Thursday, April 29, 2010

Good Shepherd Garden Party Week 3: The Heavens Tell God's Glory!

Well, I'm a bit late posting last week's Good Shepherd's Garden Party but wanted to share nonetheless.

After spending time with the sheep in the pasture on week 1 and then feasting at the Lord's Table on week 2, we moved to the skies for week 3.

We are so blessed to have found this creative and meaningful way to celebrate the 50 days of Easter together as a family. This last week I realized that if I wanted to make this devotional time together more significant I needed to spend more time contemplating the stories and images from Scripture myself. Not only did it really change the way I presented the stories, this week's theme of God's creation declaring His Glory was just what I needed to hear myself. I mentioned that I had hoped to seek beauty during this Easter Season and at times I've been struggling to see the splendor in the ordinary, but through these passages of Scripture my eyes were opened afresh to the wonder all around me that I often turn a blind eye too. As Peter Mazar writes in the introduction to this week, "With our eyes to the skies we will open wide our senses to the wonders of nature, and we will praise the Lord who is the maker of all."

We had the opportunity to do just that on the Thursday night of this week--the day we learned about hail. For our special treat we headed out to Rita's Water Ice, as hail isn't quite rain or snow, water ice isn't quite water or ice! As we were loading up the car, we noticed the sun and blue skies (Sunday's theme) but then as we got out of the car again, the clouds (Monday's theme) rolled in. As we ordered, the rain started (Tuesday's theme), and their were flashes of lightening (Wednesday!). We decided to eat the rest of our water ice in the car on the ride home, when the wind (Friday's theme) really kicked up just as we turned onto a big boulevard lined with blossoming cherry trees. We pulled the car over as the wind whipped and swirled the blossoms around us in one of the most beautiful natural events I've ever seen. It was a true blizzard of pink blossoms. We were so amazed we could do nothing but laugh, even the baby just laughed and laughed. [When we read Friday's devotion the next day which asked, "Have you ever watched wind take blossoms from a tree and blow them into the air?" Everyone shouted, "Yes!!!"]

We love water ice!

By the time we were finished our water ice, the skies had cleared and were filled with a beautiful rainbow (Saturday's theme). All week my 5 year old daughter had been praying that she might see her first rainbow. The kids hopped and danced in glee. And I praised the Lord, maker of all, for the spectacular show. The Heavens declare the Glory of God, indeed!

We had our Garden Party on Saturday night with my parents as guests. Here are a few pictures of the food for our feast:

cupcakes to represent the sun, clouds and wind!

sugar cookies shaped like umbrellas and rain drops!

Rainbow Fruit Kababs. G made them all by herself!

Thanks to Shower of Roses and Waltzing Matilda for the recipes and ideas! For more posts, head over to Catholic Cuisine.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Garden of the Good Shepherd Week One

This year as part of our celebration of Easter as a season, we've been using the Garden of the Good Shepherd by Peter Mazar and illustrated by Tomie DePaola (I bought mine here for $6 or Waltzing Matilda also has free printables for those who didn't order the sticker book in time!). This large laminated scene with stickers serves as a calendar with a scripture passage and devotion for each day.

The first week's theme centers around the Jesus as the Good Shepherd, where we learn how Jesus promises to watch over us as a Shepherd does for his lambs and many other references to sheep in the Book of John.

Week Two we gather around the Table, reading Scriptures from the Old Testament of hospitality and feasting that evoke the Last Supper, the Emmaus Meal, the Eucharist, and our heavenly banquet. We continue throughout the 50 days of Easter to read Scripture of the sky, the sea, the garden and tree, the city and the animals. Each week helps us to see God's gifts all around us, the world "charged with the grandeur of God."

To help this fit with the celebratory tone of the Easter season, we are having a special treat and sometimes a craft or picture book to go along with the Scripture Reading. The kids have loved it and I'm so glad we have something to make this time memorable. The style of the devotions has been a refreshing change and have given me much food for thought during the week as the theme built.

This week as part of our Scripture memory and hymn study we worked on memorizing and singing Psalm 23, also with Keith Green's version and this new one.

We decorated our "altar" for the theme of the Good Shepherd with the children's Good Shepherd icon, a gift at their baptism last year, and lamb figurines we've picked up over the years at Easter.

On Easter Monday, we had breadsticks shaped as crooks and dipped in cinnamon sugar for breakfast! On Easter Tuesday, we ate popcorn to represent sheep and watched a movie on the Story of Jesus. On Easter Wednesday, we made these little treats to represent the gate of the sheepfold:

On Easter Thursday, we ate these lamb chocolates and made ewes and rams with cotton balls.

On Easter Friday, we had so much fun with Miss G's special friend making these sweet lamb cupcakes. The girls both 5 were able to decorate all by themselves!

On Easter Saturday, we had wolf paws to go along with John 10:11-12! Little Man dipped them in the chocolate and I made the claws with white icing. The favorite of the week to be sure!

 All of my ideas have come straight from Waltzing Matilda and Shower of Roses, so I claim no creativity in this project and when you see their pictures, not much skill either! Both of these lovely ladies have now set-up a party for each week with food themed for all of the lessons which seems like a great idea for those who would like to use the devotional each day but only do the crafts and food once a week. I think this is where we'll be by the last few weeks of Easter Season but for now the daily is working for us!

They are also hosting a link-up at Catholic Cuisine for more ideas; go check it out!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Sabbath is for Peace...

It is almost 2pm on Sunday and the house is quiet...all are asleep but me and I bask in this time, understanding anew that all the efforts to create space for this rest are worth it. We do not rest today so that we may work the rest of the week as we will, as Wendell Berry writes in his Sabbath poem,

"Six days of work are spent
To make a Sunday quiet
That Sabbath may return...."

From the Gospel reading for the Second Sunday of Easter,

When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you." After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you." (John 20:19-31).

One of the first messages of the resurrection: PEACE.

I go back to my own rest now, so that Sabbath may return.

Blessings dear readers! May the Peace of Christ be with you.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Becoming Easter People

It has often seemed easier to me to enter into the more contemplative and penitential times of Advent and Lent then to live out Epiphany and Easter seasons more than a day. Advent’s themes of longing and waiting seem natural to the human condition both before salvation and as we await heaven. In Lent, even when the themes seem more difficult to practice, it seems obvious that, as they are disciplines after all, fasting, prayer, and alms-giving will take much effort and devotion. But Easter’s Octave and then season of 50 days spent in celebration and rejoicing? One day of victory and triumph, I can sustain, but how do we become an Easter people?

Four years past, we had celebrated such a glorious Easter after a dramatic Holy Week that Easter Monday seemed a major let down. Exhausted from a busy weekend, heavy in pregnancy, a toddler to occupy, and still a sink of dirty dishes from the feast the day before, I felt ready to give up the whole thing.
As I stared out the window, I asked the question, perhaps for the first time, what does the resurrection mean for my everyday life?  
And at that moment the CD player changed on its own as my toddler’s nursery rhymes came to an end and suddenly Vivaldi’s Gloria blared. Its proclamation of triumph was so strong, I could not resist picking up my little one and twirling and dancing around the room. And I learned a bit more about the work of the Easter people.

“Do not abandon yourselves to despair. We are the Easter people and hallelujah is our song.”--John Paul II
Though there is a time for burying our “Allelulias” to seek Him in quiet and repentance, the liturgy of Easter declares this praise loudly again each Sunday. And as the church-domestic we continue the song of praise in our hearts, in our homes, in our lives. As the words of the Eucharistic prayer guide us,
“We remember his Death,
We proclaim his resurrection,
We await his coming in Glory.” (BCP, Holy Eucharist II, Prayer B)
Easter as a season rather than a day gives us the chance to bask in the glory of the resurrection and then move forward in its song.
“ …the days immediately after the Feast of the Resurrection most readily lend themselves to purposeful reflection. The drama of Holy Week remains vivid in our minds and the exuberance of Easter Day carries over. Let the exhilarating shock of the resurrection itself continue—the great reversal, the death of death, the shattered door, the harrowing of hell, the beautiful metamorphosis, the explosion of life! No metaphor measures up, no superlative suffices. As Madeline L’Engle once exclaimed about Easter, ‘ It is almost too brilliant for me to contemplate; it is like looking directly into the sun; I am burned and blinded by life.’” –Bobby Gross, Living the Church Year
To contemplate a thing so overwhelming and miraculous, one day is surely not enough. To learn to proclaim this resurrection, we must become an Easter people.
One of the gifts of the church year is its beautiful rhythm of permanence and change. Easter always comes, we are not left in the desert, we are not left even at the cross. We know the full story and it brings us hope. The Great Drama is one in which we know the ending and we need not despair. And though the story has been written, the Great Drama calls us to enter and be caught up in the story, calling us to find our story within the narrative of Christ’s, rather than merely seeking to fit God into our lives. This also means that what we learn this year will become part of how we celebrate next year. If my answers on how to live out Easter seem inadequate, I have the hope that as the cycle turns again I will be more of an Easter person than the year before.
And so, as each season has its own themes and disciplines, I ask of this Easter Season, how am I being called to go about “Practicing Resurrection”?
I have two beginnings of an answer. The Practice of Joy. The Practice of Beauty-Seeking.
The Practice of Joy. 

The Alleluia is no longer buried.

We look for occasion to sing together praise to our Lord. Listen to Handel’s Messiah, Vivaldi’s Gloria, and the Easter Hymns.
Easter Playlist

We seek to inhabit the resurrection in the midst of trying circumstances.
We laugh. We play. We give thanks.

I too often forget that unlike happiness, rejoicing is a choice.  We can learn to live it out more and more.  The Scriptures invite us to “give thanks in all circumstances.” And in light of The Victory over death and sin crushed, alleluia is our song.
And we celebrate. If in Lent we give up, in Easter we partake. We see food as a gift, eating as part of the Great Thanksgiving. And so in our home, during Easter I buy things I normally wouldn’t the rest of the year through. Waffles and whipped cream for breakfast. Everyday a special treat as part of the Garden of the Good Shepherd. Coke over ice and a lemon slice. Chocolate. My favorite bourbon.

Not to indulgence but to remember that all good gifts are from above and gifts from His Hand.

“[Easter] ought to be an eight-day festival, with champagne served after morning prayer or even before, with lots of alleluias and extra hymns and spectacular anthems. It is any wonder people find hard to believe in the resurrection of Jesus if we don’t throw our hats in the air? Is it any wonder we find it hard to live the resurrection if we don’t do it exuberantly in our liturgies? It is any wonder the world doesn’t take much notice if Easter is celebrated as simple the one-day happy ending tacked on to forty days of fasting and gloom? It’s long over due that we took a hard look at how we keep Easter in church, at home, in our personal lives, right through the system. And if it means rethinking some cherished habits, well, maybe it’s time to wake up.”
NT Wright, qtd at Story-formed

The Practice of Beauty-Seeking.
 “The resurrection of Jesus is a sign of God’s purpose and power to restore his creation to its full stature and integrity…In the aftermath of Gethsemane, we catch a scent of Eden…The resurrection is like the first day of a new creation.”-(Alistair McGrath, qtd in Bobby Gross, Living the Church Year)
And so on Easter morning, when we catch that scent of Eden, we refuse to let go. Like those little ones hunting the eggs, we are seeking, seeking to inhabit the new creation.

We seek beauty in the natural world. Our family finds hope of this new creation in time spent time out of doors—nature walks, picnicking, basking in the new life of spring…trying to catch the scent of Eden and the hope of glory.

Now redeemed, we see ourselves as participants in the redemption. We work the earth. Sow seeds. Pick fruit. Pull weeds. Beauty where it was once barren.

 Photos from last Easter Week, hopefully I'll have replacements from this Easter Week soon!
We place beauty all around us, decorating our home with signs of new life—flowers, alleluia banners, eggs and chicks and lambs, new icons and candles, white, white, white. We open wide the curtains to let the sun shine. Visual reminders all around saying, “Proclaim Resurrection, Proclaim Resurrection, Proclaim Resurrection.”

My Sister-in-laws Easter Tree

We find beauty in words. The poetry of resurrection… Berry, Hopkins, Herbert…The poetry of hope and spring…Teasdale, Longfellow, Wordsworth, Rosetti, Blake.

We seek to share that beauty with those around us. Delivering flowers, cards, cookies to our neighbors, mostly elderly, shut-in and alone. They smile in the delight of little ones, a gift of beauty themselves.

 Pictures with my grandparents on Easter.

An Easter people have life abundant. As we practice resurrection may alleluia be our song. May we proclaim it loud and long.

*Thank you to those of the Kind Conversation who have spurred these thoughts and encouraged the party to continue! I have already blessed by this community so much. Perhaps you too, might want to be a part of "a quiet place to share a vision of rhythm and beauty, holiness and joy."


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