What seems to be a lost family moment is the dinner dialogue. When I grew up we ate dinner as a family several nights a week. We did not have a food pattern, but we did have a discussion pattern. Every day we talked about our day. What was good? What was bad? What happened? We all talked answered the questions. Then we asked questions.
“Someone said something bad about me today, what do I do?” Mom and Dad then begin to explain to me how I should respond to such situations.
“I got into a fight today….” Mom and Dad would express disapproval and then how I should respond.
Every time we ate dinner together this was our pattern. These were special times that I wish to continue with my own family. In my family today we eat at home together several nights a week. We talk about what we did during the day. We ask the kids what they learned and what they like about the day. Each day is unique. Each is wonderful in its own way. We take the teachable moments that come and use them to instill biblical principles into their young lives. This dinner dialogue can be entertaining to intimidating depending on the topics and questions raised. We are developing a trust between everyone that we can talk, express, and ask questions in a safe place. These questions can be spiritual or social, sports or sewing, relational or religious. All questions are fair and welcomed. As they age and the issues become greater and more critical with each year, this trust will be cherished.
4 So Joshua summoned the 12 men he had selected from the Israelites, one man for each tribe, 5 and said to them, “Go across to the ark of the Lord your God in the middle of the Jordan. Each of you lift a stone onto his shoulder, one for each of the Israelite tribes, 6 so that this will be a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean to you?’ 7 you should tell them, ‘The waters of the Jordan were cut off in front of the ark of the Lord’s covenant. When it crossed the Jordan, the Jordan’s waters were cut off.’ Therefore these stones will always be a memorial for the Israelites.”
Joshua is developing a proclamation made by Moses early in Deuteronomy.
4 “Listen, Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is One. 5 Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. 6 These words that I am giving you today are to be in your heart. 7 Repeat them to your children. Talk about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Bind them as a sign on your hand and let them be a symbol on your forehead. 9 Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
Dinner dialogue is something that was being introduced 3300 years ago! Moses told parents to take God’s Word and repeat it to the children. They were to discuss when they sat down or walked around. There is hardly a meal that goes by that something couldn’t be discussed and tied back to the Bible. Joshua adds to this directive from Moses. The people are to be prepared to answer the questions of family and national history as it relates to God. For example, our children might ask how we met. The simple answer is that we met a graduate school. This is clean, crisp, to the point, and we can all move on with our lives. However, to honor the spirit of these passages of scripture we add more to the story. We talk about that God wanted each of us to go to that particular school. God brought us together as friends and later we felt tha God wanted us to become married. This takes a little longer and might raise more questions, but we integrate God into the very basic portions of our lives.
Here are a few tips about Dinner dialogues:
1. Make room for meal times as a family where dialogue can happen. Running through the drive-thru on the way to an event, practice, or game is not the best time. We should not confuse that as family time either. Children need quiet, alone time with the family. The distractions need to be able to fade out of the picture so that real moments can be established.
2. Read the Bible from a research perspective. Every day, I read the Bible because God has a message for me. As a person, husband, father, pastor, and friend there are several hats I wear daily. There are issues raised and questions asked every day that are demanding an answer. What better answer can I give than one that is Biblically based? While I do not quote scripture at every turn and answer, it is important to have scripture in the backdrop of my mind as I dialogue with others and especially my children.
3. Integrate. Children and grandchildren can ask some CRAZY questions. Where did I come from? What does God look like? Where does the sun go at night? What’s the name of the Man in the Moon? Who is Jesus? Why does Bobby speak in a weird language at his church? How come Johnny is a different color than me? Whether the questions are biblical or not, we should be able to express ourselves in spiritual terms and behavior. Scripture is the message from God for your life. Read it so you can know how to live and dialogue properly concerning God in history both nationally and personally, even around the dinner table.
4. Take advantage of teachable moments. Every time it happens jump on it! Teachable moments do not always happen. Yet, when they do we must take advantage of that moment. When we are given the chance to express truth in a life moment we have a Biblical responsibility to do so. When we sit down, stand up, lie down, or walk about we are to be instilling truth in those over whom we have influence. It is not enough to simply passively wait for the next moment, praying and sweating that we have the right answer. Look for those moments. Make those moments happen. Be in the Word and answer those questions while instilling life into the next generation through introducing them to God and His message for humanity.
Whether you have PB & J or grilled steak and baked potatoes, have a dinner dialogue as soon as you can. The next generation is waiting and they are hungry!