Thursday, February 6, 2014

Spiritual Conversations as You Live

cu·ri·ous adjective \ˈkyr-ē-əs\

: having a desire to learn or know more about something or someone.
Do you have a young child who constantly asks questions? Good! Curiosity, inborn or cultivated, can be a tremendous asset in teaching children in general, and in teaching them about God specifically. And how fabulous if both you AND Junior are curious. Curious about what? People, places, history, art, music, plants, architecture, weather, languages, athletics, physics, cooking, economics, books, mathematics, crafts, chemistry, electricity, and on and on and on. Except that list looks, well, boring. And how do I get from weather to Jesus if I'm wanting to have a conversation with Junior of some spiritual depth? You've got to get to know Junior first. That involves time together away from distractions, busyness and electronics.
 
Get to know this Junior, for example. Ever since he was a little tapper he'd say, "Grammy, let's go sit on the porch and have a drink." Apple juice in a little bottle, that is. And we'd talk. "Benj, how do you suppose those clouds got in the sky?" Without taking so much as a breath he answered, "God took the corners of the world and shook 'em. And there were those clouds." Great opportunity to tell him, "Right on!" God told Job that He made the clouds like a sweater for the ocean to wear. Some of those clouds look like sweaters to me. What do they look like to you? And on you go with conversation about the magnificence of creation and what that reveals to us about God.
You also get to play "Which would you rather?" Apple juice or ginger ale? Ginger ale or ice cream? Ice cream or a movie? The Fox and the Hound or Cars? Getting to know the mind of a child, what he's interested in, and just keeping the conversation going over the days, weeks and months is important. If you want Junior to talk to you when he's 11, or 16, or 26, learn to converse with him while he is young.
 
Read to and with Junior. C.S. Lewis said, "We read to know we are not alone." Stories take you to places you've never been, to people you haven't met, to events past and future, to situations and circumstances that force the reader to ask, "What would I do?" We can live vicariously through the adventures of another on the written page. And most of all, we gain access to the primary way that God communicates with us. The Bible. Christians, more than anyone, should be book-lovers. THE BOOK-lover. The Living Word, Jesus, speaks to us on the pages of scripture. He is the ultimate word-crafter and inspires us to think, read, and write. Introducing your children to the world of books and good authors provides another way to talk with them about what they are thinking, what they fear, and what they would do. "Why do you suppose Mary Lennox (The Secret Garden) is so disagreeable?" Hmmm? "Where does Mary find comfort when she is sad? Where can children find comfort when they are sad? Where can you go when you are sad?" That's how you can use The Secret Garden to take them to Jesus.
After Junior becomes proficient at playing games like "Go Fish!" you can move on to something like this card game that has been a family favorite for five generations. It's basically the same as Go Fish! except each suit is a famous author and the four cards in each suit are one of his or her books. With intriguing titles like The Gold Bug, Kidnapped!, The Prince and the Pauper, Eight Cousins, our little readers are learning authors and their books, are committing the titles to memory, and are reading the books whose titles they've heard over and over. Spiritual conversation from a card game? Sure. Imagination, God-given creativity, words are vitally important...take it from there. I want to know the God who was able to make these authors with such imaginations. The Globe Theatre is pictured on the back of the cards. I've made it a game to figure out what that is on the card. It took only 8 years for one member of the family to find out. :)
 
FYI, you can find these games at Amazon.
 

Inventors, American Authors, Women Authors and
Composers!
 
Now, Composers is a bit more difficult with many German and French names and pieces of music. But stick with it. I know you're thinking Junior doesn't want to sit down and listen to Rachmaninoff (I probably don't want to either.) But if you would like to introduce Junior to the symphony, take him here to The Typewriter Song.
Which introduces the next thing to talk about with him which will hopefully pique his curiosity. While this is fun to listen to, Junior doesn't know what a typewriter is, so pull out your copy of E. H. Gombrich's Little History of the World
 
and tell him about the monks of the dark ages, especially the pillar saints, the Stylites, who thought they could get close to God by sitting on top of a pillar. Ask Junior if he could really get close to God by sitting on top of a ladder.
 
Their friends had to hoist their meals up to them with a rope and bucket. Would you like to try having your supper that way tonight, Junior? Let's see if you can get closer to God that way. Then do it. Every little one in your family will want to have supper hoisted up in a bucket and report whether or not they were any closer to God.  From there you can go to St. Benedict and his monks who gathered scrolls and manuscripts to study and they copied them all by hand. Can you imagine copying a whole book with a pen? Junior, who is struggling just to write a sentence will be impressed.
Which takes you back to The Typewriter Song. You tell Junior what a typewriter is and then about the invention of the printing press which enabled the bible to be put in the hands of common man and when you take Junior to Washington D.C. on vacation you make sure he sees the Gutenberg Bible and yes, God made all of this possible so that we could come to know Him in His word. Isn't He a magnificent God. I want to know Him! This is getting exciting!
Now that Junior likes The Typewriter Song, but isn't ready for a full course in music appreciation you show him the Bugs Bunny cartoons which are take-offs on famous operas.

Once those songs and others are familiar you have opportunity to play Name That Tune. How many times did my girls hear me say, "I'll give you a dollar if you can tell me the name of this piece." Sometimes bribery is profitable for both parent and child. You ask, did you really rear your children this way? Yes. One summer we learned the famous choruses and plot lines of operas. And you are wondering if my kids liked this. Sometimes.  A lot of times. This was just the way we lived and learned.
Take Elmer Fudd and Brunhilde in the video. One thing leads to another. Brunhilde and the music in "What's Opera Doc?" is from Wagner's Ring Cycle and the Ride of the Valkyries which you are hearing as Kill the Wabbit will forever stick in their minds. Research the role of the Valkyries in Norse mythology and then have a conversation with Junior about how we get to heaven. Never mind that Wagner was a Nazi sympathizer (action figure also available at Amazon.com)
 
who was married to Alma Mahler who just happened to be a friend of Adele Bloch-Bauer in Vienna. You know Adele. You just forgot you know Adele. She was the subject of what up until just a few years ago was the most expensive painting ever sold.
 
The Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer
by Gustave Klimt
Read an earlier post about Adele's niece Maria and how she rescued this painting here.
 
Maria, her husband Fritz and brother-in-law Bernard Altmann escaped Nazi Austria and eventually settled in Los Angeles. Bernard was a textile manufacturer who introduced the cashmere overcoat to the United States. Everything is connected and now you have reached the end of the internet.
What in the world does this have to do with spiritual conversations with your children? Everything. Every blessing, gift, ability, etc. that God gives us can be used for His glory or can be used for less than or evil purposes. We are not alone. There is deep connection between every square inch of this world, all of which belongs to God. The choices we make, the lives that we live deeply affect other people and can bring glory to God or can shame our testimony. Being made in the image of God demands a response from us toward Him. While we see God's hand print everywhere, we learn to love and obey Him in the Bible alone. Jesus is the Son of God and our only way to Him.
It just requires a little curiosity. Hmmm, curiously, this hat looks like Elmer Fudd's Siegfried hat in "What's Opera Doc?" Quick now, tell me about Brunhilde and the Valkyries! 
 
 
 

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