Monday, November 30, 2015

Advent daybook, 2: the years of our life are but toil and trouble

My Advent daybook for these 24 days of waiting. Join me, won't you? (see previous Advent daybook 2015 posts here)


Sisyphus, c.1870
Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones / Tate Gallery


Psalm 90: For all our days pass away under your wrath; we bring our years to an end like a sigh. The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty; yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away. 

{all readings for the day:  Psalm 90; Numbers 17:1-11; 2 Peter 3:1-18 }

Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


O Come, O Come, Emmanuel 
The Piano Guys

(Also, feel free to listen with me to my ever-evolving Advent playlist on Spotify.)



add greens throughout your home


(see all Advent daybook posts from 2014 here)

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Advent daybook, 1: stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near

My Advent daybook for these 24 days of waiting. Join me, won't you? 

(see all Advent daybook posts from 2014 here)



Luke 21:25-36: Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near. 

{all readings for the day: 

  • Jeremiah 33:14-16  • 
  • Psalm 25:1-10  • 
  • 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13  • 
  • Luke 21:25-36
  • }

    Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


    Lo, He Comes With Clouds Descending

    (Also, feel free to listen with me to my ever-evolving Advent playlist on Spotify.)

    light candles

    Advent calendar via Ambrosium


    Saturday, November 28, 2015

    Why we give new names to our kids on their 21st birthdays (also, Happy 22nd Birthday, Alexander!)

    photo credit: Grant & Deb Photographers

    Shortly before our oldest son turned 21, we considered a way to celebrate the rite of passage this particular age represents in our culture. We considered all the ways that we, his parents, had grown and changed within his lifetime. (Since we were basically children ourselves when he was born, there was a significant amount of learning to be done!)

    One especially important realization was that we'd wished we had an opportunity to name our children in the custom of those in the Roman Catholic church, upon a child's confirmation. The years had helped us recognize how much we relied on our relationship with the Church across space and time to help us parent -- the community we worship with each week and the legacy of the Christians who have come before us. 

    We wanted very much to hand our children that truth in the sort of way that it would become attached to them forever and ever, amen

    With Andrew, we chose the name Patrick - making him Andrew Brian Patrick Murphy. We hoped to reflect the Irish heritage on both sides of our family, as well as affirm the deeply-formed qualities of humility, courage, mercy and integrity embodied in both the saint and in our son during our 21 years of knowing him. (We couldn't have known that we'd also given him great material for future stand-up jokes in which he likens his name to four Irish guys getting thrown out of a pub. Well, we do what we can.)

    Alex with his great-grandfather and namesake Lester Morgan

    Last year, our second son, Alex, turned 21. We'd spent the previous year considering the perfect name to gift him. We invited input from others who knew and loved him. When we finally decided, we recognized that the totality of his name was rather weighty, and yet barely sufficient for what we wanted to affirm: a love and aptitude for music, theology, justice and the Church.

    We chose the name Gregory, making Alex's new official name :  Alexander Morgan Gregory Murphy 

    There are many saints named Gregory, and we're pointing Alex toward the life of Pope Saint Gregory I. I've included some of his biography in the next section, but want to share a story, first, of another saint who inspires this name. 

    May Stage Gregory

    Seymour and May Gregory were a childless couple who lived in a poor, rural area in New York's upstate farmland. Seymour drove a milk truck and May cared for their small farm. My great-grandfather (Alex's great-great) met them as a travelling tax collector. Somehow -- we're not really sure how the decision was made -- my great-grandfather asked this kind couple if they would allow his daughter -- my grandmother -- to live with them.

    The backstory to this request is that my great-grandmother died of scarlet fever by the time my grandmother was two years old. My grandmother lived with her widowed father and older sister, Helen, for a few of her childhood years until my great-grandfather remarried. Unfortunately, his new wife fit the role of the unloving step-mother stereotype and (we assume) forced her husband to make a decision between her and his two daughters.

    And, so it was that Seymour and May Gregory became my grandmother's new guardians. (Tragically, Seymour died shortly after this time when his milk truck was hit by a train.)  May Gregory and my grandmother lived a hardscrabble life keeping the farm and a whole assortment of odd jobs in order to make a living. 

    I'll never forget my grandmother's 80th birthday when her daughters (my mother, Alex's grandmother) asked Grandma to tell us the story again. We waited for her to show even the tiniest bit of sadness or anger. As an adult now, I realize that there must have been both sadness and anger, but I also believe my Grandma when she told us this story was actually happy because it was Grandma Gregory who introduced her to Jesus. In that care for an unwanted child and in that sacrificial love, the Gregorys changed the entire course of our family history.

    Grandma Gregory lived a long, dear life. She continued always to provide nurture and support to my grandmother and my mother -- especially after my grandfather (my mother's father) died young leaving my grandmother alone to raise 5 girls all by herself in yet another poor, rural town in upstate New York.

    For much of my growing-up years, I did not understand the weight of glory held in this family story. It had become too familiar to me. I want to change that for my children. Gregory is a name we never want to forget.


    Pope Saint Gregory I: You can read the Wikipedia summary here (I'm also paraphrasing from other sources).

    Saint Gregory came from a wealthy family, but as a young man sold his estates and founded seven monasteries. A few years later, Pope Benedict I ordained Gregory a deacon of Rome, and sent him to Constantinople as ambassador. (A footnote: Alex has developed a love for Turkey after studying there last spring).

    Gregory was reluctant to take the office of Pope, but became so influential he became one of only 2 popes known as "the Great". He is also one of the "Four Latin Doctors" of the Church -- sending his friend and fellow monk, Augustine, on mission to the British Isles, directly influencing the birth of Western Christianity on a continent full of warring nations and pagan religions.

    Gregory the Great is considered a saint in the Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Church, Anglican Communion, and some Lutheran churches.The Protestant reformer John Calvin admired Gregory and declared in his Institutes that Gregory was the "last good pope". Throughout the Middle Ages he was known as “the Father of Christian Worship” because of his exceptional efforts in revising the Roman worship of his day, including the form of plainsong which simplified and codified music, now known as "Gregorian chant". This music-loving pope influenced Western worship. He is the patron saint of musicians, singers, students, and teachers.

    For all of these reasons (and no belief that Grandma Gregory, Pope Gregory or Alexander Morgan Gregory are without brokenness and flaws), we've chosen to give the name Gregory to our son Alex on his 21st birthday.

    November 30, 2014: Sharing drinks and new names upon Alex's 21st birthday

    Collect for Feast of Saint Gregory:

    Almighty and merciful God, you raised up Gregory of Rome to be a servant of the servants of God, and inspired him to send missionaries to preach the Gospel to the English people: Preserve in your Church the catholic and apostolic faith they taught, that your people, being fruitful in every good work, may receive the crown of glory that never fades away; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

    As is my nature, I felt the need to mark the occasion his 22nd birthday with a photo slideshow of Alex through the years.  For the soundtrack I chose a song that I believe Alex himself sings better than any of the recordings I could find.  Jason Mraz and Willie Nelson and Kermit the Frog are all OK, but Alex and his banjo really do it best.  This will have to do, I guess.

    Alex turns 22 by Slidely Slideshow

    Thursday, November 26, 2015

    {pretty, happy, funny, real} in a season of abundant celebrations, part 1

    | a weekly capturing of contentment in everyday life | 

    | pretty, happy, funny & real in words|
    The past two weeks were full to overflowing with people to see and things to celebrate. There were the big moments: Brian's ordination and Natalie's confirmation, our 25th wedding anniversary.  There were also many small moments of little, unspoken dreams realized.  I told my daughters last weekend: "At times like this, I feel like God has seen me."  And, of course, God always sees me so I don't mean that word, exactly.  More like, He's heard my spoken and unspoken heart desires -- ones I didn't even know to express -- and tapped me on the shoulder with sweet gifts.  

    Mixed into the peaceful moments and celebration moments, we grieved with the rest of the world new acts of terror.  I do not know why, but the specific issue of the Syrian refugee crisis has consumed my attention ever since our governor wrote a letter a couple weeks ago, demanding that President Obama halt the acceptance of any new Syrian refugees.  It's not a new concern for me, but the combination of what seemed a cold-hearted response with a lot of anti-Muslim and anti-refugee rhetoric used by self-identified Christians just about laid me flat.  

    I'm grateful to find my writing voice to articulate a tiny portion of what I was thinking and feeling.  Throughout the weeks, I've teetered near and over the line, occasionally, of charity as I've interacted with my online community.  For that I am truly sorry and I humbly repent, and ask your forgiveness.  

    I missed posting on Christ the King Sunday, which is one of my absolute favorite days on the liturgical calendar.  You can see what I've posted in the past here: Meditations for Christ the King Sunday. May I also recommend a sermon Brian preached on that day last year:  Embracing the Authority of Christ the King

    I probably remembered somewhat unconsciously the prayers for Christ the King Sunday (for isn't that part of the deep magic of a formative liturgy?), but after a week of angst and anger and a sense of desperation that my friends who identify as in allegiance to Christ as King, I found myself rescued by the Scripture and prayers and songs of bowing to the authority of One who is for all peoples.  

    Before photos, let me share a few bits of the Christ the King liturgy.

    [from Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14]

    "...behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed."

    [from Psalm 93]
    "The LORD is King; he has put on splendid apparel;...He has made the whole world so sure that it cannot be moved; Ever since the world began, your throne has been established; you are from everlasting."

    [from Revelation 1:4b-8]
    "To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wait on account of him. Even so. Amen. 'I am the Alpha and the Omega,' says the Lord God, 'who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.' "

    [from John 18:33-37]
    "Then Pilate said to him, 'So you are a king?' Jesus answered, 'You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world - to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who of the truth listens to my voice.' "

    [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 few photos to practice contentment the past 2 weeks

    | pretty, happy, funny & real in pictures|

    (most of these photos were taken by my co-workers!)

    VoLINteers at Community First! Village
    It was kind of a dream come true to spend a morning volunteering with a couple dozen of my co-workers at this innovative and contagiously hopeful 27-acre master planned community to give the Austin's chronically homeless a place to call home.  I really can't describe the ingenious creative spirit infusing each component of the newly-built neighborhood: the garden, the fish pond, the micro-houses, the soap making and blacksmithing and olive tree orchard and more.  The work we did together was pretty minimal compared to the amount of time and energy already lavishly spent for this place.  Anyway, go to the website to learn more.  Hopefully this sort of work will spring up all over the country.  I'm just really glad for the chance to work with my office mates for such a worthy cause. 

    | Ordination |


    In some ways you could say that Brian's been looking forward to this day his whole life, only he didn't know it until about the last five years.  Either way, I don't remember being more happy with or for my husband than we felt during the service of his ordination into the Transitional Diaconate of the Anglican Church (transitioning for the next six months until his ordination into the Priesthood). There's so much more to say about this service and what it means for us.  Hopefully I'll do that soon, but in the meantime, here's a few of the prayers and words from the liturgy:

    [The Bishop addresses the ordinands as follows]
    My brothers and sisters, every Christian is called to follow Jesus Christ, serving God the Father, through the power of the Holy Spirit. God now calls you to a special ministry of servanthood directly under your bishop. In the name of Jesus Christ, you are to serve all people, particularly the poor, the weak, the sick, and the lonely. 
    As deacons in the Church, you are to study the Holy Scriptures, to seek nourishment from them, and to model your life upon them. You are to make Christ and his redemptive love known, by your word and example, to those among whom you live, and work, and worship. You are to interpret to the Church the needs, concerns, and hopes of the world. You are to assist the bishop and priests in public worship and in the ministration of God's Word and Sacraments, and you are to carry out other duties assigned to you from time to time. At all times your life and teaching are to show Christ's people that in serving the helpless, they are serving Christ himself. 
    I can not think of a better hymn to close the service: 

    Lord, Whose Love Through Humble Service 
    w: Albert F. Bayly, 1901
    m: Nettleton, 1813 (tune of "Come, Thou Fount")

    Lord, whose love through humble service bore the weight of human need
    Who upon the cross, forsaken, offered mercy's perfect deed 
    we, Your servants, bring the worship not of voice alone, 
    but heart consecrating to Your purpose every gift that you impart

    Still Your children wander homeless, still the hungry cry for bread
    Still the captives long for freedom, still in grief we mourn our dead
    As O Lord, Your deep compassion, healed the sick and freed the soul 
    by Your Spirit send Your power to our world to make it whole.

    As we worship, grant us vision, till Your love's revealing light 
    in its height and depth and greatness dawns upon our quickened sight
    making known the needs and burdens, Your compassion bids us bear 
    sitting us to ardent service, Your abundant life to share

    Called by worship to Your service, forth in your dear name we go
    to the child, the youth, the aged, love in living deeds to show
    hope and health, good will and comfort, counsel, aid, and peace we give 
    that Your servants, Lord, in freedom may Your mercy know and live.

    | Confirmation |


    Natalie's Confirmation
    What a joy to celebrate Brian's ordination and Natalie's confirmation in the same weekend.  A few years ago, when Brian, Kendra and I were confirmed, I wrote this post: Becoming Anglican.  Natalie was blessed to be part of the first Catachesis class at Christ Church (led beautifully by the dear Sarah Smith).  What a gift to have our community join us in training Natalie in the truths of Scripture and the traditions of the Church. 

    [The Prayer for Confirmation]
    Defend, O Lord, this your servant Natalie with your heavenly grace, that she may continue yours for ever, and daily increase in your Holy Spirit more and more until she comes into the fullness of your everlasting kingdom. Amen. 
    Strengthen, O Lord, your servant Natalie with your Holy Spirit; empower her for your service; and sustain her all the days of her life. Amen. 

    | 25th Wedding Anniversary |

    Anniversary Celebration
    We're still celebrating this, actually, as our kids are throwing us a little party on Saturday.  In the meantime, here's a couple photos from the day.  We spent a lovely get away in Fredricksburg, TX.  A sweet woman gave us a wine gift card for Brian's graduation in May.  We saved it for just the right time, to purchase a better wine than we've ever been able to purchase. Guess what? Good wine is even better than cheap wine!  We also tracked down some red velvet cakes to make up for missing out the deliciousness served at our actual wedding 25 years ago.

    And I've wanted to write something profound here on the blog about being married and staying married.  Hopefully, I still will.  In the meantime -- all disclaimers aside about real reasons for not staying married - might I just say the best advice I can give you is to just keep going?  Learn well, seek healing, give forgiveness, be in community, let the Gospel save you, yes.  All of those things, but really just stay together.  You'll be so glad you did.  

    I'm realizing that there are some simply good things I never could have learned any other way than just staying married day in and day out for a long time.  Not profound, not usually easy, but so worth it.  I imagine I'll be saying the same thing after another 25 years.

    Enjoy your Thanksgiving feasts today, friends.  We have even more celebrating ahead - Thanksgiving, a wedding shower, more anniversary feasting, Alex's birthday and the beginning of Advent -- all before Monday!  More pics and stories to come.

    May you know well today every good and perfect gift that comes down from the Father of lights.  Peace, friends.

    Have YOU captured any contentment this week? 
     I'd love to hear about it!

    | Join in at P,H,F,R to see other wonderful people practicing contentment. |

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