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Wednesday, February 19, 2014

"Grace for the Contemplative Parent" (Lily Crowder)

TITLE: Grace for the Contemplative Parent : A Practical Guide for Mothers Practicing the Presence of God
AUTHOR: Lily Crowder
PUBLISHER: Portland, OR: Sons of Thunder Publications, 2013, (112 pages).

If there is any one group of people who can say is too busy to pray, mothers will rank among the top. Parenting is tough work. There are diapers to change and erratic sleeping and waking hours. There are cries and constant yearnings for milk. There is also a need to understand what each crying or murmuring means. Even getting babysitters for young kids can be very difficult. Who would want to deal with a crybaby? The chores are simply endless. Crowder, a mother herself as well as a co-founder of the Sons of Thunder ministries in Oregon has this one focus: To practice the presence of God in all that she does.

I have read Brother Lawrence's "Practicing the Presence of God" years ago and have been impressed by its simplicity, spirituality, and practicality. I have also come across Mike Mason's "Practicing the Presence of People," which tells us the deepest needs of a human being is to love well. What about applying both of them to a contemplative parent? That is, what if we apply the best of spirituality from Brother Lawrence's classic and merge that with the love of a parent for a child? The result is "Practicing the Presence" of God for parents. The key phrase and thesis of the book is from Brother Lawrence.

"The time of work does not with me differ from the time of prayer. In the noise and clatter of my kitchen, while several persons are at the same time calling for different things, I possess God in as great a tranquility as if I were upon my knees at the Blessed Supper."

With a constant awareness of God's presence, together with the chores and challenges of parenting children, Lily Crowder examines the spirituality of feeling God's grace in everything a parent does for her child. Eleven thoughts are put together to whet the appetite of parents wanting to be contemplative even as they care for their children. Being loved is also about learning not to feel too guilty when parents feel inadequate or failed in any of their duties. It means being content to trust that parenting itself is not less important than ministry work. Learning to see the parenting work as part of ministry is a liberating thought. Awareness of God is not just theory in the head but learning to see God everywhere we go. The key is being able to see with our spiritual eyes. With children, play is often a big component. That is why learning to exercise daily wonder helps parents to let themselves into the children's sense of wonder in play and nature. Practicing the presence of God includes giving thanks regularly even when children fight or becomes a nuisance. Crowder makes an interesting claim that optimism is "imperative in the Christian life." That may present a problem for those who find that feelings of optimism may not be possible at all times. Perhaps, it may be better to simply say "most" of the time. I like the part about maintaining a vision of building a house of wisdom. Only when we learn to think thoughts of God that we can build such a house. It means trust. It means learning to rest where appropriate and not be guilt-ridden about it. When one is whole, one gets a better sense of identity.

Although written with mothers in mind, this book can also be used for fathers. For there are a lot more common for both parents in the various contemplative practices. As one think thoughts of God constantly during parenting, one can consciously or subconsciously inculcate a sense of faith and trust for the little ones we care for. I remember the Sunday School song that says: "Jesus loves me this I know. For the Bible tells me so. Little ones to Him belong. We are weak but He is strong!"

When we let God be strong in us, our children will grow and learn to be strong in the Lord. This is the promise of faith. Even parents need to be led and to be cared for. A well-led parent helps bringing up purposeful children. A well-cared for parent helps bring up loving children. This will be the best gift parents can give their children.

Rating: 4.5 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me courtesy of the publisher and SpeakEasy Blog Review Network in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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