As mentioned on my podcast this week, my son and I spend a great deal of time each day playing Angry Birds… but not on an iPhone or iPad… but with real birds and pigs and blocks, and I might mention they are Star Wars themed too!
We take turns building towers and placing our pigs, and then trying to knock them down with the birds via the little sling shots.
There is a bit of strategy to how we build, but for the most part you are building something you know is going to be destroyed.
So while we may spend a great deal of care and creativity building, we can’t get too attached to our masterpieces knowing the whole point of the building, was to knock them down! We have to remember the real joy isn’t in the building, it is in the playing together. In fact, the whole point of the game isn’t what we build or even the shooting of birds to knock it down – it is Daddy-Son time. At the end, when the floor is a mess, it is a sign that we had a great time.
It’s kinda like kidmin. It reminds me of the effort and energy we put into building our ministries and how frustrated we can get when people mess with what we are trying to build, or when we watch what we’ve built be torn down by others or messed up, or become ruins after we leave a ministry. We must never forget – it was never about the building in the first place! It was never about creating great programs or even running great programs… It was simply about the relationships at the time, the kids, the volunteers and the parents.
So when you see things get knocked over, or find yourself needing to build all over again. Smile.
And remember, it’s all about the people and the relationships. The building is just what keeps us busy and brings everyone together.
So I was sitting at Burger King writing while my son was enjoying a kid’s meal and playing in the play area. He was delighted because his meal came with a cool Monster Truck! After a while, he noticed that there were two more Monster Trucks under the play area that had apparently rolled there. We discussed how some poor kids apparently lost their toys and probably left in tears. Luke said he wished we could retrieve them, but they were impossible to reach. One of them was extremely far away, and the other had broken into the two pieces it originally came in, wheel base and top shell. The space under the play area was locked and only accessible by an employee.
I said to him,“They are only impossible to get if you lack the will to accept the challenge and the ability to use the resources at your disposal.”
I replied,“Do you know what a challenge is? It’s when you decide to attempt something that appears impossible, using what you already have. Let see what we have available to us and try to get those Monster Trucks! The worst that can happen is that we’ll fail.”
Luke said, “Those kids’ dads failed; they left them here.”
I answered, “I bet they didn’t even try.” (Do you see the Life Principle here?)
Our first tool was a foldable “Wet Floor” sign that enabled us to get the top half of one car out, but that by itself was pretty useless. I knew we needed to get more creative to reach farther under the play area where the trucks had rolled. I asked Luke what we’d need if we could have anything we wanted – if we had unlimited resources. He said a stick would be perfect. So I said, “Great idea! Then let’s make a stick! I’ll be right back!”
I returned with a hand full of straws. We constructed a stick out of straws, and then from two different locations, with quite a bit of work, we were able to fish for the bottom half of the first car and then the entire second car.
We ended up with quite an audience of cheering kids and curious moms as we worked the trucks toward Luke’s eager fingers!
Finally, the quest was over. What had seemed impossible resulted in Luke having not one, not two, but THREE cool Monster Trucks to take home! But he also went home with an important lesson: When you accept a challenge and put your mind to something, using what you already have, you can do the impossible when others give up and leave good things behind. Even if we had failed in our quest, we would still have succeeded in trying! Life is all about attempting the impossible, and the worst that can happen is that you might fail. I want my son to know that trying and failing is better than not trying at all.
I want him to know that he can REACH FOR THE IMPOSSIBLE and that failure IS an option.
When he sees something he wants, I want him to go for it, using what he already has, instead of walking away making excuses because he thinks something is out of reach. If I have learned anything in life, it is that nothing is out of reach if you are willing to stretch creatively and reach for it.
And if you are willing to link a bunch of straws together!
Followers of my blog know I’m a Star Wars fan. People often laugh when they hear me say to my son in a deep voice, “Luke, I am your father.” He laughs, even though he doesn’t get the significance of the quote. Since he is only six, he hasn’t even sat through all the movies, though we have watched segments and he loves the original Clone Wars cartoons I have on my iPad before the freaky looking version came out that looks like a video game gone bad. (I’m not a fan of the current Clone Wars show – yuck!)
Tonight, Luke had trouble sleeping so he was lying on the couch down in my office while I worked and looking at all the items in my Star Wars ‘museum’ – and noticed I have a lot of Darth Vader figures and collectibles and asked, “Why do you like Darth Vader so much, when he is a bad guy?” Good question. I answered, “Luke, Darth Vader is the reason I love Star Wars so much – because Star Wars is a story of a bad guy who was saved because of the love of a son, a son named Luke.”
My Luke sat up. “Wait, you mean, THAT’s Luke’s father?” – and so the conversation began. It wasn’t that he didn’t know I’d always been immitating Darth Vader – but it kinda hit him that the bad guy was the good guy’s dad. I explained that Luke was separated from his dad when he was little, and he was told that Darth Vader killed his dad, so he hated Darth Vader. I went through a quick summary whole first movie, saving the princess and all, and how he watched as Darth Vader then killed his mentor Obiwon, and that made Luke hate him even more. And how in the next movie Yoda was training him to become a Jedi so he could fight Darth Vader but when his enemy captured his friends he ran off to save them, and battled him and it was only then that Darth Vader told him this incredible truth – that he didn’t kill Luke’s dad, he WAS Luke’s dad. My son was spell bound. We talked about how all of America was talking about this revelation when in happened in 1980. (Not until The Sixth Sense did a movie have such a great surprise, and this was still bigger.)
But then we talked about how Luke had every reason to despise or hate his father, but instead he chose to love him and feel pity for him. He even told his dad so. Even when his dad stopped believing in himself – “It is too late for me, son” – Luke never gave up on him! Luke even gave himself up in the third movie and let himself be captured to go and face Darth Vader and his even more evil boss, the Emperor! (Now Luke was on the edge of the couch.) There, the Emperor told him of the trap that would kill all his friends and that Luke would have to join the evil side, like his dad, or be destroyed. The Emperor wanted Luke to kill his own father. But Luke refused. He loved his dad, even though he had done so much bad. He refused to fight him – only defending himself as his father attacked him under the Emperors orders. But then Darth Vader got Luke angry. He told Luke if he didn’t turn to evil, he would go after Luke’s sister, and that got Luke upset and then Luke attacked Darth Vader to save his sister – he defeated Darth Vader and even cut off his hand to make his light saber fall away! Darth Vader was defenseless! Now Luke could have killed him if he wanted. Did Luke do it? No. He was good. The Emperor ordered him to kill his father and take his place – but Luke did the most amazing thing, he threw down his light saber and said, “I am a Jedi, like my father before me.” He spoke of his father like he was good. He spoke of the time when his father was a good Jedi, of the time when his father would have died to do the right thing, and chose now to die doing the right thing, as his father would have done long ago. He wanted his dad to see that he had raised a good son, willing to die for good, even though he himself had failed, he had succeeded in having a good son, a son willing to die for him.
I asked my son, “Would you die for an evil man?” My Luke said, “No way. I might die for a good person, but not for a bad guy.” And I said, “That is the whole point! The Bible says that a man might die for a good person, but no one would die for a bad person, but here Luke is willing to die for his father who is one of the worst men in the galaxy, the second in the command of the evil galactic Empire – out of love for him. And Darth Vader is seeing this display of love, and what do you think is going through his mind as he lays there thinking, he could have killed me, and I deserve it, because I was trying to kill him! And now he is going to die so that I can live?”
My Luke says, “He must feel very loved.” I said, “I bet he does.” The drama only intensifies from there. The evil Emperor comes down, and says, “So be it. Jedi.” (Said with condescending disgust.) “Only now, at the end, do you understand. If you will not turn to the dark side, then you will be destroyed.” It was, in truth, the Emperor, who was not understanding that a plan of Redemption was unfolding right before his very eyes. This master of evil was unable to see the conflict boiling up within his apprentice, Vader, whose murder he had just ordered – a plot that had been foiled by love. The Emperor bellows to Luke, “Your feeble skills are no match for the Power of the Dark Side!” When in truth, this act of sacrificial love by this young Jedi would prove more powerful than all this powerful master’s evil schemes!
And then the Emperor begins to electrocute him with that powerful blue lightening from his fingertips. Darth Vader rises and keeps looking back and forth between his son who is suffering in agony and this evil leader who is killing him realizing he has a choice to make. Save his son or stay with this evil Emperor, who would have had his son kill him. I’ve always wondered if this was when Darth Vader woke up and realized he would be replaced as soon as his leader found a stronger Number Two, despite Vader’s fierce loyalty.
The Emperor pauses, only for a moment, to say, “And now, young Skywalker, you will die.” During the final burst of lightening, Darth Vader looks back and forth a few more times, as if to antagonize the suffering audience some more, before making his choice. Finally breaking from his frozen state of inaction, he bursts into motion, lifts up the Emperor and tosses him over a railing and down into a reactor shaft where falls, wailing as he plummets, until finally, he dies.
Not only is Luke saved, but Darth Vader as well. When Luke says, “I must save you,” Darth Vader answers, “You already have.” Vader does not physically survive the ordeal, perhaps due to his battle with Luke or the lightening when he lifted the Emperor, but his redemption comes from his choice to save his son and turn back to the good side, and the evidence in the world of Star Wars, is his being seen with Obiwon and Yoda at the end of the film in their ghostly jedi forms from the after life. Indeed, the faith and love of a son, brought salvation to a man everyone else thought was unreachable.
I’m not really a science fiction fan – I enjoy other science fiction films, but the reason I love Star Wars is primarly the story of the Redemption of Darth Vader. There is a lot more to it than I even have gotten in to in this post. (Note that fact that Darth Vader could sense Luke’s presence on the Moon of Endor and the Emperor could not! The Emperor asked, “How do you know he is there?” Vader answers, “I sensed his presence.” – “Strange that I could not,” responds the Emperor. Not strange at all, he didn’t love Luke!)
My Luke and I ended up putting in the DVD to watch the end of the film – and then looking up Romans 5:6-8 and John 15:13
You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
I may pretend to have Jedi powers when I open automatic doors at the grocery store or open the garage door, but the truth is I am powerless. And I’m not a righteous person. I’m not even a good person. But God’s demonstrated his love toward me by having his Son lay down his life for me. He could have killed me for my sin – I deserve it as much as Darth Vader, for disobeying God. There is no one righteous enough to merit salvation. The real evil Emperor, Satan, has invited me to rule my own life at his side – but Jesus defeated him on the cross, dying in the process, for me.
Star Wars teaches us that there is NO ONE beyond hope. There is good in everyone – and we ought never give up hope on anyone. Love can conquer anything and anyone and that evil will ultimately be defeated by the Power of Love.
This is a video I shot as the year changed from 2010 to 2011… in answer to the question, “What Matters Most?” for an online video conference I was participating in that year. I thought I’d post it again this year, since the answer hasn’t changed…
Make sure you prioritize the relationships in your life in 2013.
Image from Sandy Hook Principal's Twitter account, Yesterday
I am the father of a kindergartner. I can not fathom the feelings and emotions of those who lost their children today. I have cried today. I have struggled to focus. I suppose in one sense I feel sympathy, which by definition is an extension of empathic concern, or the perception, understanding, and reaction to the distress or need of another human being. But at the end of today, I will get to cuddle with my son, while those parents will somehow try to sleep without their child, with Christmas decorations throughout their home and hidden presents that will never be opened. How can I possibly understand their agony? How can I possibly answer why?
Politicians will resume the “gun control” battle, as though any laws could have prevented the events of today. Perhaps there is some merit in addressing guns… but that does little for those families. Others will decry the lack of prayer in schools or the decline of morality in our culture. Still, empty words to address empty beds tonight.
Many have e-mailed me today or messaged me on Facebook asking what to do on Sunday at church. To that end, I started a thread on Kidology.org. I’ve collected links and letters and sources all day and posted them there. Perhaps you will find some help there, and I encourage you to post your own thoughts and resources there as well. Many have shared helpful thoughts. It’s become a great source of collective wisdom.
But still I grieve. But at the same time, I am renewed in my passion to reach children – and families, and to look into the eyes of those around me and look for hurt. Adam Lanza, the alleged murderer, needed help. To do this, he had to be a lost and broken young man. Society or the Church failed to rescue him. While he is responsible for his actions, we share some responsibility for failing to reach people in need. He is a victim as well, a victim of a broken world. I am not making excuses for him, nor excusing his crime. He is guilty. But had someone reached him or realized he was slipping, perhaps 20 children and 6 adults who cared for and loved those children could have been saved.
So our mission remains clear – love the children and reach families. And always be seeking who around us is flailing and struggling. We never know who we may save when we reach out and share God’s love with the lost around us. There are people losing hope and don’t know there is Hope.
Hug your children, but don’t stop there. Spread God’s love to everyone around you. More people need it than we realize. We don’t need more laws in America, we need more of God’s Love in America.
Tonight was the night for our annual family pumpkin carving. Which means, I carve two pumpkins and Sara carves out hers. (I’m not letting Luke handle a sharp knife just yet!) But we did let him design his pumpkin on paper first.
It was fun looking at pumpkin designs online first – and boy oh boy are there some amazing pumpkin designs out there! So much potential in a simple pumpkin! You start with this plain ol’ pumpkin, and yet it can become anything you want it to be. It all depends on how creative you are willing to be, how patient you are willing to be, how careful you are willing to cut away at it, how much time you willing to spend on it, and how unique you want it to be. You can settle for something like everyone else – or you can decide to be different and unique. And of course, practice helps you improve over time. My least favorite part is cleaning out the insides – but it is a necessary evil if you want the light inside to shine out!
It kind of reminds me of how we build our ministries. There is so much potential! And how effective we are all depends on the same factors. Are we willing to look at others to see what they have done? There is lots of help online available too! From Kidology.org and other great websites. And if you are willing to be creative, patient, and carefully cut away at it, and put time and effort into it – you can build a pretty amazing ministry! Are you just going to build a basic one like every other church? Or do something unique and different that will draw kids and families? And of course, practice will help you improve over time. And don’t forget, if you really want God’s Light to shine through you and your ministry, you must be willing to get rid of the junk that that distracts. The good news is – inside that junk, are seeds that can result in spiritual growth!
So how did our pumpkin carving go?
I went with a SCARY pumpkin!
Sara was much more creative and artistic with hers….
Luke made his throwing up…. (totally his idea!)
If we were having a contest, I think Sara won!!
Pumpkins won’t last… but your ministry will have eternal results! If we can put this much time and energy and fun into something so fleeting… what are you doing to make your ministry creative and lasting?
It’s not a contest… but it does matter! BE CREATIVE!
And Jesus said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
Children are free from so much.
Unlike adults, their default is play not work, imagination not reality, exploration not explanation, curiosity not cautiousness, and best of all they worry about nothing other than their immediate needs and loved ones.
No thoughts are weighed down by the future or world affairs.
They can swing for an hour with no thought to the things still undone on a task list.
They accept complete dependance on those who care for them without question.
Perhaps these are a few of the reasons Jesus asked us to come to Him as children.
Luke’s day now consists mostly of watching these men work, and then going and mimicking their work in his own giant sandbox.
At lunch today be informed us, “It’s O.K. To go to lunch, my workers are at lunch right now too. I have ten workers, you know.” He’s the foreman of his backyard construction site and gives us daily reports at dinner of his workers progress each day, in creative detail.
You can only imagine his sheer excitement when a huge truck arrived today and dropped off two massive piles of rocks next to our house!
He loves imagining the house that will be built upon this foundation.
“The house will be up here, Dad!”
As I watch this boy of mine, I too wonder… What will HE hold up one day? What will be built upon his life? Some of his accomplishments and how God uses him, I will get to see, much may be after I’m gone. Such is parenting some times. My mom left to meet Jesus about the time Kidology started, but it was built upon the foundation she built into me. Kidology is as much her accomplishment as it will be mine – for I am the result of her tireless teaching and training (and patience!) as a young boy who showed giftedness and passion (mixed with hyper activity!) for kids ministry. As did my dad, who is still an active encourager and adviser.
As much as my boy loves watching this house going up and building imaginary houses in his sandbox, I love the job of building a boy. It is hard, and it is fun. It takes intentionality and spontaneity. It takes love and creativity. My legacy will not be a website or a church or a book or a curriculum – it will be this boy, so I am devoted to building him, daily.
It has been the last lot in our neighborhood and my six year old son, Luke, has been beside himself waiting for the last house to go up!
Today, a bunch of workers showed up to set forms for the foundation. It took them all day.
But by standing on our back deck we can begin to see the size and shape of the house. Luke is already comparing their house to ours and commenting on how small their back yard will be. Already, he knows, the foundation will determine the house.
As soon as the workers were gone, we went exploring! I explained how as early as tomorrow, perhaps, wet concrete will be poured between these molds and become the foundation of the house.
I held him up to look down between them and explained what the re-bar was that later would be invisible, but would give strength to these walls – much of which would be under the dirt.
As he walked and climbed around under my nervous but watchful eye, I couldn’t help but think that this was exactly what I was in the process of doing with my own son.
I am setting the forms for the foundation for his entire life.
Much of my work, also, will never be seen. Even now, it is determining the width and breath of his spiritual life. While much of the “wet cement” of his life has yet to be poured by the experiences of life that lie before him, I am setting up the molds, the framework for him – his world view – the mental guidelines and boundaries into which his experiences will pour and shape him and that will guide how he holds up and whether he stands strong in the storms that will surely come. His inner “re-bar,” later unseen, is being set now by our talks as we walk along the road and as we lay down at night to discuss the events of the day and the principles of life a father passes on to his son that will later determine his inner strength. Everything else in his life is going to build upon the foundation for which I now am laying out the framework. It is humbling. Almost scary.
It just got me thinking, I need to take this job seriously.
Romans 12:11 Never be lacking in ZEAL, but keep your SPIRITUAL FERVOR, serving the Lord.
I used the letters of the word Z.E.A.L. to offer four ways to rediscover ZEAL:
Z = Zero in on What Matters Most (get away from the distractions that pull you away from what drew you into ministry in the first place)
E = Encourage Others (get the focus off yourself)
A = Abandon Busyness (get away from ministry periodically)
L = Love Jesus (get back to relationship over service)
As I mentioned on the show…why do I have my son help wash my car? Is it because he is actually helpful? Do I need his help? No. In truth, I can wash the car faster and better without him. He actually hinders the task a bit.
I let him help because he wants to be a part of what his dad is doing. We wash the car together out of a loving relationship, not out of my need for his assistance.
Our service to God is exactly the same.
God doesn’t need our help. In fact, truth be told, our efforts probably hinder and hurt God’s efforts. However, He allows us to work with Him because He loves us and understands that we want to work with our Dad. Get this: We serve God out of a loving relationship, not because of God’s need for our assistance.
It makes you wonder why we work so hard…and often without God. It would be kinda like my son trying to wash the car without me. Pretty pointless, don’t ya think?
I am personally convinced that one person can be a change catalyst, a “transformer” in any situation, any organization. Such an individual is yeast that can leaven an entire loaf. It requires vision, initiative, patience, respect, persistence, courage, and faith to be a transforming leader.
~ Stephen R. Covey