Creator of the Stars of Night

No matter what we end up doing during this season leading up to Christmas, we’ve been trying to focus on Jesus and focus on being together as a family. Full disclosure, though… Raya and I were trying to make a video last night which ended in tears. Her – not me… And while we were trying to make another video today, Mikaiah came running into the room with pants around his ankles yelling “I have to go potty!” Couldn’t really use that take! More honesty… I never did find my Jesse Tree ornaments, so I printed some during the week. My bright idea this morning was to have the kids color them. I think Mikaiah and Shiloh each scribbled on one, Raya did about 5 or 6, and I colored the rest. In my impatience, I just finished the job for them. Ha! It’s the season of waiting and I can’t even let the kids color at their own pace. Or (heaven forbid) just let them get stuck on the tree without being colored. So here’s what our tree looks like today.

Our Jesse Tree after Advent week 1

It hasn’t been smooth, and sometimes I feel like I’m dragging everyone through these Advent rituals. But I’ve learned a few things over the years. The devotion we’re using this year is nice and short and in language that all three kids can understand. The boys can sit through the whole thing and have loved finding the Bible stories in their Jesus Storybook Bible to go along with each reading. Progress if you ask me. And something else I’ve learned about traditions – if we don’t fight for them, they get forgotten and cast aside in favor of whatever needs to get done each day. My kids don’t need any help remembering Santa or their Christmas lists. Reminders about that are everywhere. But helping them discover the Savior is something that’s worth making time for. It’s never perfect, but we’re doing our best and having fun in the process.

Raya has been learning piano this year and she loves to sing, so we have been playing around with an Advent hymn called “Creator of the Stars of Night.” It’s new to me, but the words are from a Latin Hymn from the 9th century. I added a new melody  We’ve had so much fun with it I thought we would capture it and share here. Enjoy!

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Awake and Hearken

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Look closely under the tree and you’ll see my girl – up impossibly early today and eagerly waiting for Christmas!

When I was growing up, I looked forward to this time of year. There were banners for the different seasons of the church calendar hanging around the sanctuary of my home church. I remember a thrill of excitement on the first Sunday of Advent when a little spotlight above the Advent banner was lit, and the Advent wreath was placed at the front of the sanctuary. But somehow even though each Sunday brought us closer to Christmas, the wait seemed impossibly slow. The season was filled with treats, parties, gatherings, church pageants and school concerts, but for me, it was mostly about the presents on Christmas morning.

I think I’ve always understood Advent as a time of waiting – which made total sense when I was waiting for my presents. But it has to be about more than that, I suppose. What exactly are we waiting for anyway?

I’ve been reading the book Advent: The Once and Future Coming of Jesus Christ” by Fleming Rutledge. She explains is that Advent is unique in the church year because of its orientation toward the future. We’re waiting for something that hasn’t happened yet – the second coming of Christ.

Here’s a quote from Rutledge’s book that I loved

“In a very real sense, the Christian community lives in Advent all the time. It can well be called the Time Between, because the people of God live in the time between the first coming of Christ, incognito in the stable in Bethlehem, and his second coming, in glory, to judge the living and the dead.” (Advent p.7)

A few years ago I spent some time arranging and singing a hymn called “On Jordan’s Bank the Baptist’s Cry.” There’s one line that is sticking out to me as we begin Advent this year: “awake and hearken for he brings glad tidings of the King of Kings.” I want to spend the next few weeks awake – with my eyes and ears open. I talked yesterday about some our Advent traditions – the Advent wreath and the Jesse Tree. Those are some practices that I’m hoping will help me stay awake and alert to what God is doing around me. These hymns are another thing that help me.

Here’s an arrangement of “On Jordan’s Bank” that I recorded a few years ago. (Pardon the quality… I’m definitely not a pro with anything technology related!) I added the refrain – “prepare our hearts, O God” as a prayer that God would open my eyes and ears to the ways he’s working all around me. As you listen, you can make it your prayer as well. Does anything stand out to you in this hymn?

Here are the lyrics if you want to follow along:

On Jordan’s bank the Baptist’s cry announces that the Lord is nigh.
Awake and hearken, for he brings glad tidings of the King of kings!
The cleansed be every life from sin: make straight the way for God within
and let us all our hearts prepare for Christ to come and enter there.
We hail you as our Savior, Lord, our refuge and our great reward.
Without your grace we waste away like flowers that wither and decay.
Stretch forth your hand, our health restore, and make us rise to fall no more.
O let your face upon us shine and fill the world with love divine.
All praise to you, eternal Son, whose advent has our freedom won,
whom with the Father we adore, and Holy Spirit, evermore.

Advent 2018

Happy December! I used to blog. I enjoyed having a place to put ideas and thoughts. I started when I had one kid. She was little. She took a couple naps a day. I would sit and think and sing and record songs and post them. Then I had another kid. I still posted now and then when the house was quiet and I had thoughts I wanted to share. Then I had a third kid. Somehow the house hasn’t been quiet and I’ve had very few thoughts that were worth sharing…

It has been close to 3 years, but I’m thinking I might dust off this old blog and post a few things for Advent. Don’t get your hopes up… I’m notorious for starting with a bang and then losing interest, forgetting what I’ve started and then moving on to the next project. I’m not going to make any promises, but I’m going to get in and start writing and see what happens.

The idea for this blog began with my collection of hymnals. I’ve gathered and read and sung from these books for years. I used to have them all organized on a shelf. Now my 3 and 4 year old boys call them their “Magic Books.” They like to empty the shelves, make stacks of books, and take all around the house, pretending to read their magic spells out of them. They were playing Magic Books the other day and here’s how I found them…

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Lots of magic going on that day. Needless to say, these boys have found some additional creative ways to use my collection. I have much less time to look at the hymnals since I’m usually trying to keep up and pick up after these little people! I’m still hoping to post some new Advent hymns this season, though. I’ve been having fun singing and arranging some songs I’ve come across the last few weeks.

At the Henkle house, one way we like to observe Advent is with an Advent wreath. We light one candle each week and read a prayer from the Book of Common Prayer. I’m not finished with it yet, but here’s the homemade version we’re using this year…

img_20181201_195011612We also use the Jesse Tree with a daily devotional and some little ornaments the kids can put up each day. I’m fairly new at using a Jesse Tree, so I’ve learned a lot from various websites including this one. At the moment I can’t actually find the ornaments, so I’ll have to do some digging or print some more. You can use a branch, a little Christmas tree, or anything that resembles a branch or a tree. I cut ours out of felt and taped it to the wall in the kitchen.

The last thing I like to do is play and sing through Advent and Christmas hymns. I love discovering new ones and remembering old favorites. This is such a busy season and I’m a disorganized person. Putting these rhythms and rituals in place helps me make sure my family and I check in with what the season is all about. It’s a moving target. We don’t make time to do all of this stuff every day, and everything looks about as good as it will look all season since I just put it out today. Things don’t stay nice and neat for long around here! So my plan is to post some of our Advent adventures here. Feel free to join us. What do you do for Advent? I’d love to hear some of your traditions or ideas!

He is Risen!

The truth that

Jesus is alive!

is helping me put things in perspective this morning. Anyone else find it next to impossible to make it church this morning with everyone dressed, fed and looking springy and cute? I think the kids have a sugar hangover from yesterday…

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this guy is ready for Easter worship…

Here is a new take on an Easter classic to help you celebrate!

Family Lent in Real Life…

About 5 weeks ago, I set out to observe Lent as a family. I had the following Lenten to-do list:

  • read weekly prayers as a family
  • put a candle on a bulletin board after reading the prayer
  • post on the blog
  • pray every morning as a family at breakfast
  • fast from buying toys
  • donate some toys and clothes
  • record and post some new Lenten hymns

Let’s just say we barely accomplished anything on that list. The few Lenten prayers I did read were usually me shouting over a cacophony of whining kids and baby squeals. I’m sure they had no idea what I was talking about. We did fill a baby bottle with change for a local crisis pregnancy center, but we did not manage to make it through the whole season without buying toys. I thought that would be the easy one. I don’t think we even once sat down together for breakfast, much less managed a family prayer during that time.  And nothing got posted on the blog. It wasn’t until last week that I realized the Lenten cross I made had 6 squares when it was supposed to have 7. We didn’t put a candle up last week and there wasn’t even a candle or a square for today.PicMonkey Collage.jpg

The best laid plans usually turn out about like this for me… half-finished and forgotten under piles of preschool crafts and kids drawings. Tonight we tried to make up for it by reading the story about Palm Sunday in the kids Bible, making some pathetic palm leaves out of construction paper and letting the kids run around the house with them saying, “hosanna!” I guess that was fun.

In my head, this family Lenten journey would have been building momentum the past 30-some days to a much anticipated and meaningful Holy Week. Fortunately, the rituals and readings and fasting and prayer are not the end in themselves, but means to the end of greater intimacy with Jesus. I’m not ready to abandon the rituals, but I also don’t want to be ruled by them. Real life happens, and God is just as present with our family whether we get around to reading our Lenten prayers or not. That’s good news for this tired mama tonight!

Tomorrow is Palm Sunday. One more week til Easter means I still have time to post a few Lenten hymns here on the blog. Click below to listen to a Palm Sunday hymn I recorded last year. I won’t make any promises, but I might try to get around to posting a some more stuff later in the week.

 

Love… Vast as the Ocean

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!  1 John 3:1a

Yesterday I was searching the pre-made Pandora stations for some Valentine’s Day music to play while we were making supper. There was the “Country Love Songs” station, the “Love Stinks” station, the “R&B Love Songs” station, the “Reggaeton Romantico” station (I have no idea what that means…). I decided on the “90s Love Songs” and soon the house was filled with the sounds of Boyz 2 Men, All 4 One, and Wilson Phillips. Takes me right back to Jr. High and High School. I love these love songs.

Today’s hymn is a love song of a different kind. Since the first Sunday of Lent falls on Valentine’s day this year, I thought of this hymn. I’m grateful today for the vast abundant love that Christ poured out on the cross.

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8

 

Henkle Family Ash Wednesday

My daughter is 4 and a half, and she loves Easter like many kids love Christmas. I’m not really sure why, but I suppose it has something to do with her love for bunnies and candy. She asks at least once a week all year long when Easter is coming. I am hoping to give her (and our whole family) a little more context for Easter this year as we observe Lent together. I’m kind of making it up as I go, but we started yesterday with Ash Wednesday.

Since our church didn’t do anything special for Ash Wednesday, we had our own Ash Wednesday service in our living room yesterday. We used the Book of Common Prayer as a guide and simplified or defined words as we went along. The kids especially liked getting the cross of ashes on their heads.

Ash Wednesday, simply put, is about being sorry for our sins. The ashes on our foreheads remind us of our frailty and mortality. As we read through the Ash Wednesday “Litany of Penitence,” Raya interrupted several times to ask questions. We did our best to explain that we are all sinners, and we need Jesus to forgive us. I am learning that explaining things like sin and forgiveness to a 4-year-old makes me understand it even more fully.

Traditionally, Lent is a time for prayer, fasting and almsgiving. As a family, we are going to keep it simple as we Pray, Fast and Give… We talked together about what we wanted to do and here’s what we came up with:

IMG_20160210_210625649Pray – we’re going to add a family prayer time at breakfast

Fast – Raya decided she would be willing to give up buying toys

Give – She also decided we would donate some toys and clothes. Her first idea was to give away her brother’s trucks. We’ll have to talk more about that one as we go! 🙂

This year for Lent, I’m hoping to post some Lenten hymns like I’ve done in the past. I’ll also keep you posted about what we come up to observe Lent as a family.