Saturday, May 30, 2009

Celebrations that Sting

This month has been filled with graduations at our neck of the woods. Proud, tearful, hopeful reflections on achievement with a silent undertow of loss.

Appropriate that our commencement celebrations should roughly coincide with Pentecost. Pentecost was sort of commencement for God's people. Until then, His people had had a more physically present manifestation of God - the pillar of fire & cloud, the sacrifices, the Temple, Jesus the Incarnate Himself. Now they would have in invisible manifestation of His company, the Holy Spirit. Until then, they had a rigid, literally carved-in-stone Law. Now they would have it written in their hearts ready at hand to apply to every new situation. Until then, they had been concentrated in one place. Now they would be sent out to all those places whose tongues they spoke on that day - and beyond.

Just so with our fledgling children. No longer with they have us physically with them or hear us speaking the laws of our households. They will need to be able to carry those things in their hearts. They will need to seize that governance for themselves. No longer will our family be actually located in one place. Now our children will become outposts of our family in the cultures whose languages we have taught them.

It is a day when our children must come fully into their adult minds and responsibility, even if they still have a short season of preparation for a particular calling. Boot camp or college or even a professional internship are not places for children. Their minds must be mature; their determination to live out their convictions must be firm; especially if their skills need to be honed.

For the Church Pentecost was a day of great joy and empowerment, putting an end to the fear and loss of the crucifixion and those days of longing following Christ's ascension. Hopefully, we parents will find ways to imitate our Father as we send our children out into their tender maturity. They feel as unsure of themselves as the early Church on Pentecost. They need to leave the graduation experience sure that we will be wind and fire to them as they speak the breaking, healing Word into the worlds God brings them. They need to go out knowing, as Peter did speaking to thousands that first Pentecost day, that they can do things they never thought themselves capable of doing. They need to understand that the things they learned at Mother's knee and under Father's hand have greater power than they ever dreamed.

We easily identify with the Church at Pentecost, but perhaps, as we hope to do well at this end of our lives, we should try to see what Pentecost meant to the Father. Tomorrow...

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Firey Harvest

I've been planting my kitchen garden with my darling, back-from-college daughter. While we are still settling the squash hills and refreshing the bachelor buttons, there is a tender harvest of rhubarb, mint and parsley, chives and lettuce. And don't forget the iris, the lilacs and the spirea fountaining over the fence to nourish the heart.

It's not the rich satisfaction of the full harvest; it is the earnest of things to come. It's the taste of hope, the poetry of promise. A chance to celebrate the day of small beginnings.

Sunday is Pentecost. 50 days after the Resurrection. The Feast of the firstfruits, when the early crops begin to come in. The day when Moses came down to the newly-freed slaves with the Law that would teach them to live as free men. The day when the Law was written not on stone but on hearts. The day when hundreds heard that Law and its Good News in blazing syllables of their mother-tongues. And such a young harvest it was! 3,000 souls, wasn't it?

In our family, we are looking for ways to enter together into the joys of what God has done for us, so we want to learn to celebrate Pentecost. We want our longings for home, for each other to be tied to our wonder at God's might and goodness.

So this Sunday, we will have the first barbecue of the season (fire!), and eat those first fruits (Tabbouleh, Rhubarb Crisp and ice cream) in the garden where the iris and lilacs are in riotous bloom. And we'll talk - even though we'll just be using the one tongue.

We'll read missionary stories to each other or tell of God's work in other cultures to translate His marvelous message of new beginnings for minds unused to such things. We'll talk of the dreams He has put in our hearts, and of the messages of His love that are burning in our mouths. And if He should send us guests that day, we trust they will hear His message in their own language.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Imitating the Perfect Father

As we are in search of a model for parenting, it's easy to dismiss God as a role model, because the Son He sent was perfect. We see in the relationship between the Father and the Son, perfect obedience, perfect mutual regard, perfect mutual respect, perfect joy, but we don't see how to get there.

However, God has another 'son', Israel. Throughout the Scriptures, God calls His people both son and daughter, and if we observe His dealings with them, we can see a pattern for parenting.

God brought His people out of Egypt as an infant. The first thing He did with them when they were clear of danger was to give them the Law and the Feasts - boundaries and celebrations. We understand the boundaries thing. We are continually clarifying and enforcing boundaries for our young children. They keep our children safe and train them in civilized behavior.

But celebrations are a striking innovation. What do regular celebrations accomplish in the life of a family? Well, in the case of Israel, celebrations reminded them of the good things God had done for them, of the adventures they had had together. Celebrations made being "at home" with God a place of rest, of feasting, of joy. When Israel was sent into exile in Babylon, it was the feasts' passing that made the people particularly homesick for both their land and their God.

Celebrations were God's recipe for homesickness. Hmmm...more about this next time.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Inevitable Goodbyes

Wherever I speak about homeschoolers, college prep and winning scholarships, at least 50% of the questions afterward are about the emotional reality of letting go of adult children. So I think this deserves study.

As I've looked around, the designations and descriptions of what comes after children launch are pretty grim: Empty Nest Syndrome, Helicopter Parents, Boomerang Children. Advice ranges from downright insulting

Just leave your student at college - hands off!... get out your checkbook... and try not to answer his phone calls too often. (Excerpted from an actual parent orientation at a prestigious private college which shall remain nameless to protect the innocent.)

to gleefully self-indulgent

Sell the house! See the world! Spend your children's inheritance!.
Even Christians don't do much better.

So I'll be ditching cultural norms and looking for Scriptural answers for this transitional time in families' lives.

First thing we'll need an operational label for what we are talking about. "Empty Nest" just won't cut it. Many of us won't actually have an empty nest before we have grandchildren. But we will have the sea change that happens when our children begin to launch out on their own, and we will experience our success in raising effective children as a loss.

Soooo... "Transitional Parenting"? "Age to Age Parenting"? "the Extending Family"? Any ideas from the peanut gallery? I'd love to hear your ideas!


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