May 2009

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“What I believe about Jesus could not be contained in a thousand books.  I believe in Jesus more than I believe in the pen with which I am writing these words.  I cannot, however, expect you to believe my beliefs.  Imagine you meet me in a cafe and I introduce you to a friend.  I say, “This is Jesus”.  I do not then give you a list of things you must believe about His family and a thick book to memorize before I let you speak to Him.  I don’t ask you to believe in Him – because you can see Him for yourself.  I ask you only to trust Him and to get to know Him.”    -Aidan Clarke

and another…

Faith is work

It is a struggle

You must struggle

with all your heart.

And on the way God

will ambush you.

-Walter Wangerin


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A couple of months ago our daughter memorized Psalm 136, which is wonderful but kind of “cheating” because every other phrase happens to be “His love endures forever”.  We are however proud of her hard work (and her heart that desires to memorize the Scriptures) and had asked her to recount the Psalm to us during one of our Sabbath breakfasts.  She did a great job of remembering it and we began to talk as a family about how it is a mini re-telling of two defining stories of Israel – creation and the Exodus.  We talked about how important it is at times to look back and see where God has been seen and what He did.  It gives us a strong footing for today and hope for the future.  At that point, I suggested we use the pattern of this Psalm to write (or re-write) a psalm about our family’s experience of God.

Fast forward a couple of days…I was bound and determined to get us on our way to writing our Psalm.  I had two kids who “had-nothing-to-do” so I told them to get pencils and paper and meet me at the table.  I explained, once again, the concept and told them to begin writing all the ways THEY have seen God.  (I was quick to point out that just because we’ve never seen God part a body of water in front of our eyes, it doesn’t make the small things we’ve seen any less valid.)

Our oldest needed to hear no more.  She was off and writing – her little brain remembering and chronicling all her big and small encounters with Yahweh.  Our youngest, however, was having some major trouble.  He tends to be more pessimistic by nature and was having trouble with some neighborhood kids that day, so he could find NOTHING, NOWHERE, NADA where he had watched God do something.  So, I began to slowly prompt him.  “What about this time….?” was the phrase of the hour.  Slowly, his pout curled up into a little sheepish grin as he had to acquiesce that  yes…he had seen God do some things in his life.

By this time our daughter probably had two full pages of “God-moments” and my son and I had maybe…7.  So in a flash of brilliance (actually, I’m sure it was the Spirit) I pulled out their babybooks and scrapbooks.  We spent the next couple of hours looking at pictures, laughing, telling stories….AND relating it back to what God had done and where He was during those times of their lives.  It was one of the best evenings I’ve spent with my kids in a long time (and I walked away in awe of God and so thankful to be a mom!).

Needless to say, our son’s list wasn’t as long as his sisters, but we did fill up a page and a half.  A few mornings later at our Sabbath breakfast, we re-wrote the Psalm.  We began by reading the first 9 verses (I read the first part and we all said “His love endures forever”) and then each kid took turns saying one of the items on their list.  After they shared it, we paused a moment and repeated “His love endures forever”.

It was a neat exercise to do with our kids.  For them to see that God doesn’t just do BIG things (like part the Red Sea) but He also provides friends for us and opportunites to attend schools and small amounts of money when we have none.  It was wonderful to say out loud many times “HIS LOVE ENDURES FOREVER” together as a family.  If we didn’t believe it when we started, we were convinced by the time we were done.

Life has been FULL…guests at our house, end of the year projects, performances and parties, a trip to Arizona and editing photos.  I know that the Spirit is churning in me and brewing some new pictures and metaphors to be written about at a later date.  As we approach Pentecost, I am reminded of His (the Spirit’s) moving and working.  Here is a poem I wrote:

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He comes
a gentle breeze
making music through the tree branches
loosening the feeble grip of the folliage

He comes
a small flicker
bringing light and warmth within His flame
consuming each wick He finds

He comes
a mighty wind current
raising dust from the dead into a swirling funnel
lifting and dropping the soaring bird

He comes
a wide-hearthed fire
frolicking upon logs and scorching stone
crackling with whispers of untamed flame

He comes
wind and fire
combining into unstoppable Force
crossing the landscape in a dance un-containable

He comes
a rushing wind, a tongue of fire
covering the planet in searing wildfire
gathering a people who play among the Flames

He is here
Bold, tender, dangerous, unpredictable
The wildest member of the Trinity


Perhaps because the days are getting longer or maybe because we actually have some sunny days, but I find my calendar getting fuller and fuller (is that really a word?) and it is becoming more difficult to rein the family in around the table for a meal together.  (I find that in the winter darkness we in the Northwest seem to “hunker down” and stay in and home more.  With the coming of spring and what feels like eternal daytime, people begin to plan events again.)

So I am challenged with what parenting through all the seasons looks like and how do we still form our family by The Story when we seem to be scattered.  Not that I have any great answers, but I am loving a couple of books that speak to me on this topic (or round about this topic).  I thought I’d pass the on to anyone else who is feeling the frantic pace of spring and summer beginning to pick up.

Habits of a Child’s Heart: Raising Your Kids with the Spiritual Disciplines – I think this is going to be the focus of our “StoryFormed” Family during Ordinary Time (or Season after Pentecost).  I want all of us (including my 9 and 12 year old) to learn to live well in the rhythm of the disciplines.

The Three Big Questions for a Frantic Family: a leadership fable about restoring sanity to the most inportant organization in your life – I read this book in 3 hours yesterday!  (That is the advantage of having school aged kids, finding a local coffeeshop, and using the “silence” mode on the cell phone!)  But I LOVED this book and cannot wait to digest it even more, discuss it with my husband (he’s reading it now), and begin to put it into action.

So I’d love to know this:  what other books do you love (or have been helpful) in terms of raising kids and keeping families sane?