Helping Our Children Develop a Conversational Relationship with God

What follows is recent guidance offered to a homeschooling Mom about what it looks like to help a child develop a conversational relationship with God.

What does it look like for my child to build a relationship with God? Honestly, sometimes I’m not even sure what it looks like for me.

For all of us, children included, this looks like getting to know someone. As you are teaching your child the stories from the Bible you are helping her get a sense of what God is like, who God is. Part of that knowledge is how much God loves her and wants to be in a relationship with her. I know it’s cliché to say, but God really does want to be her friend. God wants friendship with persons.

You can help introduce her to this friendship by helping your child to pray- to talk with God, as she is learning about God. Maybe after each lesson, ask her, “What did you notice about God?” “What would you say God is like?” or the simple, "Tell me what you think or feel about God." Then invite her to respond through writing or drawing something she’d like to share with God. It is important to choose stories that she can understand. For the first decade of life I like to focus on the gospel stories of Jesus. You will enjoy getting a peek into her thoughts and feelings, into her developing relationship with God. As with all things of great value, hold this with tender hands. Never pry, or manipulate or cajole. 

However, a relationship with God is more “caught” than “taught.” She will “catch” or grow into her relationship with God as you do. Allow yourself to talk with God aloud throughout the day and she will follow you. When you are frustrated or need some help, ask God aloud for it. “Hi God, I’m tired, my head hurts and dinner needs to be made, could you help me?”

When your child is struggling invite her to talk with God. Invite her to share her thoughts and feelings with God.

Part of talking with God rather than at God is the practice of listening. Invite her to listen to what God is saying. Allow her to peek into your listening life with God. When you feel God prompting you to do good or be kind, say aloud something like, “I hear you God asking me to .....”

This moves a portion of your internal life outside of yourself, where she can “catch” your relationship with God. Soon enough her relationship with God will take on it’s own character and form, but in the beginning as with most things- she will mimic you.

AND that’s good.

You’ve got this dear Mama.

God picked you to be her Mom, because God trusts you.

God is with you and within you. 

Mani/Pedi: Horse Care-- The Tarzana Posts

Trimming horse hooves is not my favorite thing to do. It is a back breaking process that takes over an hour per horse to do correctly. It is even harder when you have a horse like mine who is putting on weight for the little one in her belly. Lady is very heavy and loves to make the process even harder by not holding her 1500 pounds on all her hooves. My grandpa says it’s just how she is, but secretly I think she enjoys seeing two people struggle to hold up one foot.

The other horse Pepper is very well behaved. She is content to hold her foot up for you. She would like you just leave her alone, but if it must be done she will help you get it over with quickly. Here are my instructions for Horse Mani Pedis.

            First, you can arrange clippers, file, and nail polish in a bucket.

            Second, tie your horse up short so she doesn’t move around while going through the irritating process.

            Cut around the circle of the edge of the hoof, careful not to cut of too much or too little. Often during this stage, the horse will try to pull the foot away from you. To counter this you need to hold the foot harder or ask someone to hold it for you.

            After you have gone all the way around the hoof you can use the file. The rougher side of the file will make it harder to file so I recommend using the smaller side if this is your first time.

            Horse hoof are like human fingernails they will chip and break if they do not get the nail polish that you should put on them. The polish is clear and will make the hoof look shiny at first but once it dries it will look like the rest of the hoof.

            Once this process is complete then you may untie the horse. I like to take them out to the yard and let them mow the grass while I clean up. After about ten minutes I take the horses and release them back out into the pasture to play. Even though it is back breaking your horses will say thank you with a snuggle for the beautiful nails.

Little Blue Flower-- The Tarzana Posts

Little Blue Flower-- The Tarzana Posts

It is the first of September and I find myself wandering down to the pasture of my family’s farm. I like to go down there during this season and watch the goats and my two horses Pepper and Lady munch on the grass. They often play no attention to me. If I pet them I will occasionally get a tail swipe. I not only like to go down there for the animals but also for the splendid flowers.

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Soul Soil

Recently my minister friend, Mimi Dixon, was preaching on Matthew 13. She asked me to describe what it takes to cultivate good soil. Celtic Christians have often taught that the Earth is the first Scripture we read and so I agreed, reflecting on what Lady Terra Firma might want us to know.

For soil to be ready to receive and nurture seed, we must first take stock of it. We have to get down on our knees and thrust our hands in. We have to get dirt under our fingernails. We have to squeeze it in our hands and sometimes smell it. I’ve even heard farmers talk about tasting the dirt. (I gave that up in the third grade and I’m not going back.) Preparing soil is dirty work. You can’t do it in your Sunday best or your good shoes.

After getting up close and personal with the soil and determining what is needed to bring it to the place of being ready to receive seed, the soil must be broken.

Around here in mountain clay, it’s backbreaking work, best done with a pitchfork thrusted into the ground. With all the weight and force that can be mustered, the metal tongs must pierce the earth, shattering the surface that has grown hard with years of being walked upon, with years of weathering. What was underneath must come to the surface.

My grandfather taught me to work with the earth by applying a little moisture. A little water will loosen up the soil, creating a grace between the granules that allows for the necessary breaking and churning.  

Once the soil is broken, nutrients are worked in. Nutrients in the form of grass and water processed through the south end of a northbound cow. (We’ll pause right here, while you work that out.)

Now, these “nutrients” aren’t ready right after processing. Right after processing, it’s only waste matter--what’s left when all the good has been taken out. This processed grass and water is the diseased, the discarded, and the useless. In nature though, (like the kingdom of God) nothing is wasted.

What is needed is a little transformation time. Processed grass and water is worked into a compost pile where time and heat will transform what was a waste product into something that is essential for good soil. If the waste isn’t processed fully it will plant alfalfa seed wherever it is spread (a hard lesson I learned in a now defunct strawberry garden gone wrong). If the compost pile isn’t turned and tended, it will begin to stink up the neighborhood and grow things even Dr. Frankenstein might be afraid of.

The nutrients are ready when they don’t stink any more and nothing is germinating—then it’s time to work it into the broken soil. Allowing it amend what was lacking, heal what was broken and create a rich environment for receiving and nurturing seed.

Soul soil works in a similar way, even the soul soil of children.

Perhaps something is this post resonates for you or for a child in your life?

Are you experiencing the breaking and churning?

            Where is the water, the grace that allows?

Are you experiencing the transformation of waste product?

            How can you participate in the turning and tending?

Are you on the other side, experiencing the growth of good seed that came from transformed soil?

 

Good, Good Gardener Jesus, thank you for tending our soul soil.

Engaging Maundy Thursday through Easter with Families

Excerpt from Good Dirt: Lent, Holy Week, and Eastertide...

Maundy Thursday

Seasonal Fun:

Maundy Thursday begins the second part of Holy Week, and with it comes a shift in focus. Its name comes from the Last Supper, when Jesus declares, “A new commandment I give to you: love one another.” At this point in Holy Week, we no longer prepare; we are instead immersed. We don’t think to the future; we live in the present. We slow and quiet our lives and our homes so that we can focus on Jesus.

Choose one or two of the following practices:

  • »  Remove everything but the cross and the Christ candle from the Family Altar.

  • »  Turn off the TV and keep it off until Sunday. If you can, do the same for computers and unnecessary phones.

  • »  Read the account of the Last Supper together as a family.

  • »  Begin dinner with the “highest ranking” family member washing everyone’s hands. (You can do feet if you want; in our culture washing hands before dinner is customary.)

  • »  Attend a Passover Seder meal; this is the traditional Jewish ritual meal that we believe Jesus was celebrating at the Last Supper. Ask around: there are often people in the community who like to include others.

  •  

    Reflect on the Following:

    Till: Jesus, thank you for your body and your blood that you gave for us. Help us to remember that when we eat and drink of you, we will never hunger or thirst again.

    Plant: John 13:1-35

  • Water:

  • »  Receive it: When did someone serve you today?

  • »  Serve it: When could you serve another person today?

Weed: When did you share Jesus today through serving? When did you receive Jesus today by being served?

Good Friday

Seasonal Fun:

Good Friday is the saddest day of the church year. It is the day that hope dies. We are tempted to let our minds skip to Sunday, but we must resist. Easter can only be birthed from death. So we as a family sit in our sadness on this day. We lean into the pain and suffering of Jesus. On this day our faith is tried. Could we—would we follow Jesus to the cross? Is our love and devotion to him strong enough to walk with him through the valley of the shadow of death?

  • »  Read the account of the crucifixion as a family (today’s reading).

  • »  Invite the family to wear black to signify mourning for the dead Christ.

  • »  If your family doesn’t normally make the sign of the cross, try it today. When we make the sign of the cross we give all of ourselves to God, we accept the salvation of the cross for all the parts of us, and we also remember that all parts of us must die in order to live. Using the tips of your fingers, begin by touching your forehead, then your chest. Touch the front of one shoulder and then the other. Make it slowly and carefully each time you pray today. As you make the sign think about Jesus’ dying for the whole of us: our minds (forehead), our hearts (chest), and our bodies (shoulders). Explain the sign and his death to your children.

  • »  At 3 P.M. today, blow out the Christ candle as a sign of Jesus’ death.

  •  

    Reflect on the following:

    Till: We can’t say “thank you” enough for dying for us. Help us, Lord Jesus. Give us the strength, the love, and the devotion, to follow you wherever you may lead. We cannot do it by ourselves.

Plant: John 19:19-42

Water:

  • »  Imagine it: What was the most difficult thing to imagine about today’s reading?

  • »  Share it: Which person do you most identify with?

    Weed: When did you make the sign of the cross today? What did it mean to you? Where would be the most difficult place Jesus could lead you? How can you prepare to follow him anywhere?

    Holy Saturday

    We have no reading on Holy Saturday. It is a day where the silence of God is deafening. It’s a day where we go ahead and give up—give up striving for more or better. The struggle to die to ourselves that we have practiced all through Lent, finally gets its death blow on this day. Here the paradox comes into full bloom: though we know Easter is coming, in the silence and solitude of a dead Christ hope is lost. Don’t try to skate through Holy Saturday with distractions, or false hope. Avoid preparing for Easter celebration today. The only way to get to Easter (or resurrection) life is through this “dark night of the soul.”

  • »  Do not light the Christ candle today.

  • »  Children, especially, will feel the sadness and emptiness of this day. They may even cry. Let them and cry with them. They may not be able to verbally express what they know to be true: their Jesus has died. They are sad, and so they mourn.

  • »  Tell the children about how people were buried long ago. Tell them how Mary and Martha would have gathered up strips of cloth and herbs and oil to prepare Jesus’ body to be buried. Gather a basket with strips of cloth (or let them unwind a roll of toilet paper), oil or perfume, and some herbs. Mary and Martha were not able to prepare the body of Jesus this day because of the Sabbath, but inviting children into the act of preparation helps them express grief.

» Use a baby doll, toilet paper, and a cardboard box. Invite the children to imagine that the doll is Jesus, then have them help you wrap the body and put it in the box.

EASTERTIDE

Easter is the day our lives are changed forever. Nothing, absolutely nothing will ever be the same. But for many of us Easter is as mundane as Tuesday’s Twinkies. We put on clothes we hate, hunt eggs we will never eat, and yawn through the Easter service. It wasn’t always this way. Easter is Christianity’s oldest celebration. It began with the day Jesus rose from death, and the celebration hasn’t stopped! Long before the church celebrated Christmas, we celebrated Easter. Easter should never play second fiddle to Christmas. We have Christmas because of Easter; Easter is the reason we celebrate Christmas. The Bread of Life conquered death—that’s the best news there is!

As we’ve been journeying with Jesus this year, we have heard over and over again his teaching about the Kingdom of God. We’ve seen him claim to know God in a unique, one-of-a-kind way in the Gospel of John; we’ve watched as he heals and forgives and loves. And at Easter, we get the best news of all—this Kingdom life is the real deal! By overcoming death itself, Jesus proves that the with-God life simply cannot be held down! So as we set out to imitate his life, we can have confidence and joy that Jesus’ abundant life truly is the best life. From the drab, cold winter days of Lent to the dark sadness of Holy Saturday, the question is raised—how can any joy come out of such loss and sadness? Easter answers: God’s power and life is so strong that it can go through death and come out victorious the other side!

The color of Eastertide is the same as for Christmastide: white, for the purity of Christ. Eastertide is a total celebration of life, and conveniently for us it occurs in the springtime, when life is bursting forth.

Ways to Celebrate the “Burstings”

  • »  Find a farm you can visit to play with the baby animals. Talk with the children about God, the creator of life, and his goodness. Talk about the resurrection of the earth from winter’s death.

  • »  When you’re in the car, or going from here to there, invite the children to help you look for signs of new life.

  • »  Fill your house with flowers. Let the children water the flowers, and explain how they are participating in giving life to the flowers. Talk about the ways we can give life to living things.

    Family Altar Suggestions for Eastertide

  • »  Replace the purple cloth with a white one, the color of Eastertide.

  • »  Light the Christ candle at your Easter Vigil or on Easter morning, and

    keep it lit whenever you are around.

  • »  Add prayers for Eastertide to your prayer box. The book Poems and

    Prayers for Easter by Sophia Piper is a good resource.

  • »  Add wild flowers or an Easter Lily.

  • »  Find your Alleluia Banner and hang it over the Altar.

*For more resources celebrating the full seven weeks of Easter, check out Good Dirt: Lent, Holy Week and Eastertide. 

Prayer, Women, and Our Achilles heel

There were eight of us in a dingy church basement, meeting weekly for prayer. Eight of us with labels: daughter, engineer, mother, wife, lawyer, teacher, pastor, sister, friend, writer, and baker. While I shirk to think that these labels define us- because they do not- they do help to define our sphere of influence, they do describe where we take our bodies, indeed where we take our prayer life.

If prayer is as Dallas Willard says, “an ongoing conversation with God about what we are doing together,” women are “doing” and women are having “conversations.” In the basement, these ordinary saints were having conversations with God about relationships, about justice and peace, about reconciliation, about parenting, about physics, about words, about life. They have followed faithfully in the footsteps of the women before them. Miriam, (Exodus 15) who brought her conversation with God into her freedom from oppression, Deborah, (Judges 5) who brought her conversation with God onto the battlefield, Hannah, (1 Samuel 1) who brought her conversation with God into her bitterness, and Mary (Luke 1) who brought her conversation with God even into her womb. The integration of various aspects of our lives is both our strength and our Achilles heel.

It is our strength in that wherever we are, whatever we are doing; we bring our conversational relationship with God. This has been the pattern since the early history of Christianity. The desert fathers headed into the desert and left their communities to find solitude and enrich their conversational life with God; several of the early desert mothers brought solitude and their conversational life with God into their communities. It has been said if you teach a woman to pray, a whole community is prayed for.

Conversely, it is also our Achilles heel; we often forget that while we are members of a community we are also individuals. Individuals individually loved by God. When we forget it can look like attending to others without attending to ourselves. Make no mistake there is a difference between self-centeredness and self-care. The former never results in the later. Self-care is the beginning of Jesus’ commandment to love others as we love ourselves. (Matthew 22:39) It was his invitation to Martha. (Luke 10:41)  Perhaps it was even the invitation offered to the woman caught in adultery. (John 8:1-11) Jesus knew that we could become used up, dried up reservoirs when all of our energies are focused on others. In our prayer life our Achilles heel can take the form of one-sided conversations with God, neglecting the listening aspect of conversation. The burdens we bear for those within our sphere of influence will, over time, crush us if we do not designate time in solitude just listening, doing nothing, only being with God.

Living prayerfully looks like deepening conversations with God not only about what we are doing, but also about who we are, and are becoming. Perhaps you are finding yourself out of balance, in need of self-care, restorative time with the Lover of Your Soul. Try one of the following suggestions:

·      Set aside 15-20 minutes a day to sit in silence with Jesus. This might be early in the morning before your household wakes or later in the night when they have gone to sleep. Find a quiet, alone space to be with Jesus. Bring your attention to Jesus in your midst. See him, seeing you and smiling. When concerns or cares come to mind gently lay them in his hands without comment.

·      Pray the Gospel of Luke using your imagination. In other words, set your imagination to the service of the Scriptures. Work your way through the book of Luke passage by passage. Before beginning a passage invite the Spirit to speak to your soul specifically. Read your selected passage through one time- get the big picture and imagine yourself in the passage. Read your selected passage through a second time- notice any strong feelings or impressions you have. Begin a conversation (both talking and listening) with Jesus about those feelings and impressions.

·      Play. What did you like to do when you were a little girl? Bicycle? Skip? Laugh? Play in the dirt? Throw a Frisbee? Do it again, this time invite Jesus into your play. Notice that Jesus is with you, enjoying the space, your light and sharing his love.