children's spirituality

The Discipline of Wandering

summer2015

Summer affords me the easy rhythms of wondering and wandering. Here in Colorado we’ve had loads of rain- so these days I’m wandering hip deep in clover. Pulling it up out of my garden and wandering it over to grateful goats and one stubborn horse. Most mornings I wander out the kitchen door, to sit on the deck and watch the cat wander herself into my lap. After a while I wander over to a spot gone wild from neglect and rummage around for a few asparagus shoots.

Sometimes I wander alone, other times I wander with my kids. They lead; I follow.

We wander in search of spring’s new flower. We wander abandoning our sight and leaning heavily on sound in search of baby blue birds, the percussion of grass gone to seed and the syncopated cicada.

Wandering, by most accounts is aimless. The idea that anything in the Christian life is aimless might trigger some push back. I mean for crying out loud, this is a purpose driven life.

For just a minute, hold the trigger and ask yourself...

Just what would happen if I release my aim?

What would happen if I release my goal?

What would happen if I release the rat in the rat race?

In my wandering this summer, I am doing just that. Know what’s happening?

Grace. Rest. Wandering in the space of be-ing.

Hard as hell[1] for a driven person to refuse to drive. Requires the discipline of wandering.

 

What would it look like for you to submit to the Great Wanderer? He's a pretty good guide.

Try wandering outside, leave your watch in the house, bring a child.

 

 

[1] I do not use this phrase glibly. Hell is hard. Like driving a stake in cement, like pounding our heads on brick walls. Heaven, however, is a bit like wandering into a pasture gone wild looking for asparagus shoots.

Making Space for Grief

in their own words 2

Last week I wrote of the death on our little farm. Folks have asked how I helped the children people grieve. Here is my response.

 “That is it isn't it? The rub, the hard bit is communicating this paradox of life and death with those we love. My eldest daughter, 14 years old, was with me when all this was going on. We talked about it. This isn't our first death on our little farm, but it was significant in that we didn't remove the loss. Her way of grief was so bodily. She wanted to dig the hole and she wanted to bury him, in the rain- no less. Later, she told me she gave him back to God and the creation he came from. “

 I am no therapist and most days I’m barely as wise as our basset hound who regularly eats horse poop, but here are few things I’m learning.

  • Talk about what’s happening. I don’t mean lecture. I mean enter into a conversation about what is happening. An easy opener could be “What do you think is happening here?” Stay away from any philosophical or theological answers. Be simple, be honest, be present.
  • Ask questions. What do you think is going on? How do you feel about what is going on? What does your heart say?
  • If you are sad, be sad. Pray aloud. If you are anxious, be anxious. Pray aloud. We parents try to hide these emotions, but we’re fooling no one. The children know and probably feel the same. Together go to the Spirit whose great gift is comfort.
  • Make a space for grief. Children are so very bodily. (Adults are too; we’ve just grown old and forgotten.) They will need to grieve with their bodies. They may need to kiss the departed. When our cat died our youngest daughter held his dead little body wrapped in a towel and rocked him for over an hour. They may need to lie on the floor and cry. They may need to create a picture of the one gone, or paint a memorial stone. They may want to do this alone or they may want you with them. Ask, they will tell you.

Let's learn together, how have you helped children to grieve?

Resurrecting Hope

resurrection toy

At this writing it is Holy Week, arguably the saddest week of the year. This week, my Lord dies, hope dies and we are left with nothing but the empty space of Holy Saturday. There is a commonality among the children at Haven House. Each time I sit with a child in spiritual direction, I first ask them to choose a picture of Jesus with children from a stash of many. This is our rhythm when they come. They choose the picture of Jesus they most need to see and then together we turn on a battery-powered candle to remind us that God is with us. Then they are invited to share their thoughts about the picture. Children who have heard Bible stories usually tell me something about Jesus’ death, even children who know little about Jesus know about his death. Some even know the gruesome details. The children at Haven House know death; they know emptiness, loneliness, and hopelessness. Often I will say, “Did you know, God brought him back to life?” Without fail, I am met with blank stares and even disagreement. Death they know, resurrection they can’t imagine.

So in the last two weeks during spiritual direction (We call it Holy Listening.) we have used a wooden play set of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus to play out the whole story—resurrection and all.

I tell the story first and then invite the children to play with the pieces and retell. They are invited to add their own twists and turns, as this is how they make His story, their story. Interestingly, this is also how they mourn their own sorrows. In the death and sadness of Christ they are able to express their own pain. We keep the candle near, to remind us that even in great pain, and great sadness, God is near.

We are careful to include Jesus’ resurrection each time. In the resurrection of Christ there is hope and joy-- and as one child taught me, forgiveness. In the story he told of the resurrection—Jesus went chasing after the soldiers who were guarding the tomb. “Hey, no wait,” he said, “I forgive you, come back.”

Hope lives in Jesus’ resurrection.

The hope that says God is with you in your greatest pain.

The hope that says God is with you even if you are buried under shame, doubt and fear.

The hope that says “Hey, no wait. I forgive you, come back.”

The hope that says there is something better, unbelievably better, coming.

 

In Their Own Words... or Pictures

itop brain "This is what my brain looks like when there are too many emotions and sounds and my brain gets a glitch it in and shuts down."

"And this is what my brain looks like when God (in yellow) comes in and tells me it's OK and to be still. His eyes say, 'Peace.'"

itop brain2

-Nathaniel, a highly articulate 11 year old who lives with Aspergers

 

 

 

Why Practice Lent with Children?

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This post is taken from Good Dirt: Lent, Holy Week & Eastertide. Lent begins on Feb. 18 with Ash Wednesday—we hope you'll join us on this journey! Lent is the season of the divine paradox. We must die to live. While the previous seasons of the church year burst with life, Lent brings us firmly to our deaths. Lent teaches us that the path of wholeness comes through sacrifice. Jesus himself said that we must die to live. Nature echoes this paradox. Seeds must die to live. Stars die to birth galaxies. It is the way of creation, and we are created. If we live in a constant state of indulgence we will never live a whole life. When we deny ourselves, die to our wants and needs, wholeness seeps into us and we live. Lent is our salvation from the superfluous.

It seems Christmastide and Advent, with all their indulgences, are seasons custom made for children, but what about Lent?

What do we do with children and death? Aren’t we to teach them to live?

Herein lies the paradox. It is our job to teach them to live, but they must learn to die to themselves in order really to live. They must learn to die to having their own way, and they must learn to give what they have in order to receive what God has for them. We are to teach them to love themselves. The next step is to teach them to give up their lives.

However, we cannot hope for that change in our children until we, their parents and teachers, embrace it ourselves. We teach them to die, by dying ourselves.

So we also make a way for death. We clear the path, clean the space, and set our houses in order. That is what we do during Lent, as we participate in the three disciplines of prayer, fasting and giving. Together these disciplines do what we cannot do. They clear the path, clean the space and set our houses in order so that God can bring death and then wholeness.

With all this death talk we may think we must walk around with sour looks on our faces. Not us, the people of God—the paradox kicks in, and we are joyful. Love makes Lent joyful. What we do, we do out of love for God and for neighbor.

We'd Love to Hear from Your Child

Anwen's heaven

I can't tell you how many times I have asked children, "Are your listening ears on?"  (As if they had a second set that weren't exactly for listening... oh the stupid things adults say to children-- I digress.) This year at Good Dirt we are introducing a series of blog posts called "In Their Own Words... or Pictures." We have our listening ears on and we want to hear what children have to say about God.

We'd love to see their picture, sculptures, poems, and narratives. Whatever they want to use to carry their voice, we'd love to see.

These can be emailed to lacygooddirt@gmail.com

Our listening ears are on!