A Non-Book Review for Ordinary Radicals

For better or worse, I grew up in a variety of faith traditions.

My childhood was spent in Southern Baptist and Methodist churches—the Southern Baptist part came from my dad, but I still don’t know how or why I ended up attending a Methodist church to which we had no apparent ties. As a teenager, I faithfully attended every Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday service/youth group at a First Baptist church in Arkansas. After a move west, I found myself attending Charismatic services, then after yet another move, a church of the Nazarene. Both came about because of friend- and family ties. As an adult, Collin and I church hopped from place to place, trying to find a home. We ended up attending a Lutheran church for quite a while, then finally settled into the Presbyterian tradition, which is where I now make my denominational home.

One of the many benefits of experiencing a variety of traditions with vastly different ways of being is that I’ve come to disregard many doctrinal differences as irrelevant. You’ll seldom find me caught up in debate over finer points, and though I struggle to reconcile some conflicts in teaching, I mostly follow the creed of “In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity.”

Having begun my faith journey primarily in denominations that eschew ritual, I’ve long viewed liturgy as something that just isn’t for me. But at the start of this year, I began following Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals. What is today…. January 9th? Yes, it is. And in these 9 days, I have felt the benefit of this to such an extreme that I want to shout it from the mountaintop.

In addition to the daily prayers and readings, there are other benefits. After the shooting in France, instead of our normal, brief dinner blessing, we prayed the Common Prayer for a killing in the neighborhood (isn’t the whole world our neighborhood?). At night when my daughter has said she “doesn’t know what to pray,” we’ve prayed the evening prayer together and sung songs from the back of the book, which, like me, come from a variety of tradition. So while we may start off with the Doxology and the Magnificat, we also make our way through Nothin’ but the Blood and Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.

Of course, much of its benefit likely comes from this being a liturgy for ordinary radicals, of which I hope to be one. Keeping with the teachings of my yellow-dog Democrat dad, and living the life I devoted myself to somewhere around age 17, I am reminded daily of my commitment to the finer things in life: Justice. Mercy. Love. Peace. I never “forget” these things, but often I find myself too busy to do anything but remember them in my mind, never letting their truth reach my heart and hands. But in these last 9 days, I have found myself living more joyfully, more honestly, and with growing rededication to my long-ago chosen path.

Lest you think I am replacing scripture or individual prayer with ritual, let me assure you I am not. In fact, quite the opposite: I have found it much easier to fit both these things into my day, something I’ve been struggling with for years given the too-busy life we often lead. But that, too, is changing.

So why am I writing this non-book review? I don’t know. I’m not so presumptuous as to say others would definitely share a similar experience–I know we’re all different. I suppose it’s like when you eat at a really good restaurant: you want to go out and tell all your friends how great it was, how much you enjoyed it, and that maybe they should check it out on their next date night.

It’s only been 9 days. So either this resurgence will bottom out or it will grow stronger. I am so dearly hoping for the latter.

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Honoring the Dead: A Prayer for Peace

Today we are much like any other American family. We have cold watermelon, sweet tea, and .10 cent corn to go along with our burgers. I spent some time sprucing up the lawn, and guests will be over later to enjoy the sunshine with us. My mom’s was a military family, and I was raised to remember.

I want my kids to remember, too. So this morning, we did things a little differently than in years past. When my daughter asked when Grandma would arrive and we could eat yummy food and cupcakes, I took the time to explain that today is more than a “party” or time off of school: Today is a day to honor the dead.

“How?” she asked.

In answer, she and I spent time in prayer, not just celebrating the dead, but honoring them. Honoring them by praying for peace. Praying for an end to policies and wars and “conflicts” that steal our often painfully young men and women from us. Praying for the taken lives of soldiers who leave behind moms and dads, sons and daughters, men and women who love them.

We prayed for those with 8 x 10 photos on their mantles, showing sharply-dressed soldiers with closely cropped hair or neatly tied buns, a stern hat upon a still-youthful, trying-not-to-grin face. We prayed for the Sermon on the Mount to be remembered today of all days.

My daughter is young. She didn’t really get most of what I said, or know the full meaning of the things that we prayed for. But I think she got the point: today is not a party, or a barbecue, or a day to glorify war.

Today is a day for peace.

Related post: Celebrating the Fourth of July

 

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When Your Best Isn’t Good Enough

My best simply isn’t good enough anymore.

No, no. It really isn’t. I’m not fishing for compliments, or advice, or sympathy. I’m just stating the facts, ma’am.

I say the following phrase with increasing frequency: “I’m doing the best I can!” This is usually in response to questions like:

“Why are there no clean towels?”

“Why do I have to borrow Dad’s socks again?”

“What am I supposed to eat? There’s no food in the house!”

And then there are the questions I ask myself:

“Why haven’t you had quiet time today?”

“Why does everything seem so grungy and chaotic?”

“Why am I so snappy with my family when I have so darn much?”

“Why are we eating chicken apple sausage and noodles AGAIN?”

Lately I’ve felt a big, ugly thing inside of me. I don’t have to be a psych major to know what it is: It’s discontent because nothing is how I want it to be.

Common refrains:

“Honey, PLEASE take the kids out today so I can get something done.”

“Honey, PLEASE take Rachel to the Splash Park so I can have a bit of silence and maybe get a shower.”

“Honey, PLEASE help Collin so I can type up this declaration.”

So, even though I’m “doing the best I can,” that “best” seldom seems to include “doing it all,” or hanging out with my kids, who I very much wanted and am so glad to have.

Trust me: this has nothing to do with having a smaller to-do list. I am not trying to scrapbook and reorganize closets and Shop Vac the garage. This is Survival 101. Such as having NO TOWELS, not even dish towels, the other day, so we all had to drip dry after showering. Such as having canned soup and a green lemon from our lemon tree as the only foods in the house. Such as my husband borrowing my underwear because all of his are in the wash (I made that last one up, but not by much). Such as having to store my “active” files on the kitchen counter, right by the CDs of singing vegetables and the “Home Menus and Shopping Lists” binder I haven’t touched in eight months, so I can glance over them while boiling noodles.

Read the rest of today’s post here.