Yesterday – or Chick-fil-A

We are admirers of private companies like Chick-fil-A that decide to honor the human need for a day of rest and renewal – i.e., a weekly Sabbath – by closing their stores on Sundays.  However, they do take a few knocks for it from time-to-time.  Here is one on the good clean fun side – an April bonus edition of the Faithkeepers blog – to share this with your kids…it’s really cute.

God and Magic

I was looking back through some of my favorite article clippings and web links this past week from the past decade or so and I ran across one, from which I just had to share an excerpt.

It is from an interview with Rabbi Harold Kushner in the January 1999 issue of Educational Leadership magazine. Some may recognize Dr. Kushner as the best-selling author of When Bad Things Happen to Good People and other popular works.

In the article, the interviewer asked Kushner how a parent rather than a teacher can “help a child experience God?” Here is Dr. Kushner’s answer:

“Somebody once asked me how to convince a 9-year-old to believe in God. I answered that you can’t convince someone to believe. The question is: how can you teach a child to recognize God?

A task for parents, not teachers, is to create a catalog of moments in which children can recognize that God has intervened in their lives. When they have been sick and they get healthy, when they have done something naughty and they are forgiven for it, when they have gone out of their way to do a favor for somebody else and they feel good, when they see how beautiful the world is on a sunny day or after the first snowfall of winter, those are experiences of God.

Children need two things to nourish their souls. They need a sense of ritual and they need a sense of magic. If parents don’t give those basics to their children, it is the same as not giving them basic nutrition. I consider it a form of child abuse.

A child’s world is overwhelming and out of control. Doing things in a prescribed way gives them a sense of reliability. Whether it’s church every Sunday, candle lighting on Friday night, or certain prayers, they need predictability.

And they need the magic, the sense of specialness. In my own tradition, it might be just holding a child up to kiss the Torah as it is carried through the congregation. In the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox traditions, it might be the incense, the robes, the mystery, the music.

The sense that there is a reality beyond the reality of everyday life and that there is something wonderful about this – that is what nourishes the soul.”

Of course, you can gather why this resonates so much with us at Faithkeepers. Because at our core, our mission is to provide you with resources – ideas, encouragement, symbols, and more. It’s all about helping each other ensure that a strong faith takes shape in our children and young people as they grow up, through habit (practices) and through a sense of personal discovery (the “magic” Kushner speaks of).

SXSW: Faith edition

The next ten days are a special time in our hometown of Austin, Texas. For it’s the time of an annual festival referred to as SXSW (said “South by Southwest” or “Southby” by locals) that is one of the biggest events of its kind in the U.S. and many say one of the most significance in the world for the cross-section of new music, internet, and film.

The festival is about 20 years old now and, in its early years, was dominated by the music portion of the program. But, over the years, as Austin became more of a high tech “third coast,” the festival has attracted the software and internet crowd to the point where the Interactive portion is arguably equal to the Music portion of the festival in importance to its industry.

In recent years, film too has grown, due to great efforts by Texas-born film makers, investments by Austin leaders and other developers in studio infrastructure, and the lower cost of producing a film in Texas. It doesn’t hurt that a few high profile celebrities, with recent Oscar winner Sandra Bullock perhaps currently at the top of that list, call Austin “home.”

So, in the light of such a pop culture, media-intense gathering, it is so interesting to observe the picture that one can gather of faith, spirituality, belief at the event.

The good news is that it is by no means absent. For example, there are interviews of a couple of musical acts that have a faith-based dimension to them (in both cases, Christianity) featuring the groups Deer Tick and Superdrag. There is even a music panel on the subject of spirituality, entitled “Spirituality for Nomads.”

You might find the description of the “Spirituality” panel interesting. It says: “Touring has been described as 23 hours of drudgery for every one hour of on-stage high-energy bliss. Life on the road can be exhausting – physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Find practical ways to recharge your batteries and enjoy better relationships with band members and your industry support team.” What a cool theme!

A couple of other faith-based highlights worth mentioning include a nice touch of hospitality by the Southby staff to mention locations for worship within walking distance of the main festival venues (although there are only two referenced and they are both Protestant churches) and the Carver Center’s screening of a program of films for free admission, a couple of which have spiritual subjects.

One film of note is “Little Willie Eason and His Talking Gospel Guitar” (2005), describing how a man of belief takes the stage of the street and a House of God Church south of Miami to highlight the man who introduced the pedal steel guitar as an instrument to express his deep-seeded faith. It’s at 2pm on March 14th, at the Carver Center.

If there is any part of the festival that is a little disappointing (although not entirely surprising) it is the absence of any faith-focused panel or presenter at SXSW Interactive. You would think there would be something along the lines of “Church 2.0” or at least a major mainstream denomination speaker discussing how they are using social media to reach their millions of members. But, nada.

Looking on the bright side, there’s room to grow. And, in that light, I’m looking forward to learning as much as possible at this year’s SXSW festival; maybe we can get faith on the platform in 2011. Meanwhile, if you want to catch my musings through the conference, follow me on Twitter.

Your kids are listening (they just may not want to hear it from you)

Thank you to everyone who provided encouraging feedback for the “Where I’m At” faith story that we debuted last week with Jeff Collier. This week, we are sharing a “Where I’m At” video shot with Michael Watt.

Whereas Jeff is an ambassador for the Net Generation, Michael is an ambassador for the Baby Boomers. He has a son in college and a daughter in high school and, although a native of California, has lived the last decade-plus in Texas.

Michael is a successful technology industry financial executive, having served in positions at HP, Toshiba American and Dell, where he served as president of Dell Financial Services, among others. One of the things that we encourage you to do with the videos of Michael and Jeff, especially with your older children – tweens and above – is suggest that they spend 5-10 minutes watching one of these video segments.

Then, afterwards, perhaps you can ask them what they thought about it the next time you have dinner or are out grabbing a sandwich together. Our hope is that watching these stories from other younger and older voices will help your kiddo hear something that strikes at their faith in a new and deep way.

Because, anyone with tweens knows that it is often the time when children start to think mom and dad are “dumb” or get embarrassed by things you say and do. (Comics from the Archies  to Zits have been chronicling it for generations!) And, admittedly, we older adults have been known to do some embarrassing things. Come on…you remember something your parents did when you were that age!

But, this period of mild (or great) rebellion is a stage that we all go through as we start sorting out our identity, what we believe, and who we will become, as an ultimately independent young adult.

Over the next several weeks, we’ll continue to share these “Where I’m At” stories from Faithkeepers, aiming for an initial video – one each – from a member of each of the generations: traditionalists, baby boomers, gen x’rs, net generation, and the so-called “re-generation,” i.e., members of the youngest generation, who are the prodigy of the Gen X’rs.

As always, let us hear your ideas and what has worked for you in having faith discussions with your family and friends.

Ideas for Teens: Connecting with Your Kids through Music

Did you know that there is something of a Christian renaissance going on in popular music of all kinds? Whether it’s Country, Pop, or Rock, there is likely a mainstream star that your teen knows or listens to that is actually singing about the Gospel in their own way.

For example, take rock music. Often, if your child listens to this style, it’s easy to tune her or his music out. After all, who wants to listen to all of those screaming lyrics and whining guitars? But, the most popular act on the planet, U2 has a very deep Christian vein running through much if its music.

For teens that like a harder edge, there are bands like King’s X, who have been around for 15 years. Considered by the music channel VH-1’s artists poll as one of the Top 100 Rock bands of all time (right up there with the Aerosmiths and Led Zeppelins), Kings X is a mainstream band with a Gospel heart that would not typically be considered part of the “Christian” music scene.

For teens that like the softer edge, there are bands like dcTalk that started in the Christian genre but have broken into mainstream music with hits in recent years. It’s important to remember that the music of these artists can “speak” to your teens in powerful ways.

What better way to be a “part of the conversation” than to take an interest in their music? It’s a great way to re-connect with your teenager.