Tag Archives: special needs families

What Time Is It?

Bar Harbor

Three, two, one… Happy New Year! New Year’s Eve always brings to mind evenings with my cousins when I was growing up.  The adults dressed up and went out. We kids ate pizza, played board games and stayed in with Dick Clark’s Rockin’ Eve.  As the New Year drew closer we ran through the house checking all of the clocks so that we would know the exact time of midnight. So many clocks with so many differences, “What time is it? What time? Is now the time?”

The New Year is a great opportunity to take stock of what time it is in our lives.  We all go through seasons. That is a normal part of life. The wisdom text of Ecclesiastes reminds us of those seasons.

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: 2 a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; 3 a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; 4 a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; 5 a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; 6 a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to throw away; 7 a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; 8 a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace. (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 NRS)

One of the more puzzling lines for me is, “a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together.”  Neither of those practices are part of my everyday life. In the agricultural society of ancient Israel, throwing away stones was part of preparing the fields. Israel has fertile land, but is also very rocky.  While preparing the fields a farmer would throw stones out of the plowed land to make way for the coming planting season.  The fewer rocks in the field, the more productive the soil.

It is far too easy to hold onto stones that do not serve us well, making us less content: grief, guilt, and anger, to name a few. These are all valid feelings and each has a season, but when is it time to cast them away?

What about, “a time to gather stones together?” In ancient Israel when people made a covenant, or wanted to remember a time and place in which God’s presence was made known, they gathered stones into a small stack. This served as a reminder of what God had done in that place and the covenant that was made.

In a way, throwing away stones and gathering stones together are much like our New Year’s resolutions.  It’s letting go of something that does not serve us well and marking a promise for a new tomorrow. Is now the time? What do you want to do differently in your life? How can you remind yourself and keep that promise? How can you invite God into a fresh start in a new year? As you enter the New Year, give over to God the stones that weigh you down and celebrate with joy the new year filled with new possiblities.

Holy God, Thank you for the way you make all things new.  You are the God of wonder and possibilities. Renew us in this New Year that we better reflect the image of you that you call us to be. Amen.

Photo: Bar Harbor Altar by Lorna Bradley

 

Christmas Eve Gift!

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In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see– I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: 11 to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:8-12 NRS)

I share my grandfather’s birthday, Christmas Eve.  He was the seventh son out of sixteen children. His family had modest gifts at Christmas, one per child. His parents had a tradition that whoever woke up first on Christmas Eve would get an extra present to sweeten the deal.  Since my grandfather’s birthday gift and Christmas gift were often combined into one gift (he noted of exactly the same value as what everyone received), he was highly motivated to claim the prize by being the first one Christmas Eve morning to shout out, “Christmas Eve gift!”

Apparently he renewed the tradition the year I was born early on a Christmas Eve. I’m told he ran through the house like a giddy child, “Christmas Eve gift! Christmas Eve gift!” The birth of a baby eclipsed the rest of the holiday festivities.

The birth of a baby changes everything. The birth of one particular baby changed the world.

My prayer for you today is that the joy of the gift of the Christ child fills your soul. A fragment of the Christmas carol “O Little Town of Bethlehem” keeps coming to mind, “The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.” May Christ fulfill your hopes and calm your fears. May you get to simplify Christmas, enjoy the day with family, and may the spirit of Christ be born in you anew today. I can think of no better Christmas Eve gift.

Christmas Blessings!

Rev Doc Lorna

Photo:  Juan Bautista Maíno [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 

 

 

Joseph: The Quiet One in Back

Domenico di Pace Beccafumi [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons (2)

Overheard unpacking a nativity set one year when Joseph was misplaced, “You know, we really don’t need Joseph.  If we don’t find Joseph it wouldn’t matter.”

Huh?

“You have to have Mary and you have to have Jesus, but Joseph isn’t necessary.”

I beg to differ.  Joseph is INCREDIBLY necessary. The Bible doesn’t tell us much about Joseph. You can read the passages in which he is mentioned in a few minutes, but you can also paint quite a portrait of the man who raised Jesus.

Foremost, he was faithful. He was faithful to Mary and he was faithful to God.

This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit. 19 Joseph, her fiancé, was a good man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly. 20 As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. 21 And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All of this occurred to fulfill the Lord’s message through his prophet: 23 “Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.’ ” 24 When Joseph woke up, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded and took Mary as his wife. (Mat 1:18-24 NLT) 

It is easy to lose sight of what is remarkable when the story is so well known.  The way that Joseph remained present and committed is commendable.  In the special needs community it is also rare.  One of the advisors of my ministry is Steve Rhatigan, an attorney who helps families plan for the financial future of their children.  On our first meeting he shared with me that all too often the dads “check out” and moms raise their children solo. He helps families deal with the hard side of that reality.  What he told me wasn’t news.  I’m far too familiar with the statistics.

What about the example of Joseph? Joseph stayed when it was hard. Joseph stayed when the custom of his day was to leave. Joseph stayed and protected the family.

After the wise men were gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up! Flee to Egypt with the child and his mother,” the angel said. “Stay there until I tell you to return, because Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”

 14 That night Joseph left for Egypt with the child and Mary, his mother,  15 and they stayed there until Herod’s death. This fulfilled what the Lord had spoken through the prophet: “I called my Son out of Egypt.” (Mat 2:13-15 NLT)

It would be nice to think it was easy for Joseph to do the right thing.  I doubt it was.  He fled his country with his family under fear of death. He eventually returned with them to Nazareth where there was likely small town gossip.  He parented an extraordinary child and it wasn’t easy. I wonder, where did Joseph find support?

Today, Jeff Davidson seeks to fill that gap for fathers.  He founded Rising Above Ministry and authored the book “No More Peanut Butter Sandwiches” about his journey as a special needs dad.  Realizing the unmet need for support for dads, he founded the “No More Vacant Dads” initiative.  This is a positive ministry with a mission to preserve, encourage and equip special needs dads. Still in the start-up phase, there is a long-term vision for coaching and mentoring.  You can learn more about Jeff’s ministry through GoodnightSuperman.com.

I see Jeff’s mission in ministry as equipping dads who have the heart of Joseph. Joseph was the nurturer, the equipper, the protector and the faithful follower of God. We need Joseph in the story. He is so much more than the quiet one in the back.

Father God, we thank you for the example of Joseph and for his faithfulness to you. It is so hard when times are challenging.  It is so tempting to walk away. Nurture fathers with your courage and strength. Help each parent, mothers and fathers alike, find the heart of Joseph.  Amen.

Photo: Domenico di Pace Beccafumi [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Come Away to a Quiet Place

Michelle Serving Ice Cream Watermark

Then Jesus said, “Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile.” He said this because there were so many people coming and going that Jesus and his apostles didn’t even have time to eat. (Mark 6:31 NLT)

Have you ever been that busy? Busy like Jesus with so much going on that you don’t even have time to eat? I sometimes get to the end of the day so hungry. My husband asks, “Did you forget to eat again? How can you forget to eat?” “I don’t know. There was a lot to do and I just forgot.” Sometimes I don’t notice that the tank is empty until it is well past empty.

One of the greatest gifts in my life is the time that I get to spend with parents who are raising children with special needs. We learn so much from each other as we share stories about life with our kids and support each other through all kinds of challenges. As the holidays approach I found myself thinking, what can I give these parents? What do they need most?

What they need most is time away at a quiet place. They need their tanks filled. They need respite. They need to recharge their batteries before the hectic time of year with holidays, changed routines, and many more expectations that come with the season.

It wasn’t too hard to figure out what they need, but it took a bit more thinking to come up with how to give that gift. Then an amazing coincidence (also called a God sighting), a friend offered the use of her home in the country. It is one of those beautiful places like a picture postcard with rolling hills, trees older than my great-grandparents, and peaceful solitude that is so elusive in the city. What a welcome retreat!

We spent the day looking into ways to engage in spiritual, emotional and physical self-care. We took time for meditation, explored scripture, took the temperature of our emotions, and relaxed by the pool with some late afternoon yoga to burn off the ice cream our hostess surprised us with from the local creamery. It was a perfect day away and I was still giggly happy days later.

There is no shame in needing time away. Even Jesus took time away in a quiet place to rest. Perhaps that was the key to him and his disciples keeping up with so many obligations.  I know all of us who took the time for our mini-retreat are entering the busy holiday season with renewed energy, feeling peaceful and centered. My prayer for you this busy holiday season is that you too can carve out time for yourself for a few hours rest, finding peace to renew your soul. And if during your time of renewal you just happen to have your tank filled with a scoop or two of BlueBell peppermint ice cream that will just make it all the sweeter.

Holy God, I thank you for the way that you renew and refresh. Help us to remember in the midst of this season to find peace and nurture in you. Amen.

Photo “Ice Cream Time!” by Lorna Bradley

Home for the Holidays

Thanksgiving

Know that the LORD is God. It is he that made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise. Give thanks to him, bless his name. (Psalm 100:3-4 NRSV)

My favorite holiday is just a few days away and my son is coming home.  I can’t wait! I’ve been so excited I’ve gotten a bit carried away buying or making his favorite things to eat. One person cannot possibly eat that much. His dad and I may need to help.

This is the first year that Craig has traveled to be with us, another milestone in his growing independence. When he was young, holiday travel was full of challenges. It got so complicated that we stopped going to visit others.  It turns out airplanes fly BOTH directions and if others wanted to see us for the holidays it was easier for them to come to us than for us to go to them. They were welcome to come, but often did not. “Home for the Holidays” took on a new meaning as we madeit a tradition to stay home. Our holidays were much simpler than the ones I had when I grew up, but they were just right size and fit for Craig.  In time, they became the right size and fit for me too. I used to worry he was short-changed, but in hindsight I see that the way we celebrate was less-overwhelming, less hectic, less frustrating. Smaller and simpler isn’t less, smaller and simpler is a blessing.

Embrace simplicity this holiday season. Live in the moment and treasure making memories in simple pleasures. Enjoy the many blessings God has shared with you and your family.

Gracious God, thank you for how you have blessed my family. Sometimes I get so busy that I do not notice how truly blessed I am. In this season of giving thanks, let me most of all give thanks to you for all that you are all that you have done. Your love and abundance and blessing amazes me. Amen.

Photo “Home for the Holidays” by Lorna Bradley

Confusion About Inclusion

Help And Care For Disabled Person by Teerapun

People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them. But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. (Mark 10:13-14 NRSV)

I wish Jesus had been more specific in his command, “Let the little children come to me.” For some reason it seems to cause a lot of confusion.

That’s right. There is confusion about inclusion.

For some, inclusion means there is a space and activity offered that is appropriate to a particular person’s needs.  For others, inclusion means being in the same room with everyone else doing what they are doing alongside them. The way that individual participates may be different from everyone else, but they are still part of the bigger group.  To my way of thinking, those are both examples of inclusion.  It all depends on the perspective of the individual.

Inclusion is whatever feels welcoming and comfortable to the person who wishes to be included. For some, that means having  a separate space and activities geared to their unique needs.  For others it means jumping in with everyone else and feeling welcomed to do so. If they don’t feel welcome and wanted, then it isn’t inclusive.

Surprisingly, folks can be rather divided on this topic, which I find puzzling. Thinking of my own experiences raising a child with special needs there were times when what others decided was inclusive didn’t feel at all inclusive to us. My son is greatly bothered by loud noise due to life on the autism spectrum. His time in student ministry when they gathered and listened to loud praise music for fifteen minutes prior to breaking into small groups was stimulatory torture.  In his case, being inclusive by saying “just come be part of the group, you are welcome to join us,” didn’t work.  From his perspective, it was like a weekly invitation to listen to fingernails on a chalkboard.  It also triggered obsessive thoughts about hearing damage that were only relieved by taking him for hearing screening. Following the example of Jesus each Sunday morning he went away to a quiet place alone, though in his case it had more to do with sanity than piety. He was welcome as part of the group, but he couldn’t tolerate being there. It really didn’t feel very welcoming despite good intentions. This was a great group of folks. I know they meant well, but…

Wouldn’t it have been nice for him to have company when he left the gathering? Wouldn’t it have been nice to have an alternate activity planned for him and others who share the same spectrum? Wouldn’t it have been nice to have a “non-loud” Sunday every once in a while so that everyone could be welcome as part of the larger group?  Any of those things would have felt much more inclusive and welcoming.

The best way to know what feels inclusive to those we wish to include in the church is to have a conversation and ask them. Then actually takes steps to make the needed modifications so that everyone feels welcomed and included.

This week Key Ministry is hosting Inclusion Fusion. It’s a chance to learn more from leaders in special needs ministry about how to offer inclusive ministries.  Check out this link to get the schedule of free webinars and to register:  www.inclusionfusion.tv. I’m looking forward to this opportunity to get fresh ideas and connect with others who love kids like ours.

Holy God, help us to hear those who ask for change and truly make a place for everyone. Amen.

“Help and Care for Diasbled Person”  Image courtesy of Teerapun at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Thirty Days of Thanksgiving

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Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. What do I love about it?  It’s a holiday without a big fuss. Okay, there is a meal, but I enjoy cooking and the day really isn’t about the turkey and whether or not it’s dry. What I like is that Thanksgiving doesn’t come with expectations. If I drop a card in the mail to a friend or give a small gift to someone I am thankful for, in the month of November that is just a thoughtful gesture. Come December, the bar gets raised substantially on that whole card-sending, gift-giving thing.

Thanksgiving Day itself is about simply sharing a good meal with family and friends. It brings back childhood memories of a houseful of people at grandma’s, sleeping in sleeping bags on the floor with my cousins, putting pitted black olives from the relish tray on my fingers like little puppets and savoring the salty brine as I ate them one by one.

Mainly, Thanksgiving is about thanking God for an abundance of blessings. Thanksgiving is simple and beautiful from start to finish when I focus is on what is important.

One day of thanksgiving isn’t nearly enough. For the past several years I have celebrated Thirty Days of Thanksgiving and write down every day in the month of November something for which I am thankful . Time and again I come back to my son. I am thankful for milestones that I thought would never come.  I am thankful for the sense of acceptance for the milestones that will never be. I am thankful for a sense of hope in a future that is yet to be revealed. I am thankful to be a parent to a remarkable young man who inspires me every day.

I am also thankful for other parents on the journey with me who encouraged me when I was unsure and who allow me to encourage them when they need it too. Years ago the Apostle Paul wrote to a dearly loved church in Philippi. This small group of followers encouraged each other and lifted each other up when they needed it. Paul opens his letter to them:

I thank my God every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you (Philippians 1:3-4 NRSV).

These were Paul’s people, the ones who had his back when times were hard, and the ones he encouraged and guided when they needed it too. These were Paul’s people and special needs parents are my people.

My thanksgiving today, and every day, is for parents who raise remarkable children and for the communities that surround them with unconditional love and support.

God of many blessings, I thank you for parents who are strong and parents in need of strength. I thank you for those who have wisdom and those who seek it. I thank you for those filled with hope and those who struggle. Woven together, parents strengthen each other. I thank you for the gift of community. Amen.

Image “Thank You on Post It Note” courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Pick Anthony!

Hand Reach To Sky by samuiblue

The reason we never sit in the front row of a show is the inevitable request to the audience, “I’m looking for a volunteer.”

The reaction of virtually everyone was the same… Look away… Don’t make eye contact… Sit completely still and don’t appear that you can be separated from the herd…

Everyone except Anthony.  Anthony’s hand shot in the air with all the enthusiasm of Arnold Horshak on a re-run of Welcome Back Kotter. “Oh! Oh! Oh!”

I was sitting up in the balcony well out of the “accidental volunteer zone,” and it seemed everyone around me knew Anthony.

“Look at Anthony.”

“Anthony wants to volunteer.”

“I don’t think the juggler sees Anthony.”

Thus began the cheer from the cheap seats.  “Pick Anthony! Pick Anthony!”

I never actually met Anthony, but I knew of Anthony almost immediately when my husband and I took a recent fall New England cruise. Whether it was our fellow dinner companions, casual conversations in the gym, or chatting with fellow passengers on tours, it seemed everyone knew Anthony.

“Have you met Anthony yet? “

“No.”

“Oh, you will!”

I’m sure there are many things Anthony can’t do.  Frankly, I don’t care about those things. There are plenty of things I can’t do either so that just makes us even. A young adult in his mid-twenties, he was gregarious, friendly and everyone who talked about him thought he was great and had a funny story to tell. He sat in the front row at every show, always starting a standing ovation and blowing kisses to the dancers. Anthony was a unifier. Anthony was a cheerleader. Anthony was everyone’s friend. Our tablemates hung out with Anthony a good bit since their cabin was close to his and I always enjoyed hearing the stories that started, “Guess what Anthony did today.”

I suppose one of the favorite things about my vacation was that I got to experience a place called acceptance. No one focused on what was different about Anthony, but rather what was great about him.  It reminds me of Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth where they played favorites and he reminded him that we are all in it together.

As it is, there are many members, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and those members of the body that we think less honorable we clothe with greater honor, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect; whereas our more respectable members do not need this. But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior member, that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another.  If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it. (1Corinthians 12:20-26 NRSV)

Paul reminds us how to get it right. Everyone belongs. Everyone has a gift to share. It was a pleasure to see that lived out among my fellow passengers. The trip would have been less without Anthony. I’m glad God picked us to be on his ship.

Holy God, thank you for Anthony and the way that you have gifted him. May all those who share his unique abilities find a place called acceptance. Amen.

Image courtesy of “Hand Reach to Sky” by samuiblue at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Boundary-Breaking Worship, REALLY!!!

Parables_April_Landing

Then afterward I will pour out my spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions.   (Joel 2:28 NRSV)

Knowing about something and experiencing it, seeing it for yourself, are two entirely different things. Hospitality and welcoming in worship are things we all know about.  Hopefully we’ve all experienced both. Sadly, as parents of children with special needs that hospitality is often lacking, so when we truly receive it we know how precious a gift it is.

I recently attended worship at Parables, one of the worship services offered at Wayzata Community Church. I knew about the service.  I read about it, watched a video, and talked at length with the founding pastor, Leslie Neugent. KNOWING about Parables and EXPERIENCING Parables were different matters entirely.  It was boundary-breaking, joy-filled worship with surprises and the in-breaking of God at every turn.  If you live anywhere near Wayzata, MN you must experience this worship for yourself.  Even if you don’t live near, it’s worth the trip!  I flew all the way from Texas and know without a doubt it will not be my only experience of Parables. If your church could use an infusion of radical hospitality to the special needs community in worship, go to Parables!

What’s so different about this service?  It is worship created for and led by people with special needs.  I wrote in my blog recently a prayer, “Please God, let something happen in worship today that isn’t printed in the bulletin.” That prayer was answered.  Big time! Picture a parade of whoever cares to participate processing down the aisle, singing, shaking tambourines, hand in hand with the pastor.  A young man with sensory issues held his hands over his ears even as he marched in joyously, and then decided to go sit on the chancel steps for the rest of the service.  A fine plan! It has the best view!  And really, why should it matter?  During a break in the action a young lady who was late to church gave the pastor a seemingly never-ending hug, marching onto the stage to do so. Again, why should it matter? A young man who was until very recently non-verbal went around the room during the time of greeting saying, “Hello. How are you?” When was the last time you got truly excited about being greeted in worship? It made me cry tears of joy. I was seated by a young man who is learning to say hello by shaking hands.  We shook hands about 10 times during worship, including when I got up to talk about my upcoming book for special needs parent support groups.  He gave me the cue so I stepped out of the pulpit to shake hands.  I can walk and talk at the same time.  Why should it matter that he wanted to shake hands right then?

I saw the hands and feet of Jesus at work in the participants.  They know each other’s strengths and where they need a little help.  A young lady with challenged mobility had several of her peers help her up the steps to the altar to serve Communion. That’s right. Not just to receive, but to serve.  A request from the pulpit for a volunteer to lead the Lord’s Prayer received a round of applause as a teen stepped up to lead.  When was the last time the Lord’s Prayer brought you to tears? The same was true for a young lady who did a wonderful job reading the scripture of John 4, Jesus meeting the Samaritan woman at the well. How often are people with differences celebrated in worship?  How often do they get to offer their gifts and let them shine?

There was a purity and innocence to worship.  Parents were at ease.  They knew their whole family was welcome.  No one was shushed. No one was made to sit if they didn’t want to. Noises? Who cares!  Again, why should it matter?  The sermon challenged me to think about hard things as a special needs parent. Where is the line between advocating for my child’s future and giving over to God and accepting? Yet, simultaneously the message was at a child’s level so there was learning for everyone in the room. It was the most genuine, unscripted, open-hearted worship I’ve experienced in a long time, and I go to church a lot so that is saying something!

I met a church member who retired from teaching a few years ago.  “I go to the big service too, but this is really my service. I see God here.”  Well, I did too and I want more. I wonder if my husband would agree to move from Texas to Minnesota…

Prayer: Boundary-breaking God, Open our eyes to see those who feel excluded, open our hands to reach out to them, open our hearts to form us to better be your people. Amen.

Photo courtesy of Parables: Red Fish Theology

To learn more about Parables worship, click here:

http://www.wayzatacommunitychurch.org/pages/page.asp?page_id=229208

You can order a “how-to” guide here:

http://www.uccresources.com/products/red-fish-theology-parables-a-how-to-guide-for-offering-a-radically-inclusive-worship-service-with-the-special-needs-community

 

 

Jesus Was a Foodie!

 

Grilled Salmon Image courtesy of amenic181 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus…When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred fifty-three of them; and though there were so many, the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” (John 21:4, 9-12 NRSV)

“Jesus was a foodie!” Thus said Dr. Len Sweet, currently one of the most influential Christian leaders. Well I’m a bit of a foodie too.  I love a good meal with family or friends.  This is yet another way that it is good to be like Jesus.

I recently traveled to worship with Dr. Sweet and in his message he talked about the importance of sitting down together at the table.  Sharing the results of a recent study, the number one indicator of whether or not a child will be successful (stay motivated, stay engaged, graduate high school, etc.) has nothing to do with all the typical predictors one would expect, such as school, economic advantage, and even IQ.  The greatest predictor had to do with whether or not the child regularly gathered at the table for a meal with the family. That’s all.  Simply sitting down together to eat as a family has much more influence than we might imagine.

How often?  Three times a week. That’s the dividing line.

There are plenty of other studies supporting the link between the family meal and better outcomes for children. I think the family meal is a great resource to add to our parenting backpacks.  Sitting down to eat together at the table is how we connect as a family. It’s where we share our stories about our day, finding nurture and support. It’s where we form social skills. It’s where we set aside the business and pressure of the outside world and say, “You are my top priority and I want to spend time with you.”

Jesus set his priorities around the table too.  His ministry in the Gospel of John opens at a wedding feast. The company he kept at the table raised the eyebrows of folks who didn’t want to dirty themselves by association with sinners and tax collectors. He was anointed by Mary at a table in Bethany. The night before his arrest he gathered with his disciples at a table.  After his death and resurrection he appeared to some of his disciples as they walked on the road to Emmaus.  They did not recognize him until they sat down together at the table and he broke bread.  In the Gospel of John we have the story of Jesus preparing fish at a charcoal fire on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. Sharing table fellowship with Jesus is our promised future per Communion liturgy anticipating “when Christ comes in final victory and we feast at the heavenly banquet.” Dr. Len Sweet was right. Gathering at the table was at the heart of Jesus’ ministry.

How can we make family time at the table more of a priority in our daily lives? What gets in the way? I am curious to hear from my followers from outside of the USA about whether this is a uniquely American problem.  I have readers from many countries, with several checking in regularly from Brazil in particular. If you have the time to share your perspective I’d love to hear from you!

Loving God, we are so grateful for the way that you nurture our hearts and minds with your holy presence. Help us to be that nurturing presence to our own families, whatever their shape or size.  Help us gather more regularly around the table and create memories that form us as your people. Amen.

“Grilled Salmon” Image courtesy of amenic181 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net