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.

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!

Kids, Play and the Power of Narrative

millionmilesI have been reading Donald Miller’s book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, highly recommend it. This book is Miller’s reflection on working with producers on the movie version of Blue Like Jazz. Turns out, life isn’t like the movies…most of us wouldn’t make good movie characters. As Miller reflects on their take on his life and the producers’ need to spruce up his story a bit he realized his own need to live a better story than he had been living. Great book. I will share more thoughts on it later.

While reading this book I have been more in tune with the power of story.Turns out, it’s everywhere…everyday. This evening the our boys, ages 2 & 4 were playing. As I listened to the imaginative things they were saying, it dawned on me that when children play they create stories. Play is their work and that work often involves one of two things: the construction of false play narratives that are impractical and impossible. Second, play often co-opts existing narratives and changes some of the essential components of the narrative to be more appealing to them or try things out…like when they say things to their stuffed animal or younger brother that they hear their parents say.

So I hear the boys playing in Elijah’s room. Elijah is standing on his big firetruck. It was parked up against the wall, right under a brown tree we had painted in the nursery. Missy painted this tree when we set the room up for Jonah as a family tree, to be able to teach the kids where they came from. After we painted it, we hung pictures of family members on its branches so we could teach them who they (the kids) are, who their relatives are and where they came from.  So back to Elijah. He is perched up on the side of his firetruck, his back to the wall and says…”I’m Jesus!” Jesus on a tree, right? He is playing Jesus. Jonah says, “Put out your arms.” It was stunning. We painted that to show them where they came from. The tree hasn’t ever shown it more clearly than today when looking at that tree reminded me that God put his own Son on the cross for us. It is where we came from. It is part of who we are.

What happened next was play that was a reflection of real life…it wasn’t meant to be that but it taught me something important that I won’t ever forget. Moments later, Elijah got into a plastic bin and Jonah proceeded to push and pull Elijah around the house in that bin. He said it was Elijah’s car and he proceeded to “drive” him around the house. Aren’t we like that? One moment it is about the cross and identity and things of great significance…the very next we are back to our silly and senseless games! It is like going to church on Easter just to go back to life as usual on Monday. One moment, we are attentive to the story of the cross and the next something mundane and silly doing some sort of adult equivalent of pulling a 2 year old around in a plastic bin.

ElijahBin

Elijah and His Accessories

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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.

Elijah’s First Haircut

Elijah got his first haircut today and took it like a champ. It is amazing to watch our boys grow up. Honestly, I didn’t realize the value of the people around me until I had kids of my own. It hit me one day…every single person in the whole world was just like this little guy. Just about without exception they had someone who loved them, raised them, and value them just as much as I love my own kids. It is hard to get angry at people, even strangers when you realize that. Ultimately, God is the Father of all and loves every single one. I am so grateful to be alive and to have the joy of raising these boys!

A Plug for Feeding Children Everywhere

Saturday our congregation packed 45,000 meals for kids in Haiti. We raised $11,300 via special contribution. We sent the money to the Non-profit Feeding Children Everywhere. They brought the food (25 cents/meal) and supplies, set up our assembly lines and we packed 45k meals in two hours! I have to talk about this organization. They started just two years ago on a shoestring and now have up to 15 events/month to pack food for kids all over the world. They are working on a 3 million meal packing event in Tampa in August! These guys are great. What they do is great. It is a well oiled machine and I want you to know about them. I have posted about them before here on the blog but after our food packing event I just can’t say enough good about what they are doing.

Here are some pictures from our event

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The kids color and write on the boxes while we packed the food!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Elijah being cute

Jonah and Elijah All Dressed Up

Here are some pictures of Jonah and Elijah from Sunday…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Elijah’s First 12 Months in Pictures

Each of these was taken the first day of each month of his life (except for the first one of course!). Thanks to Missy for her persistence in getting these.

Jonah Said the Sweetest Thing

Last night as we came home from LIFE group Missy and I were discussing Elijah’s (our 11 month old) birthday party. At his party we are asking people to bring gifts for the local  Children’s Hospital (All Childrens) and Jonah was listening to the details. He went into his room, got out his bin of toy animals, and told us he wanted to give some of them to sick children at the hospital so they could feel better. That really touched my heart and I was really impressed he put all that together, having just turned three. My prayer is that we can raise him into a man of God who can keep that attitude and impact the lives of many through his joy and generosity.

Now I just wish he would feel the same way about letting his little brother Elijah play with his toys!

Elijah is Crawling

It is really great to see your child crawl for the first time. Now Elijah isn’t full out crawling. His crawling is more like dragging himself across the room with just his right arm but it is a start! Missy refers to it as the soldier in the movie who lost an arm and a leg and is scratching and clawing his way across the ground to save the day.

What is more Elijah is now able to foil Jonah’s toy ponzi scheme. Jonah will see Elijah playing with Jonah’s toys and go in Elijah’s room to get replacement toys. Then Jonah begins to get his toys back with great skill. Elijah never has a clue unless he is playing with something he really wants. It is really cute to watch them interact. Jonah loves him so much and tries to be such a big helper. What is more Jonah treats his stuffed monkey like a baby. It is all pretty adorable.