Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Sharing faith with our children (Part 5)
Pinewood Derby

Sharing faith and life with our children involves intentional inefficiency and "wasting time" together. In other words, when we work together with our children, productivity and efficiency and time-"saving" (as if we can bank it somewhere) are not what we're after. Granted, children can become part of the family economy and an incredibly helpful and time-"saving" one at that, but I'll save that for another post.

What I want to say here is a collary to the Deuteronomy 6 passage. Here are some of the things we do when at home or along the way that provide time for speaking truth and love and life to our children.

Tonight is Boy Scouts. It seems it's a time-consuming activity. It rolls around often, it seems. I asked Jill, "When does the, uh, Scout season end?" She looked at me, smiled and said, "It doesn't. It just keeps going."

I broke out in a cold sweat. Still, I love Scouts--it's just that they demand so much from parents, and I'm not even one of the Scout Masters or involved as much as others. But Jacob loves it like I never thought he would. He enjoys the badges for achievement, the games, and most recently the Pinewood Derby, which was last Saturday.

Pinewood Derby made me revel at the genius of Scouts, that this is just one of the many well-thought-out projects that involve parent and child. Together Jacob and I cut, sanded, painted, stickered, and raced the Pinewood car. I asked Jacob a few questions about it.

GT: What was your favorite part of the Pinewood Derby?

Jacob: I don't know. Racing.

GT: Well, tell me about it.

Jacob: I got fourth.

GT: Tell me about building the car?

Jacob: We made a hot wheels design. It was silver with stickers on it. I didn't even do it and you didn't do it. We did it together.

GT: Well, let me tell you what I think about Pinewood Derby. I love the fact that we spend time together building it. I had a blast racing it and watching you have fun seeing it come down the track.
In Uganda older boys would help younger boys make cars from wire, pop bottle caps, pieces of old shoe, and some would even carve them out of wood and include a long steering wheel so the boys could walk down the dirt road "driving" the little cars.

Would a Pinewood Derby work in Uganda? I don't doubt the kids would love it. But the important question would be whether the program would be one that would fulfill the goal of putting fathers and sons together, working together. We saw parents and children working together in the fields, in their cooking huts, and serving together in dozens of other ways. While parents and children were playful with one another in one sense, it did not look anything like the more formal ways parents and children "play" together in the United States.

The important part of sharing our lives and faith with our children, whether in Africa or the United States, is that we are aware and sieze the opportunity when we are together to be the fatherly or motherly presence in the lives of children that they need for stability and formation.

Special thanks to Jim, Kathy, and Derek Kostelnick, who led Jacob and me by the hand as we are first-year Pinewood Derby builders. The Kostelnicks invited us to their house and showed us seven cars from past years and taught us the "secrets" of good racing and how to stay on Mom's good side by not loading the axles with graphite on the dining table!

NOTE: Please read Robert's comment. Wow. Thank you, Robert.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Sharing faith with our children (Part 4)

I remember as a child having family devotionals, singing, reading the Bible together. I can still hear Dad starting, "When we walk with the Lord, in the light of his word, what a glory he sheds on our way. While we do his good will, he abides with us still and with all who will trust and obey."

Mom shared God in the teachable moments of life. She exalts in the goodness of creation and taught me to turn that toward thanksgiving to God. Mom, like her siblings and parents, loves a good peach, watermelon (even if she puts salt on it and I didn't inherit that melon-spoiling tendancy). I literally can remember the teachable moments, two times in particular having lessons on the birds and the bees, talking to Mom about following Christ. Then Dad held my hand when I made that step of faith public at my church.

These moments are the essence of the classic text in the Old Testament about sharing faith with our children.
Hear O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates (Deuteronomy 6:4-9).


Mom and Dad believed and obeyed this exhortation to impress the beauty, love, and obedience of God upon us.

Still, we all have an imcomplete picture of what it means to impress faith upon our children. Do we really imagine practically what it means to talk about these along the road, when we sit at home, when we lie down? What symbols do we use to remind us of God's love?

Jill and I were blessed to have a community of friends who were raising children and who shared stories of their parents with us. We also saw them in action, how they shared faith with their children, and we saw another picture of what it means to share faith along the journey.

I want to share with you one of the best examples of what I learned from another family culture, how I was able to put some pieces together of the puzzle image of sharing faith with my children. What I'm about to share with you is perhaps the most poignant and beautiful and sad and uplifting stories of a father and son sharing their faith along the journey. Sit in the backseat of a '67 Plymouth VIP and listen to the exchange between young Brent Abney and his father, Hoyt. Walk the mountain and listen to their desperate cries to God and deep love for one another. This is what it means to share faith between father and child.

Transferring the Life by Brent Abney

Thank you for sharing your family stories. What is an example of another family culture that has filled in your incomplete picture of what it means to share faith along the road?

Friday, January 27, 2006

Sharing faith with our children (Part 3): MOST the movie

Twenty years ago I watched a movie called The Sacrifice that made a dramatic impact on me. A father was forced into an impossible decision between the life of his son and the lives of passengers on a train that passes over a truss that the father is responsible for raising and lowering.

That was before I had children. I was moved by the allegory of the atonement of Christ. I parsed and compared and concluded that God's sacrifice was more deliberate, planned, perhaps.

Tonight I'm watching a 2003 Academy Award nominated live action short called MOST.

Directed by Bobby Garabedian, the film was shot in Czech Republic and Poland and has English subtitles. MOST is about a father and his son who love each other very much. The plot of the movie is very much like The Sacrifice. MOST is Polish for a bridge. The father is forced into an anguishing and incomprehensible decision that will affect the lives of many--most who do not even know what has been done for them.

Two things are very different from twenty years ago.

First, I'm a father of three children and to lose even one of them is my worst fear in life. I have children now, and the equations about atonement are only solved by one factor--the mutual love that father and child share. Planned, deliberate, spontaneous, anguished, undesired. None of this matters and all of it matters but certainly figuring out exactly how deliberate God was or planned or unplanned from day one the sacrifice of Christ was, matters less to me than the lifetime quest to grasp how wide and deep and infathomable is the love of Father, Son, and Spirit.

Second, the setting shows deep insight into the love of a Czech father for his child, how they interact as serious friends and playful mates. The inconceivable decision the father must make is amazingly redeemed in a surprise ending that made me smile through my tears.

This is a must see short movie. MOST

God's story foreshadows the sacrifice of Christ in the amazing story of Abraham and Isaac. Abraham is given the insane (in my human comprehension) command to put his own son on the altar for sacrifice on Mount Moriah. Heavy with grief, Abraham obeys. Yet an angel of the Lord holds his hand back from striking the boy, a ram is provided, and the two happily call the place "the Lord will provide."

Sharing faith with our children begins and ends with embodying the incredible love of the Father for his creation.

Often I tell my children, "I am God's love sent to you in the flesh."

Some children in the world don't get to experience this because their fathers do not love them. I was able to experience this through my parents and grandparents. I am incredibly blessed, and I can embody this love of God as I pass this on to my children.

I continue telling them, "I am your father. I love you, your mother loves you, and you get to live the love of God in our relationship. That's how it begins, and God's love breaks the boundaries of this family and you'll see it and experience it throughout your life. But this is where it starts, right here in your family. Learn to love here first, and friendships you have in the future will have God in them, too."

Sharing faith with our children is a MOST that leads us both continually back to God.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Sharing faith with our children (Part 2)

I have two brothers. I am two years younger than Toby, eight years younger than Brent. We love each other and over many years we've played, laughed, dreamed, supported one another. When we were younger, we said stupid things to one another, when Mom or Dad weren't around, like "I'm gonna kill you!" as we rushed another with fiery eyes and spit flying. We'd wrestle until we were tired, then come up for air and wonder what game we could play next.

I don't think any of us considered actually killing one another. But that was the story of the first family in the created world.

The first parents on earth were Adam and Eve. How did they parent? What hints do we have about them as parents, does it matter, and what did they do? Perhaps Eve feels vindicated, that she was made from man's body yet now, she says, with God's help has produced a hu-man, and he was called Cain. Cain sounds like the Hebrew verb for produce.

With the birth of Cain in Genesis 4:1 is the beginning of the family in the world.

After Abel was born, jealousy and anger set upon Cain, and rather than master it, Cain chose to master his brother Abel, and he killed him.

Adam and Eve are the parents of the first murderer, and the text says nothing about their grief or reaction to this murder. This is a curious omission. Why would a parent's grief over one son killing another escape mention in Genesis by Moses and other compilers? With Abel, the first victim of murder, and Cain the first murderer, wouldn't Adam and Eve be distraught? Might that have shaped how they viewed the whole business of parenting from then on? God drove Cain away. Adam and Eve had the perfect garden home, two sons, and now they had nothing.

What can we learn about sharing faith with our children from the early creation and fall story? These reflections are not intended to give us "proven" parenting tips but to allow us the vantage point of Scripture as it speaks to our places as fathers and mothers, as it invites us into the story of the broken creation--not just the first parents whose experiment in life and in parenting didn't go as planned, but also God, the Father's creation didn't go as planned. What can we learn about God's parenting, how he reacted to sin? We'll take a look at that next post.

One of my best friends in Uganda, Daniel Mwaza, asked me a question I'll never forget. We were talking about the deaths of so many children in Uganda due to AIDS, dehydration, polio, and malaria. He must have sensed something in me, a desire to know the heart of a Ugandan parent, to understand how they value their children. He asked, "Do you think that because we have more children than you whites and more die, that we care for them any less, that we grief any less than you would if your child dies?"

What has shaped your parenting? What early experiences in life or in parenting or from your own parents? What death of a child or terrible act has re-directed the way you parent? Does the Bible story have anything to say to us, the experiences of Adam and Eve and their descendants? Finally, what does all this have to say about how we share faith with our children?

Monday, January 23, 2006

Sharing faith with our children (Part 1)


How do we share God's life, our faith, with our children?

First, let me narrow the focus so we're clear about what I'll be talking about. I'm talking about how I as a North American Christian father share my faith in Jesus Christ with my three children. That's my experience, so I'll say from the beginning that my perspective is carved out from that mold. This does not assume that you must be a father, or American, or even a Christian to be interested in what I'm going to say.

Second, I want to interact with your perspectives as best I can. Your comments will help shape the conversation. In fact, including those not Christians, non-Americans, non-fathers in the discussion helps drill holes in my own arguments, challenges me, redeems any notion that my limited perspective might have twisted.

Third, I'll also draw from the experiences I've had internationally, seeing parenting done by people of at least a dozen other nationalities. They have much to offer my American parenting assumptions.

Fourth, I will trace the path of God's parenting his people from the beginning until now, how he has been present with his people, nurtured them, mothered and fathered them, and how Jesus has invited us to call his father, "Our Father in Heaven."

So in most blogs there will be four components. First, I'll tell you a personal story. Second, I'll tell you a Bible story about nurturing faith. Third, I'll bring another perspective to bear on my own cultural assumptions and upon the biblical perspective. And fourth, I'll hear and interact with your comments and stories.

Today, I just want to share a photo with you. This is Grace and Ross Taylor, my paternal grandparents. They were a strong influence on me, in my formation as a person. No one ever thought Spike Walker, Grace's father, would become a Christian, until one revival night when Spike gave his life to Christ. Spike was a storyteller, and Grace learned the gift of poetic storytelling from him and shared it with my father and my generation. Ross was a quiet man who loved horses and wore a cowboy hat. He was short but he was ten feet tall in my eyes. They both taught me so much, and I'll share some of those insights here in coming posts.

People called my grandparents, "Amazing Grace" and "Old Rugged Ross," pictured above.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Prayer for unity

This morning Sacred Space introduces the start of the Octave, the prayer for unity. This is from the site, a powerful call to pray for unity of all humanity.
This week sees the start of the Octave of prayer for church unity. It has taken us centuries of misunderstandings to reach the point where Christian churches can dare to do that most obvious thing: pray together.

Images like those of John Paul II praying in Canterbury with its Archbishop, or gathering the faith-leaders of the world in Assisi, have taught us so much. When we come close to those of other traditions, and know something of their riches, we can be grateful for the extraordinary fullness of Catholic tradition, and at the same time marvel at the uprightness of Presbyterians, the Friends' passion for peace, the openness of Hindus, the devotion of Moslems.

This is the week when we ask our God to warm our hearts to take in all his children. If the chance arises, it is the week when we should pray with strangers, remembering St Peter's words (Acts 10:34): The truth I have come to realise is that God does not have favourites, but that anyone of any nationality who does what is right and fears God is acceptable to him.
Can we pray this prayer with strangers from other lands?

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Unity issue (part 3)


See Wineskins blog for another essay on unity and Gary Holloway's "Circle of Fire" that launches today.

Already up in this issue that begins this week are David Fleer's piece, "A conversation with White Apathy" and a Wineskins introduction to the Unity issue.

Friday, January 13, 2006

End of the Spear


Recently, my cousin, Clint Davis, handed me a press packet for End of the Spear, the amazing movie version of the events surrounding the attempted contact by five American families to the Waodani tribe in Ecuador that ended in the deaths of five of the missionary men.

Later, the wives of the men went back. The story of forgiveness and redemption is powerfully told in LIFE magazine and by Elizabeth Elliot in Through the Gates of Splendor.

Here's the incredible twist that comes with the movie, End of the Spear: It's told from the perspective of the Waodani.

The story follows Mincayani, a warrior who led the raid to kill the missionaries and his encounter with Steve Saint, the son of Nate Saint, one of the five who Mincayani helped spear.

What will happen at the end of the spear? The movie comes out January 20. I'll need a review for Wineskins January 21 asap. If you are planning to go, please contact me and send in a review to Greg Taylor.

Sneak peek at Wineskins


Here's a sneak peek at what's in store at New Wineskins. If this link is not LIVE, it soon will be.

Each year I'm excited most about certain issues that turn my crank, and this is one of them. Unity.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

What do you want to read?

Thought I'd mention a few of the books on my desk, some as invitation for you to receive to review for Wineskins and others as recommendations or just to let you know what passes for reading material around here.

Revovare Spiritual Formation Bible
Richard J. Foster, Dallas Willard, Walter Brueggemann, Eugene H. Peterson are four of the heavyweights on this 2000+ page Bible. It's NRSV version that turns our approach to scripture toward spiritual formation.




Cash








Finally reading Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code. Had read Angels and Demons and enjoyed it.

Wade Hodges gave me Susan Howatch's Glittering Images and have started that. I start too many books at once, but that's the nature of the beast, as Don Meredith (HUGSR, not Dallas Cowboys) used to say.

Marilynne Robinson's Gilead

Malcolm Gladwell, Blink and Tipping Point

Recently completed a family that I'll write more about later: The road leads home: stories and poems in honor of a poetic woman and a quiet man

Books for review you may be interested in reviewing
Marva Dawn, Talking the walk
Donald Miller, Through painted deserts
David E. Fitch, The great giveaway: reclaiming the mission of the church
Chris Tiegreen, Why a suffering world makes sense
Chuck Smith Jr., Matt Whitlock, Frequently avoided questions
Siang-Yang Tan, Full service: moving from self-serve Christianity to total servanthood
Richard L. Reising, Church marketing 101: preparing your church for greater growth
Steven James, Story: recapture the mystery
Michael Dauphinais, Matthew Levering, Holy people, holy land: a theological introduction to the Bible

If you want any of the above books, send a self-addressed and stamped ($3) large envelope to Greg Taylor 12000 E. 31st St. Tulsa, OK 74146, and include a note with the book you are requesting. I have many other review copies--so if you have a particular book you're interested, ask.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Editing Wineskins

One of the great joys of editing Wineskins is getting to research foundational work on a particular theme and also read contemporary "takes" on that theme by sometimes up to 50-60 different author submissions. From those submissions, with the help of our editing staff, I peel off layers of the theme and communicate with writers, informing them whether we can use or cannot use their article.

From there, we vigorously edit the articles. In the current stack I've asked for a completely different lead on one article. A review was completely reworked by the author and me. Yet another article was left alone--it was good, written by an English teacher. Even so, she and most writers are willing to allow shaping to their article. And we shape . . .

Many articles are turned upside down and inside out. I want to give you an example of what I enjoy most in working with writers. In many articles submitted, I can see a glimmer of a story that is trying to come out. One of the most common "mistakes" I see in submissions is that the real story doesn't get told. It's not that what is submitted is not a good sermon or good spiritual or biblical point, but submissions often miss the mark on how telling a personal story.

So here's what I'll often do. I ask a writer to tell me more about a particular sub-theme in the piece. That's when I see that glimmer of hope of a deeper story. In several cases, this has totally changed the piece, driven a writer deeper, to the heart of the matter, changed it into more of a story form, more biographical. It matches more of what Wineskins has come to be for readers: a forum for telling our stories of life on the journey with Christ. Stories that are messy and uncertain yet they are authentic, full of hope and restoration and revival and redemption and irony and vitality and when we least expect it God's mercy and grace and forgiveness and love and joy breaks out in the deep middle of our pain, heartache, suffering, anxiety, and grief.

That's why we have whole issues on themes such as "Desperate" and "A Great Grief." And this is at the heart of what drives us to the issue on Unity that we're working on now that pushes the edges, calls us to tell our stories, calls us to dreams and visions of our fathers and grandfathers.

So I'm back to my articles, to find those with imaginations for and who are practicing in a world that is truly unified not in some ethereal way alone but in earthly, real, and truly lived out in families, between races, among Christians with different doctrines and practices, in neighborhoods, and as much in eye to eye contact as in nation to nation relations.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Peace with yourself

This from my friend, Scott Owings, spiritual formation minister at Otter Creek Church in Nashville, Tennessee.
Saint Serafim of Russia wisely said, “Be at peace with yourself and thousands around you will be saved.”

Deep inner peace is not only a gift to be received but something to be pursued. Therefore, our first order of business is to seek the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ. As we slow down our lives and move towards a life of simplicity and contemplation, we make room in our lives not only to receive the Spirit’s gift of peace but to be a peacemaker as well.

My two front teeth

My brother, Toby, ran a marathon Sunday. I'm proud of him. See his blog, where he might be writing about it and the cause for which he ran, Care Net

"Jackpot!"--Jacob, our six-year-old, upon realizing that his front two teeth are loose.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Nailing men to the cross

I've enjoyed teaching Sunday am class from Holloway's and Lavender's Living God's Love. See this link for reflections on the book from earlier this year.

From my reading for Wineskins on unity, here's a quote that caught my attention because of its strong mental image of the dark side human nature in the context of how we treat those who agree or disagree with us.
Clever legalists can legalize anything. They do not deny the cross; they simply nail men to it. To them it is not a means of ridding themselves of sin, but of a Savior."--W. Carl Ketcherside in "The Unrecognized Unity" reprinted from Mission Messenger (Vol 40, April 1965) in One Body Magazine (Winter 2005).

Friday, January 06, 2006

Operation World: Does visual media erode our faith?

Last night we started Operation World with our children. The book is not edited down for children. Perhaps I'll look into a children's version . . . OK, I just did on their web site and couldn't find one. Will have to skim and make good for the children ourselves.

You can make Operation World your home page and learn about new countries nearly every day of the year, pray for them. Right now Sacred Space is still my home page. I think it's vitally important what our home page is, because it sets the tone for our interaction on the web. Sure, I can choose to ignore my home page and often I skip right over Sacred Space on my way to news or other information. We're working toward making Wineskinsa great option for your home page, too.

MSN.com or other news and pop culture sites I've tried as home pages have not set the tone I want for my day. Consider this from Operation World Introduction:
The visual media have eroded the faith of believers in God's sovereignty in the world. Television cameramen . . . swoop on the wars, famines, disasters and tragedies of this world. The beautiful, wholesome and good is less photogenic, so what God does and what God's servants are achieving are rarely noticed. Like Elisha's servant (2 Kings 6) we need our eyes opened to see reality.
I removed a editorial simile from the Operation World quote because it unfairly caricatures media, and if you want to read the full quote, go to this page. While caveats and disclaimers ought to accompany such critique of media, there is a lot of truth to this, and it's a point about which few of us are aware.

Does visual media erode our faith in the sovereignty of God, of the goodness of what happens in the world? Or does it more appropriately make us aware and able to act on the injustices in the world?

Thursday, January 05, 2006

"Alive in repose"

"You must learn to be still in the midst of activity and to be vibrantly alive in repose."--Indira Gandhi

Last night I told a group gathered in the new prayer center at Garnett Church of Christ that it is here, in prayer, that revival begins.

I don't come to Garnett with a bag of tricks but with a firm conviction that the Holy Spirit does work today though I can't fully explain how he does it, but I know that he moves the hearts of people because I've seen it over and over again. And I know he's done that for me, too.

Yet I am here to equip that group of praying people to equip more praying people. In this quiet repose of prayer and in what it leads us to, God is vibrantly alive.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Photojournalist Chris Anderson

Chris Anderson is a world class photojournalist, the best field photographer I've seen. He's been to Iraq, Afghanistan, Bolivia, Israel's Gaza Strip, Gulf Coast in the aftermath of Katrina, and dozens of other hot spots in the world. My dream would be to tour with him in Uganda, Rwanda, Sudan.

Wineskins was blessed to use some of his photos on two separate occasions, the first time for the cover of our Sep/Oct 03 issue (this link may not work until I repair it or see if Keith Brenton, our great web servant, can repair it).

Here is an incredible photo essay of his reporting and photography in Bolivia and Venezuela.

Chris Anderson Portfolio.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Hydrogeologist

A doctor friend of mine who spent several years on the mission field training basic medical care providers in villages, told me this many times:

"A hydrogeologist can do more to improve basic health in a village than a doctor can. If you don't have clean water, you don't have health.

This doesn't take anything away from the importance of doctors in developing nations, but it does say something to those in geology, drilling, and industry who don't yet have an imagination for what they can do to help the world.