Pre-School Theology: Family Bible Time

This entry is part 1 of 14 in the series Pre-School Theology

Something Christine and I have been thinking about for awhile now, but was solidified at that parenting seminar we went to last weekend centered around how to begin introducing our kids to the Word of God. We’ve wanted to start building some family traditions and be more intentional with some of our family and parenting values.

Therefore, we have implemented “Family Bible Time” after dinner and thus far I think we have successfully pulled it off 3 different nights. We’ve found it’s a good way to keep Morgan sitting still in her chair a little bit longer during dinner and it does allow for some good, although basic, interaction over the Bible. Colin just sits there and drools and smiles.

When you try to take these stories down to a 2 or 3 year old level it takes some of the variety out it though. So far there’s a definite theme to Biblical narrative as we have represented it to Morgan. It goes like this: God tells someone to listen and obey because he loves them and wants to protect and love them. They don’t listen and obey because they are selfish. God gives them a time out. OK, so maybe we can be accused of spreading parenting propaganda, but that’s pretty much what we have to work with in Genesis 1-6 which is what we’ve done thus far.

Here are some of Morgan’s observations on the Holy Scriptures through her eyes:

  • “But I eat apples!?” (upon her seeing that God gave Adam and Eve a timeout for eating an “apple” from the special tree in the garden)
  • “There sure are a lot of feet in the Bible!” (upon flipping through the pages and seeing a large number of pictures that emphasized people’s feet, while cutting off the rest of their bodies)
  • “What’s that guy doing underneath that big rock?” (upon seeing Abel’s feet protruding from a large boulder that Cain apparently dropped on him, Road Runner style)

Explaining Cain and Abel was a bit rough. I ended up explaining that Cain gave Abel a big “ouchie” because he was angry. This conversation had one of those 3 year old endless cycles of the “Why?” question. After trying to explain Cain’s murder of his brother without scarring my daughter forever, she shut it down saying, “I think that’s enough for tonight.” I told her I thought she was right.

While I would never want to detract from the Scriptures, I’m really hoping this version of the Bible skips over those stories about Lot and the strangers in Sodom as well as that sordid affair of Lot and his 2 daughters boozing it up in a cave.

Pre-School Theology: End Times

This entry is part 2 of 14 in the series Pre-School Theology

A few weeks ago my son introduced me to perhaps the scariest imagination of Jesus that I could have ever conjured up.  He’s four. While riding his bike at a park he turned to me and initiated the following exchange.

Colin: “Dad, so when are we going to die?”

Me:  “I don’t know. No one knows when that might happen. But that’s kind of intense. Let’s be thankful that we’re alive.”

Colin: “No, no. You know…..like when is Jesus going to come back and kill us all!”

Me:  “What!  Whoa. Jesus isn’t going to come back and kill us all. Jesus is coming back to fulfill His promises and make things right.”

Colin: “No, no. You know…like when we get new bodies!”

Me:  “Okay, yes – you want to talk about when Jesus comes back and you get a new body.”

Colin: “Yes. I have a question.”

Me: “Yes”

Colin: “Do we get to keep our man-parts?”

Now I have no rock solid support for this, but my answer without hesitation was…

“Of course! Of course!”

Because I can’t have my son thinking that Jesus is coming back as a castrating agent of death.

Love having these theological conversations with him though! Getting to some of the hard core theological questions that many man have wondered about over the years!

 

Pre-School Theology: A Boy’s First Sermons

This entry is part 3 of 14 in the series Pre-School Theology

Tonight my son, who just turned five, told me he had an idea out of the blue for us to do together tonight.

He said he had “a speech to make” and that he had a couple “words from God” as he put them and that he wanted to tell me, have me type them into my computer, print them out, and then use them as I talk to people about God.  He told me it would save me time so I wouldn’t need to work that much this week.  I had just told him I needed to work a lot this week prior to leaving town for a couple days for the upcoming holiday break.

Here’s what he spontaneously threw out to me.  The only contribution I had was to ask him after each story he told the question, “What do you think God wants us to learn from that?”  But these words are dictated from him and these are his “words from God” in full with his application.

Here we go….

Sermon 1: Noah

God told Noah to make a big boat.   God sent animals to the big boat because God was going to send a big storm.  They sailed away. And then since he did the right thing, God sent the rainbow. And that’s it.  And God wants us to do the right thing too and obey him. And maybe we’ll get a rainbow, but just one.

Sermon 2:  Adam & Eve

Eve ate the apple and talked to the snake.  The girl gave the apple to her husband and he ate it too.  Then they felt bad and hid in the bushes. God wants us to not believe what the snake says because he is a liar and to believe what God says.

There you have it.

He’s really unbelievable because this kind of is who he is – fully sincere, reflective, curious, and passionate about spiritual questions.  But it’s a trip because we can’t believe half of what comes out of his mouth. We love him. Incredible boy.

Pre-School Theology: Existential Christmas

This entry is part 4 of 14 in the series Pre-School Theology

This week was a big week for our family because the kids really love decorating the house for Christmas.  So me and the kids go to town and transform half of our house into Christmas central.

While we were doing some decorating my son, who just turned five, started asking questions. The wheels are turning. He’s on the verge of figuring out the truth about Santa.

He first started expressing skepticism about reindeer.

“They’re deer after all. And if they are still just deer – how can they fly? Are their reindeer that can really fly?”

But shortly thereafter I was blown away when he asked verbatim, with a very amount of emotion and earnestness,

“I don’t understand. To get presents from Santa, how good do you have to be? How does He know?  Is it true?  I don’t know how good I’m supposed to be to get presents.  How do I know how good I’ve been?

….or is it all a big joke?   What’s real?”

I thought to myself, “Wow. Isn’t that what most people have to wrestle with in life at one point or another?”  My son doesn’t jump out as the philosophical type if you experience our family, but he consistently blows me away with some of his questions and what he thinks about. This led to a good conversation about grace and works in achieving favor with God.

Life sooner or later will feel like a big joke when we try, without being anchored in Jesus Christ and the meaning he gives to our existence, to get a handle on the question about whether we are good enough or how to know how good we need to be.  I for one am thankful that God brought me to a point where I had to face the bold truth that I could never be good enough to be accepted and forgiven by God.  And that he had created me with dignity and with a purpose and that I could be good enough through the person and work of Jesus Christ.

So it was a great conversation to break (or weaken at least) the bad theology of the naughty and nice list and present a more true and beautiful picture of how God sees those who are found in His son Jesus.   He hasn’t fully tossed the idea of Santa into the trash can yet, but it is fun seeing him not put as much at stake in the celebrated human and worldly tradition of performing for blessing  – whether the object is Santa or, on a much bigger level, God.

Ho, Ho, Ho 🙂   Love this time of year with young kids though.  Very fun.

Pre-School Theology: Wretched Man!

This entry is part 5 of 14 in the series Pre-School Theology

In this installment of “pre-school theology” I want to go a different direction than the humorous or cute anecdotes This is a more tragic post, though ultimately hopeful. You should be able to relate to my five year old’s recent theological discovery. I know I do.

He’s an incredible kid, but the last month there’s been a couple times where his behavior has merited some serious consequences that he wanted no part of.  And in the last few weeks his defense of himself has noticeably shifted from desperate avoidance of any painful consequence to a sincere anguish over both the punishment as well as his own journey of acceptance that he could do things that go against his very self.  He pleaded verbatim with extreme passion,

“Dad, my heart, my heart did not want to do that.  I don’t know why I did that.  It just happened, but my heart did not want that to happen.  I don’t understand.”

IMG_9661And then my favorite,

“Dad, my heart didn’t want to do it!  I, I lost my mind!”

It was heartbreaking in so many ways, partly because of the sincerity of his repentance and the horror of self-realization that he can violate his own code of ethics so easily.  But it’s partly heartbreaking because I know his words, feelings, and thoughts in this moment all too well.

His pleas are my own.

His horror at himself is my own.

His confusion over the limitations of his love is my own.

His desire for such internal failure and struggle to be over is my own.

My son has now been initiated into Romans 7, the apostle Paul’s famous exposition of how sin has taken root and is doing its work to condemn and destroy us despite our having better intentions and hopes for ourselves and those around us.

My son’s theology has expanded to include an experience of Romans 7:24, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?” And man, it’s hard to watch.  Watching a 5 year old who, as a kid as good as they come, bleeds compassion and mercy for others wrestle with such feelings of self-condemnation and guilt is really hard.

But that’s not the end.  And that’s the job we have as parents. Our job is to help guide them from Romans 7:24 to Romans 7:25 which takes a dramatic turn, “Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

My son’s just starting his Romans 7 journey. Wherever you may be in your spiritual journey – longtime believer, new believer, or non-believer, or skeptic, read Paul’s struggle below in light of the cries of a 5 year old boy who is just beginning to face the reality of our condition in this world and in light of your own story.

May he, and I, and you be able to claim the great truth in verse 25!

May we marvel at the truth this Christmas that the coming of the Christ was part of a cosmic and personal plan to redeem and deliver us from the law of evil that has taken root in all our hearts. God did not leave us in Romans 7:24. He send his Son, who alone brings the deliverance we long for!

 Romans 7:14-25

14 We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. 15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature.[c] For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

21 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!

Feeling Powerful

This entry is part 6 of 14 in the series Pre-School Theology

 

This edition of “Pre-School Theology” isn’t strict theology per se, but it’s in the neighborhood.

My five year old son walked by me today and looked at me with a funny look and then said to me,

“I feel really powerful right now.”

I don’t know if it’s watching superhero shows or what, but it struck me as an odd thing for a 5 year old to say.  So I asked him what he meant by that and what it means to feel powerful.

He said,

“It’s kinda like something in your brain isn’t working right.”

Pretty much sums up the effects of power on most people doesn’t it?

🙂

SAMSUNG

 

The Gift Our Fish Gave Us

This entry is part 7 of 14 in the series Pre-School Theology

Last week was a bit traumatic for my kids.  Not only did we have our 1st ER trip with our infant’s newfound peanut reaction, but we suffered our first pet death.

We knew this day would come for this $2 pet we bought a long time ago.  It lived twice as long as they told us it would.  This betta fish lived 2 1/2 years before taking that great journey to the sea.

Having a fish was not exactly “rewarding” in the same way that having a dog would be.  Most of the time I don’t think any of us remembered our fish was there.  It did provide some educational moments where our kids learned to be responsible and in different ways “take care of” the fish by feeding it.  But in the aftermath of her death, Parade the fish, ended up giving our family a great gift.

She gave the gift of grieving.

Parade gave my oldest kids their first experience to grief and provided us as parents the opportunity to walk our kids through the experience well, modeling an important life skill.

I would not have guessed my kids would have had so much feeling about this betta fish which they usually just ignore.  But this was a BIG deal and there was many tears and questions.  So it was clear we needed to have a memorial service.  So I conducted my first funeral – and it was for a betta fish.

We had our kids draw a picture of parade and have that kind of space to do something where they felt like they were contributing to saying Good-bye (see picture above).  Perhaps there was a bit of “art therapy” to that 🙂   But we found that having that kind of direction gave them some focus and helped them to feel better about saying good-bye.  They liked drawing pictures of parade and it was significant for them as we watched.

We had a little service where each person shared a memory of parade and something they appreciated about them.  It was CRAZY what our kids remembered and some of the moments that they connected with this fish.  Morgan remembers when we bought parade – which was just after she turned 4.  But there were vivid memories.  The sharing of those took this journey from a “kid crisis” to a family experience or family moment.  It was quite powerful actually to hear my small kids honoring a fish out of their connection to it and not because they know “what grieving is supposed to look like.”

We had a little prayer for the fish where everyone prayed and there were genuine prayers by our 6 and 4 year olds.  But that brought some deep crying where at one point we were in definite wailing territory.

But then it was time to say good-bye.  Parade was flushed to the great beyond.  That sparked hysteria for a time, but they regrouped.  In retrospect we might have buried the fish instead, because the kids boycotted using that bathroom for a while 🙂

When we were done, it was clear that what could have easily been dismissed quickly by quickly replacing the fish or blowing off its impact on our kids turned into a significant family moment and a formational experience for my kids.  We want them to learn to be sad, to deal with loss with honesty and courage as opposed to how so many seek to avoid feeling loss.  There was a purging of pain that night from little souls, but it helped them.

The arena of grieving and loss in children is routinely minimized and overlooked by adults and we’re thankful that this is a benign experience that provided some opportunities for modeling.

So parade was well worth the $2 for all of what she offered my kids and our family.

But it should be noted for posterity – Parade was a boy.  It’s appropriate to confess that we got the boy fish because they look prettier than girl betta fishes and our daughter thought it was a girl.  So perhaps in return for the gift Parade gave to us, we scarred it by naming it and treating it like a girl.  There – I feel released from the deception 🙂

Pre-School Theology: Grief

This entry is part 8 of 14 in the series Pre-School Theology

A couple of years ago I wrote a post entitled “The Gift Our Fish Gave Us” as a reflection on how navigating the death of their fish after two years was developmental and formational for our kids.  Well, we got another fish….and it died this week.  It too gave us the gift of grieving.  But it was quite the day with my 5 year old son Colin – the subject of many of these “pre-school theology” posts.

It all started with a little fumigation.  Daddy thought he had safely contained the fish to avoid the gas chamber experience.  But Daddy was wrong.  Dorothy the fish was belly up and good ole Dad was public enemy #1 for awhile.

It was amazing that during the course of a whole day I watched my son go through like all 5 stages of the grief process.

First – he was angry with me.  He blamed me. Direct quote, “You did it on purpose!” He attributed evil intentions to the mistake that caused him to experience loss.  He even came close to trying to hit me, but he held back at the last minute. But the pain of his loss was funneled toward anger and blaming.

Second – I took him on some errands to reconnect and work through the tension.  At one point he began to try to convince me that Dorothy really was in fact not dead, but sleeping. She was just really tired from holding her breath during all the gas.  He had a strong rationalization for how his loss was all a mistake. Denial at work.

Third – After realizing that the fish was dead and his rationalization broke down and wasn’t doing the job, he looked for other ways to deal with his loss.  He came up to me and said, “Dad, I have an idea! We can pretend to be happy!”  I see this as a combo of rationalization, denial, and bargaining.  I couldn’t believe he said it.  “We don’t have to feel sad if we just pretend we’re happy!”  (Lot of people living their lives with this philosophy! Amazing how early that thought can set in)

My son’s creative solution “to pretend” is a diabolical lie and there’s not much greater of a disservice I can do as a parent than reinforce such a lie that “pretending” is a valid life approach to facing loss and pain.  It’s our job as parents to help our kids embrace a vision of life that is so much bigger and so much deeper and powerful than….pretending. But it’s so tempting to pretend!

Fourth – We had our funeral as a family.  Everyone had done artwork as in the case of Fish #1.  Everyone shared what they drew (Including 2 year old Kaelyn who was experiencing grieving for the first time in this way).  Then they shared what they appreciated about the fish. It is so amazing to hear what little kids share about what was meaningful to them – even as it relates to a fish.   But the funeral had much sadness, much crying, even some wailing.  We prayed and then flushed Dorothy to Great Beyond.  My favorite memory was Kaelyn blowing kisses into the fishbowl as Dorothy was circling, saying, “Bye Bye Dorothy!”

Fifth – We did reach a point of acceptance.  Dad got forgiven. Order was restored. Yet sadness still lingered as kids shared throughout the week random feelings of sadness.  Even Kaelyn would randomly just walk around saying every once in a while, “Sad…Dorothy…Jesus.”

These moments are always wild, but so thankful for the fruit produced when we go through it together and don’t settle for the alternatives to grieving: denial, pretending, blaming.

This weekend we had some of our kids cousins’ in from out of town and they all had a great weekend together.  They left for the airport this afternoon and said goodbye. Afterward Kaelyn was eating dinner and she shared on her own, “Mama I sad.”  We both shared back, “Us too Kaelyn, we’re sad too.”   Later after we began packing up pictures and wall decorations for our move she also said, “Mama I sad. Pictures Gone.”

I love that my two year old sees sadness as normal, as something that can be articulated and shared. My kids still fight loss just like the rest of us, but we’re glad they are learning to talk about it!

There’s no shortage of human dysfunction that flows from the unwillingness or inability to grieve loss and pain and limitation.  I speak from experience. I fight it in all the ways my son tried to fight feeling the loss of his fish. I look for ways around it.

We’re all in process.  But I find myself resonating and even using the very words of my toddler in moments where I’m feeling very non-toddler types of loss…..”I sad.”

It’s amazing how simple a phrase can trigger such a sense of freedom, honesty, and intimacy in relationship.  Reminds me of a similar phrase in Scripture, “Jesus wept.” Such simple language that penetrates all of the complexities surrounding those moments when we’re most aware that we’re fallen people living in a fallen world.

 

 

Baby Jesus Valentine

This entry is part 9 of 14 in the series Pre-School Theology

Valentine’s Day apparently is a big deal here in the Philippines – in general it seems to be even bigger than the actual holidays of Easter and Christmas.  So as a family we had some fun celebrating and talking about the origins of Valentine’s Day and what it means and all that.

During our conversation, the kids steered the conversation somehow to kissing – that kissing is what married people and couples do on Valentine’s Day.

Kaelyn, our recently turned four year old surprised me with a strong stance on the issue.  She declared very passionately,

“The only person I am ever going to kiss in my life is baby Jesus!”

Sounds good to me!