Book (Mine)

Holy Week 2015 | Monday: Cleaning House

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MON • MAR 30

Cleaning House

Read Matthew 21:12–14.

Then Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who were selling and buying in the temple, and he overturned the tables of he money changers and the seats of those who sold doves. (v. 12)

Then Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who were selling and buying in the temple, and he overturned the tables of he money changers and the seats of those who sold doves. (v. 12) On Monday Jesus clears out the temple. “You are making my father’s house into a den of robbers” he says. Jesus is angry in this passage, violent. There is no way to sugarcoat that reality. Jesus in the temple isn’t docile and gentle, patting the heads of children who sit lovingly on his knee. He’s mad. Furious, even.

As we start our journey of Holy Week, pastors and priests, contemplatives, and devotionals often call us to be quiet and reflective, to go inside and undercover. What if, instead, we got mad? What if we got angry this Holy Week about all that is wrong with the world? Jesus shows us what it means to have a holy fury (often softened into “a righteous indignation.”) When we hear about mass hunger and war and human rights violations in our world, a right response might be a holy fury. We have the right (and perhaps even the obligation) to turn over the tables when we read of the sale of children into sexual slavery, robbing them of any opportunity for a normal and happy childhood. We have the right (and perhaps even the obligation) to turn over the tables when our rivers and streams are full of trash or when hatred and oppression snuff out the voices of love and freedom.

Think differently about what it means to observe this Holy Week faithfully.Take some time to think about what makes you angry. Where is your holy fury? What tables need to be turned over?

God of joy and anger, thank you for reminding us that there is a time and a place for a holy fury in our lives. Help me to be angered by the things that anger you. Amen.

These Holy Week Posts were published in the Fellowship of Prayer 2015 published annually by Chalice Press. Check out some of Chalice’s recent (and amazing) offerings such as: Sandya Rani Jha’s Pre-Post Racial America,Brian Christopher Coulter’s Be Holy,  and Stephen Ingram’s Organic Student Ministry. Of course, my book Seamless Faith: Simple Practices for Daily Family Life is also published by Chalice Press in 2014.

5 Simple Spiritual Practices for Advent (for individuals or families)

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More and more, advent feels like lent to me: a time of darkness and waiting and preparation. The older I get, the less I am attracted to the hyperactive frenzy that our culture tries to impose on us during advent and Christmas. I’m starting to relish advent as a time to snuggle in, sit in the darkness and gaze at flickering lights. Though it doesn’t seem to be the image on TV, I think advent can be a time of shadows, of yearning, and of waiting. Here are 5 spiritual practices you might want to do this advent either by yourself or with your family or community. Give them a try!

1. Word a day creative challenge. (Photo challenge, art challenge, journal challenge). This one is easy. For each day in December (from the 1st to the 25th) meditate on a word and what God might be telling you through that word. Take a photo to represent it, paint or draw or create something. Do it together as a family, a community, or on your own. My congregation is doing this as a photo challenge this year and posting their photos online. I think I might do some paintings this year, too. Make up your own words, or use these:

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2. Gratitude paper chain – Make a paper chain throughout advent (use blue or purple pieces of paper for a liturgical connection or use the traditional green and red). Each day write one thing you are thankful for and put it on your chain. On Christmas morning, put the chain on your Christmas tree or hang it in your home.

3. Advent Poetry/Devotional Reading – Find a book of advent poems or readings and read one each evening in the darkness or in the early morning. Suggestions: Luci Shaw, Accompanied by Angels or the Anglican resource Love Came Down or Chalice Press’ lovely (and inexpensive!) Partners in Prayer. It’s not too late for any of these! They’re all available in e-formats, or get them by mail and just wait a few days to start.

4. Color Your Way Through Advent – Coloring pages. Coloring is not just for kids, you know. Check out these fantastic daily coloring pages produced by Ann Voskamp, author of Unwrapping the Greatest Gift.

5. Adopt an Advent “Fast” – We usually think of fasting as something that happens during lent. We “give up” something sometimes as a sacrifice or a symbol of repentance and returning to God. In the frenetic “more more more” of our culture during this season, it’s a great idea for people of faith to adopt a “less, less, less” approach. Fast from buying (what would that look like?) or fast from busyness. Perhaps you are able to give up one weekly (or daily) meeting during advent in order to listen to God’s voice and prepare for Christ to be born anew.

Happy Advent!

Like these? Check out my book Seamless Faith: Simple Practices for Daily Family Life which has ceremonies and traditions for families in addition to a variety of spiritual practices. Available at Chalice Press or Amazon.

Do Little Girls and Little Boys Need Different Bibles?

One of the things that I’m keenly aware of as a recently published author on spiritual practices for families is how I’m now part of the world of Christian marketing. As I’ve written about before, I believe only people can be described as Christian. I don’t believe there is such a thing as “Christian music” or “Christian books” or “Christian art.” There’s only music, books and art by and for Christian people. As much as marketers try and label everything from breath mints to financial services as “Christian,” what they’re trying to do is get Christian people to buy their products which may or may not be any better or different than products by so called “secular” retailers.

My desire to write and publish Seamless Faith: Simple Practices for Daily Family Life was born out of a desire that I think most Christian parents share: to connect with our children, pass on our values and provide meaningful ways to practice our faith together. Since its release, I’ve been interested in other books and products that I might be able to recommend to readers of Seamless Faith. I perked up whenever I find a new book, CD or game aimed at helping families practice their faith together. Enter the Little Girls Bible Storybook for Mothers and Daughters and the Little Boys Bible Storybook for Mothers and Sons:

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Suffice it to say, I have a few concerns about these products, but I’ll focus on the two most troubling:

First, in a world where every single product marketed to children is gender specific, it makes me cringe to see a Bible storybook following this trend. In the introduction to the Little Boys Bible Storybook, the author even explains that raising boys and girls are different and that the little boys storybook is more “rough and tumble” than the little girls Bible. I think this is extremely problematic thinking. While my boys may or may not be more active than their girl classmates and friends, the faith that I want to share with them is a faith where gentleness and kindness are of utmost importance. Similarly, I want the girls I minister to (I don’t have daughters) to know that they are free to be strong like Queen Esther and trailblazers like the Daughters of Zelophehad. Incidentally, the story about Queen Esther in the Little Girls Storybook Bible is “Esther Wins a Beauty Contest.” This fact made me simultaneously laugh out loud and and want to cry. What is the message we want to send our little girls?

The second problem I have with the Little Girls and Little Boys Storybook Bible is that both products are marketed to mothers only. Though I’m certain the authors would agree that fathers, grandparents, stepparents and other family members have an important role in sharing faith, the fact that the title of the work is “for mothers and sons” and “for mothers and daughters” implies that it’s the mother’s job to pass on these stories. I much prefer a model whereby the whole family is involved in sharing faith together, and I know many families do too.

For those looking for a great storybook bible for boys and girls, moms and dads (and everyone in between) I recommend

The Children of God Storybook Bible by Desmond Tutu.

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What do you think? Does the Little Girls Storybook Bible for Mothers and Daughters and the Little Boys Storybook Bible for Mothers and Sons serve a purpose, or are there some real problems here that need to be addressed? 

 

 

 

Traci Smith is author of Seamless Faith: Simple Practices for Daily Family Life which was published earlier this year by Chalice Press. You can sign up for her monthly email newsletter with practical faith tips for families here

Birthday Blessing: A Simple Tradition

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I can’t believe my little guys are two and three already! It really is true that the days are long and the years are short. In the book, I have a birthday tradition that is fabulous and it allows children to think about others on their birthday. This birthday blessing idea, though, is one of the things that ended up on the edit reel. Maybe I’ll but something like it if I do a second book, but I wanted to share it here in honor of Clayton and Sam’s second and third birthdays, respectively. It’s really simple. Just choose a time of the day and say this blessing (or your own variation) to your child. I think as the children grow older, we’ll tell them the remarkable stories of their births and then conclude with this blessing. It’s a simple way to remind your children how important they are and acknowledge the gifts God has given.

A Birthday Blessing 

________, Today you turned __ years old. I give thanks to God for another year of life and give you this blessing: May you always know that your mama and your papa love you. May you always know that your friends and family love you. May you always know that God and Jesus and the Spirit love you. This year, may you have peace in your heart, rest in your mind, and health in your body. May you have these things not only today, your birthday, but every day of your life. Amen.

 

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Seamless Faith Virtual Book Tour

All packed up and ready to take a trip around the internet!

All packed up and ready to take a trip around the internet!

Let me count the reasons I love the Internet… connection to people and friends around the world. All the time. Skype with grandma and grandpa nearly every day for my boys. Recipe finding.  And now, the most recent thing I love about the internet… the virtual book tour! That’s right, my book is going on a tour. I won’t be jetting in to various TV studios across the country, or sitting on John Stewart’s couch — (one day, my people… one day) but the book will be taking a “stop” on a variety of different blogs and websites.

As the posts go live, I’ll link up to them on the website (www.traci-smith.com) and on my twitter and FB pages, but I thought I’d post the whole schedule here so you can get ready! (Ok, truth, the main reason is just because I’m so darn excited about it. It’s true. I can’t wait.)

 

 

 

Virtual Book Tour 

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April 1 – Fidelia’s Sisters – Young Clergy Women Project
April 2 – Melvin Bray – (Traci Guest Post)
April 4 – Jerusalem Greer
April 5 – Saturday
April 6 – Sunday
April 7 – Open – Could be you? Seriously, get in touch if you want your blog here or on April 5 or 6. I’ll make sure you have a copy of SF to review.
April 8 – MaryAnn McKibben Dana (Q&A)
April 9 – Flame Creative Kids  (Guest Post)
April 13 – Sunday
April 14 – Dave Csinos 
April 16 – On The Way Home Blog

 

“Where’s my free copy?” “How much money are you making?” and other awkward questions… answered! (sorta)

 

 

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So… my book Seamless Faith: Simple Practices for Daily Family Life is done being printed and is now available for purchase and reading. I learned a lot in the writing and publishing process. More about that next week, but for now, I thought I’d answer a few questions here about some of the nitty gritty of this book since, well… you’re asking. Some of you are asking for real and some of you are asking in your head, so I thought I’d just answer you!

Can I have a free copy? Probably not. Nope. Sorry, no. This isn’t because I don’t want you to have a free copy, it’s because I don’t have any. I really don’t. Ok, that’s a lie, I have a few free copies. You know who gets them? People who created me (hi mom and dad!) or were subject to me kicking them under the table when we were kids and then lying about it (hi Scott!) and people who smell my morning breath (Hi Elias!) and then a few people who are listed in the acknowledgements of the book because they contributed significant sweat and blood or influence to the book. Then there a few people I begged to read it in advance so they could say nice things. They get one too. That takes up all the free copies! Darn! Wish I had a free copy for everyone, but I do not. One great thing about this, though: If you sign up for my newsletter you can get some free excerpts to see what all the hubabaloo is about and decide if you want to buy a copy for yourself or your church or your friends (because you will!)

Ok, so since you’re not giving me one, I’m going to buy one. Where should I buy it? Depends. If you’re local, you should buy it from me! No shipping fees AND I can sign it and put a smiley face in it. Otherwise, get it from Chalice Press or any other big online book place. You know the ones.

How much money are you making off of this book? I’m simultaneously making not enough money and too much money from this book. Not enough money because, really, when we consider the number of hours I spent writing, editing, marketing, discussing, obsessing, emailing and organizing this book, I would definitely be making more money by doing a variety of other things. On the other hand I wrote this book and wanted it published for one reason and one reason only: I want the ideas out there. You guys, I really believe in this book. I really believe that parents who think they don’t know anything about how to teach their faith to their children really know a lot. I think that by doing really simple things as a part of every day life, parents can create a world for their children where faith is natural and normal, and just… life. So for me, making any money at all is sort of “too much” because what I really want is the platform and the opportunity to distribute these ideas to parents and ministers and churches. I’m not discussing numbers on the blog because I don’t know if it’s fair to other authors to discuss specifics like that in such a public forum, but if you know me and you want to know, ask me and I will absolutely tell you.

Are you going on a book tour? Yes! Ok, so a virtual one. In the beginning of April, I’m sending it around on a few blogs where people will write about it and review it and excerpt it. If you think your blog (or a blog you know) is a good candidate, let me know and I’ll see if we can get it on there. 

Will you sign my book? YES! You buy it, I’ll sign it. I’ll even put a smiley face or a heart in it.

Is it a good book? Tell me the truth: It really, really is. When I wrote it it was a pretty good book and then a lot of really awesome people edited it and designed it and made it into a really good book.

How can I help you make the book a success? OK, peeps, you are my peeps, so I want to tell you a secret: I want you to review the book on Amazon.  I don’t want you to say you liked it if you didn’t, I want you to say what you really think about it. You know why? Because people read those things. You’re my friends and my family and people who know me and are going to be reading it first, so put a review up! Do it! Also mark the book as “to read” on your bookshelf for Good Reads, share it on Facebook and talk to your friends about it.

Thank you for sharing my joy! Yay!


Some thoughts on being a pastor and a mother — a reverend mother?

Reprinted from the church newsletter. Enjoy (if you can get past the giant run-on sentences!)

When I was interviewing for the position as pastor at Northwood, I was very pregnant with Samuel, and it was a phone interview. I was full of nerves when I considered what would happen when I got to the stage where the committee might want to meet me in person. I had already had one church write me a letter that said “If you weren’t pregnant, you would have gotten the job” (I’m serious! I have it in a file, and I’ll show you.) I wondered what the folks would think. When I said to the search committee “I’m expecting a baby” they all smiled broadly! One person said “That’s great!” It was a defining moment for me in the process. I thought to myself. I might be moving to Texas. There is something special about this group of people. I know it must have been a surprise to invite a pastor with a 14 month old and a 2 month old. It was definitely a risk. In my opinion, however, it’s a risk that will continue to pay off. I remember one of my first weeks here a little boy from the Day School was walking by and he came running in to play with Clayton and Samuel’s toys. “There are toys in that office!” he exclaimed, his eyes bright with hope and joy.  At that moment, I thought to myself “Yes, this is going to work!” While every day is not rosy and perfect and I get overly busy just as we all do, for the most part, I love the ways my two vocations: motherhood and ministry come together. I have a supportive partner in Elias who does his share of parenting and supports my career, and a loving congregation who is proud to watch two little ones grow up before their eyes. (Please ignore Clayton’s attempts to rip the cloth off the communion table last week!) In the past two years I’ve been also working on another project, publishing a book about ways parents can bring faith to their homes through simple practices. It’s called Seamless Faith because when we bring faith to our children’s lives, it should be woven in naturally as a part of every day life. It was not easy to write a book while being in full time ministry and parenting my boys. I wrote the book in 15-30 minute snippets before bed or early in the morning. One of the reasons I was able to do it, though, and to forego most other free and leisure time while I was writing it was because I am so passionate about this topic. As I watch Samuel and Clayton receive hugs and kisses from all of you on Sundays and hear them shout HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO JESUS! and say “Mama, Amen! Amen, mama!” my heart is full to overflowing. I want to do my part to make sure that families know that there are easy ways to bring faith into their lives. The book is going to the printer as I write this and will be available in about 8 weeks to hold in our hands and read! I can’t wait for you to see it, and see that you are acknowledged in the beginning pages for loving and supporting me and my family as your pastor.  I feel incredibly blessed.

With grace and peace,

Pastor Traci