Presence Centered Parenting
DWELLING IN GOD’S LOVE I N T RO D U C T I O N
USING THIS BOOKLET
I still remember holding my oldest daughter just a few hours after she was born. My wife was asleep, totally exhausted after 21 hours of labor. My newborn daughter and I were basically alone in the hospital room. It was sanctuary quiet. As I pulled her warm body close, my heart caught fire. I kissed her tiny lips and stared in amazement at her little fingers. Tears filled my eyes as I wondered at the depth and strength of the love I felt toward this little baby girl. I wanted to let her know how much I loved her and how beautiful she was.
This booklet targets six practices that help us Dwell in God’s Presence (Worship, Scripture, Prayer, Solitude, Suffering and Generosity). This booklet will focus on each of these six practices for three weeks (for a total of 18 weeks). Each week (episode) gives your family a different passage of Scripture to prayerfully read and discuss together. Our hope is that as you sit together as a family listening to the Lord and one another you will become a more united family experiencing together God’s furious love. Each episode follows a form or liturgy we call Take 5.
We all want our children to know how much they are loved. And not just know it at a surface level or in their heads, we desperately want them to feel this love deep in their beings. We also want our children to love one another or at least we want them to stop trying to kill one another. And which of us are not constantly beating ourselves up for the crappy job we think we are doing of raising our kids? At some point we all revert back and become like a child desperate to know we are okay and are NOT screwing up our children for life. The goal of this booklet is to put you and your family in a position to receive and share love with one another. Faithful parenting is not about being perfect but about being present. It begins with being present to God, who loves you and believes in you. Secondly it involves being present to your children. Love is caught, not taught. Youthfront wants to help you be more present to God in your daily life as well as be more present to your children. We hope this booklet helps.
6 PRACTICES: 18 EPISODES
T H E D N A O F L OV E God is love and God loves. Love flows from the very center of who God is. Perhaps love is most clearly seen in the person of Jesus Christ. To be a Christian is to participate in the life of Christ. Each of us as persons, families and communities can participate in the life of Christ as we Dwell in God’s love, Nurture God’s love with one another and Act in love toward our neighbor. We might call this Jesus’ DNA or the DNA of love. This booklet is all about helping you and your family dwell in God’s love. It is filled with scriptures, quotes, prayers and practices that will enable your family to experience together more and more of God’s loving presence in your everyday lives.
This booklet contains six practices designed to help your family dwell in God’s love together. This booklet spends three “episodes” on each practice for a total of 18 episodes. You might think of it like watching a favorite TV series made up of 18 episodes. Generally we think of watching a TV show once a week, but with DVRs we may watch an episode several times or if we get really busy we may even skip one. This booklet was written with the idea that your family spend one week on each episode, perhaps going over it several times in one week. However, you know your family best and you will want to set a pace that works well for you. Each of the six practices begins with a brief introduction. Episode 1 Episode 2 Episode 3 Episode 4 Episode 5 Episode 6 Episode 7 Episode 8 Episode 9 Episode 10 Episode 11 Episode 12 Episode 13 Episode 14 Episode 15 Episode 16 Episode 17 Episode 18
Worship: Beloved Worship: Daily office Worship: Creation The Bible: A story about Jesus The Bible: Shaped by the Word The Bible: Meditation Prayer Local and Ordinary Prayer: Lord’s Prayer Prayer: Breath Prayers Solitude: Finding Space Solitude: Being Still Solitude: Waiting Quietly Suffering: Live Simply Suffering: The Way of Jesus Suffering: Compassion Generosity: God is good Generosity: Give it up Generosity: Be a blessing
TA K E 5 We all live busy lives. In our honest moments we admit that we are too busy. We move so fast from one thing to the next that we barely notice one another. Take 5 is about taking a break from the business of our lives; like a basketball coach calling time out to settle down their team at a crucial point in the game. Take 5 is simple and yet deeply profound. While there are five steps to follow, the power lies in simply being together listening to God and one another. It is an opportunity to re-orient ourselves around what really matters. T.S. Elliot once asked, “What life have we, if not life together?” Take 5 is about helping families live life together. Take 5 is something you can practice daily in your home.
H O W TO TA K E 5 A S A FA M I LY Take 5 moves through five steps but is more like a dance than a march. Here is a summary of the five movements you will go through each time you Take 5 as a family. SHARE my story. Begin by giving each family member a chance to share a story of what happened in his or her life that day. It is often helpful to think about your story in terms of a high point and a low point. Anyone who wants to is free to pass and not share. LISTEN to God’s story. Listen as one member of the family reads a story or text from the Bible. NOTICE where the stories meet. The goal of this step is to help one another be aware of God’s presence and activity in our own lives. We are asking ourselves where did God’s story and my story meet today? Beware this may be the hardest step. Don’t force it. Be patient and give the eyes of your heart time to adjust to God’s light. When we see the story of our lives fitting into or aligning with God’s bigger story we should give thanks and be encouraged. At other times when we notice that our lives have gone “off script” we need to re-think how we have been living and talk with God and others about necessary changes. Perhaps a simpler way to think about this is to ask, “How is my life looking like Jesus’ life? How is it not?“ PRAY. Take time to give God thanks and ask for His help. REMIND. Wrap up your time together by reminding your children how much you love them, how special they are and who they are in God’s eyes. Your children also need to know that they have been “blessed to be a blessing.” In other words their life has a divine purpose and how they live matters. If
possible make physical contact with your child by placing a hand on their head or shoulder as you speak to them.
HELP WITH REALLY YOUNG CHILDREN AND TEENS We are discovering that Take 5 is ideal for families with children ages K-4th grade. When your children are very small you may find it works best to simply pray with them and then to bless them as you “tuck them in” at night. As your kids get older (in Middle School and beyond) gathering together every night becomes even harder. Perhaps gathering together one night a week, enjoying a meal together and going through Take 5 would be more realistic for you and your family.
S U G G E S T I O N S F O R D O I N G TA K E 5 • Consider memorizing some or all of the weekly scriptures. • When gathered, focus more on the relationships than getting through all five steps. • Expect it to be messy and even chaotic at times, especially if you have younger children or middle school boys. • Trust God to do his work of transforming your hearts. • Consider doing Take 5 in the same place and time each day. • Consider doing Take 5 at different times and in different places . • Have fun. • Try doing Take 5 during a meal or with snacks. • Make adaptations to better suit your family. • Don’t use Take-5 as a time to teach or instruct. Focus on being a loving presence. • Don’t judge or try to fix one another. Remember the point is to be together in order to better understand one another. Judging or fixing will divide not unify your family.
T RY I T Each of the episodes includes a “Try-It” exercise. Each one provides an opportunity for your family to experiment with a practice that places you in God’s love. After experimenting with the practice, be sure to take time to discuss and reflect on the practice together. What went well? What did not go well? Remember they are called practices for a reason. Don’t expect to “catch-on” immediately. But also know that as you continue to practice and work out your salvation you are placing yourselves under the flow of God’s grace. He will transform you into the person He created you to be. The fruit of love, joy and peace will become more abundant in your life.
Worship is the human response to God revealing Himself to us. The Triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, is a community of mutually indwelling, self-giving love. God’s love is ecstatic and it overflows like a river during flood season over extending its banks. It is too grand and great to be contained. As human beings we do nothing to earn this love and yet we are loved because God is love and God loves. Just as a person who positions themselves in the stream of the river gets wet, any person who positions themselves in the stream of God is going to get loved. The number one thing we can do is come to know that we are loved deeply and relentlessly. The heart that opens up to receive this radical inclusive love is filled with life, joy and peace. Worship is the hearts response to being loved, accepted and included into the very life of God in and through Jesus Christ. To worship is to quicken the conscience by the holiness of God, to feed the mind with the truth of God, to purge the imagination by the beauty of God, to open the heart to the love of God, to devote the will to the purpose of God. – William Temple. It’s who you are and the way you live that count before God. Your worship must engage your spirit in the pursuit of truth. That’s the kind of people the Father is out looking for: those who are simply and honestly themselves before him in their worship. God is sheer being itself—Spirit. Those who worship him must do it out of their very being, their spirits, their true selves, in adoration. (John 4:23-34 MSG)
Worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only. (Matthew 4:10 NIV)
EPISODE 1: BELOVED Dwell In God’s Love
My deepest awareness of myself is that I am deeply loved by Jesus Christ and I have done nothing to earn it or deserve it.” — Brennan Manning (The Ragamuffin Gospel)
SHARE my story. Take turns giving each member of your family the opportunity to share a story from their day. LISTEN to God’s Story. 9God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. 10In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. 12No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us. (1 John 4:9-11 NRSV) NOTICE where God’s story meets up with your story. Discuss how you might allow God’s story to shape your own story. • •
When did I feel loved today? Where did I see love expressed between others today?
PRAY. Take time to give God thanks and ask for His help. Father, thank you for the gift of salvation. Rescue us now and free us from the power of sin that we may love you and one another. REMIND your children they are loved, belong and have been given a mission. (Name), may you feel the strong arms of God loving you and holding you this day.
T RY I T: WO R S H I P TO G E T H E R If Jesus is to be the Lord of our lives then we must center our lives on worshiping Him. People attend church for a lot of reasons. Some of them are great and some are not. Take some time to consider why you gather with your Christian family on Sundays. What do you think of your reasons? Which are great? Which are not? Worshiping together every Sunday as a family has been an essential Christian practice for two thousand years. This Sunday go as a family to your place of worship with your hearts open and ready to receive as much love as you can. This is the great mystery of our faith. We do not choose God, God chooses us. From all eternity we are hidden “in the shadow of God’s hand” and “engraved on his palm.” Before any human being touches us, God “forms us in secret” and “textures us” in the depth of the earth, and before any human being decides about us, God “knits us together in our mother’s womb.” God loves us before any human person can show love to us. He loves us with a “first” love, an unlimited, unconditional love, wants us to be his beloved children, and tells us to become as loving as himself. –Henri Nouwen (The Return of the Prodigal Son)
EPISODE 2: DAILY OFFICE Dwell In God’s Love
The Psalms [the prayer book Jesus used]…confirm that we can know God’s presence at all times only if we set aside certain times for prayer. The Jews did not buy into a more current notion that since God is present everywhere and in all times we can pray whenever we feel like it. Rather they believed that praying regularly at set and specific times helps us focus and reorient one to God at all other times. -Arthur Paul Boers
SHARE my story. Take turns giving each member of your family the opportunity to share a story from their day. LISTEN to God’s Story. Seven times a day I praise you for your righteous ordinances. Ps. 119:164 NOTICE where God’s story meets up with your story. Discuss how you might allow God’s story to shape your own story. • •
When were you most aware of God’s presence today? What is one benefit and one danger you could see coming from setting aside a set time(s) each day for prayer?
PRAY. Take time to give God thanks and ask for His help. Father we know you are present in every place at all times. Help us to become more aware of your loving presence in all we do. REMIND your children they are loved, they belong and have been given a mission. (Name), may you feel the strong arms of God loving you and holding you this day.
T RY I T: F I X E D H O U R P R AY E R Having a fixed liturgy made up of historic and well thought out prayers can be very freeing. Try taking time as a family to pray through the prayers on the following page. Consider meeting at the same time every day for a week. Don’t worry if you miss a day or if everyone can’t make every prayer time.
+In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Call to Worship (Said Together) Let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us. Establish Thou the work of our hands; Establish Thou the work of our hands. Prayer Song (Play or listen to a favorite Christian song or hymn) Declaration of Faith (Said Together) We believe and trust in God the Father Almighty. We believe and trust in Jesus Christ His Son. We believe and trust in the Holy Spirit. We believe and trust in the Three-in-One. Scripture Reading (Read a Psalm or gospel passage) Prayer (A time to offer up short prayers of praise proclamation and petition) Prayer of the Church (Said Together) Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your Name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Save us from the time of trial, and deliver us from evil. For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours, now and for ever. Amen. Benediction (Said by leader, received by the family) God be in your head and in your understanding. God be in your eyes and in your looking. God be in your mouth and in your speaking. God be in your heart and in your thinking. God be at your end and at your departing. +Glory be to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, it is now, and shall be forever and ever. Alleluia. Amen.
EPISODE 3: CREATION Dwell In God’s Love
SHARE my story. Take turns giving each member of your family the opportunity to share a story from their day. LISTEN to God’s story. The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork. 2 Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night declares knowledge. 3 There is no speech, nor are there words; their voice is not heard; 4 yet their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In the heavens he has set a tent for the sun, 5 which comes out like a bridegroom from his wedding canopy, and like a strong man runs its course with joy. 6 Its rising is from the end of the heavens, and its circuit to the end of them; and nothing is hid from its heat. Ps. 19:1-6 NOTICE where God’s story meets up with your story. Discuss how you might allow God’s story to shape your own story. • •
Would you rather spend time in the mountains or at the beach? What in creation was worshipping God today?
PRAY. Take time to give God thanks and ask for His help. God, all creation praises you. Open our eyes to see your greatness that we may join all creation in declaring how amazing you are. REMIND your children they are loved, that they belong and have been given a mission. (Name), may you feel the strong arms of God loving you and holding you this day.
T RY I T: P R AY E R WA L K Take your family for a walk or go visit a nearby park. But before you embark suggest that everyone try and notice things they normally miss. They might notice ants walking along the sidewalk or all the different colors of green in the grass. You might suggest they listen for new sounds, pay attention to what they smell, touch and feel along the way (but not each other). For at least part of the walk consider asking everyone to walk in silence. The silence will enhance the noticing. The hope is to sense God’s presence in and through creation.
Earth’s crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God,
But only he who sees takes off his shoes;
The rest sit round and pluck blackberries. – Elizabeth Barrett Browning