One of the first rules in songwriting is "establish a pattern then break the pattern." If you listen carefully, you will notice that all the songs you love have 2 or 3 lines with balanced syllables and rhyming words and then a line that goes rogue. If it wasn't for this variety in the last line of the stanza you wouldn't like the song - it would feel too rigid or "sing-songy". If you are planning to begin a career in songwriting this information may come in handy - but mostly I bring this up because it is the same happy recipe for the marathon of discipleship. We establish patterns and then every once in awhile we break the patterns. Let me explain...
You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. Duet. 6:7
Schedule the things that are most important.
As parents and faithful followers of Jesus we are called and commanded to train our children in the ways of the Lord. This "training" is not something that happens in two or three big conversations with a child - it is a daily, as we go about our life, living education. And because families are increasingly running around in different directions throughout the day, we need to schedule in the things that are most important.
How to begin:
What are the things you want to do as a family every day? Having 1 or 2 priorities for discipleship is a great place to start. For example, you and your spouse might decide that it is important that you have prayer together as a family before everyone heads out for the day. Or, you might decide that you want to go through a family devotional together at the dinner table or during the bedtime routine. You might agree that attending church every Sunday is a high priority. Once you pick the "activity" you want to incorporate routinely, the next step is placing it in your planner. Again, meals and bedtime seem like the most natural places for everyday routines but your family may spend more time together in the mini-van or in the afternoons etc. Pick the time that works for your family and then guard it fiercely. This is what it means to establish a pattern - to do that activity almost every day - to the point that the kids notice if it's missing. (Here are 2 routines I highly recommend.)
Note: If you don't have a space in your current schedule in which your family is routinely together, I would strongly encourage you to lay your schedule before the Lord and ask Him to show you where you can make cuts and changes in order to give high priority to raising up your kids in the fear of the Lord.
How to proceed long term:
Routines are a safety net for discipleship. If we didn't routinely share scripture at our breakfast table and our bedsides, if we didn't pray before meals and before bed, if we didn't have a plan for memorizing scripture - then many days it just wouldn't happen. Life fills up and we get weary and the routines are what help us to keep going. BUT, routines are made for man, not man for routines. In other words, don't elevate the routine beyond it's useful place. If we don't have time or energy to do our bedtime routine one night, there is no guilt or shame over that - we simply kiss the kids and send them to bed and more times than not, the boys pray together on their own because it's part of THEIR routine. We spend time most weeks going over the scripture we are memorizing, but guess what, sometimes we take a break from this! Gasp! We establish routines and then we sometimes break routines or introduce new routines and the occasional variety breathes joy and life into the process.
Our pastors often say, "not perfectly but patternly," meaning, none of us can follow Jesus perfectly, but as true disciples, our lives should demonstrate a pattern of seeking God and walking in His ways. None of us are perfect parents, but our parenting can "patternly" model for our children the daily disciplines and joys of following Christ.
Maybe you have gotten a bit lazy in your discipleship - if that is you, I would encourage you to lay your schedule before the Lord and ask Him to help you establish some every-day moments of teaching and worship that you and your family can enjoy together. (And remember, these routines apply to our personal plans as well as our family schedule. Our kids are learning what it looks like to be a follower of Christ by watching the way we spend our day!)
Maybe you've gotten a bit rigid with your routine - maybe if someone starts eating before prayer you feel like you have failed your family - if this is you, remember that the routines are there to serve us as we serve Christ, not the other way around.
And he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. Mark 2:27
We can do this! Not perfectly, but patternly. Establish godly patterns in your daily life and don't be afraid to mix it up every once in awhile. As with music, this recipe leads to a beautiful and enjoyable rhythm.
So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. 2 Cor. 5:9
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