Children as Children

November 12, 2008

children at the puppet theatre - paris.jpg

I love this photo.

It’s taken by a photo journalist named Alfred Eisenstaedt whose probably best known for this photo. The photo of the children, above, was taken in Paris at a puppet show just as the dragon was being slain.

The expression of each child in this photo is wonderful.

The girl with her right arm outstretched is trying to tell the dragon (or the slayer) something.
The girl in front of her is freaking. I can hear her screaming, all the way from 1963.
The boy at the far left can’t bear to listen, but must keep watching.
The girl just under the outstretched arm looks like she just had one of her lower molars taken out.
The girl at the far right–the one with the glasses and dark hair–reminds me of this guy.
And my favourite: the girl just right of centre, at the front, with her arm around her friend…priceless. Simply priceless.

Children are so full of wonder and delight. I suppose that’s why I like this photo so much. Each child responds to the world before them differently, but each response, each reaction is real. There’s nothing holding them back; they are who they are. If they’re unhappy, they’ll cry. If they’re glad, they’ll smile. My nephew the other day broke out in a heart-wrenching, red-faced, waterfall-of-tears cry. Why? Because there was no more ice cream. Ha! (I have it on video; I know, I’m cruel)

This photo also resonates with me because I’ve been reading this neat book called The Mystery of the Child by Martin E. Marty. I haven’t finished it, so I can’t comment about the whole book…but Marty’s argument fascinates me. Here’s his thesis:

…the provision of care for children will proceed on a radically revised and improved basis if instead of seeing the child first as a problem faced with a complex of problems, we see her as a mystery surrounded by mystery. The need to deal with problems will, of course, be pressing in the case of every child, but if this need dominates the thoughts and actions of those who provide care, much of the wonder and joy of relating to children will be shrouded or even lost.

Marty spends the whole book describing and defining what he means by mystery. And though I’ve not read the entire book yet, I get it. I know what he’s getting at. Children are better at wonder and mystery, than adults are…and I think this is a bit of what Jesus meant when he said we must all become like children to enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 18:3).

I’ll probably post more thoughts on this book in the future, but I should say now it is changing the way I think about my work with youth and also the way I think about parenting. No, I’m not becoming a parent soon. But I look forward to it, and what Marty advises actually excites me even more about children and relating to children.

If you like the photo (above) also, you’ll like this too.

Prayer and Theology

December 31, 2007

Good thoughts on prayer and systematic theology by Joe Thorn.

reimagining evangelism

January 3, 2007

reimagining evangelism

I read this brief book review of a new book by Rick Richardson called Reimagining Evangelism: Inviting Friends on a Spiritual Journey, and it got me thinking things I want to remember:

– St. Francis telling his followers: “Preach the gospel always. And use words if necessary.”

– “…we first need to rid ourselves of this unhealthy image of evangelism as ‘closing the deal’ on some impersonal spiritual sales call.” The proposed alternative looks more like a “travel guide” who invites those around to notice what’s already there. The whole “journey” thing.

– As followers of Christ, we’re all “collaborators with the Holy Spirit in guiding people on a spirtual journey.” The job’s not just for those with a special gift, but for everyone…we’re all empowered to point others to God.

The paragraph of the review that grabbed me most was the second to last paragraph.

– Entire communities have a role in evangelism. No longer the one-to-one thing. Conversion is “not to be seen as a ‘me and God thing,’ but instead as a family affair…”

missional church basics

September 28, 2006

A pertinent question asked for quite some time, but also a question that many churches I know of (including mine!) are asking: What in the World is the Missional Church? Jonathan Leeman writes a pretty thorough article answering this very question. Here’s an excerpt:

[The church] doesn’t exist to draw people to itself and merely perpetuate its own institutional life, as was professedly the case throughout the history of “Christendom.” Rather, the church exists to proclaim the kingdom of God among men and women. By the same token, the unbiblical and church-centered language of “expanding” or “building” the kingdom of God is dropped, and the more biblical, God-centered language of “seeking,” “receiving,” or “entering” God’s kingdom is adopted.

Conversion is not just a profession of faith in Christ. Salvation is not only the rescue of the individual’s soul from the threat of God’s retribution. The gospel is not merely the news of what God has done in Christ to pardon individual sinners. [8] Rather, the gospel, salvation, and conversion are construed much more “holistically” or “comprehensively,” with ethical implications for every dimension of life and the message of reconciliation, justice, peace, healing, liberation, and love for the entire world: “and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross” (Col. 1:20, NRSV).

Seeking, receiving or entering God’s kingdom. To me, especially in regards to what I’ve been thinking about lately, this means God’s kingdom determines the structures (form, method and approach). Learning what this kingdom looks like and is all about is of first importance.  Determining structures should stem from what God’s kingdom looks like and is all about.
A great resource for Missional Church musings can be found at the blog of Kevin Cawley, a ThM student at Regent. Check it out.  I’ve found it very helpful.


September 14, 2006

Came across this course reading list at Seattle Pacific University’s School of Theolgy. Quite interesting. The course is titled Multi-Ethnic Ministries, and it has a lot of interesting observations and reflections on the Chinese Church in America. What surprised me is that the American Chinese Church has been thinking and living a lot of the things I’ve been thinking about regarding the future of Chinese churches in Canada (particularly Vancouver-Richmond).

Of the numerous issues raised and addressed in these readings, Ken Shigematsu’s article (I think it’s really dated) Ethnic Must Become Multi-ethnic, really strikes a chord. There are two ways of being church: target a homogeneous unit (all Chinese) or go for multi-ethnic. Shigematsu makes his stance clear, quoting an urban minsitry leader named John Perkins:

Homogeneity does not mirror the image of God. It cheapens the people who proclaim it and mocks God’s call for us to be agents of reconciliation. What makes it even more harmful is how it is justified: If we are segregated, more people will come and hear the Gospel, which in turn advances the kingdom of God … At the same time it increases the size of churches’ membership, it retards their spiritual growth.

I’ve faced this ‘tension’ before. I remember talking to a fellow Regent student a number of years back, and asked about the ‘validity’ of ethnic churches. I was stumped. She made the same points as Perkins above, and I couldn’t come up with a response. I’ve been thinking about it every since.  And I have come to some conclusions, but continue to think about it.

Shigematsu, of course, is currently senior pastor of the “flagship” Alliance church in BC, Tenth Avenue Alliance Church. It’s well known for its multi-ethnic congregation. And I think it’s great. (Try to count the number of nationalities on their home page!) It’s so good, I know of a number of my CBC friends go there instead of the Chinese churches they’ve grown up in.

I wonder where local Chinese churches are heading.

I agree with Shigematsu. Ethnic must become multi-ethnic. But before the question of how, I’m wondering when.


Once in a while I come across another Eugene Peterson article I don’t expect. Before today, I’ve never read this article from the Christian Century (November 2003). I figure it was written about the time Peterson began his multi-volume work on Spiritual Theology, the first of which bears a title borrowed from a line from this Gerald Manley Hopkin’s sonnet:

As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame;
As tumbled over rim in roundy wells
Stones ring; like each tucked string tells, each hung
Bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad its name;
Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:
Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;
Selves—goes itself; myself it speaks and spells,
Crying What I do is me: for that I came.

I say more: the just man justices;
Keeps grace: that keeps all his goings graces;
Acts in God’s eye what in God’s eye he is—
Christ—for Christ plays in ten thousand places,
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
To the Father through the features of men’s faces.

This article is classic Peterson. I’ll be ruminating over it in the next while. Integrity. Congruence. Spirituality. Congregation. Scripture. Worship. His usual pointed and cutting shot at American (and, Canadian too!) consumerism in churches. All these words, thoughts and themes weaved into a definition (or rather a beautiful canvas of words) of what it means to be contemplative.

There’s so much for me to take from this article. From being pastor, to leading minsitry, to worship, to scripture…to my relationships. “Don’t rush,” is what I hear. “Don’t sell out the gospel.”