Written by Corrina Jennings
The Practice of Pondering: TeachingOur Children to Be Still and Know
On the surface, it would seem that I’m the least likely person to teach anything to anyone about being quiet. Or still. I promise you. My whole life has essentially been a series of suggestions to “sit still,” “stop talking,” “wait a minute,” “slow down,” “take a breath,” “hang on a sec,” or “let’s not get ahead of ourselves.”
I’m a learn-out-loud, talk-it-out, idea person. My thoughts tend to take u-turns when I don’t verbalize them. That’s just who I am.
But, I’m learning. And growing.
And, it turns out, you CAN teach an old dog new tricks, despite the conventional wisdom – especially when we are talking about the Lord. Because… “He who has begun a good work in me will be faithful to complete it…” Hallelujah!
A few years ago, God highlighted an innocuous little verse for my restless heart, and it became a clarion call for my life. “But Mary treasured up all these things, and pondered them in her heart.” The verse is found in Luke 2:19 right after the telling of the “Christmas Story.”
Picture Mary here, holding her infant child. Less than a year before, she was just an average girl, but then, she is visited by an angel, told that she has been impregnated by the Holy Spirit, and that the child she is carrying is the Savior of the world!? Christ is then born in a dirty stable, in a town far away from home, and THEN strangers suddenly start visiting them – guided to them only by the hand of God, and begin worshipping her baby. Instead of freaking out, instead of drowning in her overwhelm, instead of imploding at the sheer weight of God in her life (probably like MY postpartum self would have done)….. it tells us that Mary “treasured up all these things, and PONDERED them in her heart.”
I was suddenly so struck by this phrase. And challenged by it. Perhaps I could spend more time “treasuring and pondering” So, I purposed to start “practicing pondering.” Just a daily time of quiet thoughts – meditation – about what God is doing in my life.
I know – I said the “M-Word” – MEDITATION. Cue the patchouli incense and crystals. Ummm..no. We are talking about Biblical meditation. Psalm 77:12, “I will consider all your works and meditate on all your mighty deeds.” Meditation is simply disciplined thought.
As this new habit began to enrich my life, I quickly realized that my kids needed a dose of this as well. But, teaching kids to “meditate” quietly isn’t easy. I needed some practical tools, so I set out to find some. I’d like to share what I’ve learned in the hope that you can use it to teach the children in YOUR life the art and discipline of quiet time. Or maybe you need these tools for yourself!
First, we must understand that children crave time to be quiet and still. They NEED it to mull their BIG thoughts about God. Having a practice of meditation as a child is a great navigational tool for relationships as well. There are many studies that demonstrate its lifelong benefits.
In the beginning, the empty quiet space feels like eternity. One way to help define this time for children is to use music. Choose a 2-3 min hymn or inspirational (but low-intensity) worship song, and have children find a comfortable spot on the floor to “think” about God while the song plays. After the song, simply ask them what they thought about. Don’t be surprised or discouraged if it’s NOT God at first, just keep encouraging them. Children love routine and the consistency of the familiar, so consider using the same song every time for a while, but eventually you can choose longer songs or two songs to extend this time.
Any good teacher will tell you that “prompts” are another great tool. Each night before bedtime, we started giving our kids a high/low prompt. It’s a simple way to get their brain reviewing the day and thinking about moments and experiences, and the feelings they associated with them. It’s a very simple concept – “Take a moment and think about your day. In a couple of minutes, I am going to ask you to tell me about your high moment and your low moment today.” What was the best thing about today (high)? What was the worst thing (low)?
One of my favorite prompts came from a VBS that my kids attend every year. It is the “God-Sighting” prompt. They give all the kids a silicone bracelet with the words “Watch For God,” and each morning they ask kids to recall “God-sightings” from the day before. It’s so great! I always stay for this part of the VBS morning, and it makes me cry EVERY.TIME. Hearing kids talk about the rainbow they saw, or the friend who sat with them…or whatever little pint-sized anecdote they come up with to illustrate where and how THEY saw God in their life is so heartwarming. We’ve adopted this in our lives. It’s as simple as a morning reminder to “watch for God” today. And an evening moment to stop and think for a few minutes (ponder), and then let’s talk about your God-sightings for the day! (HINT: if your kids take showers or baths unsupervised, that’s a great time to encourage them to do this!)
Finally, and unsurprisingly, consistency is key, like anything with children. Find a time or two that makes sense in your family’s day, and implement one or two of these ideas daily. I think you will be encouraged by it. Try it for a week, and then share how it has worked for you. Share with your child’s Sunday School teacher, your small group, our church elders and pastors, or on our church social media pages using #EVCSoulTrain!! It’s a great way to testify of the work of God in your family!