Face Time

“The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.”  Numbers 6:24-26

My favorite part of the worship service at the church of my youth was the end.  Not because it was over, but because every single week the pastor would raise his hands and pronounce a powerful blessing over the congregation.  Most of the time he would use the words of the Aaronic benediction found in Numbers 6:24-26.  By the time I was a teenager I could recite this passage from memory.  It was after college that I began to wonder what these words meant and why they are said at the end of almost every service.

I began to study and discovered something more than I had ever expected.  God commanded Aaron to bless the Israelites using words they would all recognize from just after they had fled Egypt.  God was giving Moses instructions to bring His people to the promised land and Moses wanted reassurance that God was leading the way.  The Lord’s response to his request was “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” Ex. 33:14  The phrase “My Presence” can literally be translated as “My Face”.  So, when God commanded Aaron to bless the Israelites using the words “face shine upon you” and “turn his face towards you” He was reminding His people that He was “present”.  He was saying, “you are OK my children, I am here, I will keep you safe, I am present, you do not have to worry, have peace.”

Whenever I hear or read this passage from Numbers I substitute “My Presence” for “face”.  I love the idea of the Lord’s face representing His presence.  As He turns His face towards me I sense that He is present and that we are connected in relationship.  I recently made a link between the power of the Lord’s presence or face to bring His children peace, and the power of a parent’s presence or face, to bring their child peace.

The “still face” experiment (see video above) is a demonstration of the power of presence to bring peace.  When the mother is fully engaged and responsive to the child, the child is calm, playful, and feels safe.  As the mother literally turns her face from the child, she becomes scared, confused, and upset.  I can’t help but draw the parallels between how the Lord relates to us, and how we relate to our children.  The Father promises, “My Presence” will go with you, and I will give you rest.”  I can be confident that the Father is always with me protecting, loving, and connecting.

I am struck by the importance of my being present with my children when I am home.  It is so tempting to check out after an exhausting day at work.  To prop them in front of a tv show or video game, to read the paper, surf the net, or watch the game.  It is important as parents to bless our children with our true, undivided presence.  It is important to shut out all distractions whether external or internal to focus powerfully on our children.  When we turn our faces towards them connecting our heart with theirs we have the power to bring them peace.   

Let’s hear it for the boys Part 2: Self-Control

“Encourage the young men to be self-controlled.  In everything set them an example by doing what is good.” Titus 2:6

My last post focused on meekness; defined as “constrained power”.    I proposed that the characteristics of boys that are sometimes viewed as weaknesses could be harnessed as strengths.  I continue to explore the topic in this post with a practical example of turning “out of control into self-control.”

 

A mom I know told me the story of a recent day in her household.   It was a day that all parents of boys experience periodically.  They seemed to wake-up with more energy than normal, from the moment the day began all three of her boys were moving at break neck speed.  She ushered them through breakfast, clothes, brushing teeth, combing hair, packing bags, and off to school.  As she ran her daily errands she thought, “The afternoon would be better”.  This being the first frigidly cold day of the year, the normal afternoon spent outside running off energy was not an option.  So, as the boys returned home from school and finished their snack, things were not looking up.  There continued to be a sense of craziness in their behavior.  Kids were running and screaming, toys were being thrown, doors slammed, and mom was getting frazzled.  Mom, and the boys, were getting out of control.

Mom took a few deep breaths, put aside the things she “needed to get done” and created a game.  “Come here boys, and stand in a line” she said.  “Run up the stairs!”  “Slide down the stairs!” “Skip through the kitchen!” “5 jumping jacks!” “Crab walk around the table!”  “5 sit-ups!”  “Up the stairs again!”  All three boys eagerly completed each set of instructions, laughing and giggling their way back to the living room for the next plan of action.  Finally, mom lined the boys up in front of her.  Bringing her voice to a calm whisper she said, “Now, go down stairs and play, while I get dinner started.” The boys played alone for 30 minutes and for another hour with mom close by and involved.

I was inspired by this mother’s creativity.  Rather than being overwhelmed with the emotion and stress of the situation, she was able to create an experience of self-control.  I was struck by 4 things that enabled her to move her boys from being out of control to self-control.

Stay Calm:

            This mom fought the urge to become angry, overwhelmed, or frustrated.  She was able to maintain her self-control and acted as an excellent example to her boys by “doing what was good.”  As she put aside the things she “needed to get done” she was able to reduce the stress caused by daily concerns.  She gave herself a time-out, taking a few calming breaths before deciding how to handle the situation.

Provide Structure:

            When boys are experiencing high levels of energy, their behavior can become chaotic.  This mother recognized that the problem was not the level of energy but its focus.  She provided a focus for their energy at a time when they were struggling to do it on their own.  Her focus, helped the boys experience their high energy as a positive rather than a negative.

Matched Energy Level:

            This mom was attuned to what her boys needed.  They needed a chance to burn off some energy.  It would take more than a “no” to harness these horses.  She met their high level of energy with an equally high-energy alternative.  The need of the parent is to have the children play quietly while dinner is prepared.  She was wise in realizing that they needed help getting prepared for that quieter play.

Be Playful:

            Being playful may be the most difficult part of what this mom did.  Sometimes the first response of a parent is to shut down this type of play.  It is too loud, makes a mess, or someone may get hurt.  She spoke firm instructions in a playful tone.  She took an unwanted behavior and made a wonderfully enjoyable game out of it.  Sometimes when a parent joins the chaos setting playful and engaging structure, high-energy play can be a lot of fun.

Now, here is the tough part.  If this mom tried this same thing the next day it may not work.  The point in my opinion is to remember the 4 principles.  Stay calm, Provide structure, Match energy level, and Be playful.  Keeping these things in mind could be helpful for parents in managing any type of behavior.  They can be especially helpful when bringing boys from out of control to self-control.

Please leave comments below sharing the best ways you have found to help your children move from out of control to self-control.  


A Boy Named Sue

My Sunday school class at church has been walking through the story of the Old Testament and we are in the book of Exodus.  According to our pastor, in the original language the title of the book was “The Book of Names”.  We have been talking a lot about the meaning of names in ancient Egyptian history.  We have learned that a person’s name was very important in ancient Egypt.  In the same way that we think of heart, soul and mind as what makes up a person, the ancient Egyptians believed that their name was a significant part of their identity.  This belief was so significant that when a new Pharoah came to power he might destroy all the documents that mention the name of the Pharaoh that preceded him.  This was thought to actually wipe out the existence of this Pharaoh.  There are several examples in the Bible where God gave new names to those that he has set aside for a special purpose.  He has a special job for them and changes their name to more accurately reflect the new Identity that he gives them.  In Genesis 17 Abram’s name is changed to Abraham, which means “father of many”.   Also in Genesis 17 Sarai’s name is changed to Sara intended to reflect that she would be the mother of nations.

All of this learning about the connection between a person’s name and their identity before God got me thinking.  I was reminded of an event that occurred while I was working for a counseling ministry in Branson, Missouri.  It was the last day of a family retreat in which all the families we worked with were in town.  One of the college graduate age students was giving her testimony during a worship service.  She did a wonderful job sharing the story of how God had worked in her life and changed her in recent years.   Throughout her testimony however, she referred to herself as “weird”.  She would tell a funny story and then say, “I know I am weird”.  She would relay a part of God’s work in her life and then say, “I know I am weird.”   She discussed the silly things that made her remarkable and then would say, “I am a little weird.”   When she finished her testimony the director of the program went up front to pray for her.  Before he did however, he touched her on the shoulder, looked her in the eye and said,  “Your name is no longer weird, your name is beloved child of God, You are precious to him and he has a purpose for you.”  As I sat in the back of the chapel with tears welling up in my eyes I was struck by the power of a name in this young woman’s life.   She viewed her identity as weird, but God saw her as his beloved child.  How did she begin to see herself this way?  How did she internalize this mistaken message about who she was?  Where did this message come from?

I am convicted today of the importance of how I experience and think about my children.  Children are so perceptive, and when I experience or think about them as an annoying, crazy, bad, or stupid, kid-they sense it.  If I experience or think of them as a lovable, delightful, engaging or smart child-they sense it.  I pray that the Lord will give me the patience to see my children, as He sees them.  I hope that despite my mistakes and blunders that my children will internalize the identity of Christ and their special purpose from God.