Creative, Simple Ways to Keep Jesus Central
By LESLIE LUDY
“But Martha was distracted with much serving…”
What Christian mom hasn’t struggled with becoming “distracted with much serving” as Martha was? Being a mom is no easy task. Whether you have one child or nineteen, the logistics of managing a household can easily be more than an all-consuming job. And just like Martha, I often fall prey to the lie that I am fulfilling God’s call simply because I am scurrying around doing practical tasks for my family all day long.
But as moms, God has called us to so much more than the practical side of mothering. Now don’t get me wrong. Tending to our children’s practical needs is a huge part of our kingdom work. Changing diapers and doing laundry can be a spiritual, God-honoring activity when we do it unto our King! (See my article Joyful Homemaking for more on this.) Yet even so, we must always be on guard against letting the “cares of this life” distract us from what really matters — a thriving relationship with Jesus Christ. Jesus warned us about this pitfall in Luke 8:14: “The seed which fell among the thorns, these are the ones who have heard, and as they go on their way they are choked with worries and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to maturity” (emphasis added).
Notice that it is not just “riches and pleasures” that can choke spiritual growth — but also becoming consumed with worries and cares of this life. When we build our days around logistical tasks rather than a pursuit of Jesus Christ, we become susceptible to this pattern. We may know the truth, but worries and cares cause it to fall by the wayside in our souls and have no power to impact our daily lives.
I have found that one of the best ways to combat my tendency to become “distracted with much serving” is to be purposeful about building a Christ-centered day. Not only does this help my focus remain in the right place, but it sets an example for my children about how to build their lives around what is really important instead of being distracted by temporal things.
Building a Christ-centered day can be easier said than done when you have many young children and loads of logistics to manage. But a few simple, creative ideas can go a long way in helping you keep your family’s daily focus on Him. Here are some of the ideas that have had the most impact in our home:
Starting the Day Off Right
John Bunyan said, “He who runs from God in the morning will scarcely find Him the rest of the day.” I have found that the entire atmosphere in our home changes when we start our day with a Christ-centered focus. When we rush around the house just trying to get out the door on time, we leave Christ in the background. But when we are organized and purposeful about inviting Him into the center of our mornings, there is peace, order, and joy.
Here are some the ways that we do this:
Kiddo Quiet Times
Our children have a designated time each morning during which they have their “daily quiet times.” They read (or look at) their Bibles, write down (or draw) what they are learning about God, and take time to pray. Giving them a prayer list or a prayer box to remind them what to pray for has been really helpful in keeping them on track. Even a ten to fifteen minute quiet time can make a huge difference in bringing Christ into my children’s focus as they begin their day.
As often as possible, we try to have a simple devotional time together as a family during or just after breakfast. Even five or ten minutes to read and talk about a Scripture or share a story about a heroic Christian can help shift our family’s focus from earthly things to spiritual things, and often these devotional times spark deeper spiritual questions that we can talk about throughout the day. I love the ideas and principles for family devotions presented in Elisabeth Elliot’s book The Shaping of a Christian Family. Elisabeth’s illustrations from her own family growing up clearly shows that it is not a matter of doing everything perfectly, but the simple act of putting Christ first in a family’s day that will have a lifelong and eternal impact.
Praying for Others
Over breakfast or while we are driving to school or other actives, we will often take some time to pray for Christians around the world. When our kids learn of a specific Christian who is being persecuted for his or her faith (persecution.org is a great resource), they will pray diligently for that Christian’s deliverance and encouragement. When we hear of a vulnerable child or orphan, we will take time to pray daily for them. If there is someone in our circle of family or church friends who is suffering, we will include that person on our prayer list. Taking time to pray together for others is a wonderful way to set our focus on eternal things as we launch into the day.
When my kids have free time during the day, I’ll often encourage them to do something to bless or serve another person. Whether it’s making a special card for someone they love, showing special love and attention to a sibling, or giving their time to someone in need, keeping their focus outward instead of inward gives them tremendous life and joy. This doesn’t meant they never have time to simply play and do the activities they enjoy, but when we also allow time for turning outward and considering how they can bless and serve another person, their days are far more fulfilling.
Bringing Scripture into the Day
Scripture memory, Scripture songs, and audio Bibles are all great ways to incorporate more Scripture into everyday life. Some days we have more time to memorize Scripture together. On busy days, we might simply have audio Scripture playing in the background of our home or car. But when we are purposeful to bring the Words of Life into our days, it helps keep our focus on the eternal instead of being caught up in the temporal.
Making Things Right
I shared in my article on Raising Joyful Kids about our first “I’m Sorry Night” in which the kids spontaneously made things right with each other and asked forgiveness for things they had done wrong. Once we observed the tremendous impact this had upon our home, we have become purposeful about regularly giving the kids a chance to do “I’m Sorry Nights” on a regular basis. It is not something that we force or pressure them to do. Rather, as we are gathered together in the living room in the evenings we will often ask them, “Does anyone have an ‘I’m Sorry’ that they need to say?” Usually, at least one or two of the children will have something weighing on their conscience that they need to make right. Keeping family relationships clear is an amazing way to grow together spiritually and keep a Christ-honoring atmosphere in our home.
Discussions about Truth
Sometimes in the evenings, we’ll read a story about a great Christian who suffered for his or her faith, then have a discussion about it afterwards. The kids are usually bursting with spiritual questions after these stories, which provide excellent opportunities for us to teach deeper truth and biblical principles to them. Other times, we’ll watch a creation video or do a lesson from the Kids of Courage series about the persecuted church. Choosing Christ-centered activities on a regular basis is a wonderful way to keep our family from being caught up in the distractions of pop-culture. Of course, we’ll sometimes do fun things together that are not specifically spiritual activities, but as often as possible, we try to incorporate deeper spiritual activities into our nightly family times.
Christian AudioBook Time
For our older two children, one of the highlights of their day is our audiobook time in the evenings, after the other kids have been tucked into bed. Hudson and Harper pile onto our bed with a special snack and we listen to an audiobook together, such as The Hiding Place, The Cross and the Switchblade, God’s Smuggler, or biographies about Mary Slessor, George Müller, and Hudson Taylor. These times not only provide our older kids with special Mommy and Daddy time, but they provide plenty of fodder for deeper spiritual conversation. Hearing about the lives of great Christians also gives our kids a bigger vision for their own lives.
It may seem like a rather simple and obvious thing, but taking time to pray with each of our children before they drift off to sleep is an important priority for us. Eric and I both take time to tuck in each of our children and pray over them as they are drifting off to sleep. It gives them peace and comfort that they carry with them into their entire night. It affects their dreams and their attitudes when they wake up in the morning. Sometimes we will take several minutes to pray earnestly for one of our children who has been struggling with something. Other times, we simply say a few words asking God to be with him or her throughout the night. Our children love being prayed for and have a clear sense that God is watching over them when we make nightly prayer times a high priority.
Cultivating Christ-centered days are the building blocks of a Christ-centered life. What are some ways that you can make Him the Guest of Honor in your home today?