Category Archives: kids

27 Seconds

How disheartened I was to find out that I had misquoted one of my favorite movies and solidified it on a recording.

I had this thought about a scene in Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium. It’s a wonderful scene where Molly is trying to show Mr. Magorium that he has much to live for. They’re in a clock shop, setting up all of the clocks in order to hear them all chime at one time.

You see, at this point in the film there’s a comment made about 37 seconds of time… I had always thought it was 27 seconds, so when I looked up the quote as I was writing a song, I googled 27 seconds, but apparently others have misquoted this as well… so I fed off of their misquote and immortalized it in my song… oh well, right?

Mr. Magorium: 37 seconds.
Molly Mahoney: Great. Well done. Now we wait.
Mr. Edward Magorium: No. We breathe. We pulse. We regenerate. Our hearts beat. Our minds create. Our souls ingest. 37 seconds, well used, is a lifetime.”

And it’s true. That moment always shook me. I’m an incessant worrier. I’m a worrying junkie. I have to get a fix. But one of the most oft ignored commands of Christ is to *not worry.* And yet, it’s the hardest one for me.

I believe that if I’m honest with myself, I love having the stress there as my excuse to have vices, as an excuse to escape and be selfish. Maybe that’s harsh, but I find it valid. There are valid reasons for stress, I’m not criticizing that, I’m merely saying that a lot of times we totally miss the beauty in front of us due to our worry and fretting.

We’re meant to be like Christ, to find him in every face, every moment… instead, we often seek comfort and pleasure, trying to escape our worry. We worry about finding ways to escape our worry.

So, I want to give you this song as a Christmas present. This is probably just about my favorite song I’ve ever gotten to bring to life… may you see the presents in front of you. May you see Christ in every moment, and find who to kneel down and wash. In my life, it’s often been my friends, kids; the people right there in front of me.

I used to pine for big ministries, but now, I see that my ministry is this minute. The small things that can give the world around us hope and life.

Merry Christmas.

Movies and the Heart Behind Them

So, my kids and I love comic book movies. We love superheroes. We love the genre and imaginative fascination of it all. It’s simply great fun.

But, there’s more to it than this.

I’ve written before on how desperately our children need meaning in EVERYTHING THAT THEY DO. And I stand by that. Mere entertainment, on a daily basis, is like having pizza for every meal. It’s fun and just fine now and then, but as a steady diet, they won’t ever want the deeper, higher nutrient things.

No matter the budget of a movie, indie film or blockbuster, movies have immense cultural implications. The form is self perpetuating. We buy the neat new movie, they make new ones because we bought the last one, and in the midst of it, some of those writers grab hold of the pulse of our culture and they sell far more tickets because it touched our hearts, and, for that two hours, we had some amazing and tangible metaphor to grab hold of and take solace within or vent frustrations throughout.

Superhero stories are wrought with backbone and metaphor. The reality is, they’re filled with metaphor whether their creators like it or not.

Just as vampire movies, as they become increasingly shallow and sexual are a caricature of themselves: the immortal, insatiable quest  for satisfaction in the flesh… leaching blood (life) from the veins of victims. It’s a metaphor for life without God. You can’t dress it up and make it different… it just is. The art reflects the truth.

But on the positive side, right now we’re in a golden age of superhero stories that are both being cranked out and driven by creativity and greed. It’s funny… on one hand, you’ve got the movie companies wanting to make a buck. There’s nothing wrong with business, providing jobs and living wages for countless individuals. (did you know that the upcoming batman/superman movies are offering thousands and thousands of steady jobs to out of work folk in Michigan? Yeah, it’s worth noting) Some actors get paid wayyyy too much. I have no comment… they’ll have to account for themselves.

But the other side of this, that truly makes it a golden age of superhero cinema is that the bar is now set very, very high. Marvel Studios alone has truly set a standard for the craft that grabs the heart, is entertaining, and remains clean enough for the family to enjoy it together. (whether it will stay that way remains to be seen) But Marvel, as well as others are beginning to bring in more and more “little-guy” indie film-makers to make massive budget flicks.

Yes, they’re grabbing the small time artist and giving him a lot of cash and saying, “Make something seriously fun with a lot of heart!” I love it. We’re seeing more and more attention being given to the heart and soul of stories like this than ever before.

So, is this a big deal? Is it imperative to teach our kids?

I think it’s a big deal to teach our kids to dig in and connect their emotions, heart and conscience. Entertainment is great, but constant entertainment teaches our children to compartmentalize their lives. “We have thinking time and we have dumb time where we check out our brains”

This is a bad habit. Don’t teach your kids this habit. Have you taught them this? Then lets un-school them and get them thinking differently. (maybe you’ll unlearn it too!)

So, we’re going to grab a select amount of  superhero stories and dissect the art and heart behind them. Many of these are the creations of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. Very seldom have these two just made up a character without emotional or social intent. They create with purpose.

So… here’s the rules for our venture: Before we watch a flick we look up and learn why and how that character was created, what incarnations has it taken over the years, and how did it end up on our screen now. We watch, stop, discuss, think about what we’re seeing.

Then we ask the questions. Was this a faithful telling? Did the authors/directors expound and expand the heart of the story, or did they rob it of its meaning and just try and make a buck? What did we walk away with from this story.

Honestly, we’ve never, ever had these conversations in our house without it transitioning into time with God and the scriptures. It always goes there.

It’d be fun if others were joining along with us. And this won’t stop with just the superhero stories, we’ll be interjecting in other works of animation and beauty as well.

We’ll hope to be sharing it with you along the way!

Failure as a companion…

So, a friend of mine posted this comic/blog on Facebook the other day.

Be Friends With Failure

It’s very, very well written. I was very encouraged by it. So much so that I showed it to my kids.

But I’ve been thinking on it this morning, and there’s a lot of this that I just don’t live out. If left unchecked, I will tend to desire to be treated with mercy, but to demand perfection from others.

I don’t think that it’s just me. I believe that many of us feel this.

I can’t presume to understand everyone else’s hearts. But I have to look at my own. Both in the way that I parent, and the way that I manage the office I work at.

Am I friends with Failure?

Can I be cool with the reality of the learning curve?

Real and lasting success, in anything, doesn’t come by force and violence, but by dedication and hard work. Maybe you can argue that, but I can’t.

Even in my parenting, I’m finding more and more that it’s much easier to lead my kids with fear than building a deep bond and relationship with them that will guard their hearts from wanting to do what is wrong.

The violence of spanking will deter them for a bit. But the bond of relationship will guard and guide them even when I’m not around. They want to protect that. But the easy way, introducing violence into the relationship on a regular basis is just as “the world” does things.

I was reading an NT Wright commentary on the book of James this morning, he mentioned being *friends* with the world, the violent ways that they go about everything. Not mere physical violence, but violence of the mind, soul, heart, oppression… you name it. The world governs by violence, and it will always amp up the violence to have its way.

But Christ’s way is not so. He governs by atonement… drawing us close and bridging gaps.

Do I do this in others?

Do I consider them precious?

Do I delight in them, letting them know that I truly value them and do not want my life to be without them?

If I can’t say yes, then I have no business correcting them, and I have no humility.

Let me restate that… If I don’t need the people around me, if they’re just functions that are disposable, I am an arrogant, blind man.

So, lots of questions here for the purpose of soul searching. It’s good stuff…

Here’s a parting quote:

“ You can employ men and hire hands to work for you, but you will have to win their hearts to have them work with you. ”

— William J.H. Boetcker

I wrote a song for my kids along these lines. It’s called Smile. (it’s a loud one) But it’s my prayer for how I’d like to build and build my relationship with not only my girls, but everyone.

 

How God Unschooled Me

I haven’t done a whole lot on this blog as of late. There’s a good few projects I’m working on.

A new, full length cd with my wife and a few friends.

http://www.thechristianunschooler.com

And an ebook. The eBook is an incarnation of this blog in carry-along-with-you print form. Right now it’s for sale on Kindle for a mere $3.95. Your purchase will fund future projects. I’m actually working on another book tentatively called “Don’t Call Me Father”… it’s about daddy issues as you could imagine. But I’m pretty excited to write an intentional, and (hopefully) full length book.

The ebook is called “Bigger than my Box.”

I really like how it’s turned out. Organizing it, editing and commenting really brought on a whole whirlwind of emotions. God has done so much to go after me and call me his son. That is the point of the book.  I want to allow him to teach me to be a parent like he is to me. I want to treat my kids with the same affection and zeal he has bestowed on me.

The book is is not an unschooling guide, but rather, a book about how God has Unschooled me. Please take a look. 

For the most part, I won’t be posting much on this blog anymore, but I’ll be focusing most of my efforts on thechristianunschooler.com

My hope is to create a real platform to encourage “unschooling” parents, in a culture filled with secular views on the subject, who are looking at doing this through the perspective of being disciples of Christ. If you’ve enjoyed this blog, thank you, and thank you for the encouragement. Please take a minute to check out the new one.

With love,

John Bob

Inspired by. . . Elmo?

Yes, you read that right. The little red monster that has plagued so many of us. The same one that I’ve wished death upon. Yes, him. This little guy has become a new muse for this big guy and his girls.

The other day we stumbled across the documentary, “Becoming Elmo” and I can say without a doubt that it is completely delightful. Mock me as you will, Kevin Clash, the infamous voice behind the monster is a good man worth learning from.

So, set your cynicism aside and watch the first ten minutes on Netflix… then tell me how you enjoyed the last hour and a half.

Needless to say, watching this movie brought up some fun things with the kids. In light of yesterday’s post, here’s something that we’re doing to give to others and try out some fun ideas that could easily make people smile.

We want to do puppets too! It was so fun watching the clips of young Kevin playing with kids with special needs and so forth, just pouring out the love and creativity that God had given him. And oh man, when you see him being Elmo, his face is just so kind and sweet.

My girls were enthralled. They are so excited about the possibility of doing things like this. I can’t imagine the stories and scenarios that they’ll come up with.

So here’s how we’re starting:

One thing that the movie made clear is that if you want to do this, you can! And that really encouraged me. So, to check this out, and see if the kids will really run with this we’re going to get started budget style.

I hit the thrift stores on my lunch break and picked up 7 stuffed animals for $8.90. I also picked up the new Muppet movie that came out this morning for further inspiration. (this is education, right?)

Tonight we’re gonna hunker down and each pick a stuffed animal to disembowel and turn into glorious little puppet friends. I’ve picked out a particularly somber looking bear for myself.

If and when these projects are completed, I will post pics of our new friends.

I found countless resources for doing this in a few different ways. I personally think that this will be a lot of fun and give the kids a chance to harness some silliness.

Think about it; puppets are a great chance to channel that youthful silliness into a creative venture where it’s okay to be a wacky, zany nutbar.

Yes, if my evil theory is correct, I will harness the power of childhood silliness and unleash it through puppetry and art!!!! mwahahahahahahahahHUhaahauha

…sorry…

I really think that my little ones could do a lot to make other little ones smile (and maybe even some adults), and I’m excited to walk hand in hand with them in finding out how.

The Answer to Life, The Universe, and Everything

Are you in a rut? Stuck? Feeling without vision? Feeling like the day to day simply isn’t adventurous enough… I have an answer.

And yes… I’m truly that presumptuous.

Douglas Adams wrote humorous stories about beings wandering the universe, looking for the meaning of it all. They were looking for the answer. In observing my kids, and the way that they bloom the best, I believe that I’ve stumbled across one such answer.

Day to day, my three daughters love to create. They constantly have a stream of designs, cartoons, crafts and life flowing out of them. There’s nary a day that I don’t find one more piece of art declaring their love for me on my desk at home.

But seldom, very seldom do these little ladies make things just for themselves. There is always another motive. In every stroke you’ll usually find the intent of brightening the day of someone near to their little hearts.

Their life is a playground of creativity and gift giving for them to dance and play in.

Can you say that about your life?

I can’t… but I’m sure as hellfire gonna learn.

Let’s take this weekend, for example. These little girls drew, worked on marionettes, started making puppet ideas, and even did some yard work too. Almost all of it, minus the marionettes were things to give and use for the delight of others.

I, however, was exhausted most of the weekend. I had my aspirations of giving myself to learning and playing with the kids. But alas, I found myself a vegetable, struggling to be dragged along for the ride.

At the end of it all, I felt like I’d wasted it away. That is, until we prayed.

Late last night as we talked to God together, my oldest daughter, Aletheia Mercy ( truth and mercy) prayed to our wonderful creator God. “God thank you so much for all of the things we got to do for people this weekend. It was so much fun!”

Her heart was full, and she would lay down to sleep with a clear conscience and a sound heart.

They gave of themselves all weekend. They poured out the love that we pour in to them on everyone around them, in their own little ways.

So here’s the challenge; do you?

Can you?

Is what you’re doing working for ya?

___________

Last night a young fella came to me, wondering what to do. . . he was stuck, and his mother was pushing for him to look for some answers.

This guy has amazing things inside of him, but instead, he wastes the sweetness inside of him on video games and self-gratification. This particular guy is made for helping little ones. If you knew him, you’d agree.

I’ve seen who he is, but he’s 17 and squandering it. Consequently, he’s miserable. But instead of looking at the real answers, like most 17-year-olds, he looks to finding “more.”

More intense games.

More extreme energy drinks.

More adrenaline rushes.

But it will never be enough. I told him this straight up. “You can be a vampire, or you can be who you’re made to be.”

It’s not the video games. And it’s not enjoying movies and a red bull now and then. It’s living for your own gratification.

“Greater love has no man that he would lay down his life for his friends.”

We know it, but I don’t think that we know just how to live it day in and out.

It’s the small things that give us vision. It’s the teeny little projects of love that drive my little girls to be filled with vision and drive day in and day out.

They have filled their hearts with a desire to see you smile.

May we do the same.

This is the answer. This is the key. This is that kingdom that spreads like little, unremarkable shrubs throughout the whole earth, giving hope, life and vision to all around.

As you finish this, ask yourself, “Am I really happy?”

Yes… No? Well, go visit that sweet lady who’s all alone.

Take out the trash.

Set up a card game with a lonely friend.

Do something, anything, for somebody else.

 

Who are you looking at?

Have you ever had that moment when you were face to face with someone in a hard confrontation, and you could feel what they were seeing in you? As the encounter went on, you began to become what they were seeing in you.

Has this ever happened?

If your answer is no, then either stop reading because you’re going to think that the rest of what I’m saying is nonsense, or keep reading because you’re realizing this very moment what a dishonest person you are with yourself and want to move on and treat people, as well as yourself, better.

You’re still here? Ok, c’mon in to yet another one of my head trips. (rabbit trail – I don’t want this to just be about parenting… this is about the power of belief and how we view one another)

So, a few weeks ago I found myself up till midnight having what I would call a “fight” with my lovely wife. She called it a great discussion however. I was impressed with her for persevering with me, no matter what it’s called.

The topic; dear sweet Adaryn. Middle child. Explorer of boundaries, boundless in ideas and persistence.

You see, as of late, she had been what we will call “extra curious” of her boundaries with independence, passions, and really just how much Mommy and Daddy really meant what they said. It had been a seemingly constant battle, where day after day she was testing fences.

Needless to say, I was getting fried with it. I simply wanted my kid to obey and that be the end of it. But she was pulling more and more grand stunts, and I was starting to see the beginnings of what I’ve seen in so many snotty and rebellious teenage young ladies that I’ve known throughout the years.

After a while, I began to expect it. It was piled up high in my heart, and on this fateful night, my beloved Yvonne was going after it with all her heart.

Yvonne didn’t like what she was observing in me and my interactions with Addy. She said that I was heavy handed, harsh and intimidating. She (from what I remember) basically told me that I was giving Addy nowhere to go for hope.

Of course, what I heard Yvonne saying was, “John, you’re a crappy dad. You make your kids feel really crummy and stupid and you’re a big bully and a jerk! How do even get up in the morning being such a jerk? Jerk! Jerk! Jerk, Jerk!!! Dumb-head!” Yeah, that’s about the sum of it.

I was frustrated at what I saw in Addy. I didn’t want her to be a snotty, mean-girl. I was mad at being questioned as a dad. My pride was wounded, and it was very late. This wasn’t going well.

I had to look this in the eye. Yvonne wasn’t bending, and was totally calm. . . that always creeps me out.

She’s gonna laugh at that when she reads it, but if I’m intense, and she’s dead calm, I darn well better listen.

So I looked at it. Set aside the wounded pride, and look at it. I had begun to believe that Adaryn was a snotty teen. I had begun to look her in the eye and see a girl that was disconnected from her daddy’s heart, and drifting into the distance.

Sure, this sounds dramatic, but it’s real. Put yourself in this with any friend, loved one, whatever that you’re frustrated with. Are you really seeing who they are? Are you really looking at the person standing in front of you?

Or are you looking at the sum of the offenses committed against you? A pile of frustration? Your enemy? Have you lost hope?

Yvonne told me that I’d lost hope for Addy. That she would become what I see in her.

So I paused. I prayed. I pushed past all my frustration. Addy, my sweet little one. That little girl wants nothing more than to be near me and in my heart. She wants my delight more than anything. If I only look on her with disappointment, I will drive her away faster than anything.

Sure, I need to guide her, correct her and help her see when she’s crossed lines. Discipline is not a bad thing by any means. But what does she see in my eyes when I correct her? That’s the question.

If I don’t have any hope when I’m confronting her, then she won’t have any hope that she’ll ever be anything more.

Yvonne looked at me that night and knew that I was a better dad than that. Yvonne knows what kind of man I am and she wouldn’t settle for less. Yvonne did for me what I want to do for Addy; she looked me in the eye and reminded me of who I am.

This is hope.

This is exactly what God has done for us. He made us to bear his image. I know I always come back to this, but it’s just what is true. God looks at us and says, “Son, Daughter, I know who you are and I won’t let you just become another animal. Take my hand. Follow.”

And this is what I will give Addy, Chasah, Allie and all of my other kids that aren’t mine by blood. This is what I will resolve to give my friends and family.

But this takes some homework. We have to prayerfully take care of one another. You can’t just lazily expect to believe the best in the people around you, you have to learn what God actually sees in them. He’s their creator, and he knows who they’re made to be. To see others through his eyes, you have to spend time talking to him, walking with him, learning how he feels…

To preach the Gospel here for a sec, this is how, in it’s very simplest form, Christ’s rule takes over the earth. This is how the Kingdom of Heaven overlaps with this realm; we give ourselves to handing over our wills to the higher will of the Father. We let him tell us who we are… and we can look others in the eye, with hope and love, excitement and joy and say, “Friend, I know who you are. Be free! Come on!”

Correction becomes life giving.

Confrontation becomes liberation.

Being a truly hands on parent, through this mindset, becomes really, really fun.

**** just as a note, in the past month since the above encounter, I have had sooooooo much fun with my Adaryn. I love what God sees. ****