The Meaning of Children

There is  a great series about parenting, faith and life going on here.

Sadly I was too overwhelmed to officially attempt to join, but these are my thoughts.

I have known and loved so many children already, and its been a blessing. I cannot remember a time without young children in my life. I am the eldest of four children, my youngest sister is 10 years younger than me. She is about to graduate from college this weekend. At Oberlin I worked at Headstart, at Princeton Seminary I was the Children’s Ministry Coordinator at a local church, and then I started having children of my own.

Three

Three Boys

I like to say…I have all the stuff.

My children have taught me a lot about individuality and acceptance in that each and every one of them is unique and different.

My eldest (7) is a dramatic leader, he love performing, and projects. I like to say he’s like me without the adult super-powers. He is wordy and smart and argues about EVERYTHING. I do mean everything, he verbal processes every single decision.

My middle child (5) is different. He has severe communication problems and not so severe physical coordination issues. He is empathetic, easygoing and overall a complete sweetheart. I think he only can understand 10% of our verbal communication, yet he goes with the flow and throws himself into group activities with joy.

My youngest (3) loves cars, rockets, stars/moon and baseball and basically everything stereotypically boys…took three to get there, but we got one. He likes to entertain himself, and cackles cutely when he is making trouble.

My kids are not perfect, and there is no way to treat each of them equally, they are too different. In fact, parenting skills are obviously NOT the only thing that molds a child. However, I think they are comfortable. They know they are loved for who they are and their skill sets and trouble spots are accepted.

I often think of how God loves and accepts each of us. Of how when we ask people to be exactly the same, we are really saying that God does not have enough love to share it with those who are so different. Its too hard to love different children.

Having three different children, I think that I have enough love for each and every one of them, and my husband (which of course is yet another kind of person) and I don’t love them for being the same or different or perfect.

I love Franklin’s sense of momentous occasions

I love Westley’s way to lead you to what he wants by holding your hand.

I love Ashburn’s cackle of delight when something surprises him.

I love being able to love them.

For more articles be sure to check out some http://miheekimkort.com/2015/05/17/the-meaning-of-children-you-suck/ for the month of May and June

Twas the Night before Christmas & Theater

So, I have 5 amazing children who are doing a performance of Twas the Night Before Christmas.

TwasJoy, Joy, Joy!

This is where the spirit of the season is…let me tell you

1. The kids have come to practically every rehearsal (I tried to keep them reasonable). I am amazed at their commitment

2. The kids have synergy! We have played all sorts of games and learned all kinds of theater skills, and they are definitely in tune with each other

3. Each child is unique! Coming from 4 different families, representing broad socio-economic and cultural perspectives it is a joy to see how representative of the community these kids are…(we have a half Hispanic-Half African-American Child, an adopted Asian Child and Three Caucasian children all from different types of homes)

4. They (almost) know their lines, and we are 3 weeks from the actual performance

5. They LOVE rehearsing “Can we do it again?” “Can we sing more?” “What else are we going to add?” are just some of their questions. They seem to ALWAYS have fun.

6. They are helping with everything! Devoting time to drawing pictures, creating bios and planning the party, each kid is committed to help out.

Last time I did a Charlie Brown Christmas–the adults performed it to 150 people, with squirmy children, a group home and many community members in attendance. It was a huge success, we collected a cartload (well really a pickup truck load) of nonperishable food (the price of admission)…That we have now asked the boys scouts to help us out, in case this year is as good (or better) a success….

But I have to say…this play is already a success, no matter how many people come, no matter how many shelter goods we collect, the kids are coming together and doing Christmas…Being Christmassed together

In the midst of worry about the future (protests re: Ferguson & NYC come to mind), these children Incarnate the HOPE, PEACE, JOY and LOVE of the season! They are my human Advent Wreath, bringing their warmth and light of the season home. Its amazing how a Christmas Play can bring Jesus home.

Children! Yay!

It is a gift to love children.

I know this, because as a child, I never wanted to forget what it was to have an adult who talked to you like real human being…there were these grown-ups who “got it” and I read books by authors who seemed to still get it. L. Frank Baum, C. S. Lewis, J. M. Barrie, Raold Dahl, Maurice Sendek, Dr. Suess and a million others.

My husband tells me that I treat everyone like children.

I prefer to think of it as “I treat everyone the same” (including myself…I think that means I still consider myself a child)–Besides we are all children of God, right 😉

I have been gifted with continuous exposure to children, my youngest sibling is 10yrs younger than me, and I have two more! Let’s just say I’ve gone to Disney movies most of my life (either by acculturation or pure survival I still love them!). This means she was only 11 when I graduated college (yep. I was so totally in the know about Blue Clues, Pokemon and what KIDS actually thought about Harry Potter). During College, I worked at Headstart, reading to children. Why? do you ask? Because these children are usually a. not read to at home b. don’t have role models who went to college c. need adults who are around just to talk/listen to them without extra demands. Also, Headstart is underfunded and can always use an extra pair of hands. So, I was around preschoolers 2-3 times a week!
I also dabbled in summer jobs that included a Montessori School, fulltime babysitting and being the children’s director (read: all the Munchkins) of Wizard of Oz

Then I worked at Bethany Presbyterian while I was in seminary where I was the Christan Ed. Director for over 50 kids, with an amazing full out PTA and volunteer staff of Sunday School Teachers.

Then, I also had 2 children at seminary (because, hey, I hate being bored) and babysat part time.

Literally, I have NEVER had a TIME WITHOUT CHILDREN in my life.

So, yes I don’t remember EVERYTHING of being a child, but I didn’t forget everything either 🙂

You know what I’ve learned? You forget! There are lots of adults my age–I’m only 30–who don’t have a clue as to what to do with kids–either they have never been around them, or they’ve completely forgotten.

And, some people are able to rediscover it with parenting or by connecting with a child in their lives 🙂

To love children, to stay engaged with them, to truly value who they are (not just who they have potential to be) is a gift. I’m so lucky to have that gift.

This is why I think that families should be included (w)holistically in church, that real space and time should be given to children to be a part of everything that is going on, and their contributions should be valued…This is why I didn’t become a Christian Educator, because I think Children Should be INCLUDED in church, not just a special category of ministry (altho they are that too) I want to be in the “main church” fighting for and with them!

after all, their contributions have always been a meaningful part of MY life!!!

Young Families in Church…continued…..

A lot of young people don’t go to church (I know your shocked, your really, really shocked).

Here is my vast knowledge about church

1. Its a good community…its a good way to have intergenerational interaction, its a good way to ask hard questions (at the good churches anyway)

2. Church Shopping is tough: churches are desperate (which isn’t that attractive) and its hard to church shop when you feel unsettled, and lets face it, with the way the economy is, most people are fairly unsettled, especially the young people. I have been at the same job for 4ish years…that is VERY unusual for a person my age. If you don’t have a steady job or don’t know if your going to have to move (again) within the same year, its hard to make time to church shop.

In theories churches should be helping with this process (how about get to know your town guides? New to the neighborhood events that aren’t creepy? My church does a playgroup that allows a little bit with this)

3. Churches need to advertise themselves as a pace of transition (ie we are a stable place to come while your transitioning)…too much to Churches self-advertise or give the impression that this is where to go when you start to sort out your beliefs or your all set on where you are in life. This is OPPOSITE of what church should be, church should be a place to be crazy, screwed up and confused, a place to support people who are figuring it out…….Maybe churches should be more like college and less like a government.

4. Young Families Basic Needs: tend to include activities at a time of day they can actually manage, Sunday School that is enjoyable, Family friendly events, Adequate Rooms for children, Babysitting for events that are not suitable for children, changing tables, cribs, and preferably a space in the Worship area for kids to worship during church (try getting that one done, its almost impossible)…want to welcome families? Go out of your way to give them a real space to be….

5. Try to focus more on the Sabbath piece of church. Every single person I know is stressed and overwhelmed, if church could be a place of sanctuary, rest and sabbath we might actually communicate our message better.

6. That whole forgiveness of debts thing: do that. We preach forgiveness of debts, practically everyone I know is WAY in debt, yet we do nothing to practice what we preach….um….yeah….

7. Engage, engage, engage, find as many opportunities as possible to serve the community, to experience the community and to get to know the community (this is that piece of advice every single leader of churches gives)

8. Do NOT talk about young people as the “future”; first off, they are already people, not just future people (get my drift?), secondly this gross genera9lizing of who the young are is not appreciated

9. Try not to be judgmental: To be human is to be judgmental, its how we separate the “us” from the “them” its a defense mechanism, its natural, and its sad….we don’t need to judge other people, that’s God’s job. Plus! loving is our goal, good news is our job, and judging people adds to their problems. I used to have someone call me up at night and tell me what I needed to worry about…guess what…that is the opposite of helping…

10. Have Faith: Preach Good News, practice joy, dwell in the spirit, worry not about today or tomorrow, consider the birds, consider the lilies of the fields, they toil not, but God takes care of them…

Children and Church!

Children and Church!

“Just tell me the Bible story.  I know it sounds simple enough, but it’s amazing how complicated this can get.  Honestly, I don’t need gimmicks, flash, fluff.  If I want entertainment I’ll ask my parents to take me to the movies.  I don’t need a Vacation Bible School that “takes me on an Amazon expedition” or involves surfing, camping or clowns.  And please, don’t let some random B-rate Bible cartoon video do it for you.  I want you to tell me the Bible story. You. Me. The Bible. That’s it.”

Nakedness

A synopsis of Sunday’s Sermon

Naked Babies are beautiful–I’m pretty sure everyone can agree that naked babies are beautiful. Maybe this was why baptisms used to be done naked because (although a little dangerous) what is cuter than a naked baby?

God made us, as all good mothers, God made space for us and then formed us as a part of her lives…God made us naked babies, beautiful and perfect, and then Jesus offers us the spring of life.

God knows our own mother’s are not perfect, but there is great comfort in knowing that God fills in the gaps–God is the perfect parent, able to be both mother and father to us….

God thinks we’re beautiful…and invites us to baptism, to spirituality to swim fully in the glory of God.

And of course that means nakedness….

Removing all those loads and pieces of clothing that separate us from God. Fully claiming ourselves and our bodies in Christ (for more on this see my post on Skinny Dipping).

And when we get naked, we start to notice that our bodies are imperfect, there are scars, we have fat and wrinkles and everything doesn’t work right….so maybe we can only put our feet in, but whatever we can do to get some spirituality allows us to be loved. How can we participate in the River of Life.

I have a rule–every baby I see is the most beautiful baby in the world …And its true, every baby is a miracle, every baby is beautiful and so I know, for a fact that every baby is the most beautiful baby in the world.

We are God’s Babies. We are the most beautiful people in the universe, and that beauty comes from God! God’s glory and love is in us, and since Christ is in God we are in God’s glory (John 17). And God, as a good mother, doesn’t love us in spite of our faults, but including them. Seeing all our flaws, faults and cracks. God loves us, because we are the most beautiful children in the world–and we need to affirm that to one another. To look at one another and say–you are beautiful, just like naked babies are!

A Parenting Parable: A Fig Tree

“Hurry UP!”

Sometimes I can be a tad impatient with my children, especially my “almost” 5 year old. For example last Friday we were late to school because every single thing I asked him to do he said he would and then didn’t. Making me repeat myself over and over again.

Last week I was trying to nap during my children’s nap/quiet time (quiet time for the older boys for 1hr, nap time for the baby and perhaps my 3 year old depending how good a job we did of wearing him out). My mistake was to try to nap upstairs (my window get a nice piece of sunlight to sleep in midday: I’m part plant you know). Every couple of minutes it was “mmmooooo—ooomm–maaaa….how do I spell….” followed by some word that was somehow related to Dr. Suess–which is our current obsession. My problem was I was so tired I couldn’t follow through on my threats so I kept saying “this is the last time” spell it and inevitably he would return….

What amazes me about this all is that my children’s behavior and its significance for me, the fact of whether they are having a good or a bad day is ultimately reflective of the kind of day I’m having.

Jesus tells a parable of the Fig Tree…In it a fig tree that has been growing for 3 years. It grows, its green, it looks healthy, and yet does not produce fruit. The Master declares it should be cut down, but the caretaker (Christ anyone?) says that he will trim it, give it better soil, and to please let it grow another year and see what then happens. The Master agrees….–Luke 13:6-9

…and that’s it…the story ends, not with whether or not the tree behaves better but the two “parents” of the tree, the caretaker and the master, Jesus and God, agreeing to give it better care. Deciding it wasn’t (entirely) the tree’s fault, and that it probably could produce it just needed more time and space to grow, and more nurturing, and trimming of its bad parts….

If I’m having a good day, the hiccups of a 1, 3 and almost 5yr old are minor and workable. If I’m having a bad day every infraction feels like a personal insult.

https://encrypted-tbn3.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcRG9g5f4tujtVpidSbLAT4Vgmwit9cw7H8qta5FVswcf7r91o3BpgIf I have the wherewithall to take a step back on the bad days then I at least don’t lash out but unfortunately, I am only human. My mom said she used to be really moody/dramatic (Re: my side of the family tends to be) and if one thing went wrong her entire day was ruined. Post-Children, if only a few things went wrong, she knew it had been a “good” day.

So there it is…the promise is that God will follow through on cutting down the bad trees (you know the importance of boundary setting and holding to consequences in parenting), but at the same time, practicing Grace….If my children aren’t bearing fruit that day, maybe I need to look at the care I’m able to give them that day (after all children tend to notice when we are stressed and respond in kind) The focus is not on the consequence but on the gift…let our parenting be the same….not only on my good days, but also on my bad ones

On the other hand on really hard days–where it isn’t about me or the children, but about the world (Newtown and Boston of course spring to mind)–then the misbehavior of small children are put into perspective, and I begin to feel blessed–blessed to be safe, blessed to have children to love, bless to have children who misbehave and are imperfect.

Sermons are Art

Sermons are Art

Sermons are art, sometimes they rock, and sometimes they don’t. Its less of a quotient of how many hours you put in, and tends to be where you are emotionally, are you feeling creative, is your imagination engaged, can you connect to your audience, is it relevant and yet provoking.

I’ve always said, I wish every sermon was a masterpiece, but since its art, it doesn’t work that way. There are practices and disciplines that help you to be a better artist, but never any guarantees.

This brings me to Presbyterian Today their articles about arts in the church (Shout out to Katie Douglass who pursued arts even while she did her doctorate at PTS)

Arts and Church Art as worship and considering popular culture (ie arts) and religion (cough, cough Science Fiction/Fantasy and Religion anyone? Read about Faith and Dr Who & Star Trek here)

and  Whether Sermons are becoming Obsolete…(well depends what you mean by sermons)

If we aren’t approaching Sermons as an art, but instead only as a form of communication or education,  then we are not encouraging creation, we are merely communicating about it. And I really think that is missing God’s point. If its art, then the format is far more open then are first and second definitions of sermon imply!!!!