How to “EAT THIS BOOK”

“He said to me, O mortal, eat what is offered to you; eat this scroll, and go, speak to house of Israel. So I opened my mouth, and he gave me the scroll to eat. He said to me, Mortal, eat this scroll that I give to you and fill your stomach with it. Then I ate it; and in my mouth it was as sweet as honey.”

Ezekiel 3:1-3 is always a hard one to explain to children who have been told most of their lives to keep things out of their mouths.

“If you are going to pick your nose, please don’t eat it.”

“No. You cannot eat the candy you found in the sofa.”

“The gum underneath the table is definitely off limits.”

However, in this passage God is clear, he want Ezekiel to eat the word of God. God wants Ezekiel to place that dry, inky word in his mouth and chew. And perhaps chew some more. God wants Ezekiel to swallow those words and let the process of all that he has eaten become part of his very being. Eugene Peterson translates this command as “Eat this book.”[1]

In Romans 12:2 Paul gives his readers a leg up on how the transformation into Christ likeness happens. We are “transformed by the renewing of our minds.” One way mind transformation happens is when we “Eat this book,” when the words of Scripture become part of our very being.

Often when we expose our children to Scripture we get surface level understanding, but that isn’t all they are capable of. If we want to go deeper with them; we have to speak the language they know best—the language of imagination.

C.S. Lewis said that, “Reason is the natural order of truth; but imagination is the organ of meaning.” [2]

Ignatian meditation is one way to chew and swallow the word of God. It becomes part of our being, it transforms our minds. The practice is quite simple.

  1. Choose a passage of Scripture from one of the Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke or John. A passage that has some action is particularly good. Also choose something short. If you are following along in Good Dirt, you can use the passage from that day. John 6:1-14 is one of my favorites with children.
  2. Pray a short prayer inviting the Holy Spirit to speak through the passage into your hearts. Then read the passage through once.
  3. Remind everyone that they have five senses. Touch, Taste, Sight, Smell, and Hearing. It is with these senses that we experience the world. Invite everyone to close their eyes and enter into the passage using their five senses just as if they were actually there. Read the passage again.
  4. Ask the questions: What did you see? What did you hear? What did you smell? What did you taste? What did you feel? Some responses to these questions might be… I heard a lot of people talking. I saw Jesus. I smelled fish. I touched the bread. I felt hungry. Give everyone a chance to share their experience.
  5. Read the passage through one more time. Do 2 things this time. Ask, who are you most like in the story? And ask the Holy Spirit to speak to you. When you finish share your responses. (Remember that nothing you ever hear from the Spirit will go against the character of God found in 1 Cor. 13: 4-8, and further the words of the Spirit produce the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, and self control.[3])

Once when I was explaining to a third grader why chewing the end off of his pencil and swallowing it was not really a great health choice I said, “It’s not that I don’t want you to eat. I just want you to eat things that are good for you.”

So how about it? Grab a kid or two and give it try. Let us know how it goes.


[1] The translation I’m referring to is the Message.

[2] C.S. Lewis, Selected Literary Essays: “Bluespels and Flanlansferes: A Semantic Nightmare,” Cambridge UP, 1969, p. 265.

[3] Galatians 5:22-23

Dirty Work and New Growth

sprout

© Veronica Foale, used under Creative Commons License.

Kids never cease to surprise. Over Christmastide, the period of the twelve days of Christmas beginning December 25, our family had a time of sitting together and focusing for more than 30 minutes on both the spiritual parallels for the 12 Days of Christmas song and then on what spiritual disciplines are, why we practice them, and some discussion on a few specific disciplines.

We are using a book titled Good Dirt: A Devotional for the Spiritual Formation of Families by Lacy Finn Borgo and Ben Barczi (which you can download for free to use with your family or purchase in paperback from Amazon, with two  subsequent issues for upcoming parts of the church year available soon). The book has a brief family devotion for every day, centered around the theme of planting and growing–our souls, both kids and adults, are like plants that need good dirt and helpful conditions in order to grow and flourish with God. Each of the few steps in the daily devotion fills a planting metaphor: we till the soil with prayer, we plant the seed of God’s Word by reading a noted Scripture passage, we water the soil by acting a story, drawing a picture, or talking about how God’s Word applies to our lives, and later on we weed, considering how we applied or failed to apply these themes in our day.

Our family has taken easily to the Good Dirt format and we’ve experienced meaningful times of listening to God and each other. That day during Christmastide stands out because we’d had a few days of being in and out of the house, active with extended family and various activities of the Christmas season. We had not spent time in our Good Dirt devotions for three or four days and there was much good material we’d missed. On this day, we started by discovering what none of us had known:

“Some say that the words of the [Twelve Days of Christmas] song were secret code for people to remember their faith during times of persecution.” ~ Good Dirt

For example, a partridge in a pear tree is Jesus Christ, two turtle doves are the Old and New Testaments, three French hens are the three virtues listed in 1 Corinthians 13: faith, hope, and love, and on it goes. This song with it’s Christian faith parallels is a fun way to help kids review important, foundational themes of our faith.

The Christmastide period, being twelve days, also fits ideally for bringing into discussion each of the twelve spiritual disciplines (as identified by Richard Foster in his classic book Celebration of Discipline). These disciplines are grouped by inner, outer, and corporate disciplines and include prayer, meditation, study, fasting, simplicity, solitude, service, submission, confession, worship, guidance, and celebration. They all will be re-visited throughout the coming year in Good Dirt.

I mentioned that kids never cease to surprise, and here is why. On this day during Christmas, we didn’t set out to make up all of our lost ground in the devotional. We just started reading together and one thing led to another. Before we’d realized it, we had spent time on the song, talking about spiritual disciplines, and reviewing the first disciplines covered in the days we’d missed. And our boys tracked with us on every bit of it!

Our 8-year-old has been in perpetual motion since he was a toddler. He focuses just fine but cannot stop moving his body. Every Good Dirt session he is rolling on the floor, playing with a ball, walking around, or moving in some other sort of way. He learns and processes by moving;  it’s just who he is. Our 14-year-old is a teenager. He’s wonderful … and also a little hormonal at times. Our middle guy at age 11 is on the quieter side. He usually ends up helping to re-direct his brothers.

Three personalities, three stages in childhood. So, the reality of sitting for such a long period together and discussing some pretty involved areas of theology and spiritual training is something I wouldn’t have thought possible or advisable for us or anyone. Yet it became a time of fun and absorbing discussion and learning.

I’ve often thought about how much I have read and learned and experienced in my life with God and his people in the years I’ve lived, and how I want to share so much of that with my kids. A lot does come up in the living of life, often at the most unexpected moments. Yet, some of what I hope to share with them, like the spiritual disciplines and some of the more complex foundations of our faith, seems to stay on the periphery of our lives together, and though these do come into conversation at times, sometimes they do so without much framework or intentional commitment toward living out and practicing these habits and truths  in ongoing ways.

Good Dirt has begun to change that. I’m learning about my kids in the process. They are deep people. They can discuss and absorb spiritual ideas typically thought to be adult territory without missing a beat. They can venture deeper in their lives with God. We can do it together and learn from one another and God in simultaneous ways.

Getting dirty together has its benefits. Everything may not work, but sometimes the things we never would have tried become the soil for a brand new season of growth.

Have you experienced a similar time of spiritual growth with your children, where a surprising and unexpected route became a catalyst? Would it help your family to try out a resource like Good Dirt?

**You can follow various families blogging on their use of Good Dirt and its themes by subscribing for free here.

Light for the New Year, Light for the Neighborhood

Used under Creative Commons License.

Used under Creative Commons License.

Part of Anne Lamott’s story  has stayed with me like a persistent whisper even years after reading her memoir Traveling Mercies. A few families in her childhood opened their lives and gave her a sense of God and his Word and life with him. Her own parents didn’t believe, yet in a 1960’s San Francisco culture of drugs and alcohol Anne was drawn to God. She experienced life with the believing families of various friends and her own sense of a living, personal God took root.

We Quinns live in a busy suburb here in Colorado, surrounded by houses next door, behind, and across the street. Mormons live behind us, several Hindu families from India are down the street, and a mix of other Christian and unbelieving households live all around. Our culture doesn’t mirror Lamott’s of the ’60s, but we have our own demons to be sure. We’ve walked with neighbors through deaths on each side of our home, one a suicide and one a father with Cystic Fibrosis. We feel the weight of materialism, strained marriages, self- and entertainment-focused living, career pressures.  Our street has seen a baby born to an unwed 19-year-old, teenagers crawling out of upstairs windows at night, a marriage happen between singles who shared a back fence, divorce, and lots of pet-sitting, lawn-mowing, house-siting, even a dog swap!

We love the people who share this little piece of Colorado with us. We’ve gotten to know many of them and we spend considerable time with some. I pray for neighbors almost daily as I walk for exercise, we pray for them at family meal times, and we try to follow the Spirit’s moving to share the with-God life as we try and live it. We Quinns are so flawed … we fumble all the time in loving each other and others … we’re so much on the journey ourselves. But somehow–I think it’s like the mustard seed that Jesus’ preached–God’s presence takes hold and He enters lives.

New Year’s Eve each year we get together with the family across the street. Fondue, games, and ringing in the New Year has become a tradition all the kids relish, and this year we added some Good Dirt! Our neighbor kids didn’t understand about “family devotion time” so we talked about it when they came early before dinner. After the long meal around pots and platters of food, we read about Service and talked about what a spiritual discipline is. Our 8-year-old has trouble transferring that word discipline into the “good” category, so we all went round some more together on the concept, and then our teenager read about Jesus, the Light of the world. Our neighbor parents jumped in with ideas on when we might need Jesus’ light in our lives. All the kids agreed that when they’re afraid of monsters, Jesus’ light is a good thing, and sometimes when they’re at school they really need the light of Christ for help.

Those minutes of sitting together focused on Jesus were a bright spot New Year’s Eve; Jesus’ light indeed filled our time together. I hope these kinds of moments continue to fill our year. I want to thank Lacy and Ben for writing Good Dirt, for putting together this blogging community, and for overseeing the process as we all journey together. Jesus’ light is reaching our family in warm, daily ways. And it’s reaching our neighborhood family, too. We’ll never be anyone’s salvation. But Jesus the Savior might be. Yes, come Lord Jesus.

“Whoever follows me … will have the light of life.” John 7:12

A Twelve Day Party

If you are just now joining Good Dirt families, Welcome!

You are not late to the party, you are just in time.  In fact, welcome to one of the most holy seasons of the year, Christmastide. During Christmastide we celebrate the “pinch me I’m dreaming” miracle of God entering humanity, God wading into joy and pain.

During Christmastide we are engaging in the 12 Classical Spiritual Disciplines Richard Foster writes about in Celebration of Discipline. However in Good Dirt, we engage in them family style. You can still pick up a devotional at Amazon. http://www.amazon.com/dp/1482697459/ref=cm_sw_su_dp

Or you can download it for free at http://www.scribd.com/doc/178534327/Good-Dirt-Advent-Christmastide-Epiphany-Volume-1.

Join us in the next 11, nearly 10 days as we enter the open space of a life with God through prayer, meditation, study, fasting, simplicity, solitude, service, submission, confession, worship, guidance, and celebration.

If these feel overwhelming and not so child friendly check out our child friendly definitions. https://gooddirtfamilies.com/tools-for-tilling/

Happy Christmastide!

Pondering All These Things

© macinate, used under Creative Commons License.

© macinate, used under Creative Commons License.

How is it that amid all the bustle and keeping of commitments during this season, a mother can be deep in thought about the future and the present and the shape of her kids’ spirits? It makes me smile to realize that the pondering I’m doing is not really so odd. There was another mother who pondered the child she held and the shape of his future and his spirit.

“But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” Luke 2:19

Mary pondered Jesus’ life on the day of his birth, and all these years later as we look back on that humble yet glorious day, I feel in the best of company doing some pondering at Christmas over three boys and the way the Spirit of Christ is forming and shaping their futures.

Are they growing more and more in their sense that God is life and life is God? Do they get that what matters most is a life lived daily with God? Are they learning to be still inside and listen to the voice of the Spirit? Are they learning to live and grow in community with the people of God? Are they learning to choose the hard way  sometimes rather than the easy way or the attractive way or the natural way because sometimes it’s the road more difficult that brings life?

Mary pondered how the particulars would play out for this Savior babe. She considered how it would be that the Child born of her loins would mean eternity for every soul to ever live.

And I ponder how this Christ Child will day by day, year by year draw my children into an ever-deepening life with himself, Immanuel, God-with-us. As we focus with our boys on Jesus’ birth, I think along with Mary about all Jesus means to me and to them.  It’s the story of Jesus that I ponder as I consider my kids’ stories and how they will live into–and out of– this story of Christ.

Christmas and pondering. The season of the Story gives us mothers and fathers a lot to think about.

The Many Voices of Christmas

© Luke Saagi, used under Creative Commons License.

© Luke Saagi, used under Creative Commons License.

What’s not to like about Christmas? It’s a wonderful season. The music and good cheer, bright lights and parties, secrets and stories and sentiment. It’s a magical time for children, and a time that as parents we love for our children’s sake even as we cherish quietly, and with them, the focal point of the whole celebration–the coming of Jesus to our lives.

This will be our fourteenth Christmas with children, and as I think back on the years and look toward another celebration this month, its the voices of Christmas that come flooding to mind. The voices that have spoken into our choices about what and how to celebrate…

“What if Christmas, [Grinch] thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more!”

Three gifts for each child–Gold, something they will value and treasure. Frankincense, a gift to help them meet with God. Myrrh, something to anoint and care for their body.

Sinter Klaus Day, Dec. 6. A first gift to each child in celebration of the caring bishop who provided dowry’s for girls without one.

A birthday cake for Jesus on December 25.

Cub scout giving of gifts to needy families. Operation Christmas Child gift boxes. Gifts to men and women  serving far away in the military. Gifts to orphans  in Africa and others at risk worldwide.

Advent wreath lighting and reflection.

Epiphany remembrance and observance.

Creative and tasty gifts for neighbors.

Crafty holiday touches throughout the house.

Meal traditions for Christmas Eve and Christmas morning and Christmas lunch.

Caroling in nursing homes.

Gingerbread houses and cookie exchanges.

“Bah,” said Scrooge, “Humbug.”

Oh, the list goes on. Each of us with many voices, many choices before us each year as we hurtle from Thanksgiving to Christmas and New Year’s. And laid back as we might be, surely we all have to squelch just the vaguest inclination toward a “Bah, humbug” as we spend our December days determined to remember the reason for the season and to keep the meaning the main thing as we live out all the ways of doing that.

Just last week I heard on the radio that many years ago, Christmas was not even celebrated. The church celebrated Easter in a big way, but because birthdays were not celebrated overall, the birth of Jesus just was not a church holy day. The thought. No Christmas, compared to ChristmasofToday. It’s a startling dichotomy.

An article by Eugene Petersen tells the story of his family’s Christmas when he was eight. Eugene’s mother had found  a passage in Jeremiah that seemed to speak against the tradition of Christmas trees, and so that year, much to his own and his neighbors’ chagrine, his family had no tree.  He reflects back now:

Mother, thank you …  for providing me with a taste of the humiliation that comes from pursuing a passionate conviction in Christ. Thank you for introducing into my spirit a seed of discontent with all cultural displays of religion, a seed that has since grown tree-sized. Thank you for being relaxed in grace and reckless enough to risk a mistake. Thank you for being scornful of caution and careless of opinion. Thank you for training me in discernments that in adult years have been a shield against the seduction of culture-religion. Thank you for the courage to give me Jesus without tinsel, embarrassing as it was for me (and also for you?). Thank you for taking away the Christmas tree the winter I was eight years old. And thank you for giving it back the next year.

I don’t know that we ever settle into an easy, contented Christmas rhythm. Much as we would like to, the good and the tradition and the holy are so intermingled that, without tossing away the holiday and stepping back a few hundred years, we can’t escape the cacophony of voices and choices year by year.

For me, one voice helps bring perspective each time I feel I’ve failed or fallen irreparably behind. Funny, it’s Scrooge again, but later in the story: “I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.”

Each day, all year, is a celebration of Jesus’ life come to change mine. Each day is the time to spend meaningful moments with family, to care for another in need, to offer a thought-filled gift, to meet God in his Word over the light of a candle. It’s a wonderful season, and all the more when we let Christmas illumine each day of our lives.

Good Dirt: The Backstory

How does a born and raised Southern Baptist end up writing a devotional about the Seasons of the Church? Most major life changes jar us into rethinking our thinking and mine was no different. After far too many years of college and several more as a classroom teacher, I had my own children and decided to stay home. Just to keep things interesting we moved across the country to a rural setting where I knew no one.

In between my days of washing cloth diapers, (Lord, what was I thinking?) sleepless nights, and strained peas, I noticed the earth was living a rhythm. (With all my education and teaching this late revelation is frightening, I know.) Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall all have a steady, life giving pace. The seasons of the earth knead their knowing into the surrounding souls.

Around the same time I read about the life of Corrie ten Boom and noticed how the life of Jesus was worked into her through a daily exposure and reflection of the Scriptures. Further that the Scriptures rooted her so firmly to Jesus and sustained her through the Holocaust is pudding proof.

I began to look around for a devotional resource that might combine an experience of the Scriptures and a rhythm to live by. I found Celtic Daily Prayer which is a collection of prayers and readings from the Northumbria community in the UK. For the next decade it would be a means of grace, a way that the rhythms of Jesus and his life began being woven into ours. This seed would someday grow into Good Dirt.

I learned from Trevor Hudson that “There is nothing in God that is not Christ-like;” and felt that lives steeped in the Gospels would go far in helping families plant their lives in that fact.

While sitting under the teaching of Dallas Willard at the Renovaré Institute for Spiritual Formation I had the idea of a family resource that would combine the richness of the rhythm of the Seasons of the Church and the life of Jesus found in the Gospels. I knew I was in over my head and pitched my idea to Ben Barczi, who was a student as well. He had been living the Seasons for years and had a much better handle on them. Thankfully he liked the idea and we decided to write Good Dirt together. I wouldn’t want to be on this journey with anyone else. Ben is sheer grace. My children call him Brother Ben and that’s as true as it gets.

Good Dirt is a spiritual formation devotional for families and our belief is that those who mark their lives by the life of Christ will be formed and transformed.

We have piloted this resource all over the US. Thank you to those who read the early copies and gave us feedback. Thank you, Elane O’Rourke who edited it for us. Bless her, seriously bless her. I name all these people to say that this is a community endeavor. We stood on the shoulders of giants. (Giants who would laugh at me calling them giants and who would politely and firmly ask me not to call them giants, but obedience has never been my strong suit.) Still, thank you.

Much love,

Lacy

November 6, 2013