Br. Eldridge Pendleton of the Society of St. John the Evangelist posted on "Brother Give Us a Word" this past Saturday:
It is important, in matters of spirituality, to listen to children. Do not discount as valueless what they have to say. Take them and their comments on spirituality seriously.... [and] let them guide you back to wonder, to the sense of spiritual awe we have lost.
Because yesterday was the Feast of St. Michael and All Angels, I read Season of Angels, which is based on the Book of Tobit, as our Scripture reading at the Family Service. Afterwards we talked about angels.
One of the children said that angels are messengers of God who used to be good people when they were alive and became angels when they died. Another said that angels are beings who are sent by God to help people. A shy child said, "I think birds are angels." Then came the suggestion that the spirit of an angel can enter a person, who can then become a messenger or guide or protector from God for someone else. It was as though the conversation begun back in the 1830's with the children in Bronson Alcott's group had continued through the centuries.
After our conversation, we thought about what prayers we'd like to offer. We prayed for a dog that had fallen downstairs, for a friend injured in a soccer game, for a sick sister who couldn't come to church. Then a grandmother who is raising her orphaned grandchildren told a story that was prayer: the children were spending their first autumn in New England, so that morning before church she drove them down a long point of land that stretches out into the bay, where they saw brilliant red and gold leaves against the backdrop of ocean. "My eyes can't move fast enough to see all this beauty!" her granddaughter exclaimed.
Br. Eldridge is right: not only was the conversation about angels both spiritual and thoughtful, but this little girl's excited observation "guided us back to wonder, to a sense of spiritual awe," and awakened us old-timers to the exuberant beauty of a New England fall which we might otherwise take for granted. We are surrounded by beauty and blessings, but it may take a child to help us notice.
It's too easy to forget that, because we are made in the likeness of an exuberantly creative God, we, too, are meant to be makers and creators. We cannot spin the stars in their courses or paint a Vermont mountain the colors of autumn, but -- as I come back to again and again -- we can bake bread and tell stories with our children, build with blocks or dance to a favorite song. Being creative with our children helps them live into the fullness of life to which God calls them.
So here I am going to repeat my challenge of last week: sometime between now and October 9, sit down with your children and create a story, in this case a green goblin story using the following ingredients: a rolling pumpkin, a river, bungee cords, a stop sign, and a giraffe.
If this is unfamiliar, you can look at the previous post for some background. No, it's not about angels or Jesus (though, of course, it could be), but a way to nurture a sense of creative play in your children.
Once you concoct a story, send it!
Write it up and email it to this email address -- don't be confused by its name; the address was originally created for Star of Wonder, the companion book to Season of Angels.
Oh, and as I also suggested last week, be on the lookout for goblin trees. Send photos to go with stories -- or send pictures even if you don't send a story. Hunting for goblin trees is its own creative endeavor.
Have fun, and in the process, be on the lookout for beauty and blessings -- and if you have a hard time finding them, ask a child to help.