Growing Edge by Kimberlee Ireton Conway

Today’s post is by Kimberlee Conway Ireton, author of The Circle of Seasons: Meeting God in the Church Year.
Doug is working late tonight, giving a presentation at some Seattle geek fest, which means I am home alone with four kids at the dinner hour.

This shouldn’t faze me. I mean, I manage to get dinner on the table five nights a week without Doug being home to help me. He usually shows up just in time to help me round up kids and wash their hands and cajole Jane into finishing her table setting.
And that’s precisely what I need tonight—someone to help me with those last few things before we can eat.
Only Doug’s not coming home yet.
“Jane, honey,” I call from the kitchen to the living room where she’s making a Duplo castle. “We still need plates and water on the table, sweetheart.” I say it sweetly. I don’t yell. This is a growing edge for me. “Would you please come finish your job?”
She collapses into a heap on the floor and moans, “I don’t want to.”
I force myself to smile. “I didn’t ask you if you wanted to. I asked you if you would.”
She staggers to her feet and drags herself through the dining room to the kitchen. She stands next to me and stares up at the dishes on the shelf. “I can’t reach the glasses!” she whines.
I can feel my frustration mounting. I take a breath as I drain the pasta pot. “I’m going to let you figure that one out.”
She sighs dramatically, then turns on her heel and skulks out of the kitchen to get a chair from the dining table, which she then drags back to the kitchen counter.
I try to ignore her as I read the end of the recipe for the tenth, or maybe it’s the twelfth, time. Lemon juice, butter, sauce, shrimp, parsley, salt to taste. Got it.
Jack races through the kitchen holding an imaginary bow and shooting an imaginary arrow at an imaginary enemy. “That’s 40!” he shouts as he blasts past me.
“Jack!” I say, loudly, because he’s in another world, one where people do not stand over hot stoves trying to get dinner on the table but live on game and wild mushrooms, which they cook over an open fire. Unless they’re fighting off orcs.
“Jack!” I say again, louder.
“Yes Mama?”
I smile, but it’s totally forced, a grotesque mockery of a smile. “No running in the house.”
“Sorry, Mama.” He looses another arrow.
I say, “Would you wash Luke’s hands, please, while I finish this?” I look at the recipe again. Lemon juice. Check. Butter. Check. Sauce. I pour this over the pasta.
“Lu-uke!” Jack shouts as he runs past me into the living room. “Time to wash hands!”
Didn’t I just say something about not running in the house? Or was I only imagining those words? I look back at the cookbook. Where was I again? Oh, right. Shrimp. I empty the bowl of shrimp on top of the pasta.
Jane is standing at the kitchen sink, holding a glass under the faucet. She bounces up and down on her toes and whines, “I can’t reach it to turn it on, Mama!”
I just stare at her for a moment, then turn back to the cookbook. “Mama!” she wails. “I can’t reach the faucet!”
Parsley. I need parsley. I open the refrigerator and wrench a handful of parsley off the bunch that’s sitting at the top of the crisper drawer. With my biggest knife, I chop it into tiny little shreds of green.
Jane starts fake-sobbing. “I—can’t—reach—the—faucet!”
I whirl around. “Are you kidding me?” I shout. “There’s a perfectly easy solution to that problem! There’s absolutely no reason to cry about it!” I realize I am still holding the knife in my hand, stabbing the air with it while I bark at my daughter. Oh. Lord.
I turn my back on Jane and rather vigorously scrape the parsley off the cutting board into the pasta pot and stir everything together. “Dinner!” I call in a falsely cheery voice as I carry the pot to the table.
“Mama!” Jack shouts from the bathroom. “Luke’s poopy! He stinks like a hippopotamus!”
I look up at the ceiling. I close my eyes. I wish I could say I’m praying. I’m not. I’m feeling bitter. I put the pot on the trivet on the table and go to the bathroom to change Luke. “Jack, could you wash Ben’s hands and get him in his seat, please? You can use the kitchen sink.”
Ben screeches in protest; he doesn’t want Jack to wash his hands. Jack is screaming back, “I have to, Ben! Mama said!” Jane is yelling, too, because Jack is usurping her place at the kitchen sink.
“Jack! Jane!” I yell through the bathroom doorway. “Shut! UP!”
Jack calls back, “What, Mama?”

I roll my eyes. “Be quiet!” I shout through gritted teeth, but I don’t think they can hear me for all the noise they’re making.
By the time I finish changing Luke and wash both my hands and his, Jack has gotten Ben strapped into his chair. Ben is not happy about it. He screeches and kicks and hits the table. “It’s okay, Ben,” I say as I strap Luke into his high chair. “It’s okay. I know you’re upset. We’re going to pray. Then we’ll eat, okay?”
Apparently, that’s not okay. Ben picks up his fork and throws it.
“That’s it! I’ve had it!” I grab the back of Ben’s chair and drag it, and him in it, to his bedroom. Then I slam the door shut and storm back to the table. Luke, Jack, and Jane are all staring at me.
I pick up the matchbox and pull out a match, but I don’t strike it. I can’t light the candle and say “Bless the Lord” when I’ve just slammed a door and have spent the last five minutes yelling at my kids. I close my eyes and breathe the Jesus Prayer in and out a couple of times. When I’m calm and can speak truly, I pray out loud, “Lord Jesus, please forgive me. I’m so sorry I yelled at these precious people you’ve entrusted to me.” I take another deep breath.
Then I open my eyes and look at each of my children in turn. “I’m sorry, Jack. I’m sorry, Jane. I’m sorry, Luke. I’m sorry I’ve been so grumpy. I’m sorry I snapped at you.”
“It’s okay, Mama,” Jack says. “We’re sorry, too. We weren’t obeying you.”
Jane nods. “I forgive you, Mama. I’m sorry I fussed.”
Luke is completely oblivious to my apology. He’s too busy eating the pasta that is somehow in his bowl.
I wish that I didn’t have growing edges, that I never raised my voice with my kids, that I was endlessly patient and kind and soft-spoken. But if I have to be a little rough and raggedy in places, and it seems I do, I’m awfully glad to be able to grow with these precious people God has entrusted to me. They’re full of love and forgiveness and grace. And I’m so grateful.
I smile at Jack and Jane. Then I strike the match and hold it to the candle. The wick flares. “Bless the Lord!”
Jack and Jane chorus, “The Lord’s name be praised!”
“You think Ben is ready to come out?” I ask. “You think he’s ready to pray with us?”
They both nod. I go to the bedroom and give Ben a hug. “I’m sorry I slammed the door on you, Benito.” He wraps his little arms around my neck. Then I push his chair back to the dining room. We pray, and I serve up the pasta.
“Highlight, lowlight!” Jane says. “I’ll start.”
And so dinner begins, with praise and prayer and the examen. The road to get here was a bit rough, but by the time we finish sharing our highlights and lowlights, we’re laughing together, eating together, enjoying each other again, and the roughness of the road has been forgiven and forgotten.

If you’d like to initiate your own mealtime candle-lighting ritual, here’s a free download to get you started: these short litanies that we use at the beginning of our family meal each day change with the seasons of the church year.

Advent is Over – What Have You Learnt?

waiting on the beach

Today is the last day of Advent. I hope you have enjoyed reading the reflections in the series Let Us Wait As Children Wait. They have enriched my life and I pray they may have done the same for yours. Later today I will post a list of all the posts in the series, but first i want to ask What have your learnt? 

For me, this has been a journey of discovery. When I suggested the topic I felt I knew what it meant to wait as children wait – wide eyed, expectant, impatient, standing on tiptoe to catch the first glimpse of fulfillment. Along the way I learnt about many other aspects of waiting. The massacre in Newtown brought home to us the vulnerability of childhood waiting not just for those who were killed but for all the abused, abandoned and starving children of our world whose lives are cut short and whose hopes and dreams never come to fruition.

Anne Townsend reminded me that often the elderly also wait like children and are often even more vulnerable. This was a poignant message for me as I walk with my elderly mother through the last years of her life. I thank God for my brothers and their families who care for her and enable her to live in freedom and comfort in spite of that vulnerability.

It occurred to me this morning, that the waiting of childhood is also a waiting between the times, just as we wait between the time of God’s promise and its fulfillment. Childhood is full of potential, impossible dreams, hopes not yet realized, a longing for maturity and the time of adult fulfillment yet a living fully in the present moment with fun and games, and enjoyment, with exploration and experimentation, with the willingness to listen, to adapt and to change.

Christ is coming, deep within our souls we know and already rejoice because of the glory and majesty of his kingdom that is already breaking into ours. At the same time we despair at the length of time the fulfillment of God’s dreams takes.

A couple of days ago I was caught up short by the phrase in Isaiah 11:6 and a little child shall lead them.  So often Jesus reminds us to come as children, to live in the the upside down-ness of the kingdom where leadership is not with the powerful and the rich but with the vulnerable and the insignificant, where dependency, teachability, and the faith to believe that everything is possible reign.

This series has given me new eyes with which to look at the scriptures – the eyes of a child. What has it done for you? What lessons have you learned about God, God’s kingdom and yourself as you reflected on the posts throughout Advent? I would love to hear from you.

Waiting with Ants an Advent Reflection by Jim Fisher

What's with the Butterfly?Profile Pic

Today’s Advent reflection is written by Jim Fisher. Jim Fish enjoys reading and listening to stories. Even his profile pictures are intended to inspire conversation and invite you inside a story. (So what is the story behind that butterfly on your finger, Jim?) On his best days, he paints word-pictures for his website which you can find by searching for “Holy Hugs” via Google. He lives in Minnesota with his wife, Mary, his bicycle, Renée, and his 15-year-old narcissistic moth orchid, Luna, who always starts to bloom during Advent and continues her showy display until Easter.

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Waiting Standing

A boy, not much older than a toddler, is sitting cross-legged on the sidewalk in front of his house, staring at a crack in the cement. As I approach him from the end of the block, I slow my pace so as not to interrupt whatever has captivated his attention.

With a light smile on my face, I stand amazed at the intensity of his focus. His head, resting on his hands, has not moved for several minutes. Then as he turns to pick up a small stick, he catches sight of me watching him. Without showing any signs of being startled, he simply greets me with a cheerful, “Hi!”

“Hi, Jimmy. What are you studying so intently?”

“Ants,” he replies excitedly.

“What are the ants doing?”

Jimmy turns, points his little stick to the crack in the sidewalk and explains, “Well, they go down into the ground through this hole and bring up sand. Then they carry it up over this pile and drop it and then go back down into the ground to get some more.”

As I sit on the pavement next to him, I watch as ants excavate their underground tunnels and build the perfectly round dome of sand that we all have seen in the cracks of sidewalks. As an adult, I certainly would never take the time, even on a perfect day like this, to sit and study … and wait … with the intensity and awe of this little boy. I begin to wonder why.

Jimmy returns to his study and lightly disturbs the dome with his stick to explore how the ants scurry to mend the scar. Amazed at his inquisitive spirit, I ask, “Do you study ants often?”

Waiting on Steps

“Just when Mommy is gone.”

Startled, I probe deeper, “You mean your mom is not in the house?”

“No. She went shopping. She told me to wait here until she got back.” Jimmy’s forehead wrinkles. He is starting to wonder why I am asking these questions.

I hesitantly ask one more, “How long has she been gone?”

“Since after breakfast, I guess.”

It was almost noon.

Immersed in my adult worldview, I am having a hard time with this. I live in a time of child abductions, child abandonment, and abuse. I live in a time of constant stimulus, hand-held phones, electronic games, and social media. I live in a time of attention deficit and instant gratification. I live in a time where no responsible parent would leave their three-year-old child outside to wait for her return hours later.

I also live in a time when we have lost our desire, and maybe even our ability, to wait.

I am finding this especially difficult because I am peering back more than half a century to a very different time. I am also peering back to a very different person … for that little boy is me.

I have lost that childlike sense of awe and wonder-filled anticipation of what comes next. Well maybe not lost, but certainly scribbled over with ink drawn from the well of societal pressures, expectations, and norms. I tend to wait with twiddling thumbs, not with the active, anticipatory patience of a child.

The little boy knows that his mother will return. He has no reason to question it. And as he catches sight of her pulling the wagon full of groceries at the end of the block, he jumps on his tricycle pedaling as fast as his little legs will allow, scurrying to greet her. And as they return to the house once again united and engaged with each other, I wonder. I wonder if I will have that same childlike enthusiasm and energy to greet Jesus when He returns to us here on Earth. I wonder if I really understand what the Apantēsis is going to be like. I wonder if I really understand Advent.

I wonder, too, how ants with brains smaller than the grains of sand they are carrying can have such a perfected sense of symmetry and order. How can they instinctively know how to work together for the common good when we humans with much larger brains have yet to figure that out? Will I and the rest of humanity, our Creator’s crown jewel, ever learn how to care for and love our planet and each other as we were intended? How shall I wait for that? Like an adult waiting for a bus? Or like a child.

Lord, teach me to wait with the heart and energy of that little boy within me. Lead me away from a purposeless passing of the time and toward purpose-filled anticipation. Guide me in Your purposes and keep me moving on a path mending the scars on our planet and our people so that we become worthy of Your return. Amen.

Waiting on Trike

 

Everything Will Happen, Just Slow Down and Wait an Advent Reflection by Bonnie Harr

Brian's Note 3

Today’s post in the Advent series Let Us Wait As Children Wait, is written by Bonnie D. Harr. Bonnie is a singer, poet, psalm-writer and artist, clothed in the vocational garments of a clinical nurse specialist and Christian psychotherapist. She is known for her work in creating healing spaces and possibility places within the context of brokenness, or for those challenged in life by disease, relational struggles, spiritual complexities and unanswered questions. Bonnie  lives with her husband near Pittsburgh, PA.

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Brian's Note 1

At a time just before Christmas when we were rushing around preparing for the larger family to gather for all the December birthdays — his included — my only son, approaching his birthday, clutched my hand and said, “Slow down Mommy, you’re going too fast to be my best friend today!  Everything will happen, just slow down, and wait with me.”  His words literally stopped me in my tracks!  Sensing a larger than life moment, I asked him then, “What will we do if I slow down?”  His answer was simple and profound.  “We’ll light candles and drink our sparkling apple cider out of your special glasses and wait.”

I was in the middle of cleaning out the hall closet to prepare for the arrival of guests who would need a place to hang their coats.  I looked at the blue-eyed towhead before me and knew there was nothing in this world more important than lighting candles and drinking sparkling cider from my good crystal glasses with this child.  A deeper glance told me that the years were passing all too swiftly, and that someday soon I might long to have a candlelight chat with a grown son who might not want to have one with me.  I turned out the light in the hallway, and the light in my heart simultaneously affirmed that I was making a right choice.

I got two champagne flutes down — my very best — and the bottle of sparkling cider I had been saving for the celebrations. I sent my child to the drawer where candles are kept, asking him to select his favorite two.  He reminded me we needed four of them and a fat one for the middle.  “It’s mine and Dad’s birthday coming up,” he said, “but Jesus’ birthday is the big one.  I want to light His candles!”  And so, four unmatched candles and a fat one, found their way onto our dining room table, as my child sorta-kinda reminded me that three of the candles should be alike, and one different, but we didn’t have three alike!

Brian's Note 2

As our small ritual advanced, the boy decided we needed a sparkling dish, too — something to put a “wee-snack” on.  I invited  him to make the selection, and we ended up with peanuts on the dish between us.  In the soft golden light of it all, he decided something was still missing.  I waited, watching the wheels spin in his mind.  “We need a special doily, maybe one of Gran’s to put under everything.”  I knew this meant digging through the cedar chest to find one of many treasures my mother has crocheted over the years, but off we went together to find the doily.  He chose my favorite of them all, and we came back to the table to undo what we had previously done and place the doily beneath everything.  It was time to light the candles.

“Will you teach me how to light them?”, he asked.  We had a rather firm rule about matches in our home, and we had promised that a time would come when we would teach him to use them correctly. I knew the time had come. It took a while. In fact, it took a long while. I taught; he practiced.  The match did not light. I taught; he practiced.  He was afraid he would burn his fingers — and so was I; I worked hard to not feed his fears.  I taught; he practiced.  He decided something was wrong with the matches, so I struck and lit one!  “WAIT!!!” he shouted. He tried again, to no avail.  Finally, a match ignited. The priceless look on his face, the glow in his eyes, was worth the wait!  He carefully lit one candle, blew out the match and looked at me.  I wasn’t sure what was rolling through his little mind, so I waited.  “Only one candle before Daddy’s birthday on the first of December.  That’s how I remember it.  We have to wait to light the other ones, and we have to slow down and do it right.”

In that moment, I realized that what I had hunched before about three matching candles and a different one, was right. With fanfare created in his own way, my little son was talking about Advent.

As we shared our cider and peanuts that evening, I let him lead the conversational way.  We talked about many things — why we cry when we’re happy and when we’re sad; that peanuts and “even raisins” might taste better from a crystal bowl; why it was okay and yet sad “once in a while” to be an only child; why he was afraid some nights to go to sleep — “it was that movie three years ago on the kids channel” — hmmm…; my pigeon walk — “You do walk funny, Mom, but I think it’s in style now”; and then we got to his point of that particular evening.

“Mommy, sometimes I feel bad because all my friends have really dark hair, and I have this color.  I’m so different.”  I felt it all.  I left my chair to kneel at eye level with him, as I noted the candlelight beaming in his glistening eyes and the golden fire-sheen dancing through his equally golden head of hair.  “I’m so sorry you are hurting,” I whispered.  I waited watching him struggle with intense feelings. “My sweetness, you are different, and you are special — so very special to God and to Daddy and me.  A lot of people have hair like mommy’s, but yours is like the sunshine or the moonbeams.  Yours is how mommy imagines the angels’ hair to be.  It is so beautiful to me.”  He started nodding his head. I continued as he looked right at me with what he calls “almost tears”. “Remember that sometimes being different is very special to someone, or for someone.  When I come to pick you up at school, I can always find your head bouncing among all the others because your hair picks up a different light!  That is so special for me!”

It was his turn to jump off his chair and throw tight arms around my neck. “I love you, Mommy,” he shuddered through his almost tears. He immediately turned around and blew out the candle, went to the wall switch and turned on the lights. “I have to write something”, he said. What he wrote was worth waiting for, keeping and treasuring to this day.  The next day, he followed it up with a post-it note on the refrigerator door, right near the handle.  That note was worth returning to after I dropped him off at school.

You see, everything will happen if we just slow down and wait.  Advent, like my child that day, invites us to do just that.  Our God has written his love note  in a sparkling eyed babe who lights flames of adoration, each time we wait anew, for His return to us again. Let us, then, slow down and wait.                                                                    bharr  © 11/21/12

Let Us Wait As Children Wait An Advent Reflection by Coe Hutchison

Today’s post in the Advent series Let Us Wait As Children Wait, is written by Coe Hutchison. Coe is pastor of Grace Lutheran Church in Port Townsend WA, former MSA Board chair and a good friend.

Boy in fountain

Let us wait as children wait—for the Child.

How do children wait?

On pins and needles. In anticipation. There is no question of whether what is being anticipated will arrive, there is only a question of when. It is hard to sit still, the excitement is so great. Let’s wiggle, let’s fidget. Is it time? Is it time?

We are excited, we anticipate because we know it will be good. How do we know it will be good? Because we have heard the stories, we know the stories by heart. The stories of His coming, the stories of His gifts, the stories of His love. We know it will be good. There is no question, no doubt, it will be very good.

As we wait we strain to hear. Do I hear Him there? Is that Him speaking? Is that His voice I hear in another person? Is that His voice I hear in a hymn or song? Is that His voice I hear in the hustle and bustle of the season? Is that His voice in the bank teller, or the exhausted retail worker? Is that His voice in my co-worker or the grocery checker? Is that His voice in my family? Is He speaking through those at the Food Bank, at the Shelter. We listen for His voice wherever we are, whatever we are doing. We strain to hear Him.

As we wait we strain to see. Is that Him there? Is that Him in the video, the movie? Is that Him in the church pew next to me. Is that Him in the children’s Christmas pageant? Is He there in the nursing home resident, the hospital patient. Is He there in our worship, in our shopping, in our celebrating. Is that Him there in our family? We strain to see Him.

As we stretch our ears to hear, as we strain our eyes to see, we are attuned to His voice and our eyes are trained to spot His face. And we do hear Him. We do see Him. Let us watch and listen as children watch and listen, for we will see and hear Him. We know the stories, we know the promises, it will be good, it will be very good. Let us wait, and watch, and anticipate, and fidget, as children do. “For unto us a child is born . . . and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” I can’t wait. I can’t wait!

Let Us Wait As Children Wait by Jon Stevens

Today’s post in the Advent series Let Us Wait As Children Wait, is written by Jon Stevens.Jon is a 4th generation farmer with roots that go deep into northern Ohio soil.  After years selling large mailing machines up and down the west coast for European companies, he returned to his love of the land and the life it can give. Jon, together with his wife Elaine runs The Open Gate Farm on Camano Island. As well as that he’s heading out in faith to share his love of the land with those who need it most…children at risk and their caregivers through Growing Gardens for Life.

Waiting for a bite

Waiting for a bite

Waiting requires believing.  If we don’t believe, then there is nothing to wait for.  That coupling of belief and waiting is captured in the Bible when we are told, “Be still and know that I am God”.  If we don’t believe in God, then there is nothing to be still for, no knowledge and insight to wait for and we may as well return to our war games, greed, and political fantasies.

We have to be taught what to wait for, we have to be given a taste of the meal to come.  When a child comes into the kitchen to find out what’s for dinner, what will be filling their plate at the table tonight, we will often give them a taste.  And this is what God does for us in Advent.  We get little tastes of the feast of fellowship with Him which Christmas will carry to our table.

Just as we teach the children patience by giving only a taste and not the full meal, so God is teaching us patience by setting Himself down in our world of space and time and we must wait for Christmas to unwrap the full present of His presence with us.  Just as a child may seek more than a taste, may seek to satisfy their hunger now, we too will find that only a taste of what is to come may have us wanting more of God right now.  But on that day when our child within gets to open the present of a deeper relationship with all three sides of our triune God, when that day comes we actually get to sit and feast with our King, the meal has gained more meaning, has better flavor, will satisfy more fully, and will change our lives more for our having waited like a child.  And when we finally get to savor the flavor of God’s grace, we will be even better able to be His hands and feet in this hurting world.

Can We Wait As Children Wait?

Let us Wait as Children Wait

Let us Wait as Children Wait

Advent is coming. The end of the liturgical year is only a few weeks away and many of us are already preparing. I know because it is time for me to work on my annual Advent mediation video.

And just as Advent is a time of preparation for Christmas, so, at least in the northern hemisphere, is this season of storing food (both physically and spiritually), slowing down and rethinking our focus. It is a time for storing up the resources we know we need to see us through a season in which our hearts ache for the coming of God’s light. Tom and I go away for one of our quarterly retreats at the end of the week and we are both already anticipating this important pause in our routines. We want to make sure that we are very ready for the upcoming season.

Part of my preparation is getting ready for the blog series that I host during Advent. This year’s theme is Let Us Wait As Children Wait.  I am very excited about this, and by the number of posts I have already received can see that others are too. I hope that out of this series will not only come some thought provoking reflections (and possibly another Advent devotional book) on how we as adults wait for the coming of Christ, but also some good resources to help us focus our children on the real meaning of Christmas. As I mentioned before, one of my most popular posts during Advent is this one on Celebrating Advent With Kids. People are looking for resources – and I think not just to celebrate with their kids but because many of us want to find again that childlike enthusiasm and excitement we once experienced in our faith.

So once again this is your invitation to join in. Do you know of resources that should be added to the list for celebrating with kids? If so we would love to hear about them. Or would you like to contribute your thoughts to this series. There is still time to participate. Please email me for more details. Or, like Tom and I you may just want to spend more time reflecting on how you wait for the coming of Christ. Is it with excitement, impatience and barely contained longing or is it with worn out indifference? What are some steps you could take to change that?

The Good Life Through the Eyes of a Child

On Saturday I blogged about our images of the good life and how we can use the current challenging economic times to reinvent our understanding of the good life in order to be more in synch with God’s ideas and purposes.  Over the weekend I found a recent conversation with a friend who is currently bringing up her granddaughter revolving in my mind.

Through the eyes of a child - photo by Tara malouf

It is like rediscovering the world all over again, she told me.  For my granddaughter everything is filled with awe and wonder.  She is constantly looking listening and discovering.  She is questioning and opening her eyes and ears to the beauty and mystery of God’s world.  It isn’t hard for her to believe in God because she is aware of God’s presence in the song of birds and the whisper of the wind ruffling the leaves.  Discovering a ladybug in the garden is an exciting adventure in which she discovers new aspects of God’s mystery and breathtaking beauty.

For a child every moment is filled with looking, listening and learning.  Every aspect of life is a new discovery of themselves, of the world in which they live and of the God who created it.  The good life for a child is about enjoyment of friends, family and the world in which we live.  The good life for a child is about mystery and wonder.  It is about seeing colours that adults never notice and conversing with creatures adults think don’t exist.

In her book Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art, Madelaine L’Engle reminds us that all children are born artists endowed with rich unfettered imaginations.  All our sense are in touch with being rather than  doing. Unfortunately, she believes that as we grow we are corrupted by the “dirty devices of the secular world” where myth and fairy tale must be discarded.  The vivid purple clouds and yellow skies of childhood must give way to the real world where clouds are white and skies are blue.

We tell children that leaves are made of molecules and atoms, rainbows are caused by refraction of light not by God.  It can all be explained and pigeon holed into a rational scientific understanding of the world, a world in which God if God exists at all can also be confined to a small box of life that we open on Sunday or for a few moments each morning.

Along with God, our dreams of the good life get pigeon holed too.  We tell kids they need to live in the real world buying goods they don’t need and working at jobs they don’t enjoy.

Madeleine goes on to say,

“We write, we make music, we draw pictures because we are listening for meaning, feeling for healing  And during the writing of the story, or the painting, or the composing or singing or playing, we are returned to that open creativity which was ours when we were children.  We cannot be mature artists if we have lost the ability to believe which we had as children.  An artist at work is in a condition of complete and total faith.” (Walking on Water p181)

Surely this is part of what it means in Matthew 18 when Jesus says:

1At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”2He called a little child and had him stand among them. 3And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

To enter the kingdom of God, to gain God’s perspective of the good life we must learn once more to see as children see and believe as children believe.  Learning to live as God intends us to means breaking away from the dirty devices of the secular world and discovering the awe and wonder of God’s dreams and promises for the future.

There is no better time than now to learn to see as a child sees and reawaken our lives to the mystery and wonder of God’s world breaking into ours.

What would happen in all our lives if we imagined the good life of God as a child does with the wonder and awe of discovering that each day is an adventure of looking listening and learning?  What would happen if we turned away from the boxes of conformity our culture has imposed on us and allowed our imaginations to break free?  What would happen if we rethought what we are on the planet for with the dreams of God at the centre?

World Cup Soccer for Street Kids

I just came across this via ekklesia UK A tournament for street kids from around the world to play soccer in an international tournament – Street Child World Cup.  What a great idea.   I have realized in recent years that allowing marginalized children to express themselves through sports is a wonderful way to give them a sense of value.  I am sure this will have an impact on all who participate.  And what a wonderful way for us to express our faith and provide opportunity for those who are often forgotten to learn more about who god intends them to be.

Playing Children’s Games As Spiritual Practice

It is a bright and sunny morning in Seattle with the promise of a hot day ahead.  For most of us it is a work day but I think that if we were honest with ourselves we would rather be out playing with the kids so this post below by Julie Clawson seemed appropriate.

Julie describes herself as a follower of the way of Christ, stumbling through her faith journey and simply trying to seek justice in this world.  She’s worked as a telemarketer, librarian, substitute teacher, children’s pastor, and church planter – but spends her time these days taking care of kids and trying to squeeze in time to write.  She live in the fabulous Austin, TX with husband Mike and two kids, Emma and Aidan. And has a book coming out in Oct. 2009 called Everyday Justice which i suggest you add now to your must read list.  I had the privilege of writing a forward for the book and absolutely loved it.  Julie blogs at One Hand Clapping

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Playing Children’s Games as Spiritual Practice

If I could choose how I would like to spend the perfect evening, it would be hanging out with friends with good food and drinks playing board games.  I love strategy games like Settlers of Catan, Carcassonne, and RISK, but I also enjoy fun group games like Apples to Apples and Balderdash.  For what it’s worth, a good round of Texas Hold’Em works for me too.  I enjoy the interaction, the intellectual engagement, and the general hilarity than ensues when friends simply have fun together.

That said, I sometimes have a hard time playing children’s games.  There is something tediously mind-numbing about painstakingly making one’s way to Candy Mountain in Candy Land or getting caught in the endless up and down circle of Chutes and Ladders.  Building up my Cootie bug, filling my Hi Ho Cherry-o basket, making pairs in Dora Memory, or matching all the pictures on my Zingo card just doesn’t capture my attention.  But my four year old loves it all.

Granted it comes as no big surprise that the child of a couple of board game lovers would like playing them herself (and I admit, I was the same way at her age).  It’s just that, from the mommy side of things, playing those games for hours on end can get a little old.  Now, I love spending time with my daughter, but after the fourth or fifth round of Candy Land as I’m sprawled out on the playroom floor, I sometimes have a hard time keeping my eyes open.

But for my daughter, it never grows old.  Each time she builds a Cootie bug, she gets excited about getting to make an entirely new creation.  Each card she turns over in Candy Land holds the possibility of adventures – to whisk her away at any moment to exotic locales like Gum Drop Mountain or the Candy Cane Forest.  Each spin in Chutes and Ladders holds the risk of plummeting her downward and losing all she has worked for or the reward of immediate ascension.  In short, in her life ruled by the power and whims of others (mom and dad), these games hold wonder and mystery.  With every spin of the wheel she enters into a magical world of unpredictability and excitement (not to mention repeated trips to every child’s dream land – the Candy Mountain).  These games are full of blessings she can delight in.

So even as I struggle to keep my eyes open as we play yet another round of her favorite games, I realize that I could learn a lot from my four year old about being spiritually present.  When looked at through the right eyes, life is mysterious and full of adventure.  I get to participate in acts of creation each day as I cook entirely new meals.  I am whisked away to exotic locations when I simply stop and notice the beauty of the world around me.  I don’t need the Candy Cane forest when I can lie under the trees with my kids watching the leaves flutter and the clouds float by.

I am so used to the ordinary being, well, ordinary, I forget to find the wonder in it.  But seeing my daughter find adventure in what I found tedious reminds me to shift my perspective.  The world is unpredictable and exciting and full of all sorts of blessings I can delight in – as long as I allow myself to be present in it and allow it to be those things.