Posts Tagged With: christmas

Advent: 4 Ways to Become a Better Man & Father this Season.

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Happy New Year!

In the Church, Advent commences the Christian New Year. Advent is the season that most retailers miss between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Advent is a preparation in anticipation for the coming of Jesus. Most people focus on Jesus coming during Christmas, but there are two other “comings” of Christ that occur. The Second Coming refers to Jesus final coming in time where He will take His peeps to Heaven and the rest well…you know. The third coming, which technically should be called the second coming since it happens between His birth (first coming) and the final coming at the end of time (second coming) is what I call a daily coming. This is the daily decision to let Jesus come into our hearts and literally reign over all we do.

For many people Advent is completely off the radar and gets surpassed by shopping, planning family gatherings, etc. I want to challenge all men (and women too. I know you read this, but I’m focusing on dads primarily) to use this season of Advent as a way to help you become a better man and father. So here are four ways to let the season of Advent transform you.

  1. Daily Invitation: Does Jesus have a place in your daily life? Is He a Christmas and Easter thought only? If so why? There are many reasons why this could have happened. The question is do you want it to stay this way? If the answer is ‘no’ then challenge yourself to doing some daily reading this Advent. Go online, to a bookstore, etc. and find an Advent Companion. Here are a few: Magnificat, LivingFaith. Maybe you are one of those dudes that don’t like to read, so here is an option for you: redeemedonline.com. This website gives you a 2 minute daily video on Advent that you can reflect on.
  2. You are going to die: Eventually we all do. Advent has us reflect on the reality that Jesus’ Second Coming is going to happen and how we lived will have a huge impact on what happens after you die. The point here isn’t so much to focus on death, but to help you reflect on how you are living so that you are on the right side of this Second Coming. If you dropped dead right now where would you go? Something worth thinking about.
  3. Serve your family: This may seem like a no brainer and something you already do. The question is how can you do this better? Most men are really good at serving their families by working and providing for their material needs. What about other needs like quality time with your spouse or kids? When was the last time you had a good conversation with your son or daughter? When was the last time you did something for your wife so that she could have a few hours of free time? I don’t know about you guys, but I find myself constantly trying to get things my way and this is not ok. Being a man means being able to sacrifice and serve—it is at the core of who we are.
  4. Your family’s overall health: How is your family doing in the following areas: physically, emotionally, spiritually, and intellectually?
    1. Are you all overweight and not eating well? Do you have some way to be physically active? If not, walk around your block once a week as a family, or go to a park and walk together.
    2. Can your family members communicate emotions, feelings, thoughts in a healthy loving, yet challenging environment? Having a dinner or after dinner discussion once a week on how everyone is doing is a great way to check in.
    3. What is your family’s prayer life like? Is it just grace before meals? Besides the fact that Church on Sundays should be a priority what are you as a father doing to lead this effort? How about taking that Advent companion and doing the reading and reflection during dinner and have everyone go around and share their thoughts.
    4. How are you challenging your family intellectually? Do you read articles, books, etc. on things that help them flex those brain muscles? Why not once a week present some discussions on a topic that will make your kids think beyond what they are accustomed to? It could be political, moral, ethical, etc. The key is getting them to think and grow in their intellectual capacity.

I know that these four things may seem like a lot, but the whole point of having a time to reflect and push ourselves is so that we can live better lives. Advent is here and will be gone in the blink of an eye; will you be a better man and father after the fact? Will you have helped your family be better after the fact? Maybe all four of these are too much for some of ya’ll. That’s fine. Do two. Do one, but definitely do something.

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Categories: Advent, being a man, best self, Catholic, christianity, christmas, fatherhood, fully alive, God, home and family, Jesus, surrendering, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Telling the Story

I posted this last year on Christmas day and no one really read it, which is a great sign that everyone was offline and enjoying family. I am reposting it and hope you all enjoy it.

Discovering Fatherhood

IMG_0603I love telling stories. I’m going to be that old grandfather who tells stories over and over again, while the grandkids say, “Grandpa! You just told us that one!”

There is something about a good story that really can work a person’s imagination, help process through difficulty, or just leave us with a smile on our face. Stories are powerful.

I am very thankful for the “Little People” that Fisher Price puts out—especially the biblical ones. My father-in-law recently got my daughter Claire the Little People Nativity Set and she loves it. I can tell because they all are covered in baby slobber half the time. Baby Jesus is currently in a cocoon of solidified saliva.

Fisher Price has done a good job of creating these cute, little people. The facial features, outfits, and color design—they all do a great job at setting the scene. Yet, the toys in and…

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Categories: christmas, fatherhood, fisher price, God, Jesus, Parenting, teaching, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Telling the Story

IMG_0603I love telling stories. I’m going to be that old grandfather who tells stories over and over again, while the grandkids say, “Grandpa! You just told us that one!”

There is something about a good story that really can work a person’s imagination, help process through difficulty, or just leave us with a smile on our face. Stories are powerful.

I am very thankful for the “Little People” that Fisher Price puts out—especially the biblical ones. My father-in-law recently got my daughter Claire the Little People Nativity Set and she loves it. I can tell because they all are covered in baby slobber half the time. Baby Jesus is currently in a cocoon of solidified saliva.

Fisher Price has done a good job of creating these cute, little people. The facial features, outfits, and color design—they all do a great job at setting the scene. Yet, the toys in and of themselves don’t communicate the story. They are the cast of characters, the set, and scene. There still needs to be a storyteller.

Since we got this Nativity set, my wife and I sit with Claire and tell her the story of Christmas. We grab the camel, 3 Wise Men, and have them talk to one another. We pick up the Wise Men and have them give Claire kisses so that she can see that they journey to share love to the Christ child. We take Joseph and Mary and have her stare at them and tell her (with made up voices) “Jesus is our precious child and we love Him this much…” This line is followed by Mary and Joseph kissing Claire all over and we don’t stop until she smiles. Next, comes baby Jesus with His painted golden halo and saliva cocoon. “I came into the world, Claire, for you! I love you so much…” More kisses, more smiles from Claire.

As a Youth Worker I am saddened to see how many of our young people either don’t care or are bored by the story of the God who became man. In the last 13 years, I’ve realized that our young people don’t care or are bored by the story because we have stopped telling the story well. There is a lack of excitement, joy, and wonder in the telling of this story.

The storytelling has become dull. Think about it. How many times have you heard people talk about the Christmas story as if it were just another of BuzzFeed’s top 25 list, a matter of fact type thing that just is. “God became man. Can you pass the potato salad?”

Claire smiles and laughs when baby Jesus kisses her—she is introduced and becomes a part of the story. My wife and I change our voices, we place Jesus on top of the couch, sometimes He is on the Christmas Tree, or on the dog’s head. The story must be told with new ardor, new methods and new expressions so that it captures her attention. It is and will always be the same story, but the listener needs to hear it in fresh new ways. The ardor, enthusiasm, passion, etc. must be palpable. We are talking about the GOD who BECAME a MAN!! This story and the time uncle Willie used poison ivy at camp to clean his backside should not stand toe-to-toe with each other. The method and expression in which we share the story has to be fresh, especially for those of us who have heard the story so many times that it really doesn’t do anything for us. This doesn’t mean we change the story—we cannot—but, the way in which we tell it should be new. Paint/art, music, film, food, etc. are ways to tell the story. Humanity is so creative (click on the blue text)! We can come up with new methods easily; we just need to use our imagination and talents.

Claire will outgrow the baby Jesus kissing method and expression. My wife and I will need to come up with other creative ways to tell the story. Let’s face it, reading it from Scripture to her at the age of 1 or 2 isn’t going to capture it for her. The story must be told over and over again. When our children begin to show that they do not care or are bored with the story of God becoming man, it means we are not telling the story well.

May this story never seize to capture the imagination of our children. May you and I never seize to tell it well, because it is the greatest story ever told.

Merry Christmas to all of you and your loved ones.

Categories: children, christmas, fatherhood, fathers, fisher price, God, husband and wife, Parenting, Uncategorized, youth ministry | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Are you lying to your children about Santa?

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This is a post from a blog I follow called The Radical Life by Matthew Warner. Matthew gave me permission to post on my blog. It is one of the best responses I have seen to the whole do we tell kids about Santa or not.

Enjoy!

LEO

Disclaimer: Just so everyone’s clear…if you choose not to “do Santa,” I don’t think you’re a grinch out to ruin the magic of your kids’ childhood. In fact, in my experience, you’re most likely an outstanding parent whose thoughtfulness should be commended. Every child should be so blessed. I just think many parents struggle with aspects of Santa that really shouldn’t be struggles at all. In fact, I think they’re big opportunities. Here are some thoughts…

My wife and I play a game with our two year old son. It involves catching a fish. You never know if it’s gonna be a little, tiny fish – or a great, big whale of a fish. You can play this game on the bed, on the floor, pretty much anywhere.

To begin, you have to look very carefully all around you to try and find a fish just under the surface of the water. Once you spot one, you try to snatch it out of the water with your bare hands! But you have to be quick – because fish are very quick.

Once you’ve caught a fish, it’s a bit of a juggling act. The fish is usually squirming and flopping around – as a fish out of water does. So it’s usually quite a struggle and a workout to keep the fish from getting away, especially if it’s a big one! The fish is very hard to hold on to – as fish are very slippery. Once you start getting tired of trying to hold on to this jumping, squirming fish, you pass him off to another person so they can wrestle with it for awhile. Eventually, the fish gets away and you start over again. It’s hilarious, just ask my son!

Now, is the existence of the fish in this goofy game a part of an elaborate lie? Of course not. We were just using our imagination and teaching our son to do the same. We also showed him how using our imagination lets us have a lot of fun with very little. More importantly, we used our imagination to learn about something that is very, very real. Just because we imagine something doesn’t mean it’s not real. We imagine real things all the time.

Does my two year old fully understand the difference between our fishing game and real fishing yet? Not quite. But one day he will. And in the process he’s learning a lot of real things about real fish…even if we exaggerate and have some fun with it in the process. (Note: this is not supposed to be an analogy for Santa, it’s to point out that what is “real” in the mind of a child is established in a very abstract way over years of their life…and that the distinction of precisely which parts and in which ways those parts are “real” or “not real” is, first, not a simple black and white answer and, second, something clarified over time…and that’s okay. Our insistence on immediately and forcefully classifying every thing neatly as either factually true or a lie is “an impoverished understanding of the nature of language, of thought, and of truth.”)

So what about Santa Claus?

We live in a culture that has taken Christ out of Christmas. Our appetite for material goods is insatiable. Our religion, a cult of consumerism. Our dogma, the marketing maxims of slick sales execs that have redefined for us what it means to be “prepared” for Christmas. Rather than prayer, fasting and repentance, we prepare by just buying lots of stuff. And they’ve made Santa Claus the spokesperson.

So it’s no surprise that, as a reaction to all that, some have been tempted to throw Santa Claus right out and get back to the “reason for the season.” And besides, why do we tell such “lies” to our kids about some imaginary man in a sleigh anyway?

Well, I’ll tell you.

First, the story of Santa Claus is a Christian story. Hello! When told properly, it points to and emphasizes Jesus Christ. So, it’s actually one of the (fun) ways to “get back to the reason for the season.” And kids like fun.

Second, therefore, Santa Claus is not the problem. The commercialization of Christmas has victimized him as much as any of us. In fact, I’m pretty sure the real Santa Claus isn’t taking all of this too lightly, either.

Which brings me to my next point, Santa Claus is a real person. So it’s not a lie to say that Santa Claus is real. He has died, yes. But he’s not really dead. He’s alive in heaven, which means he’s more fully alive than any of us.

Santa Claus = Sinter Klaas = Sint Nikolaas = Saint Nicholas. Make it a lesson in linguistics for your kids. Santa means Saint. A Saint is someone who has lived a life of heroic virtue. A life worth mimicking. A life worth observing. A life worth learning from. A life that points to Christ.

Saint Nicholas was a 4th century bishop in the Church. And his spirit of giving and serving the poor is worth remembering by re-enacting (and imagining) his life and then learning from it. More importantly, the reason he served the poor and gave of himself so much is because he served Christ at the center of his life. And he did so with heroic enough virtue that we remember it thousands of years later. We are all called to live lives like that. That’s the radical call of being a Christian (not necessarily to dramatically cast out all the fun in our lives!).

The point is that Santa can’t just be somebody we get stuff from.

He’s a kind of model for our life – just like every “Saint.” He’s somebody we can teach our kids to look at and say, “do you see how generous and giving he is? That’s what God calls us to be every day, and especially during this important religious season when we celebrate the greatest gift mankind has ever received, Jesus.”

The giving must be emphasized, not the receiving. But you can’t have one without the other! So the question for our family is, simply, which are we focused on? and therefore, what are our kids learning is most important? The giving…or the receiving?

And it’s okay if your 4 year old gets more excited about Santa than she does about baby Jesus. That probably means you have a healthy 4-year-old who can’t grasp the magnitude and deep theological significance of redemption, eternal salvation and God becoming a man. Even most adults struggle with it. Let’s not strip the fun out of our kids’ lives because they realize a jolly fat man in a red suit who flies around in a sleigh with magical reindeer giving gifts is more exciting than a baby in a manger. Any religion that wants to last longer than a single generation must acknowledge this simple childhood truth.

We just have to make sure that as kids get older they continue to learn the depth of the Santa story as they are able. And how that jolly fat man who gives presents is not there to give us presents, but to show us how to give. And he’s not doing so because you’ve been good, he’s doing so because giving is what life is all about. And the most radical way that old Saint Nick lived this out was not with the gift of presents, but with the giving of his entire life to Jesus Christ and the way he lived it in service to Him.

Personally, I think we should tell the Santa story to our children the same way we tell any great story. Let them pretend along with you. Let them learn in time what is true about the story and what isn’t. What is important about the story and what isn’t. And more importantly, help them learn the deeper (and very real) truths contained within it. And along with that, of course, use it to help them understand the infinitely more significant and completely true story of Jesus.

Does that mean your kids might not buy the whole story – hook, line and sinker? Maybe. Let them question. But also let them wonder. A child’s wonder should be kindled to flame, not stamped out with the cold hard facts as quickly as possible.

Let them wonder.

But to be clear, it is not the goal here at all to deceive our kids, it’s to tell the great story. Too many parents get this backwards. They get too caught up on trying to make their kids literally believe every bit of it. That’s not the point. And, for me, that can easily become lying, which is never good. Be honest with them, but don’t let the wrong details distract them.

Just look at the book of Genesis. If you read the story of creation and get caught up on whether everything was made in 6 literal days or not, you’re missing the whole point of the story. The writer didn’t feel the need to clarify certain obvious questions of *fact* when telling that story. Does that mean they were intending to deceive? Not at all. They were telling a better story and teaching a more important truth in the process.

I get it.

It’s a legitimate criticism that the story of Santa too often overshadows the story of Jesus. It’s so true. And that must be corrected. Yes, the feast of St. Nicholas on Dec. 6 should be the main time we celebrate Saint Nick. But the fact is that a feature of our culture, whether we like it or not, is that Santa helps us celebrate Christmas. We can co-opt and run with that, or we can opt out and waste a big opportunity. I think the former is what the Church has done repeatedly throughout history with much success.

Let the malls and the advertisements and the chatter and pictures of Santa be like the pages of a great story book come to life and we’re all characters! I think we’ll have more success reminding people of the reason for the season if we join in the drama rather than opt out.

Do we need more Jesus inserted into the mix? Absolutely. At every turn. And He must remain central to the overall narrative we teach our children during this time of year. But don’t bail on Santa. If you look close enough, his jolly red suit is a giant red arrow pointing straight to Jesus. We just have to make sure and follow the arrow when it shows up.

We’ve become boring story tellers.

Our modern scientific minds have turned us into impotent story tellers. Telling stories is an art performance, not a repeating of scientifically verifiable facts. There are lots of ways to tell this story without lying to our kids. If your conscience is bothering you about it, then it probably means you should be telling the story a little differently.

I like to think of it this way. When we read a good bed time story, we read it like it’s real because it’s more fun and impactful that way. You learn more and it exercises the imagination. But at the end when your kid asks, “is that really real, Daddy?” the answer is rarely as simple as a yes or no.

Do princesses and castles exist? Yes, honey. Does princess Jasmine? well, no. Or maybe she did exist, but this story is only partially true about her. Or maybe she never existed, but the situations in the story are real. Maybe the scene is made up but the lesson is not. Does magic exist? No, not really. But do some moments in life feel magical? Absolutely. Are super heroes real? Yes, although they may look differently than you think. Dad, does anyone really have special powers? Yes, but not like you are thinking…better ones, that you’ll only think are better when you’re older and wiser.

You have to be the judge on how much you answer now or allow to be answered in time. When your child asks “Is Santa really real?” a simple yes or no is not sufficient. If they are ready, maybe you tell them which parts are real and which aren’t and explain right then at a level they can understand. Or, maybe you ask them what they think and you let them think about it for awhile. Maybe you let them think about it for years. But it’s still a story worth telling.

A child’s mind is such a dynamic place – and forming it doesn’t happen in a single moment. With Santa, instead of finding out the full story immediately in one sentence, maybe they find it in good time as they are ready (like every good story you’ll ever tell them).

It makes for a fun story when we let Santa eat the cookies and deliver the presents. But kids soon learn that Santa had a few partners along the way to get the job done.

Good myths are the ones we grow in to – not out of.

And if that’s not enough, read why G.K. Chesterton still believes in Santaand this now-classic wondrous response to Virginia.

Categories: children, christmas, fatherhood, God, Parenting, santa claus, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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