Rhea family liturgy: Week of November 26 (and Advent plan!)

Explanation of our liturgy and how we attempt it is here.

This was a hectic week for us with family illness (blessedly mild, but with three little ones, always disruptive!) and shopping for a “new” car, but I wanted to post both the liturgy we followed this week, and my rationale for what we’ll be doing for Advent.

The liturgy for this week is below.

Our Advent Plan

The fun thing about working with a season like Advent is that there are so many ways to approach the core themes of celebration and longing that the season is about (not to mention the story itself!).

Because our kids are so young, we’re going to take a story-based approach to the four weeks (which includes the week of Christmas itself). Someone gave us Mary’s First Christmas by Walter Wangerin Jr. a while ago: it looks cheeseball, seems cheeseball, but Wangerin is awesome – as evidence, read The Book of the Dun CowIt’s broken into four ‘chapters,’ and imagines Mary telling a young Jesus the stories around his birth. It’s really cool.

For our memory verse, we’re going to attempt Luke 2:11-12 and see how that goes. Here’s the NIV version:

“Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

And our kids know a good number of Christmas carols – they’ve kept them in rotation for our bedtime songs through the year, thanks largely to this book – so we’ll do a different one each week. First week: “Joy to the World.”

This week: November 26

Season: Preparation (Old Testament history)

“Chapter”: The prophets (the need for changed hearts)

Chapter memory verse:

  • “God will give us a new heart and put his Spirit in us.”
    • (Ezekiel 36:26-27, Joseph’s loose version for kids)

Chapter song: “Amazing Grace”

Chapter catechism (New City): Q35

Q: Where does faith come from?

A: We receive all gifts from Jesus through the Holy Spirit.

This week’s story (Jesus Storybook Bible): “Get Ready!”

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Rhea family liturgy: Week of November 19

Explanation of our liturgy and how we attempt it is here.

This week: November 19

Season: Preparation (Old Testament history)

“Chapter”: The prophets (the need for changed hearts)

Chapter memory verse:

  • “God will give us a new heart and put his Spirit in us.”
    • (Ezekiel 36:26-27, Joseph’s loose version for kids)

Chapter song: “Amazing Grace”

Chapter catechism (New City): Q35

Q: Where does faith come from?

A: We receive all gifts from Jesus through the Holy Spirit.

This week’s story (Jesus Storybook Bible): “Daniel’s Scary Sleepover”

Rhea family liturgy: Week of November 12

Explanation of our liturgy and how we attempt it is here.

This week: November 12

Season: Preparation (Old Testament history)

“Chapter”: The prophets (the need for changed hearts)

Chapter memory verse:

  • “God will give us a new heart and put his Spirit in us.”
    • (Ezekiel 36:26-27, Joseph’s loose version for kids)

Chapter song: “Amazing Grace”

Chapter catechism (New City): Q35

Q: Where does faith come from?

A: We receive all gifts from Jesus through the Holy Spirit.

This week’s story (Jesus Storybook Bible): “The Little Servant Girl and the Proud General”

Rhea family liturgy: Week of November 5

Explanation of what we’re doing and how we attempt it is here.

This week: November 5

Season: Preparation (Old Testament history)

“Chapter”: The Promised Land (inheritance/rest)

Chapter memory verse:

  • “The Lord is my Shepherd; I have all that I need” (Psalm 23:1, NLT)

Chapter song: “Just a Closer Walk with Thee”

Chapter catechism (New City): Q52

Q: What is our hope?

A: That we will enjoy God forever in the new heaven and the new earth.

This week’s story (Jesus Storybook Bible): “The Good Shepherd”

How Trendiness Leads Us Away From Truth, Goodness, and Beauty

Inspired by, of all things, the eating of asparagus, G.K. Chesterton offers this insight:

The one essential of an aristocracy is to be in advance of its age. That is, there must be something new known to a few. There must be a password; and it must always be a new password. Moreover, it must be, by its nature, an irrational password, for anything quite rational might rapidly be calculated even by the uninitiated. In the same way it is essential to any social observance that involves a social distinction, that the observance should be, in this sense at least, artificial. That is, you can only know the observance as the soldier knows the password, because he has been told.

In our digital-performance culture, this has become truer than ever. Social media have simultaneously allowed every person with basic Internet access the ability to “brand” themselves to the world, and subjected everyone to the judgment of anyone else with Internet access. This dual reality has upped the ante on performative self-disclosure, where the next fashion or hip speech-code can be mainstreamed as soon as it’s coined; which means staying “in advance of [the] age” requires pushing ever new boundaries, establishing ever new codes.

Reihan Salam’s Atlantic piece “The Utility of White-Bashing” is a fascinating example of how this can play out in, in his case, Asian-American culture.

One genius of Chesterton’s insight is that, while aristocratic trendiness can flatter itself on its insightfulness, fads often have to make less sense than the values of the “uninitiated.” The custom he describes of eating asparagus depends on irrationality, or a subversion of Truth; Salam’s example flirts with immorality, a subversion of Goodness; any number of examples from the modern-art world could suffice to show that faddishness can take the form of ugliness, a subversion of Beauty.

If it were reasonable (like a sunset, a Norman Rockwell, or a hot dog), anyone could appreciate it.

Chesterton again:

The brotherhood of man is a fact which in the long run wears down all other facts. Therefore, a privileged class, if it would avoid sliding naturally back into the body of mankind, must keep up an incessant excitement about new projects, new cultures and new prejudices, new skirts and stockings. It must tell a new tale every day or perish, like the lady of the Arabian Nights. … And so, out of luxury and waste and weariness, the fever they call Progress came into the world.

The pressure of our world is to ascend from Inner Ring to Inner Ring, like an inversion of Dante’s pilgrim’s ascent into Paradise; or at least not to be caught dead in an Outer Ring. Anything appreciable to “the body of mankind” – to the people outside the circles of the initiated – cannot be cool. We need not ask whether a taste is better; we must merely ask if it is new.

One step toward breaking that cycle is giving more attention to permanent things than to trendy ones. Does your Instagram account help you keep up with loved ones more than it makes you anxious about your kitchen appliances? Do your reading habits lead you into the big questions more than they make you seem interesting or in the know? Something need not be new or fashionable for it to point us toward Truth, Goodness, or Beauty.

The other key is in that second quote. Whether or not we believe that all men are brothers, all at least are neighbors. And when loving our neighbors becomes more important to us than impressing our (real or digital) audiences, we start on a path that leads us somewhere better than mere Progress.

Photo: Richard Thomas, accessed (ironically?) on fineartamerica.com

Rhea family liturgy: Week of Oct 29

A few years back I wrote on why, even though I didn’t practice Lent (I do now, kind of), I love the idea of a liturgical calendar. This year, we started making good on that practice with our kids; and while we were interrupted by moving to Birmingham and starting a new life, we’re picking it back up.

Exercising my Baptist-ish freedom, we developed a calendar that incorporates the big holidays, but also covers more of redemption history and develops more themes that we want to teach our kids.

Family Liturgy Structure

Here’s how we organized it:

  • Season: The big-bucket category that we draw from (Advent and Lent are seasons)
    • Between September 9 (Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, and the beginning of Advent, we’re in Preparation, learning Old Testament history)
  • “Chapter”: An organizing unit, usually 2-4 weeks, which gives us more than a week to focus on …
  • Chapter memory verse: one kid-appropriate verse to learn
  • Chapter song: a song that connects to the chapter thematically
  • Chapter catechism: a question from the New City Catechism we’ll learn together
  • Weekly story/focus: one story, usually from the Jesus Storybook Bible, for each week

Schedule and Practice

The idea is that most days in the week, we – Allison, myself, and our three agents of happy chaos – will sit down and walk through as many of these elements as we can:

  • Story of the week – from the JSB
  • Memory verse
  • Song (at least the chorus or a key verse)
  • (attempting) Catechism question

I’ll consider this a win personally if I can meditate on the elements more through the weeks; but I’m excited to see what comes of this! Our kids love being read to, and the older two will at least make a decent-faith effort at the verses.

This week: October 29

Season: Preparation (Old Testament history)

“Chapter”: The Promised Land (inheritance/rest)

Chapter memory verse:

  • “The Lord is my Shepherd; I have all that I need” (Psalm 23:1, NLT)

Chapter song: “Just a Closer Walk with Thee”

Chapter catechism (New City): Q52

Q: What is our hope?

A: That we will enjoy God forever in the new heaven and the new earth.

This week’s story (Jesus Storybook Bible): “The Warrior Leader”

There are some fantastic versions of “Just a Closer Walk” out there; we’re using the one by The Lower Lights, but Mahalia Jackson brings some magic to it:

 

A poem in honor of Steven Donaldson

He is ready to climb the mountain.
He stares into its impenetrable clouds,
Which today are themselves grey-grave as boulders
But tomorrow may transluce the mountain’s unmapped fire.
He has seen the clouds blind-bright, transfigured past white to glory,
And seen them brood, blacken, wring themselves into floods.
You’d think his eyes, brimming with unboasted stories,
Have seen through the veil of clouds, and
He is ready to climb the mountain.

He is ready to climb.
His feet scatter the pebbles,
Bored with level ground. They want
Pilgrimage: the humble, stubborn ascent to glory.
He glances back at those he’s led
This far into the cloud, and
He is ready to climb.

He is ready.
He has seen with faith and sought to chart
With understanding the Path that lifts to glory.
He’s laid cairns of love for us to follow, and
He is ready.

He is
Gone into glory, and
He is.

Last week, Steven Donaldson, the father of my brother’s wife, died. He and his wife, Carol, effectively adopted us for several events and holidays, so I got to know and appreciate him to some extent. But his brother gave a eulogy about his life, his passions, and his relationships that was powerful, and it gave me the idea for this poem. It’s in his honor.