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Spiritual Practice of Parenting: A Philosophy of Prayer and Purpose

September 16, 2013

A few weeks ago, Madeleine and I were talking at bedtime.  Our bedtime’s are slower than most families, by our choice.  We tend to allow enough time in our bedtime routine to sit and talk with our children a bit.  Somehow, the best conversations come occur when we’re laying in bed next to a kid.  This is most definitely true for Madeleine, more so than the boys.

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This particular conversation occurred sometime around the start of school.  I’m a little fuzzy of the complete context, it may have happened before or after the arm got broken, however, that doesn’t really matter.  As we laid in Madeleine’s twin bed, all cozy and snuggly, she asked me, “Why do we pray?  God didn’t fix my problem.”

Whoa.  Needless to say, I was not expecting that.  She’s only 8, but getting old so fast, trying to figure out her world.  I explained that we don’t pray for God to necessarily fix things right away (trying to get away from the God as a magician with a magic wand who swoops in and saves us when things don’t go right, because at least in my case, that is not reality).  We pray for God to be with us.

“But I don’t feel like is with me.  I feel alone.  How do I even know God is there?”

How do we know God is even there?  I proceeded to tell Madeleine about what I see that tells me God is with me and how I see God…..

….echoes…..different colors that appear to be painted on rocks…hummingbirds…five people and dog snuggled in bed during a storm…being part of a community….an unexpectedly cool morning in the middle of summer….a brief rain…rainbows…siblings taking care of each other (without being told)….the kindness of strangers…the sound of cicadas….owls….

…the list could go on and on.  That is why I keep my thankful list, I told Madeleine.  It reminds me that God is with me, all the time.  We see what we look for and if we aren’t looking for God, it’s possible we won’t see God with us all the time.

I thought of this conversation in Sunday School yesterday.  We’ve been doing a video series on parenting Effective Children in a Defective World.  I’ll be honest, I’m not a fan of the series.  The speaker relies a bit heavily on gender biases and seems to look down a bit on women.  I’m not a great student/person/whatever when it comes to someone I disagree with.  While my friends sitting next to me did a great job looking for the “nuggets” and positives in the video, I picked apart point after point of the speaker’s.

DSC_0142One of the things he talked about was using Bible stories to help our children through hard times.  Again, keep in mind, I turn on argumentative mode when I hear something I disagree with and I want to argue with everything.  I think Bible stories are important, our first children’s Bible has been discarded because it literally fell apart from over use.  However, I found I “use” the Bible different than the speaker.  The speaker suggested we read the Old Testament Bible stories so we could emulate some of the characters…how Joseph dealt with suffering could be a lesson to our children.  I wondered if we really knew how Joseph dealt with suffering.  By the time the story of Joseph was written down many, many years had passed.  What if Joseph threw a bit of hissy fit but it was conveniently left out because, well, it made Joseph look bad?  The stories about humans in the Bible are exactly that, stories about humans.  More important than how Joseph dealt with his hardship was God’s role in the situation.  Joseph was never alone.  God was always there.  God worked through an ugly situation.  Was it God’s will that Joseph was sold into slavery?  Who knows.  What I do know, is in it all, Joseph was not alone.  We are never alone.

Madeleine’s old enough and thinking enough to not be satisfied with the answer “God is in control.”  How does God being in control make sense to her when her best friend moves to India or she doesn’t get the teacher she wants at school or she breaks her arm and has to miss most of her soccer season (in addition to the normal running around she loves to do)?  To suggest that God causes these things to happen to her makes no sense and leaves her wondering, “why do we pray?”  I believe God can work in all things, however God working in all things and God willing things to happen are two different things entirely.

In Austin right now, 350 churches are participating in sermon series and small group discussions called Explore God.  It’s pretty amazing….350 churches across denominations–Baptist, Church of Christ, Methodist, Lutheran, Episcopalian, Non-denomination are all preaching on the same 7 topics.  Our church isn’t, but one of my favorite blogger and tweeter, Jen Hatmaker’s, church is.  She preached at one of her church’s campuses for the first Sunday on Does Life Have a Purpose? (if you want to hear the sermon look for Hatmaker’s name in the sermon list).  Being a fan and a bit internet stalker, I listened to her sermon.  It was wonderful.  I’m looking forward to more of her sermons.  The purpose of life, she stated, was two-fold.  One, we were made to be loved by God.  Two, we were made to glorify God.  Too often, she said, we get chase purposes that are incomplete, that fit only us in a developed, rich country.  If the purpose/meaning of life can’t apply to a single mom in Haiti or an orphan in Africa, than it is not a valid purpose.

And that is why we pray.  We pray so we can be loved by God.  We pray so we can keep looking forward for God all around us and we can see God’s love poured out for us in every face we see and everywhere we look.  We pray to remember we are not alone, we are a beloved child.  We pray so we can glorify God.  We pray so we can be God’s love to others and whatever we do, we do as a prayer, to make God known to others in our actions, our words, our choices, and our thoughts.

 

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