Here at St. George's Episcopal Church in Summerville, South Carolina, we have a passion for coming alongside families and helping them on their spiritual journeys together*. In my late 50's, I find that I now have more time to walk the Ancient Paths of the church, linger in a prayer, practice lectio, meditate, contemplate the Holiness of Beauty (word reversal intended) and do the daily office. But my heart has been burdened for busy families with young children for some years now. How are they to find the time to walk these paths when parental responsibility constantly calls them away from them? They can make a rule of life, for sure. But time for God within that rule is more scarce than hens' teeth. Sickness, chores, errands, discipline, nightmares, carpools, teachers conferences (both planned and unplanned) can exhaust and leave time for little else. Then...a veil was lifted, and a path for these families appeared, when...
A Lutheran Diaconal Minister named Jennifer Vasquez, who is studying for her D. Min. in Family Faith Formation, and who graced our doorstep along with her young family over a year ago, introduced us to Faith5, a practice developed by Dr. Rich Melheim (see www.faithink.com) to give families of all ages easy access to the ancient paths without using the words (self-examen, lectio, confession, meditation and anointing/blessing), and in a more simplified and time-friendly form, designed to be used at night before bedtime (when all kids and parents...and spouses, for that matter... should be doing a daily "check-in" anyway). The five steps are Sharing (highs and lows)--"self-examen", Reading a Bible verse or story (that relates to the highs and lows)--"lectio divina", Talking (about how the verse relates to their highs and lows)--"confession", Praying (about the highs and lows) and finally giving a Blessing (as the last words heard before slumber)--"anointing". Not only does this have immediate benefits for young families, it also establishes a spiritual path that even teenagers will find helpful in more difficult times.
Below is an article that appeared in our St. George's Weekly Family Faith Formation Newsletter today (to subscribe, write me at firstname.lastname@example.org) . It is based on the Gospel for this Sunday (Mark 1:29-39), where Jesus heals Simon's mother-in-law of a fever. It gives parents and grandparents a way to touch the souls of children, take their spiritual temperature and provide spiritual "medicine", just as we would for their physical bodies.
What's Their Spiritual Temperature?Moms and Dads (Grandparents, too), do you sometimes wish you held stock in pediatric thermometers? It's that time of year, and so many of us have helped our children through high fevers, coughs, sniffles and worse. When we look in on our children, the first thing we do is touch those little foreheads and those little faces with concern, ready to apply a cool cloth and good medicine to bring the fever down if necessary.
In the Gospel lesson for this Sunday (Mark 1:29-39), Simon Peter's mother-in-law was sick in bed with a fever. The story tells us that Jesus went to her...and the first thing He did was to touch her ("He took her by the hand and lifted her up. And immediately the fever left her.") I wish I could have seen the look of concern on Jesus' face when He first felt that fevered hand. Just like a mom or a dad, He gave her His healing touch.
When we check on our kids, we want to touch their souls, too, to see how they are. Don't you wish sometimes that you had a thermometer for their souls? Well, you DO! Sometimes we call it "sharing our highs and lows" (step 1 in Faith5 devotions). Checking in on our spiritual temperature, then, is another way to look at it.
And don't you wish there was a good medicine to bring that spiritual fever down? Well, you HAVE it! It is God's Divine Touch administered through your loving hands. Don't forget to bless and TOUCH your children lovingly every night before bedtime after checking their spiritual temperature. The Bible tells us to anoint each other with oil for healing (the oil reminding us of our baptism and represents the presence of the Holy Spirit). This Sunday every family will receive a small bottle of olive oil for anointing (blessing) at night. Trace the sign of the cross on the foreheads with oil (just as at their baptism). Something tells me your little ones will come to treasure this in their lives. Around here, we have discovered that they love blessing us back!
Blessings and Peace,
From St. George's Weekly Family Faith Formation Newsletter 2-6-15 ed.
*Studies show that parents are the most effective and important spiritual mentors for their children.
Combine this fact with a statistic (By the time a child reaches grade school, he will have spent more time with the television than he will with his father for the rest of his life), and one can see how life-changing something like Faith5 can be.