A Reminder in the Ordinary days

I have come to believe that children exists not for the purpose of becoming adults but rather for the purpose of reminding adults how to be childlike. Let me illustrate. Several weeks ago my husband shared with our mission community about the importance of remembering Emmanuel, God with us. It was a short sermon, mostly challenging us on how we live out every day in this awareness of God being with us. Later we were discussing what this means to us and my six year old shared that it’s like sometimes when he is sick, he forgets. He forgets that God is with him in that moment. Such simplicity and yet so powerful truth there.

As we enter into the ordinary days, the days of the calendar that is not full of celebrations or holy days to remind us, it’s so easy to forget. It’s too easy to think of Emmanuel as the phrase of Christmastide and not of the everyday. This is where children come in handy, see my three year old does not forget easily. She is very sharp and that message on Emmanuel was powerfully embedded in her heart. Sometimes as a punishment, I will make her go sit in her room “all by herself” for which since she heard this message, she replies, “Not by myself mom, because Jesus is always with me.” What do you say to that? Or when the stuff animal needed to stay home from the car trip, “Oh mom, your right it’s okay that Coco stays, because Jesus is with him too.” Most of all through I have been taught by my little girl how the full belief in this truth truly does cast out all fear. Last week, while she was playing outside with her friend, I lost sight of them for a few minutes, but being confident that they were in the area didn’t worry too much about it. Later when she came inside she was telling me a story about her going to the school, which we have on the campus but is a good 500 yards from our house down a little path through the bush, so I figured that she was using her imagination for a good story. At lunch I learned from one of the students that she did indeed walk the entire distant in the bush to visit them at school, and when the student told her that it wasn’t safe for her to come out there alone she simply said “I wasn’t alone, Jesus was with me.”

As much as I abhor the thought of my three year old tromping through the bush by herself, I am so thankful that she knows no fear. I love the fact that she isn’t unaware of the danger but rather confident of the constant presence of Jesus, so there is no fear in that danger. I have been so challenged by her complete confidence and rest assurance every day that Jesus is with her. Through Good Dirt, we aren’t just trying to teach our children how to have a family devotion or a daily quiet time, through those things are good, we are trying to teach them how to make God apart of their everyday, every moment of life. Yet, who would have known that instead they would be teaching me these very things. That moment when I am scared or unsure, how easy it is to forget Emmanuel, yet, this beautiful princess in my sight is a constant reminder that indeed God is with us.

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Ordinary Time is just so… Ordinary

During the summer these words bellow from the porches and couches of millions of homes in America: “I’m bored.” Every kid in the free world, having prayed fervently for school to end, is now proclaiming that the day of perpetual boredom is here.

In our culture the tendency is to fill up the summer with camps, classes, and distractions of every shape and color. What would happen if we halted our planning and pondered the wisdom of Kingdomtide, or as it is traditionally called, Ordinary Time?

What is ordinary? Oatmeal for breakfast is ordinary. Laundry, the sun coming up, rain, reading to my kids, mowing the lawn, feeding the chickens, making the bed, napping on Sunday—all ordinary. Without these ordinary actions, our lives lose a sense of rhythm. In fact, without the ordinary we don’t grow, not physically or spiritually. There is nothing fancy or fabulous about a meal of beans and cornbread, except that it sustains our bodies, and thousands of people eat it every day. It is an ordinary meal that does extraordinary things. The fact that the sun comes up every day is an ordinary event most of us ignore, but without it nothing could live.  Jesus was so fond of teaching out of ordinariness, over dinner, in a wheat field. He taught the foundational truths of the universe out of an ordinary body, using ordinary words, to ordinary people.

For six seasons now, we (Lacy and Ben and you!) have looked forward and backward; we’ve celebrated and mourned. Now, during Kingdomtide, we settle in: we find our stride. For 29 full weeks we all have the chance to establish a family rhythm that will grow us and ours.

Many families practice the spiritual discipline of vacation during Kingdomtide, but for most vacation is just one week in the midst of 29 weeks of ordinary. The other 28 weeks are the lazy days of summer, complete with marshmallow roasting, watermelon seed spitting, and bike riding. We intermingle these sorts of activities with the open space of unscheduled time. For children and for their adults, this is the season of rhythms to build a life on.

We might think that the rhythms and lessons of ordinariness will just meander their way into our homes—and maybe this used to be so.  But in a culture built on desire and distraction, ordinariness is endangered. Building a life on the rhythms of ordinariness takes intention and attention. We will have to intend to walk slowly with our kids to the mailbox while stopping and looking at every bug that passes by. We will have to think to grab a stick and play pirate with the neighbor kids. We will have to watch for the teachable moments of forgiveness when siblings quarrel. We will have to be determined to teach the time-honored skill of pancake flipping infused with thankfulness. We will need to plan to lie in the backyard and teach the names of the constellations, or make up our own. During the ordinary routines of eating and sleeping, rest and work, moments will slip up on us that are golden for teaching the way of Jesus. It is our job to lessen the distractions so we will recognize these moments when they come our way. If we do this, our TV’s will grow dusty, our schedule will look empty, and when people ask what our big plans are for the summer, we will say with a knowing smile, “Oh nothing, absolutely nothing.”

SQUIRREL! (Or, Dealing With Distractions)

Wow. Keeping a five-year old’s attention is a chore. At least it is with our little dude.

We’ve been trying different ways to help him listen to Good Dirt devotions. Sometimes I start making things up during the reading to see if he notices (“then Peter got on a motorcycle and started doing wheelies!”) His sister thinks it’s hilarious, but usually it goes over his head. One night we tried offering him M&M’s if he could answer questions based on the reading. But mostly we just say stuff like “Are you paying attention?” “Stop squirming.” “Get off of your sister!” “What did I just say?”

I figured it would get better after he got into the habit of daily devotions, but alas, three months in we’re still dealing with distractions every night. Not unlike the dog from Up.

It’s hard to help everyone keep focused night after night. I might have a better attention span than a kindergartener, but I’m not immune to distractions (case in point: I’m writing this blog post while watching the Olympics, texting and playing a game on my smartphone). In fact, I think the distractions are what have derailed our family devotions in the past. After the excitement of Advent and Christmas, we tend to run out of gas after a month or so–then we get distracted with other things and the habit slips away.

Epiphany is also called Ordinary time. Carolyn has been learning a lot lately about finding God in the ordinary, but doing that takes discipline to avoid distractions. Because the ordinary seems so–well, ordinary. It’s easy to get caught up with distractions and miss the still-small voice. But God is patiently waiting to give us the gift of His presence if we’ll put down the phone, turn off the TV and listen.

And stop chasing the squirrel.