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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…

IMG_20160327_080249125

this guy is ready for Easter worship…

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

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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.

 

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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

 

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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.

 

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Legacy

Two years ago last week, my Grandma Leone passed away. She was a woman of incredible faith. She was a voracious reader. She was a prayer warrior. She was lots of fun. She always had Nutty Bars at her house when we came to visit. I loved being around her and looked up to her my entire life. 

I’ve been thinking a lot about my grandma the past few days. One of her deepest desires was for her kids and grand-kids come to know Jesus Christ the way she knew him. As Lord of her life. As a constant companion and guide. As her Savior. She prayed… and she flooded us with an abundance of Christian books, movies and tapes that became the narrative and soundtrack of my childhood. Some people can quote lines from movies and are well versed in the pop music of their childhood. I am clueless about that stuff, but play the opening song from  Adventures in Odyssey and I am right there with you.

At some point, my grandma sent us a copy of GT and the Halo Express. Anyone else remember this? It’s a story of a quarreling brother and sister who are visited by angels who help them learn how to get along. Along the way, there are a bunch of Bible verses set to music. The theme song tells listeners that “memorizing can be fun!” This tape was probably purchased by lots of parents and grandparents who hoped the little people in their lives would hear and believe. And it totally worked on me. I loved this tape. I remember listening to it on my Walkman in the back of the van on family trips. I knew every word of the story and the songs.

I thought about GT last week as I was thinking about Grandma Leone and decided to look for it. It is still around, and I found it right away on YouTube. Take a listen here if you’re looking for some late 80s Christian entertainment. I still remember every single word and it was an instant hit with my kids. I was grooving along to the cheesy rendition of John 3:16… For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son that whoever believes in him shall no perish but have eternal life… Suddenly, my 4 year old stopped dancing and exclaimed “I believe in him!” She told me she wanted Jesus to live in her heart. 

Later that night, my husband and I prayed with her and she did the very thing my grandma, my parents, my husband and I had been praying about since before she was born. She asked Jesus into her heart. It was such a simple and beautiful moment that caught me by surprise. I can’t help but think of my Grandma Leone’s legacy. Of her prayers for her family. Of the tapes and books she sent to us hoping we would hear or read something that would stick. Of her life of faith that continues to impact generations who will never know her.

Grandma and Raya Praise meeting for the first time.

My grandma understood something that I am only beginning to realize. I spend so much time on things that have no eternal significance. But leaving a legacy of faith for my children, for their children, for their children’s children is something that will live on long after I am gone.

Below is a link to an arrangement of a hymn my cousin Sarah and I sang at her funeral. We miss you, Grandma Leone!



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Palm Sunday: Ride On, Ride On in Majesty

Text: Henry H. Milman, 1827

Tune: CHICKAHOMINY, Henry B. Hays, 1981
From Psalter Hymnal, 1987

Click here to listen:



As a child I loved Palm Sunday morning. All the Sunday School kids would proudly march down the aisles of our church, waving branches and singing a song with Hosanna! as one of the lyrics. I always thought Palm Sunday was a celebration – and it is. But it marks the beginning of one of the most dramatic weeks in human history that I was not able to understand when I was waving palm branches as a kid.


This Sunday’s hymn captures the irony of Palm Sunday. The people are joyfully hailing the King that they will crucify less than a week later. Luke’s account of Jesus entering Jerusalem says that the people “began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen: ‘Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!’ ‘Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!'” Luke 19:37b-38.


Jesus is the King of Kings. He was welcomed into Jerusalem as a king, but he never ruled from an earthly throne. The hymn says he came in lowly pomp. He rode into Jerusalem in a parade of praise, but he knew he had come to Jerusalem to die. Christ first bows his head and submits to the cross before he takes his seat at the right hand of God to reign as King. The adoring crowds did not anticipate this type of king when they were waving the branches and shouting. And only days later, the crowds were not shouting “Hosanna” but “Crucify.” How quickly we change our tune when things don’t turn out the way we hoped they would.

I didn’t really understand Palm Sunday as a child, but I realize that I don’t really fully understand it as an adult. The King of Kings chose to finish his time on earth in such an unexpected way. It was unexpected from the triumphal entry into Jerusalem that we celebrate today, to the washing of his disciples’ feet that we commemorate on Maundy Thursday, to his death and apparent defeat on Friday. And then his unexpected resurrection from the tomb on Easter day. I pray that the Holy Spirit can open our eyes to the mystery and the irony of the humble, meek Savior bowing his head to die for our sins, and prepare us for the week ahead as we commemorate his passion and resurrection.


Ride on, ride on in majesty 
as all the crowds “Hosanna!” cry; 
through waving branches slowly ride, 
O Savior, to be crucified. 
Ride on, ride on in majesty, 
in lowly pomp ride on to die; 
O Christ, your triumph now begin 
o’er captive death and conquered sin! 
Ride on, ride on in majesty, 
the last and fiercest foe defy; 
the Father on his sapphire throne 
awaits his own anointed Son. 
Ride on, ride on in majesty, 
in lowly pomp ride on to die; 
bow your meek head to mortal pain, 
then take, O God, your power and reign! 

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Here is Love, Vast as the Ocean

  

I took my daughter to Dollar Tree this week to buy some treats for her preschool Valentine’s Day party. I found exactly what I was looking for – an entire display full of pink and red junk. Pink teddy bears holding hearts that said “hugs and kisses.” Silk roses that had messages like “Be Mine” and “Love Always.” Heart-shaped suckers and chocolate in shiny pink foil wrappers. Balloons, cards, light-up necklaces, napkins, paper plates. All for only one dollar each. I waded through the merchandise to pick out just the right sugary treat to include in my daughter’s Minnie Mouse valentines for her classmates. I also scanned the shelves for something that wouldn’t break the Henkle’s frugal February budget, but would be fun for the kids and the husband to receive from me on the day celebrating love. I couldn’t help but think there must be a better way to communicate my love than a junky item from the Dollar Tree… 
So, on this Valentine’s Day weekend, I give you a hymn that was once known as the love song of the 1904 Welsh Revival. Over 100,000 people in the tiny country Wales were transformed by the overwhelming love of God. Evidence of the people’s encounter with God showed up everywhere. Crime was so drastically reduced that police were unemployed. Judges had no cases to try. Bars and taverns went bankrupt. And the tidal wave of revival did not stop in this small country, but spread all over the world. 
Unlike my Valentine’s Day shopping this year God’s is not frugal. God’s love is a vast ocean. A deep and wide fountain. An incessant river of grace and love. The truth is, my daughter will be thrilled to get her pink wand and butterfly wings on Valentine’s Day. I know my gift will make her happy. And the best part is, it only set me back two dollars. But God is not just out to make us happy. He wants to make us holy and whole. His love can and does transform lives, families, communities, states, nations. As I celebrate the people I love, I look to God who is love. May you experience his vast, deep, transforming love this Valentine’s Day.
Here is love, vast as the ocean, lovingkindness as the flood
When the Prince of Life, our ransom, shed for us his precious blood
Who his love will not remember? Who can cease to sing his praise
He can never be forgotten throughout heaven’s eternal days.
On the mount of crucifixion, fountains opened deep and wide
Through the floodgates of God’s mercy flowed a vast and gracious tide
Grace and love, like mighty rivers, poured incessant from abouve
And heaven’s peace and perfect justice kissed a guilty world in love.
Let me all thy love accepting, love thee ever, all my days
Let me seek thy kingdom only and my life be to thy praise
Thou alone shalt be my glory, nothing in the world I see
Thou hast cleansed and sanctified me, thou thyself has set me free.
In thy truth thou dost direct me, by the Spirit, through thy word
And thy grace my need is meeting, as I trust in thee, my Lord
Of thy fullness thou art pouring thy great love and power on me
Without measure, full and boundless, drawing out my heart to thee.

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