Human Worth: How to See the Good in Others

25 05 2016

Why is it that so many of us feel worthless? Why is it that so much of the world treats others as worthless? Whatever the reason, let me state something very clear: you…have…worth! God made us to be like him. No other creature is given that gift. So see the good that God sees. Draw out the wonders kids have buried in them. When we see people the way God sees them, we will treat them with higher honour. Kids matter to God. We matter to God. You and the children in your life are not throw-aways.

teddybearstreet.gratisography

I love mankind – it’s people I can’t stand!

-Linus (Charles Schulz)

Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, after our likeness.”

-Genesis 1:26

See the Good

Seeing the good in kids takes practice. It starts with seeing the good in yourself. If God looks at you and says, “You are very good,” there must be a reason for it.

Think of this practice as a treasure hunt.

Hunt for glimpses of hope, joy, kindness, or thoughtfulness. It’s easy and, quite frankly, lazy to just notice what’s wrong. Be on the lookout for talents, abilities, character traits, gifts, potential, development, skills, effort, attitude.

Then, when you’ve seen the good, notice it. Comment on it. Develop it further. Celebrate the image of God. Look for and draw out the image of God wherever you are, wherever you go.

Tips for Noticing Worth

Here are some quick and powerful ideas for adding value in your family and with the children in your life:

  • Names. Making the effort to remember kids names you don’t know quickly increases your connection with them. Nicknames and affirming labels with children can be fun and also meaningful.
  • Attention. Locking in with kids shows you care. Authentically listen and show interest in what they’re interested in.
  • Ask. When it’s all about you, you won’t express interest in others. Asking thoughtful questions tells a child they have a voice and have something worth sharing with the group or family. Beware of dominating conversations.
  • Sympathy and Empathy. The dictionary shows the similarity and difference between these two words. Sympathy is to suffer or feel with or alongside. Empathy is to suffer or feel within. In other words, sympathy comes alongside someone in an attempt to care. Empathy internalizes and identifies with those feelings. The former shows worth because the other person is noticed and compassion is expressed. The latter shows worth because there is identification and understanding-a mile was walked in the other’s shoes.
  • Imitate God. John Maxwell said, “If I want to add value to people, I will do the things that God values.” Lay aside your own interests, serve, care for the least lovable, continue loving when it’s hard and forgive and forgive again.

How have you shown worth to children recently?

Lord, we celebrate the worth you give us.

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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.





Infancy: Building a Strong Foundation

19 01 2016

Experience plays a crucial role in “wiring” a young child’s brain.

-Judith Graham, Leslie A. Forstadt

As you do not know the path of the wind, or how the body is formed in a mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the work of God, the Maker of all things.

-Ecclesiastes 11:5

Infancy is a marvel. While we may try to understand how a young life is formed, we might as well just throw our hands up in the air and say, “My God, your works are astounding! How can I begin to explain them?” Still, take great joy in the experiences you offer the littlest in your life. You are contributing to their worldview whether you admit it or not. Seize the opportunity!

A psychiatrist I spoke to once said that if an infant brain doesn’t get what it needs, when it gets older, it will not be able to develop it. That means if it lacks essential nutrients or attention or emotional support in extreme measures or traumatic situations, the effect on that child will be lifelong.

So I would infer that the converse is also true. What is gained at that young age will be a fixed part of that child’s brain development. What a great privilege and responsibility we have as parents, caregivers, friends and family in the life of an infant!

I’ve long believed that how we start anything, is foundational to how that thing continues. Whether it be a personal project or a race or a quilting pattern or the course we set for a ship, the path these take is heavily influenced by the first step.

So consider very carefully the influences in your infant’s life. You can’t control them all so don’t panic either. Leave your little one in the hands of God. But make positive efforts to provide a solid, foundational start as much as it is in your power.

Building realistic trust is your one focus at this stage. Meaningful connections are the pathway to building trust.

Consider these trust-building connections:

  • create safe spaces and be a safe person
  • provide different sitting/lying/cuddling positions
  • play and smile during tasks such as changing diapers
  • make a variety of facial expressions to communicate
  • provide basic needs consistently such as feeding, peaceful sleep environment, changing
  • hold your baby and allow other trustworthy people to hold as well (such as at church)
  • provide familiar items as metaphorical and literal building blocks for learning
  • recognize that babies reflect your behaviour, facial expressions and feelings
  • share a children’s Bible to hold, look at and listen to
  • begin hide and seek type games with objects or the classic peek-a-boo
  • show understanding toward emotions and identify with them (ex: “Oh, you’re so sad. I would be sad too.”)
  • sing songs repeatedly with enthusiasm!
  • be aware of your own anxieties which can transfer easily to your baby
  • build trust with others to help ease separation anxiety
  • help them form words using repetition
  • pray with them and for them out loud

Lord, help me give well to this critical life-phase.





Hear: Speaking So Children Want to Listen

22 12 2015

What would ministry be without conversation?

-Katey Hage

How can they know who to trust if they haven’t heard of the One who can be trusted? And how can they hear if nobody tells them?

-Paul (Romans 10:14)

Simply thinking that you believe in, fully trust and devote to Jesus is a strong starting point. True belief then leads to a transformation of lifestyle. This prompts us to speak so others can hear and want to listen. Speaking so children will listen is a challenge, but with love as your motivation, creativity as your friend and fun as your language, you’ll be well on your way. “Do you hear what I hear? A song, a song, high above the trees. With a voice as big as the sea.” Inspire some curious conversations with your words this week!

Think about ways you can speak words that connect with children.

Love. Love is the path that allows children to hear your words. Speaking words of kindness opens the door to the heart which builds relationship.

  • I’m so glad to see you today!
  • Jesus loves you!!
  • Come on over! I want to know what you think about…
  • Check this out.
  • That is a super idea! Can you tell me more about that?
  • You are amazingly awesome!

Creativity. Creativity just takes the typical and turns it into interesting.

  • So when the angel appeared to Mary, Darth Vader attacked Joseph and they had an epic light saber battle right?
  • I want you to know about God’s amazing plan. Let me tell you about a time when my plans flopped…
  • God always keeps his promises. I don’t. I remember when I promised…
  • Can you read this for me?
  • I’m so thankful that Jesus is my best friend. The other day, I was having a hard time with… and I remembered something Jesus said…

Fun. Play, quite literally, is a child’s language. It’s how they learn, understand and provides opportunities for communication.

  • Roll this dice. The number you roll will determine what action you must take. (Ie. whisper a phrase to pass around the circle, tell how you would respond to x situation, show on your face how you’d feel if x happened to you…etc.)
  • We’re not going to have any fun at all today. We’re not going to play any games or sing any songs or hear any stories. Boring, boring!
  • Take a look at this picture. What comes to your mind?
  • For each right answer, try to get this ball into the moving bucket.

What ideas do you have for increasing the quality of your communication with children?

Lord, use my words to spark true belief.





Touch: Using Physical Affection for Greater Bonds

8 12 2015

…touch is as important to infants and children as eating and sleeping.

-Tiffany Field, Touch Research Institute

Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man.

-Matthew 8:3

When Jesus healed, he often also touched. He gathered children around him and placed his hands on them. He washed his disciples feet. At the most fundamental level, humans need physical affection. Much research has been done demonstrating powerful positive effects of healthy touch, including emotional and social bonding. Next time you’re around a child, share a…

  • side hug
  • high five
  • pat on the back
  • some crazy handshake!

Touch can also be a “touchy” issue especially with children. You’ll need to build some trust. For example, when you first meet a child, you could…

  • Ask them for a fist bump.

(They may be shy and turn you down, but there’s nothing to feel awkward about here.)

  • Smile and comment on something interesting about what they’re wearing.
  • Stay positive and welcoming.
  • If you’re with them for a while, engage them with some form of play.
  • You may want to give them a light tap on the shoulder and say, “It’s super cool to meet you!”
  • Next time you meet them, ask them again.

Even as a parent, you may need permission from your child if they’re feeling hurt or grumpy. Or you might have a child like mine who is constantly wrapping me up whether I want it or not! Parents could also…

  • Stroke a cheek for wake up.
  • Celebrate a success with a high-five.
  • Habitually hug at least once per day.
  • Give a piggy back or shoulder ride to bed.
  • Wrestle.
  • Snuggle and read together for five or ten minutes minutes.

What ideas do you have?

Build trust and share some healthy, life-giving touch this week.

Lord, your “touch” changes me. Use my touch to fill up a child’s love tank.

 





Jesus Loves You: The Ultimate Message

1 12 2015

…this I know, for the Bible tells me so…

-Anna Warner and William Bradbury

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son that whoever believes in him will not perish, but have everlasting life.

-Jesus (John 3:16)

The famous song, called “Jesus Loves Me,” was written as a poem by Anna Warner and later, William Bradbury added a chorus and the tune. It endures to this day perhaps because of it’s simplicity and yet also because of the profound truth it conveys. There is no greater message than knowing that God has revealed his everlasting love through his Son, Jesus Christ, our promised rescuer.

When was the last time you said, “Jesus loves you,” to a child? These are simple words that bring a powerful and lifelong impact. There’s something amazing about knowing that God, Creator of the universe, became a man, Jesus, who identified with us in our sin and struggle and made a way for us to return to a relationship with God. Say it as often as you can!

Lord, thank you for loving me in my weakness and in my misery and in my wrongdoing.








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