Posted in Advent, Children, Faith, giving, Mommy, poor, responsibility, Santa, service

Baby Chicks

You know the blogs and forwards and Advent Conspiracy and It’s Not Your Birthday and even the OccupyAdvent on twitter have a clear message that Advent is not a time for commercialism or just giving ourselves a bunch of stuff that we really don’t need when we’re blessed with so much? I have enjoyed reading them and trying to stay present and mindful during Advent. I also appreciate the counter-cultural. Isn’t that what we as the Church are supposed to be?

The hilarity that has ensued has nothing to do with whether I believe in these practices or not and nothing to do with whether I think we could really solve basic problems in the world just by sharing and giving what we can to those in need. Because I do believe that. I honestly believe that if we saw past our own needs and our own selves, than we wouldn’t just want to give, but we would be compelled to give – it would be a moral, spiritual and imperative obligation.

So here I am trying to teach that to my children – who just turned 3 and 4 by the way – and lo and behold, it’s not as easy as it may seem. At least not in our house. I recently posted a blog to my facebook that I loved….. I love that it wasn’t something parents imposed but was the kid’s idea. I also love that it was a family affair and something everyone enjoyed and got into. I had been keeping the Heifer International catalogue on the counter in my “put everything in it because you don’t want to lose things even though it’s a jumbled up mess” basket and I thought this may be the time. Evy had gone to sleep early so it was just me and Enoch, the 4 year old.
So we started talking about Jesus and Santa which good golly it’s easy for me to distinguish between the two (duh!) but explaining to a child the differences is hilarious. And then we started talking about gifts. The first hiccup was that Enoch didn’t understand why everyone didn’t get gifts. If we say that Santa gives gifts to good little boys and girls than why didn’t some good little girls and boys get gifts? If we see that Jesus loves everyone and came here to be with all of us, why doesn’t everyone get gifts? Why are there poor people? Why do they not have money? What do their Mommy’s and Daddy’s do?

We then started talking about toys. I frequently tell Enoch that I think he has more toys than Toys R Us and that he needs to share them. We’ve talked about this in making Operation Christmas Child boxes and using his happy meal toys for this and other small toys. So I tell him that he’s still going to get toys from Santa but that we as a family can give animals to other families and communities.

Oh boy. Let’s just say that when we opened the catalogue and he had the option to pick out goats or bunnies or baby chicks or cows, he wanted them all. Not for the other families, but for him. Especially the baby chicks.
Mike got a good chuckle from this entire interchange, nut needless to say, I talked about people that don’t have enough foods and how animals can help give us food or we can sell things from the animals so that we can take care of each other, etc., etc., etc. The amazing folks that we stay with on our trips to Nicaragua have asked us to bring the kids with us on our trips, and I’ve never more than that night wanted to take them on one. Because I can explain and explain and explain and we can make our Operation Christmas Child boxes and we can pick out our baby chicks, but there’s nothing like seeing and interacting and playing with children that live in such very different conditions than your own.

So that was my first thought. I want Enoch and Evy not to give just because it’s right or just for the joy of giving – even though those are good, but I want them to understand and see and know and feel that passion about providing for the least of these – not just as a hand out or looking down on people or we as the great Western world, come to save them – but knowing that this is what we’re called to do.

Josh preached a sermon series on stewardship a couple weeks ago and I think about his Spiderman illustration of the saying that many of us know – “With great power comes great responsibility” or the words from Luke 12:48 – “To whom much is given, much is required.” We have been given so much. When I started preaching in a local church I had no idea what to say when handing out the offering plates and so I started to say, “May we give back to God what God has graciously given to each of us.” It’s God’s. And we have been blessed. But it’s hard to see and know and feel our blessings sometimes if we don’t see what would have happened without them. I don’t think that’s always the case, but Enoch doesn’t know how much to appreciate that Optimus Prime transformer when he has a toy box full of toys versus if that was his only toy.

The other thing that jumped out to me is the nature of us and commercials and books and songs and how we talk about Santa Claus. When we’re talking to children about Santa, we talk about Santa giving gifts to little boys and girls all over the world. We talk about the good children getting lots of present and the bad children getting coals and switches. So if you get a lot of toys, you’re a good kid? If you don’t, you’re not? I remember the Christmas that my dad gave us walnuts and oranges in our stockings because that’s what they had done when he was a kid. Not hating on the walnuts and oranges, but we wanted chocolate and candy canes and little toys – not just some walnuts and oranges. I’m not the parent that talks a great deal about Santa or the ins and outs of how he gets everywhere and how many gifts he gives, etc. but there’s no way I can honestly say that I haven’t used Santa during the holidays. He’s the best leverage in the world in December when kids are wild on Christmas party, candy, and just the excitement and fun of Christmas in the air! We haven’t bought an Elf on the Shelf, but even I can throw out there – Santa doesn’t like whiners or people that don’t share with their sisters and brothers or those that say potty words (Enoch and Evy’s potty words of choice right now are “diaper” and “baby” so watch out if you’re called a “diaper baby.”).

I can throw that out there with Jesus all year long – Jesus likes you to share, Jesus wants us to love even the bullies, Jesus….wants us to give a family some baby chicks instead of you getting even more toys.
I don’t have any answers with this blog, but I do think it’s an interesting commentary on how we talk about Christmas and how we see it. It’s been fascinating trying to talk to Enoch and Evy about this. They understand the manger and the Christmas story and they understand Santa and giving gifts but how those two relate…we’re still working on that one. To be honest, in thinking about it, I’m still working on explaining that one. These are the things that I love about this age. They’re honest and they don’t know all the “right” answers yet….they just know that they’d like some baby chicks.

How are we preparing during Advent? How are we not just posting the articles or getting the tweets, but we’re actually engaging in what it means to wrestle with these counter-cultural ideas? Explaining to a 4 year old, how are we showing the amazing Christmas story and the essentials without getting all bogged down in Santa?

A great and challenging article on this: http://www.aholyexperience.com/2011/12/when-christmas-gets-radical-whose-birthday-is-it-really/

***Note that I’m not saying not to do alternative gift giving – quite the contrary. I think we really should! I just think it’s important to communicate the whys and the whats and the Whos and not just do it for the kudos or the gold stars! There are a gazillion great orgs to give to!!!

Posted in Jesus, Kids, Mommy, Parenting, Story

Jesus to a 4 year old

Okay, so I’m terrible at telling my kids about Jesus.  Yes, this is confession time.

Yes we have books about Jesus.  We have bought tons of books from the Christian bookstore.  We’ve tried to get the kids to watch Veggie Tales and I’m thankful that 3-2-1 Penguins usually throws in some Bible verses and prayer.  We say our prayers before the kids go to sleep.  Slight caveat – when we’re not completely exhausted and just trying to survive and get them to actually go to sleep.  We do say prayers when we sit down to eat although not so good if we’re in the car eating a happy meal.  You get the drift.

It’s weird that something that is a big portion of my life and significant portion of Mike’s and the rest of the families – is not something that I know how to communicate to two little people.  I’m starting to think that the kids during children’s sermons are humoring me and actually have no idea what I’m talking about half the time, or like I think – they’re just super smart.

So I’ve been trying to do better.  I’ve been asking Enoch about Jesus or what he knows about Jesus.  He immediately said Father Voss talks about Jesus.  Thank you again Episcopal Day School for coming through for me!  Enoch is now wanting us to tell him stories when he goes to bed.  And of course, he wants super heroes and Iron Man.

So last night I’m telling him about super heroes like Iron Man and Spider Man and Batman and the greatest, most powerful super hero of all – Jesus.  Could be kind of lame, I know.  And then he interrupts my story because he wants to know about the bad guys.  He is always curious about the bad guys.  Where do the bad guys live?  What do they do?  He even asked about their mommies and daddies.  So then I start telling him about the bad guys and I’m going down this path like not all bad guys are really bad.  Some of them want to be good, but they’re misunderstood.  You know – misunderstood – is not something I think Enoch gets.  So hear I am, this preacher who was an English major and I am struggling and I do mean struggling to tell this Super Hero Jesus story and give some exposition about the bad guys and use words that he would understand in his tired, just turned four year old state, and wowzers.  That is hard.

I came downstairs after Enoch fell asleep listening to my story.  (Of course my awesome story was not related to him falling asleep, that was just a coincidence.)  And I’m talking to Mike about telling Enoch about Jesus and I’m like, if only there was a cool cartoon.  An awesome very kid-friendly cartoon with Super Jesus.  But then I thought, well that would be potentially very cool but also could be very weird and not well done.  Although the healings and the teachings and the letting the children come to him would work well, I don’t know how the crucifixion would play.  And what would Jesus look like?  Our blond haired blue eyed Jesus or the for real Middle Eastern Jesus?

My mom has been looking a lot at children’s Bibles and Bible story books about Jesus’ life and she says it’s hard to find them now showing a picture of the cross.  Most seem to go straight from healing and teaching to Easter without any in between.  She was saying that it’s hard to tell the story in a way that makes sense when you start with a baby and end at Easter with nothing in between.  A baby that’s born in a stable and then grows up and comes back to life.  There’s so much more to it.  The teaching – the love, the sharing, the care for those that are sick, or as I was saying last night the one who is kind to people that aren’t feeling well, who are sad, who are scared, who need a hug.

Part of me thinks – no worries – when he gets bigger we’ll take him on mission trips, we’ll show him the joy of giving his clothes and toys away to people who need them, we’ll teach him how to share and be kind and honest with people.  It will be a lot easier to explain this stuff to him then.  But there is a foundation being built now in the world view of a child that separates the world into super heroes and bad guys.  We haven’t even gotten into the bad guy turned super hero or super hero turned bad guy.  It’s just funny to think about and ponder.  With as much Christian marketing and advertising and everything under the sun Jesus-related from mints to bracelets to shoelaces to action figures, you would think that it would be easier to explain something so all over the place.

And it is.  But it’s not.  How would you describe Jesus to a 4 year old or a 2 year old?  What do these stories that are our stories, our sacred texts – what do they say about God and Jesus and the Spirit and the world and us?  What do they say about how we treat one another or who we can go to when we’re scared or hungry or hurt?  How do we teach this?  Or sometimes even more importantly – how do we model this?  (I for real need to not watch South Carolina baseball around the children because I’m not such a good model during any Gamecock game.)

So, I’ll be continuing to figure out how to tell a child about Jesus.  I know some of you have that down pat and if any of you are in the Rock Hill area and want to take Enoch and Evy to lunch or to the park to tell them, let me know.  I trust that we’ll figure it out.  I trust that they’ll one day get it.  And I trust that in my trying to ineptly explain this to them, I’ll learn a heck of a lot too.

In thinking about how I learned about Jesus – I think about VBS and Sunday School and singing in children’s choirs.  One of the songs that I clearly remember is this one.  It is so in my head now.  AAAHHH!!!!