Kid's Korner My daughter Becca has lots to say, and she wants to share it with you!
Blogs I'm reading
Church Edge A leadership and ministry blog maintained by Mark Gorveatte, West Michigan District Superintendent of the Wesleyan Church. Book recommendations, devotional thoughts, and other personal insights.
Diary of a reformed poser My friend Roy keeps things interesting, addressing a wide variety of topics. Very interactive blog.
Gladwell.com The blog of one of my favorite authors, Malcolm Gladwell. His books "The Tipping Point" and "Blink" inspired me to be more intuitive in my own thinking. Great journalistic opinions here.
TheOOZE: Conversations for the Journey Not so much a blog as a community site with hundreds of discussion threads ranging from current movies and pop culture to postmodern views of church and classic spiritual formation. I have one article published on this site: "Boiling Over."
I have been living according to annual themes since 1994. Through the years, I have learned to follow after God's leading day by day, week by week, and month by month, experiencing the life-shaping influences of each theme. I will be adding previous years' theme posters in coming days, but welcome to the themes of my life.
I've heard it said that kids spell "Love" T-I-M-E. But I've been hearing my kids spell this word differently lately. I don't think "love" is spelled one and only one way. Follow along as I crack the kid code for how to spell this wonderful word:
1. "Hey Dad, w-a-t-c-h this!"That's right, kids spell "love" w-a-t-c-h. Think about it... "Hey Dad, love this!" I don't know about your kids, but when mine shout out this declaration, they're asking me to approve of them, enjoy them, thrill with them, be pleased by them. Whether it's Becca playing me her latest piano or violin song, or Andy showing me how high he can jump off the ottoman, when my kids ask me to watch them, they're secretly asking me to love them.
This makes a lot of sense to me, too. After all, can we really love something we don't pay attention to? If I never w-a-t-c-h-e-d the Pittsburgh Steelers play football, or the Detroit Red Wings play hockey, could I really love them? If I never watched my wife going about her motherly routines at home, or when she is quietly sleeping next to me, I would miss so many of the things that remind me how much I love her.
Yeah, w-a-t-c-h definitely is a code word for l-o-v-e.
2."Dad, will you p-l-a-y with me?" This one is clever, because it's so close to what we grown-ups recognize as the other way kids spell "love." After all, when a child invites you to play with him, isn't he asking you to spend some quality time with him? You can't play if you're not spending time together. But I'm convinced that p-l-a-y also is, indeed, another code word for l-o-v-e, as in "Dad, will you love with me?"
In my case, each week when Thursday rolls around, Andy knows it's my Day Off, and to him, that means he gets to play with his Dad. He wants to play Cars, Thomas the Train, Webkinz, and maybe even wrestle or play a game we affectionately refer to as "Rotten Egg." And after a morning of p-l-a-y-i-n-g with his Dad, Andy is ready to cuddle up and take his nap as I l-o-v-e on him with naptime hugs.
Research supports this hunch of mine, too. Relationship experts tell us that couples with mutual hobbies and interests - whether it's downhill skiing, Sudukos, cooking, gardening, or running marathons together - report having higher levels of marital satisfaction through the years.
I guess the old adage is true: "The family that plays together, stays together."
3."Dad, can I t-a-l-k to you about something?" When a parent hears the word talk, it should set off the "love meter" because we rarely get a more obvious moment to show our love to our children than when they're talking about what's going on in their lives. And we have to remember that preschool concerns about a classmate who won't share the Legos are just as vital as high school concerns about whether or not anyone will go to prom with you.
My wife Cathy does an excellent job cracking this part of the kid code. She knows our kids very well and they both know that they have open access to their mom. She will t-a-l-k/l-o-v-e with them about anything that's on their minds, and whatever is being talked about is the most important thing in the world to Cathy at that moment. I could learn a few things from my wife on this one.
Now here's another cool thing about cracking the kid code: each of us asks God, our Heavenly Father, to l-o-v-e us in the exact same way as my kids do in the above examples.
1. We want God to pay attention to us when we come to Him, and scripture assures us that He does:
"Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you" (1 Peter 5:7, NIV).
"For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous" (Psalm 1:6, NIV).
2. We want a God who can play with us, not one who is harsh and distant. Again, the bible is very clear that God knows this is one of the ways we need Him to love us:
"The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing" (Zephaniah 3:17, NIV)
3. We want a God we can talk to. Prayer is wasted time and energy if God isn't actively involved on the other end of it:
"When you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you" (Matthew 6:6, NIV).
"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you" (Matthew 7:7, NIV).
So, am I missing any other code words kids use for love? Email me or share your thoughts in the comments section!
Some of you know that my personal theme this year is "Turn the Page." I will explain the theme and what it entails in another column. But one commitment I'm making as I live out this year's theme is to turn the pages of my Bible. If you were tuned in last June, you went through that month with me, reading a proverb a day and the accompanying devotional I wrote for each day. I'm glad to share that I'm still getting lots of visits here on the Korner, and many of them are searching through last June's lessons on Proverbs.
The thought occurred to me last night, as I was reading my chapter in Proverbs, "I write all of these personal application notes next to my verses, but do I really pay any attention to them after I've written them?" So what you will find here, faithful readers, is a verse-by-verse run through of what ministered to me, challenged me, inspired me, or just made me reflect as I worked my way through God's book of wisdom last month.
The verse is in quotation marks, and my personal notes are in italics:
Prov. 1:5 - "Let the wise listen and add to their learning..." Just because I'm wise doesn't mean I can't learn more. (01.01.08)
Prov. 2:3 - "and if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding..." Do you want it? (01.02.08)
Prov. 3:7 - "Do not be wise in your own eyes..." Don't think for a moment that you have arrived! (01.03.08)
Prov. 4:13 - "Hold on to instruction, do not let it go; guard it well, for it is your life." I intend to use my Ph.D. training more directly and consistently. (01.04.08)
Prov. 5:18 - "...may you rejoice in the wife of your youth." The things that first drew me to Cathy are still part of who she is! (01.05.08)
Prov. 8:36 - "whoever fails to find me harms himself; all who hate me love death." When I don't find the wise thing to do, I actually hurt myself. (01.08.08)
Prov. 9:9 - "Instruct a wise man and he will be wiser still; teach a righteous man and he will add to his learning." This implies teachability in a righteous person. (01.09.08)
Prov. 11:6 - "The righteousness of the upright delivers them, but the unfaithful are trapped by evil desires." [written next to the words "delivers them"] from temptation. (01.11.08)
Prov. 12:3 - "A man cannot be established through wickedness, but the righteous cannot be uprooted." Righteousness has deep roots. (01.12.08)
Prov. 15:9 - "The Lord detests the way of the wicked but he loves those who pursue righteousness." It's a mindset; a way of life! (01.15.08)
Prov. 18:10 - "The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe." Call on God's Name when you are tempted! (01.18.08)
Prov. 19:3 - "A man's own folly ruins his life, yet his heart rages against the Lord." "Turn the Page, 2008" [My personal theme for this year] (01.19.08)
Prov. 21:21 - "He who prusues righteousness and love finds life, prosperity and honor." Pursue the right things and you get bonus blessings. (01.21.08)
Prov. 24:10 - "If you falter in times of trouble, how small is your strength!" Which is why I need to run to the Name of the Lord. (01.24.08)
Prov. 25:27 - "It is not good to eat too much honey, nor is it honorable to seek one's own honor." Either way, it's about unchecked appetites. (01.25.08)
Prov. 27:12 - "The prudent seek danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it." [written next to the word 'danger'] maybe spiritual. [written next to the words 'take refuge'] in the Name of the Lord. (01.27.08)
And there you go. This is what the Bible's book of wisdom taught me during the month of January. One obvious theme I was pondering last month was the Name of the Lord and the extent to which I actually use it in the way it was intended: for shelter, for strength, for rescue.
Do you see any other themes? I'd love to hear from you via email or in the comments section. I'll post these personal learning notes each month, so look for the February lessons to appear in early March.
Today is the Republican Primary in my home state of Michigan. John McCain and the homegrown Mitt Romney are neck-and-neck, and yet I am as ambivalent about voting as I am about rooting for the New England Patriots to cap their perfect season with a Super Bowl victory.
I don't remember exactly when or where I heard this challenge for the first time, but someone once said that a great exercise in being thankful is to write a list of 25 things you are thankful for at any moment in time. I remember taking this challenge, thinking that it would be a stretch to get to 25 items that make me give thanks. I also remember how I had to make myself stop at only 25 things!
Since then, I have updated my Thankfulness List a handful of times. In fact, my current list is old enough that I need to bring it up to date. But let me at least share with you a Thanksgiving Top Ten for 2007. If you attend my church, this will be a bit of a rehash, as I shared these during Sunday's sermon. But I've added some explanation to each item, so off we go!
10.Fantasy Sports. Why does this make the list? Because fantasy sports gives me a unique opportunity to connect with friends. I play the role of Commissioner in two leagues: a football league and a hockey league. Through the years, I've been crowned champion twice, but more importantly, the guys in the leagues have created friendships simply because of our mutual focus for a few months out of each year. And as an added bonus this year, our hockey league's postseason get-together was attending a Detroit Tigers game. The one where Justin Verlander threw his no-hitter! Yep - fantasy sports are worth keeping on the list.
9. My Church Family. There are some great things going on at Tallmadge Community Church. If you're part of the congregation you know exactly what I mean. If not, let me just say that we are experiencing a unique blessing from God right now. I had a goal to have 15 new Christians as a result of our ministries during the 2007-08 fiscal year. Well, we're halfway through the fiscal year, and we've had 19 people make the decision to ask Christ to be Lord of their lives! We've surpassed our goal and we're only halfway through the year! And that's just one example. Suffice it to say that TCC is, as one of my long-time members told me last week, "perking up all over the place."
8. Being 40 (at least, so far). I hit the big 4-0 in September, and I must say that I'm finding it to be a great excuse for turning my life around! I have made a few specific decisions to improve my life since hitting that milestone, and I feel much more focused. Yeah... 40 ain't so bad a couple of months into it.
7. Chocolate. What can I say? Chocolate is good. I could update this list every week and chocolate would make the cut. Chocolate is good.
6. My Health (at least, so far). My doctor insisted that I exercise more, so I'm trying to do that. And rumor has it that there's this food group called "vegetables" - my doctor says I should familiarize myself with this food group. Other than that - and my high blood pressure, bunyons, halitosis and the knees of a 79-year-old construction worker - my health is ship shape.
5. Coffee. Like you even had to wonder if this would be on my list. Chocolate is good, but coffee is very good. The nectar of the gods, and I love a good cup of nectar!
4. The Pittsburgh Steelers. There's something about that black-and-gold team from PA. I've loved the Steelers since I was a kid, and that won't be stopping anytime soon. In fact, my kids are starting to take an interest in my beloved team. How great is that?!?
3. Music. Another staple on my thankfulness list, music simply cannot be overrated in my life. I love it. From Third Day to Three Doors Down, Jennifer Knapp to Nirvana, Steve Taylor to Stone Temple Pilots. Music gets me in touch with the creative, philosophic part of me that all-too-often gets little to no attention.
2. Cathy. Becca. Andy. My family is phenomenal. I am so in love with them all! I take Becca on a weekly after school date, and I look forward to Tuesday afternoons because I'll be able to sit with my girl and catch up on what's happening in her life. In a similar vein, I take Andy out every Wednesday after preschool for, as he calls it, our "boy time lunch date." He chooses the restaurant, and we have some quality time. Whether it's Applebees or the IHOP, Wednesdays are good time. And the highlight of nearly every day is when the kids are in bed and Cath & I can simply spend the evening together, playing games, watching TV, talking... it doesn't matter. We're together, and that's all I need.
. . . and the #1 thing I am thankful for this Thanksgiving 2007 is . . .
1. Faith, Grace, and the whole Christian journey. There's a beauty in living the Christian life that can only be understood by living it. Michael Card puts it best in his song Joy in the Journey: "there is a wonder and wildness to life, and freedom for those who obey." I cannot fully explain the depth of assurance, peace, confidence, and rest that I feel knowing that I am not steering myself through this life of mine. No, God is leading me along this journey. And for that, I am thankful.
What are you thankful for this year, my friends? I sure would love to hear about it! Email me, or better yet, post a comment so we can have some discussion on this topic.
I pick my son Andy up from preschool every Wednesday morning so we can go out for lunch - something he calls "our boy time date." I let him choose the restaurant, and we enjoy a little one-on-one time.
This past Wednesday he wanted to go to the IHOP, which was A-Okay with me. After lunch, I wanted to stop by the mall to pick up a new pair of sunglasses, so we pulled into the mall parking lot and started toward the stores.
We just so happened to park in the Macy's parking lot at the mall. As this picture reveals, Macy's logo incorporates a large red star at the beginning of its name, and a small black star in place of an apostrophe. Well, Andy being in preschool, he is fascinated by letters right now. He calls out each letter, trying to spell the words he sees.
As we walked toward Macy's entrance, Andy said, "Look Dad - STAR, M, A, C, Y, STAR, S. STARBUCKS. I love Starbucks, don't you, Dad?
If you know my 4-year-old son, Andy, you know that he's... how should I put this? He's... active. I've had more than one person ask me (mostly serious, too), "does he walk anywhere?" The answer, if you're curious, is NO. Time to eat? He's running to the table. Time for church? He's running out the door, across the sidewalk, into the church. Time for bath? He's running - no, streaking - from the dirty clothes basket, through the house, to the tub. One of his favorite games is racing people. I will be the announcer, and once the race begins, I'll say, "And he's off!" followed by (pardon the pun) a running commentary on how the race is going. He even races his big sister when she's on her bike. Becca wins, but he goes down trying.
Like I said, my son is active.
Because of his activity level, Andy has been given a few much-deserved nicknames. My favorites:
Dash, after the hyper-fast son in the Incredibles.
Speedy Gonzales, after "the fastest mouse in all Mech-i-co!"
His personal favorite:
Lightning McQueen, after the hotshot Piston Cup racecar in Pixar's movie, Cars. McQueen's signature phrase could just as easily describe my son: "Speed? I am speed."
For as long as I can remember, it's been like this - whatever Andy does, he does it fast.
Today I realized that this also applies to him growing up.
This morning, Cathy and I took Andy to his first day at preschool. He was so excited! We hadn't been there more than 10 minutes when he told me, "Dad, I love preschool." At the end of this brief, orientation-type first day, the preschool director said, "you can stick around and play for another seven minutes," before the next orientation class began. When Andy caught my eyes, he said, "What about eight more minutes?" On the way home, he said he can't wait until his next day of preschool because he will be able to spend more time there and he can be by himself.
And just like that, our 4-year-old is ready for his next phase of life.
No more being at home all day, every day. Now "Miss Ruth" and "Miss Sue" are taking care of Andy three mornings each week. No more unscheduled, wide open play time. Now he has a commitment and structure. Good things, but he grew up so quickly!
The Michigan Wolverines, a college football powerhouse with a pre-season ranking of #5 in the country, started 2007 with an ignominious opening-day loss to Division 1-AA Appalachian State University. This historic loss prompted a historic drop in the rankings - from #5 before the season to unranked after one week.
Yesterday, U of M followed up its less-than-stellar Week One performance with a 39-7 spanking, courtesy of University of Oregon.
The Michigan Wolverines are winless.
On the other hand, the Detroit Lions opened their season with a 36-21 put-down of the Oakland Raiders. That's right... U of M is winless. The Lions are undefeated.
I know, I know, I know. It's been almost 2 months since I last posted. What can I say? Too busy? Too distracted? Too apathetic? All of the above? Yeah, that's it - All of the above.
But just because things have been quiet on the Korner doesn't mean I haven't been paying attention to what's going on around me. In the following days, I'll share a few observations I've noted, but haven't shared. And let's start with this one:
As I mentioned in my previous post (you know... the one from the middle of July), I like to walk in the park across the road from where I live and work. All summer long, I've been walking laps around the park, and for much of the summer I've seen how the draught conditions here in West Michigan have punished the pasture land in and around the park. Brown, crunchy, lifeless grass was the norm for much of June, July and nearly all of August. And, to be honest, I felt that way inside, too. Parched, beaten down, almost lifeless.
But then the rain came. Not much at first, but it came. Almost immediately, the grass in the park showed signs of life. And when we finally had one of those weeks where we had two, three, four inches of rain the grass looked like it had never even been pushed to the brink of dying.
Here's what I took from that: I sometimes psych myself out when it comes to personal growth, telling myself that I'm so far gone it will take a miracle to bring about new growth. I make it harder than it has to be. I learned this summer that a little rain is enough to refresh and restore me. A little personal time with God. A little journaling. A little silent reflection.
I was taking my daily walk this evening when I came up on a rabbit. I was probably ten yards away from it when it slowly, cautiously began hopping away from me. Mind you, I'm not the most menacing guy to begin with, and especially so when I'm unarmed, so from my point of view, little Bugsy there had nothing to worry about. But Mr. Bunny didn't know me from Elmer Fudd or some other Wabbit Hunter, and his survival instinct told him to hop. I continued walking, and he continued hopping, keeping himself a safe distance from harm's way.
I'm not entirely sure why this was my next thought, but I suddenly found myself wondering why our instincts don't function the same way when it comes to sin. I don't know about you, but I'd sure love it if something inside me sounded an internal, spiritual alarm that told me, "Danger ahead! Hop away - FAST!"
Instead, there is that tendency to flirt with danger, much like Bugs Bunny is doing in this picture. There certainly is danger afoot, but it seems like I can debate with it, confuse it, make it change its course, as Bugsy could so often do with poor, beFUDDled Elmer. A little slick talk, and presto! you've outsmarted the danger.
Sin isn't like cartoon danger, though. The bible describes Satan as "a roaring lion looking for someone to devour" (1 Peter 5:8, NIV). It's ugly, nasty stuff. And our spiritual alarms SHOULD sound off when sin is in the area. I think of the Old Testament hero Joseph who, when he was propositioned by his boss' wife, ran away so fast that "he left his cloak in her hand." And I think of the Apostle Paul's straightforward admonition to his protege, Timothy: "Flee the evil desires of youth." These are examples of how to treat sin, biblically speaking. You don't flirt with it, you don't trust yourself to outwit, outplay, and outlast it, as if it were a SURVIVOR contest. You get away. Pronto.
So, next time I sense sin around me, I'm going to heed the lesson I learned from the rabbit of my walk: I'll listen to my spiritual instinct (which, of course, is the voice of the Holy Spirit), and RUN AWAY.