Mike just went pro, taking his message of hope and inspiration to youth in schools, church, and community groups. In this short video we talk about his message, his new book, and teenagers. Also Mike is not Slim Shady, but he did pimp this Ninja experience.
Do you pray before meals with your family?
This Christian spiritual practice is one I grew up with. I was praying at meals since I was 3, and I remember some of those first prayers. Do you remember getting to pray for the meals as a child? It felt like an honor to be asked, as I recall.
Here’s where it gets weird.
My two children (ages, almost 11 and 8 years old, respectively) seem to loath mealtime prayers, under any circumstances.
Unlike many children from praying homes, mine rebuff any offers to say the prayer at mealtime, even when they are sweetened with awesome bribes! They usually complain about mealtime prayer, despite our conversations about having our particular family tradition and its importance in our view of the world. Most often, the kids see mealtime prayers as a unpleasant obstacle preventing their nourishment. And, it seems to be worsening as time goes by.
That’s right a 30 second prayer time before meals is worse than other forms of child torture…like going to bed at 8:00, or hanging up one’s coat, or emptying the silverware from the dishwasher. I don’t get it either.
As a person who’s spent hundreds of hours researching and learning how to help people grow spiritually, this is a bit of a black eye…oh, and a punch in the gut. It’s not just a bit embarrassing to realize, but it makes me think that perhaps my children’s basic spiritual formation is compromised if these times of prayer are not meaningful and helpful when we do them. I think we could all be the worse for our failure here.
So, I’ve been speaking with my husband about how we can change things up, and enliven family prayer time to make God, and thanking God for our food more participatory, vivified, and worthwhile for all of us. I want children with grateful hearts.
I thought of some ideas, and I hope you will contribute to the mix too. I could use your ideas and advice.
Idea 1. Lighting a candle:
Kids love fire. Right? I’d like to try to light a voitive candle for each of us and read John 8:12
Then Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. The one who follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
We can then respond. “Thank you Jesus for your light in our hearts. Thank you for our meal. Amen.”
Idea 2. Maybe adding a kind of prop, visual aid, or short object lesson with our practice would make it not just a more interesting time, but will carry on in their thoughts. Then, at night when putting them to bed, we could bring it up again, for a little meditating or conversation for an evening prayer.
Idea 2. Maybe using a mixing of responsive prayers during the week could awaken us to a richer time of thanks before meals.
(lead voice) The eyes of all wait upon you, O God,
(others) And you give them their food in due season.
You open wide your hand
and fill all things living with plenteousness.
Bless, O Lord, these gifts to our use and us in your service;
relieve the needs of those in want and give us thankful hearts;
for Christ’s sake. Amen.
(lead voice) Bless us, O Lord, who bless your holy name
and by this food, feed us for your holy service.
(others) Thank you, Father and Lord. Amen.
This one could be said after meal time, to add some thankfulness “bookends” to the time together.
After meal prayer:
(lead voice) All your works praise you, O God,
(others) And your faithful servants bless you.
They make known the glory of your kingdom
And speak of your power.
For these and all God’s gifts and graces,
let us bless the Lord.
Thanks be to God. Amen.
1. We could also go around the table and thank God for something. (My kids balk at this usually.)
2. We could stand and hold hands, or change our posture during prayer, from the norm (which for us is holding hands while seated).
3. When could listen to a singing of a psalm, or worship song before the meal.
HELP! What else can be done to make mealtime prayer better?
For mother’s day my family got me a Rose of Sharon plant.
As you can see it’s nearly in full bloom. Although a lot was happening in the life of this new floral addition to my yard, it is the blooming that get us to notice it most, and think of it as really “coming to life.”
Working this week doing the Bible lessons for Vacation Bible School has gotten me to thinking a lot about ordo salutis (“the order of salvation”). This refers to the series of conceptual steps within the Christian doctrine of salvation. Evangelical tradition is particularly focused on “the decision” to follow Christ, and “accepting him into our heart.” While a choice is involved here that can change one’s life, we might be noticing the spiritual blossoming when we concern ourselves primarily with a person’s sudden conversion experience.
Today, my former theology professor, Ken Miller (of the Methodist tradition), posted quite an insightful piece on spirituality that we in ministry and soul care are wise to read:
excerpt: -by Ken Miller
Let me put this out there up front: I grew up in a revivalist tradition, in which a signal experience is what initiates one into the faith. Further, in that tradition it is more similar events which act as catalysts for further growth in the faith. Crisis experiences, usually building on emotions and culminating in a trip to the front of the church/campmeeting/crusade venue and subsequent prayer, are what create significant growth in the Christian life. These experiences likely have to do with the confession of a known sinful act or habit or the sudden realization that one’s current pattern is displeasing to God.
I am not about to dismiss the potential value of theses events/experiences. But I will question their sufficiency. Too often we watch the same individuals having emotional releases, only to return to the same patterns of life. It’s a problem at least as old as the revivalist tradition itself, as John Wesley himself struggled with it and created the Methodist system as a corrective. One could conclude, as Wesley did, that those who reverted to the old ways never really tasted the saving power of Christ; others, wrongly in my reading of scripture and Christian doctrine, claim that the experience itself authenticates one as “saved” for eternity. Apparently, change is optional. Tell it to Paul.
That brings me to the subject of the day, and of the brief passage below. Transformation happens not by an emotional experience, but by the renewing of the mind. We may well experience—and many may well need—the jolt of the emotions provided by the revivalist approach. But change will only come when the mind is changed. We need to think differently about things if we are going to act differently. We need to unlearn some things, some of which were certainties before the word of God pointed in a different direction. We will have to take a look at the ideas we’ve adopted from the culture, along with the ones we didn’t even think were open to serious challenge.
But there’s more to it than turning the faith into an intellectual battle with “worldly” ideas. As Paul’s argument continues, we find that we are called into action immediately, requiring a different attitude and set of habits toward the people we live with and encounter on a regular basis. Is it the case that these ways of dealing with people constitute the renewing of the mind as much as the bigger worldview questions?
Miller’s full article here:
It’s interesting to note that if we think one must be “saved” from spiritual separation from God–by mainly the act of a conscious choice–the mentally handicapped and others are excluded. It also erodes some of the proper understanding of God’s sovereign work (as if Salvation is “up to us”).
If however we see both the hunger to seek the truth about life and God, and also we perceive the work and indwelling of God, (seen best in the fruit of the Holy Spirit), we may be noticing the blossoming of God’s continuous work (of which is largely a mystery).
It seems we must be careful to understand the entire process, including the disciple-making (training) and sanctification process, post-decision…if “the decision” is even the crux of it all in the first place. For us it may seem pivotal, but later a deeper experience could follow, yet for God, it’s one long Story that includes his work, and us (individually) and the rest of humanity.
In truth we have a limited and frail concept of what God, by his grace, gives us.
What are your ideas regarding salvation or conversion?
Some flowery information:
Chavatzelet HaSharon (Hebrew חבצלת השרון) is an onion-like flower bulb. (Hebrew חבצלת ḥăḇaṣṣeleṯ) is a flower of uncertain identity translated as the Rose of Sharon in English language translations of the Bible. Etymologists have inconclusively linked the Biblical חבצלת to the words בצל beṣel, meaning ‘bulb’, and חמץ ḥāmaṣ, which is understood as meaning either ‘pungent’ or ‘splendid’ (The Analytical Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon). The name Rose of Sharon first appears in English in 1611 in the King James Version of the Bible. According to an annotation of Song of Solomon 2:1 by the translation committee of the New Revised Standard Version, “Rose of Sharon” is a mistranslation of a more general Hebrew word for “crocus”.
The most accepted interpretation for the Biblical reference is the Pancratium maritimum, which blooms in the late summer just above the high-tide mark. The Hebrew name for this flower is חבצלת or חבצלת החוף (coastal ḥăḇaṣṣeleṯ). It is commonly assumed by most people in Israel that, the Sharon plainbeing on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, the Biblical passage refers to this flower.
One of the most common responses people have when they get fed up with the re-runs of living their own small show is that they try to flip to a different channel. That is, they somehow realize a kind of radical change in life is necessary, so they try to re-make themselves.
Perhaps they start a new relationship, change careers, adopt a baby, buy a vehicle or expensive toy, go back to school, get plastic surgery, switch churches, move away, or in some way try to live out a better story. You’ve probably tried it, I know I have.
Maybe a person gets into religion, or he gets away from it. Maybe they start to need anti-depressants or anti-anxeity medication. Some abuse substances or live more dangerously. Something just seems wrong–and one tries to fix it.
Plenty of the time, these efforts do bring some distraction and change, and therefore a certain kind of freedom or renewal is felt (at least for a bit); but down deep, nothing important has changed at all. After a little while, the person still feels frustrated or undone. (Or something else unpleasant.) The channel may have changed, but what is lived out is just a Spin-off of “The Show About Me”. Sadly, very few fully realize that their perceptive, and how they live out reality, is fairly the same even after a massive change. The same troubles will assail them, in some way. However, the baggage gets heavier.
Our Creator is the true center of the Show (not us). The Supreme Being is irresistibly calling out, wooing us, and our thirst deepens.
It’s a fact that when a person is too dehydrated they may actually stop craving what they truly need-water/hydration and replenishment of nutrients. They may feel tired, ill, hungry, or numb, instead of thirsty. In an ironic twist, the person doesn’t desire what will make them healthy again. It’s a perilous situation. Without help, people die this way.
This kind of confusion happens spiritually too. Often, in fact. A common (household) term often used for what turns out to be a spiritual problem like this is most often called a “midlife crisis” or sometimes an “identity crisis.” It’s common for people to get a point where they need to “find themselves,” or re-define themselves, sometimes multiple times throughout one’s life. This “want to” to change is healthy, though many times misread. An identity shift like this may happen once or several times in one’s life where a person tries hard to better one’s circumstances, and find relief.
If you haven’t enter a stage like this yourself, I’m sure you can think of someone who has. For instance, in the last 18 months seven marriages at our church have spun out of control or failed. I believe a misunderstanding of this spiritual opportunity is a big reason why.
What must happen to be truly free, and on a full path to growth? Something more like a walk has to happen rather than a small show we create. A walk with God and changing one’s perspective to surrender to God and “his” Big Show (the authentic one “Reality”) is a path few take, or attempt for all that long. It just isn’t a simple or smooth road. It is a mysterious, sometimes troubling one, where the answers are rarely simple or pat. This is the path of faith (believing in what you can’t see, but still know is quite real). Sometimes changing the channel, multiple times, seems like the only sensible thing to do. The negative part is that we only get more of the same when we do that. It’s still our story we want to control, and our story stays small and frustrating.
As many who have done the enormous personal work to recover from drugs or alcohol can attest, one usually has to hit “rock bottom,” (or be fully ready), before surrender to a new, and bigger Show occurs (a life centered in God’s Reality). It all starts by doing something very rare and counter-intuitive. It’s something we all fear: Losing control and Humbly yielding to the Higher Power, and admitting that without grace, and true dependence on God and others, a better way cannot be possible. Perhaps the scripture comes to mind, …”if you try to save your life, you’ll lose it. But if you lose your life (yourself) for my sake, you will find it…”
In contrast, we wish to be self-made.… yet, only a small show about “me” is self-made. Transformation, growth, and sturdy happiness (joy) comes instead through the bravery of surrender to the greater Reality, and taking the more treacherous but rewarding path that comes with this decision.
In part III installment on this topic, I’ll mention some things that happen once this pivotal choice is made. A person’s attitude and outlook change; and how one orders one’s life undergoes critical and unavoidable development with radical shifts in thinking, acting, and relating to others–for the better! We’re talking here about spiritual formation.
I’ll describe that a bit more, soon, in part III. Check back in the next few days and see.
This is a lot to chew on, especially if this is a new concept, and you’ve never encountered these ideas before. Some people call it “being born again”…. and in a real sense, a new life starts for the person who is ready: A whole new life begins.
…to be continued…
Have I been living my own small story?
Have I longed for a richer life, but have really only being encountering re-runs or spin offs of a short-changed Show?
What is stopping me from walking a new life?
What are your responses, insights, or thoughts on this topic?
I will be graduating this May, and I cannot say enough about the wonderful school I have been attending!
The students, staff, and professors form a beautiful community, rich in love, thoughtful in understanding, and dedicated to helping others live–not just know–the gospel, and the deep, high, long, and wide love of God. The transformation God has done in my heart, by way of this place-during my years here, is difficult to sum up. But, my life is forever changed and renewed. My character, and love for others is stronger, my understanding of my God and my purpose and meaning in this world has blossomed. And, I am far better prepared for the next adventure God has for me since I followed a call to come to ETS. What an immense joy it has been. I’ve loved it the whole time, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
Perhaps you’re at a crossroads, or may you feel the tug of God to go deeper to learn, serve, grow, and love your Creator and Redeemer. This school, my school, Evangelical Theological Seminary, would be a fantastic way to move along on your journey. The upcoming Open House is a great way to find out if this path would be a one for you. April 8th you can talk to and hear from students and faculty, tour the campus, ask questions, and learn more.
Here is a bit of information, (and the day’s schedule) for the upcoming Open House, April 8th.
Leave any questions you have here, or contact the ETS office 777-866-5775.