Guatemala: Kickoff to a Great Year!

We have just returned from kicking off the first week of a new Bible School in the Peten, Guatemala and we’ve love to take just a few moments to report on all that happened during our time there.

Our first night of classes

Over the course of thirteen days, we ministered in four churches, shared the gospel on the radio and taught over 100 students, equipping them with the power of the gospel. The emphasis of our teaching was that it is the message and not the messenger who carries power to bring salvation!! Throughout the next year, we plan to conduct four intensive weeks of study, each focusing on a different theme. This week, to kick it all off, we emphasized Jesus’ primary command to go. The students were such wonderful receivers!

Our desire was that each student feel empowered and equipped to share.

Friends and mentors, Jerry and Marilyn O’Dell

As an added bonus, Jerry and Marilyn O’Dell came in to help us get off to a great start. Many of you may recall that 19 years ago in Honduras I (William) worked under Jerry and Marilyn as a single young man and, later, married to Jessica. We led classes and crusades in Honduras, taking the students door to door with Jon Langley in tow! Years later, the Guatemalan Bible School united us once again with the O’Dells, this time with three kids along for the ride!

Here we are with Dr. Misraim, the head of ASETI and Tim Spurrier

We are blessed to be working with Dr. Misraim Fernandez who has had a vision for a Bible School in the Peten for more than twelve years. In addition, our great friends Tim and Doris have been wanting to see a bible school birthed and now both visions are coming together in the form of a seminary called ASETI. You have read in Jessica’s earlier blog (here) about the credentials of the school and the way it will enable pastors to gain a certificate for ministering, something that the government has threatened to require in coming years.

ASETI is a theological seminary that will function weekly from January until November. Dr. Misraim will head this up even while we are not there which means that Guatemala is taking care of their own!! This is in keeping with the new model of missions we have written about previously. We will function as a support to the seminary by teaching week long intensives once a quarter when we are in Guatemala, bringing guest ministers along with us when possible, to supplement the curriculum of the school and bring the hands-on side to the gospel. Dr. Misraim has actually created an extension of ASETI known as ELI…..this is us! Are you getting confused by all these acronyms yet?? ELI is the name we will operate under in Guatemala and we even have our own seal.

Our Bible School logo

William taught a group of hungry pastors on Tuesday morning about servant leadership and Jessica met with a group of pastors wives and female leaders from the church about staying filled up with the Lord in order to finish the works they are in. Both of these sessions felt like leaps forward and their demand for more is great. When we return in April we plan on only increasing these teachings, specifically targeting pastors and leaders who we believe will, in turn, go and teach it to others.

As always, we also shared in churches, fulfilling our mandate to strengthen and encourage Christ’s body in the local church itself. On Sunday alone we ministered in three different services! Jessica and I are still a team and for fun you can watch a clip of us ministering together below, something we love to do!

Click on above picture for video

 

You are a co-laborer with us in the school if you have prayed or given in any way. We realize that what we are doing simply cannot be accomplished without the help of others.

One last thought….you may wonder, what were the kids doing all this time? Take a look and rejoice with us at all that God is doing through them as well! Love and thanks to you all….

Shea’s baking business!

Josiah praying for a boy

Jon praying for a young man

We are in the Bible School and Baking Business!!!

I woke up early this morning, our second day in Guatemala, to the sound of dogs barking and motorcycles whizzing by outside our window on the dirt street below. Charred cooking fires that I had smelled throughout the night still filled the air with a smoky odor. Soon the women will begin to cook tortillas over those very fires….another day in the Peten has begun.

This man seemed overjoyed at the end of the first night of the Bible School. I had to capture the moment!

We love the sights and smells in returning here. There is no TV to distract and the internet is a constant battle so we read and study often and help the kids with school during the times we are not ministering. We love the people, we love the salsa, we love the beans and the fresh avocados each day…but for us it is more than that. Perhaps it comes from our life together beginning here in Central America more than 16 years ago now. It feels like our place and, though still mastering the language, we always feel a sense of belonging when we come here.
Yesterday we had a wonderful meeting with Doctor Misraim, the pastor who is spear heading the Bible school here, known by the acronym ASETI. We feel so blessed to be working with him. For us, it has been a desire and for him it has been a twelve year dream. Until now, he has had an organized school meeting in homes and various places but now for the first time they will come together in one central location with a building. Additionally, we are praying that we will be an encouragement to him and walk alongside him bringing in guest ministers from time to time and providing practical and even hands on teaching for the students. In our meeting, Doctor Misraim outlined a full week for us with Bible School classes each night from 6-10 and leadership training specifically for those already pastoring in the mornings. We are so excited!
Looking around, we constantly see needs that could be met. Orphanages could be opened and food programs initiated yet we feel like the teaching of and equipping with God’s word through a bible school is how we can be most effective at this season. It is our contribution to the body of Christ. We are praying and believing that as these leaders are trained they can, in turn, impact entire congregations and train up more leaders after them…possibly in areas we could only hope to gain entrance to.
But wait…..there’s more! Most of the men and women desiring to attend the school for Bible training do not even have a high school diploma. The ministry of education here in Guatemala has approved the bible school as a sort of bridge program to help them earn what we would call a GED. In conjunction with the Bible classes, those needing it will also receive math and other prerequisites so that they earn their high school diploma. This will be life changing for so many of them!
I hope that you can see along with us that God Himself is working to orchestrate all these things. We have learned to show up and be ready to be poured out and used. Please pray for our time to be effective, for our children to feel a part and for us to be vessels that God can freely use.
******Update: A few days have passed since I first wrote this and now I have internet and can post it…We have had two nights of the Bible School and both have been a great success! There is an electricity in the air as people realize that the Peten now has a functioning training place where men and women can come across denominational lines and be disciple in God’s word. Shea has been baking and selling her cakes at night and bossing the boys around. JoJo said he was an employee and expected to be paid to which she replied that he was simply a volunteer and not to expect any money!!!!! So…we are parenting, homeschooling, teaching leadership classes in the morning and Bible School each night.PRAY FOR US!!!!!!!

 

Just Hush

hush

I must have told my kids a dozen times this week to be quiet and listen. If they would just, as we Southern Mommas like to say, “hush” then I could impart my oodles of parenting wisdom. If they would learn to close their precious little mouths for one minute they would actually hear (and possibly remember) the things I’m telling them to do, right? I probably have the answers to all of their questions. I most likely know the solution to the problem they’re facing. I know where they left their practice jersey and where to look for it. I know the last place I saw their stuffed animal named Gus. I know what’s for dinner and I know what time we have to leave the house. In know what assignments are due and who is coming over to play. If someone would slow down long enough to listen they would discover that I am trying to tell them all what’s happening today, tomorrow and the rest of the week. I’m the mom- keeper of the calendar, washer of the clothes and discoverer of all things shoved under the bed. As far as the household is concerned, I’m in the know. If any of my children want to know what’s happening or what is expected or what their day holds they need only ask……and then listen.

Listening is a lost art. I struggle with it myself. How many of my own problems would be solved and questions easily answered if I took more time in the day to slow down and tune in to what my own parent is saying? Just as I feel toward my children, God’s plans for me are for good and not to harm me. He is thinking of my welfare, where I need to be and where I should look for that elusive lost item. Although at this stage in life usually the misplaced things shoved under our beds and misplaced in cluttered rooms of the heart are commodities that carry more weight than a stuffed animal. We are often searching for peace, value and the sweetness once felt in our marriage. Instead of dirty sports jerseys waiting to be washed it is often hidden sins or sins of careless omission that need a good washing and airing so we are equipped for the playing field of daily life.

So many times in God’s word he calls us His children. As the best of all parents, His instructions are readily available to us. Scripture is there to remind us where we’re supposed to be and how we are to act, who we should be associating with and how to be spending our time. He has all of our answers and His words for us are life. Like my own children, I have discovered that my biggest problem is often learning to listen. Sometimes I can’t hear well because the clamor of the day’s cares are drowning out God’s words of peace. Sometimes I fail to pay good attention  because I’m too busy running off a list of the many things I’m frustrated about and needing. Most often, like my own children, the answer is simple. I need to learn to close my mouth and open my ears. I need to learn to quiet my whining and stop wandering about aimlessly looking for lost items with no success. I must go to the source- the one who knows where to look for all things lost and see them recovered; the one who has sorted all of the dirty things and made them clean and bright; the one in charge of the household who knows its members and happenings like the back of His hand. In fact, He formed us with those very hands and we can be assured He has our answers if only we come and ask. And just hush.

 

Confessions, Chaos and a Path that Leads to Peace

love-the-journey

My house felt like an absolute mess! Toys were scattered around the floors, doors to the outside stood open with flies coming in to forage, grass and dirt pieces littered the floor and random cups, plates and shoes were all littered about. AAARRRGGGHHHHH!! It felt like chaos! For several hours we had enjoyed the fellowship of company being over, of entertaining and eating but now the day was drawing to a close and I felt restless. It was time to get things back into their place, to bring some order to the madness. It was time to see my kids bathed and in jammies, tucked away in cozy beds. It was time to load the dishes into the dishwasher and hear its gentle hum reassuring me that they would all be clean and new by morning. It was time to pick up the clutter and restore each item to its rightful place. A couple of hours later, company all gone and mopping all completed, I surveyed the new order of things and felt a great sense of relief- sigh….Everything was back in its rightful place and I was at rest.

Have you ever experienced this scenario? Maybe it wasn’t about your house. Maybe you had a child away at camp or college and once they were home you felt a sense of relief as if all was back in order once again. You may have felt it yourself coming home from a trip. The journey was fun, the experience novel but coming home gave a sense of coming back to your true north, just as a compass continuously rights itself and is at ease when its red arrow gravitates back to its correct place. There is a right order to things. There is a place where things and people belong and, though we may not always be conscious of it, we are restless until that place is restored.

The start of a new school year always feels to me like order has been restored. Schedules are back and routines rev up once again. My home feels a little more routine and stable and I feel that I am back in my element as a domestic theologian, training my children and feeding them well….sort of. Enter football practices, youth group meetings, last minute projects and late night pizza. Chaos inevitably tries to pull us back into his lair like the spider to the fly but we can resist!

St. Augustine, a bishop in North Africa during the latter years of the Roman Empire, relayed  this very idea in his book Confessions when he wrote: “Our hearts are restless until they find their rest in You.” Even our hearts yearn for a place of order and rest that, whether we realize it or not, we are continuously striving for.

Peace.

Joy.

Contentment.

Sabbath rest. These are the real reasons we gather together each Sunday in our congregations, seeking answers and peace and we hope for the transformative power we believe the service can bring to our lives.

To human is to be on a quest; a constant quest. Cultivating a love and longing for the Kingdom of God in our hearts suddenly gives us an order and a mission to life. It points us in the right direction, so to speak. With the Kingdom of God, and all it entails, as our primary focus, we are suddenly placing our lives on a particular path, a narrow way, but a way that points in very definite and distinct direction. We are on a mission! The path tells us what to prioritize, what to seek first. Isn’t this what we would call becoming a disciple? We actually make disciples by teaching people to love the kingdom of God!

So, this love for the Kingdom of God and His ways places us on a definite path, one that has a particular destination….for our destination matters very deeply to us. James KA Smith says, we all “live leaning forward, bent on arriving at the place we long for”. So, like Bunyan’s Pilgrim, we must regularly re-calibrate our hearts so that we stay true to the path that will take us to our desired destination.

Several years ago now, we were picking our family motto for the year and at that particular time, as in most times, I had more of a frustrated longing for what was to come than a joy in living out the present. My husband decided that we all needed to be embracing the joy of living in the moment and not letting precious years pass us by. That year, we adopted the theme “Enjoying the Journey” but it somehow felt a little too chaotic and irresponsible to me…sort of like “Eat, drink and Be Merry”! Sounds fun, right? But while those carefree themes capture the level of joy and contentment we want to live in, they say nothing of the ultimate aim of our lives. The first catechism asks the question, “What is the chief end of man?” and gives as its calibrating response, “The chief end of man is to glorify God.” This is our destination: Bringing glory to God. This is living in the Kingdom. So, our life theme has become. “Enjoying the Journey(lest we forget and become discontent)….while never forgetting the Destination (our chief end)”.

Are you finding Joy in your journey or is your soul downcast? For the heart of man will never be satisfied with the chaos that comes from an unclear destination or how to arrive  there. We must first know where we are going and where is our place of ultimate rest. Have our hearts lost direction and begun to strive after some other chief end?  Let us  learn to re-calibrate and stay on the path that leads to life and peace, God’s Kingdom way.

Tell Me a Story- A Longing for Liturgy at Home

stories1

Our children love to hear us tell stories. Stories really are the language of home. Home movies, scrapbooks, Shutterfly books and the like all tell a part of our family histories. On their birthday we always sit down and tell each child the story of their birth–  the anticipation we felt as new parents, the sudden dash
to the hospital and all of the events surrounding their homecoming to awaiting siblings and family. They love to hear that they are part of the larger story itself. At bedtime during family vacation, when cousins are all together, our kids beg for stories about when my sisters and I were little girls. They hoot and holler to hear about the scrapes we got ourselves into and the antics we didn’t get away with! They never grow tired of hearing the same ones over and over though I may grow tired of telling them.

As humans, we were made for stories and God Himself is the ultimate author, weaving an intricate plotline through each of our lives. Yet even greater, we are part of a larger narrative- one that began with Adam and grew even more intense with the second Ad
am, Jesus. As believers, little children of God, our inner being longs to hear the story told and know that we are part of the telling. We thrill to know, just as my children do in hearing the stories of their birth, that we are a part of a family history. Our names are in the Book. In fact, the weekly time we gather together with other saints is precisely so that we can sit close to one another and beg to hear the story again- to be reminded of Abraham’s faith, of the Exodus out of Egypt, of the way Joshua conquered and the Judges ruled. We come together to hear, once again, of how the prophets foretold the Messiah’s coming an
d then how the angel visited Mary; to hear tell how Jesus “went about preaching teaching and healing all were oppressed of the devil for God was with Him.” Above all we wait to hear our favorite part- the part where we come into the story and realize that Jesus shed his blood for us and that forgiveness is ours.

Every Sunday, whether we realize it or not, we are gathering to hear a story. Like all family stories, it is made even more delightful by the fact that it really happened and, in fact, is still going on today. We need to hear this story told, over and over, as it reminds us of who we are. Just as the stories our children hear told remind them of the larger family history they are a part of, so the Gospel reminds us of a larger tapestry that our lives are being woven into as well– A true tapestry that results in a picture of the family of God.

But our kids are rarely satisfied with one telling of the story. If they heard it last night, they still want to hear it again. It’s a great story! So we tell it over and over, adding a few details and revealing a bit more each time. Sometimes we shorten it up because we are sleepy but they know it better than we do at this point so they will stop us and make us go back and fill in the missing parts because they long to hear it all.

In our homes, we should be telling the Gospel story over and over as well. One day a week isn’t enough to satisfy. Our children want to and need to hear it told over and over again. The more we tell it, the more of a desire Once Upon a Timethey develop for it and they learn to long for every detail and every thrilling part to be told. This is liturgy- the repetitive “telling” of the scriptures day in and day out. The story is told as we read the Psalms in the morning to them, pray over the food at breakfast, gather for communion as a family or light the advent wreath at Christmas. They understand the details of the story a little more as we pray a blessing over them before they leave in the mornings or admit to our children that we were wrong about something and ask for their forgiveness.

But there is another key to our stories. How we tell these stories is as important as the stories themselves. The best stories are usually told snuggled up under a big blanket together. There may be elements that we can hold and take together- hot chocolate with popcorn or milk and cookies. The overhead lights may be dimmed and candles flicker throughout the worshipful space. The story may play out on a screen in front of us or be told from memory or read from a book. We all enjoy it more for the atmosphere it is told in. We touch and taste and feel; we smell the incense of home and the story is made more memorable and our hearts long for this moment over and over again. This is living liturgy.

For centuries this is what the ancient orders of worship in the oldest of cathedrals attempted to do with their lovely stained glass images and their beautiful woodwork. In the smells and the bells among the flicker of candles revealing exquisite architecture there was always the intent to draw the worshipper in and create an atmosphere fitting for the greatest story ever told.

What stories are we hearing each week? Do we still hear the bells? Do our homes ring out a narrative that Netflix could never rival? Here are some thoughts for bringing liturgy to life in the places we call home –

  1. story2
  2. 1.Take communion together in a beautifully cultivated atmosphere.
  3. 2. Read from the Book of Common
    Prayer one of the selections for morningsong or evensong depending on the time of day.
  4. 3. Diffuse essential oils and enjoy singing a hymn or worship song together. Pray together in the beautiful atmosphere you have created.
  5. 4. Read the gospels with the same treatment as preparing to watch your favorite film or read from your favorite family book. With chocolate in hand, discuss your favorite part and dissect the characters involved in the book of Acts with your teen with the same gusto as you did after viewing The Hunger Games.
  6. 5. Bake cookies and then read a Psalm of Thanksgiving together before digging in. Liturgy doesn’t have to be synonymous with rigidity- on the contrary. Engage every sense to create a lasting longing in your children’s hearts for this moment to be repeated again next week!
  7. 6. Incorporate the colors and readings of Advent into your Christmas celebration. Do the same in the spring for Lent. Spring clean and discuss the way 2000 years ago God prepared to make all things new and clean through the resurrection of Christ.

 

Thoughts or feedback? I would love to hear!!

Call and Response- A Liturgy for Mornings

alarm clock

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My soul is satisfied as with marrow and fatness, And my mouth offers praises with joyful lips. When I remember You on my bed, I meditate on You in the night watches, For You have been my help, And in the shadow of Your wings I sing for joy.… Psalm 63:5-7

What does your morning routine look like?

Very often, whether we realize it or not, what we worship is made manifest in the earliest hours of the day. What do we wake with on our minds? What do we reach for first? How do we spend the first hours of our precious twenty-four hours we are allotted?  The answer reveals much about where our focus, and therefore our worship, lies.

Many church services make use of a time of call and response to begin their services of worship. The minister may declare: “For the Lord is good….” while the congregation is prompted to respond: “and His mercy endures forever”. To the rhythm of our daily lives, as we put our private liturgies into practice, there is a beautiful pattern of call and response as well. The Lord’s call is faithful and consistent yet it is our measured response that manifests the worship we return to Him.

The Lord often speaks so clearly in the early hours of the day. My body is quiet and my mind is ready to receive. My mind always wakes up before my body. I lie in bed planning out my checklist for the day, rehearsing what I will cook for breakfast. I think through what we need to focus on in school and mentally go over appointments for the kids, my husband, myself. Phone calls to make and conversation of the day before leap to my mind. Morning can be a very crowded time for my mind! In the middle of that planning and jumble there is always a still small voice that calls to me. In fact, if I am sensitive enough, it the first voice I hear upon waking, quiet and subtle yet wooing me to wakefulness. It is the voice of God. Daily He calls us. He desires us first before the day reaches out to have us. The key to all other liturgies  for the day is our meditated response to His call.

I remember when I was young and I would come flying down the stairs to breakfast and out the door. My Dad would often question, “Have you done your quiet time” or “Have you had your time with the Lord?” He knew the tone it set for the day and that it was worth my attention at the start of the morning.

There is a poem I used to keep in my room to remind me of the weightiness of having that time with the Lord.

 Time to Pray

I got up early one morning
and rushed right into the day;
I had so much to accomplish
that I didn’t have time to pray.

Problems just tumbled about me,
and heavier came each task.
“Why doesn’t God help me?” I wondered.
He answered, “You didn’t ask.”

I wanted to see joy and beauty,
but the day toiled on, gray and bleak;
I wondered why God didn’t show me.
He said, “But you didn’t seek.”

I tried to come into God’s presence;
I used all my keys at the lock.
God gently and lovingly chided,
“My child, you didn’t knock.”

I woke up early this morning,
and paused before entering the day;
I had so much to accomplish
that I had to take time to pray.

Author unknown

 

I would say that the one ritual that has most affected my entire life is daily time spent with God in the morning. It is the “cool of the day” we read about in Genesis and it can still be had even though the physical garden, for now, has vanished. There is a call to awaken and walk in the beauty with God each morning before the day has started. This is the tithe of the morning– the best off my hours right off the top. I will not be this quiet again. I will not be this fresh again. This is the framing for my day and it begins at the beginning.

The Call is not only to wake up, it is to come and listen– to sit at the feet of Jesus as Mary did and hear what He has to say. The critical element is to respond. Sometimes, I must confess, I cannot get my body to respond in the early morning hours and as my eyes flutter open and I hear that call I inwardly groan. Yet even if my body does not immediately respond, I turn my heart to the Lord, even as I lay there, and incline my ear to what he has to say. In the Psalms, David speaks of the way he communes with God even from his bed.

By day the LORD directs his love, at night his song is with me– a prayer to the God of my life.       Psalm 42:8

I remembered my songs in the night. My heart meditated and my spirit asked……

Psalm 77:6

Answers can come to us as we listen for the Lord during the quiet of early morning. There are songs of hope, deliverance and of direction there to surround us if we have ears to hear.

Bringing Order to the Ordinary

How did your life audit go? Did you keep an account of how you typically spend a day? What did it reveal about your worship? Are there times over the course of the day that you are turning your heart toward God and refreshing your kingdom mindset? Are there any tools that can help us in that endeavor???checklist

I recently saw an ad that caught my eye: “How to bring order to your life in just one day” it shouted out from the screen. It sounded super appealing. I love order and lists and goal setting, etc. I asked myself if order could be accomplished in just one day as the ad promised and at first I was tempted to think not. Then I realized that as long as that one day was followed by another “one day” followed by another of the same routines and habits that brought order to the original day to begin with then it would be  success. Ordered practices bring about ordered days and ordered days yield an ordered life. We must be very careful, then, about the formula for order we use to arrange our days.

The forms and behaviors of our liturgy are what bring the necessary order and purpose to our days.  Personal liturgies are the little forms and habits, the routines and rituals that make up our daily lives. Time with the Lord, hot tea in the morning, kids off to school, an afternoon jog, etc.  All of these are habits we have formed in order to keep up with the pace of life. Usually, we create these routines to help us achieve or accomplish a particular goal we have set for ourselves and this is a wise practice. An open day before you with no agenda is very appealing every once in a while but can the soul really thrive on 365 a year of constant vacation?

Our days cry out for form and order. Give us meaning! Give us purpose! In his book “Roots of American Order” Russel Kirk says that “Order is the first need of the soul. It is not possible to love what one ought to love unless we recognize some  principles of order by which to govern ourselves.”

It is interesting to note that not only does order satisfy a longing in our soul but when we apply certain principles of order we are taught what to love and can govern ourselves accordingly.

Order does not have to be an instrument of control but, rather a tool which helps me access the things, the life, the days, I really want to have. If the Kingdom of God is my pressing aim, what order to I follow to see that manifest in my life?

God’s word gives us the perfect solution to our need for order: “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be added unto you.” Matthew 6:33

But we still have a problem…how exactly do we “seek first”. This is a question I sat down and asked my kids the other night. Here were some of their answers:

Have your devotion time in the morning

Sing songs to God

  1. Pray before your meals
  2. Give your tithes and offerings
  3. Go to church
  4. Don’t hit each other

Amazing!…out of the mouths of babes truly comes the most profound wisdom! I loved their responses. They were simple but telling. We all have to be careful about spurning the simplest of things. Most of us are constantly on the lookout for the next big thing, the latest list of productivity producers, the newest novel that will change our lives. Yet are we doing the basics that we already know? Maybe we don’t necessarily need a new list but a fresh perspective on the the old one.

Our lives are shaped by what we do day in and day out. Our daily practices, our yearly rhythms will determine what we love. We must live immersed in the practices of true Kingdom worship, and not just on Sundays. How do we do this? How do we begin to embody a life of worship? We change our liturgies. Our practices and habits are not only something we do; they do something to us. They form our identity and they do so by beating out other liturgies that compete for our time and attention.  In the posts that follow we will begin to look at some of these basic but life-giving liturgies and learn how to spice them up a bit and value what they bring not only to our routines but to the forming of who we are as people.

Ordinary Days- Where Liturgy meets Life

church calendar pie graph

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.

                                                                            Romans 12:1

Most of us have read this beginning passage from Romans 12 and heard multiple sermons preached about it. Everything from dying to self, placing your life on the altar, submitting your will to God’s will, etc. We know it is something we are called to do but we often walk away wondering exactly what a “living sacrifice” and “true and proper worship” really looks like in our day to day living.

After eleven chapters in the book of Romans dealing with theology and doctrine, it is as though Paul switches gears and starts to let us know that it is now time to actually do something with this profound knowledge we now have! He says we should offer ourselves to God…it is our “true and proper worship”. That phrase is drawn from the same root as our current word liturgy.

Liturgy is the form our heartfelt worship takes on. liturgy is the fleshing out of our faith. In Philippians 2:17 when Paul speaks of the “sacrifice and service of your faith” to the church at Philipi, he uses the Greek word for liturgy- a  faith that can be seen! Liturgy is a very Biblical word. It is the way we show our faith from day to day. Liturgy is the demonstration of our theology that keeps us from being dry and dead believers that merely know how to talk a good talk but not walk the walk. However, rather than making us super-spiritual, liturgy can be extremely practical and down to earth, and most evident in our very ordinary living. Our liturgy can be seen through our daily habits and the way we spend our time. The very ordinary rituals and routines of our week are what make up our liturgy of living. Over time, this liturgy shapes and affects exactly what we are worshiping in life and what the outcome of our faith really is.

Within the church there are holy days such as Lent, Passover and Pentecost in the spring followed by Advent, Christmas and Epiphany in the winter months. The days in between can appear rather mundane. No breaks from school to look forward to, no reason for parties or celebrations, no big sales at the mall or gift giving going on……..just sort of living life. If you were to look up an official Church Calendar Year you would see the holy days we celebrate take up about a third to one half of the calendar at best. the rest of the days in between are known as counting time or Ordinary days. How about that? They are known as ordinary days but not in the sense we may think of ordinary. These are days when there is no scheduled fasting or feasting.  Ordinary days are the days in between the high holy days that count off the in between time. The majority of the church calendar is made up of ordinary days. This is reflected in our natural calendars as well. There are marriages and birthdays, graduation ceremonies and funerals that pass in and out to bring lift and nuance to our days yet, in general, our lives are made up of the days in between. The Mondays and Fridays that come and go are really counting off weeks that lead to months and months that culminate in a finished year. These ordinary days are where most of our living takes place. If that is the case, we must desire to cultivate a life that still worships even in the ordinary days. Holidays are full of fun and hype but we still have to be mom even when Christmas is over!!!

Our daily practices make up the true liturgy of our lives and they are exercised in the most ordinary of days.

So, what does and “ordinary day” look like for you? Whether we realize it or not we already have sacred liturgies in place- routines and habits we have grown accustomed to. They may not be very spiritual at all. Still, they are a liturgy for what we do and how we live ultimate demonstrates what we believe about life. Our current liturgies may be good and they may be bad. Coffee in the morning, a diet coke after lunch. The same path we drive to the office each day, the same TV show at night. The same blessing before meals and the same phone call to our sister. These very ordinary behaviors shape who we are and how our lives turn out. They are like compounding numbers, with layer upon layer exponentially growing a life as the years tick by. If we desire a certain result out of life, we must be strategic in the habits we need to get us there. If we say we are worshipers who desire to “seek first” the kingdom of God and His righteousness then we need some habits in place that make that desire come to pass. We cannot think our way there or wish our way there. We must act– for faith without some living form is truly dead.

This week, take a typical day and write down hour by hour how you spend your time. Try to be honest and unbiased, not recording how you meant to spend that time or what your intentions were but what you actually did each hour of the day. Now multiply those things by seven (or at least 6) and then multiply that by 52 and multiply that by the number of years you expect to live and there you have your life. What needs tweaked? What needs eliminated all together? What needs to be added?

(Next post we will look more at transforming the mundane and daily liturgies to introduce to our ordinary days. Comments? Please do!)

 

Living Liturgy

(This week I’ve been speaking with home school moms about making the education and formation of our children even more Christ-centered. I began to share about my journey into living liturgy and worship practices in the home. There was such an interest we decided to include a series here for anyone interested. I hope you enjoy! These are the trenches of ministry for us daily– training our children and creating God-glorifying disciples!)

liturgy

“The music, the prayers, the bowing and rising, the incense–all of it was breaking down my defenses. That’s what good liturgy does. It breaks your heart open and turns you toward God.”
                                                        Fred Bahnson

At first glance, the word liturgy appears to be an old and antiquated term. For many, it conjures up dusty images of stony icons in the rustic cathedrals of days gone by. It may evoke thoughts of gothic churches, choir boys in robes, call and response and flickering candles. Others might envision the pope in relation to liturgy or growing up as an acolyte in church performing rituals and rites that seemingly hold no meaning for today. For the modern world, the word liturgy has come to mean nothing but memorized prayers, catechisms and creeds. For the modern evangelical, liturgy may be scoffed at as something that smacks of a formality and structure that we have been freed from in order to have relevant church that appeals to the masses of today. Yet liturgy is far from outdated. It is applicable for any worshipper who desires to live out what he believes and continues to hold promise and power for our lives today.

Liturgy is a “formula” so to speak of how worship is conducted. The liturgy in a worship service provides structure and meaning through time tested traditions. It provides a form and an outlet for the worshippers that are present and gives them the means by which they can participate in the service itself.  Yet the word liturgy does not have to confine itself to the four walls of a church building, be it Anglican or Baptist, gothic or modern. It has the potential to affect so much more. The word liturgy actually stems from the Greek leitourgia which means ‘public service’. It is our “public working”, or service, that affects those around us. It is where what is on the inside of us shows up on the outside in what we do and say. It is how we live in our homes, conduct our lives and order our days. Liturgy is how we minister and how we serve those around us. It is the fleshed-out worship of our lives.

Liturgies hold significance for our personal, daily lives as well and should not be limited only to Sunday worship. Liturgies possess the power to come into our homes and bring order to our lives. As we embrace them they have the potential to grow us into the worshippers we are called to be and eventually show forth a picture of our salvation to all those looking on.

There is more to this intriguing word that we must explore. It is traditional, it is enduring and it is classical. Liturgies have enabled the Church to endure through many generations and denominational divisions yet still preserve a general sense of what Christian worship looks like. It is like a standard that points the way. Standards are good. They set the bar, provide direction and show us where to aim.

As Believers, we need better practice and we require more intentionally strategies if we are going to see greater results. As a parent, I desire practical ideas on how to point my children to Christ and center our home life and home schooling around the Lord and the worship of Him.

I spend much time feeding upon beautiful ideas and great books illuminating the lives of other disciples or even fictional characters with lives I desire to emulate. I love beautiful ideas. I enjoy reading about them and discussing them. But, I must admit, the practical side of me puts down each lofty idea and walks away from each inspiring discussion with one questions gnawing me- What does this look like in my daily life? I want to do more than just think beautifully; I want to live that way as well.  I have gradually learned over the years to take each lovely idea I have gleaned, determine its importance in achieving my desired overall mission and then create a liturgy that brings it into my every day. I am still learning. Mornings, Priorities, Poetry, Scripture, Journaling, Commonplacing, music, meals, reading aloud, conversation, blessing, cultivating wonder that results in gratitude, embracing leisure- These all have become the liturgies that define my living.  Would you allow me to open up my heart and our home to you within these pages in the hopes of starting you on your own journey of converting what seems lofty into doable routines that shape your life?

More to come…..If you would like to follow this series on living liturgy please include your email on the sidebar and subscribe. New posts will be emailed right to your inbox!

Comments or thoughts? See below….

Compassion Moves Us

 

Compassion is a key ingredient in making our lives of ministry both genuine and powerful. We had the opportunity to minster recently at our church here in Georgia and William shared a beautiful message about compassion in and for the church today. I’ve included both the audio file ( about 25 min) and the full video (60 min.) below for you to play and enjoy.

Audio Only:

 

Then Jesus went to all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and every sickness. When He saw the crowds he felt compassion for them, because they were worn out, like sheep without a shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest is abundant but the workers are few. Therefore, pray the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.”

We were in a fairly large cinderblock building with a metal roof one night in Guatemala. We had gathered there for church and the singing service had begun. William was slated to speak later on. AS the music time progressed, the church filled in with people behind me and the crowd steadily grew from about 20 to 200 people. Josiah, my youngest son, tugged on my sleeve and said with wide eyes, “Mommy, look at all those people! Why have they come?” I turned around from singing and looked over the congregation- hot and sweaty in that metal roofed building, children, men and women of various ages had lifted hands and upturned faces. Others had heads hung low or were on bended knee. A few mothers jounced babies on their knees to keep them distracted. As I looked across the crowd, I heard Josiah’s question again ring in my ears, “Why have they come?”, and my heart suddenly filled with compassion for these people of the Peten. Before fully thinking out my answer, my heart responded, “They have come because they are all looking for something- an answer of some kind.” They were sheep looking for a shepherd. Some were there needing healing, some were there desperate to hear an encouraging word about their job, their marriage or one of their children. They had come seeking answers and immediately my heart knew that we had come with answers to give. That night became a wonderful night of ministry as William preached and I sang and many people came forward for prayer. We ministered to those suffering from heart problems, cancerous tumors, nightmares and more. The compassion of God coupled with the preaching and teaching of his word produced answers and hope for those who had come.

When compassion moves our hearts, God moves in the midst of our compassion and His power is seen and revealed.