Friday, March 21, 2014

Loving Your Enemies

Fred Phelps is dead. The man who led a church in Kansas to picket the funerals of American soldiers and Hollywood celebrities in an attempt to proclaim God's rage against America has crossed over to the other side.

This is where it gets hard to be a follower of Jesus. Jesus tells us we are to love our enemies. Most of us would love to have a chance to picket old Fred's funeral and get the word out that God loves everyone, not just people who Fred approves. That, however, would not be a loving way to behave. And my leader, Jesus, calls me to love outside my circle of family and friends (everyone does that!) and to go the extra mile and love my enemies. And Jesus makes it clear that love is not an emotion; love is an action. In this case love is restraining oneself from doing an unloving action. Love is recognizing that in spite of the terrible person Fred Phelps seemed to be, he mattered to some people. He will be missed and perhaps even mourned by those people.

And though it's hard to swallow, God loves Fred Phelps. God who looks upon the hearts of the people knows why this man who was once a civil rights lawyer became a hatemonger who believed he honored God by preaching hate.  In 1999 Phelps responded to criticism from Jerry Falwell in the L.A. Times, saying, "He's saying I preach hate? You can't preach the Bible without preaching hate! Looky here, the hatred of God is an attribute of the Almighty," he said. "It means he's determined to punish the wicked for their sins!" 

Today I imagine Fred standing in front of God Almighty and feeling God's immense love enfolding him. I admit that I wish that he will have great regret for the life he lived before he feels that peace which passes all understanding. He has misrepresented Christians everywhere but, in the end, I want to follow Jesus closely enough to hope that he will find peace.

I love the Lord and I know that he is loving Fred, forgiving Fred, and healing Fred. So with no feelings of love toward Fred Phelps I write this, hoping that we who know God to be loving and forgiving can let old Fred go without any retribution. If I hate and renounce Fred and consign him to hell I am simply being Fred on a different campaign. So rest in peace Fred. I won't be picketing your funeral or spitting on your grave. God will handle you; I don't have to.

I don't know how to teach kids to love their enemies but I know that part of my understanding of this concept comes from understanding these two basic precepts:

  • Love is an action, not a feeling.
  • Vengence belongs to God.

I think it's important to learn and teach this. It makes for a far more peaceful life. Hate consumes and love nourishes. Why not choose love?

Thursday, March 13, 2014

The Creative Child

A couple of weeks ago I ran into a wonderful mommy-blog from a woman who has a significantly creative child. She has documented their creative endeavors of paper dressmaking with words and pictures - celebrating this special child.  Shortly thereafter, hanks to a blog I subscribe to (Donald Miller), I found another blogger (Penelope Trunk) who turned me on to yet another blogger (Dr. Noa Kageyamawhere I found an entry on bias against creativity. In this entry Dr. Kageyama reports on a research project about creative children. The researchers behind this project identified characteristics of the most creative children.

The creative child. . .
  • Makes up the rules as he/she goes along
  • Impulsive
  • Nonconformist
  • Emotional
  • Takes chances
  • Tends not to know own limitations and tries to do what others think is impossible
And the least creative children are more. . .
  • Tolerant
  • Reliable
  • Practical
  • Logical
  • Understanding
  • Good-natured
  • Sincere
  • Dependable

Guess which group teachers favor? Not surprisingly it's the tolerant, reliable, practical, logical, understanding, good-natured, sincere and dependable children from the least creative group. 

Now, with my new-found knowledge of Multiple Intelligences I wasn't surprised to read this. Teachers are devoted to education,  which is more about putting knowledge in than pulling creativity out, and they necessarily have many students, which makes conformity desirable. Unfortunately, for some children, their creative side interferes with conformity, which disrupts conventional classrooms and causes them to feel there's something wrong with them.

And shadowing all of my thoughts is the recent death of Phillip Seymour Hoffman who, judging by his career and unfortunate death, was incredibly creative (and impulsive, unaware of his own limitations, nonconformist, risk-taking and emotional.) I don't want to stifle a child's creativity, but I certainly wish to keep him safe.

Every child is created in the image of God, and God is most certainly creative! So the creative child is no more or less valuable than any other child, but that creativity needs to be nurtured, and celebrated. Pay attention, you'll be amazed by the ideas your creative child generates. Take said child to museums, libraries, laboratories, and landforms. Find opportunities to experience different cultures, art studios and the kitchen. Visit any place that will supply her with new information to fuel her imagination. Allow extra time to transition from the world of ideas to the world of boxes and lines. Make sure that he or she knows you love his or her creativity, that it's one of the qualities you appreciate. It is both a burden and a privilege to rear a creative child; when in doubt, turn to the creator of us all. I can guarantee you'll hatch an idea that will help you create a suitable environment to foster your child's creativity.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

The Faith of a Celebrity

Wow!  Matthew McConaughey thanked God in his Oscar acceptance speech Sunday night. Various headlines I read implied that this was unusual because a) he was in Hollywood (where everyone is Godless) b) he's a bad-boy star, known as a party animal c) he's white or d) it was inappropriate.

I think it's wonderful that Mr. McConaughey expressed his gratitude. I think that acknkowledging that there is a force stronger than his own personal ability in the midst of one of the most exciting moments of his life is exemplary. I hope that many people will emulate him, and let God be their true north, the object of their gratitude. What I don't want to see is Matthew McConaughey become a "celebrity Christian."

God does not require celebrity endorsements. Celebrities, like all of us, are dust, and to dust they shall return. Mere mortals, no closer to God than ordinary people, they are useful when they create conversation about gratitude and faith, but certainly not necessary for that to happen. Their influence is limited because celebrity is fleeting. Today's Best Actor is only as important as his last role.

As parents, we are the most important stars in our children's lives. How they see and follow God has a lot more to do with what we do on a daily basis than what the Best Actor says or does in response to God. Do our children see us being grateful to God? Do they know that we consult God with major life decisions? Do they see your relationship with God occupying a high spot on your priority list? If they do, then you will have a far more lasting effect on the world than any words spoken by Matthew McConaughey at the Oscars.

Maybe we should be striving to make God a celebrity in our household. Does your child know as much about God as she does about the latest tween heart-throb? Do we spend as much time in conversation about where God is at work in the world or what God would have us do in the face of a given situation as we spend discussing the prospects for the Vikings, Cowboys, Rangers, Twins, Longhorns, Badgers, or Gold Medals at the Olympics?

God is, in fact, a rock star! God is Creator, Friend and Wisdom, the source of all that we need. Credentials like that require no celebrity endorsement to be made known, only the acknowledgement of ordinary people in ordinary circumstances. God remains, when all else turns to dust. God alone is worthy of our worship and our gratitude. Is that obvious to your kids?