>"Daddy, Look At Me!" — Showing Children They Are Important

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“Daddy look at me.” 

Those words were shouted time and time again as we went down to the tennis courts to practice riding bikes again today.  Our youngest girls just got “big girl” bikes in the past couple weeks or so.  They must be just about the smallest two-wheeled bikes one can have.  They were hand-me-downs and are now complete with training wheels.

Learning to ride a bike for the first time is an adventure…one I’m ten years removed from with our older girls.  Yes, there are falls every once in a while.  Yes, there are tears.  Yes, it can be be frustrating. And, yes, it can be scary for both parent and child.

But it’s NOT boring.

Within the last few days our girls have gotten comfortable enough on their bikes that they feel up to doing “tricks.”  So, as they ride they take their hands off the handlebars…or they stand up on the pedals…or they put their feet off to the side. 

Each new move is met with “Daddy, look at me.”  And I look.  And I smile.  Riding a bike may be old hat to me, but I need to remember that it’s completely “new hat” to them.  Even with the training wheels on, it’s an exciting moment for them when they take their feet off or make a sharp turn or go around in circles or go real fast.  As far as they are concerned, they are being very brave and adventurous.  They are testing the limits.  They are pushing the boundaries.  And they want me to look at them and acknowledge their wonderful accomplishments.

I confess that sometimes they have to yell at me more than once…and sometimes more than twice.  Sometimes it’s hard for me to have quite the same excitement as they do…although I try.   Sometimes, I’m busy talking with someone or trying to get some work done.  And, sometimes, just because they are twins, I’m busy giving my attention to the other sister.   It can be hard to give attention to both at the same time.  I’ve yet to master the art of “bi-location.”

And, yet, attention is what they crave.  And, it’s what they need.  It lets them know that I’m invested in them.  It lets them know that I love and care for them.  It lets them know that they are important to me.  And, hey, these really are big steps for a 4 year old.

So often our kids just want us to “look” at them.  They want us to recognize their accomplishments and also their pains.  They want us to, not make them FEEL as if they are important, but to recognize that they ARE important as well.

This can be a problem in the church, where, often, children are to be seen and not heard…if they are to be seen at all.  We spend so much time an energy trying to keep them quiet or remove them from the “big people” worship that it can be easy for them to think that no one is looking at them and no one is hearing what it is that they have to say…or have to offer.

At Girdwood Chapel, I’ve tried to make it so kids feel like they are involved in worship.  It does come through during communion and the prominent role they can play there, with kids participating fully with the adults.  But, more, I think it comes through during our prayer time, our “Joys and Concerns.”  For it’s here that kids really are on the same playing field as their parents and the other adults in the congregation.  They get to offer up their joys and concerns amongst the gathered body.  This is not a special “Children’s Time” set aside for them. It’s not “Children’s Church” or their own Sunday School.    And so we’ll hear about the usual joys and concerns that adults bring each week, peppered with prayers for “sick goldfish” or “4th Birthdays” or “boo boos on fingers.”  And yet, those are the real joys and concerns of some of our younger attendees.  And by lifting them up and having them recognized by the larger church body, we let them know that they are important and loved and that we recognize that their hurts and happiness are real.

What are other ways our congregation could “look at” and recognize the children we know and care about?

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>The Center of the Labyrinth

>Walking the famous labyrinth on floor of Chart...Image via WikipediaWe had our Stations of the Cross last night.  I worked with a friend to map out a contemporary “Stations” with images and prayers.  While our hope was to walk our way from the Catholic Church to Girdwood Chapel as we did last year, we had to change plans because it was raining so hard yesterday.  With no let-up in sight, we were pretty sure that the weather was going to keep people from participating.  It was the right decision.

So, we had nine stations over at the Catholic Church and another five at Girdwood Chapel.

We closed it out with a Prayer Labyrinth. It was a cloth labyrinth, 28 feet in diameter, laid out on the Girdwood Chapel sanctuary floor.

For the uninitiated, a prayer labyrinth has one long path to a center location.  It’s designed to slow down our minds so we can focus on God.  While its use predates Christianity, Christians have found it a valuable tool for focusing hearts and minds on God.  One is directed to pray while entering and while exiting on the same path.   Tonight’s participants were given a choice of ways to experience the labyrinth.  They were told they could meditate on Scripture, and verses were available to them.  They were told they could recite a favorite prayer or Scripture.  They were told they could offer up their burdens before God while entering the labyrinth, bask in God’s glory and presence in the center, and then offer thanksgivings and praise to God as they exited.  Essentially, they were told there was no wrong way to go about doing this.

I played “host” for the bulk of the evening.  I made sure we had Gregorian Chant on the stereo and that candles were lit in the sanctuary where the cloth labyrinth was spread.  I walked with our four – year -olds as they “raced” through it….not quite the meditative experience I was hoping they might touch on.

So, I wasn’t able to enter the labyrinth myself until most of the people had gone.

As I entered, it was hard to put away the thoughts of the day and all that needs to be accomplished over the next couple of days.  So, I tried to center myself with “The Jesus Prayer” — which is the prayer I use when I need to do some centering or need focus on my breathing or need to calm myself down…

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God,
Have Mercy on Me, a Sinner

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God,
Have Mercy on Me, a Sinner

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God,
Have Mercy on Me, a Sinner

Breathe in.

Breathe out.

The whole way in, I had trouble.  The noise of my own mind was keeping my mind from resting.  I wondered if it would be worth it to keep moving on with such a wandering mind.  But I kept going.

And I was rewarded.

As I got to the center of the labyrinth, the music kicked it up a notch, the chants went into overdrive and I got to rest in the center, with my eyes closed, soaking in God’s goodness and grace and reflecting on the great sacrifice of the cross.  There was a peace that came over me.  I was truly “resting” in the presence of God. I could have stayed in the center of the labyrinth forever.

But I didn’t.

I made may way round and about and out again.

The way out was easier but the realities of what the weekend has in store started creeping back into my mind.

But I walked out having been blessed by God in the center of the labyrinth.

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>A Good Friday Prayer

>Crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth, painting ca....Image via Wikipedia

Jesus our advocate In the darkness of Gethsemane
You wept for us
Shedding tears of blood
You shared our pain
Jesus our redeemer
On the way to the Cross
You suffered for us
Tortured, spat upon and despised
You carried our burdens
Jesus our Saviour
On the hill of Calvary
You died for us
Crucified and hung upon a tree
You released us into freedom
Son of the living God
Redeemer, Saviour, Advocate
Through the journey of suffering
In the place of darkness
You overcame death forever

And gave us new life

Prayer by Chrstine Sine over at Godspace

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>A Prayer for Japan

>Earthquake and Tsunami near Sendai, JapanImage by NASA Goddard Photo and Video via FlickrI find this prayer interesting…not because I disagree with it but because it’s just not the way I talk or write. 

Father in heaven, you are the absolute Sovereign over the shaking of the earth, the rising of the sea, and the raging of the waves. We tremble at your power and bow before your unsearchable judgments and inscrutable ways. We cover our faces and kiss your omnipotent hand. We fall helpless to the floor in prayer and feel how fragile the very ground is beneath our knees.

O God, we humble ourselves under your holy majesty and repent. In a moment—in the twinkling of an eye—we too could be swept away. We are not more deserving of firm ground than our fellowmen in Japan. We too are flesh. We have bodies and homes and cars and family and precious places. We know that if we were treated according to our sins, who could stand? All of it would be gone in a moment. So in this dark hour we turn against our sins, not against you.

And we cry for mercy for Japan. Mercy, Father. Not for what they or we deserve. But mercy.

Have you not encouraged us in this? Have we not heard a hundred times in your Word the riches of your kindness, forbearance, and patience? Do you not a thousand times withhold your judgments, leading your rebellious world toward repentance? Yes, Lord. For your ways are not our ways, and your thoughts are not our thoughts.

Grant, O God, that the wicked will forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts. Grant us, your sinful creatures, to return to you, that you may have compassion. For surely you will abundantly pardon. Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord Jesus, your beloved Son, will be saved.

May every heart-breaking loss—millions upon millions of losses—be healed by the wounded hands of the risen Christ. You are not unacquainted with your creatures’ pain. You did not spare your own Son, but gave him up for us all.

In Jesus you tasted loss. In Jesus you shared the overwhelming flood of our sorrows and suffering. In Jesus you are a sympathetic Priest in the midst of our pain.

Deal tenderly now, Father, with this fragile people. Woo them. Win them. Save them.

And may the floods they so much dread make blessings break upon their head.

O let them not judge you with feeble sense, but trust you for your grace. And so behind this providence, soon find a smiling face.

In Jesus’ merciful name, Amen.

(This is from John Piper and Desiring God)

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