Parenting: the Kitchen Table

In proportion as man rises in the intellectual scale, does he give prominence to mental and moral enjoyments in conjunction with his daily meals.
-H Clay Trumbull

ParentingTable Talk

The kitchen table is, in my estimation, of the very best of tools a parent has at their behest in raising their children. While I’ve been a parent for but a little over two months, I’ve been a child all my life. I have spent many an hour at the kitchen table. I have seen it used well and not. I have participated in and contributed to both. In my experience, not is when it is used merely as a place to rest food for eating. Not is when the family uses it non intentionally; people coming when they may and if they will, a non priority but more a means to an end. When used well it is a wondrous thing. A true delight. The family comes together in more than just physical proximity. They come together in spirit. They anticipate the experience. They linger and truly enjoy and profit from the gift of family.

Table talk ought to be such, in every family, as to make the hour of home mealtime one of the most attractive as well as one of the most beneficial hours of the day to all the children. But in order to make table-talk valuable, parents must have something to talk about at the table, must be willing to talk about it there, and must have the children lovingly in mind as they do their table talking.

I agree with Mr. Trumbull’s suggestion: the kitchen table should be much more though than just a place to enjoy family, it should be a place for family to grow. He notes that some of Jesus’s most profound truths in teaching are found in His words with those whom he sat with eating. He goes on to point out that the “table talk of great men has, for centuries, been recognized as having a freeness, a simplicity, and a forcefulness, not to be found in their words spoken elsewhere.” What if our kitchen tables were the intellectual and moral center of our homes?

Here are a few practical ideas from Mr. Trumbull and others on how we might make it so:

  • One father has been known to read over the morning paper before breakfast and bring to the attention news of particular interest to the application of family values during table talk.
  • Another father will set a topic for supper table talk in advance and challenge the children to learn all they can for the discussion.
  • One family keeps a dictionary within reach of the kitchen table so that table talk can continue on when a word needs learning.
  • Another family has been known to make a habit of asking God what He wants of each of them throughout the day and writing it down. Asking and sharing and discussing what was heard and how it went and what can be learned has lead to most profitable and enjoyable conversation.

Thy wife shall be as a fruitful vine By the sides of thine house: Thy children like olive plants Round about thy table. Psalms 128:3

What are some ideas to get us all headed in that direction? What challenges have you faced in this endeavor?

-A takeaway from Hints on Child Training by H Clay Trumbull

As always good books, takeaways, stories, and/or lessons learned on the subject are most appreciated.

Theological Virtues: Faith

“[Faith] is the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing moods.”
-C.S. Lewis

Faith

I have for some time now felt a sense of faith being: doing what you say you will do. That is, a man is faithful if he does what he says he will. He is faithful to his word. All along, at the same time, I felt there was much more to it. After a study on this virtue I think there is.

Still I think my former understanding holds true. A man who says he will so and so and does not, I’ve found is often a case of circumstances. “You see I would not have said I would have such and such if I knew that business about the thing was just round the corner.” Some are more tolerant of circumstances than others, more determined, and so we say they are more faithful or reliant than others.

I heard Zig Ziglar tell a story that paints the picture well I think in Born to Win. The story goes like this. There was a young sailor on a ship out at sea and some weather set on rather quickly. He was directed to hurry up the mast and see to something. Taking something in perhaps before the wind blew harder for too long and damaged something I suppose. The sea had begun to toss and turn as the young sailor made his way up the mast. Looking on an old sailor noticed this young man start to sway and lose his balance. His head looking side to side and his gaze being displaced with each crash of a wave. Just before the young sailor fell, the old sailor shouted, “Look up!”. And upon looking up and setting his sights on his destination the young sailor instantly regained his balance and quite possibly saved his life.

I believe each of us need to steady our gaze as the waves of life crash in to our world. I believe this steadies us. Sets us up. Stations us as something others can lean on and depend on. Produces in us something that we ourselves need to survive the circumstances.

As Christians I believe we are called to hold to our beliefs no matter the circumstances. Not in a stubborn way, but in a consistent way. A dependable way. You see, I think the reason most tend not to prefer the man who says one thing and does another is because we can not depend on him. He fails us. And I believe that this very lack of predictability, this lack of faithfulness, is what makes it difficult for them to relate to others. How do you relate to someone whose beliefs change with the wind? How do you relate to someone who is not sound in who they are? I have come to believe you are forced to take them as they are that day and make the best of it. The issue here being that the relation is very shallow. And I do not mean, diabolical or self seeking, I mean not very meaningful. The soil is shallow, there is just not much there to work with, to relate to. After all think about it, how do you relate to someone you do not know?

Christians can not be this way. Our faith in what we believe can not change with the waves of life. Though we do not know every detail of the future we should at least know that our brothers and sisters in Christ will hold fast to their beliefs. That we also, can be depended upon to have the same view of life tomorrow as today. Not that we will always do the right thing we know right, that is another matter altogether, but that our beliefs remain. This is faith. This is what is at the foundation of deep and meaningful relation to another. Not knowing what tomorrow will bring for another but knowing how they will think about it and look at it and approach it. This can be related to. Search your deepest most meaningful relationships and you will find this. You will find faith in the other.

But faith in what? For a Christian? Christ, of course. Knowing that what He said He would do, He will. Knowing that the words of the Bible are true. Knowing that those that have not come to pass yet will. Knowing that God is who He says He is and always will be. I have come to believe that this is the cornerstone of the eternal relationship with God that we all seek.

Wrapping up this study on the Christian virtues; Faith: an unfailing knowing. Hope: a desire to fulfill. Charity: an unconditional love. This verse cries out to me like never before.

“What a person desires is unfailing love”
Proverbs 19:22a

-A takeaway from Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

-A takeaway from Born to Win by Zig Ziglar

As always good books, takeaways, stories, and/or lessons learned on the subject are most appreciated.

Theological Virtues: Hope

“If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”
-C.S. Lewis

Hope

Hope is the calling to look further than right front of you. To desire more. But what of the endless chase for the rainbow’s end, where does that leave us? C.S. Lewis talks of three ways to seek this out. The first, he calls The Fool’s Way: where they blame the thing itself. The thing that showed so much promise in the start but turned back on itself and did not quite deliver. The fool goes on thinking his whole life that if only he tried a new woman, a more expensive vacation, a more interesting study, that would bring him the satisfaction he desires. The second, he calls The Way of the Disillusioned ‘Sensible Man’: where they ‘discover’ there is no end to the rainbow and they come to expect less of things. While this type is less of a burden on society they often end up a ‘prig’ and looking down on those who have not come round to the idea. The third, he calls The Christian Way: that creatures are not born with a desire there is no satisfaction for. This does not mean that a deep longing for something complete that is not found in this world proves our existence in this world a big trick, but rather that we were not designed to only exist in this world.

I believe the definition of understanding is obeying God’s law. Ecclesiastes, one of the books of wisdom of the Bible ends this way: Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.

Understanding is a form of wisdom and deals with knowing the future. We hear people say things like “That was wise, you played that well: going for the promotion rather the raise. That will pay off in the end.” Understanding how a thing will turn out ‘in the end’. Psalms 119:34 reads: “Give me understanding so that I make keep Your law and obey it with all my heart.” That is, show me what will come of my actions in the end so I can make the right choice now. More desire and delight in them. Most celebrate them and praise God! True understanding rests in the eternal. Christians are blessed to be afforded the understanding of eternal ‘gratification’. Eternal understanding means sometimes making decisions to do this or that when the reward will not come in this world.

Hope is fixed on the eternal gratification. This call of Christians to keep our minds fixed on the eternal helps us determine what to do right now. For the present is where eternity touches time. C.S. Lewis puts it this way, “Aim at heaven and you will get the earth ‘thrown in’: aim at earth and you will get neither.”

Next week, a study of the the Christian virtue faith I believe will show, very plainly, what exactly it is that everyone is searching for, why our soul longs for it and how it works.

 

-A takeaway from Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

As always good books, takeaways, stories, and/or lessons learned on the subject are most appreciated.

Theological Virtues: Charity

Charity means ‘Love, in the Christian sense’.
-C.S. Lewis

Charity wanting the best for others

Charity from caritas the standard Latin translation for the Greek word Αγάπη, meaning an unconditional love for others. Charity in old english was defined as a Christian love of one’s fellows. Today charity has come to be thought of mostly in the sense of relief by giving money. But it is much more. Unconditional is such a powerful word when we stop to consider it. Not because of anything. Not in return for anything. Non-negotiable, always, no matter what.

Unconditional seems to be a matter of will instead of feeling. So many times we hear people say things like “[they] are in love”. Stephen Covey in his 7 Habits of Highly Effective People talks about his belief that love is a verb – that love the feeling is the fruit of love the verb. C.S. Lewis notes a lesson in charity revealing one of the great secrets in life: “When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love them”. He goes on to explain that this secret also works terribly the other way round. Cruel acts produce hatred and more cruelty and on and on. His point? “Good and evil both increase at compound interest.” This is why the little decisions we make day to day are of such importance. The things we do, the seeds we sow, will come to harvest.

Christians by charity are called to unconditionally want the best for others. This is different from liking people. I do not think Christians are called to like everyone by the virtue of charity. I do however think that wanting the best for people, unconditional of your preference to the way they did so and so or that thing they said or what they think about such and such, produces a genuine and authentic liking of them.

We by our very nature afford perfect charity to ourselves. No matter the condition of our preference for ourselves, we want the very best for us. No matter how we fall short of what we think we ought to have done, that is: the degree to which we like ourselves at the moment, the desire for good things for us never wavers. No matter what. Charity I have come to believe is turning this phenomenon outward toward others.  A Christian, unconditional, love for our fellows.  A Christian, unconditional, desire to see others well.

 

-A takeaway from Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

-A takeaway from The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey

As always good books, takeaways, stories, and/or lessons learned on the subject are most appreciated.

The Law of Authenticity

The most exhausting thing in life is being insincere.

-Anne Marie Lindbergh

The Roman sculpture of Menelaus supporting the body of Patroclus

Sincerely. At the bottom of a note. “Trust me” we say. The note, not calculated, arrives bonafide. I am being authentic. I am not hiding anything. I am not playing politics. The word derived from the latin sin: without, cera: wax, comes to our sincerely. Without wax. As it were sculptors in ancient Greece who had something to hide, and were not above it, used wax to deceive. The wax used to fill in imperfections would of course eventually melt away. Sculptors then became expected to deliver to the buyer a note stating the product was indeed without wax.

What wax we use to cover and fill in what we wish were this or that in us? Always afraid of the wax melting away to reveal the truth. What an uncertain exhausting way. Complexes abound. Hindering relationships and progress. Search deep for wax and be without. Everyone has things they would prefer be filled in or unnoticed. That very desire is however what should concern. We are who we have been created to be.  Imperfectly beautiful. Live without wax and go in peace.

The Law of Authenticity:

The most valuable gift you have to offer is yourself

-A takeaway from The Go Giver by Mann and Burg

As always good books, takeaways, stories, and/or lessons learned on the subject are most appreciated.

 

Believe in the Dignity and Morality of Business

“Take out a dollar bill and look at it.  Now pat yourself on your back because you are looking at a certificate of performance. If you did not rob or steal from anyone to obtain that dollar, if you neither defrauded anyone nor persuaded your government to seize it from a fellow citizen and give it to you, then you could only have obtained that dollar in one other way—you must have pleased someone else.”

-Walter Williams

The sun on dramatic sky over sea. Natural background. Forces of nature concept.

The setting is an elementary school classroom.  The teacher asks the children what they want to be when they grow up.  The first to answer, a little girl named Suzie, says ‘I want to be a nurse.’ – the class nods and smiles as if to approve her choice.  ‘What a nice little girl,’ the teacher thinks.  The second to answer, a little boy named Tommy, jumps up and shouts as if he can not hold it in any longer, “I want to be a fireman!” – the class thinks “good for him”.  And then there is the third child to answer.  Little Billy, feeling a sort of lumming pressure of an anticipated pending response timidly proclaims, “I want to be a businessman.”  The class is taken back, aghast.  What evil is this child conjuring?

Ok, perhaps, just maybe… I went a little too far.  Yet still the point I am trying to make, through the subtle art of exaggeration, is that I have come to believe and perhaps most will admit, that more would question little Billy’s morals than little Suzie’s or Tommy’s.  Why is that?

In Thou Shall Prosper, Rabbi Daniel Lapin draws from accumulated Jewish learnings to lay out his Ten Commandments for Making Money.  Rabbi Lapin believes the first and most important commandment is to believe in the dignity and morality of business.  His point: if you believe business is evil, you will have a hard time acquiring money.

Thinking about the classroom scene above and how subtlly the immorality of money and business is woven into our world – I wonder if it is worth considering why more of our youngsters do not aspire to go into business?  How come business is not viewed as a means to serve others?  To earn certificates of performance?  How come each dollar is not viewed as a testament of our ability to please others and make their lives better?

A takeaway from Thou Shall Prosper by Rabbi Daniel Lapin

 

What are your thoughts on the dignity and morality of business?

As always good books, takeaways, stories, and/or lessons learned on the subject would be the coolest.