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Meditations on Family Spirituality

Thoughts on Being Church

Church was not part of my childhood. I stumbled onto Jesus in my early teens and went looking for others who knew something about God. Gratefully and graciously, I wandered into a community that was willing to take in an enthusiastic teen. As much as I've come to love the stained glass and the hymns and the organ music, the heart and soul of church are those who gather to seek God. We are seekers on the way. The wonderful thing is that as we are looking for God, God is looking for us, coaxing us, cajoling us into God's embrace. The gathering together of those seeking God enables us to learn from each other, support each other, laugh together and cry together and vent the inevitable frustrations that life gives us. We have the opportunity to give that gift of community to our children as well. Not only be going to church on a Sunday morning but by spending time with others who are seeking to know God. So take some time to come to worship on Sunday morning, and take some time to get to know another family on Sunday afternoon. Take time to talk to someone you do not know well at coffee hour. Be brave and share part of your journey with Christ. For wherever two or three are gathered, God is there.
Linnae Peterson, M. Div.

Thoughts on Blessings

When my eldest was very small we didn't sleep. Not just as an infant but up till about age 4 my child rarely slept through the night. Needless to say both my husband and I walked around in a haze most of the time. During one particularly bad week, I ran into (almost literally) one of my spiritual mentors. After a short conversation about how we were coping he suggested that every night we consciously "bless" our sleepless child. So began our nightly ritual of "Good night, God bless you, I love you". Somehow, these words have become more powerful over the years. This small act of pausing and blessing our children at the end of each day has helped to smooth out the rough times and brighten the good ones. The blessing has moved, from time to time, from the end of the day to the middle. "Good bye, God bless you, I love you" shows up as they leave for school or camp or an overnight with friends. It felt awkward at first, and sometimes still does, but I commend it to you. So for now, Good bye and God bless you.  
Linnae Peterson, M. Div.

Thoughts on Change

Our world is changing this Fall, or at least my world. In a few days we will be taking our eldest off to college in Minnesota and my younger child is within fractions on an inch of topping my height. Somehow September always feels this way, full of changes, full of transitions. Change isn't easy. We tend to resist it and so do our children. Like us children thrive on routine, on the daily repetitions that mean life is sane and stable. But life is never very stable for long, first graders become second graders and all too soon middle schoolers. Change can be exciting and frightening all at once. As you plan your family schedule for the fall consider including a few important stable points in the midst of change. Make time for family dinners and include a chance for your children to say grace, talk and have fun. (To extend dinner time a bit, we let the first person finished get out a pad of "Mad Libs" so we all could all play.) Make time for church, this can feed your spirit for the rest of the week. Make time for quiet. Even if it is only a few minutes in the morning or after everyone else is asleep. Everyone in the family needs a quiet space to reflect and be still. Sometimes being still before God can be the most important prayer of all, no words required. Hope you have a wonderful Fall.
Linnae Peterson, M. Div.

Thoughts on Finding God in the Poison Ivy

I'm not much of a gardener, or if you ask my friends, any kind of a gardener. Plants on my watch, turn up their toes as quickly as possible. Yet, I love to observe them. I admire their tenacity and ingenious ways of surviving against all odds. I find myself admiring the oddest types of plants, the raspberry vines that are waging a battle to take over the lawn, the fungus doing its best to turn the old branches into soil, even the poison ivy. Now, I'm no fan of poison ivy, I'm very allergic to it and do my best to steer clear of it, but, think about it. The roots of the poison ivy can snake for meters sending out shoots anywhere it can find sun and moisture. The leaves can be beautiful and the oil can protect it from most any animal that might think it is an amazing snack. So if you stop and look, take a step back, you can see the wonders of creation in just about any corner of the world. Perhaps this weekend would be a good time to take your kids for a walk and see if you can find the treasure's God has hidden in your neighborhood.   Gnats? Dandelions? Maybe even poison ivy? Just don't touch it!
The Reverend William Exner

Thoughts on Prayer

One of the activities that I enjoy doing with young children is to teach them the "Five Finger Prayer". In reality it's not a specific prayer. It is a way to remember to pray in different ways. Grown-ups refer to the types of prayer as, Petition, Intercession, Adoration, Penitence, and Gratitude. For kids we talk about: Please, Please Help, You're Wonderful God, I'm sorry and Thank you.   It's really rather simple yet I think for all of us, we tend to forget one or the other type of prayer as we go along. So perhaps for tonight each of us can take a moment to look at your fingers and pray each type of prayer: Please.... Please Help..... You're wonderful God because.... I'm sorry... And Thank you God for....
The Reverend William Exner

Thoughts on Finding Time

This is an busy time of year in our household. My youngest is playing baseball; my older one is working through all the Senior year requirements along with planning for graduation and college this fall. We're having work done on our house, and I'm planning and presenting day-long programs for 3 elementary school classes and one high school class. We're juggling a lot, and so are you I'm sure. In the middle of all of this I find it is critical to take a step back, to look at that crowded family calendar and make some time for the important people in our lives. Relationships take time. That means time for your immediate family, but also friends, and the ones you hope to be friends with. Taking time, to listen to each other, to tell a story to connect or reconnect with others is an opportunity to receive gifts that God has given you.  One of the interesting things about the Judeo-Christian-Islamic traditions is that each one has a weekly Sabbath. Although other religions have holy days, these traditions declare that God has made time sacred, so sacred that one day a week needs to be set aside as a day of rest, to be set apart from other days. I currently live near a large Amish community and have been impressed with their commitment to family and community. They worship together every other Sunday and to strengthen their community life, they eat together after the service, and spend the "off" Sunday visiting with family and friends. The time they take creates bonds that carry them through the hard times and make rejoicing sweeter. The following was hanging in my grandmother's house when I was growing up. Who hath a friend with whom to share, Hath double cheer and half a care. So look at your calendar and find some time for your friends, new or old, they are a gift to you from God.
Linnae Peterson, M. Div.

Thoughts on Finding Time

This is an busy time of year in our household. My youngest is playing baseball; my older one is working through all the Senior year requirements along with planning for graduation and college this fall. We're having work done on our house, and I'm planning and presenting day-long programs for 3 elementary school classes and one high school class. We're juggling a lot, and so are you I'm sure. In the middle of all of this I find it is critical to take a step back, to look at that crowded family calendar and make some time for the important people in our lives. Relationships take time. That means time for your immediate family, but also friends, and the ones you hope to be friends with. Taking time, to listen to each other, to tell a story to connect or reconnect with others is an opportunity to receive gifts that God has given you.  One of the interesting things about the Judeo-Christian-Islamic traditions is that each one has a weekly Sabbath. Although other religions have holy days, these traditions declare that God has made time sacred, so sacred that one day a week needs to be set aside as a day of rest, to be set apart from other days. I currently live near a large Amish community and have been impressed with their commitment to family and community. They worship together every other Sunday and to strengthen their community life, they eat together after the service, and spend the "off" Sunday visiting with family and friends. The time they take creates bonds that carry them through the hard times and make rejoicing sweeter.   The following was hanging in my grandmother's house when I was growing up. Who hath a friend with whom to share, Hath double cheer and half a care.   So look at your calendar and find some time for your friends, new or old, they are a gift to you from God.
Linnae Peterson, M. Div.

Thoughts on God, dinosaurs and the creation of the world

Last year among my 11 year olds group of friend there was much conversation and debate about how the world came to be. This was not the first time (or I suspect the last time) the question would come up. It was sparked by a number of events and generated many question about the story of creation in Genesis. Or perhaps I should say stories of creation, because there are in fact two account of creation, the first in Chapter 1 and the second in Chapter 2. The question that kept coming up for my son, and that I have heard over and over again is "Mom what REALLY happened?" We hear of the "Creation vs. Evolution" debate of scientist, believers, skeptics and others championing their view of the exact science that created the world as we know it. But the wrong questions are being asked of Genesis and of the texts of science. In Genesis we hear the stories that were told around the campfire to answer, "Why are things the way they are?". This is not a modern science text but something closer to poetry, a poem that points to God as creator. The text of science address the questions of "how?" not "why?". When my children were very young they would ask me about creation, evolution and the dinosaurs. The best explanation I've come up with is this conversation. "Describe the sun to me like a poet would." "Now describe the sun to me like a scientist would" "Tell me, which one is real?" The answer is both.
Linnae Peterson, M. Div.

Thoughts on Maundy thursday

Throughout Holy Week the worship services give us an opportunity to walk with Jesus from the triumph of Palm Sunday through the dark of Jesus' trial and death, to the glory of the Resurrection. For those of you with younger children, there is one midweek service that I encourage you to try to attend. Maundy Thursday provides a worship experience of children that can bridge the experiences of Palm Sunday and Easter. If you haven't been to a Maundy Thursday service before, during this time we are invited to experience the intimacy of the last supper and the sorry and feat of Jesus' friends at his arrest. As part of the service the congregation is invited to come forward and to have their feet washed, and to receive communion for the final time before Easter. For young children to be encouraged to take off their shoes and socks IN CHURCH is an experience that draws them into the story and helps them to participate in it.  The foot washing, communion and the stripping of the alter offer children a dramatic way to experience the story of Holy Week. I hope you will take to time to come.
Linnae Peterson, M. Div.

Thoughts on Tweets, Facebook, cell phones and friendship

I grew up long before tweets, or cell phones or even computers, back in the dark ages, my kids would say.  I'm a digital immigrant, trying to keep up with the world my children have grown up in. This world allows us all to keep in touch in new ways, to maintain friendships in new ways. I can chat with my college friend Teresa in Japan or Facebook with Jeremy in Australia. This is great! Until it's not. We all now navigate terrain that can strengthen a friendship or blow it to bits. Adults have had practice with both, yet there are times we struggle with them as well. For our pre-teens and teens this can be even more difficult. The digital world increases the impact of words. Out in the cloud they can last forever. What we say can be wonderfully supportive or devastating. Throughout the Psalms and Proverbs we are reminded that what we say has an impact on all those around us. Our words can be honey or poison. Perhaps the one quote that has helped me think carefully is the following: "Before you speak, think- Is it necessary? Is it true? Is it kind? Will it hurt anyone? Will it improve on the silence?"  (Sri Sathya Sai Baba, Indian Spiritual Leader) Perhaps we can help to model this for our children, and help them to learn to live it out.
Linnae Peterson, M. Div.

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