Sacred space at home

Then my people will live in a peaceful dwelling, in secure homes, in carefree resting places.

Isaiah 32:18

For your child, home is already holy, and you are the one who makes it so. You are modeling God’s love and care by making your child feel safe and secure, nurtured and supported. Everything else is just window dressing. The rhythms of the day, the year, and the seasons of our lives are full of opportunities to find and create sacred moments, ways of making meaning and memories, and all of them can be simple.

Start tonight, with dinner. Can you all sit down together? What you’re eating isn’t important. Light candles. Hold hands around the table and let the youngest child choose when to squeeze. No cellphones, no television. Music might be nice, without lyrics.

I aspire to cloth napkins every night, but that adds to the laundry load. My father remembers that his grandfather insisted on cloth napkins for every meal. There were silver napkin rings for special occasions and wooden clothespins with people’s names on them, even guests, for everyday use, so the napkins could be reused. This led to my family collecting napkin rings. Whoever set the table on Friday could choose the napkin rings, and we had lots of fun choices: olive wood from Jerusalem, a hand-painted folk art set from Austria, enameled ones from India. If you don’t have any, your kids can twist pipe cleaners into circles. If they want to get fancy, cut a cardboard tube into pieces and let them wrap each ring in a different color ribbon, one for each member of the family.

Do you have a bit more time? Ask your kids to find an object with meaning to set on a small plate and use as a centerpiece. It could be a baseball, or a baby cup, or a postcard from Nana. Let them tell about why they chose it. You can be directive: bring something that makes you feel proud, something that reminds you of when you were tiny, or something that’s beautiful.

What will you talk about tonight? Conversation cards are fun. Make your own. Ask questions you’d like to respond to yourself, or ones you don’t know the answer to: What is your favorite memory? If you could have one superpower, what would it be? Where would you go if you could go anywhere in the world? Describe your perfect day. Tell about an act of kindness you saw or heard about today. How would you spend $100 (or $100,000) on other people? Throw in a God question, maybe not right away: When do you feel closest to God?

Homes are as holy as churches. Some families have a table or a shelf that’s set apart as sacred space, with a cross, candles, a Bible, a prayer book, fresh flowers or a small green plant. Place photos of loved ones here, or prayers you’ve written or drawn on scraps of paper and tucked inside a small box or jar.

We live in a Brooklyn apartment: three full-sized human beings and a double bass in approximately 650 square feet. Instead of a home altar, we have a blessing bowl. You could make something like this yourself. Choose any bowl you really like, although a shallow one will display the items you choose to put in it well. Then, collect some small items to put in it. We use a small beautiful bowl painted gold on the inside that was a wedding present from Peter’s godparents. Here is what is in our bowl right now:

•           a marble painted like the earth, for travel, for those we love who are far from us, for being mindful of world events

•           a heart-shaped stone, for acts of love and generosity

•           an acorn, for growth

•           a shell, to remind us of our baptisms

•           an angel token, for acts of caring and kindness

•           a LEGO piece, for play, fun and creativity

•           a silk rainbow ribbon for promises made and kept

•           a pottery pebble that says “peace”, for when we find it or need it

•           an olive wood cross, to notice where Jesus has been with us that day

These tiny treasures are meant to spark meaningful conversation, prayers, remembrances, and gratitude.

“We don’t remember days, we remember moments,” says the Italian poet Cesare Pavese. Parents know this best.  The warmth and love we create in our families may not be something that feels consistently present, but it is what we hope our children carry with them and learn to create for themselves and others. These moments of sacred connection can sustain us for a lifetime.

Wendy Claire Barrie is the author of Faith at Home: A Handbook for Cautiously Christian Parents, from which this post is adapted.

Holy Saturday at home

Holy Saturday is a time of waiting. Good Friday has come and gone, and Easter has not yet arrived. There is quiet, and sadness, and a sense of strangeness that suits the present moment. Today, Jesus is between earth and heaven. You can almost hear the earth breathe.

It would be good to go for a walk early. Find some stones to put in your pocket. You’ll need them later. Look for signs of spring. You will find them. Aslan is on the move.

In our Brooklyn neighborhood we can walk to Prospect Park and still keep the required distance from others, but that’s another reason to go early. We can walk to the corner near the hospital, too, and pray for all those within.

When you arrive home, fish the stones from your pocket, wash them, dry them, and stack them, one on another, with a prayer for each stone. In the Book of Genesis, Jacob ran away in fear and spent the night in the desert. He took a stone and put it under his head for a pillow, and dreamed of angels moving up and down a ladder. When he woke, he said, “Surely God is in this place, and I did not know it! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.” He anointed the stone with oil and left it there as a reminder.

God was in that place.

The women who stood at the foot of the cross on Friday waited at home on Saturday, the Sabbath, in quiet and sadness and strangeness. Did they know God was in that place?

A good song to sing or listen to is “There are Angels Hovering ‘Round.” Even if we cannot see them. Earth and heaven touch today.

In Celtic spirituality, there is a term for places where heaven and earth touch, where the veil between them is so thin it becomes translucent.  Minister and poet Sharlande Sledge gives this description:

‘Thin places’, the Celts call this space,
Both seen and unseen,
Where the door between the world
And the next is cracked open for a moment
And the light is not all on the other side.
God shaped space. Holy.”

Holy Saturday is thin, I think.

In the afternoon, you might read from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe or even watch it. There is deeper magic at work today, and come this evening, our waiting will be over.

Wendy Claire Barrie is the author of Faith at Home: A Handbook for Cautiously Christian Parents.

This is the third in a series of posts about observing Holy Week at home. Read about Maundy Thursday and Good Friday.

I arise today

michael-333407-unsplash
Skellig Michael, Ireland                           Photo by Michael on UnSplash

I arise today:

might of Heaven

brightness of Sun

whiteness of Snow

splendor of Fire

speed of Light

swiftness of Wind

depth of Sea

stability of Earth

firmness of Rock.

 

I arise today:

Might of God

Power of God

Wisdom of God

Eye of God

Ear of God

Word of God

Hand of God

Path of God

Shield of God

Host of God.

 

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, a breastplate prayer or lorica, from Essential Celtic Prayers, a book my husband Phil Fox Rose made.

Wendy Claire Barrie is the author of Faith at Home: A Handbook for Cautiously Christian Parents.

 

The Season of Lent

aaron-burden-601694-unsplash
Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

This is adapted from a Godly-Play-style homily I gave at an Ash Wednesday Family Eucharist in 2012.  In 2020, Lent begins Wednesday, February 26.

Lent is the name we give to the forty days before the great mystery of Easter. Lent means lengthening, because the days are growing longer. It is a time for the color purple, the color of royalty. We are preparing for the coming of a king.

On the Tuesday before Lent begins,  Christians all over the world celebrate the end the Epiphany season, which began January 6, when the wise ones, the magi, the kings from far away followed a star in search of a newborn king, Jesus. People celebrate with parades and parties and pancakes. Some people eat King Cake, in honor of the magi, the kings, and the person who finds the Baby, Baby Jesus, in their slice of cake is King or Queen for the day. Mardi Gras—Fat Tuesday— is called that because long ago on the night before Lent began, people used up all the fat in their kitchens—milk, butter, eggs, meat—so that during Lent they could come closer to God by not eating those foods.

Some of us still prepare for the coming of our king by fasting—giving up—something. Some of us give up foods we really like—desserts or sodas or vanilla lattes. Then the money that we used to spend on desserts or sodas or lattes can be saved and given to help feed the hungry. Some of us give up television or video games or try to spend less time with our smart phones, and for the forty days of Lent we use that time instead to look for ways to come closer to God.

Some people read the Bible more often in Lent, listening for what God is telling us today. We may pray more often, or at a certain time each day, and when we pray we could light a candle to remind us that Christ is the light of the World, and we are Christ’s light in the world.

We might draw or write our prayers and keep them in a special place, in a journal or a box or even on a calendar to show we are giving all our worries and hopes to God.  There are so many ways to pray, and Lent is a good time to try new practices.

Some of us take on doing more of God’s work in the world during Lent: collecting groceries for the food pantry, visiting the lonely, helping people in our neighborhoods or across the ocean. We might use a giving calendar so that we can return God’s blessings to us out into the world, by giving one day a quarter for every bottle of medicine you have in your house, or a nickel every time you turn on the water faucet another day.

Lent is a serious time, a time set apart for thinking, praying, giving thanks and remembering God’s gifts to us so that we might give generously to others.

We call the day Lent begins Ash Wednesday. Long ago, when people wanted God to know they were sorry for what they had done wrong, they asked God’s forgiveness by making a sacrifice—an offering—to be burned on the altar. If people had a lot of money, they  offered a lamb to God. If they had just a little money, they offered a bird.

When their sacrifice was all burnt up, all that was left were ashes. Sometimes the people who asked God for forgiveness would wear these ashes on their bodies to show how sorry they felt.

We no longer bring animals to be burned on the altar when we ask God to forgive us. Everything changed when God sent Jesus to live and die as one of us. Whenever we ask God to forgive us, we are forgiven. Whenever we turn toward God, we are embraced.

Our ashes come from the palms we waved almost a year ago at the end of Lent, when we remembered the day that Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey instead of a stallion, still speaking of peace instead of leading a great army, and the people waved palms in celebration, as if they were welcoming a king. We welcome the King of Love. We call that day Palm Sunday—it is the Sunday before Easter. Some of those palms we fold into crosses, and keep in our homes all year until it’s time. It’s time.

At our baptism, we are claimed as God’s beloved children and a cross of oil is made on our foreheads to mark us as Christ’s own forever. The cross of ashes we receive in the very same spot is to remind us that God made us, we belong to God, and God loves us. May we remember who we are and whose we are, each day of this holy Lent, so that our Easter joy will be complete.

Wendy Claire Barrie is the author of Faith at Home: A Handbook for Cautiously Christian Parents.

Looking for additional Lenten resources? Make Room: A Child’s Guide to Lent and Easter by Laura Alary is a wonderful book to add to your collection. For older children, youth and adults, Gayle Boss’s Wild Hope: Stories for Lent from the Vanishing is a gorgeously illustrated new book of powerful stories about endangered animals. Illustrated Ministry offers three downloadable family devotionals for Lent; of their always-rich content, the one new this year focuses on giving.

A Celtic Prayer

pexels-photo-277552

You are the peace of all things calm

You are the place to hide from harm

You are the light that shines in the dark

You are the heart’s eternal spark

You are the door that’s open wide

You are the guest who waits inside

You are the stranger at the door

You are the calling of the poor

You are my Lord and with me still

You are my love, keep me from ill

You are the light, the truth, the way,

You are my Savior this very day.

A prayer of the first millennium, from Essential Celtic Prayers, a book my husband Phil Fox Rose made.

Wendy Claire Barrie is the author of Faith at Home: A Handbook for Cautiously Christian Parents.