Where have you been? Where are you going? And why?
I shared previously about the school door decorating project. I had to veto ideas such as raining leprechauns, Modern Warfare Santa Clauses, and Little Susie’s assassination of the Grinch. With ailing backs and aching hands, my boys threw themselves into an artistic endeavor comparable to the Sistine Chapel. They even walked away quoting Michelangelo, “The true work of art is but a shadow of the divine perfection.” With that, I give you “Snowman in a Snowstorm”.
I advise a group of ten boys every day for twenty minutes. That alone should have elicited some sort of gasp of impossibility. For the Christmas season, we’ve been given the responsibility of decorating my classroom door. Try casting vision to twelve year old testosterone for Christmas scrapbooking. Then substitute for the scrapbook a public door that the entire school can see. The brainstorming session that transpired produced all of zero politically correct (if there is such a thing for Christmas anymore) or practical ideas. Burning cabins in the woods and smoking Santa Clauses firing machine guns just don’t encourage the genre of Christmas cheer that our school promotes. Of all the comical ideas, however, this one lit the tree.
“Wait, wait, wait. I’ve got it. Let’s draw a living room, a Christmas tree, and the Grinch lying in a pool of his own blood with little Susie standing over him!”
See Door Results
I drove down my street one afternoon this week and sure enough, there they were. My nephews, Caleb and Isaiah, zipped up and down driveways on their shiny, silver scooters. I rolled down the window to greet them, “What’s going on, guys?”
“Hey Luke!” Caleb said as he whipped past me and manually motored down the street.
Isaiah pulled to a stop at the window, his dirty blond hair blown in all directions. “How was your day at school, buddy?” I asked.
“Good. Well, not good.” His gaze drifted from me to the street. “I had to pull my clip down today.”
Ah yes, the kindergarten behavior chart of stickers and clips. I continued with my curiosity, “Oh really, I bet that made you really sad. What rule did you break?”
“I ran down the hall.”
I leaned in and softened my voice, “Was it fun?”
“No, it wasn’t fun pulling my clip down!” he yelled in disbelief at my ignorance. Why do people over six ask such stupid questions?
“No, Zay, I meant running in the hallway. Was running down the hall fun?” I asked.
His face lit with desire. “Yeah, it was really fun.”
How much do you want from your son or daughter? Tom Cruise’s passionate outburst of “I want the truth!” echoes in my head. That includes the ugly parts that would make a prison warden blush. Do you want their whole heart?
Kids don’t often get that message. The structure of our schools most often communicates that behavior is first and foremost. Most religions follow a similar path. If we can simply get people to conform, things will work. As parents know best, settling for a behavior-first approach is simply easier. It takes far less emotional investment to structure your relationship with your child around rules and discipline.
I wanted Isaiah’s whole heart. Even the part that enjoyed the thrill of running down the hallway. By caring about his heart amidst his disobedience, I put money in the bank of our relationship.
A good friend of mine plans to take his son out for a back deck cigar whenever he uncovers his son’s first use of pornography. In no way does my friend approve of pornography. But he wants his son’s whole heart. He wants to validate his son’s attraction to sin. The message is this: While sin is not okay, I completely understand your lust and enjoyment of it, and I’m with you in the struggle. Typically we look at God’s displeasure of sin and therefore determine that sin shouldn’t be fun. Sin beats Disney World and Six Flags hands down.
When Jesus encounters people filled with shame and guilt, he doesn’t chastise them or smile as they experience the natural consequences of sin. No, our Immanuel offers them a deeper, eternal drink of himself. Of course. Immanuel in Hebrew means “God with us”. Behavior is not God’s top priority; relationship brings him the most pleasure.
If God went through hell to offer us relationship with him, perhaps we as parents, mentors, teachers, and coaches can fight a little harder for the whole hearts of the kids in our care.
Relationship is always central.
“Why does everyone keep asking me that?” exclaimed Isaiah.
We keep waiting for the day when the principal will award him with the key to the school, a mere token act acknowledging his role as the Godfather there.
His scratched up bike helmet looked as if it had saved his life a number of times- most recently this afternoon, when he came peddling around the corner and skidded to the ground on the pebble driveway. He didn’t cry. Then again, it’s only a two foot fall for a five year-old. I had been watching him from my yard, chasing after his older brother and friends. I noticed his bike seat needed a boost. He followed me through the house to the garage to get a wrench. Still curious about the day in his kindergarten kingdom, I asked again.
“How was your day at school, Zay?”
“What does good mean?” I propped the bike up and began to loosen the seat. I secretly hoped the age-old tactic of an activity might grease up his heart and get the guy talking about his feelings.
“Just good, okay.”
I needed to watch myself. Unlike Marlon Brando, Isaiah doesn’t need any henchmen to get his point across. I focused on the task at hand and realized that I had forgotten “lefty loosey, righty tighty”. I reversed my direction with the wrench. I gripped it tighter and the seat came loose. Isaiah watched closely, though he offered few words. Finally he chimed in some wise advice that, for the life of me, I cannot remember. I only recall my response, “Wow, that’s pretty wise, Zay. Did you learn that in kindergarten?”
“Nope,” replied Mr. Long Winded.
“Did you just learn that in life?”
“Well Zay, you should blog about it.” The backstory here is that Isaiah wrote his first blog this summer. Not bad for a five year-old. Well, he dictated as his sister wrote. My suggestion to record his wisdom with a new blog did not sit well with him. He replied, “I already told you! It’s done! I wrote my blog in July!”
“But Isaiah,” I reasoned, “when you blog, it’s good to write a lot. I try to blog once a week.”
He stared right at me and delivered his parting shot, “I hate to tell you, man, but I blog once a year.”
Thursday I took Isaiah and the twins to the library for a change of scenery. During our stay, I followed Summer and chased Isaiah who chased Maren and entertained plenty of pleadings to check out this and that. Somehow four year-old Isaiah’s initial desire for Curious George took a backseat to the undiscovered world of X-Men and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. While I ran after kids, the weather outside transformed from 95 degrees and sunny to threatening thunderstorms. I decided to stroll the babies home quickly rather than wait out the storm while Maren’s drowsiness progressed into a further tantrum. Isaiah panicked as he saw the dark clouds. As he trembled, he suggested we walk faster and faster. Within three minutes of home, he slowed his pace and offered, “Luke, I just want you to know that if lightening strikes you and you die, I’ll take the babies back.”
Grateful and curious, I asked, “Where will you take them?”
“To your house.”
“Really? How will you get in?”
“I’ll get the key from you just before you die.”
“What will you do when you get back to the house?”
“I’ll put Maren to bed and then play with Summer until she gets tired.”
“Wow, thanks Isaiah. Thanks for wanting to take care of them,” I said quite proud of his gallantry. Selfishly I had to ask, “What about me?”
“You’ll be dead.”
You can’t be too careful what you tell a child because you never know what he’ll take hold of and spend the rest of his life remembering you by. – Frederick Buechner
Hello. It’s been awhile since I’ve posted. Once mid-February hits, my life becomes baseball. Two toddling twins keep me quite busy as well. But when picking a scapegoat always blame your job over your kids. Since baseball has kept me from writing, I find it appropriate to credit it for my reemergence into the blogosphere. Here’s the story:
My brother and sister-in-law watched the Vanderbilt-Florida State NCAA tournament game today as their four year-old, Isaiah, trounced about the house carrying on Godzilla’s legacy. His interest peaked when he saw the baseball game. Standing in the middle of the living room, he turned to his father and said, “Dad, guess what Luke said they do in baseball?”
Isaiah spat on the carpet.
To his parents’ horror he continued, “He said they spit, and they scratch their pen-us. But we didn’t believe him. Dad, is that true?”
“Yeah,” Steve said, “but they don’t do that inside. They do that outside.”
My creative writing assignment in class today said this: Your life has been turned into a book. Write the back cover that will attract readers at Barnes and Noble.
The answer of the day came from a student that’s somehow been dubbed my teaching assistant:
You are about to be blown away. This is an epic story of drama and action. The story about a young man coming from Sparta, fighting in the Roman gladiatorial pits, meeting Russell Crowe, his quest: to become a TA. This story will truly leave you standing in awe and make you say, “I want to be that guy.”
I begin every class with background music from a selected soundtrack. Music captures the power of a story and allows us to relive it long after the credits roll. On my morning drive, the Broadway recording of Wicked continues to arrest my soul to a captivity of wonderment. I hope my students depart class with an appreciation for the vast number of stories that lurk in and around them and a hunger to further explore narratives. This means broadening their perspective on the channels of stories. Hence, the avenue of music.
Each day the students enjoy taking guesses to identify each week’s soundtrack, and I begin offering hints on Tuesdays. Irish football fanatics would smile at the glorious playing of Rudy this week, the legendary account of the not-so-intimidating student that walked on at Notre Dame. This morning the students bombarded me with pressure to reveal the movie title. I offered this hint, thinking it was almost a sheer giveaway (two other classes shouted “Rudy!” before I could take in another breath), “This movie ends with a bunch of people chanting a character’s name.”
“What?!” an exceptionally intellectual 6th grade boy that reads on a forty year-old level exclaimed, “A quarter of the movies in the world end like that!”
“Yeah, even Chinese movies,” added the girl in front of him before chanting, “Ching Chang, Ching Chang, Ching Chang!”
You first had the chance to meet Chip and Wes here.
On another certain day, the dynamic 6th grade duo sat comfortably in math, letting the additions and subtractions float over their heads, off the walls, and then through the door down the hallway. The instructor, a College of Charleston grad, marked up the dry-erase board with a word problem, remember those? I wasn’t there, but was told it had to do with integers representing situations, or something insignificantly mathematical like that.
The city of Charleston, SC is located 32,342 below sea level…
Before she could finish posting the question, Wes interrupted with baby blue Tar Heel basketball on his mind, “Mrs Taylor, I didn’t know you went to school in North Carolina.”
Mrs. Taylor narrowed her eyes curiously, “Umm, no Wes, I went to college in South Carolina.”
“Oh yeah, but like, Carolina.” He stretched his arms out to model what he imagined of the state.
“No, the state: South Carolina.”
Wes sat upright in his chair and gestured more obviously, frustrated that she wasn’t getting it, “Yeah, like, CAROLINA.”
About this time, Chip leaned in to rescue his friend from wasting his time, “Wes, the state is just Carolina. When you’re driving North, it’s North Carolina, and when you’re driving South, it’s South Carolina.”
“NO!!!” Mrs. Taylor barged in with fear that these boys jeopardized the geography teacher’s job, “Do not listen to him, Wes, we have a state called South Carolina and one called North Carolina. They’re two different states!”