My wife Tracy has reviewd the following book, Treasuring God in our Traditions, by Noel Piper.
When I was a child, I looked forward to each major holiday in our home as a time when we would do the same family activities in the same way year after year. Even today, I treasure traditions I grew up with and hold to them very closely. They continue to give me a sense of belonging, of comfort, and of anticipation. In Noel Piper’s book, Treasuring God in Our Traditions, she states that “both heirlooms and traditions strengthen our sense of history and belonging” (15). In our chaotic and hectic lifestyles, we need, as Christian families, to think through our traditions and intentionally set out to develop the best of what we grew up with, as well as the best of what we develop for our current families. Piper’s book is full of practical suggestions and inspiration for doing just that!
Piper begins by establishing that the most valuable family heirloom we have is our relationship with Christ. If this is true in our lives, then we should structure our “everyday traditions” and our “especially traditions” around this fact. Traditions and ceremonies in our home become visual representations of our faith and allow our children, as well as visitors in our home, to see our faith illustrated in concrete and tangible ways.
The ceremonies, yearly feasts, and remembrances God gave the Israelites in the Old Testament speak of the power of such annual events. God designed these times as reminders for the adults, as well as teaching times for the children. Piper defines a tradition as, “The things we do regularly that help us in our deepest being to know and love and want God, the things that help our lives to be infiltrated with God—those things are tradition. And then if there are children in our lives, to pass these God-focused activities to the next generation—that’s what tradition is for a Christian.” (25).
The next question is how traditions are imparted, or how they teach the truths we want them to express. Piper responds with two main points. First, tradition must be intentional. It must be planned. We must think beforehand what we want our holidays to say, and then plan traditions that will support that teaching. Second, tradition must be consistent. We must do things the same way each year, while being flexible and realizing that some things change with the ages of our children, or the make-up of our family
A particularly profitable section of the book is two chapters devoted to “everyday traditions”. We often live very hectic lives with chaotic schedules at a haphazard and frantic pace. We do not have time to do intentional things, nor do we spend much time thinking about the day-to-day rituals of our lives. Piper gives many practical suggestions about ordering your child’s day, scheduling one-on-one time with Dad, doing morning chores, accomplishing bed-time, going to church, and doing daily family devotions. All of these activities become much easier and happier when everyone knows what to expect. We also illustrate for our children how important they are when we make them part of our everyday traditions.
The next three chapters are devoted to “especially traditions” including weddings, funerals, birthdays, Christmas, and Easter. I found the chapter about Easter especially exciting as we tend to have many traditions around birthdays and Christmas, but perhaps fewer intentional traditions centered on Lent and Easter.
The only disappointment I had with this book was the lack of any real place for what I would call “just-for-fun traditions”. While I would heartily concur with Piper that our traditions ought to speak of Christ and our Christian faith, and holidays in general are far too secular, I would also like to see a few fun traditions throughout the year. It may have been beyond the scope of Piper’s book to include such events, but what about hunting for pumpkins at the local pumpkin patch in the fall, making strawberry pancakes on the first day of spring, or dying Easter eggs at Easter. While these kinds of things do not necessarily fall under the category of religious traditions, they can speak to a child about the joy of special activities reserved for special days. They can be fun times for the whole family, even if that is the only real spiritual lesson they impart.
I heartily recommend this book to all families whether you have children or not. All people, whether adults or children, need the special place of yearly traditions in their lives. We all need the comfort and assurance that there are some things we will do the same way every single time. Along with that, we can all be challenged to live our everyday lives with a little more ritual and dependability, making sure the intentional things we want to do are given the priority in our day. After all, God is a dependable God. These rituals and traditions are but a shadow of our God with whom there is no shadow of turning or change. May God bless your family, and the traditions you hold dear!