THE “GOD” QUESTION

  • Your seven-year-old shares: “Michael says I’m going to hell because I don’t believe in God.”
  • The parent of your child’s friend asks: “Thanks for offering to take Caroline to church with you tomorrow, but I have to admit I’m pretty ignorant about Unitarian Universalism. You DO believe in God, right?”
  • Your parent declares: “You can raise your children however you like but please don’t ask me to refrain from sharing my religious beliefs with my grandchildren. When they come to spend a weekend with me, they will hear me thank God when reciting our dinner grace and thelight at end of bridgey will accompany us to mass on Sunday mornings.”

Many parents arrive in my office asking for help in talking to their children about God or in responding to situations like those described above.  In fact, if there are two topics that bring more requests for advice, one would be God and the other, death.

We offered a curriculum and activities last month to help with the latter (“Lessons of Loss”), but what about God? December offers a perfect opportunity to discuss this topic. Even if you celebrate the “holiday season” in a purely secular way, your children will be hearing about Christmas and Hanukkah and they deserve to hear the stories behind each.  We certainly share them here as part of our effort to religiously educate your children but we need your help if these stories are to stick/make sense.

We invite our parents to take advantage of the opportunities offered here to bring up the topic of God with their children.  Our Coming of Age youth will wrestle with the concept on Sunday, December 13, first by attending the service and then as part of the Sunday night meeting.  Our elementary and middle schoolers will each spend a Sunday morning on the topic.

Talking to your children can be easier than you think.  I offer you these words by Gabrielle Ricketts, a member of All Souls (UU) Church, Tulsa.

I SPY GOD IN THE . . .

Driving home from church my daughter stated factually, “Did you know God lives in the clouds?”

Understanding her to mean a very literal view of God, the Michelangelo version of God resting on a cloud or the kingdom of heaven cached behind some cumulus barrier, I was a little disappointed.  I hoped I’d done a better job at steering her away from anthropomorphizing the divine through books and stories and talks over the years.

I then asked my son where he thought God lives.  Quite matter-of-factually he said, “God lives in the grass.” Sophie theGod is ...n said, “Maybe God is in the rainbow.”  Zane countered with extending God to trees and frogs.  Sophie elaborated to air, flowers, and birds.  Zane thought he would add the telephone pole.  I encouraged everything, giving a brief eyebrow raise to the telephone pole because for me God was THIS conversation with my children . . . : “When two or more are gathered in his name.”

For some time now I have made a hobby of appreciating the divine in the everyday.  Picking up clues to the mystery that is God the way kids pick up sea shells.  So far some of the most inspiriting samples in my collection include: creating another life (conception to childbirth), the periodic table of elements, compassion and forgiveness, the laws of physics, laughter of children, unconditional love from a pet, the changing of the seasons, inspiration during the creative process, ocean waves,and the colors of tropical fish.

How do you understand God?  This search of discovering, questioning, defining, rejecting, and understanding takes a life time if you are lucky and paying attention.  Share your journey with your family.

 

Snapshots

I recently read a blog post by a mother of a 20-month old daughter who shared her approach for capturing the “fleeting moments” of her daughter’s childhood, moments during which “I can’t blink for fear of them being over.”  She wrote: “A few months ago, I tried something new. When Emma and I are snuggling on the bed or laughing or dancing, I pretend to take a picture. ‘Snap!’ I say, while clicking my   finger down on an imaginary camera. I can try to take pictures with my iPhone, but by the time I look at the photo, the moment is over. I understand now that I can’t really capture them. Instead, I am reminded of our conBLOG OCTstant impermanence.”

I was struck by this use of an imaginary camera because I have done this same thing this for years.
The older I get, the more time seems to fly by—and the more aware I am of the transient nature of my life, of ALL our lives. So I find myself sitting on my patio alone except for the birds and the breeze, standing in a mountain meadow in awe of all the flowers in bloom, watching my son gazing at his bride as he slips a ring on her finger, laughing with my friends as we play yet another game of hearts, hugging my mother good by (“will this be the last time?”) – and I’m taking imaginary pictures of all of these scenes.

Sometimes I actually hold up my fingers to frame my shot but more often than not, it’s all in my mind. I have found just the mental effort of pretending to take the picture actually does make it more real, more precious. In an hour’s time, I may be somewhere else and in a day’s time, I may well have forgotten the details of my earlier activities. But in that moment, I was grateful.

Life with children can sometimes be so hectic, it can be difficult to appreciate the swirling life around you. I offer you this tool of the imaginary camera. Use it to capture those “fleeting moments” —including those moments that you may not necessarily describe as sweet. Just by virtue of pulling out that imaginary camera, your perception and appreciation change. The next time you find yourself out walking through the neighborhood with your three young children to avoid the baby crying and the boys throwing blocks at each other, try taking that imaginary picture of the four of you, walking and talking and laughing.
And appreciate it as a snapshot of a time that will never, ever, ever be repeated.

Trust me. There is no camera in the world that can truly capture these beautiful, magical moments anyway.

………….

This post was written as a reflection on our congregation’s October theme of “transience”.

Additional Resources on this Topic:

BLOG POSTS:
“Some Things Aren’t Permanent”
http://www.huffi ngtonpost.com/david-vienna/somethings-
arent-permanent_b_7339230.html

“Kids Ask About Death”
http://longestshortesttime.com/episode-65-kidsask-
about-death/

“Even God Had His Bad Parenting Days”
http://www.kveller.com/even-god-had-his-bad-parenting-days/

A great resource for books and helpful comments:
http://longestshortesttime.com/picture-books-to-help-kids-understand-death/

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