I just finished reading Jane Bartlett’s good book, “Parenting with Spirit.” I am always in search of more ideas to enrich the lives of those I love, so this was a good read. I am going to share with you some of the ideas and tidbits that I personally highlighted and the many take aways that you can use with your family. [note: these ideas jump all over from highlighted lines I was drawn to, the book carries many ideas and shares action ideas and many good things for your families, so this is just a glimpse—go buy the book! smile. smile.]
“the greatest enemy of the spiritual life is the human tendency to sleepwalk through life. Prayer calls us to wakefulness.” -Thich Nhat Hanh
Pray with your children: I wrote about the details of praying with your family in another blog post “are you sleepwalking through life” God is not only to be found when we are on our knees with our hands together. I often find myself saying a prayer while driving my daughter to school, praying for her day, that she will be safe, that she will be a light to others…I will also find myself praying when I am alone, praying for my family, having those moments praying for my child, my husband, our life together, and it may be on a drive, parked at a park, sitting on my back deck, just looking at the sky, not necessarily on my knees.
Here was a creative idea that Jane shares from her book: Create a cairn–a pile of stones used as a marker to show walkers the way. This works best when there are a number of you gathered for a communal [family] prayer. In turn, place your pebbles into a pile in the center and as you do so speak aloud your prayers. This is an engaging way of helping children take stock of their day or week. Collect three stones: one smooth pebble, one a jagged piece, and the third a sparkling gem. Offer the children each of the three stones. As they hold the pebble encourage them to recollect an ordinary moment of the day for which they are grateful. With the jagged, they recollect a moment that was difficult for them. And with the gemstone they recollect a moment that was sparkly and happy.
Parental blessings: Giving your child a blessing is a powerful experience for both you and the recipient. You don’t have to be a priest or designated holy person to give a blessing, you just need to have a genuine desire to extend your love and care to someone else. Growing up in my home we had a designated chair that even had a gold plaque that read, “blessing chair” and the prayers in my home were very formal with oils and rules. I have come to a deep understanding that the above statement is so very true. It is a matter of the heart, it is not only men who can gift their child a prayer of wellness or a priest or bishop who is the only one with ‘special keys’, God wants us to care for one another & if our hearts are in the right place, thinking of someone else and there well-being, then so it shall be good enough for Him to help a need, calm a troubled heart, prayer for the gift of a child, heal a sick child, comfort a child on their first day of school, bless them to find a friend, etc.…a blessing is a gift from the heart.
Scientific Studies of Prayer: There is a small amount of scientific research that seems to indicate that prayer might work. One study published in the Journal of Reproductive Medicine followed nearly 200 women in South Korea on an IVF program. Unbeknown to them, half of the women were being prayed for by Christians in North America and Australia, who had their photographs. The results were surprising, particularly for the researchers who had intended to prove that prayer doesn’t work. The women being pray for had a 50 percent success rate, compared with a 26 percent success rate for those not prayed for. Another study, published in the American Heart Journal, covered 150 cardiac patients. They had been divided into five groups: one group received just standard care and the others additionally received guided imagery, stress relaxation, healing touch or intercessory prayer (by seven different religious groups from around the world). It was discovered that, after allowing for all manner of variables, those who received the additional “therapies” showed a 25 to 30 percent better recovery rate, and the group being prayed for fared the best with a 50-100 percent better recovery rate.
Sacred Ritual: Sacred ritual, however, has been disappearing from modern Western culture. As traditional religion declines, so too do the opportunities to experience collectively our connection to God. Light two candles on the mantle every evening after dinner, one to pray for themselves [your children] and the concerns of their own lives, and the second to pray for people in the wider world. [She has lots of ideas for family rituals and traditions–check out her book] I have another blog post all about rituals and traditions—great ideas for your family.
Family Meal: a quarter of families only get to sit down and eat together once a month, and only 15 percent manage it every day. Mealtimes are very important and enjoyable way to gather as a family and share news about the day: in many ways they represent the heart of family life. Taking a moment to say grace adds a deeper level of meaning to the occasion because it makes us aware that the food in front of us is a gift. There is bounty in the world, and here on the table lies the proof. Briefly, we might contemplate the sun and rain that gave the food life, the human hands that brought it to harvest and stacked it on the supermarket shelves, and finally the person who cooked it. In its fullest sense to the forces of nature and each other. There’s something sacramental about sharing food together, and it feels utterly right to have a prayer at that time. I honestly believe that food tastes better when we have had a moment of contemplation.
Story time: Leaving your child to listen to a story on an audiotape may be enjoyable for a child and easy for a parent, but it can in no way capture this magic, because children’s bedtime stories are as much about the intimacy between the teller and the listener as about the tale itself. If you have had a stressful day, this is an opportunity for healing, because on your lap or tucked beneath your arms, your children feel safe and loved. Together you share a story that is like warm milk, feeding your child’s imagination and understanding of the world. Here is a book list she suggested: Chronicles of Narnia, The Secret Garden, Tom’s Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce, Pollyanna by Eleanor H. Porter, and the Wizard of Ozby L. Frank Baum. You can also look for book awards like the Carnegie Medal, The Whitbread, The Smarties Book Prize and the Guardian Award. Favorite picture books include: The Big Big Sea by Martin Waddell, Guess How Much I Love YOu by Sam McBratney and Anita Jeram, The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister and the Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams. One of my other personal favorite authors—Nancy Tillman, On The Night You Were Born and ANY of her other magical books. Love them!
I LOVED this idea: I have started up a new ritual in our household on Friday evenings. It is called hot chocolate night. Instead of story time taking place in separate bedrooms with individual children, we all gather together, around the fire in the winter, for hot chocolate and a story. You could also do cookies and milk during the warmer months OR ‘Watermelon and Wonder’