When your child is young, he is probably more interested in the bow on his present than what is in the box. Eventually, he discovers what is inside is more exciting than the wrapping (unless Martha Stewart is your aunt!). He will eagerly tear the paper to get to what is inside.
God gives everyone gifts or talents. We will teach our child how to open a birthday present, but have we taught her how to open her gifts from God? My guess is many of us still have presents from God we have yet to open. We haven’t even thought about teaching our children how to find and open their own gifts.
One of the more discouraging events of my Christian life occurred shortly after my baptism. I was young, enthusiastic and wanted to start serving the Lord immediately. I asked one of the leaders of the church what I could do and was told I was “too young” to help. Thankfully a more understanding adult overheard the conversation and quickly found a responsibility I could take on at church.
In our desire to help our children enjoy their childhood, I think we have often lost sight of the fact that children want to help. Although they may complain about cleaning their rooms, the idea of being responsible for something important will put a light in almost any child’s eyes.
One of the things I appreciate so much about the Bible is how everything is connected to something else. The water of the flood and the Israelites crossing the Red Sea foreshadow our baptism. Many of the Jewish holidays point the way to Jesus Christ, the Messiah. God gave the Jews Passover to remind them how He delivered them from Egypt. It also foreshadowed the coming of the perfect sacrifice – Christ. Our baptism is a reminder of Christ’s death, burial and resurrection. It also helps us remember that we have put to death our old sinful self and risen a new creature in Christ.
I believe God understands we need markers in our lives to help us remember what is important. Just like those Route 66 signs with arrows help us stay on Route 66, markers can help us stay on God’s path. My baptism is a distinct memory from the moment I committed my life to Christ. When we take communion every week, it serves also as a reminder of the commitment we made to the Lord when we were baptized.
We are in the middle of a school break. Many of our friends are out of town. We stayed behind only because we leave town on a big mission trip in a few weeks. Vacations are a great way of connecting with the people who are important to us. Often we are able to see many of God’s wonders of creation as we explore the world on our travels. I even enjoy seeing the talents God has given people displayed in artwork and architecture.
I also know vacation is a time when many of us also take a vacation from God. We run around to the point of exhaustion. We are too tired to pray or think of mentioning the connection between God and the things we are seeing to our children. If we are away on a Sunday, it seems silly to waste valuable vacation time at a congregation we picked blindly out of a telephone book.
I love the story of Abraham entertaining angels in the Bible. As a child, I was fascinated by the idea you could invite strangers into your home for a meal and find out they were angels. Unfortunately, entertaining is quickly becoming another casualty of our busy lives. Our children are not learning how to show hospitality to others. Having people in our homes is not necessarily high on our lists of things we attempt to accomplish as we pursue a Christian lifestyle. Hospitality to others is so important to God though, He makes the practice of it one of the qualifications for being an elder.
Children learn so much when they grow up in a family where hospitality is practiced regularly. They learn how to make “outsiders” to their family feel as if they are a part of the family. Hopefully, they begin to realize entertaining is not about how nice your home is or how good the food tastes, but it is about the interaction between the hosts and the guests. Practical skills are also learned. By entertaining, I have learned how to make a large group of very different people feel comfortable together, how to cook for a lot of people with little hassle and how to entertain with little or no money or space. (We had a full Thanksgiving one year in New York City for 15 people in 250 square feet!)