Passing Faith On by Steve Carpenter

My wife Chris and I have entered a new phase of life. We are grandparents.

S&C with Michelle 5 Days oldMore specifically, we are Opa and Oma, terms of endearment from my wife’s German roots. For Christmas, parents Janelle and John gave me a ball cap with “Opa” embroidered on it, and Chris received a key chain which says “My favorite people call me Oma.”

Opa                 Michelle Jan 2015 005
Our bundle of joy arrived early on the morning of December 10th. Six hours later we were at the hospital holding little Michelle, our first grandchild, born to Janelle and John Mack. It’s hard not to be proud grandparents, although I often remind myself not to overdo it, as many are childless and even some with children do not have grandchildren. Yet we find ourselves making plans to travel two and a half hours to Silver Spring, Maryland, just north of Washington, D.C. to stop in and see Michelle and her parents. After our last visit Janelle remarked, “I think we’ve seen more of you in the last few months than we have for some time!” Duh! Yes, we are the proverbial doting grandparents.

IMG_0374 (2)Granddaughter Michelle

Parenting and grandparenting bring new responsibilities. Not only must parents provide for the child’s physical and emotional needs, they must also consider the baby’s spiritual well-being. This is often an opportunity for young parents to return to their own spiritual roots as they seek to provide their child with a spiritual and moral foundation. Dorothy Beidler, writing in the January, 2015 edition of Purpose states, “Passing on God’s love may be the unique, solitary task and joy of each generation.”

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We at MennoMedia are well aware of the need to nurture faith, not only in children but in their parents. That is why we have revised and reissued a classic bestselling series of books called Meditations. There are six books in the series. Each offers a month’s worth of devotional reflections including prayers, poems, scripture, and words of inspiration. Each is written for a specific life event: marriage, pregnancy, adoption, and giving birth. The first three books are now available including: Meditations for New Parents, Meditations for the Expectant Mother, and Meditations for the New Mother. (The remaining three in the series will be out in August, 2015.)

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If you too are a grandparent, you may be interested in Elsie Rempel’s Please Pass the Faith: The Art of Spiritual Grandparenting. This is an important book for both biological and honorary grandparents who want to pass their faith on to their offspring. This doesn’t always come easily, nor is it a given in Christian homes.

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I hope we at MennoMedia can strengthen and encourage you in your faith, and also as you work at nurturing faith in children and grandchildren.

Blessings in your work, worship and witness,

Steve C 2012
Steve Carpenter, Director of Development

How have you passed the love of God on to your children and grandchildren?

Leadership: 5 ways to maintain the inner life in difficult times


Russ Eanes on a century ride with his son, Andre.
Russ Eanes and his son Andre enjoy cycling together.

Let your good spirit lead me on a level path.—Psalm 143:10

Maintaining the soul, spirit and inner life in difficult times is a challenge, though reading the psalms suggest that nothing is new.

What is new is the pace of change and the effect that it has on our inner being. I feel it especially these days in my work, but I am not unique.

In publishing and media, we face the daily challenge of keeping pace with new trends and technological developments.

At a recent meeting of some denominational publishing peers, one colleague put it this way, “You are behind every day that you wake up … everything that I need to know I will learn tomorrow.”

Such words can be discouraging; keeping awake and alert to rapid trends takes lots of time and effort and can easily overwhelm.

Since I am a denominational publisher, I also work alongside Mennonite Church USA and Mennonite Church Canada, where we face the challenge of declining numbers, fiscal challenges and draining conflict over issues of sexuality.

While I am called to my work and enjoy it, tending to the spirit and soul has to be part of my vocation.

While some people talk in terms of achieving a “balance” in life, I prefer to think of “grounding,” since it is so easy and quick to get out of balance.

When asked about what keeps me and/or other leaders grounded and invigorated, I can come up with a long list: prayer, rest, reading, the outdoors, exercise, family, celebration and laughter, journaling and solitude.

Here’s some essentials:

Jesuit guide1. Keep your soul fed. I feed mine especially through reading. My personal tastes include novels, history, social critique and travel. I especially like the “Spiritual Classics,” since they have passed the test of time. As a guide to spiritual formation, I am currently enjoying the very accessible and cleverly written Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything by James Martin, SJ.

 

Take our moments2. Pray. For me this has to be every day, and hopefully more than once per day. A dozen years ago I began studying about and incorporating the use of the “daily office” of prayer into my life, even writing my own small, personal “office.” Office here is understood as a regular form and rhythm of prayer that is mostly corporate, but can be personal, too. I’m fortunate to be in a workplace each day where several of us now pause mid-morning to pray the office together, using our own Anabaptist prayer book, Take our Moments and Days. Prayer is probably the most overlooked and transformative activity we can do. It takes time and discipline. As Eugene Peterson says, the demands of prayer mean, “… entering realms of spirit where wonder and adoration have space to develop, where play and delight have time to flourish.”

3. Enjoy beauty. I’m a news junkie, but honestly, I find much of the news depressing these days. Lay that alongside work and vocational challenges and it’s easy to see too much ugliness. I combat that with a good, daily dose of beauty. I am privileged to live on a hillside that looks out over a valley. Each morning that weather permits, I start my day with a cup of coffee on my front deck and enjoy the light and cloud show that fans out across the mountains west of our home. Music, art, film and reading all contribute to my sense of beauty, but it’s the outdoors that does it best and it’s free.160137894

4. Let your spirit rest. Our inward selves and our minds need days off, just like our bodies. Try to do it in nature. In an article from a few years ago in “Adbusters,” Nicolas Carr (author of The Shallows) wrote: “A series of psychological studies over the past 20 years has revealed that after spending time in a quiet rural setting, close to nature, people exhibit greater attentiveness, stronger memory and generally improved cognition. Their brains become both calmer and sharper … when people aren’t being bombarded by external stimuli, their brains can, in effect, relax… The resulting state of contemplativeness strengthens their ability to control their mind.”

5. Laugh. Some of our family recently went to watch a performance of Shakespeare’s comedy, “Much Ado about Nothing.” Perhaps I was a bit conspicuous, but I laughed hard and loud for two hours and it felt good. Too often there is much in life to make us cry, but laughter can release our emotion in the same way.

We can find and hold onto “still centers” in the midst of storms of change, stress and conflict, but it takes work, effort, intentionality.

It won’t happen on its own.

For the year ahead, I pray for us all to have lives where, “play and delight have time to flourish.”

Russ Eanes of Harrisonburg, Va., is executive director of MennoMedia. This ran as a column in the February issue of The Mennonite.