Archive for the ‘Children’ Category

Growing Up

January 12, 2010

“Obsession is a young man’s game”

–Michael Caine in The Prestige

It’s funny how you can age ten years in the space of just one, while at other times you can go ten years and hardly age a year. It’s a variable process, it turns out. It’s all about what you learn — what you experience in the space of a year. Having said that, I feel I’ve aged more years than I know how to count just in the last 12 months. Little of it is blogworthy, unfortunately, thus the occasional hiatus in posts. Well, some of it may be perfectly appropriate for sharing with the general public, but I just haven’t always had the time or the nerve.

In another movie, Michael Caine calls Idealism “youth’s final luxury.” I don’t know why both of these quotable quotes came from the same actor’s mouth, but they’ve both been in my mind lately. Idealism has always been a close companion of mine, but over the last year or so I’ve had to bid farewell to this dear friend. Life just hasn’t afforded me the room to keep him around.

Take the decision to baptize my third daughter, for example. Several months ago my six-year-old began asking to be baptized because she professes faith in Christ and could see no reason not to make that public. A couple of years ago I baptized my two older daughters in a swimming pool on New Year’s Eve. Back then, we were still meeting with the same house church that we called home for the last decade, and a swimming pool was the most logical location. Now, however, my family and I have joined ourselves to a (very) traditional Baptist church, and the question of baptism has become more complicated.

I wanted to baptize my third daughter myself, just as I had baptized my two older daughters a couple of years before. As her father, and as one of the two people who introduced her to a relationship with God in the first place, it just made sense. But now that we attend a church with more than a thousand members, I have had to come to grips with how things work in that world. In this world, only the ministers do the baptizing. If I want to do it myself, it’s back to the swimming pool — only now, we’re no longer meeting with our house church, so whom do we invite to witness this event?

A month ago I spoke about this with the ministers of the Baptist church we joined. The preacher was gracious enough to agree to let me do the baptizing, right there in the baptistry, despite their usual tradition of “ministers only.” I guess he trusted me and we have some mutual friends, so I’ve got credibility with him. But a week before the baptism I learned that two other fathers spoke with one of the other ministers and were denied this same request after my conversation with the preacher, unbeknownst to him. This was a dilemma. In order to stay true to his word, he was willing to take the heat for letting me do the baptism. But I couldn’t do that to him. In the end I thanked him for his willingness to accommodate but told him I’d just let the guy who usually does it baptize my daughter. That was a very difficult thing for me to do, but I knew I had to do it.

That’s called growing up. Like obsession, idealism is a young man’s game, I think. Lately here alot of my decisions have been about choosing to do what makes sense under the circumstances rather than doing what fits my ideals. Does that mean I’m compromising my values, my beliefs? I dunno. I still believe the same things, still have the same values. I just realize now that I can’t always have things the way I think they should be, not when they affect other people negatively. In the end, the right thing to do in a given situation is whatever demonstrates love. That may or may not coincide with what I think should be done. But that’s where I’m at these days.

Growing up is scary. It involves changing into somebody you weren’t before. It requires putting away the toys of your youth and handling things that weigh more, that can do more damage to more people. I only hope I handle them wisely.

The baptism was yesterday, and it went great, by the way. Both sets of grandparents drove across two frozen states to celebrate this occasion with us, and one friend from our house church even came with two of her children to be a part of the event as well. That meant a great deal to my family, of course. My wife made a couple of great meals for everyone and they all had a good time together. My daughter Catie felt genuinely honored by the whole thing, and she’ll never forget it. Things turned out great, after all.

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Making Jill-o-Lanterns

October 31, 2009

Aahh, pumpkin time.  What other time of the year will two little girls willingly stick their hands into a gooey slippery mess and smile about it?

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This year we had a Mama pumpkin and a baby pumpkin.  The girls always sketch out the design and I do the cutting.  They do the gutting these days.

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Always fun celebrating what one of the girls’ classmates calls “Satan’s Birthday.”

The pumpkin gutting has become quite the family tradition.  I clicked around on the old hard drive and found this little gem from six years ago.

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I don’t care what the pagan origins of this holiday are.  It’s just fun.

What About the Kids?

January 31, 2006

Sign up for any conference or workshop on “home-churching” anywhere in the country and I guarantee you that you will hear pretty much the same questions asked at every one of them. The first one is almost always the same: What do you do with the kids?

I have mixed feelings about this ubiquitous question. My good feelings come from the fact that I identify with parents who seek to actively integrate their kids into the activities of the church. I happen to think that if a church has any desire to live beyond one generation then it will have to somehow involve the kids at every stage of their development. Somehow they must come to “own” church life as their own, and the Lord must be real to them as they grow up. As my kids are entering grade school, I’m becoming more and more eager to include them in some form, maybe writing songs for them, or occasionally scheduling a kids’ meeting (something they’ve elected to do on their own on a couple of occasions), or simply including them in one of our regular meetings (with some preparation of course).

But there’s also something not-so-good underneath the perennial what-do-you-do-with-the-kids question. Too often the church asking the question is operating with a meeting-centered mentality. If you think church=meetings then the kids aren’t a part of the church if they’re not in the meetings. When the life of the church isn’t based in community (i.e. a more comprehensive involvement in each others’ lives), then the meetings are all you’ve got. On the other hand, when “church” means who you are all the time, then you see that the kids are already involved in the life of the church. They spend time together, play together, sometimes eat together. The interact with adults from families other than their own, and that fact alone places them in a priviledged group (Research shows that kids who get regular, positive interaction with adults outside their own nuclear family have a higher chance of success in things like social development, behavioral expectations, etc.)

We “westerners” (products of the European Enlightenment) have always been program-centered. When we think of education, for example, we inevitably picture a classroom situated in rows with an educator perched at the front. Our concept of learning is teacher-centered, lecture-based, and restrictive. But there’s another model (a much older model) for learning that happens naturally in a church like ours. It’s relational. It’s “situational” (anchored in real-life situations as they arise). It involves active learning based in the needs of the kids as they discover them.

Think about it this way: Which kind of learning do you think sticks with a child better: When they hear a biblical principle illustrated during a Sunday School lesson in a classroom, or when a life circumstance motivates the child to ask her mother a question about the right thing to do in that situation? I’d definitely go with the second one. A family and a church community who love the Lord and actively pursue Him in daily life will prepare a child to know Him immeasurably better than years of Sunday School lessons. Even from a standpoint of educational theory, stuff learned in real life situations are generalized into the rest of life more easily than stuff learned in an environment like a classroom, which is too divorced from daily life.

So how you approach this question of “what do you do with the kids” turns out to reveal a good bit about how you see the church and daily life in the Lord. The church isn’t about meetings. And knowing the Lord is a relational process, not an intellectual procedure. Knowing Him isn’t about memorizing the right things. It’s about knowing and loving a Person who also comes to you in the form of your brothers and sisters in Christ. The meeting is when you come together to report your experience of Him to each other. More on that in the next blog, I believe…