Read Matthew With Me

How much experience do you have with reading the Bible?

Whether you are very familiar with the Bible, or if it’s totally new to you, here is a way to jump into scripture today.

This Easter season, read the Gospel according to Matthew with me and St. Andrew’s by-the-Sea!

To join us, sign up for weekly emails here.

This week, we are reading Matthew 1:1 – 6:18.

Here is a podcast you can subscribe to – each day you can listen to a section of the book and a reflection about that reading. Each episode is less than ten minutes! It’s an easy way to follow along with this journey through scripture. You can also find this podcast in the Podcast app or wherever you listen to podcasts – just search “The Good Book Club.”

Want to join me?

What is Holy Week?

Next week is Holy Week!

You may wonder, what does that mean?

The three days leading up to Easter day are the holiest days in the church year. Holy Week is an invitation to each of us – an invitation to walk alongside Jesus, an invitation to immerse ourselves in God’s story of loving the world.

This week, to get ready, watch this video that tells the story of Holy Week and Easter.

Then, use this prompt to journal, or to start a conversation with someone:

What do you already know about Jesus’ journey during Holy Week? How might God surprise you this Holy Week? What parts of the Holy Week story might ring differently this year?

Get ready to celebrate Holy Week at home this year! Click the button below for a booklet with resources to observe Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Vigil at home.

Make a Sacred Space at Home

We are learning now, more than ever, that the church is not the building where we gather; no, the church is us, the people of God, wherever we are.

But still, you may be missing the sacred space of your church right now. You may even realize that you miss your school, your desk at work, or some other space that you didn’t realize was sacred until now.

Holy Week will be upon us shortly, and this blog will have resources for you to celebrate Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, and Good Friday at home!

We can prepare now by creating a sacred space in your home. We are currently in the church season of Lent, so now is a perfect time to make a space for prayer.

The key to creating a sacred space at home? Keep it simple. There is no wrong or right here – the invitation is to find a quiet corner of your house, maybe a bookshelf, the top of a side table, and intentionally place a few holy items there. Here are some suggestions:

  • A cloth
  • A cross
  • An elemental symbol: a candle, a bowl of water, vines/greens, a small bowl of oil

Perhaps there is a sacred image that is important to you – an icon, or a photograph, or perhaps some art that your child draws.

The important thing is that each item is special to you.

Here’s a picture of my sacred space at home. I collect rocks, crystals, and shells, and I love to have a living thing in my sacred space. I also love to light incense – could you incorporate all five senses in your sacred space?

My sacred space is set up on a small side table in our living room.

Take time today to create a sacred space at home. You can do this by yourself if you live alone, or with family. Children will intuitively know how to create sacred space – they already collect special things, and find magic and meaning in everyday objects.

Once you have set up your sacred space, take a picture and send it to me! You can email it to me (marylynn dot standrewspb at gmail dot com), or send it to me on Facebook. I’ll create a collection of all of our sacred spaces.

Here’s another great resources for making an altar for home!

Quarantine Count-Up

In a matter of days, everything has changed. We are sheltering at home in California. We are trying to do church in new ways (thank you, Zoom and Facebook).

One big challenge for me right now is that there is no way to know when all of this will end. When will we be able to go to church again? When will we be able to invite friends over for dinner and share a hug? When will our preschool be able to open again? These days stuck inside feel endless, and I feel hopeless.

When I was young, I loved Christmas. Every year I would make a paper chain to count down the days until Christmas – sometimes starting with 50 days to go. I would tape the red and green links above my bed and every day I would rip one off, watching the chain get smaller as we inched toward Christmas morning.

I’ve been wishing that I could make a count-down chain now for this new situation.

But the problem is, we don’t know when this will end.

So I decided to make a quarantine count-up chain instead.

Every night at dinner (we’ve done it for three days so far), David and I take a strip of paper and write the date on one side. On the other side we write a few words or sentences about where we saw God today. You could write down one gratitude from your day, or one moment when you could sense God’s presence near you. A moment of hope.

You could talk with your family at the dinner table – have your kids think of times in the day when they saw God moving. Where did they see love today? Have kids who are too young to write color on the strips.

Then we have George color on the strip of paper and we add it to our count-up chain, which hangs by our dinner table.

I’m trying to change my mindset – since I don’t know how long this will last, I can’t count down.

So now I’m slowly making a count-up chain which, when all of this is over, I will be able to look back on and physically see how God was present in all of this chaos and fear.

If you make your own quarantine count-up chain, take a picture of it and send it to me! I’d love to see how you’re marking the days.

How Quickly Things Change

If this was a normal Thursday morning, I would be meeting with the St. Andrew’s staff. I would be getting ready to do chapel for fifty preschoolers in the sanctuary. I would be going out to meet someone for coffee. I would be standing at the door to our preschool at pick up, greeting families.

Instead, I’m sitting at home, looking out my window, and feeling a slight whiplash.

Things have changed so drastically, so quickly. In a matter of days, everything I took for granted about my life has been turned upside down.

And I’m aware of my privilege in this moment – that I have a job I can do from home, that I have a home to isolate in, that my home has food in the pantry, that I can step outside and breathe fresh air.

How has your life changed this week? I’m right in the middle of the grief of it all – the loss of community on Sundays, missing hugs from preschoolers, wishing I could go out to eat with my friends.

This moment in our lives is forcing us to express our faith in new ways. When we can’t go to church on Sundays, how do we connect? How do we pray? How do we teach our children without Sunday school?

Let’s start small. At bedtime tonight (whether you have small children or not), consider these questions. If you live alone, write your answers down in a journal or call a friend and talk about them over the phone.

During your bedtime routine, invite your children into a time of reflection about their day, maybe by saying, “Did you know that God really wants to know what happened in your day today, and that God is always listening whenever you need to tell God something?” Then continue with these questions:

1) What are some things that happened today that you want to tell God about?

2) What is one happy thing that happened today? What is one sad thing that happened today?

3) Did you see God or feel God with you when those things were happening? Where did you see or feel God when those things happened today?

4) What are some things that you want to tell God that you are grateful for today?

Wash Your Hands

This Lent at St. Andrew’s we are gathering on Wednesday nights to discuss a video series about symbols in our lives of faith.

Last night, the symbol for the week was water.

Watch the video here:

How are you adrift? What keeps you afloat?

At the end of the video, the viewer is invited to take on this contemplative practice for the week:

This week, when you wash your hands, notice the water, really feel the water as it flows over your hands.

The creators of this series had no way of knowing that this week would line up with a global health crisis. Right now, everywhere I turn someone is reminding me to wash my hands.

The invitation in this video helped me think differently about how to react in this time of fear, panic, and uncertainty.

What if every time you read or heard a reminder to wash your hands, you used that as an opportunity to remember your baptism?

What if every time you turned back to the sink for those 20 seconds, you took a breath and reminded yourself of your baptismal identity, as a child of God?

This article by Kara K. Root points out that it takes 20 seconds to say the Lord’s Prayer once: https://faithandleadership.com/kara-k-root-20-second-gift-washing-your-hands

Every time you wash your hands, pay attention to the water, to how it feels as it moves over your skin. Pay attention to your thoughts – are you restless, impatient, panicked, unsettled? Bring awareness to that feeling. Maybe say the Lord’s Prayer. Remember that you have been united with Christ in your baptism.

How might this change the way we respond to our current health crisis? If every time we wash our hands we remember the most vulnerable among us; if each piece of news about empty store shelves reminded us of those who have no extra food, or no homes to bring it home to; if we ask ourselves – where is Jesus in all of this?

Humbled, Surprised

This week was Ash Wednesday, the first day of the ancient Christian season of Lent.

I spent a few hours at the Pacific Beach boardwalk with others from St. Andrew’s and PB Methodist Church.

We called out to anyone walking by – “today is Ash Wednesday, if you would like ashes or prayers!”

It was awkward, and uncomfortable – even for me, the biggest extrovert ever.

What struck me was that every time someone heard us and said yes, I was surprised.

Some people stopped and asked us about Ash Wednesday. Some had never heard of the tradition. Some were part of a church community but weren’t going to make it to church that day.

Whoever they were, I was surprised every time.

I want to keep putting myself in places where God surprises me.

Here is the list of prayer requests I wrote down from those interactions at the beach. Join me in praying for these folks today:

Tony – to get closer to God
Mary – her grant writing project
Jamar
Glen – he had a date Wednesday night and a job interview Thursday morning
John
Jake
For one struggling with addiction
For a friend
Roman and Stefan – for clarity
Teresa
Christina
Ben
Esperanza and her children
Lisa
Lucy
Sofia
Sunshine (he wanted a star on his forehead, so I drew one with the ashes and said: “Remember that you are stardust, and to stardust you shall return.”)
Josefina
John and Mary
Brooks

When have you been surprised by God?

Water

Baby George playing in the water,
reminding me that faith can be as simple as this.

I used to think that faith had to be complicated.

I thought there was a specific way I should pray, a special formula of prayers and beliefs and commitments that God wanted from me.

I wasn’t sure what the formula was, but I was pretty sure everyone else had it but me.

But I’ve come to believe that faith doesn’t have to be complicated. It doesn’t have to look perfect, it doesn’t even have to feel perfect.

It’s a simple as dipping my hands in water, touching my fingers to my forehead, my chest, my left shoulder, my right shoulder.

As simple as making the sign of the cross, taking a breath, and remembering that God loves me.

Remembering that I am loved. That in my baptism I have been marked as Christ’s own forever.

This week, every time you touch water, take a moment to remember that water sustains all life; that in baptism you are buried with Christ and raised to new life; that the truth of God’s love is like water, coursing through our bodies, moving through the atmosphere, rushing across the face of the earth, renewing all living things.

As you dip the sponge into the soapy water to wash the dishes.

When the washer starts and the water pours out onto your dirty clothes.

When you wake in the night and reach for a glass of water.

Trace the sign of the cross on your body, and breathe.

It can be that simple.

My Favorite Prayer

This is another day, O Lord.  I know not what it will bring
forth, but make me ready, Lord, for whatever it may be.  If I
am to stand up, help me to stand bravely.  If I am to sit still,
help me to sit quietly.  If I am to lie low, help me to do it
patiently.  And if I am to do nothing, let me do it gallantly. 
Make these words more than words, and give me the Spirit
of Jesus.  Amen.

This prayer is from the Book of Common Prayer, page 461.

I love it. It’s my favorite prayer.

It fits where I am almost every day.

It validates whatever kind of day I’m going to have.

It doesn’t value the day based on how productive I am, or how much I get done, or even how good I will be.

It reminds me that every day, all God asks of me is to show up. In big moments, in little moments, in quiet moments, in bored moments.

Also, I love how it ends. I love to end all my prayers with: “and give me the spirit of Jesus.”

Does this prayer resonate with you today? Do you have a favorite prayer?

Real Life Morning Prayer

This is what my real-life Morning Prayer practice looks like. It’s messy, I get interrupted, and it’s not very quiet. But I’ve committed to saying Morning Prayer each day, no matter what.

I’ve always struggled to have a consistent, daily prayer practice. I’ve always yearned for the consistency of a daily practice, but never could quite find what that daily practice would be.

In the past six months, I’ve finally found that saying Morning Prayer is my daily prayer practice.

My goal is to say Morning Prayer before noon each day, and I track the days I follow through by bubbling in a chart on my refrigerator.

Have you ever said Morning Prayer at home? You can say it by yourself, with your spouse or roommate, with your kids. I often say it as George, our 1 1/2 year old, eats breakfast. It usually takes me ten minutes.

If you have a Book of Common Prayer, Morning Prayer starts on page 79 with the confession. The book takes you through each section of the prayer, but if you aren’t used to using the book, I suggest using a website or app like Forward Day by Day, which puts all the readings and prayers together in an easy-to-follow format. Click here to read Morning Prayer for today, February 6, 2020.

There is an even simpler form of Morning Prayer in the BCP on page 137. You can also go to https://bcponline.org/, click “The Daily Office” on the left side of the page, then select “Daily Devotions for Individuals and Families.”

Saying Morning Prayer has become like breakfast – a necessary part to start my day. It gives me the spiritual nutrients I need to remind myself of my baptism, to reorient me to God’s love each new day.

As you can see in the photo above, my Morning Prayer practice isn’t very Instagram-worthy. It’s not photogenic, there’s no serene sunrise or quiet, peaceful moment. I usually fit it in between changing diapers, getting ready for work, and wrangling a toddler. It’s not perfect, but perfect isn’t the goal.

Do you have a daily prayer practice? What is it? What is your biggest challenge in committing to a daily prayer practice?