Monday, December 24, 2007

Memories...Like the Corners of My Mind

Two stories of a three-year-old's interpretation of reality.

Story One - A Hairy Moment at McDonald's

This past Saturday, we helped some friends load up a U-Haul truck as they set off for a new life in Alabama. Afterward, Susan and I decided we would take the kids to McDonald's to play. When we arrived, it was getting close to lunch time, and the play place was filling up. Emilie Grace is our three-year-old, and she has become quite fond of play places. She has also become capable of getting up and down to any point in the climbing apparatus. So, when we arrived, we didn't think twice about letting her go.

After about five minutes, Emilie began to cry and ran to us holding her head. When asked what was wrong, she said, "I bonk my head!" We held her and clarified her version of the story. Apparently, she tripped and hit her head on the end of the slide. After the crying finished, I asked if she wanted to get down. With tears still on her cheeks and a smile on her face, she said, "Yeah!" So, I let her go.

Emilie began to run and play again, and that's when she met Joshua. She ran past the little boy, who was probably between 18 months and 2 years old. Emilie's running was quickly halted, and she was jerked backwards because Joshua had grabbed onto her hair with both hands. Susan darted over and scooped up our little girl. Joshua's dad was there in a flash, trying to explain that "you can't do that." Another moment of parental comfort led to Emilie smiling through tears and affirming that she was prepared to get down. This time, she would stay with Caleb.

Another five minutes pass, and then we hear more screaming. It's Emilie...again! Looking toward the plastic wonderland, we see Joshua's dad banging on a piece of clear plastic yelling, "Joshua...stop! Joshua...stop!" I jump into action and got up in the thing myself, squirming and excusing myself past elementary and preschool children. I finally got to where the conflict occurred, and I got Emilie out of there. As I did, I noticed a clump of blond hair among the children. I grabbed it, so I could show Susan how serious this was.

Well, as Joshua's dad was taking him to the play place bathroom for corporal punishment, we held Emilie once again. This time, she couldn't seem to calm down. She kept trying to say something. We listened carefully and thought we heard, "I want my hair beret." wasn't in her hair, so we had Caleb go after it. He came back, and we asked for confirmation that the hair beret was what she wanted. She said, "I not want my hair beret." Then, she went back into repeatedly saying what she did want.

Finally, after several wrong phrases, I asked, "Emilie, are you saying you want your hair back?" She looked at me and said, "Yeah...I want my hair back." Susan picked up the clump of hair and asked if that's what she wanted. "Yeah...I want my hair back." So, Susan put the hand with the hair on the back of her head, dropped the clump, and stroked her hair. She asked, "Is that better?" There it was...the tears on the cheeks...the smile on her face. "Yeah, dat's better." And off she went to play again...once we were assured that Joshua was going to stay in Mom's lap for the rest of their meal.

Three-year-old reality: "Mom can do anything...even put hair back once Joshua, a hair terrorist, pulls it out."

Story Two - Scolding Turned to Suppressed Laughter

Yesterday, we traveled to Murfreesboro, TN (about 45 minutes away), to have Christmas with my mom's side of the family. Our two boys love playing with their cousins, Mia and Bella. From the moment we get there until the moment we leave, all four of them are usually found together.

In the midst of the gifts that were given, Caleb got episodes 4, 5, and 6 of Star know, the old ones that aren't as intense as episodes 1, 2, and 3. Austin got some Thomas the Train toys, and he was crazy about them. Emilie Grace got a little Dora the Explorer radio with headphones...she wore them around her belly for much of the day.

Well, Mia is a little tomboy, and she got a race car track as one of her gifts yesterday. Our Emilie, having been taught well by her older brothers, immediately took to it and began playing with the cars. Every time Mia would come close to her touch it or to watch Emilie...our little angel would give a great big "NO!" After a warning from mom, Emilie continued in her three-year-old ways. "NO!" Here Mia comes again... "NO!"

Susan had enough. She walked over to scold Emilie with great intensity. She had the look of a stern mother, finger prepared to point, and voice prepared to scold. She began explaining to Emilie that this was not her toy. "It's Mia's toy. If Mia wants to play with it, then she can. You cannot be selfish. You need to say 'sorry' to Mia."

Emilie had looked at Susan during this scolding. She had that look like she might actually be listening. Her mouth opens to respond. Could it be? Will this be the breakthrough we had hoped for? Emilie began to speak, and the scolding quickly turned to suppressed laughter. Our three-year-old's response to mom's correction was this: " dat her name?"

Three-year-old reality: "All scolding seems to sound the same, but at least I learned my cousin's name this time. After all, we were never formally introduced."

I hope these stories made you laugh. Susan and I laughed out loud at both of them. Merry Christmas.

Friday, December 21, 2007

A Cry for Help...Umm...Well, I'm Asking for Help

For all those who read this blog...I need your help. I want this to be fun, so give me as many ideas as you'd like. As you can plainly see, the subtitle of this blog is "The Ramblings of a Man with No Audience." While this was certainly true at first, it seems that this non-existent audience is growing. So, a friend suggested I change the subtitle. Just leave a comment with your suggestion, and in a week or so, I'll determine a winner. Whoever wins will get an all-expenses paid trip to the Bahamas!!! Okay...not really, but when you get on the blog, you will see your suggestion right there on the front page. That's almost like a trip to the Bahamas, isn't it?

Leave a comment, and join the journey for a NEW SUBTITLE (NEW SUbtitle) (NEw subtitle) (new subtitle) --- did that seem like an echo to you? It was supposed to be an echo. Oh well, I look forward to hearing from you.

The War Within - Christmas Edition

"For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want...For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members."

Romans 7:19, 22-23

"No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth."

Matthew 6:24

Before I do any confession, let me be clear that I know this passage in Romans has a much bigger application than I will make today. The war between the new man and the power of sin is very serious and must be taken seriously. Each day that we wake up, we have an enemy seeking whom he may devour, and he does this through the power of sin. As John Owen said, "Be killing sin, or it will be killing you."

Both of these passages indicate opposites that are in conflict with each other. There are obviously opposites in the world that don't constantly battle...such as cold and hot, up and down, etc. However, the new man that concurs with the law of God is constantly at war with the one on the opposite side of the table...the power of sin. Also, the lordship of God and of money in one's life are not compatible. There is a war on, and no matter how much we sing of "peace on earth" at Christmas time, we are still at war. In fact, in another place, Jesus said He did not come to bring peace but a sword...a dividing sword (Mt. 10:34-36).

In this great war for the soul of man, we now introduce a personal battle...the battle at Christmas. It's not the battle "for" Christmas...this is not an entry to convince the world of the merits of saying "Merry Christmas" over "Happy Holidays". However, with the same, and even greater, intensity that many Christians battle for proper December semantics, I believe we ought to be battling for something greater...something that will affect our family's spiritual life, something that can testify to God's work in our lives, and something that would reveal how grace transforms a soul.

My battle happens in Target, shopping malls, Walgreen's (at the last minute), and countless other stores from the moment Thanksgiving turkey is digested until the morning of the 25th of December. It is a battle that puts what makes children smile against what makes children spiritually healthy...knowing that ultimately their spiritual health will lead to a greater smile. Do you know what it is yet?

It is buying Christmas gifts...this is the great battle at Christmas. You know that I am crazy about my children. I love seeing them happy. I love awing them with my ability to surprise on Christmas morning. I love buying great gifts that they want and won't break before Christmas breakfast is over. This is one part of me...the part that loves to please my children.

On the other side of the battle is my desire to see my kids love Jesus. I love hearing them ask if we can read the Bible together. I love when we're reading the Bible and they perk up with questions. I love seeing a spirit of giving come over them as they want to help mom bake bread for the whole neighborhood...or give away some of their toys to Goodwill (a.k.a.- the poor children). It is this part of me that would kill all materialism in my children...because they cannot serve God and money.

Now, the stage is set...the players are on the battlefield...the flags are raised. One army is chanting...they are chanting in my ear. "Daddy, make me happy with stuff." In addition, some spies from this army have been sent out to convince me that there's plenty of time to teach about materialism: "They're just kids," these spies whisper in my ear. "They're only going to grow up don't want them to think poorly of you later, do you? They'll see what Billy's dad bought his kids, and they'll see what a deadbeat you are. Just skip the spiritual lesson this month."

Oh, how I can forget that this army has secret plans drawn up...plans that would take my children down the destructive path of materialism. This army intends to kill the freedom of my children by making them associate stuff with happiness, so that they rack up all kinds of debt later in the pursuit of happiness...or, they become work-a-holic, neglectful dads and moms who pursue career in the pursuit of stuff. The chant for happiness seems innocent enough, but it only leads to a trail of tears.

The other army has a simpler, and often quieter chant...much like a still small voice. "Daddy, make me like Jesus." This army also has plans, but they are different. There's still heartache on this road, but there is a Savior that is prepared to carry my children along this path. There are hands bloodied from the defeat of sin that do not extend amazing electronics or much-awaited toys, but instead, they extend salvation to my children. This Savior understands mocking...much more severe mocking than children's voices saying, "Your dad's cheap."

This second army...the army of holiness...calls out for me (i.e.- the new man) to defeat the power of sin that would feed my children's materialism. The power of sin would keep me short-sighted, wondering about my children's emotional welfare four days from now. The Spirit within has a longer, deeper, better vision for my that cares about their spiritual welfare for all time.

So, friends...the battle rages on. Maybe it rages inside you as well. I want to encourage you...don't believe the lie of the enemy. Don't allow the power of sin to convince you that children opening brightly-colored packages, smiling, and hugging you neck is best. Buy your children gifts, but do not feed materialism. They will still smile and hug your neck. In the big picture, though, there is something far greater than the smile of a child as they open Christmas is the joy of their soul as they learn to live their lives serving God...not wealth.