It's Almost Thanksgiving! A Recipe for Cranberry Relish

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One of our family's most anticipated time of year is autumn. We are thrilled by the ushering in of crisp cool air, of reading together soul filling books by the crackling fireplace and remembering the many blessings God has given us throughout the past year.  One favorite part of the fall festivities was the planning and preparations for our Thanksgiving celebration.

Often because we have moved a lot, we found ourselves alone around Thanksgiving. Beginning with our years overseas as missionaries, we began to ask all sorts of people over to our home on Thanksgiving. I know that even this year, Joel and Joy are celebrating at least 3 different thanksgivings with friends in Scotland.

But I am now quite sure that trying to do everything perfectly by myself creates stress for everyone around me. So even though my sweet ones prefer my cooking, (Isn't that how it often is?) I knew that I would be more pleasant to live with if I delegated a lot of the work to others. It is not worth wrecking a special day if the mama is a martyr and punishes everyone for all the work she is doing. I decided to have a good attitude about the work I would be doing for my family and to delegate some of it so that I would not be under the weight of too many ideals. (And you know there are grocery stores and restaurants if your season requires catering some of the food. Mary verses Martha, you know.)

I learned to start early. I would make corn bread a week or two before the day and freeze it so that my stuffing would be easier to make. Pies and bread are made on Tuesday and Wednesday. Children's crafts the week before, those cute turkeys that decorate the table.   I realized very quickly that in order for me to continue to find the joy in something I love doing, creating life and memories, I needed to delegate some of the work and ask others to help bear the load.  Who cares who does the turkey if it saves relationships and I think everyone loves to add their own touch to the meal.  

I could! And I would!  I began to ask friends or family members to bring dishes I knew they were successful at making or specific dishes I had planned in my menu, along with the family favorite recipe we had agreed was tried and true, making it a "must have". This really blessed them and everyone became a vital contributor to the memory, not just me.  

This year, Clay and I will be going to one of our dear friends house for Thanksgiving. My friend is one of the best cooks I know. Brandee passed on this recipe to me and I held on to is this one, as I love to make it, it's easy. I saw her kids loved it, and it can be used throughout the year.  While Brandee was still in college, she worked as an aide for a kindergarten teacher named Connie Fritch and every year she made this recipe with her students for their Thanksgiving Feast. She just so happens to be the same lady who started the Honey Baked Ham stores, so as you can imagine, it was a fabulous recipe then and still is every year, when I make it as a family tradition.

Sometimes the boys in my family prefer the plain cranberry jelly right out of the can "like Mimi used to do," so we have all sorts of varieties of cranberries on our table. Here's Brandee's recipe.

Ingredients:

2 pkgs. fresh cranberries(rinsed and picked through)

2 Cups Orange Juice

2 Sticks cinnamon

2 Orange (cut in wedges)

2 Apples chopped

2 Pears chopped

1 1/2 Cups Honey

1 Cup Sugar (Optional)

Strawberries (Sliced-Optional)

***Enjoy this relish throughout the year on turkey sandwiches or in other yummy recipes by freezing small batches.

Add cranberries to large/extra large pot.

Add O.J. to pot and boil medium high heat.

Boil cranberries in O.J. until popping stops.

Add other ingredients.

Cook until thickened.

Turn off heat and add honey or sugar. May need additional sweetener to taste.

Before chilling, remove orange wedges. I usually keep the  cinnamon in until just before serving. Voila! How easy was that! Enjoy! This is amazing on a turkey sandwich or used with a pork roast.

Adventures in Scotland, Stories of Old, Happy Thanksgiving!!

Joel, Joy and I on a Saturday morning walk at the St. Andrews Cathedral Ruins.

Fear sometimes flutters in my heart as Clay puts me on a plane to go see my precious children in the UK. With all of our conference speaking, I can usually manage several free trips a year on airlines by using the points we have earned through speaking. 

But each time I fly to see my precious children in the UK, (or Nathan), I always  know I have been with my dearest friends and companions. We are all such kindred spirits and can never get enough of talking, celebrating life together, just sitting quietly in a room while all of us work away on projects. We are all ridiculously close and I am sooo thankful I took the across the sea trip.

My sweet friend, Jacqui, picked me up from the airport in London and she and her husband drove me to Oxford. Just catching up and hearing about her life and all that is going on  in the Mum Heart ministry is so exciting. Even now we are planning and hoping for 3 spring conferences here as the small groups continue to grow.

Next, I met with another sweet friend, Leah Boden to further discuss conferences all over England. So many ways I see the Lord working through podcasts, conferences, small groups and ministry here. Finally, 3 glorious days with Sarah.  

Sarah and I walked all over Oxford, sipped good coffee and ate some great French food and just caught up on great thoughts, books and life together. I soaked in all the ideas she is thinking, all that she and Thomas are discussing and doing and felt our time together was much too short.

Traveling to Scotland after being in Oxford with Sarah and Thomas all week has been an adventure. From eating the best fish and chips in Scotland, walking the university grounds where she and Joel are studying, walking our 10,000+ steps a day, the days have flown by.

Thousands and thousands of people worshipped in this place. The people of the town were riled up to tear down the old cathedral where pilgrimages had been made for hundreds of years. The enormity of the building is almost beyond my imagination. 

Thousands and thousands of people worshipped in this place. The people of the town were riled up to tear down the old cathedral where pilgrimages had been made for hundreds of years. The enormity of the building is almost beyond my imagination. 

 

A plus to visiting Scotland and Oxford are the amazing true to life stories of those who went before in these lands of great history.  Learning the stories of those who have lived brave lives in these places has given me even more desire to live well and to leave a legacy of faith and faithfulness. 

Celebrating Joel's birthday was a highlight of my time here. He is indeed a gift of God to Clay and me. 

We invited around 20 of Joel's and Joy's friends to join us at a pub to celebrate him and chatted about all sorts of things with their chums from all over the world here to study theology. A night I will not soon forget. 

We invited around 20 of Joel's and Joy's friends to join us at a pub to celebrate him and chatted about all sorts of things with their chums from all over the world here to study theology. A night I will not soon forget. 

 

I hope you will enjoy my podcast today with Joel and Joy as we tell of the history of St. Andrews, talk about the great food in the cafes here, and share the fun of our time together here.

Be sure to look for Joy's blog, Joyclarkson.com and weekly podcast, Speaking with Joy. You will hear of great books, music, artists that will fill your imagination. 

Enjoy the Wexford Carol as Joel arranged it and find the music at Amazon (Midwinter Carols by Joel Clarkson) and other places where music is sold.

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Midwinter Carols
$8.99
Joel Clarkson

I am so very excited to be hosting a online Christmas tea for all of you who are members of the Cultivating Life with Sally membership. (We hope to host 3-4 such times this year for our members.) If you are not a member, you can register for the tea for $10 this time or you can join our course for the year to be sure not to miss any of our online events.

Be sure to save the date for our my Lifegiving Christmas Tea with Sally. I will be live, talking about recipes, traditions, favorite resources and life around our house through out the season. Registration opens soon. 

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Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

 

Happy Week-Before-Thanksgiving!

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The First Thanksgiving, by Jennie Augusta Brownscombe

I love sweeping, captivating tales of real men and women of courage who believed they were present in this world for God's glory, who took risks to worship Him, lived courageously and held fast against great odds to the goodness and promises of God--even in times of trial.

Plymouth was the place of such a tale. A small and dwindling group of seemingly frail people, invisible to the world at large, taking time to worship and thank their Creator God for His lovingkindness and mercy and provision. And yet they were not invisible to God. Their tale has lived on to inspire many thousands to live a life of faith. This is what I would call a story of intentional, purposeful hearts devoted to joy, celebrating the reality of God, acting in obedience to worship and praise Him. Another picture of God taking the small, faithful and turning it into an eternal work.

We are in a different sort of time, but one that is trying to believers nonetheless. Erosion of Biblical morality, economic pressures, the breakup of marriages, materialism, godless values ... and yet, here we are, blessed to know Him, to know our future is secure with Him for all eternity, where we will celebrate the great feast of all times, when we are with Him face to face.

It is a time for us to celebrate our own feast to His reality this Thanksgiving, as an act of faith for His reality, power, provision and blessing in our own time. This is a time when He can still use the acts of  faithful people to turn the world upside down.

I love having the opportunity to celebrate this great story with our family. The story of Squanto is amazing. To see how God used one man, took him all the way to Europe as a slave to learn English, to be led to the Lord by monks, so that he could return to America in order to help save the Pilgrims by showing them how to live in this new world. (The Disney movie about Squanto is actually very beautiful.)

Even the story of the Pilgrims themselves--the idea that man had the right to worship God and hold fast to his beliefs and to do whatever necessary to provide for their children is a model of what we should follow--to fight for the ability to worship God, to pass on our faith to our children, to make this a supreme priority--what a great story to pattern our lives after. So, be sure this Thanksgiving, to not forget the real reason of this holiday. Notice the fingerprints of God in history, His fingerprints of grace and blessing in our own lives. We can dream with our children how we might leave a legacy of faith, bringing His kingdom to bear in our own generation. And to celebrate His goodness to us this year by taking the time to praise and worship Him together. How blessed we are to have such a heritage!

Some favorite Thankgiving books:

Of Plymouth Plantation

A story of Louisa May Alcott

A Thanksgiving game to play online, here

Some favorite children's books:

. . . If You Sailed on the Mayflower in 1620
By Ann McGovern, Anna DiVito
Three Young Pilgrims
By Cheryl Harness

There are so many more in my library--but these are a few. 

Finally, a great unit study for your children, should you want to use it as a guide

I have so many other books about early American history, but I hope you enjoy these books and have a peaceful week. 

Happy week before Thanksgiving!

Storyformed Podcast Episode #19 - Following Jesus Through Advent (A Conversation with Glenn Packiam)

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In this episode, Holly Packiam and her husband, Glenn Packiam, talk about the meaning of Advent. As a dad, pastor, and theology doctoral student, Glenn shares his perspective on how to celebrate Advent with your family as well as in your church community. 

Glenn Packiam is the lead pastor of new life DOWNTOWN, a congregation of New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado, where he also serves as associate senior pastor and on the Eldership. He is the author of four books, the most recent of which is Discover the Mystery of Faith (David C. Cook, 2013. Glenn was also one of the founding leaders and songwriters for the Desperation Band and has been featured on several Desperation Band and NewLifeWorship recordings. As a signed songwriter with Integrity Music, he has had the honor of writing and co-writing several well-loved worship songs, like “Your Name” and “My Savior Lives", and has released three albums with Integrity Music. Glenn holds a BA in Theological/Historical Studies, a Masters in Management, and, after doing two years of graduate work at Fuller Theological Seminary, is now a Doctoral researcher at Durham University in the UK. 

You can read his current reflections on his blog -  www.mysteryoffaithblog.com.  

Topics include:

  • How the Church Calendar can be an invitation into discipleship
  • What Advent is really about
  • How keeping Advent can help keep our focus on Jesus through the busy and commercialized holiday season
  • How Advent gives voice to our longings and leads us to be the answer to someone else's longing
  • Practical ideas for participating in Advent in your home
  • Advent Resources 

Click HERE to listen to the podcast and to view show notes!

A Table For Broken Hearts

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When He had reclined at the table with them, He took the bread and blessed it, and breaking it, He began giving it to them. 

Luke 24:30

The unthinkable had happened.

Many years ago, the life of a young twenties friend of ours had suddenly ended. This precious girl had been the apple of her mother's eye. And in one day, she was gone. I couldn't imagine the darkness I would feel if it had happened to one of my own precious girls. And I knew that if it happened to me, there would be a hole in my heart forever and ever. 

Though I did not know what to do, I prayed about what had been important to my friend. I knew there would be no perfect soothing or words of comfort that would satisfy, no answers to the unbelievable hurt she would experience deep in her heart.

People who have broken hearts shouldn't be alone, even if they seem withdrawn. They need to have someone initiate with ready arms to comfort and a heart of grace and compassion, willing to grieve and love unconditionally whatever the moments hold. 

As I prayed, God brought to mind that she had spent a considerable time in England. She loved tea and tea times. And so I invited her to my table, to share moments of friendship together, to give her a refuge in my home, a place to pour out her feelings, a place to be loved, accepted. My table would become a sanctuary, a refuge from the onslaught of her life.

I did not know what words I would speak as words would not take away the hurt that we shared in that moment, but I offered her all that I knew how. I offered myself and my time. And as we were sitting together, tears coming, overflowing from both of us, a picture came into my mind.

Jesus was bent on the dusty floor, gently washing His disciples feet, loving them with all of his heart. And then, he served them a meal and fed their needs, body, spirit, and soul. He knew their hearts would soon break, that they would feel hopeless, helpless, alone.

And it was in this context of him inviting his "beloveds" to his table that he showed them the grace of gentle Father love. His words were there to soothe and comfort. In the context of preparing, washing, serving, encouraging, He gave his final lessons of life. 

So many times in my own life, with my loneliness in ministry, my struggles with my "different" children, my broken heart from wounds, fears, doubts or insecurities, I wanted someone to see me, to ask, to initiate, to care. But often, my deep darkness was born alone. Often people are afraid to enter grief because they do not know what to say, so they say nothing, do nothing.

Healing comes slowly, but all of us were made for companionship, in celebrating and in suffering. "Bear one another's burdens," we are told. Joining in another's suffering requires us to reach out when another may be too weary to ask.

As my friend and I sat together in silence, I pondered more deeply the table of Christ. Every week in church, we come to the table of Christ. As we enter into the table of His grace with Him, he responds to all of our needs personally. He knows and understands every burden we carry, every issue in our lives, all the ways we have failed, our heart scars, our fears. In that table, He makes us whole and brings us life, forgiveness, hope and healing. 

It is Jesus who prays for us before the Father every day, (Hebrews 7:25). His love for us never ends, (Romans 8) and He lives to comfort us through His spirit. He is the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles. (2 Corinthians 1:4)

And even as He brought life and love to His table, so He will invite us to His feast to spend eternity with Him in fullness of joy.

May our tables become as His, a sacred place where life is protected, love is given and comfort is felt. Our tables have the power to offer the "Life" we have felt from His personal, generous grace. May our tables  be the place His love is felt and known until we see Him face to face at the table He has prepared for us in eternity.

Is there someone who needs to have an invitation to your table to find compassion, comfort, companionship? Make this time as the holidays approach one where your table extends the invitation of His grace to those who long to be invited. 

Become the hands of Christ, the words of His spirit, the light of His grace as you see the needs of others and become what He became to us. 

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Why Tea Time Discipleship Matters & A Podcast!

A Teatime with my girls and sweet friend, Phyllis, right outside Beatrix Potter's house on a rainy English afternoon--unforgettable! Brings back sweet memories. 

A Teatime with my girls and sweet friend, Phyllis, right outside Beatrix Potter's house on a rainy English afternoon--unforgettable! Brings back sweet memories. 

A cold snowy day, perfect for a  little fruit,  muffins and tea a la Clarkson by the fireplace. Today, I am in the mountains and it is snowing. I just had a cup of tea with Clay as we planned for ministry and messages we wanted to craft for years to come--and I am sure the tea helped inspire us.

Just now, I am also packing my bags to go see several of my sweet ones in the UK. I am so excited and like a little girl with butterflies in my tummy. As I ponder being with them there and how many times all over the world I have had beautiful moments with friends and loved ones over a cup of tea, another a warm memory comes to mind. (With hopes I will be making more sweet memories over tea in the next couple of weeks.) Enjoy! And don't forget to listen to this week's podcast. I hope it will inspire you to make time for your beloved people who are dear to your heart. 

Here it is:

Last Thursday morning might be one of my best memories for a long time. Sarah and I, in our jammies and crazy bed hair, sat close on a couch,  drinking a hot cup of tea in real china cups and talked, shared dreams, looked at articles together in a magazine we both loved, admired a book she found at a second hand book store, and felt totally at ease in the comfort of our safe and close friendship. Amidst sipping our hot liquid gold, with candles lit and she and I just talked and giggled uncontrollably and shared our thoughts and ideas for almost an hour. She got my computer and played a favorite song for me that meant something to her, that she had listened to at midnight the night before.

She shared her devotional book with me as I couldn't find mine, and I relished in her inspiring reflections about a passage in Matthew that caught my heart.  My  60 year old self has learned to love the worlds of my children and these times have given me a window to their hearts.

I do not expect them to conform to me--I let them be who they are at this season of life and I have adjusted my own age expectations to enjoy and really delight in who they are at every stage. It has brought me much pleasure. But I had to give up a little of my selfish self to enter their world. And so did God, and became Jesus.

As with all of my children, though, Sarah does not respond to the same kind of mothering as the others did. I had to study her and observe her to find out what was in her heart--her personality, what spoke love to her and how to fill her heart's cup so that I could reach her heart with a love for Jesus, what put her off and what drew her near.

Discipleship is always an issue of relationship. It is not about curriculum, church attendance, rules, indoctrination, but always about reaching the heart.

I look back and see how different it was with all the kids.

I remember when Nathan was a little boy, and often challenging the boundaries, I had to study him. He was a little of a mystery as my other two had been more compliant and I thought that it was because I was such a great mother. Then God gave me Nathan and I realized I needed a different way of mothering.

One night when Clay had taken the older two to church and left Nathan home with me because he had a cold, I sat wearily in an overstuffed chair and said, "Hey, you want to climb into the chair with me?'

I remember he snuggled in and then began to talk. He talked for 45 minutes without stopping, as long as I said, "Really?" or "Oh!" or how funny!" After he had talked for almost an hour, he said, "I love you, mom!" And then he jumped out of the chair and went to play. He was 5 years old.

I was pondering this event--him sitting still for this long and talking and talking and talking, and suddenly it dawned on me--"He is an extravert and he needs people, activity and wants to talk and be heard."

So, I learned the way to Nathan's heart was spending time alone with him, listening to him--his dreams, his thoughts, his ideas, his feelings. As long as I made alone time with him, he would listen to me and try to obey.

Same with Joy. If she felt lost in the crowd, she would get louder, perform, call attention to herself. And then if I went to her room or sat on the porch and sipped lemonade or made a special tea time in my room just for her, she would talk and talk and talk. And then her heart would be open.

Now, Joel would just withdraw and be grumpy or get irritated.  He was not a "mis-behaver"! But if I made personal time with him away from the group, he would bubble over with talking to me--he was an introvert, just like Sarah. Neither of them would compete openly with the others for heart time, but I had to assume they needed it and then carve a planned time in the midst of my busy schedule and make it happen. This opened the window of their heart to develop a great, strong, deep friendship.

Each child responded differently and I had to figure out what they liked and what communicated personal love to them, and then I saw their little and big hearts opened. And as it happens, I found that Clay did not want to compete with the kids and I had to learn to get time with just us, so I could hear him and know what was going on. If I did not create the time for us, it would never happen.

Now, I had 4 children, homeschooled, traveled with Clay and spoke and had a ministry and wrote books. So, it was not easy to carve out this time. I did not have this time every season of life--sometimes illness, company, outside activities and commitments got in the way. But when I observed Jesus's influence on his disciples and saw how he spent time personally with them, away from the crowds, and affirmed them uniquely for their personality--(John, the disciple Jesus loved; Peter, the rock; Thomas, a man in whom there is no guile.") I began to realize that each of us wants to be defined by God's unique personality that he created, and to be validated for who we really are in a personal way.

When I would plan my week, because my sweet ones were a priority, and I believed that this was the way to win their hearts for the Lord,  I would plan in "little dates". I looked for it in the busy moments and tucked them in here and there. When they were little we were always a gang together, but I would look for ways to snuggle them in my room all by themselves. (Yes, my children shared rooms and that kept them from being lonely, but still they needed mama, sympathy time.)

I kept cookie dough balls or fruit, nuts and cheese chunks available all the time and when my radar told me that someone was not doing well or was angry or having problems, I would have a private, 15 mintue "Tea time" with them, just to talk and take emotional temperature.

I found when they were teenagers, because I had invested "me" time with them, I was always the go to person for them when they had secrets, fears, problems. And Clay and I would have times in our bedroom, behind closed doors when we would counsel and talk. As teens, I would take my boys out, by themselves, for breakfast every week or two, just to keep the channels of conversations going. For Sarah, it was a Saturday morning walk and coffee at a French cafe,  for almost 8 years, and for Joy, it was breakfast alone in her room or mine at least once a week, away from all the teens.

Must off to my day, as the tea kettle is whistling and calling my name. But this time, I will celebrate a one woman tea time and reflect on all the sweet memories made on the spur of the moment with four who have now become my cherished best friends.

 
 

Stirring Up Gratitude Through Contentment (Or Is It The Other Way Around?!)

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"The joy-filled life is not found by diminishing my God-given responsibilities as a woman, wife, and mother, nor can I find joy merely by refusing to face the hard realities of life in a fallen world. There is a tension that God is asking me to acknowledge and accept ~ the tension between ideals and realities. True joy is found by living somewhere between the ideal life and daily realities. That is where Jesus meets me, where His Holy Spirit empowers, and where I learn how to live the Christian life with supernatural joy. To celebrate life is simply a choice."

-Seasons of a Mother's Heart

When my adult children come back home to visit me, the excitement and anticipation ignites me to tidy the house, set out lovely flowers, light candles, and leave them chocolates and goodies, prepare their favorite meals. I do this so that they can feel welcome, experience my love for them, and feel the peace and joy that comes with home. However, can you imagine how I would feel if I went to all of that effort to make things beautiful and love them extravagantly, only to watch them walk in, sit on their phones and computers all day, have bad attitudes, and tell me that they're just "too busy" or "too stressed" to enjoy it? How must our loving God feel when we don't choose to celebrate this life He has given us to subdue?God is available, prepares for us each day, wants to shower us with His love, grace, compassion, wisdom, but often we are too busy or self-centered to notice Him and to "be" with Him.

Often times, our own expectations of how we thought life would be, get in the way of us being able to grab onto the joy and abundant life that God has for each of us. Finding peace and joy does not mean giving up on our ideals, but in seeking the balance, the ebb and flow, that is life. Joy won't always feel as second nature as taking a breath, but with every breath, how can you choose joy? It is a conscious, daily effort that can transform your life if you allow it to. Joy is a choice to see Him in the midst of daily moments, to call upon His spirit's presence and strength at each turn, each curve in the road. Joy comes from being assured we are not alone in the dark places and that He is light and will shine His light in each place.

Take a moment today to have a quiet time and bible study, reading over these verses and meditating on them, as well as the questions below.

"A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones." -Proverbs 17:22

"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope." -Romans 15:13

"Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy." -James 1:2

Ask yourself: -Is there a high expectation for a situation or relationship in your life that has been robbing you of joy? How can you better find the tension between the ideals and realities of that circumstance? -How can you allow the Holy Spirit to enter into the imperfect circumstances of your life, allowing you to find supernatural joy? -In what ways can you find gratitude, seek beauty, and find joy in the celebration of life today?

Ember Falls- A Book Review

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“To bear the flame means more than only holding on to the fire kindled in the Green Ember’s rising. It means to bear the fatal flames of the enemy, to bear up under the scorching heat of these hateful days.”

 Turn on the news for even just a few seconds and it is hard to deny that we are living in perilous times. Sometimes, especially when I think about my children and the world they are inheriting, I can tend to despair and lose hope. Often, it just feels like too much. When I get lost in those moments of hopelessness and fear, it is usually because I have briefly forgotten a vitally important truth: we are living in the middle of the story. As a Christian, I have a very real faith that all will be restored and set right. I hope in Christ and trust that, because of His life, death, and resurrection, evil will be defeated and true justice and mercy will ultimately prevail. This world, these headlines, this darkness surrounding us—it is not the end. We are in the middle of the story

Click HERE to read more.

Raising Great Thinkers in Your Home

This is the place where C.S. Lewis and Tolkien wrote their books together. For  over two decades they met in this pub to eat, drink, share their writing and exchange ideas and friendship that shaped their legacy of messages they left to the world. 

This is the place where C.S. Lewis and Tolkien wrote their books together. For  over two decades they met in this pub to eat, drink, share their writing and exchange ideas and friendship that shaped their legacy of messages they left to the world. 

God is all about the heart.

He cares about what is going on in your heart.

That is the gist of Psalm 51:6, which addresses God by saying, “You desire truth in the innermost being” (NASB). What the psalmist meant is that God desires for His love and truth to have so formed us, through our relationship with Him, that they are tucked away in the deepest, truest parts of ourselves.

Really following God can never just be a matter of memorizing a list of rules and doing our best to follow them, but must rather be a deep-seated part of our identity. Knowledge of God is of no ultimate good unless it sinks into our heart and changes the way we view and interact with the world.

When discipling our children, we can easily become obsessed with teaching the right things (indoctrination). And teaching is definitely important! But the true difference is made when truth becomes a part of the disciple’s life (conviction). Indoctrination is from the outside in; convictions are from the inside out. We must all reach a point where our knowledge of God goes from intellectual assent to holding a truth in our “innermost being.” That’s when knowledge becomes conviction.

But what does all this have to do with dinnertime discussions?

Convictions aren’t memorized; they are digested.

A sense of individual voice is essential to developing convictions because it is through articulating what we personally believe that we are able to own and live by our convictions. Dinnertime discussions were the time when I hoped to encourage this process in my children, to encourage them to use their voices to develop their own convictions.

By asking their opinions about various topics, I sought to show them that their voices mattered, that they had the ability to think well, and that their convictions would shape the way they lived. Just as God said to Isaiah, “Come now, and let us reason together” (Isaiah 1:18, NASB), I wanted to prepare a table for my children to exercise their conviction capabilities.

Because we always welcomed and encouraged their opinions, our children thought discussing was as natural as breathing in oxygen. We did not seek to indoctrinate them through force, but rather asked questions and listened to their thoughts and opinions, as outlandish as they were at times. Each one was encouraged to make his or her own observations about news and life events, and we did our best to respond thoughtfully to their reflections.

Communities of discussion foster the deepening of convictions. A perfect example of this is the Inklings, the group of writers, artists, and academics who met weekly in the 1930s and 1940s to discuss ideas and projects. Perhaps the best-known members of this weekly discussion and reading group were C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, and Charles Williams. Each week they would bring new writing or an idea they had encountered and discuss it over plate of hot, crispy fish and chips. The creative output of that group is almost mind-boggling, and many people believe the foundation for that prolific output was the friendship they shared. They sharpened each other’s thinking, critiqued each other’s ideas, made each other better.

I wanted my dinner table to be a place to develop my own little Inklings—a place where my children could practice stretching their minds, engaging with new ideas, building each other up—making each other better. And I think this effort was successful. In fact, one of my grown kids recently texted, “Mama, I have started an Inklings group in my apartment every week to discuss books and movies over hummus and chips. So fun to see my community of friends enjoying great discussions.” I know exactly how that feels!

I love to think of the conversations Jesus and His disciples must have had around a meal. (At least two are described in the Gospels, but of course there were many more.) The disciples clearly felt free to ask Jesus deep, sometimes silly, even offensive questions. And Jesus asked His disciples what they thought as well—perhaps because He, too, knew that convictions so often come to us once we’ve articulated our ideas for the first time.

Jesus set the model of dialogue with His disciples and showed us that there is no substitute for personal conviction. And so too should we cultivate spaces where our children can learn to voice their beliefs, question and understand ideas, and articulate their developing convictions.

 

The ways you learn to respect the learning process of your children, to admire their ability to think, to engage them in great ideas and thoughts will give them a chance to digest great convictions that will shape their faith for a lifetime.

The process will not be neat, controlled or pretty if authentic personalities and levels of maturity are alive. Yet, building the mental and spiritual muscle of your loved ones will build a foundation that will help them to stand firm through the storms of life. 

other books mentioned in this podcast:


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