Archive for Developing Empathy

We love because He first loved us …. and there is a whole lot of lovin’ to do – Valentine’s Day

In an attempt to make Valentine’s Day a bit more about God’s heart for us…and thus our response to the world – we did a few things as a family today:

1 – Granted – we did shamelessly eat some hydrogenated, corn-syruped chocolate overly priced because it was heart shaped.  This is NOT part of the exercize, but a confession

2 – We gave the kids some love letters about the things we love about them

3 – We went over the verse (that they had luckily memorized at Awana) of  1 John 4:19 (We love because He first loved Us)…as well as the always appropriate John 3:16 to explain what God’s love actually looked like in sacrifice

4 – We went around town giving out little Valentine gifts to friends and some people we have been caring for in the past (refugees, etc)

5 – We read about past slavery (we’d been talking about the underground railroad due to some stories we’d read and being near the freedom trail in CT anyhow)  and talked about slavery today (something always on my mind).  We had a time of prayer and then we made Red Hands in protest of child slavery and child soldiers to be sent to the United Nations and to our local politician.  We will send them off after they dry:  http://www.redhandday.org/index.php?l=en&view=info

6 – We talked about St. Valentine…his sacrifice and Martyrs.  What that looks like today with Martys.  (www.adventuresinodyssey.com has some awesome stories about martyrs as explanations to kids and applications to kids’ lives).  In the words of the author of Radical, my heart cries out for my children and for me:

“For the sake of 26,000 children who will die today from starvation or preventable disease, I want to risk it all…If our lives do not reflect radical compassion for the poor, there is reason to wonder if Christ is really in us at all.”  David Platt
btw – check out these awesome Valentine’s shirts from World Vision:  http://worldvisionshop.org/given/with-all-my-heart-gift-set.html

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Daring to take our kids out of Thomas Kincade’s Painting

Okay, so I think Thomas Kincade is an incredible artist and I think his art has a place in the world – as the ideal, as cherished memories, as pictures of heaven even to put above the fireplace.  However, I don’t know about you, but I have never experienced anything as picturesque as his art.  I dream about my life being like that.  I can aspire to it.  I can be dissatisfied until I find it, but I don’t think that is what the artist would intend for us, if he is a Bible believing man.

I came to a deep understanding about the extremes of evil while my kids were very little.  (Through documentaries, books, lectures, and travel, I was learning things about little girls getting raped 10x a day in brothels in Cambodia, women used as weapons of war in the Congo, the disgust with our apathy to 149 million orphans, and things going on in our own neighborhoods that we can’t even bear to discuss).  This collission with reality (granted the evil of reality) created a longing in me for my children to know the gospel…to paint a more realistic picture of life on earth than a fairy tale.   Don’t get me wrong – I’m not a sicko that tells my young kids of the atrocities of evil beyond their minds comprehension:  They aren’t getting pop-up books on shark attack victims in their stocking or anything, but I believe they need to know the gospel.  The real gospel: That we live in a broken worldwith broken bodies with evil around us… that we have sin within ourselves… that Jesus DIED a horrible death on a cross for out of outrageous love for us…and that HE WINS!  This is a hard, but BEAUTIFUL picture.

My son, Lukas, is a sensitive soul.  He is usually over thinking everything – often stuck in thoughts well beyond his years.  He is a truth teller to the core and usually knows the depths of his heart at only 6 years of age.  He knows his intentions when he does mean things, knows when he thinks about girls in the wrong ways, and asks (actually begs) for God’s forgiveness.  We try to balance his sensitivity and perfectionism a great deal ever since he was 3 years old.   He hasn’t been too too extreme so far, but God just let us in on his heart’s weaknesses early and I’m so grateful for that.  This insight, however, does make me extra intentional about how I introduce deep topics to him… like pain on the earth and the reality of the gospel.  I make sure we are there with him while watching any slightly scary movie, we are there at bedtime answering questions during his over analyzing his daily sin/confession, etc.  We try to be (though I’m sure we fail) intentional with him.  (We are intentional as well as our daughter, but she is a different being all together and this post is about my son).

Example:  When Lukas was 4 we let him watch The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe.  It definitely has the scary witch and many would question my judgment.  However, my son had already drawn a very detailed picture of Jesus dying on the cross during Easter when he was just 3 and he wanted more than Sunday school Easter lilies when he asked questions about Easter….so we watched this movie with him.  He cried hard when the white witch killed Aslan and we explained as much as we could in his little language.  He was overjoyed when the Lion was made alive again and he seemed (as much as we could tell) to understand it.  We thought it was a just an overll good experience.  We, however, didn’t know how deeply it stuck into his soul until the next day.  The next afternoon, I was upstairs and came downstairs and found him in the bathroom.  He had used markers to write marks all over his arms and was about to cut his hair.  At first, I didn’t understand what was going on and was about to give a serious lecture on marker and scizzors and then… I felt like God just gave me a flash of the movie – of Aslan getting beat and getting his mane cut.   Lukas was trying to be the Lion.  I just knew it.  He wanted to be identified with Aslan.  Lukas and I talked and he cried…and I was right.  He loved Aslan.  We talked about all the movie meant again and were amazed that this little boy so clearly wanted to be like God (at least for that moment – surely moments later he made a joke about poop and blew the whole deal).   It was actually an extraordinary experience for us.  It maybe isn’t for everyone, but for us, it was amazing.  I prayed after, asking God to protect him from things he didn’t understand (in fear that perhaps it was over his head), but all I knew was MY KID WANTED TO IDENTIFY WITH ASLAN and he knew that ASLAN was supposed to be JESUS.  It wasn’t an easy experience.  It wasn’t comfortable, but I believe God did something amazing in my boy that night.  I believe allowing him to see the realities of the gospel blessed him.

I have been disappointed with “The Church” (not one church in particular – rarely any particular friends, just what “appears” to be a churchy view of protecting our kids too much.  I do understand it.  I know it sounds crazy to let a 10 year old watch an  R rated movie (yet Passion of the Christ and Documentaries about any global issue worth learning about, etc are all R rated or PG 13 at best).  Reality check: our kids, even little ones, live an R rated life.  Let me explain: hopefully they don’t have sex or cuss or do drugs or use guns (or we need to have a deeper talk right about now) but the sin in their souls is TOTALLY R-rated.  They are NOT INNOCENT.  I wish they were.  And another kick in the pants: the world they live in is NOT G or PG even or even PG-13.  Heck, I know I cuss once in a while, but more then that, I get angry.  Beyond our very “safe” home, I drive and see homeless people, hear cussing in the line at the store, see Victoria Secret advertisements at the mall, etc.  They go to school with kids who expose them to other things.  Now, I’m not going to them and just start talking about every sin, hardache out there,  but I don’t want to lie about living in Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood.  School, Home, Suburbian America is NOT Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood.  Their souls know something isn’t right about the world.  They see it in every Disney movie.  They see it in the Bible.  They feel it every time they say “It’s not fair”.  They act it out:  They long to play good guy/bad guy senarios.  I get it.  But for me….I just want to tell them who the good guy and bad guys actually are.  To be clear, I rarely show my kids a PG-13 movie, but I do tell them many hard facts: that children die without food, that kids don’t have parents, that some people hurt kids, that natural disasters kill people.  I always explain it in the context of Satan or a fallen world (YEP – I said Satan).  BUT THE KEY PARTS ARE THIS (I never let them sit in the struggles for long without them knowing 2 essential truths):

1 – They can make a difference!   THEY WERE CALLED AND SPECIFICALLY CREATED BY GOD TO CHANGE IT

2 – I tell them that no matter what horrible things Satan does or the broken world or bodies ruin or  people that listen to Satan do, that GOD WILL ALWAYS WIN!!!!  They love it.  They love when I say “God kicks Satan’s butt!”   (I think God likes when I say it too honestly…I kind of feel the Holy Spirit inside me doing a penecostal dance that is out of character for me).

One more thing….Something significant happened last night:

We are in the beginning stages of adopting a little boy from Ethiopia.  We talk about it as a familya lot.  We talk about what it might be like as a change in the family and what situation their new little brother may have come from.  They are not new to idea of adoption as they have several other family members that are adopted from the foster care system and one that is still a foster child with severe trauma in her life.  They know that bad things happen to kids…even kids they interact with often.  Sometimes it seems to affect them a little, but not all the time.  However, last night Lukas watched Kung Fu Panda 2.  It ended up being much more scary than expected.  All of a sudden while watching the movie Lukas started WAILING.  When we rushed to his aid, he shared that he was so unbelievably sad that Po (the panda mind you) was orphaned.  His mother has to leave him safely in a radish box while wolves are hunting them and the wolves kill the mother.  Lukas finally really connected with orphans and what that meant.  He said so.  He literally spent the next 2 hours off and on screaming and crying because his  heart hurt so bad.  He said he was so sad that kids go through things like that.  I encouraged him to pray and if he couldn’t pray then to ask God to let his wails do the praying.  He said okay and MAN did he let it loose then!  After he calmed down, he told us how glad he was that we are adopting.  He asked if there was MORE we could do to help?  He asked on his own, without my prompting or leading.  God had been laying the groundwork through a lot of the info he had been exposed to, but then used a stinkin panda movie to bring about all the connections!  Who knew?

If anyone had heard him crying and screaming like the way he was, they would have thought we were torturing him – like we were the worst parents ever to allow him to hurt like that.  But my son cried for orphaned childen last night for 2 hours!  He longs for his little brother’s protection more than ever.  He wants to help in a new way…  AND He knows with conviction that GOD WINS and all of the evil that causes this sorrow LOSES in the end.  Even though my son suffered last night, I would never take that from God or from him.

I may have ridiculously high therapy bills in the future  for my children, but for now, I PRAISE my God for what he is doing in my son.  I believe He has big things to do through him….even if it just through the prayers of a child that is learning empathy.  Come to think to think of it, watching Lukas’ heart break over the things it should and being teammates with my son in prayer may actually be more beautiful than a thousand Kincade paintings.

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