And so we wait and ask ourselves in Craig Barnes word’s,  are we willing to give up the life of our dreams to receive from Christ the life he died to give us?

 

May 7th is celebrated as the National Day of Prayer. Please Join us for a 20 minute Prayer Vigil for those in the persecuted church. http://thetrinitymission.org/otherprayers/prayer-for-the-persecuted-church/