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.

Toy Story, Jonah and the Power of Narrative

toystoryEvery Tuesday and Thursday morning, Jonah and I make our morning run to pre-school. On the way we often have some really profound conversations about life, God, and toys. He has this new habit of rolling down his window so he can stick his hand out to feel the wind. This morning, I told him the one rule is that he cannot ever drop anything out that window. This morning he asked me why. I told him that if he did it would be gone forever. Again, he asked why. I gave further explanation that included the velocity of our truck, the toy/object in the road and the potential damage it would face due to oncoming traffic. At least that is how I wanted to explain it. I gave a little simpler explanation than that.

What Jonah said next taught me a lesson on the power of narrative. Lately, Jonah has really gotten into the movie Toy Story. He has seen parts 1 & 3. When I told him what would happen to his toy he just couldn’t understand it. The reason I know that is because of what he said next, “If I drop a toy out the window, will another kid get it?” I thought I knew where he was going with this so I asked, “What do you mean Jonah? What would that kids name be?” He said, “A little kid named Bonnie?” Flashback to Toy Story 3 when Woody escapes from Sunnyside Day Care and ends up being found and taken home by a little girl named Bonnie. That was Jonah’s narrative for what happens to toys that get lost. He can’t picture it getting run over by cars. He can only imagine the possibilities through the lens of the stories he knows and the big story on his mind right now is Toy Story.

I want to elaborate on this idea more but first I wanted to introduce this through Jonah’s story. Looking forward to hearing your thoughts on this and how we form our ideas about how things work, what the world is like, what we do and what we desire.

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!

Jonah and Elijah All Dressed Up

Here are some pictures of Jonah and Elijah from Sunday…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Perspective Matters

I was putting Jonah down to bed Wednesday after Bible class. I asked him what he learned. He told me about baby Jesus, the manger, the animals, Mary, Joseph, the works… Then he asked me something I didn’t expect. Not only didn’t I expect what was coming, I had never considered this one thing in all the years I have read and studied the birth of Jesus. He said, “Do you think all those animals woke up baby Jesus?” My three year old had a question about the story that I had never considered. The reason that question was important to him was his perspective. What resonated with him in this story about baby Jesus is the baby in his life, his baby brother Elijah.

Perspective matters in what we hear in a story. We might all hear or read the same telling of a story but come away with different information. Isn’t it amazing that we get into discussions of the same verse and it seems like there is no way we are even reading the same verse as the other person? That is because perspective matters. Perspective drives the questions we ask, the answers we are willing to accept, and the application we derive from the information we receive.

It is important we try to understand our own perspective, its strengths and its weaknesses.

Some People Don’t Like Change

Missy was playing with some dominoes with Jonah yesterday. He found one that didn’t have any white dots on it. He asked Missy if she could put dots on it. She said she couldn’t. So then he asked her if Jesus could (not bad for a boy who just turned three, right!). She said, “Jonah, this one is just different.” Jonah’s reply…”I don’t like different.”

If you have spent any time around Jonah you know just how true that is. He can spot anything that is out of place. Sometimes he even gets a little upset when things aren’t routine. He really doesn’t like different. He is slow to adjust to change. How many of us are that way? We get something ingrained in our mind and don’t want to see it any other way. Change is going to happen in life. We have to learn how to work with it and even use it to the advantage of the kingdom of God. That doesn’t mean everything is a negotiable when it comes to faith, practice, morality and ethics. It also doesn’t mean that every single thing is fixed and absolute. Some things are and some things are not. We have to be wise enough to tell the difference.

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!