Archive for edmond

Sep 26

Chapter 3: The Wonder Window

These are notes from week 3 of our fall 2012 Spiritual Parenting class, using the book “Opening Your Child’s Spiritual Windows: Ideas to Nuture Your Child’s Relationship with God” by Cheri Fuller. This week focuses on the theme, “The Wonder Window.” Please refer to our class schedule for links to notes from other weeks of our study.

'Child among wildflowers' photo (c) 2012, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Headquarters - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

When was the last time you deliberately took time out of your “normal” schedule to experience WONDER at the amazing universe God has created? Cheri points out in this chapter that children seem to naturally “experience wonder” much more than adults do. Have you ever been overwhelmed by number of WHY questions a young child can ask? Kids often wonder about stuff because they’re experiencing the WONDER of living in an amazing (and often confusing) world. We need to connect with this experience of WONDER and use those moments to share how we look at the world “through our God lenses.” This is an important part of living life as spiritual parents.

Here are some verses which Cheri highlighted in this chapter about “The Wonder Window.”

Revelation 4:9-11 (MSG)

Worthy, O Master! Yes, our God! Take the glory! the honor! the power! You created it all; It was created because you wanted it.

Colossians 1:15-18 (MSG)

For everything, absolutely everything, above and below, visible and invisible, rank after rank after rank of angels-everything got started in him and finds its purpose in him.

Psalm 102:18-22 (MSG)

Write this down for the next generation so people not yet born will praise God: “God looked out from his high holy place; from heaven he surveyed the earth. He listened to the groans of the doomed, he opened the doors of their death cells.” Write it so the story can be told in Zion, so God’s praise will be sung in Jerusalem’s streets And wherever people gather together along with their rulers to worship Him.

Psalm 139:13-16 (MSG)

Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out; you formed me in my mother’s womb. I thank you, High God—you’re breathtaking! Body and soul, I am marvelously made! I worship in adoration—what a creation! You know me inside and out, you know every bone in my body; You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit, how I was sculpted from nothing into something. Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth; all the stages of my life were spread out before you, The days of my life all prepared before I’d even lived one day.

Ephesians 2:7-10 (MSG)

No, we neither make nor save ourselves. God does both the making and saving. He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing.

Isaiah 43:1-4 (MSG)

But now, God’s Message, the God who made you in the first place, Jacob, the One who got you started, Israel: “Don’t be afraid, I’ve redeemed you. I’ve called your name. You’re mine. When you’re in over your head, I’ll be there with you. When you’re in rough waters, you will not go down. When you’re between a rock and a hard place, it won’t be a dead end— Because I am God, your personal God, The Holy of Israel, your Savior. I paid a huge price for you: all of Egypt, with rich Cush and Seba thrown in! That’s how much you mean to me! That’s how much I love you! I’d sell off the whole world to get you back, trade the creation just for you.

In this chapter Cheri encourages us to think about and use all our SENSES to experience wonder at God’s world and His creation. Many of the activities she suggests are most appropriate for younger children, but many can be experienced together with older family members too. A big part of Cheri’s encouragement, through stories she relates, is to take time to NOTICE and FOCUS on different elements in the natural world. The feel of tree bark or whiskers on dad’s face, the smell outside after a rainstorm, the beauty of the clouds as they float by on a summer afternoon. Each season has unique natural wonders to observe and enjoy. Too often, Cheri points out correctly, we are so BUSY with our SCHEDULES and hectic lives that we fail to make time to experience wonder.

Don’t make this mistake this week. Your homework, should you choose to accept it, is to intentionally find a time and a place in the next week to experience the WONDER of God’s world together with another member of your family. Then come to our meeting next week prepared to discuss and share what you experienced.

Cheri shares a good story (on page 40) about a family who created some special shirts after experiencing an abundance of floral color on a trip to the mountains one year. Those special tie-dyed shirts became a reminder for everyone in the family not only of the trip, but also of the amazing colors God uses to paint our world… because that was something they discussed and focused on together on that special trip. I really like that idea of creating symbols and articles of clothing that we can wear which will serve as physical reminders of these intangible lessons we want to continually remember and highlight. God created an amazing, WONDER-FILLED world for us to experience, and we should live our lives with our eyes wide open to His glory.

One of the activities Cheri mentions is stargazing with our kids. This past summer I learned about and bought the 99 cent iPhone app, “The Night Sky.” It’s been awesome to use it for identifying planets as well as stars in the evenings. Another iOS stargazing app I have, but don’t like quite as much, is “Distant Suns.” There is a free “lite” version as well as a $10 fancy, 3rd version. I have an older version so maybe I need to try the new one. Whether or not you download and use apps like these, it’s a GREAT idea to get out and stargaze together. Looking up at the heavens together is a great way to experience the WONDER of living in God’s amazing creation.

'Great Basin Stargazing ' photo (c) 2009, NPCA Photos - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/
Sep 12

Chapter 1: Spiritual Windows

These are notes from week 1 of our fall 2012 Spiritual Parenting class, using the book “Opening Your Child’s Spiritual Windows: Ideas to Nuture Your Child’s Relationship with God” by Cheri Fuller. In this week’s class we got an overview of this book’s focus: Helping us be aware of and make time for “spiritual windows” which are opportunities to discuss God and share our faith with our families.

Rain

It’s amazing to see how different children can be who are raised in the same family, by the same parents, following pretty much the same guidelines and household rules. God makes us each unique and very different! In the same way we are made different, we each have unique spiritual journeys. There is not a single “recipe” or “formula” for how to lead a child to God and to know Christ. This book is full of ideas, but Cheri emphasizes from the start that our spiritual journeys as Christians are each unique and individual. We shouldn’t expect the spiritual experiences of our children (or spouses for that matter) to be uniform and standardized. Some kids come to faith at at early age, some people don’t get to know God and profess their faith in Him till much later in life. Some people go through intense times of “searching for God” in their college years. Others grow up with a strong sense of faith from a young age and never lose it.

Cheri makes an analogy about raising kids I thought was interesting: She says “raising kids is like nailing Jell-O to a tree.” The best laid plans are often derailed. That doesn’t mean we abandon our plans, but it does mean we shouldn’t expect everything to be “planable” or to work out according to OUR plan. God’s plan is perfect, and He choooses when to reveal it to us. His plan for each of us is unique.

Here is a good question which I think Cheri raised in this chapter to discuss together as a class, and also with members of our family:

Why is spiritual development so different for different people?

This is the primary thesis of Cheri’s entire book, which is found on page 14 of Chapter 1:

Just as children have critical windows of opportunity for learning language, music, and logic, as my book “Opening Your Child’s Nine Learning Windows” discusses, they also have important spiritual windows of opportunity… These windows are best opened early in life, though as you’ll discover, if a child’s personality or circumstances keep her from a specific stage in the process, any time in life can be the right time to catch up.

Cheri points out that kids are natural seekers. “Kids spend a lot of time thinking and wondering about God,” she writes. Cheri contends children are “more contemplative and more inclined toward intellectual and moral interests in later childhood,” and cites a statistic that “85% of kids’ attitudes about God, church, and the Bible develop in the preschool years.” This is in line with statistics I’ve read from George Barna’s Research Group, which consistently points out the importance of Kids’ Ministries programs for spiritual development. The harsh lesson from studies about spiritual formation is that for MOST people in the United States at least, if they don’t “meet God” and form a spiritual connection to God early in life, they will never form one. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t evangelize to older people and work to both share God’s word and show God’s love, but it DOES point to the critical importance of helping children know God early in life.

I totally agree with Cheri’s point on how adults tend to underestimate kids. She writes:

“…in the majority of cases, adults tend to underestimate the enormous spiritual capacity of children.”

Cheri doesn’t put too much stock in “stages” of development, since each child is unique. Her takeaway and recommendation on this is to not adopt a “cookie cutter” approach to spiritual development. We can’t see inside each other’s hearts and minds, as God can. We can and should work to create “spiritual windows” for faith conversations, but we can’t force the developmental process to move forward by our sheer force of will. Cheri reminds us that some children will naturally progress at a slower or a faster pace that we’re expecting or wanting when it comes to spiritual development. Because of this understanding, Cheri recommends a focus on “spiritual windows” for spiritual development.

Cheri recommends Jim Cymbala’s book, “Fresh Faith.” Jim reminds us that spiritual nurture is far more important than material things we can provide for our kids. I like the “coaching” approach which Cheri recommends for spiritual development: We should strive to “provide support, teaching, and encouragement in our childrens’ lives” in much the same way as a coach seeks to help his/her players develop their abilities on a team.

'Cross Country Coaches' photo (c) 2007, John Brooks - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Our goal as “spiritual coaches” of our children is to bring them to Jesus so they will know him and live the life He has prepared for them.

On page 18, Cheri makes a CRITICAL point which many parents don’t understand today: The Church alone can’t provide the spiritual development our children need. The church can help but this is a PARTNERSHIP between parents at home and our church communities.

Jesus promises in John 10:10 “Life in all its fullness.” This is what we should want, pray for and work for with our children: Abundant life. Cheri encourages us to use her book as a “training manual” remembering spiritual development is a LONG process which takes time. We need to become empowered as parents to recognize that WE DO have “the ability to influence, nurture, and shape” our children’s spiritual development. This is an important and special role which God has given to use as parents, and we should take this responsibility seriously.

If you have any questions, comments or thoughts about these ideas, please chime in with a comment on this or other posts you find on this site.

May God richly bless you and your family this week as together we seek to follow Him and show the love of Jesus to everyone we meet.