Tag Archives: table grace

An open apology to kids about knowing God, faith

I apologize.  

As I continue to study and to read the Bible, I realize I failed.  I failed to teach you faith.  I failed to practice the parenting principles that my own parents taught me.  I failed to share what I know to be my own life foundation.

I apologize.

As I grew up, both Mom and Dad lived a Christian lifestyle.  They modeled it by the very routines of our day and our week.  They never demanded that we participate, but then we would never have refused to follow their instructions.  It never even occurred to me that we should question the practices.

Therefore, why did I not follow those deeply entrenched practices on my own?  I did some, but some I did not.  Going to church each Sunday was a well-preserved practice and included attending Sunday school.

Because Dad always went with us each Sunday, I never thought that my own husband would miss church.  I thought that was just part of the agreement in a marriage.  When I first had to go to church alone, I ached. It was so wrong, yet I failed to make an issue of the change.  I just went—alone and alone with the kids.

I apologize.

Another practice that I failed in was maintaining the practice of the meal’s blessing.  We had three meals a day growing up and that meant three mealtime graces.  

I admit that the practice weakened during the college years because prayer is private and mealtime in the dorm’s cafeteria was far from private.  The meals’ grace disappeared.  Oh, I could have said the grace privately, but I don’t remember doing so.  And when I moved into an apartment, I could have resumed the practice then.  But I didn’t.

Then came marriage and meals were often in front of the TV.  No table grace then.  

And then came kids.  I should have known that I needed to add in the meal’s prayer, but I did not and did not even approach the subject with Dad.  I failed.

Then life changed with the divorce, and the opportunity to add in open prayer was there—but I hesitated.  It was not until the preschool grace developed and later remembered that the simple table grace resurfaced.  I failed to do so in a timely manner, but now it seems so important, so routine, and so simple.

I apologize.

Now the two practices of church attendance and table grace are just two small, concrete pieces to the Christian lifestyle that one can wear openly, but there is more about which I need to apologize.

Faith education is a critical failure.  I know that many argue that as children develop, they need to learn about God on their own, along their own timeline, in their own way or by their own experiences.  But how does that work?

Having been a teacher for 30 some years, I know that learning is developmental.  I know that all individuals can learn.  I know that we all learn differently.  I know that we learn by seeing, by hearing, and by doing.  

Yet, did I teach faith in my own home. No.  I realize now that I counted on the kids learning via other people’s teaching.  I delegated the task to others and did not take my own initiative to teach the very foundation of my own life.  I failed.

For some reason I thought that I was doing enough, and I was not.  I thought that since my kids lived in my home they would be able to figure out the importance of faith by osmosis.  

I did not figure in what would happen when outside influences or the divorce would create an entirely different learning environment than I felt I was maintaining.  I neglected my kids’ faith education.

I apologize.

How easy it would be to just ignore the issue, but I cannot stand seeing what life without God does to people.  I see so few who seem to have an internal fountain of joy shining from within them; and I know they are missing the joy I experience knowing God in my own life.

What I should have done is been verbally open about how God is part of the daily world in which I exist:

I should have spoken about how God created this universe and we are to care for it.  

I should have shown how all the different birds are part of God’s creation.  

I should have shown how farmers are key to feeding God’s people and for protecting this world that supplies all we need to grow crops and to nurture the livestock that feeds us.

I should have explained how important it is to treat each and every individual with love, just like we want to be treated.

I should have shown them that good leaders do care about their subordinates making any business or organization work smoothly.

I should have . . . and the list continues.

I apologize that I failed.

But, today, I want to put a stop to the failures and speak out—directly—to my kids.  God is good.  Whether you can ever fully understand the concept or not of an omniscient God, a creator, a spirit, a being, or whatever, I know that you must know what a difference God makes in my life.

More than anything I want you to experience the joy of this life experience that we are given.  I want you to demonstrate to all those you interact with that the power of loving one another is priceless.  I want you to share the love of life that you have because God loves you so much that he provides it.

And, I want you to know firsthand the value of studying the literature of the Bible.  We use words as a tool, and the Bible is filled with words to implement in your lives to manage all the ups and downs.  

As human beings, who do have the freedom to chose right and wrong, who do have the mental capabilities of analyzing history, science, social science, and experience, and who face all the challenges of living among believers and non-believers, we must learn all that we can about God.

Knowing God personally makes it possible to manage the evil forces that co-exist in our world. 

Knowing God personally makes it possible to live a joy-filled life even when we are confronted by a life challenge whether physical, mental, financial, or even a natural disaster.  

I apologize that I did not arm you with the knowledge of God that makes life good now and on into eternity.

I apologize that it has taken this many years to speak up.

I apologize that I did not teach you how to pray so you can always feel the reality of God with you, by you and for you.

Hear my prayer oh Lord, 

I am just a child of yours

     always learning of your vastness.

I am a child who has wasted time

     sharing what I value with my own.

I am a child who whines to you

     that my kids may not know you on their own.

Forgive me, Lord, 

     for my failures to teach my kids of You.

Forgive me, Lord,

     for wasting time in sharing faith out loud.

Forgive me, Lord, for whining

     rather than doing as much as I can.

Guide me to speak out loud 

     the truth of your love for us.

Guide me to live out loud

     my faith that so others may see.

Guide me to love my kids

     and all others as you commanded.

Thank you for the words of the faithful

     that share knowledge of faithful living.

Thank you for the open communication

     through our prayers.

Thank you for your guidance

     through the Holy Spirit within us.

May I be the parent unafraid 

     to love not only my kids but all your kids.

May all your children experience your great love

May they know the joy of loving you, 

         of loving life, and         

of loving one another.  –Amen

Leave a comment

Filed under Education, Family Notes, Religion

Lord, Be Present at Our Table

given on Sunday, August 2, 2015

Growing up, Dad always said grace before every meal we ate at home. He did not offer grace when we were eating at a restaurant. At the time, the routine was just that—routine. I never really thought about what he said or did not say.

If it was a three-generation meal, my grandfathers always included a blessing, too. But each grandpa had a different manner of handling the blessing. Pop, my paternal grandpa, used almost the very same words as Dad did. Obviously Dad learned his from Pop.

But with my maternal grandpa, the routine was a bit different. Grandpa Worsham gave the blessing when Dad was not there, but when Dad was at the table, Grandpa always had Dad offer the grace. Grandpa was Presbyterian, not Methodist, and his heritage was Scotch-Irish and Welch while Pop was pure German. I never thought ancestry would affect these two American men at the dinner table.

Since Dad’s death, I have tried and tried to remember the words used in that blessing. I could get a few words and remember some of the particulars, but I could not reconstruct the entire grace. I even took the question to my two family reunions. None of us could get any further than the first few words.

Table graces, blessings or prayer—whichever word you use—is a common practice around Christian tables. Looking for the historical origin is challenging because the practice of blessing one’s food before eating seems to be practiced by almost every faith system.

The Christian tradition of offering prayers before eating may trace its origin directly backs to Jesus. One website listed references to Jesus blessing the food before meals in a variety of New Testament verses. The Jewish faithful offered a prayer before meals, so historians believe that Jesus followed that tradition, too.

Naturally the use of a blessing at mealtime can be connected to the Last Supper and consequently to the Christian practice of communion. Jesus blessed the bread and the wine before giving it to the disciples sitting around the table.

The term grace can be easily confused in Methodist conversations because John Wesley’s theology is built on the concept of grace, the four levels of grace. The table grace is not part of that theology but a prayer offered to God in thanks for the meal and more. There is no required set of words or format, but some table graces have been preserved and some groups have established set prayers that are used in specific settings.

The words bring me back to my search for those of my dad’s. The only words I could remember were the opening and that was with the help of my cousin: Come, Lord Jesus, be our guest. . . When I googled that phrase, I discovered it was almost identical to the opening of the Moravian blessing:

Come, Lord Jesus, our guest to be
And bless these gifts
Bestowed by Thee.
And bless our loved ones everywhere,
And keep them in Your loving care

Still there was something unfamiliar with that opening and I kept searching. Another phrase came to mind: Bless this food, O Lord, we pray. . .  and that matches another traditional prayer from the Irish heritage:

Bless, O Lord, this food we are about to eat; and we pray You, O God, that it may be good for our body and soul; and if there be any poor creature hungry or thirsty walking along the road, send them into us that we can share the food with them, just as You share your gifts with all of us.

Neither prayer is what Dad used, but his words did connect back to these yet reflected the family’s beliefs and their own traditions. Dad’s words may be lost, but the memory and the importance of using grace remains.

Most of us raised in the Christian tradition are familiar with the mealtime prayers, but many do not practice them. If they begin practicing table grace, they may struggle to find the words that fit them.

The website listed on the cover provides many options from which to choose, but sometimes the most heartfelt blessings or prayers are simple and even childlike. When my kids were young, a simple table grace was part of the Grace Lutheran preschool:

Thank you, God, for this food,

for life, and health

and all that is good.—Amen.

Today, we come to the Lord’s table through the practice of communion. We do not use a table grace like we do around the daily kitchen or dining room table; instead we use the liturgy. The liturgy for today was written hundreds of years ago, but it reconnects us to the night Jesus shared the cup and the bread with his disciples before he was arrested, tried, and crucified.

The liturgy blesses the elements, retells the story, confesses our sins, and asks if we believe in Jesus who was sent to teach us how to love one another, and then died to take away our sins. Communion is a sacrament and in the Methodist denomination, it is an open table to anybody who accepts Christ as savior.

As part of a sacrament, there are a few things to understand about the process. The elements are not blessed until the “institution” is read. This is the section of the liturgy that never changes and tells that Jesus took the bread, tore it, and gave it to the disciples saying, “Take, eat, this is my body. . .” and when he took the cup saying, “Take, drink, this is the blood . . “

Once the elements are blessed, the leftovers are still blessed and are to be consumed while at the church or are disposed by returning it to the earth. This is the Methodist tradition and other denominations do things differently.

For instance, Methodists typically use grape juice rather than wine, but other denominations may use wine. One communion I recently participated in did not explain first that the outer cups were wine while the inner rings of cups were juice. It was a surprise when the ‘juice’ had a warming sensation as it went down.

The liturgy creates a continuity of the communion practice much like a table grace does when family or friends sit down to a meal together. The prayers reconnect us to God. We give thanks for the nourishment, thanks for the blessings God has provided, but we also thank God for those who prepared the meal, for the gifts that God provides Sometimes we include prayers of supplication and/or for forgiveness. These same elements are included in the practice of communion.

As God’s children, we are blessed. We are granted grace for our human mistakes. And when we talk with God, we are forgiven. The Christian practices we use in our daily lives keep us connected to God. When we pray together at our tables or during communion, we strengthen our relationship with God.

Table Grace for Communion

Be present at our table, Lord.

Bless the bread and the cup

We are about to share.

May the body and blood of Christ

Sustain our Christian faith

And strengthen our relationship with you.

Thank you for the blessings

You have granted us,

May we lovingly serve one another

So they may experience your grace

And be In Christian fellowship

Now and forever. —Amen


Filed under Religion