Monday, March 31, 2008
The best thing that happened last week was finding an opportunity for my dogs to play with other dogs and having the meet and greet go really really well. The fruit of lots of work and an answer to prayer.
This tops that! Guess what I saw randomly strolling through my city yard this morning? A wild turkey! She wondered around the yard for almost a half hour.
My dogs didn't find her and our good friend and neighbor didn't bag her for dinner. "A young hen alone without her flock," he said, "Very odd."
We go way back with wild turkeys. My parents had a farm and when they started seeing wild turkeys regularly they would call and tell us and no matter when we went to visit (a four hour drive) the turkeys never showed up. We dubbed the species the "Mythical Wild Turkey". It wasn't until our kids were grown that we started seeing them on a regular basis.
So now we have photographic evidence that the bird not only exists but that God answers prayers, though spoken many years ago. Sometimes God answers prayers in odd ways.
Since we bought this wild property in the city we have had unnameable four-legged rodents who were unwelcome, sent far away, and we don't mention them. We've had gray squirrels, red squirrels, chipmunks, racoons, skunks, opossums, a doe and her fawn, a wild turtle, various and sundry cool birds besides the usual city pigeons, sparrows and purple finches, a wild cottontail rabbit (and babies before the hawk or a cat got them), a woodchuck, AND now a wild turkey. How cool is that???
The hen found her way across the corner, wandered along the fence to the cemetery trying to find a place to squeeze through without finding a way in. Finally something scared her enough that she took off over the fence and she was free! She flew over the fence to safety.
You can take the girl out of the country but you can't take the country out of the girl!! I love it when God is serendipitous! Wonderful, amazing, and indescribable!!
Saturday, March 29, 2008
The Emerging Church in the Methodist denomination.
Used to be Emerging Grace
This site:Away with Words: In Pursuit of Authenticity is written by a youth minister in NYC.
As of this writing (March 29th, 7:30 am), it's 29 degrees outside and it looks like this:
If you look at these pictures you might think, "Someone had a snowball fight,"
If, however, you had been walking your dogs in the same place yesterday you would know that the trees are the ones throwing, or rather dropping, the snowballs
My parents are 4 hours away. They lost electricity and heat for a few hours. And they stayed home.
But here it was just enough to make the painting without destroying the canvas. The temperature must have stayed constant for more than 24 hours and we must have had almost no wind because the same snow covered branches were still staring at us last night at 7:30 . It was still light outside! Still light outside? Yes, it's supposed to be spring.
So you can look at all this scientifically or you can use the opportunity to imagine yourself 400 years in the past and think of some wonderfully mythical story explanation for a midnight snowball fight and trees that magically look like this overnight.
Either way, of course, marvel at God's handiwork.
I wonder if we choose the scientific explanations because we want our kids to grow up or whether it's because we understand the truth of science but we don't understand the truth of story. I wonder if 400 years ago stories of snow fairies and leprechauns helped grown-ups keep their sense of wonder - their only defense against losing childhood so quickly to their hard-scrabble existence.
I may wonder about odd things. It's fun! Take time to wonder with your kids. Better still, listen to your children wonder. You could share your wonder with them. Let them share their wonder with you.
Friday, March 28, 2008
After reading all those lists that are supposed to reflect the TV preferences of children in 3 countries (there's one for New Zealand, too, by the way). I googled Christian+kids+marketing. I don't know what I was expecting but I found lots of links to people in the Christian marketing business. I also found this article in USA Today. (December '07).
It's interesting because it briefly highlights some of the ways we wrestle over choosing Bible storybooks for kids and the different qualities that matter to different people. It reflects some of the changes in the way young parents are thinking. It also briefly mentions the perspective of children. It's interesting.
Grown-ups and older siblings generally control the TV. Parents and grandparents buy most of the books read to and by children. They are the people who read those books over and over and over ... so writers, publishers, and television producers market children's books to adults not just children.
If you're selling a story, you want kids to want to hear that story over and over and over. If it's a series, you want them to get attached to the character. You want them to keep coming back for more. The story has to mean something to a child personally. If it does, a child will carry it around in his/her heart getting up, going to bed, or walking along the way. . . even when they're 20, 40, 60, 80 years old. I don't think I'm taking that scripture too far out of context.
Watch and listen to your children when they're playing and pretending. Notice how those stories affect a child's choices and behavior even at a very young age. Notice the stories, characters, and situations that they keep playing with over and over again, the ones they not only remember but the ones they carry with them in their hearts, in their heads, in their imaginations. I heard a children's author once describe children's play as a way of editing story. You play it one way, you change something, you play it again always keeping the elements that matter most to you and the things that work - changing the things that don't work, trying to make them work, trying to make them better.
Stories we hear affect us - heart and mind. When the stories and characters in a story become our friends we carry them with us for a lifetime -TV stories, story books, family stories, Bible stories. There are stories that are good for us and stories that aren't. How do you decide?
Think about your own relationships with stories. Think about the people, the story characters, places, situations that you've carried with you over the years. God watches over His own word to accomplish all that He intends it to accomplish. I do believe that story started with God "in the beginning..." but I digress. Think about the stories from your childhood that had the greatest affect on you. Why do you think they left such an impression?
I think we have to carefully monitor the story diet of young children, less and less as children grow older and they've learned to choose and cultivated their own tastes and preferences. Even when children are small you can give them lots of practice choosing. Pick two books, two desserts, two TV shows, either or which is acceptable to you and let them choose without any prompting. Then respect the choice they make.
Think about your food preferences. How did your parent's preferences affect you? Apply that to your story preferences and the stories you grew up with. Which stories were the stories you loved? Which ones scared you? What relationships do you see?
Our personal and family preferences tell us something about ourselves as individuals, as part of a family, as part of a community. Polls and surveys are intended to tell us something about our larger culture. Consider that the stories that climb to the top of the polls are the stories most influencing our children, most influential in our culture.
It's not even the good or bad of it so much as what's the draw? What is it that's leaving it's mark? What is it that children are carrying around in their hearts? Oh yeah! What does it have to do with Jesus?
Thursday, March 27, 2008
...on second thought, maybe this is just advertising...I'll keep looking...
Top-ranked shows for kids is on the site, right here
If you keep searching this site you'll find some rather interesting information about tweens and children as consumers, too...
This one is from Wikipedia (2001) "This poll conducted by the British television channel Channel 4 in 2001. The 100 children's television series were chosen by Channel 4 and then ranked by the public in an internet and phone poll." I think this was also UK but many were familiar children's programs to me.
Here's the results from "The Parents Television Council™ ... annual ranking of the 20 most popular prime time broadcast television shows among children ages 2-17, based on Nielsen Media Research rankings." 2007.
I was flabbergasted..."...among children ages 2-17?"
I met a mom who was talking about her 8 year old calling her friend, "House" and I thought, ok he must watch the show. My friend just finished telling me what a fantastic mom she was. About the reference to "House" I thought, "That's interesting!" The show's on late but maybe the reruns are on early. Some of it wouldn't be appropriate for kids but some would be ok. I like the show, too.
So weeks later, I read the PTC poll. And I'm flabbergasted!
Does that mean that in this day and age, if you're looking to reach unchurched kids, it's not kid's entertainment you're competing with, it's adult entertainment you're competing with? Is that what it means?
Not that we have to compete with the entertainment world or with anyone for that matter . . . but still ... there's probably a reasonable explanation...like kids are only home when their parents are home and they watch what their parents want to watch?
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
Sunshine! (If you don't live in upstate NY)
Geese are coming back!
Maple sugar vats are out. (Visit Cummings Nature Center)
Sheep shearing is coming. (Check out Springdale Farm) . You can also watch for Farm Day at Lollypop Farm but I don't think they shear the sheep during the event. Not sure. If you ever get a chance to run your hand over a sheep the wool will feel greasy. Lanolin, I think. If you're going to talk about sheep in Sunday school, go meet and greet some sheep!
When you start to rake watch for new plants just starting to grow and bugs, of course!
Watch for buds on the bushes and trees. Stop and look when you walk by and watch them grow. Play a guessing game. Guess what they'll be!
If you have older kids they can begin to anticipate what plants and fruits and vegetables will be growing in your yard each year. Especially the berries!
Plant seeds, or plants, or trees, or bushes. Somehow we always manage to plant alot of something the year we get very little rain. Do yourself a favor and pick a rainy year! You never know 'til it happens. I know.
Watch for baby ducks. The baby birds and squirrels will show up later.
You get the idea! Enjoy whatever season God has provided in your part of the world! Read a Psalm! Praise the God who makes it possible!
Monday, March 24, 2008
The fun thing about this series is that the first book is written for the very youngest listeners with small bits of text and LOTS of pictures. Each book after that contains fewer pictures and more text so the books grow with the listeners as they become readers. I just thought it was pretty cool that they were doing that 80 years ago ...and yes, it's totally random!!
See what my family puts up with?
When I'm reading a book I like, My poor family has generally learned to tolerate my enthusiasm: "Want to hear this?" Car trip- rapt audience. Or not. But this time after she listened, my daughter told me about a friend student teaching in an eastern NYS urban elementary school. Her friend was amazed when she asked the kids how many had gone sledding. (It's sledding. I used to say sleigh-riding which meant something different to my parents and grandparents.) I can't remember if she said no one raised their hands, only a couple raised their hands, or that they didn't even know what it was. Out of a group of 20-30 kids in a classroom. You get the picture.
This friend was upset because, as she said, it's one of the most inexpensive of winter sports that parents can do with their children. She was upset because she felt like parents just didn't want to make the time. I thought maybe because it's an urban school. I thought, maybe they're too cold. (They had a winter coat drive for city school children in my city this year.) Maybe it's the 20 minute snowsuit ritual followed by, "I need to go to the bathroom." (x however many children you take.) Maybe it's the snowy puddles on the floor in the house or in the car. Maybe it's the fact that by the time parents pick up children and grown-up work is done for the day it's dark this time of year and weekends are full of chores. Maybe.... But this 23 year old teacher was really upset about this.
I will say that the parks in my city post signs that forbid sledding and list the parks where you can sled - a 20-30 minute drive away. You'd have to have a car, money to buy gas, a half a day to kill, and parental supervision. Or you'd have to drag kids and sleds on a city bus that would only run a couple times a day. That's cold! One park I know that posts signs has the best kid sledding hills ever- small, medium, and large slopes. Wide slopes so lots of people can sled without running into each other - if they're careful. In the early days of urban planning (our parks were planned by one of the best) they probably planned these parks for sledding.
Ok, there's the liability issue.
"Dead Man's Slope." That's the name of the hill closest to the rec center and I will bear testimony that it's a slope any adventurous kid would die for. It isn't a slope for the small or inexperienced but you don't have to go all the way up the hill. Yes, I got hurt but I shouldn't have been carrying my ice skates on a metal saucer that I couldn't control after the age of 42 and underexercised. And I didn't know there was a ramp-like bump hidden under the snow. The kids knew. And we had to walk home. It's not that far.
See, you don't have to read the book. That's why I don't think it's propaganda.
Spring is coming. Think about the "wild" outdoor places your parents and grandparents talked about. Think about the memorable places where you played as a kid. (Did you even play outside unsupervised?) Keep your eyes open. Are people still sharing those places with their children and grandchildren? Are kids still playing and exploring outside spaces in their free time?
Oh...free time...yup, that's in the book too.
He talks about fears that keep us inside, too, and shares a great deal of wisdom.
The thought of kids spending time outside alone being a thing of the past hits me hard because it was so important to me as a child. God was there, too, and I learned to be careful. The thought of my grandchildren and great-grandchildren being born into a social culture where they may never have that opportunity just grieves me.
Friday, March 21, 2008
I started this post on March 4th. I'm about 1/3 of the way through the book. Lots to quote. Lots to think about. I probably won't go chapter by chapter. The bottom line for me is this: What if we were to stop interacting with all that God's hands have created? I think the first ways I knew God, even when I wanted to be a doubter, was God as Creator and God as Father. Think about your understandings of the Creation story or the story of Noah's ark if the only way you interact with the environment is through movies, TV, or computer. Think about all the Biblical imagery from the outdoors. What if you only saw it through a glass window. What if children didn't know what the sea smells like or fresh cut grass? What if they never crumbled the grains of wheat from the top of the wheat stem. What if they never rubbed a donkey's nose or rubbed their hands through a sheep? Far-fetched?
Gee. Maybe you're reading this thinking, "I've never done those things!" It's not too late!
As he starts the book, Louv talks about a series of books written for boys in 1915. "...[W]hat really defines these books, and the age they represented," he says, "is the unquestioned belief that being in nature was about doing something, about direct experience - and about not being a spectator." [LCW p. 15]
What does it mean, "not being a spectator"? You go to a park and the guide tells you that every place you step in forest or meadow is someone's home. Look, don't touch! If everyone touched, it would be destructive. Does that mean being a spectator is the only way to protect our environment?
For centuries Native Americans and other peoples lived off the land yet with deep respect for the land and wildlife surrounding them acknowledging their mutual dependency. They used only what they needed to live - no waste. Their interaction was wise and respectful. Their stewardship mattered because their livelihood was at stake.
Today men, women and children still hunt and fish respecting the wild life systems they visit and love. They too for the most part are respectful and appreciative of the opportunity they have to interact with the natural world.
Then there are the people whose thoughtless wasteful interactions with the natural world ruin it for everyone else. No one who cares about the natural world wants people like this interacting with nature and destroying it for this generation or all the generations to come. But they were born into this created world just like everyone else. Excluding them denies them a significant portion of their God-given heritage.
Can I learn to interact with the outdoors without ruining it for the creatures who live there or for other people? Can we teach others so we aren't limited to just being spectators? Can we respectfully steward this God-created learning environment and still be able to immerse ourselves, interact with it, and enjoy it? The television screen or the glass window might protect the outside from the spectator and visa versa but when that becomes the only way we can interact with the outdoors and the only way to keep the outdoors in tact, it will be a sad day indeed. It means we've failed as stewards.It means we've failed to educate.
Observing is seeing. Hopefully, we observe with a willingness to recognize opportunities to interact for the good of another. Sometimes seeing means gazing with awe. But being a spectator is observing with no intention of interacting or participating.
The scriptures tell us to be doers. In Genesis we were called to steward all that God created. We were creates as just a small part of something bigger, not as spectators but interacting and participating. We were also the part of creation that God made in His own image.
Jesus came interacting and participating. We express our faith through our actions and our choices. Jesus came living faith as God incarnate. What was it about Jesus that made His disciples follow Him? Was it just some overwealming urge to obey? Or because they loved the interaction they had with Him? When Jesus was no longer around to observe - did they find someone else to follow or did they find ways to continue that interaction with Him?
As I say, this is an interesting book. More to come.
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
Then think about this. What's the difference? How do you separate "the real thing" from empty propaganda? We are born into a very commercialized, hype, entertainment-oriented, feel-good, faster-than-a-microwave culture and it affects the church. What's Biblical and what isn't? What issues did Jesus address as Son of God on earth? What bothered Him? What things could have bent Him out of shape but didn't?
How did He spend His time and energy? What did He talk about? What is God sensitive about?
What does God promise? Are there conditions? Does He expect something from me? What if God doesn't deliver? Then what? Did Jesus talk about that?
Different generations have discovered pasteurizing milk, sterilization, fresh air and exercise, health foods, anti-bacterial dish soap as ways to grow healthy. Good stuff! Different generations have also faced their share of propaganda - advertising, government/war morale building, education, news broadcasts. It isn't all propaganda. But some of it is. Maybe most of it is.
How about growing healthy faith? How do we do that? How do you know whether or not the ideas we feed children will cause them to draw near to God and God to draw near to them or whether they will cause children to stumble and fall? Am I presenting and representing the Truth or am I presenting something else and misrepresenting Him? How do I know?
Parental Rights.org is an interesting site that recently came to my attention. My friend emailed me about a ruling in California. I guess there was a lengthy discussion at Focus on the Family.
I really believe in honoring parental rights. Undermining or taking away the rights of a parent to parent his/her child, to my mind, is a last resort. But I also believe that we can't raise our families in a vacume. We need shepherds, pastors, friends, extended family, community, support networks.
I recognize that not all parents make the same choices. They have their reasons - often,good reasons. Having the freedom to chose is a huge blessing - something we should never take for granted.
I also recognize that some parents and families are a danger to themselves and especially their children. I'm not just talking about physical, emotional or spiritual abuse. Some parents so ill-prepare their children for life that they leave their children socially crippled - a very small percentage.
Parents and anyone who works with children will wrestle with issues of parental support and involvement. Whose role is whose? Together, how can we be the support network that a child needs? What do I do when a parent or a teacher or other person working with a child really doesn't appear to have the child's best interest in mind? And who decides what that child needs? Never simple, never easy. Never one-size-fits-all.
I'm posting this if you're interested. Personally, I'm not convinced that we can fight government intrusion into our personal lives with more government. Some people think that's the only way to fight it. Amending the Constitution is a big deal. Government involvement or intrusion in our personal lives, limiting or ultimately stealing our personal freedoms - is also a big deal. It doesn't work to say you can take that person's personal freedoms away but you can't take away mine.
If those freedoms disappear, it won't happen all at once. It may not even be out in the open. Things like that seem to happen little by little and seem perfectly justified at the time. At least, historically, that seems to be the pattern. Some people point to Germany before WWII.
I don't particularly like politics and I have even less faith in political systems but we've been given a government that gives us the privilege of getting involved - stewardship, if you will. If it doesn't affect you, you don't worry about it. If it does, you're more apt to take action. I think it's important to ask how will [any decision] affect us 20 - 30 years from now?
So the watchman stands on the wall and cries, "Beware! This can lead to that and that can lead to more. If we don't nip this in the bud 20-30 years from now we can end up where we don't want to be because we weren't paying attention." I don't want to over react but I don't want to be responsible for letting something of great consequence slip by because I didn't care or because I wasn't paying attention.
Sorting through the clamor of voices in the church and out is tough. There's always a battle to fight. It's a priviledge to pick and chose our battles as opposed to having to fight for your life in the midst of someone else's war. But don't just jump on every band wagon. Prayerfully do your research. Prayerfully take some time to think about whether you should support this and whether you want your voice to be heard.
Sunday, March 16, 2008
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
Maybe it's to make you aware that there are lots of opportunities out there to acknowledge how big and amazing God is with your children - sometimes in places you might not expect. How would you know God is there, unless you're there, too?
You can't be everywhere but if you or your children have an interest in something and you gather to do things that you're interested in with other people who enjoy the same things you'll grow friendships. Sometimes kids will end up with a career. Vet School Open Houses, Planetariums, Horticulture, Engineering competitions, Art exhibits, fishing derbys. Some of them cost money but not all.
The Memorial Art Gallery here is finishing up a quilting exhibit. [that link might not be current in two weeks] Local quilters did art quilt interpretation squares for some of the artwork in the gallery. Inspiring! I was actually starting to see artwork as potential quilt squares!
You don't even have to start a club, just latch on to one that's already going. Cheaper and less time consuming. You get to learn from more experienced people by just being around them and watching and asking questions. There are a lot of organizations serving youth in this city. Bring your interests and ask about teaching a class. Coach a Little League team or a soccer team. If you're in a fairly relaxed league I can almost guarantee you know more about baseball than most 7 year olds.
Out of the box in it's most simple form - Last Sunday we were recovering from a snow storm. A younger person who wasn't going to church helped shovel out an older neighbor who was going to church. She didn't share the gospel. She didn't say, "Come to church with me." She just kept lavishing thanks and blessings on that poor young soul after the shoveling was done and every time she saw the unlikely Good Samaritan over the next couple days. How fun is that? No, I wasn't the older person.
Whether we actually fall into the Emerging or Emergent school of thought remains to be seen.
Living things don't live very long in boxes.
[look at all those tags!!!]
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
Check out your local colleges and universities for activities, open houses, exhibits, lectures - events open to the public but something you might not think of unless you know someone.
Monday, March 10, 2008
Saturday, March 08, 2008
When your kids get tired of presents, and you get tired of stuff. giving to a worthy cause is an option. This came from my Lollypop Farm e news:
"While you must be 18 years old to volunteer at Lollypop Farm, many younger children still want to help the animals they care so much about. One way many kids and their families have been able to benefit the animals at Lollypop Farm, is to ask for donations of cash or items from our wish list in lieu of presents at birthday parties. ***** recently told us about her daughter's party:
My daughter, ***, is a first grader at ******. She turned seven on Friday, ***, and had a party for 18 of her friends at ***** at *****Mall. *** loves horses and asked that, instead of gifts, her friends make a small donation to the horse rescue at Lollypop Farm. The girls raised $300! I'm really proud of my daughter and her very generous friends. In the party photo, *** is in the front row, fourth from left (holding the horse!)."
At Lollypop we have a wish list for people who don't want to or can't give money. When items go on sale or if they have extra around the house people bring donations and put them in the Lobby in the red wagons.
Not only is giving important for character development and beneficial to the recipient, the other thing this kind of activity does is grow a "can do" attitude in kids. You can do something like this as a family, with friends, in church, at school. You can give individually, locally, to an organization you believe in, to a family, or to something missional, community or church sponsored. It's just a very neat thing when children give to something bigger than themselves and think beyond their own needs and wants!
Just realize that this kind of giving (group giving, social giving) doesn't take the place of making sacrifices or giving when nobody sees - NOBODY (except God of course). If you can teach your kids that, That's the gold.Not sure if making a child give sacrificially is the same as encouraging them to do what they know they have to do. Not sure if I'm saying what I mean.
...what do you think?
Monday, March 03, 2008
It might even make a fun project for a faith ed class (children's ministry, Sunday school, Christian formation, VBS, whatever you're calling it these days...)
These are pictures from a contest at the Hirshhorn Modern Art Museum in D.C. Whatever you do click on each one. So much to see!
Saturday, March 01, 2008
"A fifth grade teacher in a Christian school asked her class to look at TV commercials and see if they could use them in some way to communicate ideas about God. . . " (example)
God is like COKE
He's the real thing.
I'm not sure what I think. There's a way it's clever and fun. But I'm not sure God needs a slogan. I tend to think that trying to fit God into our cultural boxes somehow makes him less than who He is. In my mind, it doesn't make Him bigger. It makes Him smaller...
"Always listen to experts. They'll tell you what can't be done and why. Then do it."
science fiction author (1907 - 1988)
That's a good definition of an expert. When everyone says it can't be done they tell you why and go do it anyway. I think God is like that.