Dirty Work and New Growth


© 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.

How Do You Communicate?

Welcome to the year 2014!

First Snow 115

A new year either brings a wash of excitement and hope for what might be or an overwhelming list of what is yet unaccomplished.  I suppose it depends on which side of the bread you put the butter.  Apparently, I prefer my buttered bread scrambled, because this year has brought both to me and I’m still not sure which will take the upper hand.  I’m taking one day at a time.

With the 12th day of Christmas upon us, our celebratory routine will change.  School times change, focus changes, work schedules even change. The only thing that won’t change is our rhythm of devotion.  I have been ‘good’ at sticking to the rhythm we established, but I’ve swung back and forth between feeling at peace with these times together versus feeling like it’s all in vain.  It can be hard with an energetic 4 yr old.  I feel like I tell him to respect people -while they’re praying- more often than I tell him about the God -to Whom- we pray.  It bothers me.  I’m not a resolution kind of person – if I falter one little bit I give in completely, so I don’t set myself up anymore.  But I do have an ongoing hope that has hit the fire this winter.  I want to point my son to Jesus.  And if our conversations, prayers and readings will do that, I will carry on.  If they’re getting in the way, though, I need to change my method of communication.

And talking about communication, here are some ways in which my son communicates:

1)  We’ve been talking about how Jesus takes care of us and looking for things throughout the day that can remind us of that.  I always ask Kaiser for his input, so I let him come up with a suggestion of what ‘thing’ or ‘action’ might trigger his memory.  He didn’t have to think long before he suggested burping.  Yes, burping.  And being a mother who doesn’t often have a better suggestion…… we went with it.  Interestingly enough, he and I burp enough throughout one day to be reminded of Jesus’ care -a lot-!  You know, it works.  And since God was the one Who came up with the idea of burping in the first place, I really can’t tell my son that it’s not polite.  It really helps to live in a country where you don’t have to say ‘excuse me’ after such action, too.  Instead, we say, “Thank you, Jesus, for taking care of me!”

2.) We ruminated on Psalm 23 recently and walked through the Psalm’s journey in our imagination.  In case anyone was wondering, Kaiser can use his imagination with his eyes open.  And, indeed, there was the Lord walking beside him through the valley of death.  After we’d gone through the Psalm’s journey a few times, I asked him what his favourite part was.

Any guesses?

It was His ‘bo’ staff.

Bo Staff<

It comforts me.

So with our imaginations in high gear, we press on seeking and searching…..looking for even a glimpse of Him.  We cherish hope and stand against fear – together.  My kind husband, curious son, and I.


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!