That would be me at about age 1. That would also be my awesome Mom & Dad. Bellow, keeping an ever watchful eye, would be Molly our Vizsla. We are all in front of our house in Sacramento, CA. I am most likely filling my diaper while the picture is being taken. (It was my first hobby.)
I have asked Dad to see if he can find another photo from that era. It's of him with his arm outstretched. I am standing calmly in the palm of his hand eating a cracker. I have no fear and no "Trust" issues. I am perfectly content to stand there 6 feet above the floor in his hand, and to enjoy that cracker. I am in my father's hand and all is right with the world.
My friend Damon, says that I can be a bit pushy at times. I prefer to think of it as being Progressively Generous. If there is something that I stumble across that I think is really cool, I like to share it...maybe sometimes a bit aggressively. But none the less, if it's something that I think has real value, I want others to experience it too.
(Case in point: I make salsa in the summer time. I have recently made two different varieties and they are both "Da Bomb!" I will share these jars with friends, especially at birthdays and Christmas. Why? Because I want others share in the joy of my creation because I think it has real value.
However, I will NOT be sharing any with Damon. I do not wish to be Pushy. Plus, he lives a long ways away, and it is expensive to mail these things. Sorry Buddy. BAH-hahahahahaha.)
With that in mind, I want to Aggressively recommend a book to you. It's called "This Beautiful Mess" by Rick McKinley. In fact, I will shamelessly plug it with this advertisement.
Rick is a pastor at Imago Dei Community out in Portland, OR. You can find out more about these guys by clicking here. http://www.imagodeicommunity.com/blog/category/rick-mckinley/ The point of the book is about practicing and participating in the Kingdom of God. I don't think "Religious" people would like it very much, but if you are one who is curious about what following Jesus is really like, then you would really enjoy it.
The 8th chapter in "This Beautiful Mess" is called "Welcome the Child." Rick goes over the various interactions that Jesus has with little kids. He tells the story of his neighbor's kid, Joseph, who is about a year & a half. Apparently Joseph likes to go running outside, naked, after his mother bathes him. (I see a commonality between people named Joe.) Joseph is innocent and filled with joy, so why not go streaking?
At Living Waters, there is a family who felt God calling them to an unusual ministry. They have adopted a sizable chunk of children all with Special Needs. There is one little girl who is Autistic. She wears head phones because of the music. Yet she simply has to get up and dance during every service. Many times I have seen the Holy Spirit dance through her.
The Amish have a saying that "God brings people with Special Needs
into our lives to teach us how to love."
A few weeks back, Pastor Scott asked the kids to come up front for a children's service of sorts. Towards the end, he told them it was O.K. if they just hung around and danced for the last few songs. My friend Dan has a boy named Alex. Alex decided that doing the Walk like an Egyptian dance would be a great way to "bust a move," so he did...for the entire song. Honestly, I pictured Jesus sitting on his throne, choking on a Pepsi, and shooting it out his nose in laughter & joy.
I think children understand at an instinctive level what we adults too easily forget.
I personally do not believe that there will be a single child in hell. I can't exactly prove that scripturally, but that is what my heart tells me. Based on the character displayed by Jesus during his earthly ministry, I would say it is a very safe bet to make. Hell seems to be reserved for far too many adults.
Jesus had a real soft spot for kids. Probably because they counted for very little in the society at that time. Jesus has a major soft spot for the marginalized & overlooked.
In that 8th chapter, Rick points out something that I hadn't noticed before. It all takes place in Matthew 19. "Then little children were brought to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked those who brought them. Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these.""
Most of the time, children have a naive, innocent trust...like me standing in my Dad's palm, eating that cracker. (At least if they have come from a relatively decent home life.) They are not particularly complicated, and their needs & desires are met rather easily.
Pastor Rick points out what happens right after Jesus interacted with the children. A rich, young ruler with an excellent religious pedigree asks Jesus what he has to do to get eternal life. The guy has kept all the commandments. He pretty much has everything going for him. Jesus looks at him towards the end of their conversation and tells him to sell all his goodies, give the money to the poor..."Then come, follow me." And the guy walks away depressed.
The little kids Get It. That rich adult didn't.
I remember an episode of the Simpsons from way back. It had something to do with Bart running for class President, or something like that. Homer looks at the enthusiasm that Bart is displaying. He sees how happy Bart is in working for a higher purpose. Then Homer says, "I remember that joy. Feeling like I could do anything...before the weight of the world crushed it out of me."
Pastor Rick is right. We can learn a lot about the Kingdom of Heaven from children. When I watch that little girl dance every Sunday morning, I do see the Spirit moving in her. I don't see any embarrassment or self-consciousness on the faces of those kids. I just see simple joy.
Along with picking up my cross every morning, I also need to remind myself to do quite a bit of regressing. I need to remember what it was like to stand in the palm of my Dad's hand and eat that cracker. Simple trust that everything is O.K. I need to stand in the palm of my heavenly father's hand like that too. It feels really good when I do.
He likes me.
He loves me.
My Dads love their little boy, "for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these."