Tag Archives: Formation 15

Your (intimidating, awesome) Mama-job

Hey, Mom! You’re doing a great job — do you know that? It can be SOOOOOO rewarding to be a mom at times. And it can also be SOOOOOO tiring and intimidating and guilt-inducing if we try to live up to some outrageously unrealistic standard and perpetually feel like we’re failing. So let me ask you: Do you love your kids? Are you doing your best? Did you answer yes and yes? Then you’re doing great!

OK… glad to get that out of the way. I needed to hear that and to say that and I hope you took it to heart. Now on to this week’s topic . . . which can, unfortunately, actually BE a source of said frustration and sense of failure. Let’s talk about the faith we impart to our kids.

b.w. girls playing bike

Deuteronomy 6:5-7 charges us with the weightiest of responsibilities and the most amazing of opportunities: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”

So, let’s be candid. Do I literally do all this? No. If we understand this as an exact literal directive, it’s impossible to achieve. (And, to be honest, it would make my kids very annoyed. We don’t want our non-stop God-talk to end up sounding like Charlie-Brown adults, bwah-bwah-bwah, bwah-bwah-bwah…) But if we understand it as casting a vision for us — making plain a principle — it’s so inviting and exciting and invigorating. It’s about weaving discussions of faith in and through everyday life. It’s pulling God-talk out of the van-on-the-way-home-from-church box and sprinkling it into all those other moments of living. It’s turning plain-moments into God-moments with a bit of intentionality. And one crucial ingredient to cultivating such moments? Adding FUN!

And so, without further ado, here are 12 ideas for you of ways you can transform fun experiences with your kids into meaningful faith-metaphors: Continue reading


In Dark Times . . . Praying For Light

It’s been a dark and difficult weekend as we’ve all sat numb in grief and horror, sorrow and shock. Words cannot adequately express the sadness for the victims of Friday’s tragedy.

When I am wordless, I often turn to the written word to guide my prayers. And this Advent, I’ve sought these words in Scripture and historical prayers.

One particularly meaningful litany for me this month has been whispering, contemplating, and returning to whisper again the ancient “O Antiphons.” These prayers from early Christendom — possibly as early as the fifth century — have been echoed by the saints, resonating through the years. They are prayers of yearning and longing; they are affirmations of promise and hope. Drawn from phrases in Scripture describing the Messiah, these prayers are traditionally prayed one per day on December 17th through the 23rd. I haven’t waited until today, though. I’ve found my soul’s rhythm in these prayers, focusing my heart on the Messiah who is light illuminating all the world’s darkness.blog.lightbulb

Journey through these prayers. Embrace their theological truth. Let them remind you of the ultimate hope that Jesus alone fulfills.

O Wisdom, O holy Word of God,
you govern all creation
with your strong yet tender care.
Come and show your people
the way to salvation
O sacred Lord of ancient Israel,
who showed yourself to Moses
in the burning bush,
who gave him the holy law
on Sinai mountain:
come, stretch out your mighty hand
to set us free.
O Flower of Jesse’s stem,
you have been raised up
as a sign for all peoples;
kings stand silent in your presence;
the nations bow down
in worship before you.
Come, let nothing keep you
from coming to our aid.
O Key of David,
O royal Power of Israel
controlling at your will
the gate of Heaven:
Come, break down
the prison walls of death
for those who dwell in darkness
and the shadow of death;
and lead your captive people
into freedom.
O Radiant Dawn,
splendor of eternal light,
sun of justice:
come, shine on those
who dwell in darkness
and the shadow of death.
O King of all the nations,
the only joy of every human heart;
O Keystone
of the mighty arch of man,
come and save the creature
you fashioned from the dust
O Emmanuel,
king and lawgiver,
desire of the nations,
Savior of all people,
come and set us free,
Lord our God.

(Christians created these prayers from passages including Isaiah 2:4; 7:14; 9:2, 6–7; 11:1–5, 10; 22:22; 28:16; 33:22; 42:1–7; 60:1–3.)

The Virtue Tree

Scripture is full of teachings about virtue, laws guiding God’s people toward character, exhortations to live in a way that reflects God himself. Pause now to consider these passages (click on them to read them online):

Colossians 3:12-14

Galatians 5:22-23

Ephesians 4:31-32

Titus 3:1-2

1 Peter 3:8-12

Wow! Inspired? Convicted? Both? Living a God-fashioned life is a tall order. Though God is at work in us, changing us from the inside out, God doesn’t do this like magic. It’s not like poof! Now you’re virtuous! Oh no. As you read these passages, you see clearly that along with God’s work the onus is on us to strive with all of our being to embody God’s likeness in our thoughts, actions, words, deeds. In the Middle Ages, Christians used the image of a tree with branches symbolizing the biblical virtues of a God-honoring life.

Consider this ancient image (here and here) and pray through the passages listed above. Invite God to show you one or two ways in which, this very day, you can focus on more fully embodying who he is. Is it kindness? Is it patience? Is it forgiveness? However God leads you, rely on him, be sensitive to his leading . . . and grow.

Mirror-gazing, part 2

A spiritual practice that’s been particularly meaningful to me in recent years is examen or examination of conscience. It’s a Christian way of praying that is a sort of confession — an honest look, with God, at one’s life or at one’s day. It’s nestled in grace, not guilt, and it’s a way of identifying areas of needed growth. It’s also a great way to pause and recognize in gratitude the many ways God has been and currently is at work in one’s life! Click here to read a post in which I explain how to practice examen. Consider what role this prayer practice might play in your life.

2 Poems for your weekend (15-minute formation)

Mid-19th century British poet  and devout Christian Gerard Manley Hopkins invites us to think deeply and spiritually about the wonder of the created world. Here are two lovely poems for you to ponder (both public domain).

God’s Grandeur

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.

It will flame out, like shining from shook foil; Continue reading

15-Minute Formation: Gratitude Journal

“So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness” (Colossians 2:6-7).

The  other day I listened to a powerful radio-show podcast on gratitude featuring R.T. Kendall. Kendall encourages listeners to intentionally pause and reflect with gratitude through the practice of journalling. “What I do now every day,” Kendall explained, “is read my journal from yesterday, go through every item, and thank the Lord for every little thing. Do you know how long it takes? About 20 seconds.” Continue reading

15-Minute Formation: Your Family, Your Community

If you’re a mom, one of the most important ways to practice the discipline of fellowship may surprise you. We often long to “get away” from our kids for some “real” fellowship with adults. I can certainly empathize with that desire! And we certainly do need adult time!

But if you’re at a stage in which you’ve got kids in the house, whether they’re 2 months old or 18 years old, spending time with them can be a meaningful and significant aspect of “fellowship” in your life. Time building relationships. Time listening. Time sharing and mentoring.

And even those tough times — when your kids stretch your patience, push you to the brink of losing your temper, or frustrate you to the extreme — these experiences are part of the good fellowship can do in your life. Those tough times are opportunities to practice service, to choose humility, to exercise self-control and grace. Continue reading

Formation 15: Multiple Choice

These 15-minute formation posts are simple ways you can put the month’s discipline into practice in your life. Since stewardship is so broad, I’ve got a few options and ideas you can choose from.

• Get One, Give One: We’ve got lots of stuff . . . often much more than we need. In the spirit of simplicity and stewardship, seek to break the accumulation cycle. Before holidays (and yes, this period counts as “before Christmas”) and birthdays, gather with your kids (or just do this yourself) to determine what you do not need. Select items of clothing, toys, or household goods that are in decent shape and choose a good organization you can donate them to who will put them to good use. Rather than just the local thrift store, consider donating to a crisis pregnancy center or a local shelter. (For example, in Indianapolis where I live, Wheeler Mission runs a unique thrift store — whatever they don’t use with clients is sold in this store. Low-income folks are able to buy affordable goods, and all funds go to Wheeler mission.)

• Fast with Focus: As a way to be a good steward of your financial resources, consider this way to practice generosity. Select something to fast from, such as a month without vanilla lattes, skipping lunch on Wednesdays for a few weeks, or replacing Friday pizza with ramen noodles for a night. Determine the amount of $ you’d normally spend on that item or meal, and then choose instead to give that money for God’s kingdom purposes, such as through supporting a missionary, donating to a local homeless shelter, extra giving to your church, or giving to a Christian organization that fights global poverty.

• Care for Creation: Whether you’re red or blue, left of right, Republican or Democrat, if you’re a Christian it ought to be only natural to care for God’s creation — our amazing planet. In gratitude to him for the beauty of our world and the resources he’s given us to be stewards of, we can each do our part to care for planet earth, God’s work of art.

A few simple ideas:

1. Recycle! We took a hiatus from recycling but have been back at it again for the past 6 months or so. It is stunning how much we’ve recycled that would have simple gone into a landfill. We had no idea how much trash we were tossing out until we started recycling a portion of it! This simple, practical choice can be a spiritual act of worship and obedience! (Indy folks, check out KIBI for free recycling sites.)

2. Visit a farmers market. I realize this is the end of farmers market season, so you may need to do this next year. But shopping from local family farms is healthy for your family, good for the local economy, and is actually a powerful way to help the environment. Most produce at grocery stores has been shipped from far away — with tons of pollution and fuel used to get it to you. If you can increase whatever your normal amount of shopping at a farmers market is — for example, going from 2 times a summer to 4 — you can contribute positively to environmental health . . . and enjoy yummy food in the process!

3. Learn more. I mentioned politics earlier because I think political issues often cause inertia among Christians when it comes to the environment. Don’t let politics, stereotypes, or mean-spirited comments from the right or left hold you back from honoring God in this area! I urge you to check out great Christian organizations and resources to learn more. Here are a few places to start:

“How Green Should We Be?” (a download from Kyria/Christianity Today about environmental care, including insightful articles and discussion questions)

Earth-Wise by Calvin DeWitt (a great in-depth Bible study about creation care)

Evangelical Environmental Network (Yes, there ARE evangelicals who are environmentalists, including me! Learn more about why creation care is so important by checking out this site and their Creation Care magazine.)

Plant With Purpose (a non-profit organization that helps the poor by addressing environmental degradation)



15-Minute Formation: A Dangerous Prayer

How can you practice hospitality this month?

I could, of course, suggest that you make an amazing dinner and invite friends over.

Or I could suggest that you ready the guest room with pillow-top mints, fresh flowers, and hotel-like atmosphere.

But I’d rather suggest something much more simple . . . and dangerous.

My dangerous suggestion: pray.

Dare to invite God to give you an opportunity, today, to show hospitality. In an article in MOMSense, Jane Jarrell wrote: “Hospitality provides a shelter for the soul, a healing for the spirit. Ultimately this is what we offer when we open our home in the true spirit of love or when we offer our time, gifts or talents outside of our home to reach others.”

So your opportunity to show hospitality might mean you’re sharing hospitable words or a listening ear. It might be through a shared latte, an arm around a shoulder, a welcoming smile. It might be through a simple act of minsitry that’s far from your home — or it may in fact mean inviting someone over for a meal.

I recently read an interview with a woman who prayed this way, each day, for 40-days. Everyday she discovered a God-given opportunity to be hospitable. These opportunities stretched her, grew her, and drew her ever closer to God. What an amazing journey!

Ask God to open your eyes to the opportunity, big or small. Pray each day this week . . . your life will be changed!


15-Minute Formation: Survey the Cross

I’ll say very little here. There’s not much I can add to the stunning words of this hymn. This weekend, set aside 15 minutes to practice the discipline of self-examination by reading and entering into the lyrics and sentiments of this hymn. In your mind’s eye, look at Christ on the Cross. Consider why he is crucified there — how his love for you, and his grace for your own sin, led him to that place of agony and miracle.

When I Survey the Wondrous Cross

When I survey the wondrous cross

On which the Prince of glory died,

My richest gain I count but loss,

And pour contempt on all my pride.

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,

Save in the death of Christ my God!

All the vain things that charm me most,

I sacrifice them to His blood.

See from His head, His hands, His feet,

Sorrow and love flow mingled down!

Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,

Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

His dying crimson, like a robe,

Spreads o’er His body on the tree;

Then I am dead to all the globe,

And all the globe is dead to me.

Were the whole realm of nature mine,

That were a present far too small;

Love so amazing, so divine,

Demands my soul, my life, my all.

 Isaac Watts, Public Domain