Family Rhythms

One of the deepest blessings of my recent Sabbatical was the opportunity to simply slow down. Room in the schedule provided large swaths of time to prayerfully reflect on many aspects of life, not the least of which are the rhythms of our family. I’d like to share one result of that reflection with you.

Confession time: I’ve recently (the past seven months or so) had difficulty leading our family in a time of (what we have called) family worship. Lots of reasons. Schedules. Differing ages of children. Unsure what would work best. My own legalism about the whole thing….All of them excuses really.

And then…what if we just read the Bible? What if we just took 10, 15, 20 minutes, I read the Sacred Writings – without the intention of turning it into a Bible study, or any need of extended conversation – just read it and let it wash over us, prayed briefly, and headed into the day?

So that is what we’ve been doing. I wake up, spend some time in the Sacred Writings and prayer, get some exercise, have breakfast, clean up, and make some coffee. By that time, the rest of the house is up and moving about, and we sit down and hear from God. We read a few Psalms, which instruct us on man’s relation to God. And then we read a Proverb, which instructs us on man’s relation to man. We pray. We enter the day. It is my plan to do this for as long as there are children under the roof.

I know, it’s not rocket science. But hey, my goal isn’t to impress you, but to encourage you. If you aren’t doing something together as a family, maybe a simple plan like this would be just the thing. It has been so rich and so encouraging for us. And it is remarkable how the reading of those texts together equips us for the day.

For example, yesterday morning was Psalm 37. David opens the Psalm with a statement on evildoers. They exist. They are in his life. And one gets the sense they are in his proverbial grill.

Psa. 37:1       Fret not yourself because of evildoers;
        be not envious of wrongdoers! 
2     For they will soon fade like the grass
        and wither like the green herb.

Those are helpful words for a family. We all will face evildoers in our lives, maybe even today. Kids will head out to play with kids. Maybe one of them will be a bully. David wants to give us perspective about them, how we should respond to them, what are the length of their days and ability to impact us.

But that is not enough. There is something far more important we must do when it comes to the wicked.

Psa. 37:3       Trust in the LORD, and do good;
        dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.
4     Delight yourself in the LORD,
        and he will give you the desires of your heart. 

Psa. 37:5       Commit your way to the LORD;
        trust in him, and he will act. 
6     He will bring forth your righteousness as the light,
        and your justice as the noonday. 

Psa. 37:7       Be still before the LORD 
and wait patiently for him;
fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way,
    over the man who carries out evil devices!

This arrests attention. The focus is not on expending your energy toward the one jacking with you, but rather to the One in control of you, the evildoer, and your situation.

Since I don’t want to write a commentary-length treatment for you here, let me just point out the core of David’s counsel to our family. When you are in a situation of evildoers surrounding you, and jacking with your life:

  • Trust in the LORD (v. 3).
  • Delight yourself in the LORD (v. 4).
  • Commit your way to the LORD (v. 5).
  • Trust in [the LORD] (v. 5).
  • Be still before the LORD (v. 7).
  • Wait patiently for the LORD (v. 7).

Result?

  • He will give you the desires of your heart (v. 4);
  • He will act (v. 5);
  • He will make known your righteousness (as opposed to the deeds of the wicked) as much as the sun shines brightly at high noon (v. 6);
  • and such trust and delight and commitment will keep you from fretting (v. 7).

Do you see? A little of the Sacred Writings, simply read aloud, go a long way. Imagine what such a daily time could do for your family.

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6 thoughts on “Family Rhythms

  1. We’ve done the same thing for a long time. We’ve alternated between reading it ourselves and listening to Scripture on tape. As our kids are now older and close to the same age, we are finding great success this summer reading through a book of Scripture on our own, individually writing down questions and reflections, and then coming together a few times a week to share what we are learning. I believe that the time we spent in the previous years just reading and listening to Scripture together are now paying off huge rewards for all of us. Many times I balked at Brit for making all of us sit through the Scripture Reading time. We were (and still are) busy, the kids were bored, I was bored, and so the excuses went. But just the other night I sat in awe as I watched my four kids sit down with their notebooks and share their thoughts about Galatians. It is beautiful to watch my children be able to have intelligent, thoughtful, and reflective conversations about Scripture. I know that we could never be doing this if hadn’t become a habit. Thanks for encourage all of us to do this with our kids. I can say from this end of things — it is worth the time and the struggle! I now realize that it doesn’t matter so much what you do, but rather that it happens. It doesn’t matter if you can’t do it every day, but rather that you find some time in your family rhythms to sit close on the coach or gather around the table and listen to Scripture.

    Great post!

    • Melissa,

      Thank you so much for your response. Deeply encouraging, and, even more important, very enlightening. What a great idea y’all had for a next step in family Biblical study! Even now I can testify with you how much I learn from my children’s observations on the Scriptures.

      Thank you for your example in perseverance, and in loving your children well. Your example will have an influence on our family study of the Sacred Writings.

      Continued blessings on you and Brit as you raise those beautiful children.

      Your friend and fellow pilgrim,
      Matthew

  2. Have you done any research or thinking about using the Divine Hours or the Daily Office yourself or with your family? It’s something I’ve been considering for a while, but can’t seem to get myself dedicated enough to move beyond the thinking phase.

    • Yeah, we are in the same spot. I have looked at those, forms of the Book of Common Prayer, devotional/prayerful versions of the Westminster Shorter Catechism. Alas, haven’t been consistent with them. You’d think I would, since, when we did, we all benefitted. Maybe the Moleskys and Lindseys could help each other give it a go? Hold each other accountable? Thoughts?

      • Sounds like a good idea. Any idea which text to follow? I just read some words of Bonhoeffer that seem really appropriate to this discussion:

        “It is, though, certain that both theological work and real pastoral fellowship can only grow in a life which is governed by gathering round the Word morning and evening and by fixed times of prayer . . . The charge of legalism does not seem to me to fit at all.Waht is there legalistic in a Christian setting to work to learn waht prayer is and in his spending a good deal of his time in the learning.”

        I keep thinking about our kids coming home from their respective missions trips and how challenging their adjustment will be. One of the reasons for this, I think, is that the busy, distracted nature of our lives here in America causes us to not take time to “gather round the Word morning and evening.” But on missions trips (especially with Royal Servants and I assume with Josh as well), this is considered a normal, natural part of life . . . like eating and sleeping. My question is, how can we create an environment for our youth where this remains central to their lives? I hope to talk with Josh about this when he returns. I’m not trying to shield them from the pain of loss, because that will happen. They will be sad. Pieces of their hearts will be left in Ireland, China, and Nicaragua. And that is good. And it is okay to feel low after a spiritual high. But I want our kids to know that God is still good in the daily, mundane tasks of life, like doing homework, walking the dog, and cleaning out the garage. I think that regular, fixed times of reading and prayer might help remind them (and ME!) of this.

        And back to us, as a community. Just think . . . what would life be like for us as the church if we took seriously learning to pray? Learning to read Scripture? What if we resisted the charge of legalism and instead followed the disciples lead when they asked Jesus to teach them to pray?

        • Goodness…these ponderings are SO helpful Melissa. Amen and amen! I want that for the kids too. And, I think it would be great discussion when we have our little celebration together in a couple weeks. As we discussed earlier, I hope the Psalms/Proverbs rhythm will help bring about such a lifestyle. And, I hope we will – it is my goal – keep learning from Bella and Colton and the things they learned, habits they formed. I fear what you have said here has already begun to happen – American life is crushing in upon them/us. We need what you are exhorting!

          In answer to your last questions – life would be pretty amazing. May it come about, may the Spirit move to bring about that kind of community. And may we ACT in concert with him.

          Your friend and fellow traveler,
          Matthew

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