Tag Archives: child

all our problems

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They have been saying it for several weeks just before we are dismissed from the service on Sunday mornings. As we participate through the Kenyan liturgy, the children are invited to the front of the room, bumbling and running and sisterly fighting their ways to the front, up the steps, and to the center of the stage and everyone’s attention. They are guided, as the congregation is guided by them, to take their right arms and respond to the priest as he says:

leader: all our problems
kids/congregation/me: we send to the cross of Christ

As we all say together, led both by the children and the priest and also by this deep and gut-wrenching reality that we are staring problems in the face everyday that we don’t know what to do with, “we send to the cross of Christ,” we hold up our right arms as far out as we can reach and then throw them pointing or open-handed to the cross centered at the very front of the room.

The children giggle or try to hit each other or actually stare in amazement every now and then at the cross itself, or at their hands and their naive abilities to send things to Jesus and feel like they actually ever got there. I, on the other hand, find usually as my hand flies toward the cross in the front of the room that I get choked a little with the reality that the problems I’m carrying around are a little too big for me and mostly too heavy to actually send to the cross of Christ. As if I couldn’t get a good enough grip on them to throw them that far in the first place.

leader: all our difficulties
kids/congregation/me: we send to the cross of Christ

It’s amusing to me, as I look at those children up there throwing their arms toward the cross as they hurl their difficulties, to consider how simple some of their lives are. I’m not ignorant enough to think their lives are all simple, that some of them aren’t witnessing yelling and screaming and fighting, that some of them aren’t experiencing abuse and illness and secrets they think will kill them rather than be taken with them to their grave at some unreal and future time. Some are, no doubt, living amidst great difficulties. Many of them, however, are living in great comfort and safety and community that is true and rich and deep. But even for them that hurling of difficulties toward the cross feels almost like a prayer for their future selves, or for their sisters thousands of miles away or three miles away who are fighting to survive amidst great difficulties. They don’t know that their silly hurling of difficulties toward the cross of Christ is actually an offering of love and trust for one of their unmet, unknown peers. I move my hand gently toward the cross with them, but I can’t get words out of my mouth because I feel a little taken over by what is happening in the thin spaces these mornings.

leader: all the devil’s works
kids/congregation/me: we send to the cross of Christ

This one, of course, is a little scary because while we’d like to demonize someone else and name their works as those of the devil, we know deep down that some of our own works are marked by something other than the incarnational love of the king. So we know that to send the devil’s works, all of them, to the cross of Christ is actually to send a chunk of ourselves to die in uncertainty. We throw our perceived or desired success. We throw some of our pleasures and comforts that require the pain and heartache of others for us to afford them. We throw our reasons for why what affects us is more important that what affects the “others”. We throw our grudges and our bitterness and our stinginess and our insecurities and our greeds. It’s like we are taking off all of our clothes and throwing them up there to the cross of Christ. Then we find ourselves, if we dare throw all that up there, naked and embarrassed at what we actually look like now. I often can’t even get around to throwing my arm forward to send the devil’s works to the cross of Christ as the children are throwing it even more dramatically. Their innocent leading makes me feel a little more like a fraud if I were to join them.

leader: all our hopes
kids/congregation/me: we set on the risen Christ. 

The leader isn’t hurling anything forward to the cross anymore, and neither are the children. Their hands are up and usually open. Reaching out to the only place we know to reach with our fragile little arms to communicate where the kingdom has come in Christ’s resurrection, we reach up and out to the skies because we know there is more out there than we have ever understood. We know, too, that right here in the moment and in the space and in the wrestling brother and sister who’ve now been center stage too long to remember their mother’s threat of an after church mingling with no snacks if they misbehave, we are reaching out to something that we must have.

That hope we are reaching out for as if our lives and sanity and humanity depended on it.

We’ve been brave enough to speak out loud with our words and our bodies of our problems, our difficulties, and the devil’s works that we have co-opted and coauthored. Because of the courage of the kids and the costume of the priest, and because even our choking-up makes us know we must be telling a little more of the truth than usual, I’m able to lift up my right arm to the unknown skies, or the ceiling of this sad little building, and decide to set my hopes toward the impossible kingdom that I can’t stop thinking about, and the impossible king who has been causing impossible problems in our storylines since the very first story was ever set in motion.

all our problems
we send to the cross of Christ
all our difficulties
we send to the cross of Christ
all the devil’s works
we send to the cross of Christ
all our hopes
we set on the risen Christ. 

djordan
Pine Tree

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at once, every age you’ve ever been | part 1

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“I am still every age that I have been.
Because I was once a child, I am always a child.
Because I was once a searching adolescent, given to moods and ecstasies, these are still part of me, and always will be.

This does not mean that I ought to be trapped or enclosed in any of these ages
the delayed adolescent, the childish adult,
but that they are in me to be drawn on;
to forget is a form of suicide.
Far too many people misunderstand what putting away childish things means,
and think that forgetting what it is like to think and feel and touch and smell and taste and see and hear
like a three-year-old or a thirteen-year-old or a twenty-three-year-old means being grownup.
When I’m with these people I, like the kids, feel that if this is what it means to be a grown-up,
then I don’t ever want to be one.
Instead of which, if I can retain a child’s awareness and joy, and be fifty-one,
then I will really learn what it means to be grownup.”

– Madeleine L’Engle
(Image: Kevin T. Allen is a filmmaker, sound artist and independent radio producer.)

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dinner at the coffee table

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I don’t know why it has all come together in my brain this way.

Growing up, I remember being furious that this rule was put in place, even in middle and high school, that I MUST be present at the dinner table at least three or four nights a week. If I went out after that, that was one thing. If I ate or not was another thing, but my presence at the dinner table was required three or four nights a week. (I don’t remember which, so obviously it wasn’t as traumatic as I would like to pretend.)

As with many things I now reflect back on from growing up, I hated this rule at the time, and yet now I wouldn’t trade anything for it.

And a few nights ago, I joined some incredible friends from present day around their coffee table for dinner. At our home growing up, when I was huffing and puffing about having to be home for dinner around a table, we would every now and then sit around the coffee table, the same one I now have in my den, and eat pizza and watch TV together. I remember being angry that my parents could guess what was going to happen on the TV show, and I was likely more angry about this because I wanted to be anywhere but there at the moment.

But a few nights go, legs crossed over pillows on the floor, eating while sitting around their coffee table, I found myself in a kind of time freeze. The four year old daughter of my friends was pretending to make meals or be a drummer with her metal bowls and plastic whisks, and we were eating sushi with chopsticks out of styrofoam sakura to-go boxes.

There was much that reminded me, though, of growing up. The space for imagination and casualness, and play and informality. The insistence of good food even though it was spread out across a coffee table reminded me of how much has changed, and how little has changed at the same time.

And today, I’m in a counseling session with a family who can’t pay the bills so they share a home with another family. Four parents, five children, three minimum wage jobs, exponential stress. They were sitting in my office, a mom and dad, completely undone by the situation, and parenting skills to reflect the same. As they were talking, I found myself returning to the living room coffee table a few nights ago with incredible friends learning to be good parents, a four year old playing kitchen, and myself wondering how things will be remembered ten years later.

For all of us.

And most of all, I found myself glad that someone made me sit down for dinner three or four nights a week, no matter how unbelievable and unrealistic a request it seemed at the time.

djordan
Pine Tree

 

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