Friday, February 10, 2006


Our family has a prayer calendar that we use to help teach our kids about different ways that we can bring prayer into our daily lives. Perhaps the practice exhibits a bit of the cultural conditioning that I sometimes hesitate to celebrate, for fear that it leads to doubt regarding the sincerity of my children's spirituality. But so be it. Our family has found the prayer calendar to be a meaningful way to focus our home's spiritual dynamic and provide us with freshness and originality in our communication with our Heavenly Father. Every day, the calendar suggests a new creative activity to share, or a Bible verse to memorize, or a personal assignment to consider -- all highlighting the power of prayer for our own lives, our friends and family, our church, and our world.

Earlier in the week, an assignment suggested to, "Choose a country in Africa to pray for this month." So we posed the question to our oldest son (testing the classic assumption that every preschooler's knowledge of world geography would be adequate to answer the question): "Elliot, what country in Africa would you like to pray for this month?"

Elliot paused, considering the assignment carefully, before he responded tentatively: "I think... Asia." His second choice turned out to be "America," and only after consulting an atlas together were we able to zero in on the proper continent and settle on Egypt as the object of our family's prayer support.

It's funny how children misplace and mismatch different pieces of information, as they try to assimilate various sources of input and contextualize knowledge.

Olivia, my year-and-a-half-old daughter, is currently learning the parts of the face: eyes, ears, mouth, nose -- or as she would say them, "aaaaaye, eeeeah, mow, nooooh." It's adorable to see her figuring things out and spontaneously rehearsing the lessons from Mommy and Daddy. Reading a book on the living room couch, I'll suddenly find my girl's little forefinger eagerly (and unexpectantly) poking at the whites of my eyes, as she intones: "aaaaaye?" It's amazing to hear her talking and accurately identifying the parts of her face. But she's still learning. And she still makes mistakes at times. The other day, I asked her to show me her eye. And she parroted my question, "aaaaaye?" while ceremoniously inserting her index finger up her left nostril. I couldn't help myself from laughing at such physical comedy.

Indubitably, children learn by making mistakes and misplacing facts. Such trial-and-error discovery is an invaluable element of the human learning process, actually. I've only been able to learn Dutch because of a thousand (sometimes embarrassing) mistakes. I've only been able to learn adequate expression of my love for my wife and kids through a thousand failures and miscommunications. The only reason I've learned how to effectively lead a church is through a thousand moments of ineffective leadership and mistakes. Yet over time, I've learned to distinguish between the folly of misplacement and the wisdom of experience. We try to create a learning environment of grace and understanding, and we try to enjoy the mistakes along the way.


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