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For the last several weeks, your favorite kid has been providing some great insights of his own as you and he pick apart the 23rd psalm. You’ve gotten through the valley of the shadow of death. What might Jr. think about the Lord’s table?

courtesy of goodfoodie-keith.blogspot.com

courtesy of goodfoodie-keith.blogspot.com

Theoretical Conversation #9

 

You: So now you see why we don’t have to be afraid. Jesus has everything under control. The next thing that happens is the Shepherd “prepares a table before you in the presence of your enemies.”
Kid: He prepares a table? If my teacher says, “Put your books away and prepare for lunch,” then I have to get ready to go to the cafeteria. How do you get ready for a table?
You: The shepherd doesn’t get ready for a table. He gets the table ready.
Kid: Ready for what?
You: For a big party. For you. He puts all kinds of good things on your table.
Kid: Like spaghetti and chocolate cake and pecan pie, and cherry Popsicles?
You: A lot more than that.
Kid: Must be a big table!
You: It sure is. He puts everything on that table that you could ever need or want.
Kid: So food, and plates and glasses and forks and spoons and –
You: You can picture it like a fancy dinner with candlesticks and everything, but remember there’s always a deeper meaning to what the psalm talks about.
Kid: If I’m the sheep and Jesus is the Shepherd, then what is the table?
You: I think the table is your life, and God has put all these good things on your table, lots of blessings in your life.
Kid: Cool!
You: And you know what? He sets you up with wonderful blessings in the middle of a bunch of your enemies.
Kid: Why would he do that?
You: I’m not sure. Maybe to show you that even when the enemies try to hurt you, your table of blessings is still there. They can’t steal any of the wonderful things God gives you. God won’t let them.
Kid: But I don’t have any enemies.
You: Everybody likes you, huh?
Kid: I think so.
You: Doe the devil like you?
Kid: He doesn’t like anybody!
You: So you do have one enemy.
Silence while he considers this bombshell.
Kid: But God won’t let the devil hurt me, just like the psalm says?
You: God promises you still have his blessings on your special table that he prepared. I think I would be mistaken if I said he never lets the devil hurt you.

 

UH-OH. Jr. is getting upset.

 

Kid: But you said before that He keeps me safe.
You: And He does. That doesn’t mean you never get hurt.
Jr. is not consoled.

mosquito

You: Look. If you get a mosquito bite, does it hurt?
Kid: A little, then it itches even worse.
You: What about a bee sting?
Kid: That really hurts.
You: Does it kill you or hurt you so bad that you have to stay in a hospital for the rest of your life?
Kid (starts to relax): No. It swells up and hurts for maybe a day.
You: Well, that’s all Satan can do. He might hurt you, but when you know you’re going to spend forever with Jesus, the most Satan can try to do is sting you.
Kid: (pounds the table): Yeah! I’m getting the bug spray. The devil will be sorry if he tries to sting me!

wasp spray

The-Valley-of-the-Shadow-of-Death
Last week we left Junior dangling in regard to his confusion over how God’s idea of protection is different from ours. How can we walk through the valley of the shadow of death and fear no evil? People are tortured and killed by evil men every day. That’s terrifying!

Let’s see how one possible conversation with a kid could progress.
Theoretical Conversation with a kid #8
You: The last part of the verse says, “Your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” Remember the staff, the candy cane stick?
Kid: Yeah! He hooks the sheep around its neck and drags it away from danger.
You: And you thought that would hurt.
Kid: It would.
You: But you also agreed it’s okay for the Shepherd to hurt the sheep like that.
Kid: Sort of. That doesn’t hurt as much as a wolf bite.
You: The shepherd has a rod, too. What’s it for?
shepherd's rod
Kid: He spanks the sheep?
You: A lot of people think the shepherd hits the sheep with his rod, and I can see why. But the sheep doesn’t get much more than a tap on the side from the staff. The shepherd won’t beat the poor thing.
Kid: So what was the rod for?
You: To fight off enemies. If the shepherd saw a lion or a wolf, he could use it as a slingshot or a club. The rod was for the sheep’s safety, not for its punishment.                                        Kid: So Jesus beats up the devil with His rod?
You: I guess He does!
Kid: And He protects us all the time?
You: Yes.
Kid: Then why do bad people hurt good people and Jesus doesn’t do anything about it?
You: I know it looks like that sometimes. All you have to do is watch the news. But we forget the most important thing.
Kid: What?
You: Jesus already did do something about it that will last forever.
Kid: What??
You: You know. What is Easter all about? And don’t tell me eggs and bunnies and candy!
Kid: Jesus rose from the dead on Easter.
You: What’s Good Friday all about?
Kid: The day Jesus died on the cross.
You: I’ll bet people thought the devil won that day.
Kid: Yeah, all the disciples gave up.

spiritual warfare

spiritual warfare

You: But they didn’t realize what was going on. They thought evil men had destroyed Jesus. Then on Easter they saw Him alive again, and He showed them why it was good for the whole world that all those bad things had happened to Him.
Kid: And they were so happy!
You: Yes, they were. I think it’s the same kind of thing now. We see bad things happening, but we can’t see what Jesus is really doing. We can’t see what happens between angels and devils. We can’t see the future. But Jesus can.
Kid: And that’s why I don’t have be afraid. Jesus already knows how He’s gonna make it good. I get it!

I didn’t make it to verse four of Psalm twenty-three last week after all, so this week and next you and Junior will be walking through the valley of the shadow of death. Does that sound like a horror movie? It doesn’t have to be.

nightmare

Theoretical Conversation with a Kid # 7, Part 1

You: You know, sometimes that path of righteousness might take us through some scary things.

Kid: Why?

You: I don’t know all the reasons, but if a shepherd wants to get his sheep to the best pasture, he sometimes has to cross dangerous territory. He watches out for wolves and wildcats, and he fights to keep his sheep safe.

Kid: Can’t he just take another way around that’s safer?

You: Maybe, but that might have other problems like too many miles between watering holes. So no matter what, the trip can be difficult.

Kid: Why don’t they stay in the green pasture next to the still water?

You: What if nobody makes a trip to the grocery store at your house?

Kid: We run out of food. That’s got nothing to do with green pastures.

You: Sure it does. If the sheep stay in one place, they eat up all the grass, and they’ll starve just like you would starve if nobody brought home food. It’s not a green pasture once all the grass is gone. They have to keep traveling.

Kid: So…go through dangerous places or starve to death.

You: That’s about it.

Kid: That stinks.

You: That’s life. If we want to stay healthy and well-fed in our spirits, we can’t sit where we want if Jesus moves on. We have to follow Jesus and keep growing as a Christian, but we don’t have to worry about the dangerous places.

The-Valley-of-the-Shadow-of-Death

Kid: We don’t?

You: What comes after “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death?”

Kid: “I will fear no evil.” I’m scared of evil. I get nightmares.

You: Buy why didn’t King David fear evil when he wrote Psalm 23?

Kid: I don’t know.

You: What’s the rest of the verse?

Kid: “I will fear no evil… for you are with me.”

You: If Jesus is with me, I know He’ll protect me.

Kid: Well, I know that, but it’s still scary.

You: Why?

Kid: Because good people get hurt every day. Seems like Jesus didn’t protect them.

You: Yeah, seems like it. Maybe that’s because His idea of protection is different from ours.

Kid: I don’t get it.

And next week, hopefully, this kid will get the answers he needs.

What possible answer would you provide to clear up his confusion?

So far I’ve spent five weeks on just two and a half verses of Psalm twenty-three. (Who knew I could have been a preacher?) Those verses are so peaceful, but now the Shepherd moves into action mode. You and Junior can take walk in the woods as you discuss the rest of verses three and four.

Theoretical Conversation #6

poison ivy

poison ivy

You: If I go off the path and start walking through the woods, what could happen?

Kid: You’ll get poison ivy.

You: Hmmm. But if I’m wearing long pants and shoes and socks, won’t I be okay?

Kid: Not if you touch it with your hands. There’s poison sumac and oak, too, you know. Besides, if you go off the path, you’ll probably get lost.

You: But I know where the parking lot is. (Point)

Kid (frowning): I thought it was the other way.

You: Well, one of us is wrong. That’s why we need to stay on the path. So we’ll make sure to get back to the car.

Kid: Race you!

If you’re like me, you already know who’s going to win that race. As you trail behind, you reach a fork in the path. Junior is nowhere in sight.

You: Where are you?

Kid (in the distance to your right): Over here.

You: Wait up. (Huffing and puffing) Why didn’t you wait for me? You might’ve turned the wrong way.

Kid: Naw. The signpost had a picture of a car and an arrow. I knew which way to go.

You: That’s like the shepherd’s path of righteousness. He always shows you which way to go.

Kid: He has signposts?

signpost

signpost

You: The Bible is full of them. And creation too. Just look around you.

Kid: Where?

You: Anywhere. The trees right in front of us. What signpost do you see?

Kid: Ummmm.

You: What do you think they point to?

Kid: The sky? Heaven?

You: I hadn’t thought of that, but branches pointing to heaven make a good signpost. Not all of God’s signposts say “Go this way,” but they will say something to point you to thinking about God and how much He loves you or how much you should love Him.

Kid: So the trees point to heaven, (stops walking and looks around) the birds sing praise songs, the poison ivy?

You: Is a signpost to stay on the right path. “He guides me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.”

Kid: For His name’s sake?

You: Let me think about that. (Pause) If I cook your favorite dinner, I’ve done it for your sake. What does that tell you?

Kid: You love me so you’ll make me happy at dinner time.

You: Exactly. So if the Shepherd guides us for His name’s sake?

Kid: The Shepherd is Jesus, and He does it for His own name’s sake?

You: He does it because the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit love each other and like to make themselves happy. Although I think they enjoy happiness all the time. Let’s say it makes them happier to guide us on the right path.

Kid: So we can go to heaven and stay with them! Like when Grandma and Grandpa moved and they sent us a map so we could find their new house.

 sabato 3 maggio 2008

sabato 3 maggio 2008

You and your kid will probably discuss other kinds of signposts pointing to paths of righteousness. Feel free to share.

Four simple words. He restores my soul. But what do they mean? As a child, I had a vague picture of peace because of the previous verse in Psalm 23 – green pastures, sheep and cows grazing on the grass – still waters, easy to dip my toes into. So restoring my soul must have something do with the peaceful scene in my mind.

Does your child have that same sense of peace?

Ps. 23:3a

Ps. 23:3a

Theoretical Conversation #5

You: Do you know what a soul is?

Kid: Well… it’s kind of like the inside part of me.

You: Like your stomach or your lungs?

Kid (giggling): No. If I had an operation and you looked inside me, you couldn’t see my soul. It’s invisible.

You: How do you know it’s there if you can’t see it?

Kid: I just do. It’s what makes me me.

You: So no matter how you change on the outside – get fat, get skinny, stay blond or grow up and have brown hair, your soul is still you?

Kid: Yeah. You could cut off my arms and legs, and nose and ears. I’d still have my soul.

You: You’re right, but let’s not go there. What a horrible thought!

Kid (rubbing hands together): Blood and guts!

You: Change of subject. The verse says the Shepherd restores your soul. What is “restore?”

Kid: I don’t know. We store stuff in the basement, but I don’t think that’s the same. Where would you store a soul except inside yourself?

You: You have a point about your soul stored inside of you, but if you restore something, you take what’s old or broken and fix it to make it like new.

Before and After (1001rlqfw.wordpress.com)

Before and After (1001rlqfw.wordpress.com)

Kid: My soul isn’t broken or old. I’m only eight.

You: No, but if you get mad or scared, do you feel all squirmy inside like you wish you could run and run and run because you can’t stand to stay still?

Kid: Or I want to punch somebody.

You: A lot of people feel like that. They’ve lost that peace from the green pasture and still water. They need to get back there. Then their soul would feel like new, all calm and happy again.

Kid: But I thought the sheep kept walking beside the still water. Why aren’t they peaceful?

You: Sheep wander away sometimes.

Kid: Oh yeah. That other story about Jesus leaving 99 sheep to go look for the one that got lost.

You: And I bet when Jesus finds that lost sheep, it’s happy to have a drink of water and feel safe again.

Kid: The sheep got restored!

You: So when you get all upset about something, how can your soul get restored?

Kid: I guess I just “baa” until Jesus finds me and takes me back to the still waters so I can have a good, long drink.

 art by toia Thompson

art by toia Thompson

And Junior has reminded us how much we need our Shepherd. We stay lost and agitated without Him. Do I hear any “baas?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Psalm 23:2b – He leads me beside quiet waters.

Last week Junior and I had a discussion about enforced rest, when God makes you lie down in green pastures. In the next breath, the psalmist says, “He leads me beside the still waters.” Obviously, there’s a time to lie down and a time to get up and be led by the Shepherd.

I’ll continue to have a conversation with “my kid” while I hope you do the same with a child in your life.

quiet water

quiet water

Theoretical Conversation #4

You: “Quiet waters.” What kind of water is that?

Kid: The water doesn’t move much so it doesn’t make a lot of noise.

You: So I guess He doesn’t lead sheep by the ocean.

Kid: Or a river. Rivers move fast. Maybe a lake?

You: Sounds good. A lake on a day with no wind.

Kid: Good day for swimming.

You: Exactly. But in this verse, they aren’t going swimming. Since the sheep are beside quiet waters, they must be on the shore.

Kid: They can’t go in and cool off?

You: I guess not for the moment. But what can they do if they’re right next to the water?

Kid: They can drink it!

You: Ding, ding, ding! We have a winner!

Kid: Well, that’s not hard to figure out. Everybody drinks water.

You: But not everybody drinks God’s water.

Kid: I’ve never seen God Water.

You: It’s not water like you pour into a cup. The Bible says God’s Word is His water. You can drink the Word and never be thirsty.

Kid (suspicious): I always get thirsty again. Besides you can’t drink a Bible.

You: I know I often say the Bible is God’s Word. It would probably be more accurate to say Bibles contain the words of God. But The Word is Jesus Himself.

Kid: I remember. I memorized John 1:1 for Sunday school. (thinks a moment) But how do I drink Jesus?

You: Not with a glass and a straw, that’s for sure. But you can read His words in the Bible and think about what they mean. You can talk to Jesus and listen for answers to your prayers. Those are ways to drink the Word.

Kid: And I won’t get thirsty?

(from Grand Rapids Montessori Walk a Thon)

(from Grand Rapids Montessori Walk a Thon)

You: If I hand you a glass of water, and before you finish drinking it I come back with another full glass, will you get thirsty if I constantly have a full glass ready for you?

Kid: I’d never have time to get thirsty. The water would always be there.

You: That’s how God makes sure you never have to be thirsty. The Word is always there. You can always talk to God, always remember Bible verses you’ve learned. Like the sheep, you can walk along that lake shore and keep sipping on the water as you follow the Shepherd.

Kid: Cool! And maybe sometimes He’ll let me jump in and swim, too.

You: Maybe He will…

still-water

still-water

 

Wouldn’t it be great to have that kind of a conversation while you’re sitting on a quiet lake shore? At sunset? I’m putting that on my bucket list.

I’ve been having fun making up possible conversations with my favorite kid. (PC disclaimer: since I have three sons, I tend to imagine these conversations with little boys. I’m not being sexist, it’s just what I’m accustomed to.) We’ve talked about verse 1 of Psalm 23. Your kid understands that Jesus takes care of him like a shepherd takes care of sheep, Jesus yanks him out of harm’s way and will give him everything he needs and more.

Now for the first half of verse 2. Why would He want us to lie down in green pastures?

green pastures

green pastures

Theoretical Conversation #3

You: Describe a green pasture for me.

Kid: It’s green… lots of grass…

You: How big?

Kid: Maybe a mile? You can see trees at the end.

You: So it’s big and wide open with lots of green grass. And in the psalm, it says He makes you lie down in it.

Kid: Does that mean he makes you take a nap in the grass?

You: Maybe. Why would he do that?

Kid: I don’t know. It would be fun to lie down in the grass for a little while, but (wrinkles his nose) cows poop in pastures. And ticks are in the grass. I don’t want one to get stuck in me. Anyway, I’d rather run around in the pasture and play tag or something.

You: Since this is God’s pasture, let’s assume He doesn’t have any bugs in the grass that will bite you. And it’s pretty easy to avoid any cow patties that might be scattered around.

Kid: Okay, but I still wouldn’t want to lie down for long. Boring!

You: Remember when your mom used to make you take a nap, even when you didn’t want to?

Kid: Yeah, she said I got too cranky by dinner time if I didn’t get some sleep in the afternoon.

You: So she wanted you to be rested and happy.

Kid: Yeah.

You: And Jesus the Shepherd wants you rested and happy, too.

Kid: So He makes me take a nap in the pasture?

You: Not a real pasture with grass, but it’s like a pasture when He makes you stop being too busy and just sit around for a while.

Kid: Like summer vacation?

You: Right. Like that.

Kid (nods head wisely): Yeah, I’m in school all day, then I have homework and sports, and I don’t even have time to watch TV. But in the summer, I sleep late, play all day, just do fun stuff. No rush.

You: Good way to put it. When you’re in a green pasture, you’re not in a rush.

adirondack chairs at sunset

Adirondack chairs at sunset

Sometimes, I enjoy my green pastures, and sometimes I’m trying to move on while God wants me to rest. What green pastures are you enjoying right now? What about the kids in your life? Are they also enjoying green pastures? Have a conversation with them and find out.

 

 

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