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.  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.

Real talk on Religion with Bristol Palin

Ok, I’m not talking WITH her, I’m just talking TO her.

Bristol Palin is pregnant again.

However, lest any of you judgy-mcjudgerson’s want to pass a verdict down from your lofty bench of responsibility, abstinence, or safe sex-i-ness, she planned the pregnancy this time.

So there!

She doesn’t want your lectures or your sympathy, and she cares “this much” about negativity. In fact, if you don’t like her choices you should just “deal with it.”
What she presumably DOES want, however, is for you to continue reading her blog on “faith and being a mom,” buy her book, and watch her on reality shows– (she relied on her faith to get her through Dancing with the Stars). Oh, and also, support her in her important causes (for which she is paid), such as preventing unplanned (teen) pregnancy.

*blank stare*

Here’s the thing: If Bristol were the “single mother who lived next door to me, ” I like to think we’d be friends. I bet she’s fun. I like her tenacity and boldness, and I resonate with her desire to speak her mind. Alas, we aren’t neighbors or friends. But as a woman, a mother, and a Christian, I am her sister.

So, I am left with saying this here; Bristol, Please stop it.

Please stop publicly using your faith and projected moral superiority, as a reason that no one should judge you, all the while judging other people.

Please stop standing and shouting on the moral high ground when you’re knee-deep in a pothole.

If you are going to make a living out of broadcasting your life and your faith to the world, please stop being confused and frustrated when others have commentary on it.

The problem with a “deal with it” attitude is that it paints Christianity in an ugly light to the rest of the world. The beauty of our Christian faith is that we get to be gloriously imperfect, and ugly, and still redeemed. A little humility, particularly at this juncture, would go a long way toward endearing others to you, but also–and more importantly, to me–in drawing the world to God. “Christ came to save sinners, of whom I am chief “- you know, that kind of preaching.

I don’t blame you completely, though. The faith community is obsessed with public displays of faith in the sense that we love to relate to someone in the public eye – and we often have the mistaken idea that somehow being famous makes those people a “better” advocate for our faith. So, we repost their quotes, blog posts or speeches, as if somehow by osmosis, our religious purposes will be accomplished. I can’t tell you how many Facebook memes I see daily with “Christian” quotes from celebrities or politicians, coupled with a proverbial “Amen” from the posting party.

If you asked the human brother of Jesus Christ what “real” religion is, you might have heard him say this:
True devotion, the kind that is pure and faultless before God the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their difficulties, and to keep the world from contaminating us. – James 1:27

I have a friend. He’s not famous. He plays basketball with prisoners at a large prison most weekends, and loves them in their brokenness. This is pure religion. Another friend collects coats and blankets for the homeless in our city, and hand delivers them with love and prayer. Another friend organizes backpack drives for foster children. Yet another friend works tirelessly to eradicate juvenile sex trafficking. None of these people have a national platform, but if they did – I’m pretty sure they would use it in the good cause of “pure” religion.

Instead of being snarky to your critics, I suggest you welcome them, Bristol. Don’t blow them off with smug pictures and trite sayings. BE about what you talk about. And use your public platform at this pivotal time in your life to affect some real change in the world, and not just spare change in your pocket.

I write this to encourage Bristol Palin and other public people of faith; Instead of talking about your faith and cloaking your public persona in it, and then being annoyed when others use it against you, WORK out your own faith with humility in the public square. It’s pretty hard to criticize someone who is in the trenches doing the good work.


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