Sunday, December 30, 2007

A Fuzzy Christmas Story

I especially love Brother Maynard's new dad Christmas story(the fuzzy part).

(From one of Brother Maynard's other posts, Ratatouille is worth seeing, I agree! Even my husband sat through it. He thought he could trick me. He thought he could sleep but once he opened his eyes he got into it. We'd been talking about a similar theme. The trade was my watching the Bourne Ultimatum with him. Ok. I fell asleep. Hopelessly asleep at Bourne Ultimatum. I owe him another movie. We went to see Enchanted, too. So I actually owe him two movies. I wouldn't call Enchanted a kid's movie. Maybe. Then again, as an adult, you have to sit through the first half hour of smultz to get anywhere near the meat of the story. But again, interesting enough, we had just been talking about the same theme in a different context. He liked it! On to Alvin and The Chipmunks! He just looks at me. I think that's a "no!")

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Christmas Eve 2007

Christmas Eve we went to a church my daughter enjoys 2 hours from here, near the town she works in. They had a life size manger complete with life-sized doll, real hay in the manger and on the floor.

The pastor's message was about imagination. He said imagination is the bridge between the seen and the unseen. Faith is, too. Exploring the connection between faith and imagination - another post.

Well, my imagination took off. I know there are churches with live manger scenes at Christmastime and life sized figurines, but I wonder...

What would you find in the stable when Jesus was born? Hay? Animals? Sand from the desert? What would Mary and Joseph already have with them? What would they need for themselves, their donkey, their new baby? Think about all five senses: smell, sight, sounds, taste, touch.

What if each of the kids in a church brought something from home (on loan) for a manger scene ... I'm thinking in the form of stuffed animals or a pail of water or a basket of corn or grain . . . Rubber spiders? Thread for spider webs? Kids on farms will have different ideas about what they'd find in a barn than city or suburban kids.

A different slant, what do we think we need for a new baby today and what did they need 2000 years ago? What if you had no money?

You have a whole year to let your imagination play with this. What will kids come up with if left to their own imagination ...

If they come up with really odd ideas instead of telling them they're wrong, ask why they chose to include that item ...story, dialogue, conversation ...

Friday, December 21, 2007


This is random but check out R.E.A.D. reading assistance dogs. They are pet therapy dogs who listen to kids practice reading. They just listen, they don't judge! Apparently the program is quite successful as student reading skills and confidence improve. Their respect for animals grows and even their involvement in after school activities increases. Maybe because of new confidence gained or an increased willingness to try new things and not be afraid. Don't know. R.E.A.D. is found in many parts of the country. Hopefully we will see one in our area come fall.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Pondering discipline

I keep thinking that I'm done posting for this season but I guess not!

Emerging Parents has a nice post about discipline. I think their whole month of November is about discipline.

The line that jumped out at me was this: Sarah said, "I don't believe that gentle discipline equates to sparing the rod, but to me that rod signifies the guidance of a shepherd's staff, not an instrument of physical punishment." The shepherd's staff - more a tool for guidance than for punishment.

The church didn't teach me to read the scriptures that way, or to think that way. There was, however, a book years ago called A Shepherd Looks at the 23rd Psalm by Phillip Keller. It was a wonderful book. Very insightful. It's still in print! I remember that one of the things he said that struck me at the time was that a western shepherd drives his sheep but an eastern (Middle East) shepherd calls his sheep and they follow him. A different relationship. My father, a dairy farmer, once told us how stupid sheep are. At the time, he didn't understood why God compared us to sheep.

I don't know if this came from the book, but even if someone with livestock has no compassion, a good business person doesn't beat and destroy their stock - if only because their livestock is an asset, a business investment. Yet, when we hear about the rod in Proverbs we assume it's a rod for beating. That's what we're told. For generations (and even today) in many cultures children, animals, even women, were beaten to get them to comply. Yet, in any of those cultures, I want to think there are wise farmers more apt to lure an animal with a pail of grain.

As I read Sarah's comment, I was thinking back. Often, if you were herding cows you might carry a stick so you could reach farther than the length of your physical arm to keep an animal from getting past you. It would help you keep them from going somewhere you didn't want them to go or guide them in the direction you did want them to go. You might even use it for a gentle nudge. If I understand the scriptures correctly, wrath wasn't God's first response towards Israel when they did wrong. Yet even the long-suffering God who is Love gets angry and punishes His people when He has to.

Proverbs 22:5-7 uses the word, "train" - "train up a child in the way he/she should go... " But the passage doesn't mention spanking or beating. The passage we wrestle with, the passage that implies physical punishment is Proverbs 23:12-14. If you check out the word "beat" in Bible Gateway that passage is the only passage out of 75 that refers to children, unless you see children as fools.

Someone who views a child as a fool might include all the references to "fool" (another word study) which would inevitably guide his/her parenting. Children may not be mature wise adults but it doesn't appear that Jesus considered them fools. Jesus does, however, talk about fools. Some versions define "Raca," as "you fool!" It's a problem when we assume someone is a fool and that the only way to teach and train them is with harsh discipline. Do you see the road to abuse? "Fool!" beating, murder . . . It's our job as parents and teachers to love the children in our care and teach them wisdom so they aren't fools . . . but . . .if I read scripture correctly, we're all fools! You might convince a fool, a child, an animal, to behave a certain way in order to avoid the pain. But, as someone else said, learning to avoid pain doesn't require a change of heart, just a change of behavior.

It's interesting that Jesus uses the word "teach" not "train" in Matthew 28, "teaching them to obey all that I've commanded you." Do some word searches on Bible Gateway: "beat," "blows," "train," "teach," "child," "fool."

Training is different from teaching. I'm learning about training from my dogs. I hope I'm learning about teaching, too. Hopefully, the day will come when I don't need a pocketful of hot dogs to reinforce their "Come." Hopefully, some day they will just come. Some days I marvel at all they've learned. Other days I know we're still training. We may forever be "still training." Some dogs are harder to train than others. Some trainers get better results when they use corrections wisely with generous rewards and praise. Some trainers never need a correction. It depends on the dog. I've read that a mother dog understands that. She corrects each of her pups differently, as they need it. A wise handler finds out what motivates his/her dog. A good parent is willing to find out what motivates their child - the good choices and the bad. Easier said than done. Our kids changed their likes and dislikes if we tried to use such things to change their behavior. Sigh...

To let my dogs run free, I have to trust that they'll listen to me and come when I call. But it's the best reward! They also have to trust me and respect my leadership so they choose to come even when they'd rather follow whatever I'm calling them from. Either way, I need to keep them safe. Some training is training to learn good manners or to do a job. A lot of training is for safety "whether you like it or not." As always, easier said than done.

We don't equate children with animals but they are baby humans who need us to love, train, and teach them. They weren't created to be independent creatures from the day they were born. We can learn a lot about parenting watching animals parent their children. They usually have less than a year to teach their children how to survive and thrive in their social environment. I bet we can learn a lot about the God who made them, too - if only that He may not be as harsh as we've made him out to be.

You can also think of kids as young vines to prune and train to stay on the fence so their fruit can get enough sun and ripen without rotting in the dirt. I like all the living examples in scripture. Interesting. Living examples from a Living God who keeps helping us learn how to live.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Christmas Creative

I discovered this [2006] looking for 3 inch wooden shepherds for our creche. It's very random but I hope you enjoy the wide variety of art and the creativity! I especially like the kid-friendly faces. You just have to keep scrolling and scrolling and scrolling....

[The 2007 version] The Teddy Bear Tree is pretty cool!

This is very random except that I have artists that live in my house (when they're home!) IF you're an artist, check this out. I don't know anything about the artist but I like his just-for-fun T-shirts...

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Stories and Dialogue 2

You probably have some better answers but right off the top of my head maybe it means telling stories that leave the listener with more questions than answers. They aren't stories that answer questions. They're stories that leave you with questions. Maybe that's why the stories of scripture are as sparse as they are.

But we have to assume that the details that ARE in scripture are important. Maybe they're important because they cause us to ask questions. Maybe they're just details that matter to God and His story. Maybe they're things we can relate to generation after generation, culture by culture. Maybe they are just true.

Take a really simple story that you know! How can you tell that story leaving a lot of questions unanswered ... We don't always have to have answers. We do really need to listen to the questions.

I think it's important that we, as story-tellers, ask questions too - not just questions like, "What did Mary ride to Bethlehem?" But questions like, "Did you ever pet a donkey? How do you think it feels? How do you think it smells? Do donkeys have to eat? Did Mary and Joseph have to carry food for both of them, and the donkey? Where did the donkey sleep?"

A child might ask what color was Mary's hair? Well, it probably wasn't blond ... (Gee, how come it's blond in that picture?) Was it long? ... hmm... don't know. I don't think people cut their hair then ... Never? That can take a conversation in an older direction.

Was the donkey fat? Mary rode it. They had to carry everything or else they had to buy it. Well, they were poor so they didn't have much money. Mary was pregnant so they had a lot to carry but not much room. The donkey and the people had to eat . . . Maybe there was grass to eat...hmm...Middle East, desert... Maybe not...don't know...I bet the donkey wasn't fat. So, you're growing critical thinkers, too.

You can do the same thing when you tell your own personal experiences with faith.

"When you were three I slammed my finger in a garage door. I heard it crack. I called Dad so he could pray for me but it hurt so much I almost fainted on the floor. You prayed for me and it didn't hurt so much. I could bend it. God made it better."

"How did God do that?"

"I have no clue."

"How come when I prayed for you when you were sick you just got worse and it took a whole week to get better?"

"Hmm . . . maybe if you hadn't prayed for me I would have been sick even longer?"

"You might have died?"

"Maybe . . . are you hungry?"

Maybe having answers isn't what's important . . . Maybe it's just growing the habit of being comfortable talking together, asking questions together, looking for answers together . . . You each bring something to the journey that the other doesn't have, not just because of age but because you're different people. Maybe it's growing the ability to live with unanswered questions ie. trusting God with all the things we don't know, with all the unanswered questions ...

And hey, you have a lot of grow time. You get to start with the questions of a baby and work your way up one year at a time to a grown-up! Don't worry. Even if you have a champion question-asker you have all the time your kids aren't around to think about the "answers." You might even get so good that you can anticipate the questions!

Do you listen to God's stories? Do you have conversations with God? Do you ask Him questions? Do His stories make you want to ask more questions? Does He answer all your questions?

Me? Don't ask me. I'm the question - asker . . . If I actually come up with reasonable answers to questions they're a couple weeks late . . . Hmm . . . But when you come back to someone a couple of weeks later after having thought about the stuff of your conversation all that time ...

"Gosh are you still thinking about that conversation we had? You've been thinking about my questions all this time . . . You've been thinking about me?"

Wow...there's more to this than I thought!

Stories and Dialogue 1

Here's a fun discussion at Emerging Parents "What Do These Stones Mean." (10/11/07) Did I already post something about this? Here's more!

In some ways the stones are like the Creche at Christmastime at home and or at church. There are lots of Christian symbols you can use like that: the symbols of Advent, the symbols of Lent...symbols that bring stories to mind.

But the meaning of the stones by the Jordan was more than a corporate memory at the time. They triggered very personal memories. Stories. Experiences.

For the yet-to-be-born they would be hearing, and later sharing, someone else's stories like hearing stories from your parents and grandparents or your parents' friends and telling them to your children.

The "stones" you choose give you opportunity for story and conversation. Now is the time. Now you have opportunity, while your kids are home to share your stories and talk. You can keep simple things around you to trigger those stories. You can change them, rearrange them. In the OT, the stones stayed put. The people moved. We move or stay put. We get rid of "stuff" ... well, most people do ... Don't come to my house. Yes, it's much harder to get rid of all the stuff when there are stories attached...I'm trying to take pictures of story items before I get rid of them (if I get rid of them) but it's not the same.

Did I tell this story? My daughter is home for graduate school she spent the summer helping me clean, clean out, rearrange, paint, etc, etc. We don't know where she came from. [smile] Some ancient relative ... We start to re-arrange things. And one day she looks at me and says with a sigh, (and this was a revelation to everyone) "Mom,I arrange by color, size, and shape. You arrange by story. You put things together because they tell a story..." Yes, she gets quite frustrated with me... but she smiled. It was a cool revelation. Hey, that's what happens when you marry someone, you put the candles on the mantle and he moves them telling you he doesn't like symmetry...

Alot of stuff came home when my husbands parents died. One of my biggest regrets (besides losing them) was realizing when I opened the boxes that I never got to hear the stories...We could guess but it's not the same. [I'm really not condoning hoarding or clutter. I am condoning using the stuff of life to tell stories about life and faith.]

The bigger question here is how do we tell stories that generate dialogue?

Monday, December 10, 2007

Food for Thought Dec '07

I haven't read Fresh Dirt in quite a while but he has some great food for thought.

Friday, December 07, 2007


Still thinking...

"Even the sparrow has found a home,
And the swallow a nest for herself,
Where she may lay her young—
Even Your altars, O LORD of hosts,
My King and my God." Psalm 84:3

This is one of my favorite images from scripture.

Sanctuary. Sanctuary of a safe place, sanctuary of the outdoors, sanctuary of caring/nurturing/predictable routine/predictable people, sanctuary of strong, dependable relationships, sanctuary of the familiar, sanctuary of unstructured alone-time, sanctuary of quiet, sanctuary of freedom. . . Bring your own descriptions and associations for "refuge" and "sanctuary". Don't be surprised if they contradict each other.

Sanctuary. Is it something the church provides or does God just expect us to weave it into our individual lives? Does it matter whether or not we seek out that still quiet listening place? Some homes in some cultures have altars. Is that what we're talking about?

As more and more homes become actively involved - even the driving force - behind the spiritual formation of their children whose job is it to provide teaching, training, opportunities for service, social opportunities to build relationships with different generations, worship, sanctuary, stillness, fun?

What is the church responsible for? What is the family responsible for? Just asking the questions assumes that both church and family are expected to be responsible for something. Is the assumption legitimate and Biblical? Or can we let it just happen and be what it is.

What is the purpose, job, responsibility of the church? I'm not talking about the 4-walled church. I'm talking about the corporate people of God. Last weekend. we went to a restaurant in Dulles, VA . One of the things my husband likes about this particular place is the way the wait- staff look out for their customers and for each other. They probably have specific responsibilities but they go the extra mile to pay attention to the people they serve even if it isn't their table.

Do all the things we spend time and money and energy on actually accomplish the things that God expects His church to be about? Does God expect us as individuals or as the church to find or provide sanctuary? times and places of refuge? The blood, money and resources that went into all those mammoth stone cathedrals were probably intended, at least in part, to create a refuge and sanctuary. No doubt there were other less noble ambitions attached. There was a time when people ran to cathedrals and monasteries for sanctuary. There were times when even armies respected these sanctuaries of faith. Does God expect the church to create a sanctuary for us? Wait. We are the church...

The Old Testament is full of references to refuge - cities of refuge in Numbers. God as refuge in Psalms. In Isaiah, Zion is a refuge. But the references to refuge seem to end in Nahum. Then one more reference shows up in Hebrews. It seems odd that all of the New Testament contains only one reference to "refuge."

What about Jesus?

God is a refuge. Jesus is God. Jesus came as a man. People were drawn to Him. They came for healing. They received forgiveness. They came hungry for the words He spoke. Wasn't Jesus a refuge? He didn't build a tabernacle or a temple or a cathedral. He didn't create a place. He didn't even stay put in one place! People followed Him but you don't see Him getting all mushy and sentimental, wrapping His arms around the weak and the meek. Did the people who walked with Christ find refuge there?

Do people run to the church or to Christians for sanctuary and refuge today? (I'm thinking they run in the other direction . . .) Is there a need to build some sense of sanctuary and refuge into our lives and the lives of our children not just for quiet alone-time with God but perhaps to provide sanctuary and refuge to others? Maybe because we're created in the image of the God who is our refuge? I wonder. . . There are things we can be and do alone because we were created in the image of God. There are things we can only be and do together because God is so much more that any of us will ever be alone.

Maybe the sanctuary and refuge that Jesus brought to us was His example: mingling and withdrawing and mingling again. He brought revelation of the Father (David's refuge) and opportunity to be reconciled with Him. The Holy Spirit dwells in us reminding us of the truth of scripture that God, Himself is our Refuge. I think there are people on this earth who become a refuge, a sanctuary to others. I think there are also groups of people who provide sanctuary and refuge to others.

That's as far as I've gotten so for thought...something to ponder.

Thursday, December 06, 2007


I always thought that children should have a creche scene to play with through the season of Advent instead of something they couldn't touch. What do you think?

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Children Matter: Busyness

"Although children profit greatly from participation in worship and other congregational events, relationships grow over time in smaller face-to-face groups. . . time for conversation is a wise investment..." [CM p. 146] They talk about relationships being like the nervous system of the body. They also have neat ideas for involving adults in children's activities even if the adults have no desire to teach.

But my mind took a turn to think more about taking time... time to notice, time to listen, time to interact, time to think, time for quiet, time to just let things happen ...

"Too often our view of the church gets in the way of building community and meaningful relationships. We get so busy running the 'corporation' and managing programs that children, relationships, and community get lost." Linda Cannell wrote "If Churches Were Parks." I don't know the rules about printing the whole thing here. Someone else posted it. If you Google it, you can find it with source and author noted.

The park image is great for taking away the walls. Seeing beyond the business and busyness of church is an important is part of that. Post-moderns in particular seem to be searching not just for community but for the still quiet place of the ancient cathedral. The park and the sanctuary of a mammoth cathedral may seem like opposites. In some ways they are. In other ways, they aren't.

The lives of children who go off to a systematic daycare 6 weeks after they're born, and on to pre-school, kindergarten, 20 years of school, then on to the world of work lead very regimented lives. Schedules are necessary. Order is imposed.

I read an article in the local newspaper when my kids were young. The author was so grateful that, as a child, she had unstructured alone time. It wasn't just a time to rest and retreat from the world. It was also the time she used to create and imagine and think her own thoughts.

Creative people need that. Children need that. Children need relationships but they also need time alone. Can children be alone and still be supervised? Can we provide still, quiet times and places without walls?

The authors ask some great questions. These are extra!

Children Matter: Service

"Children are also blessed through relationships with persons in a wide age range, from teenagers to senior citizens. Cathy saw that beautiful mix of ages one morning during Vacation Bible School week..." [CM p. 145] The authors go on to tell some of the many ways that different ages found different ways to serve the kids. "The extended family had gathered to serve the children, enjoy time together, and build relationships as the children learned more about Jesus." [CM p. 146] This is really wonderful. Can't you see the joy and excitement in everyone's eyes?

I'd never thought about it before but here's my question: How many different ways can we find for children to return that same gift of giving to some the people who give to them? Thank you notes, cookies, flowers and candy are nice. Doing things for the elderly that they can't do themselves is a wonderful service, too. But how can children serve teens? How can children serve middle aged "aunts" and "uncles" or young adults or college students? It's a question.

And if you say, the teens don't want the kids around . . . hmm . . . not ever? It works both ways! Such an opportunity! We need each other!

Children Matter: Male and Female

Still reading Children Matter. More food for thought!

They talk about community relationships being even more important than programs when it comes to spiritual formation, particularly for children.

This was nicely said: "Based on a legitimate concern for protecting children from sexual abuse, some churches do not allow men to work with young children. But children need the experience of learning with and from men, worshiping with them, and knowing that they love Jesus. Especially little boys need to know that real men love and serve God . . . Our policies must protect children from abuse while releasing both men and women to love, teach, and nurture children." [CM p. 145] Women can do serious harm to children, too.

Freeing both men and women, old and young to love, teach and nurture children is particularly important as nuclear families are less in touch with extended family and as more and more children grow up in single family homes. Men and women capable of developing emotionally healthy relationships with children bring different things to children. The things that men and women bring to family sometimes seem to conflict especially when kids are little, but kids need both hard edges and soft hearts.

Ok. That's a bit stereotypical. Take the ways you are very different from someone of another gender in the way you interact with your child and just understand that kids need a measure of both, the mixture and size of the measure depends on the needs of the child. God made us male and female, after all. And we're not the same. Boys and girls, men and women need each other!