Category Archives: kids

The Choices We Make

I saw something great today… though it definitely didn’t start out so well. A teenager, not realizing that the T intersection in front of our house was still icy, tried to make the turn too quickly, lost control, and smashed his truck into the water runoff drain. He wasn’t going that fast…just too fast to turn on ice.

The boys and I were outside playing in the snow with my neighbor, Chris, and his two kids. I don’t know about the other kids, but this was the first time my boys have actually seen a wreck as it was happening.

As auto accidents go, this wasn’t a bad one (thankfully). My 10 year old, however, was nearly in tears – “Dad, that was a car wreck, aren’t you going to call 911?”

He was fine once I explained that no one was hurt, but the 5 year-old was unconvinced. There was no “nearly,” for this one. With full-on tears, he said, “But that truck is hurt. Don’t we have to call 911 for the truck?” He was very upset about the truck…

Though the front wheel was down the sloped entrance to the drainage, I initially hoped we could pull him out with my own vehicle. But he was right in the middle of the ice – I didn’t have any ropes or chains long enough to reach the dry pavement. As Chris and I were trying to figure out how we were going to get the truck out of the street, a Ford F-250 passed us and then stopped on the dry section of the street. Without any hesitation, a young man (maybe mid-twenties) got out, pulled two, long towropes from his toolbox, and asked where the truck needed to go.

The front-end of the kid’s truck was totally jacked – he couldn’t even turn the wheels. Thankfully, the ice helped us “steer,” but it still took all of us working together to get it moved somewhere safe. (Which we were eventually able to do…it’s parked out there right now.)

After the initial fear of having seen “a truck get hurt” wore off, the kids had all gone back to laughing and throwing “snowballs” at each other. (Translation: nearly murdering each other with chunks of ice and sleet…) Meanwhile, in the backseat of the Ford, the young man’s two daughters had opened the back window and were pelting their dad with snowballs of their own, gleaned from the top of his toolbox. All of this definitely helped lighten the mood as I talked to the teenager about getting his truck fixed – or the more likely scenario that the repair estimates would be more than the truck is worth.

Before our Good Samaritan drove away he gave the kid his phone number and said that his company has a wrecker they’d be happy to bring by and get his truck to a repair shop – just call when he’s ready. It turns out that this guy’s parents live just down the street from us. His company works on oil rigs – and apparently they’re limited in what they can do until the ice melts. So for the past couple days, he and several of his coworkers have been driving around town doing exactly what he stopped and did today.

As I sat down at my computer later in the evening I saw a video posted on Facebook where University of Oregon students stopped a car driving through campus, pelted it with snowballs, and then stood in front of it while others covered the entire car with tubs of snow. Several of the comments were lamenting (or venting) about “young people these days.”

Yeah, the kids in the video were acting like jerks…and I’d bet that the driver of the car was pretty angry. I know I would be. But I hope that he (and the rest of us by extension) won’t let that event define our view of “young people.”

Today, in front of my house, we had many of the same ingredients present in the Oregon video:

  • Young people spending their day out in the snow
  • A motorist whose drive in inclement weather took a sudden turn for the worse
  • …We even had snowballs (well, sorta…work with me, this is Texas).

However, in our case it was the weather, not the young people or snowballs that caused the motorist’s distress. If anything, the snowballs thrown by the youngest people were a distraction from the distress. And this other “young person,” close to the same age as those in the video, chose to spend his day in the snow helping people he encountered along the way.

The choices we make impact those around us. And all of us, regardless of age, socio-economics, education, location, etc., etc., are going to make some bad choices as well as some good ones. Sometimes we (including “young people these days”) will even make great choices.

So don’t believe the hype – just because videos of the bad choices are more likely to go viral, or get reported on the news, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t amazing things happening right now in the street outside your house.

And to further illustrate my point: I didn’t get a video of this young man’s choice… but my wife did happen to have her video going in time to record this not so good choice of mine.

… wait for it…

Boom goes the dynamite.

falldown

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What Are You Going To Do Today?

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Every morning for the past three years I’ve asked my children this question. It started with just Conner, but then Micah caught on and now Josiah.

In response to the question we say our “Four Things.”

Today, I will pay attention.

Today, I will be Jesus.

Today, I will see Jesus.

Today, I will mess up.

And then we say the Lord’s Prayer together.

Often we’ll take one of the four things and talk about what it means. Paying attention means listening to our teachers, parents, and other adults. But its more than that. It also means that when a friend is talking to us (not during class) we listen carefully to them. A “grown up” way of saying this is we seek to be fully present. It means that we notice what’s going on around us. We notice when someone is alone. We notice when someone is really happy or really sad – and we want to know why.

Most days I ask the boys to choose one of the four to focus on specifically. Yesterday, Conner chose paying attention as his focus. He later told me that during recess he looked over and there was a girl sitting alone on the swings. He told me that it looked like the wind – which was CRAZY yesterday – was the only one willing to push her. So he went over and asked if she wanted someone to play with.

She did.

Being Jesus means that after paying attention we look for the good we can do and be in a situation. We’re kind to those who are lonely and we’re kind to those who are mean. We don’t just notice the lonely person on the swings, we go over and say hi. The wind will not be the only person a friend has so long as we’re around. Being Jesus means we not only choose not to engage in bullying, but we stand up to those who bully others. Being Jesus means that people matter to us and they should know it.

Micah chose being Jesus as his focus yesterday. At one point, because of good behavior he got to choose a prize from the “treasure box” in class. He didn’t see anything in the box that he couldn’t live without. Instead of just getting something, he asked a friend if there was anything he wanted, selected that thing and gave it to him.

Seeing Jesus is probably the hardest. It requires paying attention and being Jesus. We are committed to looking for signs of Jesus present in every person. Especially those who are mean; who we consider our “enemies.” It may be harder to see Jesus in some people…but it is also harder to hate those people or neglect them when we do see Jesus.

Somebody once suggested that we shouldn’t end our Four Things on “Today, I will mess up” because it was a negative ending. I disagree – and so do our boys. This is a final reminder of grace. We talk about it all the time. We’re not perfect, we’re going to miss opportunities. And that’s okay. Every day we strive to live up to a high calling. But that high calling comes from our identity, not the other way around. So when we mess up we are not wracked with guilt. We talk about why we missed the opportunity to pay attention or be Jesus, and what we might do tomorrow in order to grab on to a similar opportunity.

When we talk about our Four Things in the evening, the mess up part provides a chance for confession – Rachel and I participate in that confession as well. We learn that sharing our struggles is an opportunity to be loved – because our confession is met with forgiveness and grace. If the mess up involved wronging someone, we talk about what we can do to make it right…and since we do this often, its rare that the boys haven’t already begun making amends by the time they share their mistake.

If “Today, I will mess up,” is viewed as a negative its because we have a misshapen understanding of confession and holiness. We see confession as a retributive rather than redemptive act. We see holiness as a harsh demand rather than an inspiring calling. Today, I will mess up. Period. So how will I deal with that incompetence when it manifests?

This morning, Josiah called me on his way to school. He didn’t get to say the Four Things with Conner and Micah, and wanted me to hear. This is what I heard over the phone…

The Wisdom of a 6 Year Old

I got one of “those” calls from Rachel the other day. Our conversation went something like this:

You may need to talk to your son.

Uh oh. What happened?
Well, Conner came up to me and said, “Mom, I’ve noticed that most people have 2 grandmas and 2 grandpas because their mommy has a mommy and daddy and so does their daddy.” That’s right Conner. “But if a brother and sister get married, their kids will only have one grandma and one grandpa.”
Hahaha! What did you say?
I said, well God actually made us so that we are supposed to marry people that aren’t in our family. In fact, if a brother and sister get married their babies will be very sick when they are born. Conner said, “why would God do that?” Well mister preacher man, why would God do that?

I thought for a second and said, Well, I think that this makes sure that we, like God, are always committed to new creation. People who are strangers in this generation will be family in the next.
That satisfied everyone for the moment and we hung up. But after a few moments I realized just how amazing this little tidbit really is.
This is actually more evidence of the missional nature of our God. Even within our families we are not meant to be satisfied with community as we presently experience it. And I realized how appropriate this is for churches as well. Your church family, no matter how great and seemingly complete it is, is not meant to merely grow through new birth (baptizing our children). If we are not committed to seeing new people join our family then the next generation of children will be impoverished genetically – perhaps to the point of being “sick” as Rachel pointed out.
I’d never thought about evangelism and missional connection in quite these terms but once again, my son the theologian has helped me dig a little deeper.
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