Earlier, I blogged about the mom’s study group and our first meeting topic: The Gift of Grace.
This week, we discussed the Gift of Inspiration.
Inspiration gets a bad rap with me. I’ve worked in jobs and ministries in which I was expected to “inspire” people. We often measured success by our ability to make them cry as if emotional highs would change behavior. We talked of mountaintop experiences. I know all the tricks for lighting candles, playing sappy music, making a ritual to create a bang-up cry fest. I can inspire a group. It isn’t difficult.
But the word “inspiration” literally means “with the spirit.” That definition changes the way I think about it. “With the spirit” whispers of connection. One who is plugged in. Drawing from the Source. So the best way to inspire is to be connected to the Source.
We first looked at how to inspire our children’s global purpose. Jesus said that we would receive power through the Holy Spirit. There is that word again—spirit. He says this spirit will be our Source. We will become good news to the world. We will do the work of redeeming the earth. Making it into a Garden again. That is our global purpose as Christians. It is our children’s global purpose. Not some time in the future. But now. We discussed examples of children being good news to the community or to individuals.
[I have some thoughts on good news. I do not think evangelism is the point. If our ultimate purpose is to convert people, then we have an angle. Loving on people is the good news. Conversion is up to God. Our Christianity should be good news to our neighbors regardless of their belief.]
Back to the group, we made a list of skills, traits, talents that our kids show. How can we encourage these traits to be good news now? For Norah, I listed: creative problem-solver, can read emotional climate, can make big connections. For Cedar, I listed passion. Oh, that little one has a fire inside her.
We then looked at our children’s individual purpose. Their vocation. It doesn’t matter what they will be…what matters is what kind they will be. Zaccheus didn’t stop being a tax collector but he became a different kind of tax collector. As Christians, we (should) emphasize different values than the world. Sacrifice, grace. We can model this difference by letting our kids be a part of discussions like “how could our family be good news with our tax refund?” or “how could we be good news to Mrs. Smith down the street?” And these discussions can be terribly inconvenient. Kids often see very black and white and may begin calling us on our choices. Which is a good thing. And we can let go of our hopes for our children to be wealthy or safe.
And we must be careful not to give our kids their calling. God does this.
Then we talked about having a sense of God’s presence. We made a list of all the unremarkable, mundane things we did yesterday. For all of us, the list included changing diapers or wiping a butt. The question becomes “are our days dull or the other way around—do we make them dull?” Do our routine tasks have eternal value? God meets us where we are. Because that is where we are. When we’re wiping butts, that is where God joins us. Any task can touch the sacred. How can we connect with the Source in these mundane tasks? How can wiping a butt inspire?
Jesus often used object lessons. He passed a vineyard and he told a story about it. Or a fig tree. Or he said, “Consider the lilies.” How do I help my kids see God in creation?
Finally, we discussed living missionally. Not about programs or 3rd parties buffering us from the in-your-face needs of people. Not about “adopt-an-orphan” in Ethiopia (though a worthy way to give). Not about encountering only pre-screened, kid-safe people. It is about those unexpected needs that are right under our noses. The ones we can’t ignore. Or shouldn’t. Sometimes we have only a moment to respond to someone in our path. I love the dangerous little book, Irresistible Revolution for challenges of this sort.
The gentle discipline tool we discussed was Playful Parenting. How to use play for discipline, engaging cooperation, teaching, motivating, and more. My favorite resource is Playful Parenting by Lawrence Cohen.
Lots to practice this week.