Tag Archives: children

play

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Last night was fun. How many of our days begin that way? I often wonder. But last night was fun for me because it was our first youth group outing here in Nashville and we went and played FootGolf (It’s basically what it sounds like…golf played with a soccer ball with your feet). And it really was so much fun. Seeing thirty or so middle and high school students run around a golf course kicking and laughing and having a blast. And I was right there with them. For about two hours we weren’t worried about schedules or upcoming classes or responsibilities (and most of them weren’t even on their cell phones). We were just present with each other in the moment. Say what you will about teenagers and youth ministry, but when it comes to playing together we know how to be present in the moment.

It’s actually kind of funny. Over the years you hear different critiques about youth ministry and one of those that always seems to come down the pike is that youth ministry is all about playing. All they seem to do is look for ways to have fun together. Can I flip the coin a bit? One of my main critiques of my peers and those older than me in the church is sometimes this…they have no idea how to play anymore? When do they make time to play? I’m not talking about scheduled recreation or hobbies, but opportunities for belly laughing and goofing off and losing track of time as you find yourselves just being fully present in play with those around you.

In his letter to the Corinthian church Paul writes this amazing passage all about love. And nestled in the middle is this verse that most read through the lens of spiritual maturity, but I look at it a little differently. The verse goes like this, “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways.” – 1 Corinthians 13:11 Now I have the unique privilege of spending my working life around teens and my home life around kids even younger. It’s amazing to see the necessity of play in their lives. It puts them on equal footing, the expectations are understood and for the most part everyone is included. What if in speaking about love, Paul is referencing the loss of naiveté that is the heart of love. A love that doesn’t ask questions but includes everyone and draws them into a beautiful experience as one. You see, this is what play does. This is what so often we are missing as adults. So maybe today you need permission to…walk in the rain, jump in mud puddles, smell flowers, stop along the way, build sandcastles, watch the moon and stars come out, say hello to everyone, go barefoot, go on adventures, act silly, dance, fly kites, laugh and cry for the health of it, go wondering and wandering around, ride bicycles, draw and paint, fall down and get up again, talk with animals, stay up late for or even climb trees…in other words, play. Maybe this might be the way we see the Kingdom come crashing in on our lives once again.

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trick or treat

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One of my favorite events in the life of our church here in Odessa took place last night. For one night each year we roll out the red, or should I say orange, carpet in a big way. Our annual Fall Festival is awesome! We have about 50 or so volunteers rally to host over 500 people each year. There’s food trucks, inflatables, face-painting, carnival games, pop-corn, music and costumes…so many cool costumes. I love seeing all of the kids, and “adult kids”, coming to our church in their costumes for a night of fun and festivities. In fact, it seems that more and more each year people are really getting into the Halloween spirit. And yet, sometimes we in the church struggle with what to do with this holiday full of spooks and ghosts and ghouls.

I guess we could start by taking a look at our own history, after all, Halloween began as part of Allhallowtide, a Christian feast holiday. According to HistoryChannel.com, “In the eighth century, Pope Gregory III designated November 1 as a time to honor all saints; All Saints Day…The evening before was known as All Hallows Eve, and later Halloween.” Halloween was originally part of a Religious feast intended to honor those who have gone before us. And yet so often we see all of the hullabaloo of Halloween today feeling like something different from it’s Christian roots and often become something else entirely. Even as I am writing this I am thinking about all of those who feel like Halloween is a dark holiday to be avoided at all costs…and I respect your opinion, but think with me for a moment. Try putting yourself in the place of one of the kids who got be at our Fall Festival last night or who looks forward to Trick-or-Treating this coming week. You’re telling me that for a day I get to dress up like someone else, go around to my neighbor’s houses and they give me candy? It’s almost kind of magical. And who doesn’t love another excuse to eat candy?

I have always looked at scripture a little differently and I hope you will amuse me here. To me, one of the saddest verses in all of scripture is found in I Corinthians 13:11 “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.” So often we think of this as the natural maturation process, but what if it is talking about the loss of the natural wonder and love that comes with childhood? I think all to often we are ready to grow up and we miss the joy and simplicity of living that can be seen through the eyes of a child. Maybe if we began to see this holiday again through the eyes of a child and all the joy I saw last night we might be able to see it a little differently. Maybe the treat is found through the trick of seeing Halloween as a child. And maybe holidays like Halloween can be enjoyed in a new light as we seek to reclaim the world yet again through childlike wonder and joy.

 

 


shared

One of the things you sometimes forget about as parents of older children is one of the first lessons you have to actually teach your kids. One of the things you are reminded of quickly when you become parents of small children again is one of the first lessons you actually have to teach your kids. And that is the art of sharing.  For some reason, right out of the gate we seem to be naturally inclined to claim possession of things. This is mine, not yours. And if it belongs to me and you take it from me then I am entitled to any level of escalating violence to retrieve said object and restore order in the world. This becomes true of toys, snacks, blankets, stuffed animals, etc. ad nauseam. Luckily at some point, someone somewhere decided that sharing was a good idea and it started to become more of the norm…or did it? Today we continue to fight over toys (whose car/house is better), snacks (food resources), blankets (let’s just say land and natural resources), stuffed animals (each other as possessions) and whatever else you can think of. We forget that we share the same globe and more than not we even have shared stories…if we are willing to listen.

This past week I have had the opportunity to sit in and listen to shared stories on a couple of different occasions. In the first instance I found myself surrounded by ministry peers at a Young Clergy Conference in Oklahoma City. And although we all ministered in radically different contexts (what could be more different from West Texas than Northern California), we still found that many of our stories were similar and many of the issues facing us had common ground. Then just last evening I found myself in a room with people who are bit more seasoned in life. I had everyone share their stories of how they came to be in the Church of the Nazarene and why they continued to be a part of the church. And all of a sudden I realized how similar so many of the stories were regardless of years or experience that separated them. However, it sometimes seems that in today’s society we have been influenced by a mentality that reflects a perpetual toddler mindset. This is my story, not yours. You’re different. Give me that. We’ve allowed ourselves to be defined by a dominant narrative that defines me against you versus me alongside you.

When Paul was traveling on his missionary journeys throughout the book of Acts he came into contact with many different cultures/stories. Yet instead of looking for that which was different, or would set him apart, he would instead look for the shared story. In Athens we find him saying this, “ ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’” – Acts 17:28 Paul took the Athenian philosophers and helped the Athenians to recognize that they shared, not only a story, but their Divine heritage in God. Maybe we could take a page out of Paul’s book. Maybe we could come to realize that we share a lot more with those around us than we think. And maybe we can listen and tell stories and begin to see God open up doors that we previously had tried our hardest to keep shut. And maybe we will begin to realize that we all are God’s children and we are called to help each other live into that identity.


modeled

This last evening I got to witness something pretty spectacular. The school our two older children attend was hosting an open house and so we joined the throngs of parents navigating the hallways and classrooms to learn all about what are kids do for the hours they are away from us each day. We were able to meet our daughter’s teachers and hear about her progress, but my son’s teachers were indisposed. This didn’t seem to be a drawback for him though as he was free to roam about the campus. Little did he know, that I had been able to speak with one of his teachers earlier in the day and then last night I was able to observe her report in action.

Before we jump into her report I need to give you a little back story. About a year ago my son was diagnosed with a reading/writing disability (a form of dyslexia). And we have worked with him since then on trying to be on par with his peers. Last year we made a good deal of progress, but we knew this was still going to be an ongoing struggle. The teacher I met with showed me his most recent reading scores and although he still isn’t necessarily where he needs to be, he has made incredible strides. But then she paused and said, “But this isn’t really the most important thing. Your son is a really good kid. He has a huge heart and he is always so encouraging to all the other students.” Cue my heart swelling with love and pride. Cut to that evening when I got to see it in action. Although he wasn’t meeting his teachers with us, we got to see him hugging, high-fiving, and talking to every classmate he saw like they were his long lost sibling. His classmates are drawn to him like magnets (now if he could only get that concept in Science).

Sometimes I think about how lucky we are with Jonas. He really has enriched our life from day one. And truthfully there isn’t any real secret to our parenting. I often hear this verse quoted in regards to parenting, “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.” – ‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭22:6‬. But most often we think of this as instruction or teaching them what to do or not do and I think a better word might be model. If you want your child to be kind, show kindness. If you want your child to be loving, then love. If you want your child to be curious about the world, ask good questions. That which you long for, for your child to be should be modeled before them. I don’t say any of this from a place of pride, but rather from a place of accountability. We all have these models following us around. What are you modeling today?


lavish

A couple of days ago I was standing in line at the Post Office. If you ever feel like you are out of touch with humanity, I highly recommend a trip to your local branch. In the line in front of me there was a young dad with his 2-yr-old. His son was getting a little antsy so his dad decided to set him on one of the low tables to the side of the line while he waited. A few seconds later we all heard the thump-thump as his son fell backwards off the table hitting his head twice on the way down. I quickly helped the boy up to his fathers arms and we thought everything would be okay until we saw the blood above the eye and on the back of his head. Quickly the father scooped up his son and rushed him to the car in order to get him to a medical facility ASAP. Being a dad myself this was pretty traumatic and my mind immediately went to my own little ones wishing I could hold them for a second just to make sure they were safe and well.

Every time I have an experience where my daddy instincts kick in, I can’t help but think about how God the Father thinks of us. The writer of 1 John put it this way, “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” – 1 John 3:1. The word for “what great” is actually a question in the Greek. In other words, “what kind of love is it that God has for us that He would want to call us His children?” Think about that with me for a moment. God looks at us in our shortcomings, our sins, our failings, our depravity, our inability to measure up, our self-inflicted wounds, our anxiety, our worry, our violence, our hatred, our humanness and loves us so much He calls us his children.

Now as a father there are times when my children might get on my nerves a bit. I think we would all confess the same if we are honest. But if I were to be given the choice of being with them or apart from them, I would definitely choose the former. In fact, much like a mama bear or a bull elephant, I pity you if you attempt to keep me from my kids. And this feeling that I have for my own children is infinitesimally small compared to the great, lavish, bountiful, excessive, grace-filled, grand, glorious, inordinate, never-ending, never giving-up, unstoppable love that God has for you and for me. He would and did move heaven and earth, death and hell itself to be with you. This is a love that defies logic, reason, time, space, understanding and humanity itself because God took on humanity to be with us.

So today, if you find yourself feeling low or struggling to make it through another day, pause for a minute…and think about the lavishness of the love that brings the God who created the entire universe to look upon you and call you His own daughter or son. And know that this is who you are.


the velvet rope

I have never been one to frequent night clubs. Aside from being a Nazarene, it’s just not really my scene (and it’s not because of some weird phobia of dancing…I have moves like Napoleon Dynamite…John Travolta…Fred Astaire….ok maybe not). However, I have been to a few concerts in my day and so I suppose that might give me insight. You see, I have always been intrigued by the velvet rope. You know what I am talking about. The impassible shiny plush rope hung between gleaming chrome poles that is guarded by some roided (I think this is a word in the English vernacular) out individual simply known as the bouncer. And this bouncer’s responsibility is quite simple. He (or she I suppose) is to keep the normal run of the mill individuals away from the not so ordinary individuals on the other side of the velvet rope. Occasionally they will let someone pass, but only if they meet a certain criteria, have the right VIP passes or are of the same super human substance that allows one to exist on one side of the rope and not the other.

I’ve often wondered what it feels like to be the guardian of the sacred rope. Granted, I am not an intimidating individual and so I doubt anyone will ever ask me to assume vigil of such an important task. But I feel like I might understand the concept behind it a little. In the book of Matthew there is actually a velvet rope incident and I am afraid most of us might be able to relate. You see, people like(d) Jesus. He was evidently a very likable fellow unless you were very religious. And so one day people were bringing their kids to come and meet him. I don’t know why, but I have the image of a department store Santa in my head. And here’s what happened, “Then people brought little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked them. Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” – Matthew 19:13-14 The disciples had a velvet rope moment. They thought that Jesus needed protecting, or he didn’t want to be bothered, or that the kids weren’t good enough to take up his time. But Jesus quickly flips it on his head and reminds them of what the Kingdom of Heaven looks like.

I wonder if any of us have ever found ourselves being a bouncer for Jesus. “I don’t think Jesus has time for you right now.” “I think there are some things you need to work out before you can take up any of his time”. “Your lifestyle really isn’t fit for you to be in his presence.” Believe it or not, Jesus didn’t call us to be his bouncers. He called us to be his followers. And to follow him in such a way that other people want to follow Him as well. And more than likely this means we drop the velvet rope, lose the security badge and get rid of every obstacle that we have put up between others and Jesus and just let His children see Him for who He is. And if you ask me, it really becomes a lot less complicated this way. And who knows, we might become better followers in the process.


innocent

I honestly can’t believe it was fifteen years ago. Britney Spears was the darling of the pop-music world and her latest single had just been released. Contained in that single Oops!…I did it again were the now infamous lines, “I’m not that innocent”. Now granted, I don’t want to give Britney Spears too much credit, but it seemed as if a new age had been ushered in. Maybe it was due to the coinciding of a new millennium, but it seemed as if all of a sudden everything in the world was turned against innocence.  Now little girls were being asked to grow up into their teen icons faster and the fashion industry started targeting tweens. Little boys were being exposed to violence and pornography through video games and the internet at an astounding rate. And the result of a this over-exposure? We have become a calloused and cynical society that sees the world as overly hostile and beyond hope. And childhood…well, let’s just say it ain’t what it used to be.*

I sometimes even find myself being a little over cynical. Who wouldn’t?  Look at the news around us. A biker gang fight in Waco, TX. Civil unrest in major US Cities. International chaos from earthquakes to civil wars. But then I stumbled across a story this week that made me hope again. I’m not sure if you saw it or not, but it was about a 5-yr-old little boy in Alabama who decided he needed to feed a homeless man at a local Waffle House. You can see the video here: http://www.cnn.com/2015/05/19/living/5-year-old-feeds-homeless-man-waffle-house-feat/ . And I thought for a second, maybe all of the innocence hasn’t gone out of the world. That’s the amazing things about kids in their innocence. They don’t see someone who is homeless, of a different race or gender, someone who we might deem unworthy because of their circumstances or our preconceived biases. They see a person. And honestly, they see better than us someone who at the end of the day is really no different than them.

There is a verse in Paul’s letter to the Corinthian church that many people interpret differently than I do. It’s this weird verse in chapter 13 that is just sandwiched in there, “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.” – 1 Corinthians 13:11. I’ve always thought of this verse as a Lament for the loss of childhood and the innocence that comes with it. I know that childhood comes with some pretty crazy things sometimes. Children can be temperamental, selfish, whiny, etc. But children can also be the most generous, the most loving, the most accepting…really the most innocent when it comes to the world and the people living in it. Maybe we as the “adult” church need to take a lesson from our children and reclaim the way we look at those around us. After all, Jesus did say, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” – Matthew 18:3. May we find our innocence again and love like the little children.

 

 

* On a related note, I think it is so important for us to find ways to protect and foster the innocence that is such an important part of childhood and healthy development!


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