An Embarrassing Failure

Today’s post is from Pastor Brandon Newton:

 

Running into the waterThe seasons follow a rhythm: spring—summer—fall—and winter. Our lives follow a rhythm: wake up—eat breakfast—chase kids/go to work/whatever it is we do during the day—eat dinner—relax if you’re lucky—go to bed. Is there a rhythm to how we connect with God?

I believe it is important to connect with God on a daily and weekly basis. This includes worship on the weekends and prayer on my own each day. To be honest, helping my kids connect with God on a daily and weekly basis has been more difficult.

Recently we tried to get on board with Rich Melheim’s “Faith5.” The tag line for this exercise is “Holding Your Family Together” so it seems like a pretty worthy endeavor (faith5.org). At any rate, the rhythm looks like this: “SHARE your highs and lows—READ a Bible verse or story—TALK about how the Bible reading might relate to your highs and lows—PRAY for one another’s highs and lows—BLESS one another.”

These are all good things, but to be honest this is difficult to do with small children. We weaned Faith5 down to Faith1 by sharing highs and lows at mealtime. This was a good rhythm… for a short time. Lately we’ve been lucky to remember to share highs and lows once or twice a week.

What is it about faith experiences, including prayer and Bible study, that makes it so difficult to incorporate into our daily rhythm? I know it’s important, I even teach people how to do it, but still struggle to incorporate these practices into the daily rhythm of my family.

To be clear, here is how hugely I failed at this rhythm: Faith5 every night turned into Faith1 every night, which turned into Faith1 once-a-week. That is a pretty epic failure.

However, there is also a rhythm to our church calendar. There are times of the year built in to intentionally focus on the rhythm of our daily and weekly connection with God. I am referring specifically to Advent (as we prepare for Christmas) and Lent (as we prepare for Easter). So maybe my family can’t focus on being held together every day of the week, but for at least two church seasons out of the year, I believe we do a fairly decent job.

Here is one of my favorite family prayer rituals: We save all of the Christmas cards received during Advent. Each card, letter, or picture goes into a basket. During Lent we put that basket on the table and at dinner each night (or most nights) we pray for 2-3 families from whom we received Christmas greetings. Our 5-year old enjoys repeating after Christy (my wife) or myself while our 2-year old likes looking at the pictures of friends and family.

Ice Cream

Maybe there is a rhythm to how we connect with God. I also celebrate the spontaneous connections, like when a fire truck or police car passes by with sirens blaring and our daughter says “God, be with them and the people they go to help” (she was taught this by Christy). Or the times our kids randomly start singing songs they learned at Vacation Bible School or church school in the back seat of our car or while playing in their rooms.

I pray that you are able to connect with God within the rhythm of your daily life and outside the rhythm of your daily life.

 

About the writer:  Brandon is the newly called pastor to Easter and a farm kid living in the city who married up to his wife Christy. He enjoys the frustrating challenge of faithful parenting. 

Crack the Door

Today’s post is from Intern Pastor Brandon Newton: 

 As we celebrate All Saints’ Day, a short reflection on a living saint, my dad, and his influence on my life of faith.

As the product of a Midwestern farmer, I didn’t move far from cornfields for college. I found myself at Wartburg in Waverly, Iowa, majoring in Religion. I thought I had faith and I enjoyed working with youth, so was chasing a career in youth ministry. But as I spent more time at a college of the church, I started to ask more questions about faith. Not just faith, but going to church in general. I began to wonder if there was much point in going to church and my prayer life had reached an all-time low. I didn’t feel as connected to God through prayer and became convinced my prayers didn’t matter.

Rex NewtonDuring fall break I returned home to help with harvest. Dad and I went to a nearby town to grab lunch at the bowling alley (sounds strange, I know, but in a small town the restaurant was also the bowling alley). As we left with full bellies, my dad started his rusty farm truck when another farmer ran out after him.

The farmer spoke briefly to my dad. “Can you please pray for my wife? She has surgery tomorrow and I’m really worried about her.” That was it. No more details. Perhaps farmers just know what is going on in each other’s lives or perhaps prayers don’t need to be as detailed as I sometimes think. My dad replied, “I’ll be sure to pray for her.”

That’s when it hit me. My dad prays. Outside of our common mealtime grace, I never heard my dad pray or offer prayer. But as a young adult wondering if I had faith and if there was a place for me in the church, I learned that my dad prays—and that made all the difference. My dad prays, so will I. My dad believes in God, so will I. My dad has faith and there is room for him in the church, so there is room for me.

I stuck with this whole faith thing and will just offer one lesson to readers:  let your children or others catch you praying. I know that Matthew 6:6 offers a different vision by saying “but whenever you pray, go to your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” My dad’s faith and prayer life was too secret. In the parking lot he cracked the door a little bit allowing one small glimpse into his faith and that made all the difference. I encourage you, if you are praying in secret, please leave the door cracked open a bit and let your children or others catch you praying.