Tuesday, January 1, 2013


First day of a New Year!  Fresh start.  New resolve.  Refurbishment.  This year, I WILL...


Lose weight?  Visit Ireland?  Run a marathon?  Take a wine-tasting class?

Often, when we think of what we would like to accomplish in a new year, we imagine doing something life-altering, exciting, important.  A big challenge.  A worthy goal.

I was talking to a friend recently, about how so much that is most important in a family happens in such small, quiet ways.  It's not intense, soul-baring conversations at the evening table - it's just being together at the dinner table, evening after evening, talking about old books and new movies and strange dreams and funny memories.  It's not that I affirm you or you affirm me, speaking polished, practiced words - it's that we say "Hello" each morning over coffee; I follow you to the door with "Call me when you get there"; we begin the evening with, "How was your day?"

Back when I began this parenting adventure, I used to listen to a popular radio show directed at parents.  This was a time when myriads of parents were desperate to assuage their parental consciences for the hectic schedules that defined modern family life.  The expression "quality time" became a popular balm:  so-called experts assured stressed-out, over-extended parents that it didn't matter if they spent so little time with their children, so long as the time they did spend with them was quality time.  "Quality over quantity."  The kids spent all day in daycare, or at school, and then there were ballet lessons, a quick meal at the drive-thru, ball practice, homework, bath time, off to bed...  Don't worry, the experts assured parents, the kids would be fine as long as Mom and Dad made pancakes with the family on Saturday morning, being sure to engage in serious, probing conversations about values, self-image, bullies at school, teen stress, premarital sex.

Sounds almost good...except that it's a load of crock.  Parenting - family - is not about "quality time."  It's about time.  A child is not a patient in need of a one-hour session with Mom-the-Therapist every Friday afternoon at 4:30.  It's not "Okay, times ticking, honey - what's on your mind this week?"  It's "What did you learn in History today?" - "Listen to what Grandma wrote in her letter..." - and - "Come help me fold this laundry."  It's weeding the garden together.  It's staying up late three nights in a row one week in December to watch the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and it's a Pride and Prejudice marathon in February, year after year after year.  It's roasting marshmallows in the fireplace and reading Calvin and Hobbes cartoons out loud together on the couch, because there really is nothing else more pressing or exciting on the schedule.

I don't know exactly what happens, or how, or why.  But I do know that something huge and mysterious, something foundational to the soul of an individual and to the soul of a family, happens in the small, quiet moments we spend together.  And I know we need lots of those small, quiet moments to be healthy.

The same thing seems to be true of the church.  Some people approach church with the "quality-time-not-quantity-time" mentality mentioned above.  We think we should be able to check in for an emotionally-charged, spiritually-focused hour once a week, and expect God to do great things in us and among us.  It doesn't matter if we don't have time for God or His Word or His people during the week - as long as the music is great on Sunday morning and the sermon is relevant to my life issues and I feel like I walk away having "touched Jesus."  Check in - BAM, God does something amazing! - check out.  And when no BAM! happens on Sunday morning, we think nothing has happened at all.

Which is another load of crock.  Spiritual family is not about getting together for an emotional high once a week.  It's about sitting together regularly, listening to God's Word read and taught, even though this week I just don't seem to be getting the point of the message.  It's about praying day-in-&-day-out for the elders and deacons.  It's listening to Sarah ramble on again in Sunday school, because she needs to talk.  It's about loving a whole bunch of messy, often tedious people...because Jesus loves them.  Jesus loves them; He thinks they're beautiful; and He knows I need to - He even commands me to - spend time with them.  Not "quality" time.  Time.

So, are you making any New Year's resolutions?  Do you want to do something really BIG this year?  Something amazing?

Can I make a few suggestions?

Eat dinner with your children every night.  Drink coffee in the morning with the college kids.  Read A.A. Milne's Winnie-the-Pooh out loud as a family.  Push the living room furniture back and swing dance with your boys, Mom, and with your girls, Dad.  Don't send the kids out to mow and weed-eat the yard - go out there and do it with them.  Pray for your elders.  Sing all the hymns on Sunday morning (yes, even if you can't carry a tune in a bucket).  Call Sarah this week and ask her how she's doing.  Listen to the sermon, even if you don't understand all the big words.  Tell God "Thank you!" for the family He has given you.

2013:  This is going to be a great year to do something Big!   

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