Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Desiring the Kingdom Book Club: On Realigning Vision and Practices

Our reading assignment this week was the first portion of Chapter 3.   Quite honestly, I don’t really have a whole lot to say about this section. Basically, he is talking about cultural exegesis - examining the liturgies (practices) of our culture at large so as to discern whether they are pulling us towards our vision of the good life or away from it. While I think this is a good practice to have, my thoughts have been veering far more towards my own personal practices and those of my family, so that's what I want to talk about today.
Early on in our book club, I realized that I really didn’t have a clear sense of vision – what is my vision of “the good life”?  Towards what is my heart aiming?  I know very well what it should be, what I want it to be.   The good life is the life lived for the glory of God, the life that chooses to “be content in all situations” and that embraces the good along with the bad with the recognition that it all leads to my sanctification and His greater glory.  But if I'm  honest, somewhere along the way my vision has sort of slipped.  If I’m honest, the first thing that comes to my mind when I think “the good life” now is that the good life is peaceful, quiet, and comfortable with no one to bother me or ruffle my feathers. (I could very easily be a hobbit living out my days in a peaceful hobbit-hole!)  It is a selfish vision of life centered on my own personal comfort.  
I’ve been thinking about where along the way my vision shifted, and why.  There are a variety of reasons that I can think of: being raised with a rules-based idea of Christianity, little sins that I've let go untended, and plain ol' weariness (physical, emotional, and spiritual) all figure in. 
Now, this all has me thinking about where I ought to adjust our practices to help my heart realign with the vision.   Some of those are bigger picture things – like considering how to plan our next furlough to allow for true rest and combat that sense of weariness.  Some of those are smaller picture things that I can put into practice now.  As a matter of fact, just this past week we revamped our evening routine.  This was partly inspired by Mystie's post last week -  just as she shared that she is often tempted to retreat into the computer and hide from her children in the morning, I admit that I am tempted to do this to escape the chaos of our house in the evening.  It occurred to me that this 'practice' of mine is connected to that vision of the good life being centered on my own personal comfort rather than a willingness to embrace the messiness of our family life.  It also sent the message that we just wanted the children to go away and get in bed already and that family devotional time was just something tacked on to the end of the day - an obligation to get through because we should rather than a time focused on growing in our sense of wonder, awe, and admiration of the God we serve.

So now, rather than letting chaos reign as it did previously, we are trying something like this:

Kids clean up, shower, and help set the table while I make dinner (occasionally one of them will come cook with me.)

We eat, with the goal of it being not later than 6:30pm. 

After dinner, I go clean up the kitchen.  (My husband, bless him, has done this for the past 10 years of our marriage, but I realized that if I was serious about breaking my bad habit of hiding by getting on the computer, I needed to replace it with something else tangible to do during this time.)   Dan and the kids will spend this time doing something special together - sometimes a game, sometimes an episode of a television program, sometimes some other silly project like folding paper airplanes.  This is assuming that everything got cleaned up and everyone showered before dinner...this is their motivation if you will.  If you still need to take a shower or pick up your room, then you miss out! :)

When kitchen clean up is done, we join back together again for our evening Bible story and read-aloud time before sending little ones off to bed by 8 or so (the oldest is allowed to sit up in her room quietly reading or drawing for a little longer).

It remains to be seen how this will all play out in the long run, but I do have great hope that we are headed in the right direction with this plan.  I kind of see it as a framework not only to take care of the chaos-problem, but to cultivate habits of selflessness, serving one another, enjoying one another, and growing in grace together as a family.
Click through for more thoughts and insights on this section!


  1. ♥ this, Jen.

    I especially appreciate how you took away a bad habit and replaced it with a good one. I know CM says to do that, but so often we forget it, and then wonder why we can't break our bad habits! Every bad habit I've failed at breaking has been because I've attempted to create a void rather than a new, healthy habit.

    So thank you for the reminder!

    1. I have tried to work on breaking some of my bad internet habits before, and I think that I haven't been successful before because I haven't replaced what I do in those pockets of time with something tangible and concrete. So I really think there is something to it!

  2. Examining our own practices is a good thing to do. I hope your new routine works!

    I think my visions of the good life, too, end up unintentionally centered around being left to some PEACE (meaning time without people talking to me already, which is a different peace than God promises) and space to myself, which turns me into a grabby, crabby mom.

    1. Yes, exactly. What I'm finding interesting this week as we give this new routine a test run is that most days after I've finished cleaning up the kitchen, the kids are still involved in their game or whatever it is they are doing with Papa, and I've still had a few minutes to go get online and read a blog or two or check in on the forum, except for that instead of being against the backdrop of chaos as the kids run amuck, it's been while they are happily engaged doing something with their dad. It's a few minutes of peace, but in it's rightful place instead of stolen moments from things that I'd rather avoid.

  3. I also have this vision of peace. Truly, as a mother the saying "silence is golden" rings truer than ever!
    I guess we all have visions that compete with each other for the ultimate place in our lives. It seems like if we can consciously take an honest look at what is competing for each of us then we can more easily get on track with forming habits that point us toward the vision that we want to want. It looks like your family is taking a great step in that direction!

    1. I've been slowly realizing that there was some dissonance between the vision I had and the vision I wanted for awhile (although I don't think I was totally aware that that's what was going on - I just felt the dissonance), and thinking about it in terms of visions, habits, and practices has really helped me to put a finger on what was going on and how to go about rectifying the situation.