We were challenged nearly two years ago by Neil Campbell, from Family Foundations, to start doing a family altar. It’s become a treasured part of our week and something that has been sewn into our family tapestry. I think it’s incredibly important to work on a family culture, and have those anchor points to our weeks, months and years where we reconnect and turn our focus to the things we really, genuinely, care about. We try and do it every Friday, but sometimes we have to switch days. And sometimes two weeks go by before we return.
So what is it? An altar, from the biblical sense, is a consecrated space that is dedicated to God. They often used them to place upon their burnt offerings. “Altars were often made in response to a significant encounter with God in order to commemorate it” ( source ).
I loved the idea of having that physical response to God, and his provision in our lives. Because man, He is all over us. So we adopted our own, and although it looks a bit different each week, it does have a bit of a routine.
I wish I could say that I make a beautiful roast beef and mashed potato dinner, with a few extra sides. I do not. We have spaghetti. We have spaghetti every Friday night, because I make extra sauce so we can have the leftovers for lunch after church on Sunday. I don’t even make it anymore- it is below my pay grade and firmly Silas’ job. But it is one of their favourite meals, that Every. Single. Person. likes, which rarely happens. So, we have spaghetti.
We go around the table, youngest to oldest, and mention all the things we want to praise Jesus for that week. I record them all in our family binder. Even two year-old Beth has lots to say, and we often cut her off when she starts looking around (“Thank you Jesus for. . . chairs! And for a door! And for forks!”) Some of the stuff they say is so precious. Three year old Elijah mentioned something that Silas had done for him four or five days previous, which meant so much to my Si’s heart. And it’s funny: we’ve done this through a miscarriage, super tight finances, hurting relationships and every broken appliance under the sun- and we’ve still come up with over a full page of things we are thankful for.
We list all the people we are praying for. There’s a missionary family we have spiritually invested in; we have some Compassion children we love; and a few family and friends that are going through hard times, or have lost someone special. Everyone picks one or two to pray for specifically. We write them down, too, and then we can celebrate when we know something has changed, or things have turned a corner. We all silently and reverently hang our heads, and gently take turns in a counter-clockwise manner. Not. The little kids, by this point, climb all over us until it’s their turn to pray. Some people forget who they said they would pray for, so I whisper it loudly across the table. This is also when Melody puts her spaghetti hands in her hair.
When dinner is done, the kids take turns choosing worship songs, and we sing while we clean up together. When everything is mostly back to rights, we have a special dessert (and I never do dessert at all, so they’re all special!) Usually, it’s easy like ice cream, popsicles or ice cream sandwiches. One day, I hope to bake a really beautiful dessert with a French sounding name, and place it on the table while all the children gasp in astonishment. Probably not this month. Or year.
But the treat is special enough. We sing and eat, and have a time praising Jesus. He has been so good to us. I pray and bless them all, one by one- although now that I mention it, I’ve forgotten the past few weeks. Ugh. Next week. I’ve also been doing some reading on cultivating sibling relationships, so I want to start having them thank each other for something they’ve noticed in the past week.
It’s a fun time, and it can always keep growing and changing. I’d love to do more of a Bible discussion or study time one day. It’s not a possibility right now, at dinner time. By any means do not picture this as a super quiet, calm, and peaceful time. As a matter of fact, in a video we posted about a day in our life- you can literally see me chewing out a child who simply would not sit down to save her life. But honestly, this is church, this is time with our Lord, and He doesn’t expect it to be anything else than what it is. I love that He takes our little fishes, and our burnt loaves, and multiplies it into an abundance.
If this is something that resonates with you- I encourage you to start small! Please! And slowly add to it. The first time, I had this beautiful (long) devotion, and some great discussion questions. . . it did not work for us at all. We need more interactive, short burst type things right now. Otherwise, it’s too easy to quit before you even start.
What types of things are you weaving into your family tapestry? Believe me, I would love to hear about it! And if you’d like to check out our video about a Day in Our Life, here it is.