Monday, May 9, 2011

Kid's Giftedness

Kids are gifted.

Kids are more gifted in fact, than most adults I believe. They haven't learned what's impossible, therefore they tend try to reach much further than they could possibly reach. I believe this is one reason why kids grow and learn things so much faster than adults do. When you reach beyond your ability you become able to more and do it more quickly. It is when you take the safe route where you cannot fail that you become relatively stagnant in your growth.

What kids usually don't know, however, is the areas where they are stronger and weaker in. Have you noticed that children often practice things they are good at, even at an extremely young age? Conversely, they tend to avoid things they are not good at in order to do what they enjoy (often what they excel at in the first place). Have you also noticed that the people that have had the greatest impact on the world focused on their areas of strength? Look at Bill Gates or Da Vinci or Michelangelo or Jaque Cousteau or Yo Yo Ma. They didn't waste monumental amounts of energy trying to equalize areas where they did not have ability. On the flip side, education today teaches that kids all have to be similarly efficient in every area, regardless of if they are naturally talented or not in that area. We have been fed this idea that instead of being wildly masterful in one or two areas, we must be mediocre in 9 or 10 areas. This is a great travesty that threatens not only success in the secular world, but in our churches as well.

Is your child a great encourager or people? Discover a way for them to practice that more and more so they become better and better at it. Are they a great speaker? Look for opportunities for them to speak. Do the same for them if they are good at writing, painting, singing, or anything else. There is always opportunity for a Christian to use their gifts to show Christ to the world around them. Instead of saying "My child has a hard time memorizing Scripture so I'm going to make them do it 5 hours a day (an exaggeration, I know)," say "My child is gifted in X. I will help them find a way to use their gift to glorify God and bring people to Him."

Do our children need to memorize Scripture? Yes, I believe it is important. But if they are anything like me that is not something that will come very quickly, and we need to realize that is OK. Emphasize the importance of doing that as they can while encouraging them to excel in the areas that God has gifted them in. It will do wonders not only for their self-esteem, but for their service to the Lord as well.

This is the job of parents. It is not taking control of their life and forcing them into a mold that you see as the only "appropriate" way. It is taking an honest assessment of what your child is (and is not) capable of and providing opportunities for them to move their service to God to the next level. When we take the time to guide them, to show them how to use their giftedness and show them how to lead through it, we will end up with a strong, diverse body that has more ways and abilities to help people than we have ever seen before.

So get out there! Look at your child's gifts and what they love, and guide them forward in it! You have nothing to lose, and your child has everything to gain.

Action Hearts

I felt like it would be a good thing to state exactly what this blog is about, so that you (and I) could have a clear picture of the goals. This blog is about having action hearts (as the name of it so helpfully suggests, ha). What are action hearts though, and why would anyone write about such things?

Action hearts are, naturally, hearts of action. To be more helpful, they are hearts that take what the Lord has taught and teaches us and puts them into practical use. The focus here is not to talk only about individuals, but to emphasize the need to have these kinds of hearts as a family, whether our children are young or old. When the family is pulled together to accomplish a task, it becomes not only beneficial for the completion of the task, but it becomes a bonding experience for the family where all members can witness Christ in each other, and become stronger in the Lord we serve.

Having action hearts is more than thinking, "Oh, that was a nice sermon. Maybe I'll try and help someone this week." Having action hearts is a change of worldview. It is (hopefully) a paradigm shift that says, "God has called me to a life of service, and I will find a way to serve in a way that I can be effective and useful in the kingdom." It is looking for and discovering your areas of giftedness so that instead of becoming frustrated with tasks we don't enjoy or are skilled at, we become excited about doing tasks we naturally enjoy and excel at.

The family is central to this task. It is a source of strength given by God to encourage, aid, and correct each through. It is more than the people we say goodnight to and live with. It is, ultimately, the body of Christ. Once we understand this and move towards this view, we can start looking at the world through the lens of the family and its activities, its goals, and its strength, instead of just ourselves.

So let's have Action Hearts! Let's get out there and start changing things!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Kids, Parents, and Games

Anyone who knows me knows that I am an avid gamer. Video games, board games, pen-and-paper role playing games, sports games, I enjoy them all. The thrill of critical thinking, narrative creation, communing with others, tactical thinking and development, and just plain having fun are all part of what makes games so great (and beneficial). I have been (mostly) waiting patiently until such a time that I can play games with Haden that involve more than peek-a-boo and chasing him around. :-)

What I came across today, however, made me stop and think. While there is nothing wrong with (and a lot right with) playing games with our children, are we intentional in what we are doing? I am a firm believer that we need to be intentional with our children if we want them to grow up to become strong in their personal, emotional, mental, and most of all spiritual lives.

The reason I began thinking about this is because I read an article here talking about how the writer didn't like games like Candyland and Chutes-and-Ladders. The reason is because while they may teach things like taking turns and winning/losing graciously, they're extremely simple-minded. You draw your card, make your required move, and that's it. There's no critical thinking, strategy, or decision making. This isn't to say that these games are bad. I played these games and had a blast doing it. But there are better games out there (Kid's Sequence, Connect 4, Memory) or modified rules that could be used to develop tactical thinking, strategy, memory, and other areas at the same time.

Does this mean I'm going to deride Candyland as the bane of existence? No. I'm sure I'll even play it with my children and enjoy every minute of it. But it does mean I am also going to look for the best things I can do with my kids, and prioritize that as much as I can. 

This applies to more than just games though. It is important for us to look for the best things we can do for our families and children in everything we do. It means that instead of just reading a Bible story about the good Samaritan, we go out and be one. Instead of just making a note of sick people, we go out and visit them. Instead of letting schools and Bible class teach them book information, we get them out and teach them the real-world equivalent and application of it.

So do all the basics. Play some Candyland. But don't forget to get out and develop the rest of life too. Because when they're out of the house, life is not a game.

But they'll be ready for it because of what you've taught them through those games and lessons.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Psalms 29, 33

     These psalms remind me of the unimaginable power of God. God’s voice can create or destroy anything. He can breathe stars. How am I supposed to comprehend such power and majesty? I think the simple answer is I cannot, nor am I called to understand it all. Rather, I accept that God is far and away bigger, mightier, and more creative and destructive than I could ever imagine. Seeing Him would melt my face off, hearing Him in His fullness would destroy me to atoms.

     But despite this, despite the infinite majesty and power, He loves me. Me, who sins, who falls on his face every day. Me, who has cursed His name with my actions and shamed Him with my pride. He. Loves. me. Not only does He love me, He loves me enough to protect me, to provide for me, to ask that I be his. He loves me enough not only to do that, but to sacrifice Himself, through Jesus for me. To cut Himself off from Himself. He loves me enough to ask Himself through the Holy Spirit living in me for my every need.

     I do not have words for that kind of love. I don’t even have thoughts for that kind of love. I have no reference that enables me to understand the vast resources at His disposal that He uses for me. Not because I am good or because I have done so much right, but because of His grace. Because of His love. Because He wants me, me! to be with Him in Heaven forever, living with Him, loving with Him, worshipping Him.

How can I choose any other path in life but that which I believe He has called me to?

Pragmatism is Impractical

     On its surface, Eccl. 5:1-7 looks like a pretty good way of life. It stresses not being rash or hasty, quietness, paying vows quickly, and not getting in over your head. However there is a subversive thread that runs through it which undermines God’s purposes. This thread says that one should not only try to stay on God’s good side, but stay under the radar as much as possible, to the point that one should just try to get by while doing as little as possible. It sounds very similar to the Chinese proverb which says the peg that stands out is the first one to get nailed down. We see right actions, but the wrong motivation.

      We see this same thing all the time in our culture, especially today. Today people are taught to just keep their head down, do what they’re told, and go on by. We should need to stop, look around, and question what’s going on, we are told. Just go to school, get a job, be normal, and be “content” with wherever you end up. Again, it sounds good to be content, but this is not godly contentment. It is forced contentment so that nothing bad or improper happens and you can live and easy life.

      None of this is Biblical. We are not called to be quiet, subservient cowards in life. This is a view that is often perpetrated even by our churches, often unknowingly. We are told that “Satan is a roaring lion,” without being told that we have the weapons and armor to slay that lion. We are told that we should be “content in all things,” without it being qualified that we should find our contentment in God while diving headfirst into His love, mercy, grace, and call to action. Risk-aversion in relation to God is not a virtue, it is a weakness. God calls us to dive into His love, to know Him, to put ourselves out there and show the world His people. Instead, we should realize that if we fail, we fail, and He will provide. It is a trust in God that says “I will go for it,” and we are remiss if we fail to see the great and awesome wonders He has in store for us when we go all in.