Category: Art & Writing

The Power of Storytelling || Some Thoughts

 

Author Philip Pullman said, “After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world.”

The human ability to tell stories to one another in order communicate deep truths is a feature of every human culture and civilization “Once upon a time, our ancestors…” or “In the beginning, God.” It is because of compelling stories we have heard or learned that we choose what to believe or disbelieve. I remember hearing Andrew Root say one time at a conference that parents should be saying to their children at the dinner table, “Tell me a story” not “What did you do today?” or “What did you learn at school, today?” Try it sometime with children of any age. I bet you’ll be surprised. Storytelling is an art, a craft, a gift. It’s the ability to frame reality and distill it into something true for your listener. Storytellers know the difference between truth and fact. Storytellers know which details to emphasize and build up and which ones to tone down or ignore completely. We are endlessly enamored with (or disgusted by!) the stories we tell ourselves everyday, as well as the stories others tell us. Stories can heal and connect.

The Positive Power of Storytelling

Last June I had the opportunity to attend a storytelling workshop/lecture/experience (I don’t even know what to call it!) led by Mark Yaconelli of The Hearth. I showed up to the lecture exhausted and not sure what to expect. Thirty minutes into the lecture and I was completely captivated and energized. The ideas from that one workshop have been marinating in my brain all summer. Mark led us through a few short opportunities to tell stories to one another and to reflect on their power. The prompts were simple, but each one was different, and Mark drew something different out of each one.  In just a few minutes, through the power of storytelling, he helped our Presbytery community bond, and laugh, and hold sacred space for one another. It was, hands down, the most powerful use of time at a Presbytery Meeting I’ve ever experienced. (For those who don’t know, a Presbytery meeting is a business meeting for church people). I walked away from that meeting convinced that there was something I would do to begin using stories with my congregation. I am really looking forward to Mark’s future work on this, hopefully including a more in depth “how to” manual or book. If/when such a book comes in to being, I’ll be first in line to buy and read it. For now, though, I’ll be putting in to practice some of the things I learned that day.

Using Storytelling in a Church Setting (aka “Mini Storytelling”)

One of the things Mark suggested was that we have people share stories with each other every week, either as a part of the sermon or a reflection on it. At my church this summer, we’ve not done this every week, but we’ve tried it a few of times, and it’s been great. Here’s how it worked: after the sermon I asked folks to gather around in groups of two or three to answer a question together. The first time the question was about calling “Tell about a time when you felt called by God to do something.” The second time was after a sermon on Deborah and the prompt was “Tell a story about an important woman of faith in your life and what she meant to you.”  The third time we tried storytelling in my congregation was yesterday, and the question was “Tell a story about a time you learned something from someone who was different than you in some significant way.” 

In each case, folks came up to me afterward and talked about how meaningful the moment had been for them. One of the most valuable parts of the exercise was the fact that it allowed people who didn’t know each other very well to talk about something at a deeper level. I intend to continue with this practice from time to time, mixing up the questions. I think the questions will sometimes flow from the sermon topic, but other times might just be a way of building community and friendship among the congregation. Some of the prompts I’m thinking about:

  • Share the story of your name, or something about your name (either first or last)
  • Tell about a favorite worship hymn or song and why you like it
  • Pick one moment from the past day (or week) for which you are grateful and share
  • Share a favorite vacation spot from childhood

Using Storytelling to Build Community in Small Groups

Another time I used the lessons learned in this storytelling workshop was in training some Bible Study leaders who were preparing to teach a year long study on the book of Hebrews. I broke them up into groups and asked them to tell stories to each other. The first was a story about a place from childhood where they felt safe and happy. The second was a story about their first childhood crush. The third was a longer storytelling exercise about their faith journey. The first two came directly from the experience I had at the workshop with Mark Yaconelli. The third was more related to the study we were discussing. After each time of storytelling we reflected a little bit about what the experience of both telling the story and hearing the stories was like. I gave no guidelines for the storytellers other than to try and help the listeners feel very engaged in the story through description and detail. The guidelines for the listeners were also simple: Listen fully. Don’t check your phone or doodle on the page. Don’t ask questions or add to the story or comment in any way. Just accept the story and say “thank you.” The leaders walked away from the experience inspired to do more storytelling with their Bible Study groups and to encourage the groups to tell stories in this very simple way. One person came up to me after the  training and said she’d be using the storytelling in her classroom.

Larger Storytelling Events

One of the things that I heard about at the workshop was the idea of holding larger storytelling “events” centered around a theme. This is not something I’ve ever done, but I am very curious about it. If your church has ever done this, or if you’ve been a part of one in your community, I’d love to learn more. The idea is a lot like The Moth podcast, I think, where folks come forward to tell a story related to a theme. The stories, as Mark described, are carefully practiced and rehearsed so they have a strong beginning, middle and end. The stories are designed to impact the listener in a specific way both individually and collectively. I’ve put out some feelers about this in my congregation, and folks seem interested. I think the process of putting the event together as well as the actual event itself would be very powerful. I thought it was interesting that Mark described the process of helping participants craft their stories as being similar to the process of spiritual direction.

Intergenerational Storytelling

Another thing I think would be very powerful would be to incorporate intergenerational elements to this storytelling focus in the congregation. What would it look like to have little conversation starters at the table at fellowship events, or questions that are focused on a particular universal age and stage in life. What about asking children and adults alike to share the story of losing their first tooth or a favorite experience around the Christmas tree? What if we asked older and younger members to talk about their favorite parts of the worship service? The power of storytelling for both younger and older members is invaluable, I think, and learning from those who are in different life stages is a great way to build bridges, understanding and mentorship.

So what about you? What experiences of storytelling do you have in the church or outside the church? What ideas can you add to this conversation? I’d love to hear more from churches who have put some of these ideas in to practice! Please comment here and share your thoughts!

Art Class at Home & Church: Bubble Wrap Prints

One of the things I’ve been trying to do as we continue on with our brief “art class at home” lessons is to keep them fairly simple and short. In fact, I’d say I spend about as much time setting them up as the boys do “executing” them. Still, it’s paid off. The short time and the “burst” of fun has keep them interested and engaged.

This lesson was a lesson in making prints and also turned in to a lesson in color mixing (they *love* mixing colors, more on that another time.)

Materials:

Bubble Wrap

Acrylic Paints + Brushes

Procedure:

Simple! 1. Paint directly on the bubble wrap

2. Press to paper

3. Reveal your glorious design!

Can’t wait to see what’s next!

 

Art School at Home or Church :: Marbled Paper: Shaving Cream & Liquid Watercolors

So, as I explained last week, I’m on a new mission to teach art (not crafts) to my children. I’m not an art teacher or formally trained artist, but I do love to do my own art, and this maternity leave has been a rich time to peruse Pinterest while up at 4 in the morning with little miss Marina Lynn, the cutest baby in Texas. Proof:

What? She’s holding a copy of Faithful Families? I didn’t even notice.

I’ll get right to it. This week we did three different works. Full disclosure: one of them was a bust. This is one of the reasons I’m excited about blogging our adventures — so I can save other parents from embarking on other art adventures only to have it not work out at. all.

This one, though, the marbled paper, was great. I was so focused on taking photos of the process (and the actual prints have already been mailed to the grandparents) that you have to look closely to see the end result, but if you look to the side of this photo, you’ll see it. Trust me, it’s cool. Here’s an example of the finished product to the side of the tray there, and an almost finished, just still wet, one in the tray itself:

So here goes:

Materials:

Shaving cream (Dollar Store for the win!)

Two trays (whatever you have — we used aluminum baking pans)

Liquid Watercolor Paint (aka the most amazing art supply ever in the whole wide world. Srsly) Note: I am the queen of “we don’t need expensive things to have fun or be creative” so I hear you if you’re thinking “Nope. Those are 10 dollars!” I assure you, they last a very long time are vibrant and colorful and there are a ton of projects they can be used for. Got some coming up! Also, they’re washable.

Watercolor Paper (not linking to the paper we used because it wasn’t thick enough. Get some nice thick watercolor paper.)

Something to scrape off the shaving cream from the paper — a piece of cardboard or plastic. We used a wing from a plastic airplane that broke off and was sitting in a drawer. Ha!

How to:

  1. Squirt a whole bunch of shaving cream in a tray (you probably don’t need to use as much as we did but, c’mon! This is the best part!)

  1. Dribble on some water colors — we were making the ocean, so we used only blue and green, but this would be great with any colors or lots and lots of colors.

2. Run a pencil/back of a paintbrush through the shaving cream to make a marbled design

3. Press the paper to the top of the design

4. Scrape off excess

Voila!

So many things to do with this… use the marbled paper as a jumping off point for something else… cut it in to shapes…. let it be what it is, etc. I’ll show you what we did with ours in a future post. Stay tuned!

 

Introducing Art School at Home/Church: Homemade Spray Chalk

Psst… come here. I’ll tell you a secret.  I often write simply for personal motivation. I’ll tell you what I mean. When I first got married, I was a terrible cook. Really awful, like “just throw the pan away” awful. I wanted to become better, but I wasn’t excited about the process. So, I created a cooking blog. I figured the process of journaling my culinary adventures would make learning to cook more enjoyable. It worked! I now have plenty of confidence in the kitchen, and it’s fun to have an online journal of all my experiments. I continue to try new recipes, though I don’t update the cooking blog very much anymore.

It’s in the spirit of my cooking blog and journaling my journey that I’m starting a new series on this blog called “Art School at Home/Church.” I really want to teach my sons (and when she’s old enough, my daughter) how to express themselves through art. The fact that there’s no formal art education in our public school makes me more determined to do it. In addition to being a great motivator for me to follow through, I’m hoping the resources and projects I share will be useful to some of you.

Arts vs. Crafts

Before I get to the actual project, a word on the difference between “art” and “crafts” that will guide this series. I think the distinction between the two is key. Craft projects are mostly about creating a replica of what someone else has shown you. “Take these google eyes and glue them here, then glue on two circles there, then bend the pipe cleaners like this and attach them.” Craft projects are great and they help develop all kinds of skills: following directions, fine motor, using tools, and more. My children receive a lot of instruction in craft projects at school and church, and we have a wall full of adorable projects to prove it! What I’m more interested in teaching them is art instruction and opportunities. (As well as some knowledge about famous artists and their works). Whereas crafts approach the experience with a very specific end “product” in mind, art is more about providing tools and technique and letting the artist create what he or she would like to create. When I surveyed the masses via Facebook for Resources about this, someone recommended the book The Artful Parent. I got it from the library and gobbled it up in a day and a half. It’s currently on my “wish list” because all of the projects look amazing. I highly recommend it.

Making the Spray Chalk

I’ve done plenty of projects with my boys in the past, but since I’m starting this journey of “art class at home,” I wanted to make sure that the first few activities were super fun for them so that they’ll begin to associate “art time with mom” as something fun to look forward to rather than a drag. I knew they’d love this activity, and it was such a hit.  My first idea was to buy this sidewalk paint. It has great reviews and looks wonderful, but the price seemed a little steep for something like this, and after scouring the all mighty Pinterest, it seemed like the spray chalk version would be just as good (or better) with the option of allowing us to make it ourselves.

The recipe I found was:

  • One cup of hot water
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1 Tablespoon baking soda
  • Plenty of food coloring. We used this neon food coloring with excellent results.

I got the spray bottles at the dollar store and I’m sure we’ll find other projects to use those for (or maybe we’ll do this chalk one again!) It was a fun bonus that the handles were in the same colors of the food coloring we had at home. Here’s how we made the chalk:

  • Dump the cornstarch and baking soda in to a Ball jar and add the hot water + food coloring
  • Screw the lid on tightly and shake until the powder is dissolved
  • Pour into spray bottle

So easy! We repeated the process three times with the three colors and headed outside to see how it worked. The recipe could be easily doubled our tripled (as you see from the photo, there was more than enough space in the spray bottle.) Contents need to be shaken again after awhile as the water and powder separates (a lot like a salad dressing!). We used the entire recipe up in the one afternoon, so I don’t know how this would hold up over time. If you try it, leave a note in the comments!

The results were great. For the blue, the color didn’t show up much when it was wet, but then when it dried we could see the splatters:

The pink and green were more vibrant, even when wet:

Of course, part of the fun was spraying the playscape outside as well as creating an artful tree!

Overall, I was thrilled with this activity, and the boys were too. Someone commented that this would be a great VBS activity. Yes, it would! How fun to have children spray paint the church parking lot or sidewalk!

Thanks for joining me on this adventure. Look for more activities every couple of weeks or so (we’ll be having “art class at home” every week, but I don’t plan to document each adventure). You can also follow some of the projects I’ve curated on this Pinterest board.

 

 

Advent Writing Prompts, 25 Days of Writing #writing #write #writingprompt #writersblock

adventwriting

Whenever anyone says “I don’t know how I could ever find time to [write a book/write an article/maintain a blog] I’m reminded of the writer’s refrain:

Writer’s write.

There’s a similar one Ph.D. students love to tell one another when they’re writing their dissertations. The key to writing a dissertation can be summed up in three words: butt in chair.

In other words, writing isn’t birds chirping and lovely wooden desks and poetic words flowing from the pen in an endless stream of inspiration. It’s hard work.

A few years ago I started doing an advent photo challenge with my congregation whereby we took a list of words and snapped a photo to go with the word each day. We’re doing it again this year. In addition, I’m adding a list of writing prompts to the mix in case folks want to kickstart their writing. Folks can use the prompts however they wish, but here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to set the timer for 30 minutes and whatever I have at the end of that time will be it. I’ll publish the results each day on the blog, even if it’s just a sentence, even if it’s unfinished. Join along if you wish!

Here are the prompts:

Day One – Write about something that gives you peace or robs you of it.
Day Two – Write about one ordinary moment that happened yesterday.
Day Three – Write about being renewed.
Day Four – Write about a time when you failed to reach your destination.
Day Five – Write about a time when you were restored to health or wholeness.
Day Six – Write about what the word solo means to you.
Day Seven – Write about something hopeful or hopeless.
Day Eight – Write about a time when you were fearless.
Day Nine – Write about a great delight.
Day Ten – Write about something ancient.
Day Eleven – Write about a time when you were burned.
Day Twelve – Write about perspective.
Day Thirteen – Write about something you wish to reclaim.
Day Fourteen – Write about a joyful moment in your life.
Day Fifteen – Write about what it means to nourish your own soul or someone else’s soul.
Day Sixteen – Write about water.
Day Seventeen – Write about a friendship.
Day Eighteen – Write about whether you are restful or restless and why.
Day Nineteen – Write about asking for something.
Day Twenty – Write about being blessed or blessing someone else.
Day Twenty One – Write about something that sparkles.
Day Twenty Two – Write about a favorite memory.
Day Twenty Three – Write about something you have received.
Day Twenty Four – Write about something you have given.
Day Twenty Five – Write about someone you love.

If you’re interested in the photo challenge, the words are:

  1. Peace
  2. Moment
  3. Renew
  4. Destination
  5. Restore
  6. Solo
  7. Hope
  8. Fearless
  9. Delight
  10. Ancient
  11. Burn
  12. Perspective
  13. Reclaim
  14. Joy
  15. Nourish
  16. Water
  17. Friendship
  18. Rest
  19. Ask
  20. Bless
  21. Sparkle
  22. Memory
  23. Receive
  24. Give
  25. Love

 

Spiritual Practice: Bible Journaling (Part Two) More Pages and Ideas…

biblejournalingcollage2

I’ve been having fun doodling and noodling and journaling in my Bible. Some of the pages are more personal than others, but I have no problem sharing some of my stuff, mainly because I feel a responsibility to do so. After all, I get tons of inspiration from Pinterest.

If you’re brand new to Bible Journaling, check out THIS post where I talk a little about some basics. All you really need is a Bible (either a fancy journaling one) or any old Bible and then some art supplies. Yay!

biblejournalb1

#1  Psalm 139 — For now, I kept this minimalist border around Psalm 139. It’s such an important Psalm, I have a feeling I might want to come back to it and do more over the page. I got the doodle idea from a page of doodle ideas I can’t find anymore. Just a simple pen and colored pencil. NOTE: if you want to watercolor over pen in your journaling bible, make sure you use pigment pens that do not bleed, or that you test them first! I’ve had some runny disasters.


biblejournalb2

#2 — Job 17:15 Where then is my hope? Who can see my hope? Ok, so this one brings up a point you might want to consider when Bible journaling, which is “Is this going to be a Bible I need to refer back to and look other things up and re-read?” In other words… How do you feel about blacking out words so that you can’t come back and read them again? For me, this journaling Bible is a bible I use exclusively for art and meditation. The meditative value in working on a page like this is enough for me to feel like it’s ok to not be able to read Job 17 again out of this Bible. I’m sure I will read Job 17 again at some point in life, but not out of this Bible, because the words are now illegible under there. I feel confident, though, that every time I flip through and see this, I will remember an important lesson God taught me through the creation of that page. Does that make sense? If you look around for Bible Journaling inspiration you will see that some people choose to keep their work in the margins or make sure not to obscure the text in any way. I don’t have that as a goal…. This was made with oil pastel that was sprayed with a spray fixative (yes, that’s a real word) to keep it from smudging. A note on the fixative in a minute.


biblejournalb3

3. Exodus 15:11 Who is like you majestic in holiness… awesome in glorious deeds.  I was inspired by THIS page in the creation of this one. Ok, so back to the spray fixative. Here’s the thing. It works, but it really muted the colors on this. I’m happy with this page and no longer sad about the fact that the spray made it different, but at first I was super bummed out. Be warned. If you use oil pastels, spraying them so they have a non-smudge and smooth finish has to be weighed against the fact that it mutes the colors a little bit. Great verse, though, right?


biblejournalb4

4. Ephesians 1 – Did a sermon series on Ephesians this summer. This was me reading through Ephesians 1 the first time… Fun thing about using watercolors is that they bleed to the back of the page (this may not be fun for some people) but I love taking those bleed throughs and turning them in to other things. I’ll show you that next time!


Happy Journaling!

FCC: This post contains affiliate links.

Spiritual Practice: Bible Art Journaling, Getting Started

bibleartjournaling

I’m on vacation for a little while, visiting family in Chicago (and letting the boys get spoiled rotten by grandma and grandpa!) It’s a great time to work on some spiritual practices that have become important to me in recent weeks and months, and also to write about them. These are spiritual practices that don’t show up in the book (sequel anyone? 🙂 but they’re easily adapted for children. For this one, Bible Art Journaling, I’m just going to tell you a little bit about what I do, some of the supplies I use, and link you up to a couple of Pinterest boards. I’m sure you can take it from there.

God will cover you with feathers and under God's wings you will find refuge. A favorite verse...

God will cover you with feathers and under God’s wings you will find refuge. A favorite verse…

So, art journaling… I got interested in this idea as a spiritual practice when I read this book: Writing in the Margins: Connecting with God in the Pages of your Bible. It’s a simple book, but it got my creativity going. For a long time, I wanted to do it, I had been admiring pages I’d seen on Pinterest, and thinking “I should really get a new Bible devoted just for this.” A few weeks ago I felt the art sort of bubbling up inside and a real need to connect with God through the pages of the Bible in a new way, so I took the plunge and bought a journaling Bible. I’ve loved it. Every single page has brought God’s word to life in new ways.

An example of just a small little picture that drove home how I felt God speaking to me that day. That lion looks friendly, but he felt fierce.

An example of just a small little picture that drove home how I felt God speaking to me that day. That lion looks friendly, but he felt fierce.

Here’s how I do it (although this, like all arts, is very much a “how the Spirit moves” type of thing)

OPTION 1 (free form)  –

  1. I pick a scripture to read (either something I know is resonating with what’s happening in life, something someone suggested I read or, sometimes, if I’m at a loss, I just start flipping through to see where the Spirit leads).
  2. I meditate on it awhile and think about which part sticks out the most
  3. I create an image (either a tiny one in the margin, or a full page that takes over

OPTION 2 (copy cat) – There are dozens of examples of Bible journal pages on Pinterest (I’ll link to the board I’ve collected at the end of this post). A couple of times I’ve just used one of those pages as an inspiration and created my own version of it.

I’ve just gotten started with this. I think I’ve made about 10 pages so far. As I go, I’m hoping to have the whole Bible full of art and new insight.  A few thoughts and “tips”

1. Getting started is scary. It’s the Bible,  and so it feels a bit like “uh oh, what if I mess it up?” You can’t. You won’t. It’s a journal. It’s a record of how God is speaking to you. Think about what a gift you are creating for your future self or for someone you might like to pass it on to one day.

thinking about all the ways the Israelites saw signs and wonders, but still did not believe...

thinking about all the ways the Israelites saw signs and wonders, but still did not believe…

2. I’m going to link to some of the (very few) supplies I have used so far, but a tip about using watercolors: The paper (at least on the Bible that I use — again linked later –) is thicker than traditional Bible paper, but the watercolor does seep through to the other side. It’s not a big deal, and it actually creates character on the reverse side. I like to put a paper towel on either side of the page when it’s drying to keep it from seeping through an additional page.

3. Approach it with an open mind… just like with other spiritual practices, sometimes the page doesn’t turn out exactly how I think it will, and I’m disappointed. In these cases I’ve either come back to it later or tried to take it as a lesson… there are other times to try something new.

.

.

.

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Supplies:

  • Obviously, first you need a Bible dedicated to this practice. Any Bible will do, but specific “journaling” Bible is helpful because the margins are bigger and the pages are a bit thicker (although maybe not thick enough, as I mentioned . THIS is the one that I have and love. It’s brown, hardcover and the margins are wide and lined (for if I want to do writing) as you can see from some of the pictures, I sometimes write, sometimes paint. The lines are easily ignored. Here’s a different one that’s in the ESV (English Standard Version) and here’s a KJV one.
  • Next, some simple art supplies. I really don’t think that spending a jillion dollars (especially to start) is the way to go. I use:

That’s it! + some water and paper towels, obviously. I’m sure that others have used a lot of fancier tools, and I might get in to

The person who delights in the law of God is like a tree planted by streams of water...

The person who delights in the law of God is like a tree planted by streams of water…

that in a future post, but for starting, I say, start simple. I’ve had great success with just these few supplies and some silence for creativity.

One of the books that I am thinking will really be fun to check out is THIS one that has creative lettering techniques. Haven’t gotten around to getting it yet, however. HERE’s my Pinterest board for inspiration.

Good Luck, have fun, and write your experiences in the comments!

 

Ready for more? Check out Part TWO.

Easter 2015 | Sunday: Mystery

FOP2015_400Easter • APR 5

Mystery

Read 1 Corinthians 15:51–54.

Listen, I will tell you a mystery! (v. 51a)

When I talk to parents struggling to communicate the basics of faith to their children, I encourage them to learn to embrace a single word—mystery. So much about our faith is completely unknowable to human beings. How did God create the world out of nothing? Mystery. How can Jesus be fully God and fully divine at the same time? Mystery. How was Jesus raised from the dead? Mystery. Perhaps the most personal and profound mystery of all is this: What happens to us after we die? Paul explains it by saying we will not all die, but we will all be changed. This is the mystery.

On Easter morning all around the country, sermons are preached about new life, resurrection, and life after death. These sermons are inspiring and uplifting; they bring light to our darkness and hope to our despair, but for many, they are unsatisfying. I know this fact well even though I faithfully preach such a sermon every Easter. The reason these inspirational sermons are unsatisfying is that nobody—not me, not your pastor, not the Pope—nobody knows what happensafter we die.

Instead of trying to explain it, let’s embrace the mystery of it and give thanks to God Lent is a journey, and so is this life. May we never forget that among the many gifts God has given us, we have been given one more—the gift of not knowing. There is freedom in the mystery.

Enjoy the journey.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, the Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer of us all. Amen.

These Holy Week Posts were published in the Fellowship of Prayer 2015 published annually by Chalice Press. Check out some of Chalice’s recent (and amazing) offerings such as: Sandya Rani Jha’s Pre-Post Racial America,Brian Christopher Coulter’s Be Holy,  and Stephen Ingram’s Organic Student Ministry. Of course, my book Seamless Faith: Simple Practices for Daily Family Life is also published by Chalice Press in 2014.

Holy Week 2015 | Saturday: One Hundred Pounds

FOP2015_400HOLY SATURDAY • APR 4

One Hundred Pounds

Read John 19:38–42.

They took the body of Jesus and wrapped it with the spices in linen cloths, according to the burial custom of the Jews. (v. 40)

Saturday is the day that Jesus is laid in the tomb. The Gospel of John tells us that Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea wrap Jesus’ body with spices and aloe in strips of linen. When I read the story recently, there was a detail that stood out to me. Nicodemus brought one hundred pounds of myrrh and aloes to Jesus’ grave to prepare him for burial. I don’t know why, but I have always imagined Jesus’ burial preparation as sort of ethereal and quiet. However, when I think about one hundred pounds of spices plus the linens, I realize that these two were carrying a lot of weight to the grave. The preparation surely must have been very physical with a lot of sweating, as they carried the spices and Jesus’ body to the tomb.

We don’t have many details about what might have been going through the men’s minds as they performed this difficult and heartbreaking chore. I wonder if Nicodemus flashed back to the time when he asked Jesus what it took to inherit eternal life. Did he remember Jesus’ words that he must be born again? Did the words take on new meaning as he wrapped Jesus’ body in cloths and covered his skin in spices and ointment? My instinct tells me that whatever epiphany Nicodemus experienced about his spiritual journey with Jesus in the flesh was confirmed and made even more profound as he worked so intimately with Jesus in his death.

Facing death is a heavy burden. Confronting it is hard work. Still, we can learn lessons from it, right there in the tomb.

God of life and of death, thank you for being present through it all. Help me to experience your presence, even at the tomb. Amen.

These Holy Week Posts were published in the Fellowship of Prayer 2015 published annually by Chalice Press. Check out some of Chalice’s recent (and amazing) offerings such as: Sandya Rani Jha’s Pre-Post Racial America,Brian Christopher Coulter’s Be Holy,  and Stephen Ingram’s Organic Student Ministry. Of course, my book Seamless Faith: Simple Practices for Daily Family Life is also published by Chalice Press in 2014.

Holy Week 2015 | Friday: The Worst Day in the Christian Year

FOP2015_400GOOD FRIDAY • APR 3

The Worst Day in the Christian Year?

Read Luke 23:32–34.

Then Jesus said, “Father forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” (v. 34)

Though it is called Good Friday, today is, in many ways, the worst day in the Christian year. This is the day we remember everything about Jesus’ awful arrest, torture, crucifixion, and death. Today is the day we remember that he was betrayed by every single one of his closest friends. Today is the day we remember that Jesus was stripped of all of his clothes, mocked, spit upon, made to carry his own cross, and beaten until he could barely walk. We remember today that Jesus was nailed to a cross, that his side was pierced with a spear. We remember that he suffered in great, unimaginable ways. There is nothing good about this day—or is there?

When we read this passage, we cannot avoid noticing the very first thing Jesus says as he embarks upon his terror-filled journey: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (v. 34).

When we read the gruesome and bloody details of what happened on that day, we are struck, time and again, with details of how violent the passage is. We must be very clear about one thing: this story is violent because people are violent. Contrast the actions of the soldiers and the crowd with the words of Jesus, which are words of forgiveness and grace: “They do not know what they are doing.” Truer words were never spoken. The reason today is called Good Friday is that the forgiveness extended to us as human beings, undeserving as we are, is very good news.

God of forgiveness, thank you for the humbling example of grace and mercy that Jesus shows to his worst enemies. Help us to learn to be forgiving as well. Amen.

These Holy Week Posts were published in the Fellowship of Prayer 2015 published annually by Chalice Press. Check out some of Chalice’s recent (and amazing) offerings such as: Sandya Rani Jha’s Pre-Post Racial America,Brian Christopher Coulter’s Be Holy,  and Stephen Ingram’s Organic Student Ministry. Of course, my book Seamless Faith: Simple Practices for Daily Family Life is also published by Chalice Press in 2014.