Tag Archives: parenting

Listening to My Daughters Pray

In a recent blog post (Dear God Time) I shared our family bedtime ritual. The key pieces of our bedtime prayers are in asking my kids who they want to thank God for, who they want to pray for, and what part of the beautiful creation they are thankful for or want to pray for. This has become a time of holy listening for me as I get to hear my daughters’ perspective on what is important, who really needs prayer, and to hear their words of faith and wonder.

One key practice in listening well to their faith is not to put words in their mouths, but to allow them to direct these pieces of prayer. By asking them to initiate I get to hear who the really special people are. My girls have a very short list of people who they are especially thankful to God for, and I have not yet made their list. What I have found is that they list off the people who have gone out of their way to build connection, not the default family members, but the people from outside who have especially invested time and love into them. I have learned through listening to my girls who the treasures are in their lives, the surrogate aunts and grandparents and surrogate grandparents who they know love them. I have come to treasure these friends above and beyond because they love above and beyond.

My girls’ “pray for” list is equally illuminating to me. I get to hear about the bullies and the bullied, the pieces of hurt that I miss, but my kids see. I hear them pray for friends that have moved away, old church folks from my previous call, and I get this incredible window into the compassionate heart of my children. By listening to their compassion I have learned who I might have missed, and how often I miss. I also get to hear them wrestle with things they have heard about that they don’t quite grasp and are confused about in others and by listening to their confusion I can begin to wrestle with my own. Given free rein to bring anything or anyone to God, my girls do, and I have learned a lot about the childlike faith of lament and bringing “owies” to be kissed by the presence of God.

The last piece of listening really taps into childlike wonder at things we adults stopped noticing a long time ago. During our prayers for the beautiful world there was a six month period of time in which one of my girls was thankful for the clouds that give us rain, snow, sleet, hail, and shade from the sun. For how the clouds turn pretty colors and make fun shapes. Six months of wonder at something I occasionally swear at. What a perspective shift it is to be given the gift of listening to wonder and awe. Over time there were thanks for dogs, mountains, waterfalls, dogs, forests, sheesh dad take a hint dogs, beaches, and any body of water larger than 3 inches. Pacific City

We tapped into that wonder when at her first time to the ocean our youngest looked out with wide eyes and shouted “Puddle!” and prayed for that huge “puddle” for weeks.

I have found that listening to the prayers of my children has opened my eyes to a joyous wonder in being a child in God’s loving arms. Sometimes I even get to model that love, but most awesomely, I get to rest in that love as I listen to the prayers of my children.

 

 

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Dear God Time


In a recent conversation on a Facebook parenting group, we were discussing prayers at bed time and how we approached end of the day prayers with our kids. It was a fun discussion, and there were some fun aspects to discussing kids and God. One of the things I noticed was that the bedtime prayers really opened a window into the parents’ relationship with God. Our bedtime prayers have evolved over time as both of our children resonate with different pieces and have helped them change. So it is a little early, but welcome to what my daughters call “Dear God Time.”

Dear God thank you for (Children’s names). Help them to have a good night’s sleep and wake up silly, happy, and ready for a fun day (with people, at school, etc.)

Is there anyone you want to thank God for? (At this point my girls have a short list: Sarah, Nana, and Uncle Josh. Our youngest usually adds “Mama’s friend Winda.”)

Is there anyone you want to pray for? (This is such an amazing window into their lives and the people they are concerned about.)

Thank you for this beautiful world we live in. Help us to take good care of it, appreciate its beauty and love it as you do. Is there anything in the world you are thankful for or want to pray for? (We had a six month period of praying for the clouds.)

Thank you for our friends, our family, and all the people with whom we share this beautiful world. Let all of us know your love, your presence, and your peace.

In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen

This is usually followed by singing a couple of songs, blowing kisses, and a silly game in which I say a bunch of words that begin with the letter “p” to which my girls respond “No! Pillow!”

 

 

The Rough Side of the Mountain

There is an old gospel song with the title of this blog post, and the more I think about my experience of the last few years and some of my experiences hiking with my wife, the rough side of the mountain feels like a pretty apt metaphor. There are times in our lives when it feels like every possible “other shoe” that could drop has dropped, when all the balls that were being juggled are bouncing around us and one precious ball is being cradled in our arms. The rough side of the mountain looks different depending on the burdens we carry as we climb, but in my case the helplessness of sick kids combined with community loss helped me make a huge realization about who I am and what I am called to be as a pastor and father.

In many ways I have dropped almost every other ball to focus on supporting my three-year-old daughter and to keep our home a place of warmth, welcome, joy and solace. I get to be that Daddy right now, but after so many blows it feels like I am climbing up the rough side of the rock slide. Every time it seems like we got to the bottom of all the health issues with our daughters, a deeper issue surfaced. Still happening, but the other stresses have cleared. I made it through the depression and the anxiety following the loss of a community, and now stand at this strange place of waiting. Not yet hopeful, but not despairing. Knocked to the bottom of the mountain I looked up and realized: “I have been climbing the wrong ____ing, God______, stupid mountain.” I had tried to live up to expectations that God had not created me to meet. (I will pause for the experienced pastors to twitch/grimace.)

I am called to nurture others, to live out Jesus’ care for the marginalized, the hungry, the hurting, to mentor others as they grow in faith. These come with a different set of roughness, but roughness I am designed for. Right now I have the joy of practicing my gifts of nurture by holding my hurting girls tight, giving them snuggles and kisses, singing silly songs that make them giggle, and remembering and living out who I am and what I am called to be. I am climbing the rough mountain of realizing how far I strayed from my true self, and now am finally happy to be where I am: At the bottom of a new, still rough sided, mountain. But it is my rough mountain now and not the deadly peak of others’ expectations.