More Work Stories: bringing back a favorite for Ordinary Time

Work Stories

Living Our Calling One Day At A Time

www.tamarahillmurphy.com

The focus of Ordinary Time

Depending on who you ask, the church calendar has been in Ordinary Time since June. This quirk of the liturgical year is one I find slightly annoying. Is it Ordinary Time immediately following Pentecost Sunday or do we mark the time as weeks after Pentecost? Some churches refer to these weeks as “weeks after Pentecost” beginning with the first Sunday after Pentecost also known as Trinity Sunday. Other churches refer to this time on the calendar as “weeks of Ordinary Time” (as in, “Today is Tuesday, the eleventh of September in the twenty-eighth week of Ordinary Time”). There are a few more variations, but I’ve found it more fruitful to worry less about what to call these weeks between Pentecost and Advent, and instead to focus and become more deeply formed in the theology of the church’s intentions. What does it mean that half of our calendar is left open to the ordinary? What does it tell us about the God who created and gives purpose to our lives?

One way I do this is to consider the parts of Christ’s life that Scriptures tell us almost nothing about. Between his newborn and toddler days which were spent in various locations of the earth, as his parents sought refuge from Herod to the beginning of his more formal ministry marked by his baptism in the Jordan River we know only a few sparse details. You could say this was the Ordinary Time of Christ’s life. The years we can patch together a few details of work and worship made up the vast majority of his days on earth.

Each liturgical cycle, we reenact that reality in the church’s calendar with days, weeks, and months of ordinary time. In the United States, this time of year (summer and autumn), the civic calendar is packed full with holidays and remembrances. The trinity of celebrations that bracket our summer (Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Labor Day) ensure we pay attention to the passing of a favorite season of barbecues, vacations, and recreation. From Memorial Day to Veterans Day, our calendars remind us to also set aside time to remember our place as citizens of our country with parades, memorials, and flag raising. (I happen to be writing this post on September 11, another day on our national calendar that will live in infamy.)

If the historic liturgical calendar teaches us to number our days to gain a heart of wisdom, there must be a lot of wisdom to be gained in our regular, working, resting, and worshipping lives. This is the model Christ seemed to have lived, and the church invites us to embrace the same pathway.

A Missional Invitation

In the words of theology professor Wendy Wright, Ordinary Time is a season:

“…to become attentive to the call of discipleship both outer and inner. What are we called to do? … What are we called to be?”

There may not be another area of our lives that we hold most in common without realizing it, and we spend our days trying to fill the gap between what we were made to do and what we actually do with our days. This gap is no small thing; it often feels like an ache we can’t name and leaks out in the midst of our day jobs and our too-short weekends. We carry this sense of wanting something more with us into every relationship and every job interview. We know, in our innermost being, we were made for something good and most of us are not sure how much attention to pay to that feeling.

In the meantime, we have to pay the bills, care for our families, mow the lawn, and figure out what to eat for lunch.

Who am I? Why am I here? Where do I belong?

In between the lines of the thousands of posts I’ve logged into this blog you can hear these questions and this ache in Brian and me. If nothing else, nearly twenty-nine years of our marriage has been trying to help each other figure out what we’re going to do when we grow up.

In some beautiful ways, God has helped us gain deep peace in this question and we feel like we have some answers to the question of our callings - as individuals and as a couple - that will probably stay with us for the rest of our lives. In addition to the lifelong callings of being husband and wife, mother and father, we now can add a priest (Brian) and spiritual director and writer (me). Whatever else develops for us as we age (grandparenting? caregiving for family members? book writing?), we are grateful for some hard-won confidence that the recent vocational arrivals will stay with us into eternity. Hard-fought, hard-won and all the more rewarding for the sometimes excruciating insecurity on the journey.

As a part of the inaugural Work Stories series, I wrote 3 stream-of-consciousness reflections on our journey:

The Work Stories series

Last fall, during the waning weeks of Ordinary Time, I invited a dozen or so friends and acquaintances to share a day in their work life as a contribution to a weekly written series called “Work Stories.” In all my years inviting stories on diverse subjects ranging from lament to favorite hobbies, I’ve never had an easier time finding willing participants.

As I began to have more volunteers than weeks left in the series, I recognized the benediction I’d inadvertently conferred on each guest. The invitation to present a snapshot of their weekday work life in a space committed to liturgy and sacrament helped the contributors rightly frame their livelihoods as participation in the kingdom. The guest contributors seemed energized by the opportunity to share a bit of their everyday occupational lives, and in turn, told me they’d received a renewed sense of gratitude for the community with which they spend the majority of their lives—their colleagues.

This year again, I’m delighted to share some stories from a few friends who are on the same journey of living out their callings one day at a time. I’ve asked them to give us a one-day snapshot into their work life that will help us see what they know to be true right now about who they are made to be. Some live out their callings in a way that they get paid to do the thing they’re most uniquely suited to be in this world, others work jobs that pay the bills so they are able to pursue those callings. Most are a combination of the two.

I’d love to hear your stories, too. At the conclusion of each post, I’ll add a prayer of blessing for all of us in our work and ask a question about your own vocational journey. I’d be honored for you to take a few minutes to share those answers with me in the comments.

Let’s help each other recognize the truth that many times

our most extraordinary qualities are demonstrated during our ordinary work.


For more reading about the journey to discover our callings…

Tamara:

Brian:

You can see last year’s guest posts here: Work Stories 2018 wrap-up!

Practice Resurrection with Amanda McGill (Southwest Ohio)

Welcome to the fourth guest post in a new-and-improved version of the the Practice Resurrection series!

I’ve invited several friends and acquaintances to share a snapshot of their lives during the weeks of Eastertide (between now and Pentecost Sunday, June 9th). As in other series of guest posts, I pray about who to invite and for this series I was contemplating the ways these women and men consistently invite us through their social media presence to regularly consider restoration, beauty, and goodness even, and maybe especially, in the face of difficulty. I’ve asked each guest to share snapshots of their present daily life inspired by Wendell Berry’s  poem, “Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front”.

I first met today’s guest through The Homely Hours, the beautiful blog she collaborates with a couple other “churchwomen” providing an excellent resource for those wanting to orient home life around the daily, weekly, and seasonal liturgies of the Anglican tradition. No matter your denomination, if you love the Church and you hope to influence the next generation to do the same, take time perusing The Homely Hours website or follow on Facebook or Instagram. In this season of Eastertide, I’m so grateful to Amanda for sharing a snapshot of her life living out the reality of resurrection.

First, take a moment to listen to Amanda reading us the poem, and please don’t miss the adorable poetry buffs who show up at the end!


So, friends, every day do something

that won’t compute.

At this point in the poem, the Mad Farmer turns from ways to practice profit, fear, and death, to ways to practice life and resurrection. “Every day do something that won’t compute,” he says, which contains everything that follows. My main theme in “practicing resurrection” fits within his statement, too: Amanda, learn to be small and happy.

As you keep reading, you’ll find I’m a person who takes myself too seriously. I grow huge in my mind, but not small enough to delight in the real world. By “small,” first, I mean to be simpler inside, to be content with limits; and then I see the principle expand.  My children are my teachers.

Going big is the way of quick profit and promotion; smallness within limits is the way of new life, the way of “two inches of humus” and even the seeds of sequoias. For me, this means a constrained and creative life, tied to a small family and a small church and a small plot of earth in a small town.

Amanda McGill.nest.amcgill.jpg

Love the world. Work for nothing.

When I take these statements together, I think of making a place where love dwells. In another poem, Berry calls it “my art of being here.” This photo is of my first real garden and it has been my primary Eastertide practice. For years, I’ve overthought, become overwhelmed, and barely done anything. This year I told myself, “It’s fine to not get it perfect the first time; just start small, Amanda!” And it’s made me so happy.

There’s love in places where people garden and I’ve known that even when I’ve been too fearful to start. Gardening sends down roots into the order of the world, which is love. And Love spends itself lavishly on perennials and fruit trees, in hope.


Say that your main crop is the forest

that you did not plant,

that you will not live to harvest.

My children and I often go to the forest, the “peace of the woods.” I’ve been inspired by Charlotte Mason, the great British educator at the turn of the 20th century, to attempt four to six hours a day outside with my children (“attempt” is key). I do this because it’s good for me, good for all of us. Outside, I’m not harassed by my to-do list or frustrated with the futility of housework (not to detract from its meaning and value). “I rest in the grace of the world, and am free,” as Berry says in The Peace of Wild Things. Underneath the towering sycamores, next to the creeks endlessly flowing on to the Atlantic, I’m content to be little along with my little girls. And they are also learning from their teachers: the lilies of the field, the birds of the air, the trees planted by streams of water whose leaf never withers.

Amdanda McGill.forest.amcgill.jpg

Expect the end of the world. Laugh.

Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful

though you have considered all the facts.

G.K. Chesterton said, “Pride is the downward drag of all things into an easy solemnity. One ‘settles down’ into a sort of selfish seriousness; but one has to rise to a gay self-forgetfulness...For solemnity flows out of men naturally; but laughter is a leap. It is easy to be heavy: hard to be light.”

 I could belabor my lack of lightness, but that only makes me sink deeper into “selfish seriousness.” Here, I know that my children are given to me as a gift, always offering a way into laughter and happy smallness (as well as the chance to frame the daily frustrations into the ludicrous). My husband is also my good match, who “belittles” me in all the best ways: with wit, kindness, and love.


Go with your love to the fields.

Lie easy in the shade. 

Can I “lie easy” and relax with my husband, my children? Do I have enough space in my soul that I can release the pressure to keep accomplishing things? Can I, as Pope Francis questions, “waste time with my children?” Am I small enough to enjoy this moment? Do I have to think it to death? (And now I will stop overthinking).

Amanda McGill.field.amcgill.jpg

Practice resurrection.

In the end, I take Berry’s phrase to “practice resurrection” as shorthand for St. Paul’s words in Romans 6, we are “dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.” We walk in “newness of life.” Every week, we enter through the doors of our church. It’s small and old – lived-in, well-loved. It’s not the place to enter if you think newness of life means something big and shiny. But here, to take C.S. Lewis’s words, “the inside is bigger than the outside.” There are mysteries here -- of smallness and joy (how a stable could hold a King and the whole world be changed through a few weak men). Be like the fox who makes more tracks than necessary. I follow the fox to church. The incongruity is stark. It certainly won’t compute. But here, most of all, by love and liturgy, I practice resurrection.

Amanda McGill.candle.amcgill.jpg

Amanda+McGillbio.amandamcgill.jpg

Amanda McGill lives in Southwest Ohio with her husband Jon and two young daughters. In 2015, she and her friends started The Homely Hours, a liturgical living resource in the Anglican tradition. She is music director at Christ the King Anglican Church in Dayton. She perpetually rereads C.S. Lewis and Jane Austen; but currently, she is interested in everything written by Rumer Godden and Martin Thornton.  If she has any free time, she’ll spend it reading and writing (after running).


(You can see all the Practice Resurrection 2019 guest posts here.)

On the Twelfth Day of Christmas: 12+ ways to keep celebrating with the rest of the world (loads of links!)

My Christmas daybook for these 12 days of celebrating. We'll be spending Christmastide with some favorite short films and video clips. Join me, won't you? 

For an introduction read this post: Christmastide. You can see previous Christmas Daybook 2018 posts here.

Note: If you're reading this in email, the formatting usually looks much better at the website. Just click the post title to get there.


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What a joy it’s been to mark the weeks of Advent and Christmas together. I’m grateful for your companionship and encouragement along the way!

As we enter the season of Epiphany, may you continue to walk in the light as He is in the light. You can read a bit more about the liturgical history of Epiphanytide here. Essentially, we walk through the accounts of Christ’s life between his birth and before his Passion with emphasis on the moments Christ was revealed (made manifest) as the Son of God. If the Incarnation is about God becoming man, Epiphany is about God’s marking this man Jesus as a divine Son, sent to reveal God to us. Get ready for some of the most beautiful, captivating accounts of Christ’s life, teaching, and healing in the coming six weeks. Celebrate that Christ came and moved into the neighborhood!

I’ve included a giant list of ideas for you to celebrate the weeks of Epiphany. Pick one or more to share with friends or family in the coming weeks. (I’ll refer back to them again in my Sunday Daybook posts). In much the way the Magi remind us that Christ was given to all peoples, it’s important to recognize that , for much of the world, the Feast of Epiphany is celebrated with much more fanfare than Christmas Day. This is a great time to learn about their traditions.

May you know the light and walk in the light in the coming weeks,

Tamara

p.s., I’d love to hear your Advent and Christmas highlights. Drop me a comment to share !

Watch & Do for Twelfth Night and Epiphanytide:

  1. Throw a Twelfth Night Party! We attended one last night and have friends who do this every year. It’s a chance to shout a last hurrah for Christmas. Old tradition in England included wassailing, as in “here we come a-wassailing!”. (Maybe you want to make mulled cider one more time?). Friends of ours in Austin are holding Twelfth Night bonfires and inviting friends to bring their Christmas trees for the fire.

  2. Sing or listen to various versions of the carol “We Three Kings”. Here’s a classic orchestration by Eugene Ormandy with a montage of images of the Magi from around the world. Here’s a beautiful instrumental jazz version from Wynton Marsalis Septet performed at Carnegie Hall in 1991.

  3. Read or listen to a performance of T. S. Eliot’s” The Journey of the Magi”. If you’re an Alec Guiness fan, you can’t go wrong with this version (which includes text)> Here’s a dramatic reading I found compelling. Here’s an quality version performed by Denis Adide and shot in locations around Bristol.

  4. Read the Matthew account of the Magi. Here’s a well-done compilation with the text of the account with scenes from the movie The Birth of Jesus. Here’s a dramatized version with Scripture narration. For a movie adaptation of the Luke and Matthew accounts, here’s the Visit of the Shepherds and the Magi scene from the Catherine Hardwick's film "The Nativity Story" (2006). (Here’s a 15 minute edit of the magi scenes from the entire movie.)

  5. Learn more about the theories of the history of the wise men: Mystery of the Magi, 3 Wise Men: Ancient Magicians?, and, my favorite from the Smithsonian Channel, How to Understand the Three Wise Men, Frankincense & Myrrh.

  6. Pray for Bethlehem: O Little Town of Bethlehem, Celebrating Christmas in Bethlehem, What Do Jews In Israel Think About Jesus Christ the Messiah?, Historic Bethlehem Now A Modern Mix of Cultures, Bethlehem, Palestine: Church of the Nativity.

  7. Chalk the Doors & pray an Epiphany House Blessing: watch here and here for explanations from a couple of Protestant pastors and here for a video demonstration from a Catholic mom: Epiphany Part 1: House Blessing. You can find prayers here or print out a larger prayer service adapted from various sources that leads you to pray through each room of your home: Feast of the Epiphany.

  8. Make paper crowns (free printable!) and King’s Cake: An Easy DIY King’s Cake or 3 Kings Cake for Rosca De Reyes - A Traditional bread to celebrate Feast of Epiphany.

  9. Learn about Three King’s Day celebrations from around the world. Consider making international dishes from any of these countries. Three Kings Parade (Madrid), Lin-Manuel Miranda Explains the Magic of Three Kings Day (Puerto Rico/New York), Epiphany Celebrated In Catholic and Orthodox Churches (Rome, Istanbul, Sofia), Epiphany Celebration (Italy), Orthodox Christians Celebrate Epiphany/Prepare for Christmas (Bulgaria, WBank, Turkey). (Can you imagine joining that celebration in Bulgaria?!?)

  10. Remember your baptism! During Epiphany we remember Jesus’ baptism and it’s a good season to renew our own baptism vows -- whether in your corporate worship service or in your family and personal prayer time. May I recommend this post from my son's baptism? It includes the Anglican baptism liturgy, but applicable for all followers of Christ. Or you can be brave and join the Eastern Europeans: Icy dip: Russians plunge into freezing waters on Epiphany, Brave Muscovites plunge icy waters to celebrate Epiphany, and Putin takes traditional Epiphany dip in icy lake .

  11. Go stargazing (and if you can’t get a clear night, watch this!). Make paper stars! Here’s a lovely tutorial: Origami Christmas Star/Star of Bethlehem/ 8-point Star.

  12. Keep twinkle lights and candles glowing in and outside your home right up until Candlemas (also known as the Feast of the Presentation)! Here’s a lovely write-up from The Homely Hours about the meaning of Candlemas and a family liturgy printable for Candlemas. I also love this idea for creating a candlelit prayer walk. Here’s a tutorial for building a beautiful snow lantern.


Read on the Eve of Epiphany: Psalm 29, 98; Isaiah 66:18-23; Romans 15:7-13

Pray:

We bless you, Abba, Father, for you have visited your people in one like us in all things but sin, and in human fragility you have revealed the face of divinity. Gather into your arms all the peoples of the world, so that in your embrace we may find blessing, peace, and the fullness of our inheritance as your daughters and sons. Amen.
— Revised Common Lectionary Prayers

A final Merry Christmas from me to you!

Christ the King Sunday

All this energy issues from Christ: God raised him from death and set him on a throne in deep heaven, in charge of running the universe, everything from galaxies to governments, no name and no power exempt from his rule. And not just for the time being, but forever. He is in charge of it all, has the final word on everything. At the center of all this, Christ rules the church. Ephesians 1:20,21

Pantocrator  by Nathan Simpson ( source )

Pantocrator by Nathan Simpson (source)

 
There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, Mine!
— Abraham Kuyper

The Collect for Christ the King Sunday:

Almighty and everlasting God, whose will it is to restore all things in your well-beloved Son, the King of kings and Lord of lords: Mercifully grant that the peoples of the earth, divided and enslaved by sin, may be freed and brought together under his most gracious rule; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

A Thanksgiving prayer before feasting

Happy Thanksgiving, blog friends. I'm grateful for the conversations we've held here for the last eleven + years, and for all the ways I've learned from this community. 

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I recently discovered (via the Victoria Emily Jones' treasure of a blog, Art & Theology) the beautiful prayers written by Douglas McElvey. The good crew at the Rabbit Room have collected 100 of McElvey's prayers for everyday realities and occasions into a book that can be ordered here. They've also made a few prayers available for free download, including this rich liturgy offered before feasting with friends.

Whether you are celebrating this week with friends or family, may you know the truth that all will be well. 

CELEBRANT: To gather joyfully
is indeed a serious affair,
for feasting and all enjoyments
gratefully taken are,
at their heart, acts of war.
PEOPLE: In celebrating this feast
we declare that
evil and death,
suffering and loss,
sorrow and tears,
will not have the final word.


But the joy of fellowship, and the welcome
and comfort of friends new and old,
and the celebration of these blessings of
food and drink and conversation and laughter
are the true evidences of things eternal,
and are the first fruits of that great glad joy
that is to come and that will be unending.

So let our feast this day be joined
to those sure victories secured by Christ,

Let it be to us now a delight, and a glad
foretaste of his eternal kingdom.
Bless us, O Lord, in this feast.

Bless us, O Lord, as we linger over our cups,
and over this table laden with good things,
as we relish the delights of varied texture
and flavor, of aromas and savory spices,
of dishes prepared as acts of love and blessing,
of sweet delights made sweeter by
the communion of saints.

May this shared meal, and our pleasure in it,
bear witness against the artifice and deceptions
of the prince of the darkness that would blind
this world to hope.
May it strike at the root of the lie that
would drain life of meaning, and
the world of joy, and suffering of redemption.


May this our feast fall like a great hammer blow
against that brittle night,
shattering the gloom, reawakening our hearts,
stirring our imaginations, focusing our vision
on the kingdom of heaven that is to come,
on the kingdom that is promised,
on the kingdom that is already,
indeed, among us,

For the resurrection of all good things
has already joyfully begun.

LIFT THEIR GLASSES

May this feast be an echo of that great
Supper of the Lamb,
great Supper of the Lamb,
a foreshadowing of the great celebration
that awaits the children of God.


Where two or more of us are gathered,
O Lord, there you have promised to be.
And here we are.
And so, here are you.
Take joy, O King, in this our feast.
Take joy, O King!

Take joy!
CELEBRANT: All will be well!

All will be well!
Nothing good and right and true will be lost forever.
All good things will be restored.
Feast and be reminded! Take joy, little flock.
Take joy! Let battle be joined!
Let battle be joined!

Now you who are loved by the Father,
prepare your hearts and give yourself wholly
to this celebration of joy,
to the glad company of saints,
to the comforting fellowship of the Spirit,
and to the abiding presence of Christ
who is seated among us both as our host
and as our honored guest, and still yet
as our conquering king.
Amen.

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,
take seat, take feast, take delight!
— "A Liturgy for Feasting with Friends" by Douglas McElvey, 2017