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Off Mike Recap: Predictable Patterns and Missional Meals

By February 14, 2017Discipleship, Uncategorized
thinking-back

The Off Mike podcast features my in-process thoughts about a large number of topics.  In order to continue the conversation, I will present a written version of the key thoughts of these podcasts.

This podcast features Mike and Sally talking together how they’re implementing Family on Mission in recent days.

Listen to the podcast now in iTunes.

Sally

People ask us about predictable patterns all the time…

Mike

Especially when we’re doing the Family on Mission workshops.  It’s one fo the three main elements of Family on Mission:

  1. Spiritual Parents
  2. Predictable Patterns
  3. Missional Purpose

So the predictable patterns are really important.

Sally

And I think it’s the area people struggle with.

Mike

I get that people struggle. Life is busy, and it’s hard to organize our life into predictable patterns.

I remember the genesis of all this stuff after the little burnout episode I had in Hackney, before we were married. I came up to see you in Sheffield—you were still a student. I used to sit up on the top of that bus..

Sally

You went round and round. Two pence.

Mike
It sounds like we’re talking about the Victorian Period.  You spent two pence, get on the bus, and it was on a big loop outside your apartment with all those girls. I used to sit and read theology on the top deck of that double-decker bus and come all the way around. It took about four hours. Literally, you saw the great and the good on that journey.

It was really reflecting on all that and realizing that it was necessary for me to think through a more balanced lifestyle. I began to look at the Bible afresh. That was the beginnings of what became the rhythm of life, the Semicircle in Life Shapes, the exposition of the beginning of Jesus—especially the crossover between the end of chapter one and the beginning of chapter two that talks about the day of rest and how God established the day of rest—and then reflecting on that in relation to the 10 commandments.

That whole picture of a pattern of life, established by God himself as he creates and then looks at everything he has done

and then there’s evening and there’s morning, and it’s the first day

and then there’s evening and there’s morning, and it’s the second day

Sally

Very predictable.

Mike

Very rhythmic. You begin to get a sense of God creating the universe with these rhythms and patterns that we’re supposed to flow in and be a part of. That’s where it came out of.

As life has become more and more chaotic and more and more complex, many people need these predictable patterns even more.

Sally

You and I are very different personality types in terms of this. I love predictable patterns. My personality would not naturally like them. It’s not my nature to really like them. But I love them, and I love to reset them at the beginning of the year, and I love to embrace them.

The reason I like them is that I think it gives me a sense of confidence as I walk through the week, and a sense of clarity so I know where I’m going and know what I’m aiming for.

Mike

Right now, the predictable patterns that we’ve carried over from years and years gone by are always to have breakfast together and usually to have dinner together..

Sally

Probably Five out of seven days.

Mike

It’s very rare that I have dinner somewhere else. That was true when the kids were being raised. Even in busy parish in England, we still had breakfast and dinner together. We built our lives around the kitchen table, and I think that was enormously important.

Around the breakfast table, we read a portion of Scripture together. Right now we’re reading through the Moravian text Psalms, which helps me gear into the daily devotions that I put up on michaelajmesbreen.com. But the idea of reading Scripture over breakfast and eating dinner together has served us well for at least 30 years.

The idea, then, of predictable patterns giving security is tremendously important. I remember in the early days of researching the work around the rhythm of life and looking at the behavioral scientists—they all say that children raised with predictable patterns learn to trust their environment, learn to trust the authority figures in their life, and therefore grow much more secure in relation to those.

Sally

We literally just had an example of this. Finley and Libby and Penny have just walked by with the dog. Finley wants exactly what he had in the beginning, exactly the same way—a cup of hot cocoa. Children naturally yearn for it.

Mike

The interesting thing is that this pattern of adventure and retreat, of reaching out and returning, is a hugely important pattern. I think mealtimes are often the times when you return and touch base, press the reset button, and regroup. And then you can adventure out.

I think a missional lifestyle built around meal times is really important if you’re going to have the security to do that.

Sally

And also meals are a place of nurture. So they naturally become a place of discipleship.

Mike

And they’re a place of community. As the old proverb says, you have to put your weapons down to eat.

So predictable patterns…

The thing about me is that I’m very predictable—slightly compulsive even. I like change, but don’t like surprises.

Tonight we are starting a new predictable pattern. When we first arrived here, we broke into the neighborhood by having happy hour. Lots of people tried happy hour around the movement. The one I liked the most was popsicles on the porch.

It was great. We got to know everybody. Everybody felt like we were a non-religious presence within the community, even though they quickly realized we were a spiritual presence. The number of people in the community now who ask us to pray for them and often come to us with big needs and big issues. We get that quite regularly.

Sally

I would say once a week.

Mike

Sometimes they want us to pray for them right there and then. So this is a little way that we’ve journeyed. But now we feel like we want to build an anchorage point around which we can begin to encourage the community that’s already here as a neighborhood to be slightly more intentional. There’s an awful lot of informal connection in the community, but we thought a bit of intentionality was right.

Sally

I thought we had established our relationships enough to invite them for a meal. We’re doing our first one tonight. The crockpots are out, chili in them. People are bringing garlic bread and salad and cookies. Everybody was so excited. I said we’re going to do it every week, Monday night, between 6 to 8.

Mike

It can get the week off to a good start.

Sally

It’s a great way. We’ve got people that are probably alone a lot of the time coming over. We’ll eat, we’ll give thanks, and then we will (maybe not this first week, but subsequently) ask a question over dinner, or if anyone has anything they want to pray for. It will be very easy and lightweight and sustainable.

Mike

We’ll see how that goes. I think it’s very important in these things not to put too heavy of shoes on these things. I think sometimes we think there has to be a meal and a Bible study. I’m all for Bible study—I do one every day—but I think what we need to do is allow folks to engage. None of the people that are coming tonight, as far as I know, have any connection with a congregation.

Sally

I think the other thing is I’m not rushing around like a madwoman trying to get everything clean and tidy. It is what it is. Some meals will be better than others, and it doesn’t really matter. It’s easy. It’s accessible.

Mike

I’m really looking forward to it.

This whole idea of predictable patterns, I think it’s tremendously important in terms of the mission as well. If we think of retreat and advance as the pattern of our missional life, up until now we’ve been talking about the retreat side of it where we come back for meals, spend the night here sleeping, and in the morning have breakfast to start the day. This meal with the community will be much more on the retreat side.

As we go out, I think it’s important to have the same predictable patterns. You go to the same gym at the same kinds of times so you see the same kinds of people. You go to the same grocery stores and the same coffee shops. The idea is that you try a place for a while until you find a Person of Peace, and then you stay with it.

What else would you say in terms of predictable patterns?

Sally

It’s interesting. I was reflecting on this in terms of the things we’ve done. Obviosuly, our children have all left home. I was thinking of a few examples of things we’ve done.

For a while, we did Sunday night after church, anyone who wanted could come back for sausage sandwiches and 24. I bet if you ask anyone in Sheffield if they watched 24 in the Breens’ lounge—there was a lot of sausage confused.

And then daddy’s breakfast—every week you took one child for some special breakfast—their choice.

Every day when the kids came in from school, I did exactly the same thing. They walked in the door, there would be jam sandwiches ready for them, and they could sit in front of the television for 30 minutes.

We ate together every morning and every evening. If there was something extraordinary going on a church, we took the meal to you. We packed it up and we would come to you and eat in your office on the floor. It was that important to us to spend that time together.

We prayed with the children every night and read them a book.

All these things we did instinctively built patterns for their lives that they duplicate.

Mike

We did some things for whole periods of time and then didn’t carry them into teenagers.

Sally

Appreciation supper once a week on Wednesday night. We would say what we appreciated about every person around the table.

Mike
If we invited people, we had to think of things for them.

Sally

We had the special plate. The special plate is a plate that we’d bring out if it’s somebody’s birthday or if they’ve had a really hard time. It’s an encouraging plate.

Mike

So with our missional context, we go to the same grocery stores, coffee shops, gas stations. In terms of our retreat patterns, we do the same things—dinner and breakfast and read the scriptures. And we build people’s lives into the patterns of the predictable things we do. By doing that, we have the chance to make friends and build community and see the Lord advance his Kingdom.

Sally

It’s unbelievably exciting.

Mike
And very simple.

Sally 

I think it would be very nice if people told us what they do. Put your ideas in the comments so we can all learn together.

About Blake Berg

Blake lives in SC with his wife Kim and their three sons. He spends most of his time making pretty things at 3DM Publishing, messy things with his children, and loud things with his guitar.

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