Dear Folks,

In my sermon last Sunday, I spoke about being prepared to act when the time comes.  The disciples had “stood by and watched” while Jesus was seized by the authorities; would we do any better?  Could we?  How do we get ready?

To begin, it’s a good idea to know what you stand for, and what you stand on, and the simpler to understand the better.  When families ask me about teaching their children ethics, I suggest they write their “code of conduct” together with the small fry, using language suggested by the kids.  Start with a couple of essential principles, add new ideas as you need them, and post the list in some central location.  Then like every good athlete or musician or friend, practice.

My family has a set of rules that we call “Ware-Do’s” that we’ve written together over the past 15 years.  (We borrowed the name from what my brother and I call our hair when we wake up in the morning—long or short, it stands straight up, so our rather special hairdo is called a Ware-do…)  Sometimes we post the rules on a bulletin board in the kitchen, sometimes they end up in my sock drawer, but wherever they are, we know them and refer to them quite often.  Among other things, the Ware-Do’s say:

Share.  Be kind.  Love your neighbor and love yourself: God loves you both.  Finish what you start.  Don’t run away.  Show respect to others… especially if you disagree with them.  Rinse off your dishes and put them in the dishwasher.  (This rule has been underlined by dad.)  Make a friend.  Listen, ask questions, draw the other person out.  Speak, if what you have to say will make the situation better.  If you can’t say something nice about a person, don’t say anything.  You are entitled to your feelings, but if you have a meltdown, move it to the driveway, where there is less traffic.  (Also underlined, twice.)  Put the other guy first.  Give one another the benefit of the doubt.  Practice.

Our family rules are a living document, written with different hand-writing at different times, in pencil, ink, and crayon.  When a bit of clarity dawned in the midst of a struggle, we wrote it down and referred to it later and slowly got it into our bones.  Our sense as a family is that the Ware-Do’s equip us for what might come; they are both practical and aspirational, ordering our loves and stretching us to be our best selves.  We made up the rules, but really they make us.

Last year at this time, I invited you to use the letters in THANKSGIVING around the table on Thursday to say what you are thankful for.  If you are ready for a new game, this year ask each person to offer one rule to live by, and see what you create together.  Throw out anything that doesn’t deeply resonate, keep the treasures, make a list, and practice.