Friday, January 25, 2013

Answers to a teenager's complaint

Several years ago, a "Dear Abby" article was written in answer to a teenager's complaint about "having nothing to do." I'm not typically a Dear Abby reader (isn't she dead?), but this old clipping fell out of a book of my grandmother's... and I love it, not because it's true (although harsh), but also because it sounds like my grandmother, and therefore it is common, good sense. 

An Open Letter to a Teenager
by Doris Burville of Olympia, WA

Always we hear the plaintive cry of the teenager, 'What can we do? Where can we go?' The answer is, go home!

Hang the storm windows, paint the wood work. Rake the leaves, mow the lawn, shovel the walk. Wash the car, learn to cook, scrub some floors. Repair the sink, build a boat, get a job.

Help the minister, priest or rabbi, the Red Cross, and Salvation Army. Visit the sick, assist the poor, study your lessons.

And then when you are through - and not too tired - read a book.

Your parents do not owe you entertainment. Your city or village does not owe you recreational facilities. The world does not owe you a living. You owe the world something. You owe it your time and energy and your talents so that no one will ever be at war or in poverty or sick or lonely again.

In plain, simple words, grow up; quit being a crybaby. Get out of your dream world and develop a backbone, not a wishbone, and start acting like an adult.

You're supposed to be mature enough to accept some of the responsibility your parents have carried for years. They have nursed, protected, helped, appealed, begged, excused, tolerated and denied themselves needed comforts so that you could have every benefit. This they have done gladly, for you are their dearest treasure. But now, you have no right to expect them to bow to every whim and fancy just because selfish ego, instead of common sense, dominates your personality, thinking and requests.

In heaven's name, grow up and go home!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Parables according to TJ

Our morning Bible reading today was Luke 18. Every day the kids have to narrate a portion of Scripture back to me (they re-tell the story in their own words, and then explain the gospel or implications of the gospel in the passage). TJ chose this portion:

"Now they were bringing even infants to Him that He might touch them. And when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them to Him, saying, 'Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.'"

I learned my lesson that it is better to let children tell us about children, because TJ's insight was better than anything I could have ever lectured at them. Here's what he said:

TJ: "They were bringing children to Him so that He could touch them, and that means to lay his hands on them and bless them and pray for them. And first of all, I think it's really cool that they were even bringing infants to Him. And He said that you have to receive the kingdom of God like a child, not like an adult."

Me: "What does it mean to receive the kingdom of God like a child?"

TJ: "The kingdom of God is like a gift. And this is the difference between when a kid gets a gift and when an adult gets a gift. It's like Christmas. As soon as a kid gets a present, they want to open it and play with it right then. They ask someone to help them open it and then they start playing and don't think about anything else.

When an adult gets a present, they don't play with it right away. They look at it, but then they take it upstairs and play with it or use it later. Like, if David gets a toy car, he opens it and starts playing with it right under the Christmas tree. But if you get a software program for your computer, you don't put it in and try using it right away.

Kids know how to get right into stuff. They jump in and play. They don't think about how much the gift cost. They don't want to inspect it. They just want to get into it. Adults look at the thing and want to figure it out first. But it's not for figuring out or for thinking about. You just have to get in there and use the thing. Adults will even try to find the price by looking under the Sharpie marked-out place [I laughed out loud at this point!!!]. Kids don't care about that. Adults think they have to understand things first. But you just have to jump in."

I've never heard the Scripture this way, but it makes complete sense to me. How often have we seen adults who have to figure out things first before they accept things, even things that are just meant to be received like a gift. When we are not looking through the lens of the gospel, we try to figure out how much the kingdom of God costs so that we can feel like we deserve it or we can afford it. Kids are not worried about that kind of thing. They don't try to figure things out first before they jump in.

How many times have we tried to interpret this passage by saying, "This means that you have to humble, trusting, and open like a child to enter the kingdom of God." But even in that, we are trying to interpret this Scripture through the wrong lens. Jesus doesn't say we are trying to ENTER the kingdom of God. He says we are supposed to RECEIVE it. (It's the Father's good pleasure to give us the kingdom). What if the lesson is more about how we are to receive it than to figure out how to enter it? And what if we asked kids to tell us how to do that rather than ask adults to interpret it? I'm sure the answer would be as simple and profound as TJ's: "Adults think they have to understand things first. But you just have to jump in."