Thursday, March 31, 2016

Classroom Superstar

My son came home earlier this week and mentioned he was the classroom superstar. I don't think I quite got what he was saying, primarily because he was also somewhat self-congratulatory about his good behavior recognition from his teacher. Suffice it to say, not until last night did it fully sink in that, as part of my responsibility in the matter, I had to prepare (help to prepare) both a poster of my child's person and a snack treat for the classroom, all before this week was up.

What being the classroom superster means is simply this: he is allowed certain privileges (such as being line leader for the whole week), allowed to hang a poster and introduce himself via the poster, and provide a treat to the class, along with various other tiny perks.

So, yet again, here I am in the eleventh hour preparing a class project for one of my children. At least with my daughter this year I merely only had to set her to task, and provide the necessary materials for her, and so that project was done with less of my ... "creative involvement" and effort. In some (somewhat bemused) ways I am a little saddened by this fact -- I enjoy having an externally-imposed excuse to "play" with the posters, finding in them a restored opportunity from a somewhat posterless youth.

At any rate,  I had actually set about combing through the vast archives of digital photos on the laptop (intending to print up a selection) but stopped, mainly out of finding it more distracting than productive. Instead, I began going through through what hard copy pictures we had on hand, surprised to find that most of them (left over from my daughter's assignment) were telling a story of my son which providentially, serendipitously align with what I know to be his deepest interests: his best friend (and times spent with him on various trips), and our family. There is even an old copy of my son in baby seat playing with a thirty-plus year old toy pistol of mine from roughly the same age as him in the picture. My son is decidedly (and all of his own volition) into such things. Evidently he clamored at his mother he wanted to find and play with the gun when he saw the picture (I was out of the room),

This morning, then, with protractor, pencil, and coffee cup in hand I set about stylistically designing the layout and lettering of the poster. There was, in my sleep-deprived addledness an undercurrent of mission oft roiling up beneath my enjoyment of the meditative work. I wanted the design to be "cool," and artistically fresh, hoping that through this the intended effect of presenting himself would be aided and underscored. I wanted him not merely known, but known in the light and esteem in which I held him, and even the "packaging" (along with the substance) of the presentation I wanted to both to be attractive and correlative of his uniqueness. The subject matter of the pictures I selected was that upon which I knew he could easily elaborate / tell the story of  in great detail if desired. On every level, in every way, I wanted this seen. That is the heart I brought to this admittedly rushed project.

I think in this attention to detail and thoroughness of intent and effort oh behalf of my son I can easily see the father-heart of God towards us, towards me, where nothing about our moments (and specifically our moments of being honored) is not considered and intended. Where no element is not used to heighten the moment and experience of ourselves to others. How is it not that He, our Lord God and Father in Heaven, should not double over receive honor and praise.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Egg Hunt

     Last Friday was of course Good Friday in the Christian (Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant) Tradition(s). What this meant for me, among many things, was that the kids were out of school. Several weeks back we had been invited to an Easter ... thing with some very, very dear family friends -- friends who are something of an adopted family here in town. We had even spent last Easter with them, and they had organized an egg hunt for our kids.

     Well, this Easter there was expected a greater number of participants to the egg hunt, and it was requested of me to bring some additional eggs. My kids didn't need any extra encouragement to be excited about this Easter visit, to be sure, so when I suggested we would need to go get more plastic eggs and candies they were readily on board with the plan.

     I perhaps could have been more welcoming of my daughter's suggestions as to how we should go about buying the eggs, and in what quantities. I was admittedly curtailing of those suggestions, but was intentionally so: it's a fine line to navigate encouraging her sense of dominion and empowerment, and then also teaching a sense of authority structure. And I am so intentional because I want and look to her ability to function within such social structures as well as (looking) to her equipping. I honestly don't know if I needed to have made that call on that distinction.

     When at the store I came upon the plastic eggs I remembered my desire to make her a part of the process, and to give her some leadership role / empowerment / dominion, and so I gave my daughter a choice of what she wanted to pick out, steering the choice only to ends of the foreknowledge I had of how many children were expected to be there. I went on to allow my son a choice of a smaller package. Then, off to the candy isle, again where I gave them the choice of picking out some candies with which to fill the eggs, I did get some of those marshmellowey circus-peanut-type bunnies like I had in my youth, though I couldn't find the pure sugary marshmellowey-centered, candy-shelled eggs also like what I had in my youth. The bunnies would prove to be a huge, surprising delight.

     At any rate, we got home form the manic store, and promptly I set the children to the task of filling the eggs. I instructed my kids to first count the eggs they had, then count the number of pieces of candy. The I gave them a vague outline of a scheme for how to fill the varying sized eggs, but pretty much left them to the task.

     To be sure, I wanted both my children to have a sense of participation and of input into not just the task of the honoring of a request for additional eggs but also of the whole event itself by virtue of the eggs. Additionally to that end I even sought their input on drink choices which I was asked to bring.
     In this intentional, thoughtful approach, which is cognizant of building up and empowering while also mindful of situational needs, which folds my children into plans greater than that for which they have knowledge I can easily see the father-heart of God. Furthermore, I am, in this moment, filled with an overwhelming gratitude that He would so graciously fold us into, gives (wants for us) place in such immeasurable plans as His own -- plans which, honestly, beautifully bring love, healing, and freedom to those whom He finds (and shows me are) precious. Thank you, Lord, thank you.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Bump, Set, Spike

Spring Volleyball has begun; well, practices have at least. I decided to enroll my daughter, rather unbeknownst to her, into a semester long clinic, taught by a professional coach, and offered to everyone in the league at a modest price.

As it turns out the clinic goes on right before practice. Likewise, the coaching styles between the professional clinic coach, and the once-fourth-grade-teacher-turned-professional-developer could not be more different. This makes for one interesting practice day, and a long one no less.

I put my daughter into the clinic not because I am one of those parents who fear the future and push their children to excel (at and to the expense of developing identity and relationship) as a result, but because I understand that to engage more deeply in what she enjoys my daughter's skills must be developed. Having been through one season I can see already the limits of skill-development occurring in individual seasons coached by non-professional athletes of the sport. However, in the same breath and somewhat ahead of myself I have to tip my hat to our current team coach, who very clearly has a vision  for (and unique manner in pursuing) what she wants produced within the team.

As I was saying, I see that to enjoy her experience more my daughter must be equipped to function more fully, to have a fuller, more developed skill set. Admittedly I may be wanting more development for my daughter than the situation may even require. I am certainly not expecting her to hinge her college entrance / "career" upon a volleyball scholarship. Yet, while my daughter may only need the development which would occur from weekly practices in order for the chance to play, and while she needn't be the best, most skilled player (able to spike harder and faster, set more proficiently, and serve more exactingly than any other) I want her being able to play at least able to do those things (bump, set, spike, serve, ect.).

I can easily see the father-heart of God reflected in this desire to see one's children get the most out of an experience, willingly and actively setting out to ensure (provide) the skills necessary.

At the moment, with that understanding in mind, I am trying to read the verse, 2 Corinthians 12:9,

"8Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. 9And He has said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is perfected in weakness." Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. 10Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong. "

I'll be honest, I've incorporated on some deep level the attitude that weakness is bad, unmanly, detestable. As the old Bard would say, "therein lies the rub"... and it chafes my soul. God is good... just doesn't mean life is easy, even though it is good.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Story Listening

After our excursion sailing the S.S. John Kerry / McCain (see today's earlier post, "Keel, Bow, and Cabin"), I had wanted my daughter and I to spend some time together. Admittedly I was a bit less ... "creative" in my answer to the question of "what to do" with her as I had been with my son: we played a video game together, on the "partner" (or, team) missions of the game. I recall as a youth playing hours of the Nintendo game "Contra" (notably having mastered the cheat code allowing us the sum total of 90 extra lives over three games) with friends. My entire family has come to enjoy playing the games together, either cooperatively or competing against one another.

After having spent a good deal of time that Saturday morning on electronics (both while finishing the boat and playing together with my daughter), I decided I wanted her and my son both to exercise some other forms of cognitive functioning, the likes of which can come only from reading.

Since we got my daughter a tablet for her birthday, a Kindle Fire, and given the particular decision-making of the moment, I decided being read-to was a close enough experience for them. I downloaded the Audible app and began a subscription to the site, feeling the pricing was offset by the benefit. I really want my children to have well-developed mental capabilities, and know the benefits of reading (relative to cognition and creativity / creative pursuits). I was firm about the notion.

So, I found a suitably lengthy text of a child-friendly variety with which I was familiar, "Harry Potter," and set them to listening. As it turns out, the writer supposedly intended the books difficulty to grow along with the maturing reader's reading ability - rather writerly ingenious, I would say.

It strikes me today, now, as I have finished one post already, the father-heart of God can be seen in this intentional, purposeful effort (and desire) to provide deeper, more abundant life for my [His] children, in each and every possible arena. More so, providing for that abundant life even by increasing the ability to receive and have such life; aye, growing the ability to have more as more is being given.

(For what it is worth, I later downloaded the brain-training game app for her, but this might belie more my personal bent and valuations than anything.)

Keel, Bow, and Cabin

From my vantage at my vintage wooden desk at which I sit within my office to write this blog I look out upon my neighbors and the park across the street. 

I wrote in an earlier post of my son's request to build a boat with me, indicating this desire in a request for glue with which to glue pieces of paper together. This past Saturday the ship was christened the S.S. John Kerry (or, S.S. John McCain depending on my sardonic ambivalence in the moment), and finally set upon her maiden voyage. It is the story of that ship and voyage which is on my mind to tell.

Originally I had offered that, instead of a paper boat we try to build one of popsicle sticks, fashioned around the frame of a milk carton. In truth it was a carton the shape of a milk carton but actually originally holding malted chocolate-covered candies. The project took various days to complete, and I think the inconsistent devotion to the project cooled my son's ardor at times, and as the project progressed I became more of the driving force for it's completion. My son had had vision only for a boat, while I had had a more specific and particular vision for a wooden pirate galley.

I wonder now, in retrospect, if part of my son's lack of enthusiasm was in part mere distraction and in other part(s) not really entirely sure of my follow-through. At the moment of building, well, in the many moments, I had intentionally wanted this to be a project in which we not only accomplished it together, not only built a solid thing, but was a project primarily in which my son would see my commitment to doing it with him Above and beyond even the flimsy request of a paper boat. I wanted for my son  to have a sense of my desire to be with him in the process of what he wanted, and I wasn't going to just make it a flimsy thing in the process. Maybe I went "overboard" in the conceptual aspects of the thing itself.

From the pictures above, what is seen as the top is actually the incompleted bottom. The ship was going to have the shape of a ship, complete with keel and bow, likely a mast, maybe even a sail. My son was intent on having the half-completed bow be a little "house on top," and so the project took a turn and came out as you see above. I "tarred and pitched" the boat with a mixture of regular school glue and rubber cement, after painting it with an assortment of left-over paints (the colors chosen by my son). Arguing for the plan at the expense of his ever getting to experience being together and seeing it sail seemed counter-productive to the intent of showing him my desire to be actively a part of his interests.

Needless to say, as the vessel was completed and dry enough, we went to our favorite fishing spot to sail the craft. We got distracted as soon as my son caught a baby trout in a drying hole of the spillway of the pond, but eventually, between my daughter's insistence to see the thing float and my sporadic upwellings of focus we got to the big event.

The ship, as soon as the fanfare of its release ended immediately capsized, but stayed afloat, and floated off on surface current and wind across the pond. It turned out a huge success.

I think I can easily and readily say I see the father-heart of God in this desire not only to be with us in the process of the project of our interests, but for my ourselves to know both God's presence and His father-heart (for us)  through that process and project -- knowing even His commitment to carry it on to completion even when our interests wain or our doubt presides.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Coupons and Tokens

     As I mentioned at the end of the last post, this is now Spring Break for my children. While many others are going on some form of trip out of town, this particular season of our lives finds us orbiting the sun of my wife's career. It just isn't a time, well, for us to have time rocketing off track and out of (solar) system into activities whose center is not that sun. It is not the socially-debilitating, existentially-sapping American business (of which I speak) so much as a gravitational constraint -- and one willingly and gladly embraced. It is good, and because it is good, it is also good we are not off skying Breckenridge or body boarding in South Padre or camping in Estes Park or fishing in the Ozarks.

     Having said all that, knowing the situation for what it is, I still wanted this semester break to be something which my children could enjoy, and from which their desires for (and needs for) deep connection and affirmation might be met.

     Both my children had been awarded certificate coupons for Gattiland, a pizza eatery replete with video games (predicated on a token system/scan card purchased in advance), bumper cars, prizes, all-you-can-eat buffet, even a movie theater. The being awarded of these prizes, and the getting to "cash them in" has become something of an important little matter in their lives, mostly because it is something they (feel they have) earned, and which empowers and enables them (partly in some senses of dominion and autonomy). Taking them to Gattiland became something of a mission for me, simply because of this importance to them and the senses of self-expansion it brought, and that mission defined for me the significance attaining to the break.

     We folded in some plans with some beloved friends of my daughter, friends who had been awarded similar coupons it turned out. You can not go to such a place, with an arcade, with your children, without expecting to spend some money on games, and so each of the four children were equipped with a scan card having the same amount of purchased tokens. With my son I wandered, attempting to steer him away from those games I knew were "rip offs," while my daughter meandered with her two friends; occasionally our wandering found all of us meeting back up and wandering together.

     At one point the children asked if their token cards could be replenished. In that moment, when the mission of providing my children with the senses of dominion and of autonomy and of accomplishment all came to be beared down upon by the somewhat arbitrary (and unexpected) expense of the token system, my heart was immediately, enthusiastically, and committedly aimed at empowering them. I was not going to allow the circumstance or situation of this good (which was being brought into the lives of my children) to be curtailed.  Initially, however, I had told them they had been given a sufficient amount, and recharging was not an option. Having been in charge of my son's card, and being the one to actually swipe the card for him (even paying for my playing with him as a partner when he requested) I had come to see the expense hands-on, so to speak. It wasn't the quarter arcades of my youth, suffice it to say. I relented of my initial approbation and recharged the cards, determined even in my doing so.

     Perhaps another way to say this is that I was safeguarding (through providing token "funds") the experience, with as much enthusiasm and delight and determination as undergirded the sense of mission held by me, against the situation in which they found themselves (and which I had personally discovered to be the case). It was not just that I wanted something for them, but that I was in opposition to that which actively worked against them experiencing the fullest senses of the experience. I wasn't passively enabling their opportunity, either, but had been experiencing the reality of the moment with them. I would see them as undominated by it as I was.

     Easily I see the father-heart of God towards us in this attitude, and countless verses do I see anew relative (and through) this attitude: the verse about we as believers having everything we need for life and for godliness in Christ Jesus; the verse about Jesus being a great and high priest who suffered along with us but was without sin, knowing our weakness that we may approach the throne of grace boldly; many, many others.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Front Porch Storytelling

     My daughter, and her class, have not keyed into the fact that I have signed up to be the Mystery Reader every second Friday of the month. The Mystery Reader (for that class) is a surprise guest who has signed up to read for the classroom. My daughter observed me talking to the teacher earlier in the week about what unit they were on or about to cover, as I like to make my reading selection something relevant or topical. So, that being the case, my daughter was rather excited about the day.

     I have read to the class several times now, well, five times actually. The children of the class and I have come to have a sort of amicable, friendly familiarity, and they enjoy my reading selections. I suppose my inability to not cry at certain points of certain stories, coupled with the humor of still other stories, and my overall inner-thespian and practiced storyteller personeas have all gone a goodly ways to forming that familiarity (along with sheer repetitive appearances).

     I have one book from which I have read the most frequently, a small collection of non-fictional stories of a more personal-narrative sort of vein, written by a Quaker Pastor who is himself something of a "front porch story teller" meaning, among other things, many of his stories are humorous in parts, as well as gentle, kindly, goodly, and friendly. His stories tend to revolve around some episodic moment or memorable character from his life, and always he draws some thematic relevance to the person of God and/or living a life of faith. In this respect he and I are not different, and more importantly, it is clearly understandable why I like him so much. Like reading him so much.

     Not having any material at hand which went along with the upcoming section of study, I brought my "old standard" (The Quaker Pastor's stories along with me, intending to ask my daughter's teacher if she had anything she wanted me to read. She replied she always loved it when I picked. Well, this "old standard" happens to be one I bring along specifically because I know my daughter enjoys it, and enjoys the type of personal narrative storytelling. Personal narrative, creative non-fiction is her primary area of reading interest.

     I knew my daughter enjoyed this book, and I want for her to have the experience of having her friends brought in to "her" and her interests, to share communally in enjoying the same things in which she delights and finds / place importance upon. Being the Mystery Reader allows me the platform to really be able to do so, in this respect. While I enjoy the class, and enjoy the teacher especially (she seems to be of my ilk, and we seem to "vibe" philosophically), and enjoy the reading event itself, what I most desire is this opportunity for my daughter to have the experience - dare I say the honoring - of her friends enjoying with her her primary interests.

     In this desire -- to see my child having her friends brought into her areas in interest, according as good what she finds as good (that she would thus find affirmation for how she is made and for what she delights in) -- I easily see the father heart of God.

     Well, along with the excitement of my appearance as Mystery Reader, last Friday began Spring Break for numerous school districts across the area, my children's school by no means the exception. The excitement as they came pouring out of school was palpable. The fact of Spring Break changes everything: where the lessened time spent together behooved me to make the most of the available opportunities allowed me I now have navigate and balance between important moments and the additional moments (which may or may not necessarily need taking advantage of). In other words, I have to decide if the moment at hand is one I need to make count, or if I am erring in trying to make too much count at the expense of getting stuff done. That's the tension for me at least, since I want more to ensure as many possible moments with my children are spent building them up as I can, even to the detriment of "getting stuff done". Look forward to seeing how this week plays out in future posts.


Thursday, March 10, 2016

Pirate Galleys and Cowboy Boots

     With the Saturday contagion having run it's course, and the school week beginning anon, I set about being mindful of how I would redeem the lost time. My son had been clamoring for glue at various moments, with which he intended to make a boat of some kind. Likely out of paper, and likely because of having seen his paper airplane "360" go floating off into the pond at which the turkeys had attacked him.

     I hatched upon the idea of using a milk carton and gluing Popsicle sticks to it (thereby creating the shape even of an old pirate galley). He had asked if we could do this project together and this certainly was a project which we could both do together. So far the project is slow going, and burdened by, well, shall we say, a lack of structural cohesion in both shared concept and in actual construction. It has been raining for two days and I suspect the local creeks will be sufficiently swollen for a while, so maybe this issue will resolve itself and the maiden voyage finally undertaken.

     It strikes me as I sat down to write this post that all I intended on doing was conveying what I ended up conveying in the first two paragraphs above only, but as I wrote I was reminded of the Friday preceding Saturday's contagion: Texas Day at School.

     My son had wanted to wear an old leather, fringed jacket of mine from when I was a boy, younger than him. It was too small. I found him a pair of either my old boots or his cousin's (my nephew's on my side) boots, a button up shirt, and a pair of blue jeans. His sister dressed in one of her new birthday dresses from my sister, and was very "Western-Punky Brewster-ish".

     I wanted my son to be dressed cutely, to come across looking like the little cowboy he wanted to look like, and I knew the fringed jacket was too small. I know something about real cowboys, how they dress and why they dress as they do (having known some and lived among them, working with them, studying about them. I also knew this was a kindergarten recital, and not Broadway. I really wanted for him to not feel left out, to not feel un-participatory; likewise I did not want him to feel he was given second-rate, in terms of too small a jacket, and without the boots for which he did not ask (but I suspected, and fairly accurately, he would have wanted and enjoyed).

    I  missed the class party with him getting to ride a pony and make a bandanna and broomstick-horse, but managed to attend the singing and dancing performance (along with a very sleep-deprived, night-shift working wife and mother of my children). He looked very much the part, and the event had all the cuteness that kindergarten-aged children dressing up and dancing can have. And Dad (myself) was very proud of his son, and for his son.

     In this desire for my son to feel a part of something (a part of his school and grade's and class' Texas Day), knowing better and best what would facilitate that feeling, and then committedly providing for such (even when my son thought differently about what he needed), I easily see the father-heart of God.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Cat-Ears of Contagion

     Increasingly, as my son explicitly indicates his awareness of the loss of / desire for directed "daddy-son" time (lost due to the artificial routines imposed by a school lifestyle), I desire and am intentional about making Saturdays a day of concentrated "time spent". However, as yet another Saturday found me without plans having been made for what to do with the kids, we got a slow start that morning. I played around with the notion of letting the kids watch their electronics, well, because it seemed like that was the consensus, and I am mentally flexible enough to realize sometimes you just need a break. My daughter has begun reading this blog, as it turns out, and had decided she would rather do that than to watch something. My son was content to watch some kid show on a streaming movie service. Hence I began to think the morning, and then the day, would turn out to be one of languishing in inactivity.

     Drumming up the emotional energy myself to not see the day entirely forgone, but well after an hour and a half of this "mental vegetating," I attempted to wrangle the kids into action. No sooner had I done so then my daughter began vomiting all over the floor. With a well-practiced sang-froid I immediately switched gears, and went for the "throw-up bowl" (a large, plastic bowl dedicated to this one purpose of collecting, well, the unanticipated). I then got my daughter a cup of water, and went to cleaning the mess. Shortly thereafter I set her up "her spot," positioning her to be able to see television, wrapped in covers, with vital Kleenex and bowl and water, comforting teddy bear and beloved book. Turns out the day would be one of languishing after all.

     By the second round of my daughter's regurgitating spasms my son commenced throwing up, and with an undaunted and well-adept aplomb I began to see to both their needs simultaneously. At some point I realized the need to get my daughter a "hair thing" - what we call a band used to hold the hair in a ponytail. I recalled some family member or friend for her birthday had gotten her a headband decorating kit, and went to find one of the bands. All I could immediately find was a cat-ears headband which had been from Mom's Halloween costume, and bequeathed subsequently to the children for play. I returned post-haste, and donning the headband onto my child, dubbed them the "Cat-ears of Contagion," My daughter, pale and assuredly not liking the underlying need for them, cracked a weak smile.

     In one of the quiet moments betwixt bouts of retching, while they lay pallid and tuckered out in needed, convalescing rest, the thought occurred to me that I would "make up" this lost time with them. Admittedly I was spending time with them even then, caring for them in minute ways, and I was quick and intentional in doing so, but what I wanted was affirming, blessing-filled time spent with them, in ways which spoke to deep, core needs.

     In the desire for them to have not only care-giving and support but also a "redemption" of missed opportunity (opportunity for that need-meeting, affirming, blessing-filled time) I wanted for them, well, what they could have had, should have had, and what was in my power (still) to bestow. The sickness of the situation would not prohibit my bestowing what I wanted for them. Indeed, in thinking about it, I was a little righteously angry at the "stomach bug" - it took what was mine, what was my (birth)right and place alone to deny or to give. Not that I would ever deny such to my beloved children.

     Through this I easily see the father-heart of God: His enmity towards sin but not towards sinners, His desire to redeem that which sin stole, His desire to redeem for me (what my wife continually prays for me) "what the locusts ate."

     Of course there is a verse, the likes of which I am trying to read through this understanding of the redemption-desiring, fatherly heart of a jealous God (whose name, as is said in Exodus 34:14, is jealous): 2 Corinthians 5:5 --

"4For indeed while we are in this tent, we groan, being burdened, because we do not want to be unclothed but to be clothed, so that what is mortal will be swallowed up by life. 5Now He who prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave to us the Spirit as a pledge. 6Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord-- 7for we walk by faith, not by sight--  8we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord.  9Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him."

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Des Tablettes ...

     For my daughter's birthday in mid-February we got her one of the cheaper tablets they sell on Amazon, your basic web browser with bells and whistles. I had wanted her to have a gift she would have enjoyed and really gotten into, and the tablet had been something I knew she would enjoy, despite her not having really asked for one.

    Sure, there were the occasional comments made about "when" she might get a phone which clued me in to her desires for electronics, but I have done my best to defuse the cultural booby trap produced by so many other of her school mates having phones and electronic devices. She will have a phone when it aides me in keeping her safe, primarily when she is old enough to be outside my presence out in public for long periods. Suffice it to say, she was not actively hoping for or expecting such a gift, nor making petitions for one. Really, she was being impressively submitted to my wisdom in the matter, and intentionally content with being allowed to use "Mom's iPad" and "Dad's phone or computer".

    I know my daughter, and know what fascinates her, what she enjoys, what she delights in, what drives her. So, back in February, this gift seemed to fit well the occasion. When the tablet was bestowed I made clear she was not download anything which required her to spend money, was not to play any downloaded game on multiplayer (a child-safety measure), and was still maintain her practice of asking me before acting if she had a question or if she was watching an unfamiliar show.

     The thing is, my daughter tends to honor the freedom she is accorded with respecting the boundaries, and I have more issue with her asking permission unnecessarily. This tendency affects in me a deeper trust of her. So when, last Saturday after the "turkey excursion," she asked if she could download a movie-streaming service to which I have a membership I not only agreed but intentionally set about to download it and enter my password for her without waiting or hesitating or procrastinating.

    In that moment, with love and pride and beneficent intent towards her, I inclined myself towards enabling her in more of her freedom and enjoyment of the device. It became for me something I could do for her (and I want to do for her, to bless her), and I didn't hesitate. It wasn't a big thing for me, conceivably just a small gesture, but not without significance to her. She excitedly scampered off -- and I do mean "scampered" (off ) -- to go watch something.

     In this I see the father-heart of God towards us, I see he desires to enable and to empower us, knowing us intimately and acting towards us intentionally. I find new dimension in the verses about not two sparrows falling to the ground without Him knowing, He being a high priest who was tempted in every way (and thus is able to sympathize with our weakness, knowing our weakness and that we are dust), His knowing us from since before Creation was begun and having knit us together in our mother's womb.

     There are quite a number of verses I am considering from the perspective/understanding of the father-heart of God (above), most of them the verses quoted in previous posts. A particular verse which is rattling around in my mind, though, is not one referenced earlier: 2 Peter 3:9,

"8But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. 9The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance."

In the very least, God our Father in Heaven is not sitting around waiting for us to get it right, but is active and looking to enable / empower us in (and into) our freedom, knowing the trials and travails we face and the weaknesses we have, taking.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Attack of the Turkeys

     My son asked me Friday if, on Saturday, we could go fishing somewhere where we haven't been fishing before. As it turns out, I had just the place. Rather, I had a buddy that had just the place -- a nice twelve acre spread with what I can only describe as a stock tank the size of a football field (though not shaped like one) an hour outside of town. My buddy, it turns out, also had chickens, pea hens, turkeys, and (at one time) rabbits, with the intent to get (in the future) goats and sheep and pigs, an orchard, a large-sized garden, and who knows what all else. Maybe lions and tigers and bears... ostriches, emus, a donkey.

     In my mind all that talk of chickens and turkeys translated into "potential petting zoo," and I knew the children found fascination with animals, just as I do. I wagered this then would prove to augment their experience of the day, and I became more enthusiastic for us to go. It was something I wanted for them beyond just the beloved activity of fishing, and more than honoring the request to fish somewhere new. I wanted for them to be surprised, and to have more than that for which they asked.

     I knew the tank had had bass, and bluegill perch, and we suspected it had catfish, and so I figured the experience of catching something new would make the day for them. Somehow, along the way, in all the texting back and forth with my friend, before going out there, it was mentioned the turkeys were likely easier to catch than the chickens. No sooner had we arrived at the place, with me expecting the children to bum-rush the fishing hole, then I was surprised by the children bum-rushing the turkey pen. Evidently they had been aware of the texts, specifically the one about catching turkeys.

     While I was setting up the spot and the poles, leaving them to their enjoyments  my children were acquainting themselves with the kicking ends of the male turkey. This fact I did not find out about until much later. As I pen these words I am reminded that these birds' supposed ancestors were likely raptors and T-Rexes, and I am realizing I could have had some mischievous fun pointing said fact out at the time. But I am like that, and my children know it about me, that I can be gently, playfully fun and mischievous, and they enjoy it quite a bit. Such gives them a sense of equality when I play along that they have found me out, even though they know I know we all know that we are playing around.

     At any rate, it was likely too windy and too cold for fishing, and the haul amounted only to two bluegill, one I caught by hand in the reeds. The day, however, ultimately proved to have been a success for them, and as we were beginning (the process of) our departure they clamored to come back and play with the turkeys.

    At one moment during the "process of leaving", while my daughter was in the farm house using the facilities, I observed my son in the gravel drive throwing a paper airplane into the wind. He proudly told me it was named "360" because of how it flew in a (semi)arc. In the moment I could tell he was satisfied, joyous, life-filled, happy, in that way which satisfied, happy, loved, joy-filled children can be. And I delighted. I delighted as much for my son as I did with him.

     In this I can see the father-heart of God: He delights in us, and delights for us, for our good, and (as specifically relates to what I wanted and felt for my children about this outing) He wants for us what He knows we will delight in but don't know even for which to ask. He wants for us a whole and complete good, and not just a singular good, wanting a fullness to our blessing, to our being blessed.

     There is a verse I am pondering this morning, reading it with an understanding of that father-heart behind it, James 4:6,

"5Or do you think that the Scripture speaks to no purpose: "He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us"? 6But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, "GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE.""