The Practice of Pondering: Teaching Children to “Be Still and Know.”

On the surface, it would seem that I’m the least likely person to teach anything to anyone about being quiet.  Or still.  I promise you.  My whole life has essentially been a series of suggestions to “sit still,”  “stop talking,”  “wait a minute,” “slow down,” “take a breath,” “hang on a sec,” or “let’s not get ahead of ourselves.”

I’m a learn-out-loud, talk-it-out, idea person.  My thoughts tend to take u-turns when I don’t verbalize them.  That’s just who I am.

But, I’m learning.  And growing.

And, it turns out, you CAN teach an old dog new tricks, despite the conventional wisdom – especially when we are talking about the Lord.  Because… “He who has begun a good work in me will be faithful to complete it…”  Hallelujah!

A few years ago, God highlighted an innocuous little verse for my restless heart, and it became a clarion call for my life.   “But Mary treasured up all these things, and pondered them in her heart.”    The verse is found in Luke 2:19 right after the telling of the “Christmas Story.”

Picture Mary here, holding her infant child.  Less than a year before, she was just an average girl, but then, she is visited by an angel, told that she has been impregnated by the Holy Spirit, and that the child she is carrying is the Savior of the world!?  Christ is then born in a dirty stable, in a town far away from home,  and soon, strangers suddenly start visiting them – guided to them only by the hand of God, and then they begin worshiping her baby – right there in that dirty stable.

Instead of freaking out, instead of drowning in her overwhelm of the entire situation, instead of emotionally imploding at the sheer weight of God in her life (like MY postpartum self would have done)….. it tells us that Mary “treasured up all these things, and PONDERED them in her heart.”

I was suddenly so struck by this phrase.   And challenged by it.  Perhaps I could spend more time just”treasuring and pondering”

So, I purposed to start “practicing pondering.”    Just a daily time of quiet thoughts – meditation – about what God is doing in my life.

I know – I said the “M-Word” – MEDITATION.  Cue the patchouli incense and crystals.  Ummm..no.  We are talking here about Biblical meditation.  Psalm 77:12, “I will consider all your works and meditate on all your mighty deeds.”

Meditation is simply disciplined thought.

As this new habit began to enrich my life, I quickly realized that my kids needed a dose of this as well.  But, teaching kids to “meditate” quietly isn’t easy.  I needed some practical tools, so I set out to find some.  I’d like to share what I’ve learned in the hope that you can use it to teach the children in YOUR life the art and discipline of quiet time.  Or maybe you need these tools for yourself!

First, we must understand that children crave time to be quiet and still.  They NEED it to mull their BIG thoughts about God.  Having a practice of meditation as a child is a great navigational tool for relationships as well.  There are many studies that demonstrate its lifelong benefits.

In the beginning, the empty quiet space feels like eternity.  One way to help define this time for children is to use music.  Choose a 2-3 min hymn or inspirational (but low-intensity) worship song, and have children find a comfortable spot on the floor to “think” about God while the song plays.  After the song, simply ask them what they thought about.   Don’t be surprised or discouraged if it’s NOT God at first, just keep encouraging them.  Children love routine and the consistency of the familiar, so consider using the same song every time for a while, but eventually you can choose longer songs or two songs to extend this time.

Any good teacher will tell you that “prompts” are another great tool.   Each night before bedtime, we started giving our kids a high/low prompt.  It’s a simple way to get their brain reviewing the day and thinking about moments and experiences, and the feelings they associated with them.  It’s a very simple concept – “Take a moment and think about your day.  In a couple of minutes, I am going to ask you to tell me about your high moment and your low moment today.”  What was the best thing about today (high)?  What was the worst thing (low)?

One of my favorite prompts came from a VBS that my kids attend every year.  It is the “God-Sighting” prompt.  They give all the kids a silicone bracelet with the words “Watch For God,”  and each morning they ask kids to recall “God-sightings” from the day before.   It’s so great!   I always stay for this part of the VBS morning, and it makes me cry EVERY.TIME.  Hearing kids talk about the rainbow they saw, or the friend who sat with them…or whatever little pint-sized anecdote they come up with to illustrate where and how THEY saw God in their life is so heartwarming.   We’ve adopted this in our lives.  It’s as simple as a morning reminder to “watch for God” today.  And an evening moment to stop and think for a few minutes (ponder), and then let’s talk about your God-sightings for the day!   (HINT:  if your kids take showers or baths unsupervised, that’s a great time to encourage them to do this!)

Finally, and unsurprisingly, consistency is key, like anything with children.   Find a time or two that makes sense in your family’s day,  and implement one or two of these ideas daily.  I think you will be encouraged by it.   Try it for a week, and then share how it has worked for you.  Share with your child’s Sunday School teacher, your small group, your church elders and pastors, or on your church social media pages.It’s a great way to testify of the work of God in your family and encourage others in the process.

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Do you Believe in Magic?

Do you Believe in magic?

Can I tell you a secret?  It’s really NOT a secret, but it seems to escape so many people, that it almost feels like inside information.

Serving others is a balm for your soul.

Seriously, it’s the “magic” cure for a complaining spirit.

The day after the U.S. presidential election I woke up with a political hangover.  After staying up all night to watch the election returns, and listening to the pundits and so-called “experts”  discuss the ins and outs of the political game, I was feeling very…umm….introspective – just a little downhearted about the spirit of division, and the philosophical divide that separates “right” and “left” in this country – and what that says about the state of our union, and more importantly – our hearts. I was concerned for the future – for my children’s  future, and my family’s future.  I was frustrated about the gloating and moping I was hearing/reading from my friends whose candidate had won or lost. And I just felt blue.

But, life had to go on.  I had a busy day scheduled.  On my crazy agenda for the day was;   1.) Home school my boys  2.) Clean my house  3.) run errands 4.) Direct a public school Christmas choir rehearsal 5.)  Make AND deliver beef stew and french bread to a church member recovering from surgery, and 6.) Host three families and their children in our home for dinner and a Bible study/discussion about parenting in today’s world.  I’m tired just typing all that.  🙂

After the last person left my house, and my husband and I managed getting our hyped-up boys to bed, (much too late),  I sat down for the first time since morning.  And, yes – I’m tired…but I’m just sayin…..I feel better.  Less worried.  Less despondent.  Less discouraged.   Instead, I feel renewed.  I feel energized.  And I feel a sense of hope in the power of real and true relationships with others – the kind Jesus taught us about.

For even the Son of man came not to BE served, but to serve others, and give his life a ransom for many.  (Matthew 20:28)

There’s just SOMETHING about serving, and physically DOING things for others that makes you feel better.   I promise.  Try it sometime.

In this broken world, it’s easy to be discouraged about things.  Wars, rumors of wars, and natural disasters surround us.  Just this past week, we’ve seen the devastating effects of Hurricane Sandy in the Northeast part of our country.  Many struggle with debt, or are having to work harder and harder to make family life work – spouses are traveling and working more, mommies who previously stayed home full-time  are having to get jobs to make ends meet, and culturally, it often feels that the onslaught of values which don’t match mine come from every angle.   In this world, it can be an easy to fall into the trap of our emotions, and get downtrodden and disheartened.

I’m suggesting a better way.

When you have that moment – that feeling of doom and gloom – stop looking down, and look around.   Find someone to serve. (You won’t have to look very far).   Purpose to do something for the good of another.  The world will instantly become a brighter place.  I love the quote that says, “Those who bring sunshine into the lives of others, cannot keep it from themselves.” (James Barrie – creator of Peter Pan.

It’s like magic.  Good, Old-Fashioned “magic.”

That Jesus guy knew what he was doing.

The Value of One

Recently, I read a quote that said, “Everybody is God’s somebody.”  

Can you imagine how different the world would be if each of us truly embraced that thought—that we—each one of us—is important in the scope of this life, and in eternity? How would I behave differently if I believed that my life has value?  How would I treat others differently if I believed THEIR life has value?

 I thought that quote was such a simple profoundity, and it got me thinking about the value or worth of a person – and whether or not I assign the people that I meet the value they are due.  How do I show the people I interact with that I think they are valuable?  Do I really even BELIEVE that they are?  How can I make THEM believe that?

Enter my five year old son, who, with his innocent charm, unwittingly taught me a life lesson of eternal magnitude. 

Here’s the story: 

With the recent closure of our precious preschool, I have found myself flung (slightly prematurely) squarely into the talons of full time homemaking and homeschooling – something I always knew I would probably do, but wasn’t feeling quite prepared or equipped to begin yet. 

As an ambitious, gregarious person who likes to “make things happen,” I’ve never lacked for a project.  Along the way, I’ve been a student, teacher, production director, recording artist, small business owner, skin care consultant, group coordinator, preschool founder, and committee chairperson – to varying degrees of excellence.  Accomplishments in each of these roles all contributed to feelings of success in my life.  Or you might say they made me feel important.

 Over the last few weeks, I’ve made a concerted effort to “do” homemaking and homeschooling right – as I have with every project I have undertaken. I’ve made a home control binder.  I’ve done menu plans and shopping lists….created lesson plans and art projects….scheduled play dates and field trips.  I’ve packed my husband’s lunch, and been thoughtful about budgeting. 

 My son has thrived. 

As much as he LOVED his preschool teachers, and classroom buddies, he is bounding out of bed each day, so excited to begin the adventures of our home school day.  

I was feeling successful, and important…and umm…..valuable.

His appreciation showed, and his affection level grew in just a couple of days, and I was the happy recipient of a plethora of spontaneous hugs, kisses, and “I love you’s.”   The other day, he crawled up in my lap for one such snuggle, and I thought I would take a moment to get myself a little affirmation, so I asked him, “Honey, what’s your favorite part of homeschooling?” –expecting him to say something about all the THINGS we’ve (read: I’ve) been doing to make it great.  But he said, quickly and unflinchingly, “just being with you, everyday, mommy.”

*Crickets, chirping*

See…I had it backwards.  I was finding my value BECAUSE of the things I was doing.  But really, I should do them because I AM VALUED. 

Me.

Just being Corrina – a child of God, uniquely created in His image – makes me special.  Everything I do within that role is BECAUSE I am a life of worth in His sight.  That sure changes my motivation, doesn’t it?   My son valued ME – above anything I did for him.  Just like God.

Kids are so wise, aren’t they.

Therefore, my husband is valuable BEFORE he does anything for me.  The girlfriend who isn’t a very available friend is valuable BEFORE she puts anything into the friendship.  The salesperson who isn’t working very hard to earn her commission is valuable simply because SHE IS.   

If I am to be like Christ, then it is my responsibility to show them that, and treat them accordingly.  It could be as simple as a look, a touch, a word….a hug, even.  A mindful moment where I assign another child of God’s life the value that God himself does.

So today, I am purposing to live OUT my value instead of trying to make myself valuable.  And I’m purposing to affectionately show others that they are valuable too. 

Matthew 10:29-31

“Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? And one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows. “

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