Thursday, March 15, 2007

What Are You Thinking About This Week?

Here is a short list of a few things that I'm thinking about this week. What are all of you thinking about and why?

1. The Holy Trinity as the actual name of God (or Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) Oooh, which reminds me. I just learned that El Shaddai is usually translated "the Almighty" but is more literally translated as "the Breasted One" and is always used in maternal contexts. with that in mind, William C. Placher chooses to describe God as "Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, One God, Mother of us all." Brilliant!
2. Donatist and Arian controversies in the early church and the Eastern Fathers' response
3. Ending world poverty by convincing North Americans and Europeans to stop eating ice cream (see Jeffrey Sachs' The End of Poverty)
4. The most effective way to hold a paper airplane contest for families
5. Getting my tax stuff to my tax guy
6. Missing Julia because she's at a writer's conference in Kansas City
7. When am I going to get Brian Wiprud's new book and looking forward to the new Harry Potter

So, what are you thinking about this week.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

It's Not About Us

That’s right. I said it. What Galileo proved about the Sun 500 years ago, we’re still having trouble figuring out about God. I mean, that God does not revolve around the Earth, or me, or you for that matter. And when it comes to worship, the biggest disservice we do to ourselves and to our children is mistaking our music, our emotions, our praise, our thanksgiving, our instruction, even our love for our worship of the Triune God.
And we’re teaching this to our children.
So, what is worship? We’re teaching them that worship is simply singing and a sermon. It is determined by performance and style. And the most important thing is that worship be relevant to us. But worship comes from worth. That simply means that we tell God who He is — and he will always be the sole subject. When “I” becomes the subject of your sentence, even “I love you” is not worship.
This “I” rears its ugly head in other ways. Anyone heard of the “worship wars?” Do we leave church frustrated because we haven’t “gotten anything out of the sermon?” Or do we squirm or shudder when a child’s cry pierces the air disrupting our prayers?
Try this sometime: without using any personal pronouns like I, me, or my, adore God . . . It’s hard isn’t it? Before we think we’ve got the “worship thing” figured out. . . Just remember how easily our own minds wandered during that last prayer service or how easy it is to require “being fed” as our criteria for “good” worship.
In the book, Teaching Kids Authentic Worship, Kathleen Chapman seeks to reassert a basic fact about God and all of us. When we genuinely return our focus back to God — and who He is— we return to our rightful place in relationship to Him. It’s a humbling thought. We are not the center of the universe. We are God’s people reflecting His image into the world.
So, what is worship? And what does this mean for pre-schoolers who are just beginning to recognize they aren’t the center of the universe? This is a question I want to explore with our pre-school team and with you as parents in the coming weeks and months. I want us to think seriously about what we model and teach about worship to our youngest generation. How do we teach our children what true worship is? How does our Kinderchurch space focus our children toward worship? How do we sincerely incorporate our children into intergenerational worship times? And most importantly, how do we foster authentic worship practices in our children?
I believe that children need to worship. They can, sometimes with more imagination and honesty than we adults can muster, come face to face with the living Triune God. Let’s celebrate the gift of worship God has given to every one of us. Thank goodness it isn’t about us! God is the one who delivers, protects, and provides for His people. And He does it even when we aren’t asking for it.

I wrote this for "The Stream" our monthly preschool newsletter (March issue), but I thought others might like to comment.

The past 2 weeks I have done a worship "exercise" with the Kinderchurch children (ages 3-K). Last week we spent 30 seconds in silence listening to what God was saying to us. You know what? God spoke to 3 year olds! He told one boy that He loved him. He told another girl that she should be kind to her sister. Crazy! This week we spent another time of silence waiting for God to bring a neighbor to mind. These children reverently closed their eyes and bowed their heads and people that they can love and care for came to their mind.

Why do we still choose the strong things of this world -- the brilliant successes, the stunning victories of strength and will to "prove" our God? They shame us.

"But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, so that no one might boast in the presence of God. He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption, (1 Corinthians 1:27-30)."