Knowing God: 2 Steps and a Metaphor

26 04 2016

God takes the first step in making himself known. He creates. He relates. He reveals. He writes. He speaks. He reminds. He loves. We respond to him. We listen. We look. We speak. We receive. We love. Connect this truth to a child’s heart this week. The God of the universe wants to be known and we can know him. And if we truly desire to know him, we will spend time with him not unlike how we spend time with the people we love.

The man who would truly know God must give time to Him.

-A.W. Tozer

I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God…

-Exodus 6:7

God Knows

My young daughter once asked, “Why do I have lungs?” Well of course there’s the obvious and scientific answer, “So you can breathe,” which is a whole lot of fun to explore. But in that question there is a world of supernatural discovery waiting to happen. There is no way we could have lungs unless God wanted us to have them and then made it so. We cannot breathe unless God gives us the power to breathe.

One “random” moment of relationship in our family time provided an impetus for a brief, but lively conversation about God’s presence. God created all things and gives humans an astounding ability to relate to himself. All that he has created provides us with a compelling reason to want to know him.

In addition, God shows himself through his Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus is the face of God.

If you really know me, you will know my Father as well.

Joh 14:7

God knows all about us and makes it possible for us to know him.

We Know

Of course, knowing that God created and that Jesus is the perfect image of God, doesn’t mean we really know God. When talking with children about knowing God, please, please, please don’t just relay stories and facts! Inspire them to relate to this God who is very active in their lives.

When the Bible speaks of knowing God it never has information alone in mind. It always includes experiential knowledge. Show children how they can really know God’s presence, and how they can experience a family friendship with him. Consider these parallels:

Family

  • A child sits with his parents-we can simply acknowledge God’s presence
  • A child feels secure-we can rest and enjoy life as a gift from God
  • A child chimes in-we can feel comfortable approaching God anytime
  • A child chats-we can simply tell God what’s on our mind anytime, anywhere
  • A child listens-we can honour and respect God by listening to his Word and Holy Spirit
  • A child plays-we can know God more as we enjoy what he created for us
  • A child obeys-we know God has good plans for us and we follow those plans
  • A child explores-we investigate, examine, ask questions, touch, hold, taste, see
  • A child receives-we don’t have to earn God’s gifts! Bask in them.
  • A child wants and expects attention-spend uninterrupted time with your Creator

What further parallels do you notice about relating to God as a child would relate to a good parent?

Lord, I want to know you so children will too.

Advertisements




God Talk: Awakening Curiosity

19 04 2016

Dive into any topic far enough and you’ll get overwhelming feelings. Dive into technical discussions about God and your head will spin! Let’s keep this simple. GOD IS GOD and we are not. When talking about God in your family or with the family of God, don’t turn it into a competition of who knows more. Don’t feel inferior for knowing less. Just keep the conversation going. This week, when you’re around a child, ask them what they think God is like. Then, without correcting them or agreeing with them, simply say, “Hmmm.”

Theology is talk about God.

-Rolf A. Jacobson

“If…they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.”

-Exodus 3:13-14

When we come to conversations about God, we do well to maintain a humble posture. Especially with children. When talking about God with children, if we try to act knowledgeable, our words will sail over their heads and they’ll move on to something else. So speak simply. Remain in awe. Admit that you don’t fully understand. Tell them that you’re okay with it.

Competition

When talking about God becomes a competition, everyone loses. You lose when you dominate another person’s point of view. You lose when you back away because you think you don’t know enough. I’d rather view this as a quest over a competition.

Conversation

Just talk. Enjoy the ride. Make statements, but also ask questions. Be an exceptional listener. The simple lead, “Tell me more about that,” invites further dialogue and opens up diverse perspectives. Now I’m not saying that you simply accept whatever opinion is shared. We can disagree, but let’s do it respectfully and with the desire to honour the relationship.

Curiosity

Be continuously curious. I think that’s how God created us to be and so we should be. Get out there and explore. Challenge ideas. Invite wonder. Say, “Hmmmm,” and just linger for a moment. With young children these conversations will be fleeting and quick, but the more you stoke a child’s innate sense of curiosity the better you propel them toward a lifetime of seeking God. Conversely, the more you shut down ideas with your own domineering convictions, the less likely children will grow up with a desire to express their own opinions.

Lord, I want to bask in the wonder of YOU.





Kid Talk: Four Ideas for Increased Connection

14 04 2016

Speaking with children is a bit of an art. As adults, we spend a lot of time thinking and speaking with our adult vocabulary. Children need simple words, shorter sentences, essential truth and vivid examples. This isn’t too difficult to accomplish, but takes some conscious thought and consistent effort. Just talk. Keep it simple. No need to baby-speak. Don’t muddy the waters with complicated ideas. Pass on what is most important. And, by the way, learning the habit of communicating simply will help you understand difficult concepts too.

Jesus used simple language.

-Rick Warren

For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance…

-Paul (1 Corinthians 3:3)

Simple Words

When you speak with children it doesn’t mean you treat them as less intelligent, but you will connect with them better when you use words that they are familiar with. Remember, they haven’t encountered nearly the amount of words you have as an adult. So turn phrases like, “eternal life” into “forever life.” It means the same thing when you elaborate on it in conversation, it’s more fun to say and it hits home. Try simply talking to children and not talking down to them or over their heads. Aaron Reynolds, a crazy good kid communicator, says it this way, “You’re just talking, just sharing something cool. Casual. Real. Personal. This tone draws them in rather than pushing them away.”

Shorter Sentences

The NIrV is a children’s translation of the Bible. It is a great example of how shorter sentences are easier to read. They are also helpful in comprehension. Shorter sentences help you take a breath between thoughts. Doing this increases your ability to process. Ephesians 1 contains a long and masterful sentence. But try reading that to a child. You couldn’t expect them to understand. Even adults will need to read that sentence very slowly and deliberately. Then to grasp it fully, adults would need to break it down into connected thoughts. Turn a big idea into a memorable and repeatable phrase such as, “God is super strong!”

Essential Truth

Stick to the most important things. Sometimes we just want to dump all of our knowledge into children’s brains, but brains don’t work that way, especially kids brains. So stick to the essential truth you want to communicate for the moment and repeat it in different ways. Paul received essential truth and passed it on. While much of his writing is complex, he nonetheless continues to return to what’s essential. Everything he writes about is expanding on the idea that 1. God wants us to belong to him and 2. He makes this possible through Jesus who died, was buried and came back to life. (Notice the simpler word choice of “came back to life,” instead of “rose again.”)

Vivid Examples

Remember that kids have difficulty thinking in abstract terms. So consistently bring in tangibles, visuals, everyday objects, common experiences. If you’re talking about water, go get some! If you want children to see what Jesus means when he talks about the vine. Show a picture or bring in a real one…with grapes to share! Jesus communicated simply even with adults. To talk about the Kingdom of God, an extremely abstract concept, he used seeds, sheep, trees, birds, dirt, pearls, and on and on.

Let’s just talk to kids this week and enjoy the simplicity that comes from that!

Lord, thank you for the simple truths of life.





Life: Longing for the Way it is Meant to Be

5 04 2016

Life is a wonderful gift. From birth to death, every unique individual is on a journey of discovery and a search for meaning and significance. Yet death is a stark reminder that life is all too short…unless…there is an alternate ending. This is the Gospel: Christ came to bring us life. Real life. Forever life. There is no need to shy away from the topic of death with children. They may not have firsthand knowledge of it, but they can grasp eternity better than you might think. Celebrate life with kids this week as they, and you, develop into all that God has planned for you.

magnifiedsmile.gratisography

Eternal life is…quality of life, life to the limit.

-John Eldredge

I have come so they may have life. I want them to have it in the fullest possible way.

-Jesus (John 10:10)

Over the past few months, I have written about lifespan development. My starting point for writing about development largely came from the book Development Through the Lifespan, by Laura E. Berk as well as the work of Erik Erikson and his observations on life stages.

From birth to death, individuals are changing and shifting from season to season, milestone to milestone and phase to phase. There are key markers to each phase, which we will do well to understand and acknowledge. Development theory is still a theory and so the markers may not be empirical fact, but there are significant observations to be made. Summarizing each phase is a difficult task, but the benefits include ‘aha!’ moments, establishing goals, recognizing challenges, preparing for what’s to come, influencing the next generation well, etc.

For parents or children’s ministry volunteers, especially, being able to identify that the most important target for an infant is developing trust, we can pool our efforts into that one area more effectively. Or in your family, understanding and appreciating what your parents may be feeling or working through may increase your ability to strike up meaningful conversations.

Perhaps a child wasn’t from a home where skills could be learned without shaming or she never had a safe place to struggle with her identity. Knowing this can increase your empathy, the ability to understand or share the feelings of another. Recognizing this in yourself can be a humbling first step to receiving the help you need and making the next appropriate step in your personal growth.

The bottom line is this: God values every life greatly. He created real life and has set eternity in our hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11). We are all changing, shifting, developing. Yet, to know God’s design for life we must wait, for our best life is yet to come. Let us live and develop and mature as God meant us to and as much as we are able. Let us wait and long for the full realization of what God has planned.

Here are the links to all of my posts on development:

Lord, help me celebrate your gift of life today.





Late Adulthood: Fulfilling Reflection

22 03 2016

Late adults (65+) are those who’ve been blessed to live a full life. They’ve entered a time of harvest from all they’ve experienced. They are to be highly honoured and not forgotten. They have much wisdom to offer. But here, despair can set in if regret overwhelms. Before you enter this stage, ask yourself, “Will I have lived a meaningful life?” While you live out this phase, ask yourself, “What are the best parts of my life that I can share?” The next generation greatly benefits from the wisdom of its ancestors.

oldladycamera.unsplash

Life ought not be wasted.

-John Piper

Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

-Psalm 90:12

Life in this phase, as hard as it is, can be lived with fulfilling reflection. 

Whatever has happened in your life to this point, there is something positive to reflect on. If you’ve lived with many regrets, set those regrets aside and search, as for treasure, for what you can be grateful for. If you’ve lived well, finish well also. There is much from your life that you can share.

In your biological family and church family, honour your elders. Spend time with them. Interview them for their life experience and wisdom. Value them.

Let these final years (or decades?) be your best years. Stare death in the face with hopeful joy. Connect with those closest to you. Mend broken fences. Teach, encourage and strengthen others. As Paul wrote to his protégé Timothy towards the end of his life, you can also say,

I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race. I have kept the faith.

2 Timothy 4:7

Here are some suggestions for finishing your race well:

  • Journal to aid your reflection
  • Beware of cynicism or arrogance taking away your joy
  • You are nearing death so face it with dignity and integrity
  • As your body continues to decline, treat it well with regular exercise and beneficial eating habits
  • Tell your life story
  • Spend time with children and youth for their sake and yours
  • Exercise your brain. Examples:
    • learn an instrument
    • read with a pen in hand
    • take up an art such as drawing, painting or crafting
    • solve puzzles and problems (the game kind and the real life kind)
  • Your habits may seem to be set in stone, but continuing to learn new skills and try new things will add to your enjoyment of life
  • List 100 things you’re especially grateful for and make them visible
  • If you’ve stayed married to this point, congratulations! Satisfaction in this relationship will likely increase so pour out your best energy for the other.
  • Don’t let retirement be an excuse to give up!
  • Volunteer often
  • Seek leadership opportunities and roles in your community
  • Find creative ways to benefit your children, grandchildren or other close family members or church family members:
    • write a letter
    • babysit
    • offer advice, but be careful of meddling
    • create something as a gift
    • put together a family tree or, even better, learn about genograms
  • Continue to find ways to connect with a local church
  • Remember that life is greater than you and reflect on God who transcends our understanding

What suggestions would you offer for maximizing the joy in this phase of life?

Lord, thank you for the heritage of our elders.





Middle Adulthood: Leaving Your Mark

17 03 2016

Middle adults (40-65) are at a critical juncture. They are realizing the brevity of life and their unique opportunity to build a nurturing and equipping legacy filled with deep meaning. This is not the time to fade out or burn out! You have life experience to share! Fan your desire to contribute to the next generation.

Our lives become the sum of all whom we have loved.

-George E. Vaillant

We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord…

-Psalm 78:4

There are many endeavours that the middle adult can be involved in. Career enrichment, family satisfaction, business decisions, investment securities, health improvement, etc. Life at this time can be very full and flourishing. Yet, if not handled well, can become empty, stagnate and stale.

You may begin to ask yourself questions like these,

What do people get for all their work? Why do they work so hard on this earth?

-Ecclesiastes 1:3

But when your life is lived for others and not for self, you will begin to move toward deep satisfaction and not toward bitterness, resentment or callousness.

Individuals at this stage of life who recognize that meaningful care is the hallmark of an enduring legacy will enrich their own lives as well.

Here are some ways to really care:

  • Tell stories to children
  • Find someone to mentor…fast
  • Donate from what you have acquired
  • Volunteer your time any way you can
  • Teach the unique skill set you have developed
  • Build something that will last
  • Play games with children
  • Put less value on your physical traits and more value on your contributions
  • Find contentment with whatever you have and have become
  • Discover how you can maximize and share your life experience and practiced abilities
  • Don’t run from the reality that declines in your body are coming, but face it with grace
  • Find ways to challenge and stimulate your mind, body and spirit
  • You may be launching children, but don’t neglect opportunities to connect
  • Don’t run from your aging parents, but keep them close and take care of them
  • Spend time with children and really listen to them

Lord, help us to age with impact.





Early Adulthood: Avoiding Loneliness

8 03 2016

Early adults (18-40) are craving a life enriched with intimate and committed relationships. Yet many are experiencing perpetual loneliness. More than many realize, loneliness contributes to many illnesses and depressive tendencies. This week make a concerted effort to extend friendship to someone in your community. Authentic friendships will do more to change the world than most anything!

trainstationbusyness.unsplash

Loneliness is a distressing, painful experience which humans…want to avoid.

-Kraus, Davis, Bazzini, Church, Kirchman

Now you are my friends.

-Jesus (John 15:15)

As Erik Erikson summarizes, loneliness can lead early adults to promiscuity or exclusivity, both dangerous extremes.

The pursuit of this phase is committed intimacy.

Commitment in relationships will lead to long-lasting satisfaction including emotional and mental health. Here are some suggestions for moving toward committed intimacy:

  • Find a group to be a part of such as sports, music, crafts, hobbies, reading, arts, etc.
  • Connect with a small group at church
  • Find opportunities to volunteer and give back with others
  • Study God’s plan for marriage and make the decision to marry very carefully
  • Make life-long learning a habit you do not just on your own, but with others also
  • Network in a way that adds value to others
  • Find a mentor…fast!
  • Mend broken family relationships or seek ways to connect or reconnect intentionally with family members
  • Look for ways to be of service to employers, colleagues or employees
  • Be aware that loneliness may peak at this phase, but can decrease from here on out as commitment increases
  • More than likely, you will begin to stabilize in the community you are a part of as your relationship habits solidify.

Lord, make loneliness disappear!








%d bloggers like this: