Perichoresis: From Autonomy to Community

Perichoresis: From Autonomy to Community

In the communal ecclesia/community of being, we discover how to pour ourselves out for the persons (and needs) of our community as other members learn to do the same. This is not optional but necessary and desirable under the Lordship of Jesus and the formation of the Spirit. Admittedly, this is not always the most attractive or convenient practice at first. This is why church planting necessitates a beginning with disciples and discipleship.

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The AHCA And The Incompetent Ecclesia

As I watched the emotional explosion hit social media last Thursday and Friday, following the House passing the AHCA, I sat watching the incompetence of the church. On one hand, the conservatives were gloating and celebrating, unconcerned with how this bill would affect millions of people. On the other hand, Christians of varying varieties were busy calling Trump names and expressing their disgust with the utter failure of the government to protect its people. From my perspective, one is right but both are incompetent. From these places, the church has failed to recognize and respond from a Gospel-oriented/present Kingdom reality.

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The Gospel is an event that sparks a revolution of new creation. The missional conversation is filled with language of the alternative politics and economics of Jesus, imagination for an alternative social reality, and the church as a foretaste of Heaven. Expressed within this language is the idea that the Kingdom of God is making its appearance within the people of God. The people of God are the called out, formed, and sent-people manifested in local bodies of people known as the ecclesia (church). The ecclesia is organized, formed, and motivated by the reign of God. By “alternative” we mean alternative to the social reality within which the ecclesia currently finds itself. In this way, the Father, Son, and Spirit are cultivating the Kingdom on earth as it is in Heaven. We, the ecclesia, as participants in this mission are the sweet aroma of Christ and a foretaste of Heaven.

Organizing the Ecclesia in the Politics and Economics of Jesus

This is the second post in a row where I have spoken of the politics and economics of Jesus. I realize some may be confused or unnerved by this language and idea because of our tense political environment. Friends and family relationships have been strained and even lost because of politics, so why in the world would we ever want to make Jesus political? I also realize the American idea of separation of church and state can confuse some when they read these terms. We have been raised to believe that Jesus is apolitical or that the church should not to interfere with politics. But when we say things like “vote your beliefs/values” we are confessing that Jesus is inherently political.

There are a few issues that need to be worked out regarding the politics and economics of Jesus. First, what do we mean by politics? John Howard Yoder argues the following:

Anything is political which deals with how people live together in organized ways: how decisions are made and how they are implemented; how work is organized and its products shared; who controls space, land, freedom of movement; how people are ranked; how offenses are handled.

In the same manner, we could argue that economics is anything that deals with how people manage their wealth, redistribute wealth, manage production and consumption. Whenever we find Jesus speaking into these situations, it is the responsibility of the ecclesia to discern how we may best submit to his words. It does not take much reading of the Gospels to realize Jesus has much to say. Nor does it take too long to discover how the ecclesia in Acts and the Epistles began responding to his rule.

Additionally, we must take an ecclesiological approach to the politics and economics of Jesus rather than one that mimics the prophets in Davidic Kingdom. The prophets of the Old Testament spent much of their energy and words speaking to and calling out the Kings of their day. In this role, they spoke truth to power and called Israel back to a holy form of living. In the death of the Messiah, we find the birth of a new creation. A new Kingdom is breaking in... and it is doing so, not through national governments but through the ecclesia (both transnationally and locally). This means that our most important responsibility is to organize ourselves in the politics and economics of the Kingdom. In doing so, we dependent upon God and his new creation, rather than the government. The church (ecclesia) does not need to be dependent upon the government for the care of her people.

What AHCA Reveals

Previous health care systems established by the church are good examples of what this looked like. To be clear, the church did not start health care, but it certainly expanded the idea and practice of it. Hospitals were often started and supported by the church, sometimes even being hosted within churches or monasteries, for the sake of her people as well as her neighbors and strangers. The Abbot of Cluny established a hospital and appointed persons to seek out the sick and hurting in their local communities and bring them in for care.

Today our practiced economics have been influenced by neoliberalism more than Jesus. We believe we must possess insurance through the market, and thus we put our faith in it by giving a portion of our wealth to a company in exchange for protection. When we see this as our only option, we inevitably submit to the companies as lord and must accept their terms. At this point, they can change the terms and raise the premiums, causing some to go without. This causes the people to cry foul and beg the government to intervene. In doing so, we are making the claim that the insurance companies are bad lords, and we then attempt to submit ourselves to the government. We say, “You can be a better lord,” or, “At the very least, please protect us from our lord's via regulation.” When we, the ecclesia, enter this hysteria, we inevitably tell the world that it is better to be American than Christian and/or that greater is the hope of the Oval Office than the throne of heaven. Our response and protest reveals nothing about the politics and economics of Jesus.

Is Jesus An Incompetent Lord?

When the multitudes had followed Jesus to the hillside, they were hungry and in need of food. The disciples wanted to send them away to find food, but Jesus told them to feed the crowd. With five loaves and two fish and Jesus’ blessing, the disciples fed the multitude and everyone was satisfied and there was some leftover. This miraculous story of Jesus reveals various aspects of the economics of Jesus and his Kingdom:

  • The people are the responsibility of Jesus and his disciples. God, as the great provider, is more than capable of sustaining his people.
  • Jesus and the disciples give of their resources for the sake of the people. I’m sure Peter was thinking, “Jesus, if we give up this food, then what will we eat?”
  • The economics of Jesus and the Kingdom operates from a place of abundance, not scarcity.

When responding to AHCA and the health care crisis, the ecclesia does not throw a fit and call the government names. We do not tell people they are on their own. Doing so reveals that we have no alternative. It reveals our incompetence and suggests that Jesus is an incompetent Lord. Instead, we act from a place of abundance and offer the Kingdom of God as an alternative way.

 Seeking An Alternative System?

What does this alternative way look like regarding health care? I’m not certain, but it starts with the love of neighbor and care of the other (Parable of the Good Samaritan). Our local ecclesia needs to practice the early church’s shared economics. And the national/transnational ecclesia could consider co-ops. What would it look like for the church to begin developing a universal health care system? This goes beyond my expertise, but not God’s. I know that he has given the Church skilled and gifted persons who can imagine alternative health care options. He’s done it before.

In the meantime, the local ecclesia must begin bearing one another's burdens. And this includes health care. Numerous Christian health care co-ops are available to assist. Between the local ecclesia and these providers there is much we can already do. Check out some of the testimonies from a few of them: Christian Healthcare Ministries and Christian Care Ministry. Once we have established alternative systems to support and care for our people as well as others, we can then engage bills and reforms like AHCA. But until then, our cries only reveal our incompetence.

Autonomous Christianity Is Not Church

I'm currently processing how the ecclesiological imagination inherited from Christendom (modernity, and more particularly Protestantism/Evangelicalism) influences our current church endeavors, and how a freed missional imagination may envision a more faithful embodied witness of Jesus and his church. I began by discussing some issues our church encountered along our missional church planting journey (Are we there yet?). Last week I suggested that hidden within our language and reasons for shutting the doors of a church reveals that our imagination for “what church is” is stuck on the practice of Sunday worship (Sunday is not Church). This week I hope to move us away from viewing the Christian life as an autonomous experience and move us toward a communal ecclesia.

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The late Christendom, and more particularly the Protestant/Evangelical, imagination sees both salvation and the life we live as an individual experience governed by personal freedom. This imagination leads not only to autonomous churches but also autonomous Christian living. In this sense, churches are centered around (or founded upon) Sunday morning experiences where music creates an atmosphere for the individual to have a personal experience with the Word of God preached from the pulpit (or stage). Once an individual says yes to Jesus (gets “saved”) very little, if anything, often changes regarding the lives they live.

This is not church. The person remains an autonomous individual with no deeper invitation into community or participation as co-creator. Some may join a small group or volunteer on Sunday morning but their relationship with God remains strictly personal and belief-oriented. How God may be working in the world and/or organizing his people (including the individual) does not enter their consciousness. We need a new imagination to center our churches around. One that breaks free of autonomy. 

The Gospel, Salvation, and Ecclesiological Imagination

The Gospel is about so much more than salvation and the Church is about so much more than a Sunday service. Some components of the Gospel are often ignored: the establishment of a new King in Jesus, and the politics and economy of his Kingdom. When we are planting or leading a church, we are submitting ourselves to the governing presence of Jesus that includes his politics and economy. As citizens of this Kingdom we are encouraged through our participation in the politics and economics of Jesus so much that we choose to leave behind our autonomy and learn to live in mutual submission to one another. In doing so, we become a Christ-embodied people of God (the church), called and formed to be a people for the world. 

Regarding salvation, when we suggest that someone is saved we often think of what they have been saved from but we rarely think about what they are being saved into and for what purpose. Similarly, social justice folks often think of liberating oppressed individuals and people groups from their oppressors but rarely do they consider what they are being liberated into. These are questions the missional church must consider from the beginning. When we say we are planting a church, we are suggesting that we are participating with God in forming a new people who are both becoming and co-creating (with God) the new creation.

On Facebook the other day, David Fitch discussed the phenomenology of salvation: "The shift from accepting Jesus as Savior (and Lord) to submitting to (putting complete trust in) Jesus as Lord (and Savior) fundamentally changes the phenomenology (experience) of salvation. From seeing/experiencing God at work in me (first) to seeing God at work in the world (first) governing all things in Christ for His purposes. Into this I am saved." This shift also fundamentally changes the phenomenology of ecclesia (church).

When we say that we are establishing new ecclesia** (planting a church), we are in essence submitting to Jesus as Lord as he forms a community of people participating with God at work in the world via Christ’s governing. With Jesus as Lord, we begin to organize ourselves around his politics (way of being) and economics. The fruit of such work looks a lot less like a Sunday morning worship gathering and a lot more like local fraternal communities. I want to use the language of family here but my fear is that our view of family is still too nuclear.

A Debt Based Economy and the Church

One dominant narrative creating a significant amount of stress and anxiety for individuals is our debt based economy. The average student now graduates with close to $40K in student loan debt. (The figure would be much higher if you take out students who do not use student loans.) This means the average person is already $10K in debt after one year of adulthood. Add on car loans, credit cards, mortgages, etc., many many people struggle with stress and anxiety due to debt. Stress and anxiety cause many to feel as though they’re drowning.

In the world of autonomous Christian worship, the person drowning in debt, stress, and anxiety may come to a Sunday service seeking some form of hope, hear the message of “salvation” and say, “Yes! I need hope and salvation.” During the worship, the person may be crying out to God for help with the stress and anxiety while sitting right next to him are others thanking God for a new raise and bonus. Unfortunately, the thought of how the economics of Jesus could be drawing them together never cross their minds. In the economics of Jesus, the one who has much should discover ways to help the one with little. In this scenario above, the one who just got a raise and a bonus could learn how she may help the one filled with stress and anxiety.

In a communal ecclesia**, there are many ways for a person to be liberated from a debt based economy in order to learn to live into the economics of Jesus. At Hill City, we have discovered that as long as a person is in debt, they are not fully free to live fully live into the mission of God. A person in debt is more dependent upon their job, often forced to work longer hours, and their income is tied up paying banks interest while paying off loans. We are asking how to escape this reality so that we can spend more time with one another as well as our neighbors.

We have and are continuing to live together in order to share the burden of the high cost of living in Northern Virginia. Those in our community skilled in budgeting sit down with others to review their debts, spending habits, and teach them about money. And we are learning to share resources. My family couldn't afford to purchase a car several years ago, but we realized a neighbor also needed a car and had a different commuting schedule, so we pooled our money and purchased a car we shared together. This arrangement worked very well until yet another family gave us their old car when they purchased a van. When our neighbors, coworkers, and family learn of these stories they are always intrigued.

These practices are not in and of themselves church but they do begin to form and reveal the communal ecclesia in action. The person stuck in debt is not simply given the hope of Jesus but invited into our community as an act of his love. We make room for them in our home, share our resources, and learn to budget together. The result is a greater appreciation for the Way of Jesus and a stronger spirit of love and gratitude in the communal ecclesia. As the person feels more comfortable, their gifts and talents are revealed and bless the community as well.

The autonomous evangelical experience looks at the person with debt and says, “I will pray for you.” The autonomous progressive experience looks at him and says, “Your debt is an injustice!” But the communal ecclesial experience sees the person and their debt, invites them in and bears the burden with together.

 

**As I continue to work out a new imagination for the missional church I am interchanging some language. Especially language around the idea of church/ecclesia/local community. This is an intentional attempt to help break up our old imagination.

Sunday Is Not Church

Sunday Is Not Church

To be clear, when I am writing here about our motivations of revitalizing the Sunday experience and/or the 501c3, I am speaking of our inability to imagine planting a church where all roads don’t lead back to the Sunday morning experience, sound equipment, great music, excellent programs, and all.  

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We're Not a Post-Christian Culture

We're Not a Post-Christian Culture

Suggesting we now live in a post-Christian culture ignores the large minority of Christians and Christian culture that still exists. It also presumes that persons who ignore or reject the Church no longer have a Christian memory or familiarity with the Christian narrative. But most importantly it gives a false perspective of what a Christian culture is and is not.

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Is this the church?

church120Our family just got back from vacation. Family vacation these days means a cross-country trip to grandma’s house in Kansas. But don’t take this as a complaint. We had a phenomenal time with friends and family. Fishing, swimming, four-wheeling, boating and tubing, bocce ball, and Silver Dollar City with people we love beats private vacations and surreal views any day in my books. During the trip we were able to visit some old friends, and it just so happened the night we visited they hosting our old church for a cookout and party. On our way to the party we drove by the church building we used to attend, so Robin pointed it out to the kids. Her exact words were, “Hey kids, there is the church building mommy and daddy first attended together.” Safari, who loves looking at our old photos and wedding album, asked if the girl with the orange hair and other little boy go there. We both got a chuckle and said yes.

The girl with orange hair and the little boy were two of the first people we saw at the party, and neither is little anymore. They have both grown up! Lydia is a beautiful seventeen-year-old, and John is a twenty-three-year-old world adventurer now.

The party was in a field down by the pond. As we were walking down you could hear lots of commotion but you could not see anyone. You could hear the kids screaming and yelling, expressing their joy and excitement of swimming and kayaking around the pond. You could also hear the adults laughing and enjoying one another’s stories. A real sense of excitement welled up within me from the energy of the crowd, as we approached. When we turned the corner around the trees and could see everyone, my daughter Safari asked, “Daddy is this the church?”

She had seen the building and now she has seen the church!

Family Rhythms 3 - Breakfast and Dinner

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I was at a workshop this Saturday and was unable to make Pancake Saturday happen. Guess what Sojo asked for when he woke up on Sunday? Yep. Pancakes! It became Pancake Sunday this weekend. This is once again one of the coolest things about having family rhythms. My son is just a little over two years old, 27 months, and he knows that Saturdays are Pancake day. Since I was not home on Saturday he wanted them on Sunday. He did not ask for them Monday through Friday, but as soon as the weekend came he was ready to make pancakes! My goal with this series is to give a glimpse into our world and how we make it go around. There is nothing brilliant or unusual about our life rhythms and that is what I think makes them so special. We sometimes have the tendency of overlooking simple practices that make life easier. I share these practices and rhythms as examples that you may be able to incorporate or they may spark other possible ideas that work better for you.

We are not the family that has breakfast at the table every morning. We generally eat a bit on the run but each morning we stop and ask our kids two questions. First, what are you excited about today (opportunity)? Second, what do you want to happen today (hope)? Our goal here is two-fold. We want to acknowledge the Father's presence in our day and we want to build an expectation for the day. A person who faces the day with excitement and expectation sees the world through a different lens than a person who views their day in fear or apathy. We pray and thank the Father and Son for our opportunities and ask them to fill our hopes through the presence of the Spirit.

The Father has sent us out as bearers of life. Life consists of love, joy and peace among other things. Love and joy are hidden in apathy and fear diminishes the presence of peace. Excitement and expectation are contagious if authentic.

Our morning prayers gives us a chance to review and prepare for the days events.

Before dinner we share what we are thankful for that day. We do this by asking "what made you happy today?" (blessings). We also ask "Did anything make you sad today? (need for peace). This helps us to hear about their day through their own eyes. Sometimes their answers are amazing and sometimes they are seriously crazy, but it is still fun all the same. Afterwards we give thanks to the Father for the blessings and ask Jesus to give us peace in the difficulties.

In raising Kingdom focused men and women, we want our children to know that all blessings and opportunities flow from their Father in Heaven and that Jesus, their Messiah and King, focus and source of peace in difficult times.

Our dinner prayer helps us reflect and debrief on the days events.

Parenting Pt. 10 - Tia and The Impala

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A while back I told a friend I was thinking about getting an impala tattoo. He was surprised saying he did not realize I was a car guy, especially a Chevy guy (since my cars are not Chevy). I laughed and explained that an impala is an African antelope. An impala has amazing physical abilities; these include being able to jump ten feet high, over 30 feet long, and they can run up to 56 mph! In my opinion that is pretty awesome. What makes them spectacular though is that if you place them inside a three foot fence from the time of birth, they will never jump over it. Why? Because they do not know they can! This my friends, is maybe the single most amazing parenting value Robin and I hold. All that potential wasted because of a three foot fence! Our children are capable of WAY more than we give them credit or opportunity for, but the American Dream we find our culture thriving off of places three foot fences our children from the moment they enter life. From hiding our babies from the world, to crazy strict schedules, to constantly holding and comforting our children, to the "be careful" 's and "get down before you hurt yourself" 's, to our CRAZY over reactions when our children fall down or bruise their knees. We are consumed with protecting our children, which gives them an incredible fear of the world and trying anything a bit risky. Helicopter parents are on the rise.

I have forever been marked by my friends on Kauai. My Kauai ohana are some crazy adventurous people. There is not a lot of things they are unwilling to try or do. They will eat about anything you ask them to eat, do about any dare them to do, and get as dirty as you want to get. They absolutely love risk and adventure.

Tia baby I could not figure out what made them so crazy until one day at Kipu Falls. We were there with the Nagao-Agustin's enjoying good times. A little girl named Tia (2-yrs-old) was playing in one of the pools of water when all the sudden she fell in and started sinking to the bottom of the pool. It was like in the movies. Here eyes were open looking up with her hands raised towards the surface as she was sinking. Her dad and I were talking about something when it happened. In mid-sentence he looks over reaches down, pulls her out and sets right back where she was WITHOUT breaking conversation. It was like no big deal to him OR HER. Tia did not cry, Timmy did not freak out and no one else told him to pay attention or move her away from the water. No one made a big deal about it! Including myself.

I am quite positive he does not even remember the incident but it was here that I committed to use the words "be careful" or "you could have hurt yourself" as little as possible.

Irresponsible? Some might suggest Timmy was being irresponsible, but he was not. He new where she was and what she was doing. When she fell in, he was there. She did not drown and was not hurt. And she is not afraid of the water. What Timmy did was show his daughter that he was there for her. Things happen and the sooner we get back on our feet the sooner we can begin enjoying life again. He did not mean to show her this, it just happened. Fast forward this years later and you now have a girl willing to try and do just about anything. She is willing to take on risk and adventure.

Too many children develop life long fears because of situations like these. Whether it is dog incidents, water incidents, heights or something else. Our response to situations like these tells them more than what actually happens. They look to us to see if what just happened is an "oops" or if it is something that should not be attempted or encountered again.

I'm a ladder maker, not a fence builder I don't want to build fences around my children that were never meant to be there. I have to trust that the Father is watching over them.

BUT please hear me. I am not saying Robin and I are trying to raise stunt devils. Robin and I take the safety of our children serious, but we face safety issues in a different manner.

When our kids start showing an interest in the stairs we do not freak out and yell at them to stay away less they get hurt. Instead, we teach them how to use the stairs. Yes, we use baby gates but we also teach them how to slide down the stairs. When they want to use the fireman's pole on the playground, we do not warn them to stay away. We help them learn how to go down it. We try to never tell our kids they cannot do something. We try to help them figure how they can do it. Sometimes this means learning initial steps before actually attempting the grand feat. In doing this we make a ladder that helps them accomplish their goals.

The cool thing about this approach to safety is that our kids are typically a bit more physically advanced than others kids and a bit more confident in trying and doing new things. BUT the best thing about it is that they know their boundaries better than most kids. They have developed a great sense of their abilities. You would think they would get hurt more than most, but they actually get hurt less.

Overcoming falls And when they fall off their bike, trip or get punched by another kid, we do not rush to the rescue. We sit back and watch them overcome the situation. When our kids get hurt we help try to turn their expression of the pain in a different direction. Safari would say "wah-ka-wah-ka" when she would fall and hurt herself. We do not have a clue what it means, other than that it takes her mind off the pain. It took her a while to realize she is "supposed" to cry when she starts bleeding. The first time she realized she was bleeding, she asked what it was. She was three years old before she really knew what a band-aid was. But now that she has seen child and parent alike freak out at the sight of blood she will cry and ask for a band aid. Most often we laugh, tell her she does not need one and give her one anyway.

Please do not hear me comparing my kids to other kids. This is something I do not participate in. I do not care if my child is more athletic, smarter, tougher, daring or beautiful than another kid. My identity is not wrapped up in measuring my child against another. What I am concerned with is developing within them a sense of confidence and willingness to try and do anything God asks them to do. The best way I can do this is to challenge them to try new things, to overcome challenging obstacles, do risky things from time to time, and not freak out when they get hurt.

Our children, like impalas, are capable of great things.

PLEASE feel free to push back on me here. I want to ensure I am getting across the right message. I am IN NO WAY advocating irresponsible parenting. Erwin McMann, in his book The Barbarian Way, tells the story of his son wanting to jump off the roof of their house. His son asked his permission to jump and to his wife's surprise, Erwin said yes! His first reason was that he would rather him jump while he was near in case something happened. A boy has to jump at some point, better if their is some supervision. His second reason is that he didn't want to build a fence. I love his quote that I will end with here,

I’ve seen far too many kids raised in Christian homes who are indifferent towards Jesus and often carry a great disdain for the church. Sometimes it’s the result of blatant hypocrisy, but other times it’s the result of nothing less than sheer monotony and boredom. We raise our children in the cocoon of a domesticated faith and wonder why they run as far as they can to find adventure.

The picture for this blog is of Tia's sister Tianne. Tianne knifed (yes, took a knife and killed this boar for dinner) all by herself. Tia and Tianne are just two examples of fun and crazy girls on Kauai.

Parenting Pt 8 - The Purse

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Have you ever been told or felt like life is over after having a child? Many many many people feel this way AND IT DRIVES ROBIN AND I CRAZY. Too be fair, we had previously experience in dealing with the "life will be over" syndrome. We got married at a young age. People continuously told us we were crazy. They explained how we would miss out on so much in life, and how life as we knew it would be over. We discovered life is a choice, you can either live it or wait to die. Life is like a wild river, you can either grab a kayak and ride the rapids or sit on the bank and observe its beauty. Eventually beauty gets lost on most people. The funny thing is that Robin and I have experienced much more life than many of our well-meaning critics AND WE HAVE EXPERIENCED IT TOGETHER! The same goes for having children. I hope by now it is easy to see that the Robin and I value doing life with people. We believe this is the most biblical model of life. Jesus did life with His disciples, the church in Acts ate together daily, and Paul was always surrounded by people. But how is it possible to do this with a child?

The Purse Child The greatest advice we ever received when it came to raising children was to treat them like a purse. This is Robin's favorite principle in raising kids. The purse theory says that you invite your child into your routine, rather than adjusting to their routine. Remember, your infants are like sponges. They are constantly developing and forming habits, and they do so VERY quickly. So like introducing your child to community, you need to invite them into your routine as soon as possible.

Flexibility There are A LOT of advantages to treating your child like a purse. The first is an EXTREMELY flexible child. As I have said before, Sojo is our introvert and more "whiney" child. He is cautious towards people and dd not like being dropped off places. But notice I said he "did" not like being dropped off. He has and is still learning how to adjust. There are not many places we are afraid to take our children, because there are not many situations they are not familiar with. Our kids do not hang in our shadow when we go new places. When they cry and act up, we teach them how to act properly and/or discipline their bad behavior.

The world revolves around who? What does it tell a child when the whole day is built around their needs? Yes, I realize that an infant is an infant. I also realize that a child in like a sponge. If you show them life revolves around them, then they will act like the world revolves around them. At what point are you going to break this habit? I see many 2-yr-olds, 4-yr-olds, 16-yr-olds, 25-yr-olds, etc. who believe the world revolves around them. Treating your child like a purse shows them they are a part of a larger story. Eventually they will learn this story is about a Kingdom and serving this Kingdom, and in this Kingdom they will be called to lose themselves. So why not have this end in mind from the beginning? I know, I know. This is a bit drastic right? Uhm...I never said we are not radically purposeful in our parenting :). Your child is a sponge. From the moment they are born they are figuring out how to operate in this world.

Confidence Treating your child like a purse instills unintentional and unconscious confidence in them. Almost every task and experience you learn and achieve in life gives you a bit more confidence. Your children will experience so many different things from how to meet people to how to love, share, give, and laugh with friends, family and others. These are free life lessons! You don't even know you are doing them. The acceptance and love they get from others will tell them they are valuable, this will give them great self-esteem. We ask our children "Who loves you? as part of our bed time routine. In addition to mom, dad and siblings, they include Uncle Choe Choe, Uncle Eric, Aunt Katie, Uncle Tyler, Shahannah, Achilles, etc. HOW DO THEY KNOW THIS? WHY DO THEY FEEL THIS WAY? Because these are people they have done life with on an almost daily or at least weekly basis. These are TRUE and REAL relationships. There is not a moment in any of our kids lives that they can remember not interacting with our friends and family. Even with Kanoa (our 5-month-old), there is not a day that goes by that someone in our life community does not hold and play with him. HE KNOWS HE IS LOVED!

Schedules and Routines? What about sleep and sleep routines? I know many of you will or do think we are crazy, but your kids can and will learn to sleep whenever and wherever they need. They only need the routine because you have introduced them to the routine. One of two things happen when you build your routine around you child's routine. You either force your friends and community to adjust there routine or schedule to meet your babies needs (uhm...reinforcing that the world does revolve around your baby syndrome), or you pull away from your friends and community and life ends as you know it. Marriages that pull away from friends and community REALLY struggle.

Remember when I said purse kids are extremely flexible? Our kids will literally sleep anywhere. The picture for today is Sojo sleeping at the restaurant last night. We go as a family our for half-priced burgers on Tuesday nights. Sojo fell asleep while waiting for a table, so we laid him on Robin's coat beside our table. They can sleep in Uncle Andrew's basement, on the ground of a restaurant, or in the car. If you start treating your child like a purse from the very beginning they will sleep in their car seat before moving to the floor. We have friends who take their pack'n'plays around with them everywhere.

Who is the Potter? Someone is going to have to adjust, either the parent or the child. For Robin and I, this was and never will be a question. Why? Because we have been invited into a Kingdom that requires our service. There are people God has called us to do life with, to love and serve. We have offered our lives up as a living sacrifice. The greatest gift we can give our children is an invitation into this life and work alongside us. In parenting like our Heavenly Father, it is not Him who adjusts to our will but rather we adjust to His. Too many Christians serve a god they can mold with their hands, but the God Robin and I serve is the potter and we are the clay. In mirroring how He parents, our children are the clay and we are the potters. They adjust to us, not the other way around.

Parenting Pt 6 - Uncle Andrew

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I will never forget the first time Uncle Andrew disciplined my daughter. Safari was the first child to be born among our friends and with that honor came much attention and grace. She could do no wrong and had everyone wrapped around her pinky. Then came Uncle Andrew (not her real uncle). I wish I could remember what it was she did. More than likely she was interrupting conversation. All I remember is Andrew saying something like, "What are you doing?" before telling her to stop. She looked at him as if to say, "Who do you think you are?" and then looked at me as if I were going to tell him what was up. To be honest I was a bit taken back myself because Andrew came with a bit of force, which was something I was not quite use to. But I stayed back and observed. They had their show down but eventually Andrew won out. In Friday's blog we talked about introducing your baby to community as soon as possible and as much as possible. Hanging out with friends and family will give you a break, help others learn to interact with children and enjoy their blessings, and stretch your children making them more flexible individuals. The benefit of community goes far beyond these three factors and today I want to focus on a few more that will help your child's development.

Social Behavior If we are honest, our kids pretty much rule the roost when it comes to being at home. They are the center of attention and deservedly so. If they are not, they should be. Robin and I try our best (Robin better than I) to be completely present when we are at home. This means no phones, computers, iPad's, Kindles, etc. Our kids get 100% of our attention and because of this, they know they are loved. This reality requires a community to do life with though.

When our kids get all our attention they begin to expect it and even demand it. This was probably the case with Safari and Andrew. Kids need to learn to be patient and wait their turn. Being in community gives them this chance. It is rude to interrupt conversation or constantly draw attention away from others. How can we expect them to know this if we do not expose them to larger settings? Having a community of people you do life with gives children an opportunity to learn proper behavior among people who love and care for them. So when you go for dinner out in public, you may be less embarrassed.

Sharing is Caring We constantly have people at our house. At least twice a week we have friends (who we call family) over for dinner and hang out. Safari and Sojo get excited whenever Robin or I begin cleaning the house because they know people are coming over. Safari starts going through her toys deciding which toys she is going to share with her friends. Last night we had seven kids running around our house and no arguments over toys! Safari LOVES to share and give, and Sojo is learning

When a child is rarely introduced to community and use to having everything to themselves, they become incredibly self-centered. We get embarrassed and irritated when they do not share or get along, but this is not their fault. They have no capacity for sharing because they have not had the opportunity to do so. Living in community helps children learn to share and get along with others. They develop a love and devotion for their friends just as you and I do for our friends. Safari and Sojo love their friends and are constantly thinking of them. They always want to pray for their friends when it comes to night time prayer. When we go to Target they do not say I want this or I want that. These words rarely come from their mouth. Instead they say, we should by this for so and so.

No more Mr. Mean Guy The greatest thing about involving kids in deep community is that you are no longer the mean mommy or daddy. Why? Because everyone is reinforcing each other. If I am the only one telling Safari not to interrupt people or telling Sojo not to play with his food, then I am ruining their fun. But if Uncle Andrew is telling Safari to chill out and wait her turn, then it becomes a way of life. Why? Because it is coming from more than one source. Living in a community of people who will reinforce proper social behavior shows your kids that you are not just a mean mommy.  The community Robin and I live in teach our kids a lot about life. They help reinforce our way of living and interacting in social settings.

Conclusion We asked Safari what she wanted to do for her fourth birthday party last month. Guess what her response was? "Uhm...I'm going to have a slumber party at Uncle Andrew's house." Seriously. Safari not only submitted to Uncle Andrew's discipline, but he has become one of her favorites. When a friend disciplines your child (in a proper manner) it may feel odd at first, but it is essential. Doing life with family (friends or literal family) is one of the best things Robin and I have done for our children.

How has your community helped you raise your children?