Children

Search For Significance

Posted by on Sep 12, 2014 in Children, Extraordinary Everyday People, Truth | 22 comments

#3 framed

 

Our search for significance often begins on a playground sometime between the ages of 3 -5. It starts the day we first risk asking the question, “Will you play with me?” and then matures to even more vulnerability when we dare to add, “Will you be my friend?”.

 

Think about how many times over your lifetime you asked those questions – and how many times the answer either hurt or disappointed you. These encounters are the beginning of our shaping.

 

I watched my granddaughter try to approach a group of girls the other day at the park. The girls were fully engaged in what they were doing and obviously all knew each other well. At first, she stood a distance away from them – observing and waiting. I knew what she wanted and it was agonizing to watch. She inched closer and closer hoping they would notice her, knowing full well she had nothing to offer them but herself.

 

My instinct was to dive in, intervene, and help her out. But my heart knew better. It would be as big a mistake as helping a struggling baby bird out of its birthing shell.

 

There are things we need to discover and conquer all on our own. The shaping of our identity and the role others play in our significance are core issues we’re tasked to settle through a lifetime of experiences. It starts early and the lessons we learn early-on carry as much weight as the ones we learn later in life.

 

I’ve worn the same uncomfortable shoes my granddaughter did that day many times in my life. It’s risky business to seek an invitation into an established group. Do you remember your first day at a new school, or your first crush or first job interview? The playgrounds change, but the emotions are the same.

 

During the long quiet walk back to my car, I sensed the wheels turning in my granddaughter’s mind.

 

As much as I wanted to tell her this was an isolated experience or that she was the most special girl on earth – I knew there were other more important shaping factors in play.

 

Instead, we talked about compassion and empathy, about forgiveness and feelings.

 

The truth is, not everyone she meets will like her or want to be her friend (even though the sun rises and sets on her, in my book). Her significance is not found in the acceptance of others. It’s not even found within the security of her family. Her significance is found in Christ and who he’s created her to be.

 

He has given her, and us, everything we need to effectively (and significantly) join the game of life on any playground we find ourselves. We are secure, loved and equipped to be his. And that’s good enough.

 

 

 photo credit

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Childlike Innocence & Our Relationship With God

Posted by on Jul 18, 2014 in Children | 20 comments

baby girl 3

 

“At that time Jesus said, ‘I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your gracious will.”

Matthew 11:25-26

We were all young children before we became ‘wise and learned’ adults. According to scripture we must return to childlike innocence in order to reclaim the secrets God has for us. Today I’m challenged to self evaluate and look to children for keys to divine understanding and relationship with my Heavenly Father.

Young children typically:

  • assume the characteristics of their parents.
  • remain in the moment spending little time worrying about and preparing for tomorrow.
  • are quick to forgive and don’t readily hold grudges.
  • rely on their parents as their only option for comfort in a crisis.
  • find enjoyment and wonder in simple things.
  • easily demonstrate love without conditions or bias.
  • believe what their parent tells them without suspicion or scrutiny.
  • live with enthusiastic expectation – and believe.
  • don’t have to work to learn the language of their parents, they simply do it by spending time with them.

 

Pondering these sobering and comforting words today ~

“And he said: ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:3

 

 

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A Visit to the Toy Store

Posted by on Jun 20, 2014 in Children, Play, toys | 20 comments

012

 

When was the last time you visited a large toy store? If it’s been a while, you’re in for a real surprise – a shocking overload to the senses actually. Be prepared, you’ll see every conceivable form of plastic configuration the mind can concoct. I caution you – it has a hypnotic effect.

Yesterday I entered the colorful maze looking for one simple item and quickly found myself swallowed up by floor to ceiling boxes of plastic fantastic STUFF.

One of the rows had mechanical toy dogs on one side and talking baby dolls on the other. High pitched barks mingled with unnatural baby cries filled the isle each time an unsuspecting shopper walked by.

There was even an entire isle dedicated to toy horses. Twenty feet long by ten feet high of them. There were stuffed horses, tiny horses, tall horses, fantasy horses – horses with hair, horses with saddles, families of horses and every other piece of paraphernalia to go with them.

The deeper I went the more fascinated I became. Isle after isle told children how to play. Dollhouses, castles, costumes, miniature furniture, games, electronic devices – it was endless. Even the books were automated.

I found myself craving wood – real wood. The kind that smells real, feels real and looks real. I searched for old fashioned building blocks and was horrified to learn they didn’t sell them.

Alarms began to ring in my mind. Non battery-operated alarms.

Children need, we all need – more than TOYS, we’re designed to be creators. Block play is essential for the healthy development of young children. They don’t require an instruction manual with automated parts to enjoy blocks – they just need blocks and space to create.

We’re getting too comfortable in a world that thinks for us – that controls our play – that has plasticized every aspect of our environment.

I had to examine my own insatiable appetite for stuff and stimuli. How much is too much? Do I choose items and devices with predictable outcomes rather than create new ones for myself?

When I surfaced for air, my heart felt sad for the lack of open spaces our children experience. Safety, keeping the educational edge, entertainment and ease – all want to choke out the freedom our children need to become the future for their own generation – thinkers, investors, creators. More than mere mastery – living, breathing, creators.

Do you remember the things that gave you joy as a child? Were they even ‘things’?

I remember playing horse, not playing with toy horses. I spent hours galloping through open grassy fields pretending to be a four legged creature. I remember building forts with twigs, brush and dirt. No one taught me how to build a fort – I built it with imagination and endless unsupervised hours of play.

We need the same as adults. We need real. We need open space, cleared space, real space to regenerate and create. Without it, I worry for the people we will become.

 

Linked with #GiveMeGrace

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Reflections from Renewal

Posted by on May 1, 2014 in Children, Divine Appointments, God Speaks, Humility, Words | 16 comments

with Wess Stafford 4

 

Last weekend will go down in my personal history book with a dog-eared marker and more memories than 72hrs should be allowed to carry.

I attended and participated in a conference with hundreds of early educators who love and serve children.

Worship leader Peter Neumann watered our parched souls. Inspirational speakers reignited our passion to press forward in doing what we know we’re called to do – serve our littlest with grace and humility. And nothing drove that truth home for me better than our keynote speaker Dr Wess Stafford, from Compassion International.

Wess Stafford understands service. He also understands humility and the upside-down economy of the Kingdom of God.

Children matter to Wess Stafford and people who invest in the lives to children do too.

I was mesmerized by his keynote address Sat morning – but it was observing his life behind the scenes that drove stakes of influence deep into my soul. I watched Dr Stafford attentively listen to each person who approached him. One by one they came up to him to share their personal stories.

His eyes sparkled and narrowed as he listened and tenderly conveyed to them, “I’m honored to be in your presence”.

When a camera surfaced for a photo, he would grab his new friend close like a proud dad – tilt his head into them, and with a gentle smile of familiarity thank them by name for the privilege of the meeting.

He listened. He invested. He expressed value through understanding and authenticity. He became Christ in the moment.

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I had the privilege of speaking at the Fri evening service. I was told Dr Stafford might arrive early enough to attend. Of course I knew he wouldn’t – he’s WAY too important to be bothered. And his commitment began the next day.

The service was held in a dimly lit room which was beautifully decorated with dozens of candles. The sea of faces blurred into the overpowering soft glow of candlelight.

Minutes after we started it became apparent there would be no eye contact with the audience which actually aligned nicely with the direction I felt God wanted the service to go. It was also a good solution for my concern about the possibility of speaking in front of a big name celebrity.

God met each of us in the candlelit room – he listened. He valued and affirmed us.

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The next day Wess Stafford came up to thank me for the previous evening service. I couldn’t believe it. He came and we both survived.

As I looked into his eyes, I understood. Yes, he’s a brilliant leader, advocate, author, and is known around the world – but he truly gets who he is. He’s just another one of God’s equally valued children – we all are. When he says children matter, he means it. I mattered. I will never forget the minutes he gave me and how it affected me.

I plan to reread my copies of Too Small to Ignore and Just a Minute.

After all, someone from my playground wrote them – and he’s my new hero and friend!!

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What I learned:

  • It only takes a minute to make a lasting deposit in someone’s heart
  • God’s presence dispels our false ideas of what makes us grand
  • Affirmation without humility only affirms the person giving it
  • And – God loves us, truly loves us – because we are his

 

Linking up with #TellHisStory today.

 

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Busy Builders

Posted by on Mar 28, 2014 in Children | 16 comments

calvin framed

 

When we’re young we build for fun. We build to understand our world. We build because we’re wired to create.

As time goes by, we leave childhood and our building habits change a bit. Sometimes we feel good about what we’ve created. And sometimes we worry if what we’ve built will be acceptable, sustainable – or have lasting worth.

The bricks that make up our life vary in size – each having its own significance. They contain stories representing who we are and where we’ve been.

Dare I say – it’s not as important what we build, as it is what we choose to build with.

Children don’t need mortar for their creations. They live in the moment of their task. They build – they tear down and then create again. In their creating, they are shaped.

The mortar we choose to build with is important. It can turn what was meant to be temporary into a fortress – sometimes holding us hostage for a lifetime. The wrong mortar can be a misguided sense of self worth or fear – it can be the love of money, possessions or unhealthy habits.

Children are here to remind us of our temporary status as builders. We will eventually end where we began.

How God must smile as he watches us. We plan, we construct and we work so hard. Then one day – eventually, we will each come to understand he was the planner and builder all along.

May we be mindful of our choices as we build.

May we choose the eternal substance of humility, grace and love to hold our bricks in place.

And may we be challenged with the awareness of his divine plan for our life.

 

“Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Colossians 3:17

“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10

 

 

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Ocean Views

Posted by on Jan 24, 2014 in Children, Questions are Good | 16 comments

Little Boy on the Beach at Sunset in Oceanside- September 30, 20

 

Kneeling next to me is a father and his two sons, one son looks about four years old and the other seven. They’re both wearing UV protected swimwear and hats. Any exposed skin has been generously coated with hand-streaked layers of creamy sunscreen. The three of them sit close together in the wet sand building a castle.

Twenty yards down from us I see a brown-skinned little boy playing in the ocean. He enthusiastically boogie boards, swims and snorkels all by himself. He’s only five. I know, because I asked his dad who sits a distance away in the shade behind me. The beach is obviously this little guy’s playground. I watch him maneuver between tourists oblivious to their inquisitive stares. One after another slow down to admire his skill – and most give a quick scan of the area to see who’s supervising him.

Meanwhile, the castle takes shape. Dad and the older boy commiserate about the architectural design while the younger one fiddles with a bucket next to them. Dad slides a shovel over and begins helping him fill the bucket.

I watch the wheels turn on each of the three boy’s faces. I observe play and relationships.

I think about fathers.

I ponder.

Is one father a little too neglectful and obtuse or is the other too over-protective and controlling?

I realize I’ve found myself accusing God of the same things. Sometimes he seems distant and removed – leaving us to fend for ourselves in the angry sea of life, silent. Other times he seems restrictive and narrow – controlling. His rules suffocate creativity and strangle our individuality.

Perhaps the better observation might be – one father clearly trusts all he has taught his self-directed young son and gives him freedom to build on what he’s learned, even freedom to make mistakes. The other father understands the value of intimacy and is intuitively aware of each son’s unique personality and development.

Thunderous waves effortlessly roll in and out from the shore.

The sun teases me with it’s stationary appearance on the distant horizon.

Our Father watches and whispers affirmation. He releases us to play on his beach.

 

“That they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for in him we live and move and have our being, as even some of your own poets have said, we are indeed his children” Acts 17:27-28

 

Happy to link up with Laura today.

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