What Does God Look Like?

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By Patrick Showers, Associate Elementary Pastor
Woodland Hills Church

Have you ever wondered what God looks like? Although none of us have actually “seen” God, we all have our own internal “image” of what God “looks” like (what He is really like) that we carry around inside our hearts. Our God-image is birthed through life experiences, our thoughts, beliefs, choices, our culture, and Satan’s misleading schemes. So, how do we know if the God-image we are carrying in our heart is accurate?

Try an experiment; Close your eyes and try to picture God. Write a description of what you see and experience when you picture God.

Then try this experiment with your child, ask, “What does God looks like?” Have him or her describe or draw what God looks. His/Her response may be eye opening.

Typically, four distorted pictures of God are common in American culture.

  1. Powerful or angry Father: Some tend to see God as a harsh judge who focuses on our behavior rather than relationships.
  2. Distant, disinterested dad: Others may see a busy God who is not that interested in us, and we are at the whim of destiny/fate.
  3. Kindly, old Santa Claus: A few tend to see a happy God that doesn’t have a naughty list, doesn’t worry about our actions, and generously welcomes people into heaven.
  4. Mysterious, Spiritual Force: Some may tend to see God being impersonal, without form, and part of everything.

Each of these distorted God-images affects not only how a person sees God but their expectations of God as well as their interactions with Him. Negative perceptions can cloud the truth of God’s character and His love, thus making Him seem untrustworthy.

Having an accurate picture of God involves knowing who God is, His character, and knowing that God is trustworthy provides strong foundations for a healthy relationship with Him.

The Bible presents many clues about God’s identity and character but not about His appearance. Knowing His character and identity helps us to have an accurate God-image. Two key characteristics gleaned from the Bible are crucial: God is love (1 John 4:8) and God is faithful. God’s love is evidenced in many stories found in the Bible but just as important, we have personal experiences that reinforce this truth. We also have the words of Jesus who tells us that by knowing Him, we will know God the Father.   Jesus demonstrated love and faithfulness, but He also revealed God’s desire to be intimately close to us in a relationship like no other.

Look back at the descriptions of God that you and your child produced. You may find a few commonalities. Compare these descriptions with what we know from the Bible. I’m guessing your “image” of God is closer to the truth than the common four misconceptions listed.

We may fear that our actions will model a distorted picture of God, but 1 John 4:8 reveals that by showing selfless love and kindness to our children, we are actually reinforcing a healthy picture of God since He is love. As we model being in a deep, trustworthy, and intimate relationship with our children, our spouse, our friends, and especially with God we are providing a healthy God-image.

So, if your child’s God-image is distorted or incomplete, start thinking of ways you can reveal a true and accurate image of God. Share personal experiences of God’s love and faithfulness. Read stories from the Bible and point out key truths about God based on what you read.   Together practice memorizing Bible verses that reflect God’s love and character. Describe what God is like to you and what image of God you see. Seek God’s help in prayer, as well.

Continue to provide descriptions and insights into God’s character whenever you can. Your child will begin to realize that being close to God is invaluable and He is worthy of trust. Being in a relationship with God connects us to a true “image” of God.

Parenting in Community: Carrying Each Other’s Burdens

We are excited to have another great article to post from guest blogger, Allison O.

I will probably always remember the Morning Meet-up where I was that mom. The one whose 4 year old pushed and hit way too many times and she didn’t do anything about it. I couldn’t do anything about it. It was more than a handful of times that morning that other moms had to speak directly to my son about what he had done to their children.  I sat quietly with my back leaning against the wall and my newborn baby nursing herself to sleep, tears welling up in my eyes.

Mind reeling, the attacking self-talk began.

What had I done wrong? Was my parenting model flawed? Was I not executing it well enough? Was this third baby just too much for our family? What was wrong with my kid? Would he ever learn to control his own body and play lovingly with others? These other moms, their kids aren’t being violent, and they are available to navigate conflict with their kids. I probably shouldn’t have come this morning. These moms must be so annoyed at my absentee parenting and uncontrolled kid. This is humiliating.

I clenched my jaw and survived the playgroup by the thinnest of threads. Sighing with relief, I loaded myself up like a Sherpa to get our family out to the car at the end, weighed down by baby gear and self-inflicted shame.

Before I let myself think about what I was doing, I called one mama in the group who had interacted with my son several times that morning. I wanted to apologize, I said, for my son’s behavior, for not helping, for being generally useless this morning.

“Allison, it was nothing! This is parenting in community.”

To me, she was being inconvenienced and even wronged by my inability to be a hands-on parent that morning, but her perspective saw this as an opportunity to help a mom with a brand new baby who simply couldn’t be in two places at once. I felt her words filling the dark corners of my mind with light.

This is parenting in community. Several times since that morning this perspective has been exemplified to me by the community of parents at Woodland Hills. We don’t look at you, over there judging yourself for whatever reason, and think that it’s an ”us vs. them” situation. We look at you and think I know what that’s like; how can I help? It’s weird, I know, to allow others to help carry the burden of parenthood; we live in an “Each Man for Himself” culture where asking for help (or simply being helpless as I was that morning) is seen as weakness. But that is not to be our model. Needing help is an opportunity for others to show us the self-sacrificial love of Christ. It is humbling and hard at first, but it is not shameful.

Whether it is keeping eyes on each other’s children during bathroom breaks or stopping to pray over a mama having a particularly rough week, I have learned so very much about what it means to be the body of Christ from the parenting community at Morning Meet-up.

Morning Meetup is a time for caregivers and their little ones to worship together and deepen relationships beyond Sunday morning worship services. Join us on Tuesday mornings at 9:30 for worship and a Bible story, snacks, hot coffee, and great conversation. This is also a great place to introduce friends to the community of families with young children at church. We are excited to see you there!
Beginning June 10, Morning Meetup will move to the playground at Lake Gervais. BYO snacks and come play! Visit the Morning Meetup Facebook page for info: https://www.facebook.com/groups/295665657269345/   Search: Morning (or anytime) Meet-up on Facebook

Grumpy Day

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By Paula Bowlby,
Early Childhood Associate Pastor
Woodland Hills Church

On Sunday mornings, I enjoy watching families come through our doors. I love to observe reactions of the children as they come in. Some children coming running in, so happy to be at church, greeting me in various ways as they come in. Other children literally come in kicking and screaming because they are going through separation anxiety. It is fun to see the kids notice their friends and interact with them as they walk back to Heroes Gate They are forming relationships here and creating bonds.

Recently, I observed a little girl greet another little girl. She went bouncing over and gave her friend a very enthusiastic, “Hi!” Her friend was not as excited as she was, and her friend turned her back to hide her face. What came next surprised me. The first little girl bounced over to her mom and told her mom that her friend was having a grumpy day. I loved that instead of taking the reaction personally, she saw the reaction for what it was, she understood at her young age they were still friends and sometimes people just have grumpy days.

The Bible reminds us to have childlike faith and to become like little children. This interaction was such a good reminder to be centered in God’s love, to love others even if they are having a grumpy day and when they don’t have the reaction we are expecting. I love that this little girl knew it is okay to have a grumpy day and that someone else’s grumpy day was absolutely no reflection of her. These life lessons for us and our kids are all around us. Watch, listen and learn from the little ones around you.  Model behavior to the little ones around you the best way you can by loving with confidence as you remember the love your Creator has for you!

Unwrapped

We are excited to feature another guest blog from mom, youth minister, and writer Erica Hunt.

The top shelf of the closet hadn’t seen a dust rag in months. At least six had passed since the space had been sorted or attended to in any way. Stretching my arms overhead for a quick cleaning, a plastic leg fell past my right eye on its way to the floor as I haphazardly moved and removed items from that top shelf.

As a child of the 80s, I knew this leg. It belonged to Barbie, ™ one of my own childhood companions. My arms still in the air, I held my gaze on the dismembered leg, trying to figure out how it got there. We hadn’t bought Barbies for our girls, yet here was this leg, unmistakable in its origin. I retrieved a stepstool for a closer look and quickly found the rest of the poor doll. She had only one limb still attached and even her head hadn’t managed to stay connected to the nub on her torso. She was a mess with tangled, matted hair and a sloppy make-up job.

As soon as I saw her face, I knew exactly who she was and where she came from. At my daughter’s 8th birthday party several months before, one of the girls had given her this doll as a gift. It was a knock-off from the Dollar Store and broke within hours of taking it out of the packaging. I thought it had long been thrown away since even careful, repeated efforts at putting her back together were futile. It was almost like it was made to break and stay broken.

I collected the pieces of “flesh-colored” plastic limbs and brought them to my daughter. She explained that they were from Melissa.

And…?

She repeated herself, a hint of irritation in her voice.

But the doll is quite obviously and permanently broken.

Squaring her shoulders to add emphasis, she continued to explain. Melissa gave her the doll for her birthday. Melissa is one of her best friends. The doll’s condition is irrelevant. The doll needs to stay in her “special spot,” undisturbed.

My daughter took the fragments from my hands, climbed the step stool, and reverently put them back on the top shelf. The broken doll meant something to her. It needed to be kept.

Six years after finding the broken doll, not much has changed. My daughter is the same girl who gets up early on schooldays to write long birthday messages on homemade cards, bakes a favorite dessert for a friend, or gathers streamer remnants to decorate classmates’ lockers. She delights in customizing a gift for someone she deeply knows and cares about. Her room is a physical catalog of prized possessions and trinkets from her loved ones.

I admire this in her, but I don’t really get it. Gifts have never been my thing. Of course, I appreciate the thoughtfulness evident in gifts and occasionally enjoy shopping for others, but I would rather take someone out to lunch and spend quality time than give a present. My husband is wired much the same way, which is why we stopped giving birthday gifts to each other years ago. Now we celebrate by spending the whole day together, doing whatever the birthday person wants.

My daughter and I had a weekend together recently…sort of. She had a birthday party sleep over, so she spent a lot of time preparing the card and gift and then was gone at the party for the night.

I had plans for us when she got home. Walking the dog, making dinner, talking about the party. In a word, togetherness. So when she called to ask about staying longer to help a friend with a project, I shouldn’t have been surprised when my throat swelled up and tears stung my eyes. The sense of rejection was keen, but I tempered it as we spoke, knowing it was unfair to hold her responsible for my unspoken expectations. We compromised and she came home earlier than she wanted. Tired from the sleep over, she still walked and ate with me and told me snippets of the party.

The compromise felt like each of us could unwrap and share something special given by the other – Gifts we’ll both hang onto for a while.

Rainy Day Fun

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by Teresa Sayles, Children’s Curriculum Specialist
Woodland Hills Church

It’s summer, and everyone’s excited to be outside. However, summer also brings with it those rainy days when playing outside just isn’t an option. With school out and energy high, how do you keep your kids (and yourself) from going completely bonkers? Here are a few ideas that may help to stem the chaos.

• Have a Plan: Know you’re going to hit a day when the weather’s just not going to cooperate and have supplies you’ll want set aside. That way, you’re not scrambling to find that elusive set of construction paper while little Billy’s chasing Susie around the house with his pet hamster. It’s also good to keep an eye on the forecast and plan accordingly. If you’re going to have a few rainy days in a row, you’ll want to save a few of your best activities for the later days when kids are getting antsy to run around.

• Use the Energy: Being cooped up on a rainy day (or days) can be really hard for kids, especially those who love to move and run. Rather than trying to contain their energy, use it creatively. Put on some fun, upbeat music and throw a dance party in your living room. Hold Family Indoor Olympics and come up with your own sports such as Plastic Cup Speed Stacking or a Balancing a Book on Your Head Race. Let them get those pesky wiggles out!

• Encourage the Creative: Rainy days are a great opportunity for your kids to get creative and use those amazing imaginations. Pull out the art supplies and let them go wild. If you have older kids, have them reenact a favorite story or movie or come up with their own play and then, using clothes and items you’ve already got on hand, perform it for family and friends. For a quieter activity, staple a few sheets of paper together and have them create their own book or, taping several sheets together, ask them to draw or paint a mural. A quick search on Google or Pinterest reveals an endless supply of crafty ideas for kids.

• Journey Down Memory Lane: Even young children like to look back and remember the past. Pull out the family photo albums (whether printed or digital) and walk through some of your family’s favorite moments together. Be sure to note how kids have grown and changed over the years and let them talk through how they’re different now than they were then.

• Make Learning Fun: School may be out, but that doesn’t mean learning has to be. Use a rainy day as a chance to keep them absorbing information by making learning fun. Jump online to Google Earth and help your kids realize how big, beautiful, and diverse the world is thanks to our creative God. Take a trip to a museum and let your kids linger at the exhibits that most interest them. Head to the library and have your kids pick out nonfiction books on topics that interest them. You could even take the rainy day as a chance to do some “weather research” with your kids and find out what makes it rain, thunder, etc.

Rainy days may be wet, but they don’t have to slow down your family’s fun. With a little prep and creativity, even the rainiest day can still be a great day for your family.