A “Rejoice!” Breakfast (or Evening Reflection)
What, you may wonder, is a Rejoice! breakfast?
The discipline of noting gratitude is actually shaping their attitudes about life. That is pretty remarkable!
Most days I try to begin my morning the very same way my parents did when I was growing up—reading Rejoice! devotional magazine. Or perhaps the standard Mennonite devotional guide had a different name back then, but whatever it was, my father and mother would take turns reading it every morning, even if we were running behind getting on the school bus.
We would snicker and smile through some of Dad’s pronunciations of Old Testament names, particularly when he would wade through a long list in the book of Numbers, like “the Hittites and the Jebusites and the Amorites.” And then he’d throw in “Mennonites,” and we’d laugh as if it wasn’t the nth time he’d done that. If we were sleepy, we might drift off. I know many mornings most of us looked barely awake—breakfast and devotions were usually before we were dressed.
I’m not sure exactly what we got out of it, yet there was a repetition of Bible stories, uplifting thoughts and stories, and prayer requests that we’d hear and pray for, getting us well acquainted with key names, churches, and organizations in our denomination. It was faith formation on a home scale, and while there are probably better tools today to use with young children, there is something to be said for basic biblical literacy that can blossom even out of scary old Bible stories where lions (or is it bears?) come suddenly out of the woods and big fish swallow disobedient sailors.
While the Bible is not all uplifting, there’s something about taking time to focus on something besides getting ready for work, taking out the dog, what you’re going to make for supper, and cleaning out the dishwasher.
One of the writers for Rejoice! is author and pastor April Yamasaki from British Columbia. Two years ago she wrote the book Sacred Pauses: Spiritual Practices for Personal Renewal (Herald Press). I wrote about her book when it was first published (2013) but a reviewer recently wrote of the book, “Yamasaki wants us to be ‘deliberately attentive to God’ (p. 21) and, even more, to believe this attentiveness is possible and rewarding for all of us regardless of the demands of our family or career/ministry responsibilities. She gives an abundant list of practical ways to do this in ordinary life” (Gwen E. White, in Brethren in Christ History and Life, Aug. 2015, p. 318).
Recently April wrote on her blog (www.AprilYamasaki.com) about a related issue: gratitude, a good topic for this season of the year. April’s original article about the spiritual practice of “daily writing down something that you are grateful for” appeared in Christian Century earlier this summer. On her blog, she followed up by saying she wishes she could amend her Christian Century article, noting how she and her husband both feel that the discipline of noting their gratitude is actually shaping their attitudes about life. That is pretty remarkable! Her word makes me want to try it again. I say again because I’ve done it for brief periods—once members of our small group at church were each given a small notebook to write in. I think I would do better on the computer—but keep it private.
The word rejoice can be another way of looking at gratitude. So again, for a slightly different angle on a spiritual discipline you might want to try, consider a Rejoice! breakfast (subscribing to the devotional magazine is a great idea, of course; see information below, or use any other resource you have); but even without that tool, you can open your day by offering a prayer to God about something for which you rejoice. For example, you might say “Today I rejoice that . . .” and finish the sentence or write it down. Another idea, if it works better for you, would be to close each day with a reflection on the question, “What can I rejoice about today?” Some days those thoughts will come easily, but if you are in a time of loss or tragedy, I know that will be hard. But perhaps it will still be worthwhile to practice as you are able.
For sample excerpts or to order the Rejoice! devotional for the new year, go to http://www.faithandliferesources.org/periodicals/rejoice or write to Another Way, 1251 Virginia Ave., Harrisonburg, VA 22802.