God, Superheros and Kids

Last week, Missy was in Walgreens with the boys. Jonah had on a superman cape and caught the attention of several of the shoppers. One guy walked up and said, “He has a superman cape on” as if Missy would have been unaware of this until pointed out by a total stranger. When you have two young boys, superheros are a big part of your life.

In case you haven’t ever played superheros with small children you have to understand the rules:

Rule #1 – Everyone has a narrowly defined role
Rule #2 – If you are the adult you are automatically the villain
Rule #3 – If you are the kid you are automatically good guy
Rule #4 – Adults, don’t try to be the good guy…Don’t rock the boat…just be the villain and move along. It is just better that way.

Superheros

The reason superheros are so popular with kids (and even many adults) is that they capture our imagination. We envision another way of being, amazing powers that are extraordinary. In short, when you are a superhero you can do things that normal people cannot. Kids get that…So when kids role play this they often try things that they wouldn’t normally attempt. A kid who wouldn’t normally jump off a chair might just try it when he has his cape on. But there is more to the jump than the cape. They jump because they know their dad is going to catch them.

So what about us? Are we willing to take the leap, knowing God will catch us? No capes, no role play, no pretending. Just a real, close and trusting relationship with our heavenly Father who wants nothing more than to catch us because we had faith enough to make the leap.

Disney World and Longing for Heaven

AnimalKingdomDanceAs a parent of a two year old and a four year old, I can’t exactly say that everything about the last few days we spent at Disney reminded me of heaven. The heat, aggravated people, and cost of it all might just call to mind another place quite opposite of heaven. But in all of the heat and busyness of Disney, there was one moment while we were there that sparked a longing for heaven for me. There was this area in Animal Kingdom were some performers were leading a crowd in an African song and dance. It wasn’t on the program. You couldn’t find it on the map. It was one of those things they plan to seem like it wasn’t planned. As the guys started singing, dancing and playing drums a crowd formed around them. People started joining in. The people from the crowd were dancing the dance they saw the men dancing. They were singing the song they heard the men singing. Everyone was smiling, laughing and moving to the beat.

It was really pretty amazing to watch. The more I thought about it my amazement shifted from its entertainment value to the underlying reality of what was actually happening. It was a unifying moment. These people were from all over the world. Some of them couldn’t even speak to each other because of the multiplicity of languages you hear walking the streets at Disney. But for that moment they were unified, dancing the same dance and singing the same song and all having so much fun. There was a magnetism about it all as you heard the fun and wanted to see what was going on. It made you want to be there. It made you enjoy life. It allowed you to see the celebration of an extremely diverse crows that had nothing more in common except for wanting to spend some family day at Disney and they got drawn into a moment of unity and celebration.

I wish I could tell you that I joined in the dance. Even though Missy begged me to jump in there, I didn’t. But what I observed reminded me of heaven – a place where people of all backgrounds, languages and cultures get together to laugh, dance and celebrate. It made me wonder how awesome the spontaneous moments of celebration will be. It had me wondering how magnetic Jesus must be. It made me long for heaven and reminded me of these words from scripture,

“Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by[c] one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 14 Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.” – 1 Cor 12:12-14

After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. 10 And they cried out in a loud voice:

“Salvation belongs to our God,
who sits on the throne,
and to the Lamb.” – Rev 7:9-10

The Joy of Kids

JonahPirateYesterday Jonah told me he wanted to be a pirate. He brought his red cape to me and asked if I would tie it around his head. He then made a makeshift sword and started saying “Arrrrr…” Then Elijah got in on the act. He put on a Santa Claus hat and told me he was a pirate too. What is more, he took another Santa hat and put a bunch of toys in it and told me it was his treasure.

A while later, I saw Elijah spinning in circles. When he got done, he started walking in zigzags around the living room saying, “Room is spinning…room is spinning”. Kids are awesome. This morning, it continued. When it was time to get dressed, the boys decided that one pair of underwear wasn’t enough. They both, on their own, put an extra pair on their head and started running around laughing hysterically. Ahhh….the joy of kids!

I love the sound of laughter and activity in the house. I love it because it is sweet and fun and playful. The more I thought about how much I loved hearing those sounds the more I realized that it won’t always be that way. There will come a day when the house will be quiet. No more running around. No more pirates. No more underwear on their heads. Just quiet. When it happens I hope I can say we raised them right. I hope we can say we did everything we could to help them love God and love others. My prayer is that we found a healthy balance between loving playfulness/freedom and discipline/boundaries.

It is important that we are our kids parents and that we are their friends. One without the other is harmful to their well being. That tension is real and it is powerful. It reminds me that the same is true of my heavenly Father. He is my disciplinarian but He is also my friend. He puts me through the fire that refines me but also would want to spend playful time with me as well. I hope that doesn’t sound like I have lost my sense of wonder and awe of God. Quite the opposite…it makes me even more in awe of a God who can love me like that.

I am certain there will be a lot of laughing in heaven. I am not so sure about the underwear on the head thing but I can definitely hear the laughing!

Elijah and His Accessories

photo (4)

Our two year old son Elijah is all about standing out in the crowd. He knows how to get a smile and he will do whatever it takes to get one. Going out in public with him is always an experience. A few months ago Jonah, Elijah and I were going to Best Buy. As we pulled into the parking lot there was a man who was walking in who was decked out in accessories. 65 years old, white hair, white sunglasses, white belt, white pants, red shirt, red sox, and white shorts. When I saw him, all his accessories just made me smile. I pulled into a parking space with Jonah (age 4) and Elijah in the back. I got them out and saw that Elijah had put on a green Christmas elf hat (a month after Christmas) that had been back there with him and his green sunglasses. So in we all walked into Best Buy…me and my two boys, one of which looked like one of Santa’s Elves, just a month late…I just had to laugh at him and at myself. I have a feeling Elijah is going to be that guy. Jonah and I, on the other hand, would prefer to not stand out at all, ever.

Two Posts You Should Read by Dan Bouchelle & Ben Witherington

The first is by Dan Bouchelle about ministers and how they “Willingly Walk into a World of Pain“. The stories he tells are honest, touching and will give you a whole new appreciation for your minister.

The second is by Ben Witheringon, “Family First – Not a Biblical Viewpoint“. I wrestled with this post. I have so much respect for Dr. Witherington and I can’t help but agree with his general point that there is a higher calling than our families (namely, loving God with all of our hearts). At the same time, this post swung the pendulum a little too far for me. I am curious what your thoughts are on the matter, especially at a time where family is getting so much focus in our churches.

Do You Tell Your Kids The Gifts Come From Santa Claus?

Missy and I have been talking about what to tell our boys about Santa Claus. So far the consensus has been that we would rather them know that their parents are the ones giving them the gifts rather than a mysterious stranger named Santa. What is more, we would like more of a focus on Jesus than on the rosy cheeked guy from up north. A friend of mine shared similar thought. Here is an excerpt from her post titled, “the santa situation

today trent asked the question.
who puts the treats in our stockings?
so I told him the truth. and he laughed. 

we knew this was coming.
we never told our children anything about santa.
but santa seemed to be everywhere.
the whole idea never sat well with us.
there are plenty of naughty kids with loads of presents.
and lots of nice children with none.
we wanted Jesus to be the focus. and wonderfully real.
so the hubs and I sat with not a reason to share the santa story
and plenty of reasons not to.
as you can imagine, this does not fit well into the
great american christmas.
but isn’t that the point?
What is your take on sharing Santa with the kiddos?

Stuff I Love

I love my wife and kids.

I love coming home to them and yell out Extreme Makeover Home Edition Style, “Hello friends and family” and then get all kinds of hugs and kisses.

I love when our Sunday worship goes up a few levels of volume and there is no doubt God is being praised

I love when God is praised in small and quiet ways as well.

I love seeing old friends, especially people who I didn’t know turned to Christ since the last time I had seen them.

I love when people accept an invitation to come on Sunday and actually show up!

I love when people get sharpened in their faith.

I love when God’s Word is read and lived out.

I love when I find something new in scripture that had never jumped out at me before or something old that is read in a new light.

I love when we have to add chairs in a Bible class as people keep coming in the door.

I love when I see long time Christians, nearing the end of their lives, who are at peace with things.

I love when I see family I haven’t seen in a long time.

I love hearing about kingdom work taking place, lives being changed, God being honored, and eternal differences being made.

I love when hungry kids get fed, when criminals rehabilitate, and when grace and mercy are poured out on the undeserving.

I love meeting people whose faith is greater than my own and when they stretch me.

I love God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit

I love when disagreement doesn’t keep brothers and sisters in Christ from acting like brothers and sisters in Christ.

I love when people are baptized into Christ…that never gets old.

I love lists that should just keep going on and on but finally come to an end on a high note!

Who/What do you love…

Ephesians 5 – Husbands, Wives, and Mutual Submission?

I am in the process of writing small group curriculum for Paul’s prison letters. The text in focus right now is Ephesians 5:21-6:24 and part of that is Paul’s “household code.” Paul mentions three sets of relationships in chapters 5 & 6 that each have two parts: husbands & wives, children & parents, slaves & masters. Paul makes the point that in no relationship does only one party have an obligation to the other. All relationships are reciprocal and place requirements on both parties.

First, Paul calls on all Christians to view each other with an attitude of submission (5:21). Paul says that Christians should submit to each other out of reverence for Christ. That means that out of respect for Christ we love each other and see each and every Christian as someone Jesus died for. Because of that, we don’t abuse each other or take advantage of one another. We don’t always have to have our way on everything because other people are too important to just run over.

In 5:22 wives are told to submit to their husbands. There are a lot of opinions on what is going on in these verses. Is Paul starting out with the broader concept that all Christians are to submit to each other (5:21) and then starts going down the line of who is to submit to whom? If that is the case, wouldn’t you think he would say, “Wives, you submit to your husbands and husbands submit to your wives. Because as we all know all Christians are to submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”

But it doesn’t read that way. Is it possible that all Christians are to submit to each other as a general purpose but not always in reciprocal or exactly equivalent ways? If you follow the interpretation that Paul is writing that all Christians are to submit to each other in the exact same ways: wives and husbands, children and parents, slaves and masters we would very quickly see that the second two pairs don’t work out so well. Which then puts into question whether it is really intended in the first example as well (wives and husbands). The next thing you notice is that, although the husbands aren’t specifically told to submit to their wives, I think they are given the more difficult task (feel free to rebuke me kindly if you disagree on this as I can only see this best from a male point of view). 5:25 says the role of the husband is love their wives as Christ loved the church. Christ loved the church so much that he gave himself up for her. Christ died for the church because of his great love for the church. Men…treat your wives with that kind of love and desire.

This is more than jumping in front of a bullet or pushing your wife out of the way of an oncoming bus and letting it hit us. Just as Christ’s giving of himself was more than 6 hours on a cross so is a husband’s obligation to self-sacrifice for his wife a one time event. In fact, I think it is actually easier to jump in front of a bullet or a bus than to live each day in a self-sacrificial way. So, while husbands are not specifically told to submit to their wives, their leadership is characterized by total self-sacrifice.

What is more, when men lead their families with that kind of attitude (which I am still very much working on myself, by the way) then it will certainly make the wives obligation in 5:22, to be submissive to her husband, that much easier. So I am not so sure that this passage teaches mutual submission in the sense that we all submit to each other in precisely reciprocal ways but that as we each fulfill our role as God has defined it that behind it all lies an attitude of love, sacrifice and submission. It just shows up differently as differing roles are being lived out.

What is your take on the concept of mutual submission?

Updated Marriage, Family and Parenting Resources Page

Just a note that the marriage and family resources tab has been updated with many more great links. I hope to annotate many more of the links in the near future. Here is the link.

Pepperdine’s List of Family Ministry Resources

Pepperdine has a great online list of resources to help churches and ministries that want to reach out to families. This is a very good list. Here is the link.

HT: Tim Spivey