It has been two months since I first opened up the floor to questions from blog readers for me to answer. The first installment with questions about me in particular I answered here, the second installment on education I answered here but then the holidays came and went and time flew by and my memory lapsed (as it does about 15 times a day) and now, here it is February.
Now is the time to post the final installment and I thank you for the grace you have shown me in your patience. This final installment is on religion and I want to admit right here and now, this is the one that has my hands all clammy and my nerves in a jumble.
We religious folk can be some of the most obstinate and my-way-or-the-highway people ever so it is not without quite a lot of hesitation that I write. But here goes anyway. Remember: YOU ASKED.
In your homeschooling (or just in your lives in general), is there emphasis on the children memorizing scripture?
Yes, though I quite fail miserably at meeting my own expectations.
I remember as a young lady, sitting on the front porch of my parents' house and talking with my Opa, who lived through World War II in Holland, and being very much disturbed as we were talking about war and peace, struggle and triumph. I remember exclaiming over the atrocities during that time period, and the things he himself dealt with and him saying "Ach. You vill see, Rebay-cah, it vill be dat vay again. Dat is vhy eet is so important to memorize de Bible vile you haff it, so dat vhen you no longer vill be ABLE to haff it, it vill still be vith you." That conversation actually made me angry because I didn't want to believe it, didn't want to TALK about it, and it was too scary to even comprehend. Nevertheless those words have always stuck with me. The Word written on your heart, can never be taken away.
I am teaching the children to sing one psalm a month, we are working on the Westminster Shorter Catechism questions, we do memory verses sporadically (usually verses pertaining to present struggles) and I teach the children certain biblical foundations like the Lord's Prayer, the Apostles' Creed, the Beatitudes, and up next~ the books of the Bible.
Even still, I could do much better at this. It can be sporatic and sometimes non-existent. I should like to introduce new memory work more routinely, and I would love to get to the point of having large selections memorized. Most of this memory work is done during school time, then they recite them (a.k.a. show off!) to Matt during family worship time or at the dinner table.
Second, if time allows, what does family worship look like in your house? Having three young children, I often wonder if I could make this area better in our home.
And ye shall teach them your children, speaking of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. ~Deuteronomy 11:19
We know the value of family worship, we know the value of personal devotions as well. But knowing the truth and importance and blessing of these things isn't a fail-proof way to succeed. Matt doesn't get home until late, that is, WHEN he is home and sometimes we are exhausted by the time dinner is over. Sometimes it is HARD to show discipline. But, the hardest things in life are often the most worthwhile and that couldn't be more true in this case. Also, the more you do it, the more you enjoy it, the more you are blessed by it. I tell you this because telling you what we do can wrongly imply that we do it perfectly each day, which we don't. Sometimes we fail rather profoundly. Keep this in mind as you read and remember, I am a *real* person. That changes everything.
We pray the Lord's prayer in unison for breakfast. We sing our monthly psalm before school starts.
Lunchtime is when we do the bulk of our Bible time. At lunchtime, I pray aloud, then it is Corynn's turn, then Andrew and recently, Adele' has begun to speak gibberish with folded hands. ;-) I began this as a way to encourage my children not to feel awkward with praying aloud (something I try at times to overcome myself) but have found a wonderful benefit to be the ability to see into their hearts and find out what they think about. It is one of the most worthwhile things I have ever done. It gives me great joy to hear my children pray.
While the children eat lunch, I read them a bible story and we discuss it. We read from a childrens bible the stories, and from a King James bible we will often read a psalm or proverb. This year I am going to begin reading throughout the whole Bible with them using these Bible cards as an outline. During lunchtime, also, we practice memory work that I would like the children to learn, often things our church is going through, like the Beatitudes, the ten commandments, etc.
In the evenings after dinner, we will sing some psalms, Matt will read from scripture (going through Matthew, presently), talk about it and then we pray together again. Sometimes we do this around the dinner table, other times we "retire" to the living room and comfy couches.
I've often wondered how you would describe what your "Christian Doctrine" is, I mean you mentioned a while back that your children listened to the Westminster Shorter Catechism music CD. Are you Reformed? (I know you're not Lutheran cause you told me so).
I'm interested to know more about whether your faith would fall into any particular label/category-? -
See, now this is the one that gets me all nervous. Here is the thing. I get squirmy about talking about my denomination for a few reasons.
I find that people of the faith are easily tempted to pride and/or judgementalism. I don't want myself or my thoughts to be discredited because I am from a different denomination and certainly don't want people to think I feel I am all high and mighty, so I purposely leave this out. I like to dwell on the things that we as people of faith have in common, not our differences. I think this is one of the greatest downfalls of the Church at this time in history, that we allow teeny differences (and I *am* talking about teeny differences) to separate us from our Body. We are one loaf.
I was raised to be Reformed Presbyterian and Matt was even an Elder of a Reformed Presbyterian church for a time. A few years ago, however, after about a years worth of study and research (and quite a bit of kicking and screaming on my part), we became convicted of what is called paedocommunion; that is, allowing children to partake of the Lord's supper without meeting an age requirement or passing some intellectual test. We moved in order to attend a church with similar convictions. We now attend a small denomination called the Federation of Reformed Churches. We are a reformed denomination with paedocommunion as its distinctive.
And I still consider myself Presbyterian, I just haven't been able (as yet) to convince all my Presbyterian relatives and friends to join me or FORC members to join up with RPers. (But I am working on it.) hehehe
I'd love to know how/when you became a Christian (I grew up in the Reformed Church but aren't a Christian.......I quite envy people with faith. Guess I must know that something is missing??
I am one of the faithful few who come with a boring testimony. I grew up in a church going family, and yet I remember as a little girl sitting on the top bunk of my bunkbed wondering "How can I be SURE that God is real? Aren't Buddhists as convinced of their god as I am of mine?" and "What if I am wrong? I will burn in hell for all eternity, thinking all along I was loving the RIGHT God, but being faithless to Buddha." I wish I would have had an answer like this one, way back then. I would have saved myself a lot of excruciating worry.
I spent my childhood practicing faith but there was a pivotal moment when it became clear to me that I wasn't just seeking God, but He was just as interested in my life. I was a wounded girl, miserable in my own doing and I was at a crossroads in my life. God, in His mercy helped me find the way and my life was completely, utterly and unequivocally changed forever. I wrote about it here.
1. I think you touched on this in your disciplining series but could you offer more specifics on attending church with your little ones and your expectations for their behavior there?
We have our children worship with us. We have never sent them out to nursery school or childrens' church. When they need disciplining, we take them out and then bring them right back in. I don't allow our babies to walk around during service-they sit on my lap and snuggle, or they sit on the chair next to me. I realize it is hard, and harder for some than others, but the benefits far outweigh to difficulties.
Firstly, there is more chance to pick something up from the Pastor if you are actually in presence of the pastor and often we don't give our children enough credit for paying attention (even when we don't think they are.)
Secondly, I have found, when you teach your children straight from babyhood to sit still and quietly in church-it doesn't take them long to learn. It is much harder to train them to sit still if they have had a taste for playing in the nursery or running around in the pew. This is me, just trying to make my life easier. :-)
Finally, and most importantly, even if they get NOTHING that the pastor is saying, when they are worshiping beside us the most important lesson they can receive (and do) is "You are a part of this body of believers. Though you are but a child, you matter to God and He wants you here. This is yours." That is far greater than any sermon text.
My expectations for them? I expect them to not be a distraction to others, but there are times when they meet those expectations and when they really, REALLY do not. I expect them to participate as well as they can. Sometimes, they can tell me just what the sermon is about, other times they have no recollection at all. Sometimes we are the loudest singing family of the church, even with Miss Addie Mae belting out gibberish at the top of her lungs and other times, it is more than a whisper coming from the children.
For the most part though:
~For the almost-two year old, participating means sitting when we sit, standing when we stand, holding the bread and wine while WAITING for everyone to be served before partaking (Yes, these things are possible!).
~For the non-reading 4 yr old, this also means singing and praying, reciting things he has memorized and listening (as best he can).
~For the reader of the family, in addition to everything stated, she can read along with us and sing along with us, even things that are unfamiliar.
If we recite the beatitudes during worship, I make a point of going over the Beatitudes with them at home-teaching them, so that they can participate when in church. Being able to actively participate in church makes church a PART of them, not just a place to go.
I've been in church all of my life and have never really understood the do's and dont's concerning honoring the Sabbath. I've seen you make references to this several times throughout your blog. What are your thoughts on what the Day of Rest should look like for your family... would love to know what you think and practice as a 'rule' for your family.
God made the heavens and the earth, the seas and all that they contain in six days by His very breath, and it was good. On the seventh day He rested. He didn't rest because He was tired, He didn't rest because He needed to. He rested to give His people an example of how to rest, knowing that we WOULD need to. He was considering our frame and blessing us with rest.
The Sabbath looks differently to different people but one thing I am certain of is that it isn't about a certain list of do's and don'ts. Sometimes we like these sorts of lists because they require less of us than using wisdom/seeking after wisdom, but the lists really are doing more to belittle it than to bless it.
The Sabbath ought to be our delight, a day set apart. It is the fresh start to the beginning of the week, a time to rest from the mundane and hard work of the workweek and a time when we can commune with God and His people. We need the Sabbath for all these reasons and it was created for us for all these reasons.
Some ways we make it set apart:
We prepare our hearts for the Sabbath the night before. We bathe the children Saturday evening so that we might have as unhurried (and unharried) a morning as possible. Setting clothes out the night before can also be a great help to the calmness of the morning. We want to be fresh and ready to worship, not falling asleep in our pews~ so we try to diligently get to bed (put the children to bed) at reasonable times on Saturday nights as well.
We try not to make other people work on the Sabbath. Not only does this encourage them NOT to work by us not requiring it of them, we are living out the testimony that the Sabbath is Holy and a delight.
I often write handwritten cards and letters to those in need, sick, widowed or dying. Or none of the above, and just friends who might get a smile from an envelope in the mailbox. It makes a difference. And yes, even to the men.
We spend it together.
We spend it wisely.
We celebrate it. Up until recently we had a weekly Sabbath feast and really did things up as a way of celebrating and setting apart the day. Only recently our church switched times of worship when we started borrowing another churches building. We now leave home at 12:15 and don't get home until 6:00 pm. (We have an hour commute each way). So I am trying to reconfigure a way that we can revive this tradition without me, say, going insane. Having a special meal with a special tablecloth or napkins, a bit of wine and a dessert is such a wonderful blessing each week. Truly edifying.
Here are two book recommendations on the subject if you are interested:
- Celebrating the Sabbath by Bruce A Ray and
- Call the Sabbath a Delight by Walter J. Chantry
There now. Not a thing you don't know about me anymore...