Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Engagement around "One-touch"

So, this past weekend, Saturday morning to be precise, my wife was asleep in bed, having just gotten home from her overnight shift work, and I was suddenly without the comforting structure to my day while yet with both children (both of whom were very obviously in need of attention).

It was off to park. It had been my daughters suggestion but it was my son's choice. We took my son's mini-soccer ball, my daughter's volleyball. Growing up remember spending (what seems assuredly, despite being in nostalgic reminiscence) countless hours with a ball and my stepbrother, just throwing it back and forth. A ball, a Frisbee. I thought perhaps I could get the kids interested in doing the same with me, in the game of "one-touch".

Famous last words (of any parent).

My son seemed genuinely earnest to learn.

As I reflect back on it, the larger moment of engaging my son -- as I explained kicking the ball with the inside of the foot and not the toe and then on to encouraging his efforts with each pass --  is significant.

True, I was teaching him how to do something fun, that he would enjoy (especially so the better he became at it). I think also it is part of who he is, that is being athletic, being a driven and hard-working type of person. At any rate, it was something which directed his interests in the moment, shaping the ability in the midst of the play and activity.

It was equipping of his skill. And I desire to do that, in a sort of rejoicing way which looked forward to all he might be, do. There was marvel in it, for me, and pride in him.

I suppose in this season of my life, that is what the Father in Heaven is doing with me: engaging me in my skill in the "moment," directing and shaping an ability while looking to the future.

There is a deeper significance still, beyond just "my life" in the earthly and humanly affairs sense:

[In the New Testament book of Hebrews, Chapter 2: 8-15] 

"In putting everything under them,[d] God left nothing that is not subject to them.[e] Yet at present we do not see everything subject to them.[f] But we do see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.10 In bringing many sons and daughters to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through what he suffered. 11 Both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters.[g] 12 He says,“I will declare your name to my brothers and sisters;    in the assembly I will sing your praises.”[h]13 And again,“I will put my trust in him.”[i]And again he says,“Here am I, and the children God has given me.”[j]14 Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil 15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death."

God is working out more than just my career or calling. He is equipping me to be a son within the Kingdom of Heaven, a son of God, a brother to Christ, and part of the Bride of Christ. I see in the Hebrews verse above God engaging in the moment and circumstance of our humanity, and continues to engage us in it each moment and each day. 

He is working with me, and I can't understand His world, His immensity, the breath of site and experience and prescience, and so that He does as He does in my life is His gentleness -- because, like a good father, He understands what is harder and worse than the trial or effort in the moment. But I speak to matters in my thoughts and circumstances in life beyond parenting.

God is engaging, in the moment and in the circumstance, equipping me. What I am aware of now is that the same I must do with my son,  though the "must" is less onerous and more enjoyable than it suggests. He is needing to be led through engagement, and that means me being in the moment with him, involved, and encouraging the effort. (Which, I suppose is another insight into what the Father in Heaven is doing with me in this season.)

I think this involves identifying my son's little character, his hard working and driven nature, though I know I am dependent upon my wife to help me understand his motivational needs. 

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Parent-Teacher Conferences

In this season of blogging -- and, really, there is no other way than that which I know to describe this period where I am being led By the Lord to discover all that He has for me, and wherein I have taken the initial first step by trying to father-through-writing (as I have been by Frederick Buechner) -- I, well, IT is sort of like walking out across a muddy river. You have to feel your way (never certain where rocks, snags, holes, and submerged limbs lie), if you are to minimize the risk of falling headlong again into the water -- into the next few feet of water of which you know nothing beneath its surface. It is both exciting and a bit ... wrought with uncertainty-bred fears. You test, you step, slip on the unseen, stumble along.

All that to say that I don't know whether it is better for me to blog right in this moment or to go to the gym.

Yesterday was Parent-Teacher conferences at school. Third graders, and thus my daughter, were required to lead their own conferences. Her class is one of four which also have enacted a new classroom model (evidently very supported by the district) where it is open, without traditional tables or desks, and where the children are allowed to move about freely through the room, self-pacing a bit, while the teacher basically "surfs the chaos" with one ear while being involved with smaller groups of students. It felt like a lot of the younger, hipper, creative, design-type office environments. I couldn't get over how cool it was. And, the teacher and I riffed over it for a while.

My daughter sat me on the couch space, pulling up a bean-bag chair for brother, and went through the materials she had to show me, cuing off a talking-point list. For Reading she wanted to "show off" her reading log; for Math she wanted to show off her Chrome Book number line; for Writing she wanted show off her online journal; for Science her science journal and classifying matter; for her Something Extra she wanted to show off a learning website. She was asked to list two goals for the year, the first was to follow the social contract (they had devised as a class effort) by showing her best effort. Her second goal was to follow the social contract by being helpful.

I am realizing as I write this that while I intended to be a helpful albeit experienced audience, I could have let her "drive it" more. I should have been more deferential: "where would you like me to sit...what do you want to show me...," or such type of "following her lead". I am now realizing her reading log, number line, and her science journal were important things to her, and while I sat there mildly attentive I could have really been more intentional about recognizing their importance, and about trying to see what in general was important for her to be allowed to express. It had really been an opportunity for he to show me what was important to her, and so I could have shown her it was important to me to know those things.

I have those same needs myself, as does all of humanity (as, in the past, I have mentioned Buechner so beautifully writes upon), so why didn't I recognize it in my daughter and in the moment? For once I think I have some self-insight: because I generally am too scared to rock the boat, and fear failure so I don't try. If I don't try to father I can't err in, well, in doing the things I ended up doing by being too pushy and less edifying.

In the New Testament book of Hebrews, the writer, in speaking of the status and love of the Son by the Father, asks "to which of the angels was it said to 'sit at the right hand and I will make your enemies your footstool'?" Earlier in that chapter it speaks of the Son and all He had done in providing purification for sins, loving righteousness, hating wickedness, and being set apart by being annointed with the oil of joy.

The amount of honoring of the Son, the recognition of His importance and the statement of willingness on the part of the Father to do that for the Son, and not only to recognize the need / right to be recognized in what was important to the Son but further to see the Son glorified, vindicated, all in that verse, is growing clearer in my mind.

What is important to me daughter, her work, is not valued on the basis of its caliber but because it is the manifestation of her through effort and work. As such it reveals her and is that upon which she has hung some value, maybe even sense of her value. I need to be looking to the moments, all moments, for how to confirm the importance of what she is showing is important (important because it is showing some something of her) -- which means firstly getting ever more so in the headspace that she is seeking value and importance.

It sort of like recognizing and being aware of where my son is emotional about things, and responding emotionally. My daughter needs confirmation of her importance, often through the things in which she has an interest. Yes, her importance rests in something more quintessential, and quintessentially her. This is kind of an extension of the whole volleyball thing (previous post).

And maybe that is what God is doing with me in this season, in part: allowing me to learn what is important to me through "the little journal entries" I am making. Maybe.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

we're here now, for the duration

Someone somewhere once gave me a piece of insight, insight which amounted to how your partner / spouse is necessary to understanding your children, and better parenting those children. Essentially he was just telling me his spouse helped him often to understand the emotional landscapes through which his children were moving where otherwise he was unaware, and such insights (when present) made him a more effective parent.

Well, Duh, right!?

What I am coming to understand is that individual moments are not "one-off's".

I had gone out to the family land - a tract of some 500 or so acres on a river in a small Texas town. We needed to repair some flooring issues in the old farm house, and my children were excited to get to go. It was that excitement which I missed. I missed, or just didn't consider, but likely both.

My son was ecstatic, to put it mildly. He had been talking about it, and didn't sleep easily the night before. Evidently he loves going out there. Somehow my wife had clued in to his excitement but I did not, I suppose being more preoccupied with the practicals of getting out there. We left later than originally promised, and had I known that I would have seen that set him back a little. Well, tack on to that fact missing a nap and some smaller disappointments, well, it should have been expected he would be a bit grumpy.

When my teenage nephew (somewhat Pharisaically) pointed out my son's behavior of pushing his sister in anger I rushed in to curtail that behavior from continuing. There was even a slight bit of anger at the wrongness of his act. SO I stepped into correction mode, and I did so even somewhat publicly, within earshot of my sister, and in front of my son's older sister. From what my sister heard I did everything "amazingly", using all the right communication and so forth. It is ironic to think in a moment I could have sounded so right to someone whom I would want to sound right in front of, but could have been so off base with someone who needed me not just to be right but to be loving.

On the drive home I felt a certain conviction, and just assumed it related to the anger I felt at my son's behavior and my response as a result. Yet, I hadn't considered where he was at, and not until after getting home and relaying the days events to my wife did she point out how excited he had been and how he had cried in his room because we were leaving late that morning.

Yeah, it felt like a rail-gun had just fired straight at my heart.

God doesn't just look at the heart - i mean, I had done that when I looked at the heart in a moment of its frustration, and sought to correct its behavior. No. God looks at the heart, in it's context. This was my son's frustration with so much of his day not being in his control, not going as he had hoped, being excited and disappointed. I had failed to consider his emotional landscape in its entirety. If ever there is an experience to give one pause "next time" when anger flares up... geesh.

The worst part about it is that I failed to parent him through his emotional landscape. and to help him learn where he himself was at, merely by asking why he did that. I won't leave him alone in the physical landscape, why then would I do so in the emotional or the intellectual landscapes? I can say, if I really look, God has not left me alone in any of those landscapes as I pass through them, even when I make a mess of them as I pass. It is just a matter of remembering that we are in these landscapes all the time.

Since then I have tried to be attuned to when he is responding out of emotion. I need to be sensitive, more gentle and gracious. For instance, this morning, clearly he was in such a mood, and after falling down when out ahead of the small group of us walking, I picked up on the fact (of his emotionality) as he rushed to pummel his sister (because of something she said). (No kudos to me for being aware.) I pointed out that his behavior was not showing the honor and respect which were in his heart to show, and yes he had fallen and it had hurt but move on. I don't know.

Maybe it was good I showed I believed his heart wanted to show honor where he was not feeling like it, and maybe I did good to sort of exhort him. But this morning raises the question again, am I just parenting for behavior alone? Or am I being aware of and parenting through the emotional landscapes? Either way, we're here now, in the emotional landscapes, and will be for the duration. What my wife pointed out about one situation applies to the whole landscape before me: my son is am emotional being.

The biblical book of Hebrews, in its opening chapter, states that Christ is the exact representation of God, the very "radiance of His glory." The chapter goes on to discuss how the Son loves righteousness and hated wickedness, provided purification for sins, and as a result not only sits at the right hand of the Father in heaven but also has been set apart from his companions and been anointed with the oil of Joy.

The thought that Christ could be joyous, was made joyous to have suffered as he did to bring me purification of sin, healing, acceptance and restoration, well, it is a big thought. It's another big thought to consider that Christ is with me "where I am at, for the duration."

Yet "Christ's hands were in the dirt," (to borrow in a sense from old timers and in another from Wendell Berry), and maybe somehow by having "my hands in the dirt" of the emotional fields of my son's heart, maybe just maybe I'll parent alright and even represent God to my son. It is a joy, regardless, having my hands in his dirt, because he (my son) amazes me. I want to see him grow in these areas, and to be more than I currently am, to be all he could be. and it won't happen without union and oneness with my spouse, being dependent upon her as I am. And that too, I suppose, is another model.

Friday, September 18, 2015

"Gym Pastor's tales" - "involving a certain revelation & building of faith"

I haven't done a "Gym Pastor's" post in a while, but this is not to say I haven't had the experiences which would constitute one. There is however a point to why I am telling this one.

There was one experience where I had prayed for my Catholic grandmother friend (who is not really a biological grandmother, but spiritually, eh, maybe) praying for God to help us understand his father's heart towards us; she mentioned I had the sweetest prayers, but really, her simple, daughterly-beaming-in-belovedness was sweeter still.

Then, during the workout afterwards, I saw a young man who had a cross around his neck and felt the familiar pull to pray. I opened the awkward social interaction with a question about the cross, which turned out to be a crucifix where the Jesus had fallen off. Yeah, I made a joke there, but tastefully. I found out he was from a small town which was larger than my home town and had been the "mecca" to which most shoppers journeyed for the less-than-immediate needs. He had just passed the bar exam and was awaiting the next step. I asked if I could pray for him, and he only slightly hesitantly accepted.

After praying that the Lord would be there with him, whether he "turned to the right or to the left," and similar, he looked up touched. I was humbled then, in that moment, by his acceptance initially (despite uncertainty). I've not seen him in the gym since. This experience, however, has stuck with me: from my end the/my story continues, the bi-secting of his story with mine arguably over and done with, and for him arguably the same. I do buy that arguable thought, however, since the moment was so ... ? ... a blessing, a real moment of connection and significance (in at least his life narrative, but likely in mine as well, in a different way) that it sort of moors the rest of my "normal" daily experience, as do all these "gym pastor" moments.

Something significant happened in his life, in the course of a supposedly "random" interaction, the bisecting, intersecting of narratives like the white caps of the deeper waves of God's work passing through the world. I don't think that is hyperbolic, or off-base to describe it thus. Recently the pastor of my church told a story, painted a picture of how we-in-Christ are the streams of living water which He Himself was, is, and that as such (mobile oasis, so to speak) we both find our source in Christ and provide channel of that source to others.

Well, those reading other posts will have read recently of a young father in a green teeshirt for whom I failed to pray. Well, that story continues now: the sense of missing an opportunity is not one I easily bare, and so when next time on a gym-day I felt that familiar sense of purpose, I hastened to the gym. Turns out this was 9-11, and I met a man wearing a firefighter's teeshirt. At first I thought I might was to pray for a rather built black male leaving the gym, and ran out after him with the stock conversation starter, "Hey, I didn't want to seem rude, and you looked familiar but I couldn't place you and didn't say anything to you, but do I know you from a church event or something?"

It's a great question, and disarms the awkward social dynamic.Unexpectedly he replied "likely not," and that seemed to be the end of that exchange. I went back in to my workout resolved to remain "open". The sense that my opportunity was at hand I chanced to ask the firefighter -- I had already gotten over the initial hurdle of one potentially awkward social interaction what was another, I thought. I guess it is just flinging yourself in at first, and it gets easier once you have, I don't know.

It turns out the firefighter, with whom I connected easily because my stepfather had been a firefighter and I am used to "the life" of first responders, was very receptive. He called his wife over, told her what I wanted to do, the two of them grasped hands and held theirs out to me... in public... in front of others. As I prayed I felt led to pray for the Lord to lead him into His purposes and the right job position for the man. An easy prayer to pray, and touching upon some of my own current heart-yearnings. It was a very clear desire I had for the man, that the Lord wanted to lead this firefighter to something He, God had for the firefighter.

Like I said, I was too am currently needing to know the path. As I type this sentence I am realizing that in that moment I saw a picture of God's heart as it also exists, feels for me. And this I am needing to hear, and it strikes me now, upon reflection, that each time I pray for others I am receiving an insight into God's heart as I am needing it, as it is for me.

It is one thing to know he has a plan for me, that can be accepted intellectually, but being able to see it, as something He wants for me, well, I guess that could only have come through seeing it for others, feeling it for others. As with the young man and the crucifix I need to know I will find God with me where I turn (just now, realizing that need). With my Catholic grandmother, I know I need a revelation of God's fatherly heart, but now also seeing He wants to reveal it to me, to her. I have prayed for a neighbor for reconciliation in his marriage (again, in a moment when I felt the explicit pull to pray, being led to the interaction) -- a prayer I see now is not only what I wanted but seeing God wanting it for me, for us both.

Afterwards, both the firefighter and his wife were very gracious and very welcoming, and hugged me. Both talked with me for some time. I came to find out the man had been in a place of needing to hear God, much like the first person I ever prayed for in the gym had been (albeit from a different perspective), the soon-to-be-mom. Much like I do.

Frederick Buechner, in "Longing for Home," makes the case for how we all have similar needs to connect, to be understood, to be listened to and loved. He says it very beautifully, and in a way which is worth reading. He also makes the case that we all have a similar need to love others, as we need to be loved, to feed Christ's sheep (as it were) and to be the "mobile oasis" (as Geno, my pastor, described it). We dry up, shrivel up, not loving others, a small part of us dying. Suffice it all to say, in this moment, I honestly think it would be a tiny death to not get to pray for others.

Now, I left one story chronologically out. There is a young, college age man, a young black male (his ethnicity may or may not be relevant) I had seen at the gym. I felt as though, on one particular day, that I was to merely ask to work out with him. I did, and he accepted - I mean, we had seen each other before, and I was asking for a spot, so, it dovetailed easily into a partnered workout. We were evenly matched in strength so that helped. It was a good workout. I don't know if he needed companionship, or if he needed healing of ethnic rifts, but I can say in retrospect I certainly did. i am hoping it was the same for him, just as when I had prayed for others we both needed the same thing. He was gentle and accepting of me, accommodating and encouraging, friendly, open. I suppose that is very much a picture of God which I need currently, as well as needed then. I only hope I provided the same.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Winston Bear's tale of tales

It was one a.m. on Tuesday morning, after Labor Day, and I wasn't anywhere near done with my son's classroom project (which was "due" the next day). I knew there was something I was supposed to write about, something I felt "led" to write about. It didn't feel as though the Lord was letting me off the hook.

The project had been the story of the events experienced by the classroom teddy bear awarded to my son for the long weekend -- his behavior winning him the first opportunity in the class to bring him home this year.

Saturday of the Labor Day weekend I took the opportunity to take my son and daughter out to the creek to "go fishing," which amounts to taking long-handled minnow nets and old, lidded and empty protein powder containers and dipping out what we are fast enough to catch. Toads are a huge score, as well frogs.

Its the same activity which has comprised the bulk of my time with my son over the past year, and his favorite outdoor activity (close seconded, maybe, to hunting for and catching lizards). I have had to learn to let the activity be less about me catching fish and things - because I enjoy it as well, to the point of excess - and more about his fun. Typically the Lord sees fit to allow his to catch some perch, and this time the Lord allowed me to catch some fingerling (because I am His son as is my son, I suppose).

My daughter had brought the bear, and a couple recognized the bear from their children's days at the elementary school with our teacher. The couple's children are now in high school and college.

Well, after catching our prize, my daughter, ever the fair-constitutioned ginger, had had enough of the heat, and was wilting of hunger (if the tone of her pleas were to be believed). Home, lunch, and then it occurred to me: we have just enrolled her in a volleyball league, and she has been wanting to get a ball, and needed knee-pads. So, off to Academy we went. I mean, that's what parents do, right, show support for interests of their children, often electing to equip them in a form of affirming not just the interest but the value and worth and character and identity of the child?

Heading towards Academy felt much like it frequently does when heading to the gym: that there was an opportunity awaiting me, a chance to pray for someone whom I would encounter. I didn't put much stock into the feeling, meaning I did not go through the activity with the diligent and intentional awareness of having "highlighted" (by feelings of joy and excitement when seeing them) someone for whom I could pray. We bought our stuff, and left.

I think I circled the block in the car, well, actually, went from one entrance ramp of the highway to the next exit, and then back again to Academy, before going back inside to actually do the scary thing: walk around until I felt some sense of joy at encountering a stranger, only then to do the even scarier thing and broach the socially awkward question of praying for them.

I laugh as I write that, because, on some level not of performance, not of reflecting back on self, this is entirely fun. At least, it should be, in much the same manner, I suppose (as I write this), that going looking for toads and minnows and lizards ought to be. Lord, I would that I don't make it otherwise.

Wandering around loosely under the pretense of finding an additional outfit for my daughter (that is, the sad pretense I sadly gave to them, now wishing I had let them in on the experience), we came across a man holding a very young baby, obviously waiting for someone in a dressing room. I chatted about how nice it was that they melted, totally trusting, into your shoulder at that age, and he agreed, in such a way that made me think it was a real moment of connection.

I wandered off, and elected to leave. I don't recall at which point I had gotten the excitement and joy for the man that I did, a joy which just welled up and caused me to want to pray for a father's blessing for him as a father. Regardless, it was at a point when I was not in his presence, and I avoided finding him again (or even turning around on the highway as I first had done).

As I was reading in "Longing for Home", by Frederick Buechner, I came across the chapter on "News of the Day." Buechner tells of how we often turn to watching news programs to remind us that we are part of a world which is beyond ourselves, getting frequently lost so often in the daily details before us that we loose sight of our story as part of a greater story. Buechner points out that we notice always that there are some of the same recurring themes in the news stories we see each day: war, the search for peace, hunger, homelessness. We all wage war with others, fighting for control or a little larger slice of the pie, and also wage war within and against ourselves; we all seek peace, often struggling in forgiving ourselves as much as forgiving others; there are children hungering for the tiniest scraps of morsels of food with bellies distended, and we all hunger just the same for connection, kindness, being understood and loved; many of us don't know as some do not having a safe place where we go to escape the cold and lick our wounds from the day, while all us know not feeling at home anywhere, or at peace.

When Jesus commanded us to feed his sheep, Buechner contends, he was doing so not just for them, but for ourselves. Not meeting the needs of others as we need we tend to loose that little part of us, because we both have it in ourselves the need and want to do so, as well as the substance with which to do it, having the same good days and bad days (as it were). Often time we don't even show ourselves such substance from ourselves.

This "News of the Day" chapter, I have been thinking, may well be the hardest chapter of any book I have read. I have been thinking it was because I took myself not as worthy enough in my hunger and my homelessness and my peace-less-ness (strife) to consider myself needing. As I write today, however, I wonder if, in part, it is because I failed to recognize the hunger and need in this young, Hispanic father in a green Tech tee-shirt holding a new baby, failing to pray for him, and thus I feel some conviction or shame or guilt. Maybe both are right assessments, and both play into the other.

I have not been giving myself to others, not been giving of my substance to those in need. Lord, forgive me. Lord, how do I do that?

Oh yeah, the teddy bear project. Well, one a.m. Tuesday morning and I realize that while I had written the narrative of the bear's weekend (from the viewpoint of the bear) I had forgotten to write about the afternoon events on Saturday. I had written how it had been nice to meet a family I (in the voice of the bear) had stayed with years ago, and the stories of the children I had once been a part of was continuing. It dawned on me to talk about the trip to Academy to get the volleyball and knee-pads. As expressed in the bears narrative I detailed the events of getting to see "what was important to Caleb and Kaiya" that weekend.

It was only in the coherency upon sleeping a little Tuesday night that i realized there was just a little more of Winston Bear's Tale I would wanted to write (which,in his voice, is as follows):

"As I said children, it was so very nice getting to see what the was important to Caleb and Kaiya, but what was most special about this entire weekend was getting to see how my story was part of their story, and how both our stories connected with still other stories of another family with whom I had stayed long ago, and which now were still continuing. And children, that is true of all our stories: they often connect and become the same story for a while, and often those connected stories connect with still other stories which then connect with the connected stories. And then, oh then, dear children, then we get a hint at how all stories, even when they no longer seem to connect, are still part of a great bigger story. In light of that bigger story our individual stories change, and become even new stories, stories which haven't even been told or thought of yet, and we have only to talk to people to learn those stories, and to tell them, for those newer stories to become ours. Oh what a happy story about stories this weekend's story turned out to be."

In my voice, as the author, at the end of this "storyfull" post I might I might say to the reader's of Winston Bear's (never read) addendum: not praying for the father in the green tee-shirt caused a story to die, and the worse thing about a dead story is not that it is not anything to be told, but that it is known that it can't be told any further, it has stopped, and oh, dear children, what a horrible, dying thing to have happen to a story.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Day 5, "Social Contract"

It's either the fifth day of school, or the seventh, if you're counting the actual days in class or the days of the school year (respectively), for the kids.

My eldest, my daughter, seems to be in good spirits, stressing little over the mandatory State-required academic assessment tests (whereas she once had been anxious). Some older neighbor boy had painted the picture of how horrible the upper elementary school grades were, in terms of the work load and test requirements, and the past two years had seen her agonizing over his rather Eeyore-ish tripe.

Maybe more importantly with her is that she seems to be noting things, about others and about her own desires. For instance, when asked by the teacher in group discussion what she wanted to learn more about she answered Australia and Penguins. She also picked up on another child's answer to learn more about how God came to be (created?) and about ... something of religious overtones.

It dawns on me as I write that this is that the notion of God being created bears similarity to the Arian Heresy and Mormon theology. When my daughter brought up the point I said that the student seemed to be asking very genuine and intelligent question. I don't want for my child to be scared of people questioning faith and belief. I do try, however, while being receptive and open to question, to also provide the answers... if i have them (or at least as I know she will need to equip her, however nacently). Eventually she will come to have to work things out in more depth for herself, and thus it needn't be a fully hatched chicken right off the bat, so to speak.

My daughter also brought up the "Social Contract" they all made together as a class. You can easily guess, what with my philosophy background and ideologue-ish bent that that piqued my interest. She mentioned how they had watched a video of, essentially, the "pay it forward / random acts of kindness" principle(s), as a model for how to live forward.

Okay, leaving aside the kneejerk throat-and-sphincter-clench at the obvious social engineering efforts on the part of the educational system, you have to admit the video was an effort at setting forth an ideal and goal for goodness, rather than a bashing of hateful things. More importantly, however, the video (and how my daughter took it) served as an opportunity to father.

I mentioned in the last "Gym Pastor tales" how, as  Frederick Buechner talks about it, we all bear the mark of holiness, being created in the image of a holy, beautiful God. This thought can be extended: We are lovable, and are prized by a God who divested himself of all lovableness and holiness and beauty for the sake of making a way for us to be loved, inviting us into relationship even. And we (as those fumbling through and struggling to have some relationship, as much relationship with this pursuing God) love simply because He first loved us, and gave himself for us... and if we can't love others easily enough, we then need to get to know His love of us more.

And that, more than because it is merely good to do, or because it makes our would a better place, is why we love others, and show kindness, as so I told my daughter. In a sense, i hope I insulated her from the onus, the sad, weighty, burdensome onus of the law which states we "have to, ought to" love others, thus have to and ought to do good works. It was a moment to tell my daughter it is because of our value (to God, and in our creation as creations bearing the mark of holiness) that we love, and not of our own ability.

And as disjointed as it is to bring this up, it will come around back to my point -- I am rejoicing, marveling in my daughter: she is a blessing. She is seeking these days to do dishes, without being asked, or prompted, and other chores as well. She wants to. The other night I had a killer sinus-triggered migraine and she pulled the weight of overseeing my instructions in getting them to bed, of her own volition and initiative. She asks to cut vegetables in dinner prep, and asks if she can make treats for mom.

In this I am wanting to see her grow -- it is good. I don't look at her failings and focus and those and then expect her to meet some standard. I look forward to seeing what this could grown into. I see this is good about her, and feel she should be known for it, I want the value of that love, the honor of that love and of that person to be protected from insult or slander, protected and even "glorified" as the good it is.

And there is not a damn thing I can do to make it happen, and it happening as the result of a rule or a pattern of behavior is not the same as it coming as an outpouring of her being.

Knowing I want this for her, because it is good, I also know I can tend to worry about it happening, to allow fear (of her not growing in this goodness) to govern me, my actions, my thoughts. I could foreseeably doubt myself, turn inward and question myself, possibly recuse myself from parenting. Frederick Buechner, in "Telling Secrets," talks about the little room -- a famous dungeon cell of only four foot by four foot, thick-doored, no light nor air allowing room -- beneath the sanctuary of St. John's Cathedral in the Tower of London. Our fear, Buechner says, is like that little cell. Fearing my daughter not growing in goodness, or what could happen to her in life, is like crawling into that cell.

Frederick Buechner, in that same section in "Longing for Home," where he talks about us bearing that stamp of holiness and being created in joy for joy also says that not all the darkness in the world nor all our brokenness can remove us from bearing that mark. There is a verse in the Christian New Testament which says that nothing -- neither height nor depth nor power nor principality -- can remove us from the Love of God in Christ Jesus. The psalmist King David says that even were he to go to the depths of the grave and Hell still would God's love be there.

So, there is nothing which could get in the way of God's feeling such things (as goodness, holiness, rightness, truth, beauty, nobility, justness, purity, excellence, praiseworthiness) are good about us all, Nor is there anything to get in the way of God seeing these things grown, honored, protected, in my daughter and in all of us (all of us willing in the very least). The immutable will of God will not be deterred in this regard, nor any.

And I think that is the lesson for me, and for my daughter: we love solely because He first loved us, but when we love we love because God loves, is loving others in that moment. It's not because it is a nice ethos which makes the world a better place, simply because we agreed to the onus of it, hoping if everyone agrees to the onus of it then, in some vague fashion, we will be taken care of in the atmosphere of impersonal goodness floating about.

I want to see the goodness about my daughter grown, honored, developed, (all for her) and not just goodness itself. How much more so God wanting it for each of us, He who first created us in joy, for joy, setting upon us that mark of holiness, and then going so far as He did to ensure it were made possible for us to have relationship with Him?

And of course, I want my son to have such (desire to love, love itself) birthed in him. I also want him to just pick up his room when I tell him, and recognize the disciplined behavior of room cleaning may be the most target to aim at now, in this developmental phase and transition of life... that is, next to knowing he is that loved, so very very loved.