Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Don't Let the Baby Fall Down the Stairs!

What image popped into your mind with that title?

Perhaps something a bit like this? (thank you, Edward Gorey)

What if the title had been: Please help the baby walk carefully down the stairs?

Hopefully, a more positive mental image. Something more akin to this:

During one of my stints working at Arkansas CARES, I worked in the school-age program as an Educational Development Specialist. We had a grant to teach seminars across the state to teachers and daycare providers on interventions for at-risk youth. I helped to teach the school-age workshops and occasionally filled in with the pre-school workshops, as well. One of the skills we always emphasized was the use of positive discipline, and we would start with an example similar to the one above.

Humans respond to imagery. Just look at how much marketing influences our culture. Children are especially responsive to imagery, as their cognitive thinking skills are still developing.

So, imagine the response of a child (particularly one who is prone to rebellion... I mean curiousity...) when you are continually saying, "Do not open the outside door!"

hmm.... what's outside the door? maybe it's something cool? what if I just looked outside and don't actually go through the door?!

Alternately, what if you chose to emphasize "Let's each pick a center inside the classroom to play at!"

Do you see the shift in focus that takes place?

Don't throw the paper towels on the ground vs. Please place your paper towels in the wastebasket

Don't lean back in your chair vs. Please scoot up to the table and keep your chair legs flat on the ground

Does it always work? No - we're dealing with humans here. But it has been shown to be effective in classroom management and child development.

Assuming that most of you have no plans for working in a classroom (Sarah - consider this lesson free of charge), I'll get to my point.

In Circle of Quiet, Madeline L'Engle observes that "churches [have] become buildings that are a safe place to go to escape the awful demands of God."

When I read that part of the passage recently, my mind shifted to our discussion these past weeks on "sins of the flesh". This, in turn, reminded me of my True Love Waits card (which still sits in my Bible) and all of the sermons, Bible Studies, Super Summer seminars and Disciple Now weekends I have participated in over my time as a Christian focused on sex and related issues. While I believe that this topic is important (there is a well of emotions and consequences wound up with sexual interactions), I couldn't help but ask myself if our perspective as the Church wasn't a bit skewed.

What if the people of God were so busy with the "thou shalts" that we barely had time for the "thou shalt nots"? What if instead of shielding ourselves (and therefore focusing on the things we're shielding ourselves from), we concentrated on serving and loving (thus shifting to a positive focus)? Of course there will still be a need for guidance and accountability, but wouldn't an emphasis on how we are supposed to be living as the Church (not how we shouldn't live) have a deeper impact? If we spend our whole lives trying not doing the things we're not supposed to do, but we never get around to doing the things we are called to do, have our lives really been lived?

For the rest, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is worthy of reverence and is honorable and seemly, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely and lovable, whatever is kind and winsome and gracious, if there is any virtue and excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think on and weigh and take account of these things [fix your minds on them]. Practice what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and model your way of living on it, and the God of peace (of untroubled, undisturbed well-being) will be with you. ~ Philippians 4:8-9 (Amplified Bible)

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