It seems like only yesterday we were finishing up our school year and stretching our legs out into the languid days of summer. Weeks of unscheduled bliss fanned out before us, smelling like chlorine and salt air and freshly cut grass in the sunshine.
Suddenly, it is late August. Another year of school is staring us in the face, with books to be bought and paperwork to be completed and schedules to be arranged. There are more places to be and more things to do and less time to wash the clothes that people want to wear to go those places and do those things.
I’ve been feeling a little frantic trying to juggle all the moving parts lately, and my family’s anxiety level has risen along with my own. One morning, as I brushed my teeth while answering a series of questions from my children (who always seem to need answers while my mouth is full of toothpaste), my head was spinning with all the challenges and worries of my week. I asked God what we needed.
The answer in my head surprised me.
You need to focus on what’s good.
With so many things competing for our attention, it can be hard to focus on anything. If something does get my attention and hold it, it tends to be a crisis, a discord, something that is out of place and needs to be fixed. Instead of focusing on what is good, I allow my mind to spiral into worry over all the things that are not going the way I want them to go right now.
Failing to focus on what is good can lead to a feeling of anxious chaos in my family life. This is not how we are meant to live together, and it doesn’t help us to serve others that God puts in our path. In an attempt to refocus on what is good this fall, my family has chosen to pray Philippians 4:8 together as a Family Focus Scripture verse. It says:
Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
Philippians 4:8, NRSVCE
Choosing a family focus verse has, in the past, helped to anchor us when times were challenging. It gives us a shared way to pray, even when we aren’t together physically. It unifies our efforts around a common theme.
There is great power in the words of Scripture. The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us that
“Christianity is the religion of the ‘Word’ of God, a word which is ‘not a written and mute word, but the Word which is incarnate and living.’ If the Scriptures are not to remain a dead letter, Christ, the eternal Word of the living God, must, thought the Holy Spirit, ‘open our minds to understand the Scriptures.’” (CCC 108)
The Bible is a light for us in times of darkness. Its words are clarifying, telling the truth in times when it is hard to discern what is right and what is wrong. Furthermore, the Bible is unifying, giving us a common, shared language in which to pray and to talk about our experience. It makes sense that we should share it in our prayer as a family, especially when we face difficulties together.
Choosing a Family Focus Verse out of the whole Bible might seem overwhelming at first, but it is something that anyone can do. Here are a few simple steps to help you.
- Pray about the needs of your family. Ask the Holy Spirit to speak to you through Scripture. You can also ask for Mary’s intercession or for the prayers of a favorite Saint. Identify the issue you want Scripture to address.
- Use a concordance or search tool to find verses about that topic. Many Bibles have a topical concordance at the back, where you can look up a word and find verses that contain that word. I like using BibleGateway.com because it is easy to search by keyword and includes many different Bible translations (including all the Catholic ones). Choose a verse that speaks to you and to your need.
- Find ways to make the verse part of your daily life together as a family. Post it in a common area, like the refrigerator or on the bathroom mirror where you will see it every day. We have our verse posted on the pantry door, which is next to our dining table in the kitchen. At meal times and during our homeschool morning time, we repeat the verse together. You could also say the verse before bed or during a family prayer time or when you are in the car- whenever you gather together and everyone can participate. Pray the verse throughout your day and at any time when the situation you are dealing with seems hard to face. When you do, know that God is speaking to you and to your need through His Word. He cares about your family and your struggles. You are close to His heart.
God gave us the Bible not only to tell us the story of our faith, but to help us to know Him and build a relationship with Him. He still speaks to us through His Word, and it is relevant to the problems and challenges of our modern family lives. Asking the Spirit for a family focus verse is a way to invite the Word of God to speak directly to our situation right now- to heal, to comfort, to bring life and light.
Copyright 2017 Abbey Dupuy