Everyday Stories

The thing about living in God’s big story is that it is made up of our everyday stories. The key is to begin to locate our stories within God’s story – how does what my life, what I’m doing, relate to what God’s life, what God is doing or has done in the world?

Isaiah's Pillar of Mulch

I was reminded of this recently when I took our boys to the local park. It was a mild August morning, and after Ezra awoke from his nap, I took both of them to the “park with the playground.” Isaiah is old enough to entertain himself at the playground, which means I can chill with Ezra as he chills in the stroller. Once Isaiah had tried out most pieces of playground equipment, we began a trek around nature trail in the park. We looked at worms, bees, butterflies, and trees – we even played with the sprinkler (shh, don’t tell).

At one point, we came across a pile of mulch leftover from some recent landscaping. The pile was off the trail a bit, but Isaiah kept going down to it, grabbing it in his hands, and bringing it back to the trail. He enlisted my help as we created a new, smaller pile of mulch on the trail.

Then it occurred to me that we were acting out our own version of the story of Jacob’s ladder (Gn 28:10-22). After Jacob’s dream where he sees angels ascending and descending a heavenly stairway, and God restates the promise that was given to Abraham and Isaac:

I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring. I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.

When Jacob awakes and remembers his dream, he is awestruck by his encounter with God and sets up a stone as a pillar, a marker to remind himself and all others who pass by that this place is holy ground.

Isaiah’s pile of mulch is a witness to the same thing. Our story that day was the fellowship of a father with his sons, and in the setting of God’s beautiful creation, we were living in the promise that was given to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – we have been blessed through them, and God is with us. Our story is God’s story.

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Trying not to be a McFamily

I remember being in college and watching a video in one of my business classes of the genius of Ray Kroc, the man who made McDonald’s the international fast food icon it is today. One of the things I remember about the video is that Ray believed in efficiency. Part of his overall genius was finding ways to streamline the process of providing food to customers. mcdonalds-3One of those was the multi-mixer milkshake machine (which Ray was a salesman for before buying out the McDonald’s brothers), which could mix multiple milkshakes at the same time. And that is what McDonald’s and all fast food restaurants are known for today…efficiency and speed. In fact, these values have seeped into every part of American life – how we work, how we play, how we live at home, and even how we parent!

Something that we’re learning in raising our kids is that trying to be a McFamily doesn’t really work. When I interact with our 2 ½ year old with efficiency and speed in mind, I am usually thwarted. Things such as eating supper, taking a bath, reading books, getting ready for bed, and playing ‘chase me’ are not meant to be efficient and speedy. They are times for me to engage meaningfully with him, and in turn I learn that slow down my pace of life so that I can enjoy the moment we’re in.

The best example is bedtime. Isaiah is now in his big boy bed, but staying his big boy bed is not always easy for him. I would like to just tell him to go to bed, and be done. But that’s not how it works. Bedtime entails stories, prayers, songs, and laying beside him as he gets sleepy. I don’t usually stay until he falls asleep, but taking extra time to be with him, makes a huge difference in how the rest of the night will go. If I rush him into bed with threats of time-outs and spankings, it makes him want to stay up all the more. If I take the time to do it right, focus on being with him, and embrace those moments we get together, then we’re both a lot happier and sleep much better.