Advice from David: Stop and contemplate

In our Rotation this month, we’ve been asking how a person develops faith in God. So far we’ve covered some ways to grow our faith. Let’s expand on the one that suggests we spend time alone with God. How does one practice doing that?

What if you followed David’s lead?

Not the part about hitting Goliath in the head with a rock, but what comes before the actual battle: What David likely did as he picked out stones.

Stop. Think. Take time to ponder as you carefully choose your rocks.

A child contemplates rocks

The Bible doesn’t give us many details about the picking of these stones but I can imagine there was some thought that went into it. Let’s call it “Meditative Time.” Can we practice that? Yes!

You might first think of meditation as something that Buddhist’s do. It may be surprising to learn that meditation is found in all religious traditions. In Christianity it is the heart of the contemplative teaching of Jesus on prayer.

Here are the simple steps to begin meditation:

  • Sit with your back straight and lightly close your eyes.
  • Focus on your breathing.
  • Silently begin to recite a single word – a prayer word or “mantra.” Try the Aramaic [1] word that means “Come Lord” – Maranatha. Break it into four syllables:
    Breath In: Ma
    Breath Out: Ra
    Breath In: Na
    Breath Out: Tha
  • Let go of all thoughts (even good thoughts), images and words. When your mind drifts, bring yourself gently back and continue repeating your word.

(For a graphic with these steps refer to this website.)

Other questions:

  • How long should this last? With young children start with one minute. When it becomes apparent that they can handle one minute, “praise them and say that since they are so good at it now, you will reward them by increasing it to two minutes. Every time they are at ease with the length of time, increase it by one minute till you reach their age – 4 minutes for age 4, 5 minutes for age 5 and so on.” [2]
  • What if your child asks: Why say “Maranatha.” Is that some sort of magical word?” An answer.
Give David’s plan a try: stop and contemplate.

[1] Aramaic is the language that Jesus spoke.
[2] Suggestion from the website of The School of Meditation, of The World Community for Christian Meditation.

Photo credits:
Contemplating rocks by Hagerty Ryan, of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Image is in the Public Domain, provided by Public Domain Images.

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Choosing the good road

This Lent at FUMC, as a congregation we are walking once more to the cross and to Jesus’ resurrection. Along the way we are looking at “road options” that Jesus and his disciples chose along their journey. How might these same decisions be open to us? Which road will we take? Will we recognize the best choice – the good road? Let us journey together this Lent as we “Walk The Good Road.” See you in church!

Last weekend Rev. Doug Paterson’s sermon on the “Good Road” series spoke to the quandary that the “The Good Road is Not Always Smooth.” I don’t think he mentioned David and Goliath, but he could have.

When the road is not always smooth, perhaps we are facing a giant.

Cartoon painting of 'The Scream'

Perhaps that giant, creating yawning potholes in our path, is…

  • A conflict with a person — family or friends or teachers or co-workers or bullies…
  • A situational problem — I can’t figure out math, my grandfather is dying, my dreams don’t seem to be happening…
  • Peer pressure — I’ve got to be the best soccer player. I’ve got to be in the in-crowd. I’m worried about having a bad-hair-day. I’ve got to have a bigger house/car/phone. I’ve got to be thinner/sexier/smarter…
  • Or maybe the giant you’re facing is you! You want to change but you don’t understand why you do the things you do and how to be transformed.

This last one is my current giant! My giant says to me “Carol, who are you to be speaking about faith?” “Who are you to make decisions about Sunday’s Cool?” “Who are you to be a leader in a Christian educators organization with thousands of members?”

It would be easier for me to back away from my giants, letting them win. Sometimes the road we must choose is harder than we would like.

The Good Road is ever before us. Will we recognize it when we see it?

Can I trust God’s definition of me as Imperfect, God-seeking, Confident, Child-of-God, One-who-has-work-to-do?

Thankfully God is always with me (regardless of the road I choose). But I also know that I am called to move in the direction of faith. But how? Here are some ideas:

Intentional Practices for growing faith:
  • Remembering: Where and when has God been with me in the past?
  • Provide a platform for lingering together, for the asking of questions, and for finding hope. Encourage the expression of ideas and inquisition. (Ask: What do you think about ___?) Honor with attention and thoughtfulness.
  • Spending time alone with God. Perhaps practicing a bit like this.
  • What scripture can I learn so that strengthening words roll off my tongue? (How about this Rotation’s Key Bible verse?)
  • A "shrine" of things that invoke the memory of God's goodness

  • What visual reminders will I place in my path? A cross here, scripture written on an index card there? Set up a spot in your home that is designated as a “quiet spot.” Fill this space with objects that invoke memories. Allow touching and rearranging and additions and subtractions. (Photo on right is such a spot set up at the Nelson home around Easter time.)
  • As well as the usuals: communicating with God through prayer; learning God’s advice by reading the Bible; strengthening my relationship with God through worship; serving others. (Read more here.)

Which of these practices will you implement in your family this week?

Photo credits:
Cartoon “Scream” by Prawny. Used with permission from
“Shrine” photo from Chris Nelson. Used by permission.

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How’s your home environment?

We are blessed to have homes that contain familiar “environments” — times and places where certain events take place. As our kids grow up they presume that at home they will find…

…a designated spot for family dining…

two kids at the dinner table
a space for play

…opportunity for play…

a child reads

…and time for reading (hopefully every day!)

Other environments we set up for our kids include a place to get some much needed shut-eye and an area for study. (Yikes, coming soon!)

It’s the way things are. Eating, sleeping, studying, playing… You could say:

It’s how we do it around here.

But something important is missing.

What about purposefully setting up space and time to experience God?
So it feels normal.

Here are some suggestions for adding this critical environment to your home:

  • an adult reads the BibleInclude the Bible in your daily reading roster. And make sure your child “catches you” reading.
  • Practice being grateful. (Documenting your gratitude brings attention to God’s gifts; they are everywhere! Even in the midst of darkness!)
  • Spend time as a family with everyone sharing one glad and one sad for the day – AKA: Glads and Sads, or Crowns and Thorns! Don’t try to fix anything, just listen and celebrate and commiserate.
  • Start every meal with a table blessing. Try here for some new ones.
  • Introduce new ways to talk with God – prayer. (Get out markers to pray? Yes!)
  • Offer your child a daily blessing – words said out loud that reassure your child that they are loved and accepted.
  • What other ideas would you add?


Photo credits:
Dinner table by Sean Dreilinger; Reading by John Morgan; Swing set by Wouter Verhelst all licensed on Flickr, under a Creative Commons License.
Adult reading the Bible by StockSnap on Pixabay released under Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Public Domain.

How goes your journey?

This entry was originally posted when our kids were talking about the wise men, however it applies to all year ’round! What are you doing to further your faith growth?

Painting by James Tissot, in the Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

I find it amazing that the wise men made such a long, arduous journey to worship Jesus. Previously I had pondered questions that the wise men may have asked as they prepared for their trip. Such as…

  • Where would the star lead them?
  • What would they find?
  • How would they be received?
  • And, are we there yet?

Wait a minute! This sounds like an adventure someone else (whom we’ve recently studied about) made to an unknown destination. In fact, it may well be that they both came from the same area!

Both were Gentiles (not Jewish) at the time God summoned them. Neither knew exactly where they were going when they left their homeland. Both obeyed God and were instructed by the stars. (Abraham: Genesis 15:5, the magi: Matthew 2:2). (Did you figure out that I was thinking of Abraham & Sarah?)

Both parties chose to venture into the unfamiliar.

Speaking of an uncharted odyssey…

How goes your family faith journey?

Does it feel like you don’t know where your faith walk will lead you, or what you’ll find along the way, or even if you are on the right path? Join the wise men! Here are some hints about how to stay the course on your family faith journey.

a starParticipate in rituals.
Celebrating family rituals is a great way to grow in faith together. Rituals and traditions are repeated activities that help family members develop a sense of belonging. Make time for rituals that connect us to God: Saying table grace, bedtime prayers, daily Bible reading… Add a new ritual! What occasions can you make special (besides the usual holidays and birthdays)? It’s not too late to start an Advent ritual.

a child holds a newly created Advent wreathMom with two girls look at a Bible

a star Worship together.
If kids don’t experience worship as a child, what will cause them to want to participate as an adult?

A family worships togetherChildren have a time with the pastor at church

a starServe others.
The family that serves together, stays together!

Families participate in a service project

10 kids ages 10 and under dug a 30 foot drainage ditch

It’s not too late to consider joining us on our spring Appalachia Mission trip.

a star Watch for a shining “star” (or two or three).
Notice signs that lead us to think of Jesus.

The sun sets over the lakeChristmas eve service

a starCultivate your personal faith.
Don’t you want your kids to “do as you do?” Take time to build your own faith. Set aside a regular time to commune with God in prayer, read the Bible, or join a class at church.

a blue line

As your family traverses its way along your faith journey, know that God is our God and God is always with us!

Photo credits:
Painting of traveling magi by James Tissot, in the public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.
Star from the public domain via
Other photos from my archives or from from the families of FUMC. Appalachia photo copyright, Richard Rupp Photography; used with permission.

Old enough to be spiritual?

It always amazes me to catch sight of kids that I haven’t seen in a while; they’ve grown by leaps and bounds!

The long shadows of two girls on a beachOur Rotation this month is a story that kids can relate to – it’s about Jesus as a young boy.

The Bible tells us that at this time in his life Jesus grew strong and wise. (Luke 2:40)

And from the story we can also glean that Jesus was growing in other ways: he was exploring his calling; he was delving into his spiritual self.


Do we allow our kids the chance to grow spiritually?

Granted, Jesus was twelve years old in our story but even young children — preschoolers! — are spiritual.

Here are ways to encourage spiritual growth in all ages:

  • Surround your child with people who genuinely demonstrate God’s care for your child. Obviously this is present in your household, but having a church family is important as well.
  • Create a daily time of being intentionally still and seeking God in prayer. This may be best accomplished at bedtime.
  • Share joys and concerns around the family dinner table. (Or wherever your family is gathered together.) This serves as a reminder that God is listening to them and cares about them.
  • Keep a gratitude list. Or follow other ways of counting thankfuls.
  • Take them out into nature. Create opportunities to see and touch and hear the world around them that God has made.
  • Offer daily blessings as a way to reassure your child that God thinks highly of them.
What are ways that you expand your child’s spiritual awareness? Are they growing their spiritual side?


Photo credits:
Tall shadows by thejbird, who licensed this photo on Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

Worried? Time to work on remembering

A boy looks out of a window

When faced with tough times does your trust in God evaporate?

Or do you remember?

Open quote markWhen you cross deep rivers, I will be with you.
Isaiah 43:2a

Do you suppose Joseph had that thought while he was at the bottom of a pit or sold as a slave in Egypt or unfairly placed in jail?

He must have! Because in spite of all of the hard stuff that Joseph experienced, he maintained godly values and he readily shared his gifts with others.

Okay, so how do I get faith like Joseph.

And how can I help my kids to grow their trust in Jesus?

Here are a few ideas to try:

  • Model growing your own faith: Keep a Bible in a well-traveled space in your house. Let your children catch you reading the Bible and praying. Help your child to realize that a journey with Jesus is on-going. There is always something new to learn.
  • Start a family habit: when gathered together around the dinner table or while driving in the car, ask: What has God been teaching you lately? Share your stories of God with you. Hearing stories about how God was with someone can make it easier for us to remember: God is with me in all situations.
  • Re-focus: Use visualization techniques such as placing all their worries in a basket.
  • Commit Bible verses to memory. Look here and here, for ideas on how to learn verses by heart.
  • In times of stress, use breath prayer as a way to sense God’s presence. That link will take you to a how-to which uses an Aramaic word – the language Jesus used. Or try… On inhale: “God,” On exhale: “always here.” The possibilities are endless.

What are other ways that you teach your kids about growing their faith in God?

Photo credits:
Reflection time by Rajesh Kumar, who licensed this photo on Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

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Wrestling worries

Imagine living like this:

Open quote markPotiphar left everything up to Joseph, and with Joseph there, the only decision he had to make was what he wanted to eat. Genesis 39:6a

I was reading our current Rotation story using Lectio Divina when this passage jumped out at me. Imagine not being concerned about anything, except what you eat! What a life Potiphar led!

Not a single worry.

Except whether to eat figs or grapes.

Crops need planting? No concern, Joseph will handle it.
Supplies need restocking? No problem, Joseph can take care of it.
(I wonder if Joseph did windows?)

Ever wished you could live like that – worry free? I sure have!

What about when your kids worry? How can you help them?
Does it work to say, “Jesus tells us not to worry?” (See Matthew 6:25-34)
Probably not.

Try this: Ask your child to close their eyes and imagine a basket. (Best done at bed time!) Have them imagine a basket on the floor next to their bed. Tell them to give details to their musing. What color basket? What shape and size?

a picture of a field is cut into strips and woven to look like a basket

When they have the image in their mind, ask them to imagine themselves putting their worries into that basket. Help them to form a clear picture of this process. Tell your child that Jesus will take care of the basket. Have them picture handing the basket to Jesus.

Try it out! What are other ways you help your kids not to worry?

Photo credits:
Woven “basket” by Cindy Cornett Seigle, who licensed this photo on Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

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Family Lenten activities, part 2

Lent is the 40 days (minus Sundays) leading up to Easter. A long, long time ago Lent was the period in which new converts to the church prepared for baptism. They learned about what it meant to be a Christian before becoming a member of the church community. It was basically “spring training” for disciples!

baseball - spring training!

Lent is a great time for your family to take a serious look at your calendars. It’s all about focus. Is there time for being a disciple of Jesus? For including Christ in your lineup? (An hour a week at church isn’t enough!)

Time Out. Talk about…Ask…A speech bubble
What can our family do? We’d like to spend some of our time together warming up our faith.

Last week I had given you ideas for family activities to try out during Lent. If you missed that it’s here. (These activities are not time-sensitive.) It seems only proper to provide more activities to help everyone be a “utility player!”

Ready to “take the field” for Lent?

  • Practice gratitude: Set up a place for praises. In a noticeable location, place a stack of papers and a pen near a basket or a bowl. (Or post a list on the refridge; or give everyone their own journal.) Encourage everyone to draw or write about things that make them grateful. Once a week, ponder your collection. For more ways to transcribe thanksgiving, visit here.
  • Celebrate: Life is a precious gift from God! Work in the habit of celebrating this in some small way, every day! Perhaps start off your day in song (“This is the day” would be a good choice. I often woke up my kids with this one.) Or perhaps change the words to the Superman table grace, adding in “Thank you God, for giving us life.” Re-writing this could be a fun, dinner table activity!
  • Serve others: pick one way to offer your time to someone else from this incredible list. (Includes ideas such as creating “snack packs for Ronald McDonald residents” but did you know they are still collecting pop tabs?
  • Practice solitude: First introduce the concept of breath prayer. Then, designate a signal for when it’s time to gather back together. Next, for an age-appropriate amount of time send everyone to opposite corners of the house. When the “time-out” is up, discuss your experience.
  • Give something up (Fasting): Rather than fasting food try giving up a word. How about the word “no” – try it and see what happens! (Remember that an alternate for the word no can be “let’s think about that.”)
  • Prayer: Make time for prayer every day. Visit here for ideas.


Photo credit:
Spring Training by Michelle Riggen-Ransom, licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY 2.0).