Father Brown Reader

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Not too long ago we finished The Father Brown Reader as part of our bedtime reading. Nancy Carpentier Brown basically takes a selection of the Father Brown mysteries of G.K. Chesterton (available in the public domain) and lightly redacts them, simplifying the language to make them accessible to kids.

Here’s an interview with Nancy Brown on the Read-Aloud Revival podcast, which has lots of good additional recommendations around GKC:
https://readaloudrevival.com/63/

We really enjoyed the The Father Brown Reader, and I’ve just ordered the follow-up — The Father Brown Reader II. They’re not heavily religious in nature — though they gently hint at Chesterton’s preoccupations with wonder and grace — and they’re not particularly difficult as mysteries either. Perfect, really, for bedtime reading … and a very easy introduction to G.K. Chesterton for the uninitiated.

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Notes on Family Worship

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Last week I held a workshop on family worship at my church, and I’d like to summarize here my notes.

We started off brainstorming “Why?” — What were the possible benefits and justifications for having regular worship together as a family? It gives parents an opportunity to role model their faith to their children and teach them how to worship — and convey that worship is not confined to Sundays. It gives families regular time in the Bible and provides a useful routine or rhythm to the day that ensures time together on the deepest family priorities. And it is an occasion to worship God, the one and only one who deserves our constant worship.

We then brainstormed “Why NOT?” — What hindered us from heretofore implementing family worship? We confessed that we saw it as a complication on our already busy lives. It could be an awkward time, filled with constant behavior management and attention management. We didn’t want to tack on another duty, we didn’t want to field awkward questions, and we didn’t want to make family time / dinner time painful. We also felt a lack of confidence in leading family worship: What do we do? How do we do it?

Committing to a regular family worship is incorporating a new habit, so a few general principles apply:

1) Lower the barriers (make it easy)

Don’t sabotage your efforts by setting your expectations unreasonably high. Consider what rhythms and rituals your family already has in place and integrate a few family worship elements in baby steps. Even if these steps toward “family worship” seem basic or underwhelming, you’re setting the foundation and easing the transition to a more robust commitment.

I started my “family worship” with my son by saying a quick prayer and reading a catechism question before our morning commutes to school. Even now I can’t say our family holds a full-blown “family worship” in the popular sense, but I have regular morning devotions with my children — mornings because that’s when I’m most awake and alert and centered. And elements of that practice accumulated over many, many attempts at initiatives over time.
Keep family worship brief (less than 10 minutes) and painless, and you’ll want to keep trying.

2) Use your community

Don’t make family worship a top-down fiat. Argue for its benefits with the whole family and let everyone take some ownership. Give the older siblings roles and responsibilities and nurture their leadership potential. Take into consideration the feedback from your spouse.

If you have a prayer partner or mentor or accountability friend, ask him or her to check in on this effort. Or make an announcement in your church small group.

Ask God directly for His blessing and help.

3) Be consistent

This is key. Pick a time, space, and format that makes sense according to your current circumstances and stick with it. Don’t flake out. Make it clear to yourself and others that you consider this a priority, something you want to be a reflex of your life.

4) Be flexible

Don’t let legalism kill your worship. Remember why you’re doing this: not for duty or dogma, but for love of your God and family. Let that love guide your mindset.
See: 10 Surefire Ways to Make Your Kids Hate Family Devotions

So what should be involved in family worship? Here I pull out a quote from Charles Spurgeon:

I agree with Matthew Henry when he says, “They that pray in the family do well; they that pray and read the Scriptures do better; but they that pray, and read, and sing do best of all.” There is a completeness in that kind of family worship which is much to be desired.
Every house should be the house of God, and there should be a church in every house; and when this is the case, it will be the greatest barrier against priestcraft, and the idolatry of holy places. Family prayer and the pulpit are the bulwarks of Protestantism.

Pray. Read. Sing. A simple, but effective structure. I outline below some possible options for each.

Pray

  • A representative of the family can say a family prayer
  • Sharing of prayer requests
  • Sharing of blessings / things that we are grateful for
  • Praying around rotating themes (missions, church, family, etc.)
  • Pulling prayer topic slips from a collective prayer box
  • Praying through a calendar (e.g., Compassion International)
  • Praying through the Psalms

Read

  • Reading through a book of Bible chapter-by-chapter
  • Sharing a favorite verse from personal devotions
  • Practicing memory verses
  • Reading through the Psalms/Proverbs
  • Going through a catechism

Some recommended resources:
ESV Children’s Bible
The Voice Bible
Exploring the Bible: A Bible Reading Plan for Kids
The Jesus Storybook Bible
Everything a Child Should Know About God
Training Hearts, Teaching Minds
Family Worship by Don Whitney

Sing

  • Sing the Doxology as a ritual opener to family dinners
  • Learn a hymn for the week/month
  • Check out chord charts, lyrics, Youtube/Spotify links at Planning Center Online (if you’re a current member at NewCity)
  • It’s all right to sing without instrumentation!
  • It’s all right to sing badly!

I leave you with a link to an encouraging article from Don Whitney. His book on family worship provided a lot of material for the workshop, and this anecdote about his daughter’s graduation conveys the joys, struggles, and blessings that come with family worship:

Many times after family worship, I wondered if anything good had been accomplished. Almost nightly I had to remind myself to trust in the Lord to do his work through his Word, and not in my perceptions or feelings about what had or had not occurred.
Often came the nights when I perceived no enthusiasm to gather for family worship, and frankly, many times I had very little myself. In many such cases I knew we needed to proceed with at least a brief time of family worship out of sheer discipline and a resolve that refused to cave in to plausible excuses of everyone’s fatigue or busyness. Sometimes I sensed that to mandate family worship on that occasion would be received as harsh and legalistic, so we settled for simply singing the Doxology or offering a brief prayer. And I second-guessed myself just about every time I had to make such a call.

Family Worship and the Day I Made My Daughter Cry

Celebrating Reformation Day

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Tomorrow is not only Halloween but Reformation Day, the 500th anniversary of the commemoration of the posting of the 95 Theses, in fact. Last year I carved a Luther rose into a pumpkin; this year we took a trip to the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore to see their limited exhibit on Martin Luther (Uncertain Times: Martin Luther’s Remedies for the Soul). It was a tiny one-room gallery, but it had a couple of interesting artifacts that emphasized the humanity and pastoral care of Luther during the tumult of the Reformation, including the prayer book and beer mug of Melancthon and the Table Talk collection of his dinnertime dialogues. Sorry, the exhibit ended on Sunday, October 29.

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You might, instead, try watching the documentary Martin Luther: The Idea That Changed the World, now streaming on PBS.

Here is a quick review of the Five Solas by James Boice: http://www.reformationtheology.com/2010/09/the_five_solas_of_the_reformat.php
(You could also read it in email snippets over five days)

I also found fascinating an interview with Marilynne Robinson in Commonweal Magazine, which digs into her deep admiration of John Calvin (“Saving Calvin from Cliches”). Here’s a sample:

It is an irony that Calvin is always pilloried for his insistence on “election,” though the concept is Scriptural and also nearly universal among Christian theologians of every stripe. Yet people in his tradition were active, innovative, and very much inclined toward social transformation. We have opted for petty determinisms—childhood trauma, genetic inheritance, social conditioning, etc.—that have made us comparatively passive. We seem to prefer to find excuses—which are really nothing more than the embrace of determinism, a sort of Stockholm syndrome relative to whatever we can claim as limitation. I am fascinated by the more enabling self-understanding. It has helped me to find my way out of the cloying comforts that are offered by prevalent psychological models. I suspect that the appeal of bare-knuckles competition and even the unembarrassed pleasures of hostility that are rising among us now might have a similar origin. There is a great difference, however. Calvin taught reverence for human beings as such, seeing Christ even in one’s deadliest enemy. If this one thing can be recovered, then perhaps what was best in that ethos will be recovered as well.

Sidenote: You might also be intrigued by Obama’s interview of Marilynne Robinson, podcasted by the New York Review of Books.

A final(?) Reformation recommendation: the recent spate of podcast/radio episodes of the White Horse Inn. Michael Horton and guests stress how modern-day evangelicalism and American religiosity seem to be more informed by radical Anabaptist ideals rather than Reformed ones. Even if you disagree, it’s good food for thought.

I leave you with this quote by Dr. Tim Chester from an article in Table Talk magazine (the modern one, not the original!):

…the Reformation was always intended to be an ongoing project. It is a commitment encapsulated in the Latin phrase semper reformanda. It is usually translated as “always reforming,” but a better translation is “always being reformed.” We are not the ones doing the reforming. We are being reformed by God’s Word. God’s Word is the reformer of the church. Or rather, it is Christ who renews His church through His Word. Semper reformanda does not describe a movement forward to some uncharted horizon but a continual movement back to God’s Word.

Worth a Thousand Words?

Aside

E2: What do you want me to draw?
Me: Uh… a beach ball

E2: See!
Me: Oh, that’s very good.
E2: (to her brother) What do you want me to draw?
E1: A hippocampus with a griffin on top of it
E2: What’s a hippocampus?
E1: It’s a part of the brain, and a griffin is half lion, half eagle.
E2: …
E1: And the griffin is eating an ostrich, tail first, and the ostrich is eating a baby and the baby is eating a worm and the worm is eating dirt and the dirt is eating space and space is eating time and time is eating the space-time continuum because it’s always being paired with space, which is always trying to eat time, and the space-time continuum is devouring the Earth because humans are trying to use it to teleport and time travel, but the Earth is being burnt by the Sun and the Sun is being devoured by Betelgeuse, which is exploding in a giant supernova, which in turn is being exploded by dark matter, which is being eaten by dark energy, which is being eaten by Winnie-the-Pooh. Which is being eaten by honey. Which is being eaten by a chandelier. I don’t know why there’s a chandelier, but it didn’t like the honey.
E2: …
E2: I can’t draw that.

War Rig

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Every time E2 buckles in nowadays, I have to go through an elaborate checklist with her:

E2: Do I have the coloring book?
Me: Which one? The one with the princesses?
E2: No, the one with the heroes… with Wonder Woman.
Me: Uh, here it is.
E2: And the silly book?
Me: The pop-up book? It’s right next to you.
E2: Right. And the one from the library?
Me: Are you talking about the penguin book? It’s right here.
E2: Okay. And my toy?
Me: What toy?
E2: The Superman.
Me: Where did his head go? You know what: Never mind. Are we done here?
E2: NOT YET! Where are my markers?
Me: Here.
E2: And my snacks?
Me: They’re right in front of you.
E2: I can’t reach the net!
Me: I’ll put them in the door handle. Okay?
E2: Um…
Me: Anything else?
E2: What about the other library book? You remember? With the mouse?
Me: Maisy? It’s not here. I returned it already.
E2: Why did you do that?
Me: It was due. When are we going to go?
E2: Why couldn’t we keep it?
Me: That’s how libraries work, honey. It’s a public institution we all share… You know what: we’re done here. I’m buckling you.
E2: I CAN BUCKLE MYSELF!
Me: Oh, you can, can you? Show me.
E2: See?
Me: That’s just the top buckle. Do you want me buckle the bottom one?
E2: …
Me: Your brother is starting to fuss. Let me just do it.
E2: I CAN DO IT!
Me: I tell you what: You do it while I put E3 in.
E2: YOU DO IT!

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Paced Bottle-Feeding

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I’ve been working on a follow-up to my Harvey Karp post in which I talk about establishing sleep schedules, but it’s taking a while to get my thoughts organized, and I lost an initial draft, and everything I’m reading says the first three or four months don’t really apply so…

Let me post first about paced bottle-feeding. Yeah, I didn’t know what it was either.

But Dana says it’s how she prefers I feed E3. Apparently, it’s a way of bottle-feeding breast milk that better simulates the pace and flow of drinking from the source.

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Basically:

  • keep the baby upright (not lying down)
  • keep the bottle horizontal to slow down the flow
  • don’t stuff the nipple into the baby’s mouth; instead, tease it out a little to make her work at sucking
  • let the baby naturally take pauses and breaks
  • feeding should take 10 minutes or longer

This video does a good job of explaining:

Naturally, every new trend comes with its accoutrements, though I’m 50% sure that this is not just another way to scam parents out of their money. We use the Como Tomo slow-flow bottle, Nurture Right pre-sterilized breast milk baggies, and Avent Microwave Steam Sterilizer. I’ve also found the First Years bottle warmer to be a handy thing to have around when taking E1 out of the house to places that might not have a microwave or stove to heat water.

Oh, and Dana swears by her Ameda breast pump Naya breast pump. It’s not cheap, but it’s the most comfortable and efficient kind she’s found.