Living Room Worship

What does it look like for a family to come together for worship in their living room? Is it possible? I would LOVE to hear what you are doing in your own home during this season of social distancing.

In the spirit of adjusting, my family and I changed things up a bit by holding our first “family worship” in our living room. It was bare boned and minimal in its simplicity. It was also the most special thing we have ever done as a family and I wanted to share it with you because you can do this too!

First, we turned off all the distractions and we each found a personal spot in the living room to give us some space. We chose two of our favorite worship songs and we sang them together as they played from my phone. We raised our hands and clapped along just like we do at church.

“Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands.”
-Psalm 63:3-4

At first, I could see the kids felt awkward. The close proximity of living room worship left us all feeling exposed. No darkened room, no fog machine, no stage lights. All the props we hide behind were gone and it was just us in a small circle. If I could sum it up in a word I would choose:

Vulnerable

After worship we read from Ephesians 1:3-14. Then we talked about it line by line. We asked and answered questions. We talked about grace and faith, the Holy Spirit and what it means to be a child of God and how we become one.

Then we circled up and talked about all the things we were worried about or needed God to do in our lives. We held hands and prayed. We prayed for the virus to stop, for God’s protection over our family, for our friends and community, for God’s provision and that everyone in our family would choose to love the Lord with all their heart, soul and mind.

And that was it. It probably took us less than 30 minutes, but I could feel the presence of God among us. Our kids need more of this. Our family needs more of this.

In a normal week we talk about God and we answer their questions, pray bedtime prayers and practice memory verses. They see us reading our Bibles and listening to worship. It sounds good, but is it enough? Or does God have more for us?

1 Corinthians 2:9

No eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what god has prepared for those who love him

The difference between life pre-coronavirus and now? Vulnerability. We came together as a family in praise, worship, teaching and prayer. We didn’t split a part for our own instruction, but became one.

God has used this social distancing to lead us as a family into a new level of faith and pursuit of his presence. By stripping away the distractions, bells and whistles we found a pearl of rare value right there in our living room.

Try it my friend. It is awesome.

Tell us what your family worship looks like now.

Quarantine…Gift or Torture?

At home with your family? Isolated from friends and community? Actually, God designed family to be the epitome of communal strength and enduring relationship. Family can do more than offset the isolation of social distancing; if you let it. You know, those people you live with that are driving you crazy? Those are your people.

These are the relationships that continue far beyond Covid-19 and they will be the ones you share all the memories with in thirty years about what happened when you ran out of toilet paper and how a state representative told people to use a blow dryer to heat up their nose to keep from getting sick. You’ll probably be telling the next generation too.

Here’s a raw truth: isolation is detrimental. Isolation leaves us at the mercy of our own dark and deceitful heart and – heaven forbid – the news channels. The enemy has free reign to twist and manipulate our thoughts and memories when no one is there to be a sounding board of truth; no one to keep us grounded. The downward spiral is swift.

According to Psychology Today, individuals placed in solitary confinement experience “perceptual disturbances, hallucinations, and derealisation experiences; affective disturbances, such as anxiety and panic attacks; difficulties with thinking, memory and concentration, the emergence of fantasies such as revenge… paranoia,” and so on.

But you aren’t in solitary confinement. You are quarantined at home with your family. While you would probably appreciate some personal space right about now, consider this a blessing and this moment a gift.

God places family and community at the forefront of our list of priorities. We are called to live in community with each other and not give up meeting together. The bond of meeting together, sharing struggles, meals, joys and sorrows is the essence of life and needs to be the center of every family.

We can become so busy pouring into the outer ring of community such as work, bible studies, church, and other various ministries and hobbies that we neglect to nurture the greatest (and most immediate) community God has given us: family. This is a special time in history when we can dive into that bond and nurture the parched branches of our marriages, children, brothers and sisters.

Read 1 Corinthians 12:12-26, Matthew 18:21-22, 19:3-6, 1 Timothy 23:2-5 and pray Hebrews 10:24-25.

As we strive to do family God’s way, consider the verses above and compare how God instructs His family (the Church) to interact and the way your family interacts. What are some of the differences? Similarities? What can you do different? What do you do well?

What is something you can do right now to take advantage of this time and strengthen the bond of your family?

Hebrews 10:24-25

Lord, during this quarantine, help our family to become more like yours by considering, “how to stir up one another to love and good works.” And when it is over, “not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but [to continue] encouraging one another.”

Sibling Rivalry and Squabbles

Are the kids fighting all the time? Being cooped up in the house together can cause a few… shall we call them disagreements? Children fight for their place in the proverbial pecking order by continually cutting each other down and demonstrating their strength over one another. Be it physical, emotional or intellectual this childhood struggle is the source of the many scars we wear today as adults.

However, we are called to defy this natural tendency, to give comfort when we see a family member down. Nature may push us towards self-promotion and self-preservation but God calls us to do family different.

When our children struggle we correct them and then invite them to come near and find comfort and consolation. When it comes to siblings, we teach our children to come alongside and build each other up. Never do we celebrate their loss, nor puff up our pride at their fatigue or grief.

As parents we often find ourselves delivering justice and sorting through the mess of hurt feelings and broken pride. It is an opportunity to correct one while having the other say something to bring comfort or consolation.

We are shaping hearts here. Perhaps some reflective time is needed before true comfort can find its way through. Walk your son or daughter through their feelings. Appreciating and maintaining justice is good, but celebrating someone else’s set back is an issue of the heart that also needs shaping.

By asking the offended party to respond to the apology with comfort and grace, we are training our children to be full of compassion and restoration. We are also preventing shame and condemnation from creeping in. There is no shame or condemnation in our Lord Jesus Christ.

Read 2 Corinthians1:3-4, Romans 8:1 and pray 2 Corinthians 2:6-8.

2 Corinthians 2:7-8

Jesus, teach our family to “turn to forgive and comfort” each other so that no one “may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow.” Let us always “reaffirm [our] love for him [or her].”

COVID-19 and Community

Birthday parties and play dates are canceled.  Church services, bible studies, small groups and ministry meetings are canceled. Cities have passed laws that forbid groups larger than 50 to meet with a penalty of $1,000 and six months in jail.

This is to say nothing of supplies. Fearing the unknown people have stripped the previously plentiful shelves. What is our response to be in a time of turmoil and fear? How do we continue to live in community when we are limited to no more than a few?

The same way we were always meant to live in community. We do family different. We do not back away from need and we do not live isolated lives of fear. We can be respectful to our local and national leaders, but we need not resort to fear based hoarding and animalistic behavior.

We do not abandon each other. We are called to fellowship and community. We stay connected and encourage each other. The first century church was more susceptible to sickness and disease than we are today and we now have the help of unprecedented technology.  

When our structure shifts, return to the basics. The first century church practices revolved around community. They were not all about self-preservation and self-promotion. In contrast, they trusted the Lord to provide all their needs and they rested in His peace. We have the perfect opportunity to teach these same community-centered values to our children. Children grow to mirror and repeat our own responses to times of stress and trial.  

As Christ followers, we are called to be fearless. We are the hands and feet of Jesus, God’s answer to a broken world. Acts 2:42-47 is a powerful call to action. They met in small groups then and we can meet in small home-based groups too. They ministered, shared, provided for needs, prayed for miracles and God was with them in a powerful way. We can too.

If we truly believe God has all authority over sickness and disease, if we really do believe our days are ordained and written in His heavenly books before we are born, if we believe he has the power to heal… our actions need to reflect it to our neighbors and our children. Let’s raise our children to be powerful witnesses in their community, beacons of hope in times of peace and trouble. Sharing resources, praying for the sick, believing God to be our shield and hiding place.

Read Matthew 6:25-34, Psalm 91 and Acts 2:42-27.

Be sure to join our KidsTalk Friday this Friday at 2:00pm on our Facebook page as we discover what to say to our kids about COVID-19 and some practical things we can do with our families.

Acts 2:42, 45

Father, show us how to be good neighbors in times of trouble. Help us devote ourselves to your “teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” Give us a spirit of generosity and sacrifice by giving us wisdom in, “selling [our] possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any [has] need.”  

Be the Change: Using Healthy Boundaries

We forgive and we restore. But what if the person continues the same hurtful things as before? We are called for forgive, but not live painful patterns. Be wise and use boundaries.

Isaiah 51 shows God’s heart for healthy relationship. The story’s backdrop is how God’s people repeatedly dishonored their relationship with Him. Therefore, God put boundaries in place and distanced Himself removing His protection from them. As a result, Israel’s enemies found victory over them and misused them badly. Did God revel in their defeat? No. Despite the boundaries, God still loved them and had compassion on them when they repented. It angered Him to see someone misuse His people.  Read the conclusion of this story:

This is what your Sovereign LORD says, your God, who defends his people:

“See, I have taken out of your hand the cup that made you stagger; from that cup, the goblet of my wrath, you will never drink again. I will put it into the hands of your tormentors, who said to you, ‘Fall prostrate that we may walk on you.’ And you made your back like the ground, like a street to be walked on.” – Isaiah 51:22-23 NIV

Ever feel like you have been walked all over? Like your back is a street someone keeps trampling? God becomes angry when his people are walked upon.

As Christians, we are called to forgive but we are not called to be in unhealthy relationships. When Israel misused Him, He distanced himself until they found repentance. He loved them. He had compassion toward them, but there were boundaries in place until something changed. We handle our relationships the same.

Any relationship of duration will have bumps along the way. But, if someone is dishonoring your relationship through repeated offenses consider placing boundaries. Especially for family members. Family patterns and roles have some strength to them, but you can be the change.

Boundaries are not walls erected out of fear, nor are they a product of punishment and anger. We forgive. We love. We are compassionate. We are strong. We use boundaries while the steps for forgiveness and restoration play out.

It may take time to build the bridge and restore that relationship. God empowers us to make and maintain healthy boundaries so that we do not become misused or a street trodden upon.

Healthy boundaries become the change agent. When we take a loving stand and place a healthy boundary, the purpose is to initiate change. Remember the steps to restoration? Confront, forgive and then make clear the new standard. This is where boundaries come in. If you can hold the line, without backing down, you will usually see change.

If that person loves you they will not want to hurt you. The hurtful behavior stops because they long for restoration. If they do not, then it is not a relationship you need to be deeply involved in. Protect yourself and your children or grandchildren by using healthy boundaries. Our children learn from our relationships and will either grow to have healthy ones or mimic our unhealthy patterns. Raise them to be loving, forgiving and strong.

Read Isaiah 51:22-23, Proverbs 9:8 and pray Proverbs 13:20.

Proverbs 13:20

Father, help me discern my relationships and to teach my children to be wise. For, ” Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.”

Build the Bridge

Restoring may be harder than forgiving. Forgiveness is hard enough, restoration can feel like we are inviting heartbreak all over again.

Sin always causes a great divide. Jesus came to heal the pain and bridge the divide. So when someone in our family fails and we find ourselves on different sides of a canyon, we must build a bridge.

Restore means to “to repair, to complete thoroughly, mend, perfect, perfectly joined together.” [i] If the family unit is to endure and relationships to last, we must restore each relationship. One side offers repentance the other forgiveness and the bridge between is restoration. We must seek ways to mend the relationship returning it to being perfectly joined together again.

Restoration begins once repentance is made. Encourage the family to find ways to restore the person back to their place. A person needs a way back to their original relationship, responsibility and role. We cannot demote and belittle in an effort to punish. We restore. We build bridges.

Faith, Hope and Love entwine to invite God’s ability to restore the family. When we work through our issues and find restoration we develop a stronger bond that is seasoned and refined by fire.

As parents and grandparents we are tasked with helping our young children grow in this healing process. When our kids and grandkids grow to adults it becomes harder as the wounds go deeper and the divide larger. Establish this process now. Teach them to find a way back. To build the bridge.

Pay close attention to relational cues between siblings and even parent-child relationships. Red flags include avoidance, shaming, name calling, exclusion, anger and silence. Some arguments can resolve themselves, but for the most part the process of restoration does not come naturally. It is taught and it is hands on so roll up those sleeves my friend.

Read 2 Corinthians 2:6-11, James 5:16, John 21:15-19 and pray Galatians 6:1.

Galatians 6:1

Father, “if someone [in our family] is caught in a sin,” help us to, “live by the Spirit [and] …restore that person gently.” Teach us to, “watch [ourselves], or [we] also may be tempted.”


[i] Strongs’ Exhaustive Concordance

We Forgive

Forgiveness is fascinating. Volumes of books have been written and we still do not fully understand the depth of it’s power nor breadth of it’s reach. Never underestimate the power of Forgiveness within a family.

Biblically speaking, here are the basics:

  • Forgiveness is a free gift purchased with the blood of Jesus Christ and available to any who wish to receive it by faith. Our forgiveness toward others should also be free. Romans 3:22-25
  • We receive God’s gift of forgiveness when we likewise choose to forgive others. We cannot waltz through life enjoying God’s forgiveness while exacting revenge on everyone else. Mathew 6:12-15, Mark 11:25
  • Our forgiveness has the power to set someone free to receive God’s forgiveness. Our unforgiveness blinds them to God’s gift and hinders their ability to receive it.  John 20:23
  • Unforgiveness can cause a person to drown in overwhelming heaviness. We would label this as depression/suicide.  2 Corinthians 2:7
  • We are called to forgive from our heart repeatedly without keeping a record. Matthew 18:21-35, 1 Corinthians 13:5 NIV

Forgiveness is a Kingdom law meaning it governs both spiritual and physical realms. Simply put, it either makes or breaks a family. It is so important we teach our children to forgive and be forgiven. These are not easy lessons. Teaching it can be just as hard.

Forgiveness is best learned through modeling. Verbally walk children and grandchildren through the process of forgiveness and reconciliation. Be the living example. When that moment comes:

  1. Act fast. Be there in the moment with them.
  2. Humble yourself. Get on their level, eye to eye. All distractions set aside.
  3. Honor them by saying their name.
  4. Keep it simple: I am sorry.
  5. Explain not excuse.
  6. Ask for forgiveness.
  7. Gage the answer. We do not want a response like: “It’s okay.” Because it’s not.
  8. Empower them: “I forgive you. Please do not do that again.” They learn to forgive while also setting a new standard. Empower them to forgive and be strong by setting a new course for that relationship.
  9. Make it right. Take that first step toward the new relationship. This isn’t a price, its a product of true repentance. A desire to restore what was broken.

Example: “Ruth, come here. Can you set the pony down? Look at me. Ruth, I am sorry. I lost my temper. I was frustrated at something and I took it out on you. That was not right. You did nothing wrong. I am sorry. Will you forgive me? How can I make this right? Can we spend time together?”

Read John 3:16, Matthew 18:21-35 and pray 2 Corinthians 2:7, Matthew 18:22.

2 Corinthians 2:7, Matthew 18:22

Jesus, help me to teach my family in word and action how to forgive, “not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” I pray your Spirit would lead our family to, “forgive and comfort [each other], so that… [no one would be] overwhelmed by excessive sorrow.”

Arguments and Reconciliation

Things had escalated fast when suddenly she screamed, “Get out of my house!” Instead, I folded my arms and stood my ground. “We aren’t done talking about this.” Whirling around she screamed, “Get out!” Yet there I stood, rooted to the floor. “Fine!” She shouted. “I’ll leave my own home!”

Anger fits both of us like a well tailored suit. Staying calm and not raising my voice took all the power of the Holy Spirit in me.

As I stood there in her home watching the tail lights disappear out her front window I couldn’t hold back the tears anymore. She wouldn’t be coming to my wedding.

Taking the path that cut through the woods back home, I mumbled to the Lord, “Well that was a total fail.” His next words hit me with such force I lost my breath. “I never fail.”

You see, to me this argument was the end. The “fail” was my failure to reconcile. Failure to apologize. Failure to Hope for more. My label of “fail” meant I had stopped believing in His ministry of Reconciliation. At least for this. For us.

But God never fails. Love never fails. This was just one brilliantly colored thread in a tapestry He wasn’t finished with. There in the woods on that not-so-well treaded path between my house and hers I gave the mess, the brokenness and the rejection to the Lord.

Leaving my sorrow there on the forest floor, I repented for my lack of faith in Him. Then I plodded the rest of the way home realizing that whatever God’s plan was, He clearly wasn’t done. I could find peace and rest in that.

Three days later, I stepped outside and found myself face to face with her. Right there on the lawn, she hugged me and said she was sorry. A few short months later she traveled to my wedding with her whole family. It was completely unexpected and one of my favorite memories of her. God’s fingerprints. All of it.

God is the God of Reconciliation and He has called us to be ministers of reconciliation too. We reconcile others to Him and to each other. One of our greatest roles as parents is reconciliation.

Reconciling family members requires keeping in step with the Holy Spirit. Families have an ability to cut each other deep. From children to adults, we are called to forgive and be forgiven. To be peacemakers. To repent and reconcile. I can think of no better refining fire than the family unit.

Sometimes, we role up our sleeves and get dirty. Sometimes we simply need to get out of God’s way. Healing takes time. Respect. Faithfulness. Vulnerability. Boundaries. Love never fails. God never fails.

Read Matthew 18:21-22, 2 Corinthians 5:16-21, and Colossians 3:12-15.

Colossians 3:12-15

Father, I pray our family would have “compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other,” and as You have “forgiven [us], so [we] also must forgive.” Father, I pray, “above all these [we would] put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” That, “the peace of Christ [will] rule in [our] hearts.”

What about you? Do you need healing in a family relationship? Can you encourage someone who does? Do you have a story of healing to share with us?

We Do Family Different: Meals and Missed Opportunities

There is hidden treasure in mealtimes. The sit-down-at-a-table, family meal is usually the first to go in a busy life. But the sit-down, family meal holds a wealth of opportunity. From homemade feasts to easy takeout the act of sharing a meal brings people together. No shows. No phones. No iPads. No tablets. Just the faces you love most in the world.

A family meal two to three times a week does wonders to connect and reconcile family members.  All families have arguments and the ability to set each other on fire. Overcoming that anger and choosing to sit beside each other to share a meal plants the seeds for reconciliation.

Family meals teach us to value others and the effort that went into making the meal. It teaches us to honor others and develop an attitude of thankfulness. We may not always prefer the food in front of us, but we are called to honor the one who provided it and be thankful for the food. Hunger is not a thing of the past and provision should never be taken for granted.

If food is a source of anxiety for someone in your family, be sensitive to the Holy Spirit here. Walk in love, but do not throw out this rich opportunity to bring your family together. From value, honor and gratitude to social and emotional intelligence, a family’s character is shaped around a dinner table.

Questions:

  1. If someone came to you and said, “Over the next 18 years you can have 2,000 hours of time to teach, train, support, connect, refresh, relax, reconcile and laugh together as a family,” would you take it? Why or why not?
  2. If you spent 18 years of your life in 2,000 hours of conversation and connection with the same group of people, would you be invested and committed to those relationships? Would those relationships be more or less likely to weather life’s trials?
  3. What are some ways you can shift your family’s habits to allow for everyone in your household to come together for two or three 45-minute meals a week? Or, if your family is now grown can you set aside time to meet for a weekly meal with those who are close?

Read Hebrews 10:24-25, Matthew 6: 25-34 and pray Acts 2:42.

Acts 2:42

Father, help me organize our time to include family meals as a place where we can devote ourselves to your “teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.”

Share your ideas with us! How often do you meet with your family for a meal? What are some of your favorite go-to’s for a family meal?