School ditches rules and loses bullies

TVNZ: “Chaos may reign at Swanson Primary School with children climbing trees, riding skateboards and playing bullrush during playtime, but surprisingly the students don’t cause bedlam, the principal says.” (HT: The Gospel-Driven Church)

My Son, the Con Man

My 2.5-year-old son is a con man. Seriously.

This morning he had donuts and juice for breakfast. He then opened the fridge, found a sleeve of fun-size Kit-Kats and used his puppy-dog eyes and pathetic voice to get one of those. A few minutes later this conversation took place:

Elijah: “Daddy, I’m already hungry.”
Daddy: “You’re hungry already?”
Elijah: “Me too! Let’s have cookies!”

This time his charm didn’t work, which caused a small temper tantrum until he realized that wouldn’t work either.

A few minutes later he was laying on the floor playing with some toys and decided he wanted his mommy. When commanding her to come didn’t work, he pulled out his favorite trick: pretending he wants a hug. Continue reading My Son, the Con Man

Why Santa Won’t Be Coming to My House

I have a 2-1/2 year old son, who in the 3rd advent season of his life is finally starting to appreciate the wonder and excitement of Christmas. His little face lit up when we put up our tree, and when the lights were plugged in, he declared, “Wow! That’s beautiful!” We have a nativity set that uses tealight candles, and he asks us to light them and then wants to try and blow them out. He thinks every package that UPS drops off at our house is a Christmas present for him just because I told him that one was. He points and yells, “Christmas!” at everything remotely Christmasy in any store we go to. He asks to watch Christmas videos. He just loves everything Christmas.

My wife and I might be even more excited than he is for Christmas morning to come. He loved getting presents last year when he didn’t really comprehend what was going on so we can’t wait to see his reaction when all his anticipation for Christmas is finally fulfilled. But one thing that won’t be part of our Christmas Eve and Christmas morning experience is Santa Claus. There won’t be cookies left out for him before going to sleep on December 24th. We won’t be writing, “From Santa” on any of the gifts. His name probably won’t even be mentioned.

Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with Santa. We watch movies with Santa in them, we’ve given our son Santa coloring books, and we won’t be teaching him that Santa is evil. But we won’t be letting him think Santa brings his gifts either. Once he’s a little older, we’ll teach him the real story of Santa and why we should celebrate the historical St. Nicholas (although that’s already started to some extent since he absolutely loves the VeggieTales St. Nicholas movie), but for now we’ll just let Santa be the cartoonish fictional character he naturally assumes he is.

I know not everyone will agree with us. I’m sure there are some who probably think we’re wrong for allowing any vestige of Santa in our home. Others probably think we’re being too strict and depriving our son of his childhood by robbing him of a belief in Santa. I guess it’s more for that second objection that I want to explain why we will tell our son that his Christmas presents are from us (via a store) and not from Santa (via elves at the North Pole): Continue reading Why Santa Won’t Be Coming to My House

Jesus Loves the Little Children

And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them. (Mark 10:13-16)

Luke’s gospel indicates that infants (brephē) were being brought to Jesus. Here in Mark, it’s the word paidia, which can range anywhere from babies to preteens. Whether Luke was being more specific than Mark or simply highlighting one specific group of those that were being brought to Jesus isn’t all that important (though I tend to think that the “children” at least trended toward the infant age). What is important is the stark contrast between how the disciples react to the children and how Jesus reacts to them. Continue reading Jesus Loves the Little Children

Learning from Joe Paterno

I’m not going to rehash the Penn State sexual abuse saga here.

For one thing, I have no desire to do so. Over the past 48 hours, I have read some great articles criticizing all those who refused to look into the allegations against Jerry Sandusky and standing up for those children who were victimized by him. I don’t have anything to add to what has already been written on the subject.

For another, I’m not even sure I could. I can’t remember the last time a story made me this sick to my stomach. I’ve had to lessen my exposure to the news coverage as the story has dragged on because I couldn’t stand to read or hear anymore about what Sandusky is accused of doing. It’s just disgusting.

As awful as the story is, however, I think there are some important things that we as parents and youth workers need to pay attention to, especially as the story pertains to Penn State head football coach Joe Paterno.

Paterno is one of the most legendary and revered figures in college football history, holding his position at Penn State for an astounding 45 years. Even when the team wasn’t having much success on the field and some were calling for him to be fired, no one ever seemed to question the fact that he was a good, moral man who at the very least instilled discipline and values into the young men he coached.

However, all of that went out the window this weekend when the story broke that a graduate assistant had alerted Paterno to Sandusky’s behavior a decade ago. Rather than confront his former employee (and reported good friend) or call the police, Paterno chose to pass the information on to another university official and wash his hands of it, content that, “I did what I was supposed to.”

Paterno has understandably (and rightfully) come under fire for fulfilling the minimal legal requirement without questioning what his greater moral responsibility was, especially since innocent children paid for his failure to do so. Whether this costs him his job or not is yet to be seen (Update, 11/9/11: Paterno has been fired.), but it begs an interesting question for us:

What can we do as parents and youth workers to ensure the safety of children entrusted to our care? How can we protect against passing the buck of responsibility at the cost of a child’s innocence?

Here are a five things I think we can need to do to try and avoid the mistakes Paterno and other Penn State officials made: Continue reading Learning from Joe Paterno

Do Not Despise These Little Ones

See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 18:10)

Last week I mentioned that “these little ones” could refer either to children or to disciples. As we move through this passage, I think it becomes more likely that he’s speaking of disciples. More specifically, I think it’s probable that he’s referring to young and/or new disciples, those who are young and immature in the faith. Inserting this interpretation into the passage it becomes something like:

See that you do not despise one of these new Christians…


See that you do not despise one of these young Christians…

Our minds probably immediately raise defenses: “Wait! We would never despise new Christians or young Christians!” But in reality, this is more common than we’d like to admit. On Monday, Steve talked about how our sin can cause others to stumble. Here I think Jesus is warning us against swinging to the opposite extreme and becoming legalistic. And from my experience, legalism is often directed at those who are young or those who are new Christians. Continue reading Do Not Despise These Little Ones

The Least of These

Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, (Matthew 18:5)

The biggest question about this verse seems to be: Who is Jesus talking about here? The phrase “one such child” could be referring to the child that Jesus had brought into their midst (18:2), but it also could be referring to the members of the kingdom, who have humbled themselves like a child (18:3). For the most part I’ve always heard people take the former interpretation, with 18:5-6 being applied to actual children. This week, however, I’ve started to see more validity in the latter interpretation, that Jesus is speaking of disciples rather than kids. Either way, I think there are similar applications regardless of how we interpret what Jesus meant by “one such child.” Continue reading The Least of These

Daddy, happy

One of the words my son has picked up recently is “happy.” He learned it from Veggie Tales. Not just the word either; he has learned the concept of happiness. In one of the Veggie Tales videos, one character asks another, “What makes you happy?” My son turned to my wife and said, “Juice happy.” My kid loves his juice … to the point that he identifies it as something that makes him happy.

taking a walkThe other day he and I went on a walk (or to be more accurate, he made a run for it getting out of the car after church, and I followed). After walking for 10 or 15 minutes, he turned to me and said, “Daddy, happy.” I asked, “Taking a walk makes you happy?” and he said, “Yeah.” The next day we went for another walk (this one was planned) so I asked him, “Are you happy?” and he said, “Happy of course.”

Besides being really tender moments for a father and son to share, these moments comfort my heart a little when I think about moving him half a country away from the life he knows. I worry sometimes about removing him from his grandparents, the church he knows, the people and environment he’s comfortable with. It’s good to know that he finds happiness in simple things like taking a walk and spending time with his daddy, things that won’t change just because we’re moving.