Magic Word from “This is Us” – “Okay…”

(“Okay” as a magic word is found in the following chapter from 
Enough and Other Magic Words to Transform Your Life
by David W. Jones)

CHAPTER FOUR

Oh, No, No, No…     Bruce Springsteen

The Problem

   Amen.
   I am told that amen means so be it. So be it is a lot like yes. When I imagine Adam walking through Eden, I imagine him saying, “Yes,” a lot.
   God says, “Adam, work the garden.”
   Adam says, “Yes,” and works the garden.
   God says, “Adam, name the animals.”
   Adam says, “Yes,” and names the animals.
   God says, “Adam, enjoy the garden.”
   Adam says, “Yes,” and enjoys the beauty of the garden.
   I imagine Adam walking through the marvels of Eden, the wonders upon wonders, the joys, the sights, and the vistas which, upon seeing, Adam says from deep in his soul, “Yes! Yes! Yes!”
   Wendell Berry captures for me what first wonders feel like in his poem, The First.
  
 
   The first man who whistled
   thought he had a wren in his mouth.
   He went around all day
   with his lips puckered,
   afraid to swallow.
  

  
Yes. Yes. Yes.
   Adam knew yes.
  
He also knew no.
  
God says, “Adam don’t eat from the tree that is in the middle of the garden.”
   Adam says, “Which tree?” And later, when he’s sure God is far away, when he holds the fruit in his hand, Adam says, “No,” and breaks God’s rule.
   When God looks for him, when God asks what he has done, Adam doesn’t say yes to God but no. No! It wasn’t my fault. It was that woman you gave me.” No.
  
Adam had yes. Adam had no. He needed something else.
   Peter, Jesus’ disciple, was a lot like Adam. Peter had yes. Peter had no. He needed something else.

Continue reading “Magic Word from “This is Us” – “Okay…””

Beyond Divisions – Hyponyms Part II

When we are young, and beginning to explore the world, we learn about what something is through its opposite. As quickly as you can, go through the following list and name its opposite. The first one is done for you.
  
   hot… cold
   young…
   clean…
   big…
   dumb…
   skinny…
   friend…
   east…
   night…
Continue reading “Beyond Divisions – Hyponyms Part II”

Adam and Eve Flunked the SAT

Adam and Eve flunked the SAT because they didn’t know what a hyponym was…

Like Adam and Eve,
God has given you the world as your garden paradise.
If you choose to eat from the forbidden fruit
in order to label everyone and every experience ‘good’ or ‘ill,’
you will turn your heaven into a hell, just as they did. Continue reading “Adam and Eve Flunked the SAT”

You Can Always Choose so Choose Love

Luke 6: 27 But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. 29 If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt.

Praise those who curse you.
If someone tries to steal your coat, give it to him gladly.
If someone classifies you as “enemy”, reject their label.
If someone hates you, love them.
When you give to someone, give freely,
and do not keep a ledger expecting something in return.
Why? Because you can. That’s the power of The Way.

If someone strikes you, you do not have to strike back,
you can always choose.
If someone wrongs you,
you do not have to wrong them in return,
you can always choose.
No matter what evil someone does to you,
you do not have to repay evil for evil, violence for violence,
wrongdoing with an even greater wrongdoing.
No one ever forces your response,
you can always choose.
Why? Because you can. That’s the power of The Way.

War never brings peace.
Hate never produces love.
Only liberated people who choose
can dream the world into a new reality.
That has always been The Way.

From Impossible to “I’m Possible” with Jesus and Aristotle

    About 400 years before Jesus, Plato taught the world about perfection in his Philosophy of Forms. According to Plato, everything in existence was just a shadowy representation of a higher perfect form, like shadows on a cave wall represent the objects casting the image from the fire light. For everything there is a higher perfect form. The chair you are sitting in is merely a representation of a perfect chair. A horse is a representation of a perfect horse. Everything in existence has a higher perfect form.
   Some 400 years later, when Jesus was born, Plato’s ideas of perfection were still the dominant philosophy. God was perfect, righteous, holy, sinless, without flaw. Humanity was a dung heap compared to God. However, among life in the poop pile, some were less putrid than others. The religious in Jesus’ day saw themselves as far from perfect, but in comparison, far more perfect than your regular run of the mill sinner. They were confident if the people of the world would all try and be more like them, the world would be a better place. In order to help others, they were glad to point out all the areas in which people had fallen short from the glory of God’s perfect plan.
   Today, The Platonic Model of Perfection is still followed religiously with each church believing that even though we are all sinners, some are just a little less sinful than others. In order to be helpful, like the other Platonic Perfectionists that have come before us, we don’t begin by validating other people as beloved, we begin by invalidating others as far from perfect. We consider that the best way to be helpful.
   The Platonic Model of Perfection is also primary in education, from the primary grades on up. If you take a test and answer 100 questions and answer accurately on 97 of them, your paper may be returned to you with a red, -3.  Even if your test has a 97 on it, if asked, “How did you do?” you will likely answer, “I missed 3.” Plato would be proud. We learn to grade ourselves on just how far from perfection we are always seeking that perfect Platonic form.
   There is an alternative. For example, I heard of a teacher who started marking her tests differently. She got rid of her red marker. She put the number answered correctly on the paper. For a child who only got three correct, she put a 3 and a smiley face. The child asked her, “Why did you put a smiley face on my paper?”
   She replied, “Because you got 3 right. If you got three, then you can get the rest.”
   She was not saying, “There is no goal, no scale, no measuring.” What she is saying is, “Let’s celebrate potential. You got three correct, that means you are capable of getting more.”
   Rather than showing what the child could not do, she pointed the child toward potential. Billy, in this next story needed a teacher like her, and parents, and pastors, and…
  

   A teacher asked her third grade class, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
   She got the standard answers, “Fireman. Doctor. Astronaut.”
   Then she asked the only child who had no response, “Billy, what do you want to be when you grow up?”
   Billy replied, “Possible.”
   She did not understand, “Possible? What do you mean?”
   He replied, “Everybody is always telling me, ‘Billy, you’re impossible. When I grow up, I want to be possible.”
  
   Possibility or Potential is a contrasting model to Platonic Perfection and dates back to the same era as Plato. Plato had a student named, Aristotle. When Plato died, Aristotle was hoping to be appointed to Plato’s position as a tenured professor of philosophy. When he didn’t get the job, dejected, he left the city and went out into the forest to rethink his life. While he was out in the woods, he touched a tree.
   Touching something alive, Aristotle thought how limited Plato’s idea of ‘perfection’ was when it came to living things. What worked well in the classroom had little application with living things. What relevance did perfection have to do with trees, shrubs, flowers, birds, deer, or people?There was no ‘perfect’ form for anything alive. Living things come in so many varieties there can be no perfect form as each has a particularly unique and distinctive form of its own. Instead of perfection, Aristotle focused on ‘potential’. He used the word, telos. In an acorn is the telos of an oak tree. In atadpole is the telos of a frog. In a kitten is the telos of a cat. In a baby is the telos of an adult.    To the frustration of Jesus’ adversaries, he was a telos man. He looked at people as alive, not in some silly less than perfect ranking system. Jesus saw people as distinct individuals, alive and beautiful, each in his or her own way. While the religiously right saw many people as irredeemably imperfect and shouted, “Shame! Shame!” he saw potential in each person regardless of his or her imperfections or their past. Jesus called to all the individuals who could hear him during the Sermon on the Mount,
  
   Each of you is the salt of the earth. If salt has no flavor, can you make it salty again? No. It’s purpose is to give flavor to food or else it is thrown out.
   Each of you is the light of the world. When people get together and build a city, they do not hide it in a valley but put it on a hill so others can come to it. In the same way, why would anyone light a candle or a lamp and put it under a bucket? No, you put it on the table so that it gives light to all the house.
   So let it be with you. Let your light shine so that others may see the wonder of what you do and give glory
  

  Jesus’ call was not to consider in shame what we are not, but to find our potentialand live it out. Each of us is to find our flavor and share it. Each of us is to find our light and shine it. Each of us is to take whatever we have and set it on a hill for all to enjoy! Each of us must move from seeing ourselves as “impossible” to proclaiming, “I’m possible!” and living out our God-given telos.

  If I were to wish for anything, I should not wish for wealth and power, but for the passionate sense of the potential, for the eye which, ever young and ardent, sees the possible. Pleasure disappoints, possibility never. And what wine is so sparkling, what so fragrant, what so intoxicating, as possibility! Soren Kierkegaard

Too Much Stuff? Then Give Your Gifts…

   Here is how I feel about stuff… I like stuff. According to George Carlin, accumulating and acquiring stuff is our national pastime.

   …that’s what this country is all about. Tryin’ to get more stuff. Stuff you don’t want, stuff you don’t need, stuff that’s poorly made, stuff that’s overpriced. Even stuff you can’t afford! Gotta keep on gettin’ more stuff. Otherwise someone else might wind up with more stuff. Can’t let that happen. Gotta have the most stuff

   Carlin is right. I like stuff, but stuff is like cookie dough, too much and you’re going to toss it!
   If you feel like you’ve got too much stuff, if chasing that one more thing has ruined your paradise like it did Adam and Eve, then try giving away your gifts. Next birthday, anniversary, sweetheart’s day (Feb. 14), completion day (like graduation or retirement) or holiday (like Christmas or Groundhog Day), try donating your gift to someone else. Here is how:

Donate Your Anniversary to Buy Someone Else Something They Need
Through Your Church or Favorite Nonprofit

   Al and Carolyn Baumgartner celebrated their 60th anniversary and collected all their gifts through their church to raise enough money to buy every child at nearby Compton Elementary School a new Scholastic book. They were going to have the party. They were going to receive gifts. Because they decided to share by giving a gift someone needed instead of just accumulating more stuff a whole school celebrated their anniversary as they celebrated every student in the school.

Donate Your Birthday through Your Favorite Nonprofit

Cathie Newell donated her birthday and raised enough money to pay a teacher in Haiti for five months through Haiti for the World.

Celebrate Your Graduation by Helping a School Stay Open

Cayla and Abbie Jones donated their graduations (Cayla from Berry College and Abbie from Hillgrove High School) and raised enough money to fund the salaries of two teachers in Haiti for an entire year through Haiti for the World.

Celebrate Someone You Appreciate
Why Wait Until Mother’s Day, Secretary’s Day,
or Teacher Appreciation Day?

Donate your gifts to your favorite nonprofit today gift today in honor or memory of someone who is more important to you than anything you can buy. For more information, contact your favorite mission group or go to: Haiti for the World: How to Donate With your donation, make sure you fill in the “In honor of” section.

Set Up Your Own Fundraiser on Facebook for Your Favorite Nonprofit

   Most nonprofits have a “fundraiser” link on the left side of the nonprofit’s Facebook page to help you create your own fundraiser and let people know about the causes you care about. Carrie Jones gave her birthday and raised $700 for teachers in Haiti through Facebook and David Jones was feeling thankful at Thanksgiving and facilitated others thanksgivings on Facebook for teacher’s in Haiti and raised $600. To see how you can celebrate your own causes with your Facebook friends, click here for examples: Facebook Fundraisers.

   You don’t have to wait to Thanksgiving to be thankful. Give your gift, donate your presents, share your presence and show someone you care for them by caring for others. For more information, use the contact form below…

 

 

 

A Parent’s Great Commission

   In the summer of 1996, just before midnight, the youth and adults on our Mission Trip to Lexington, Kentucky were bunking down for sleep while I was out driving the church van around the same three blocks in what seemed to me a never-ending track of exhaustion. Cayla, a little over a year old, on her first mission trip, was in her car seat behind me slowly losing the battle between wake and sleep. She wouldn’t go to sleep in the church where we were staying, so I put her in the van and went hoping the driving wheels and the hum of the road would lull her to sleep. That was her first of many ‘mission trips’ to come. By age 12, she’d been on 13. As she graduated from high school, she planned a trip to Russia. In college, she coordinated projects for our Haiti partnership that will end up providing ongoing health care to thousands of children in Haiti. Now, she through her cap in the air and her gown aside after finishing Berry College and is off in Morocco with The Peace Corps.
   As parents, Carrie and I have worked very hard to make a home for our family. That’s what we do, as parents, we work to make a house a home not knowing that our children are conspiring against us all along. While we tell them, “Settle down!” making that our life’s goal, having found each other and settled down, our children are, year after year, with every birthday, cranking it up. No matter what age, as soon as you think you’ve mastered being a parent, they grow to a new stage in their development and your incompetence. I had always heard, “Give your children, roots and wings.” Well, guess what. The wings are far more powerful than the roots.
   I should have seen it coming with Cayla. She put on her backpack for school, but school wouldn’t be enough. She chose horseback riding as a hobby but going around in circles only satisfied her for so long. 
   Yes, I should have seen it coming. Every Sunday she heard me charge a congregation to go out in the world, that’s what we do as pastors. But congregations are expected to come back a week later (or at least next Christmas or Easter). Even so, every once in a while, you get someone who does more on a mission trip than get a small dose, they catch fire. Every once in a while , you get someone in church who actually listens to the gospels and the words of Jesus who says ‘build’ 11 times but ‘go’ 111 times. Look at church facilities and budgets, I think we reversed the ratio. Not Cayla. Even though we seldom preach about the Great Commission where Jesus tells his followers to descend the mountain and “Go into all the world,” apparently on those Sundays, she’s been listening.
   Looking back as full-time parent and part-time pastor in my daughter’s life, I guess I should warn you. Be careful if you come to worship on Sunday, the warm coals of your heart might catch fire – then, as Dr. Seuss says, “Oh, The Places You’ll Go.”

Why Worry?

Worry won’t make tomorrow come quicker.
Worry won’t fix your broken yesterday.
Worry won’t keep you from squandering each moment.
So, why worry?

Worry won’t feed you.
Worry won’t keep you safe.
Worry won’t make you live longer.
So, why worry?

 Why worry about your house
when the world is your home?
Why do you worry about death
when you have yet to fully live?

Those who worry are
like the group of starving people
who asked God for beans.
God gave them a banquet.
They complained,
“But where are our beans?”
They were in the way
but not in The Way.

 Do you think the bird worries
about what it will eat
or what it will wear?
Of course not!
It’s too busy flying.
If it starts worrying, it will crash.
Birds in flight are flying in The Way.
Do likewise, or you’ll crash.

The Sower Never Worries

The Way is like the sower scattering seed everywhere.
Some falls upon the road eaten by the birds.
Some falls upon rocks and never takes root.
Some falls upon thorns and are choked out.
Some falls upon the good soil and brings forth a healthy crop.
The sower is not concerned for seed that is lost.
He does not worry about seed that is eaten by birds,
that takes no root upon rocks, or is choked out by thorns.
The sower understands life.
Life grows exponentially.
Life always wins over roads, rocks, and thorns.
So it is with The Way.
The Way is like a mustard seed tiny but large in life.

The Way is like kudzu, once it starts growing in your field,
you’ll never get it out.

The Way is like yeast, a small amount does much
transforming a lump of dough into a loaf,
and all who eat of it are filled.

James Taylor and The Wise Men – Home by Another Way

Today is Epiphany, when the Magi came to the end of their journey following the star and encountered Christ in a poor home in Bethlehem. To have been on such a journey, to have been surprised by God in such an unexpected way, they had to be changed. James Taylor tells the story of their transformation in Home by Another Way

Those magic men the Magi, some people call them wise or Oriental, even kings.
Well anyway, those guys, they visited with Jesus, they sure enjoyed their stay.
Then warned in a dream of King Herod’s scheme, they went home by another way.
Yes, they went home by another way, home by another way.
Maybe me and you can be wise guys too and go home by another way.
We can make it another way, safe home as they used to say.
Keep a weather eye to the chart on high and go home another way.
Continue reading “James Taylor and The Wise Men – Home by Another Way”

New Year’s Resolution – Resolve to Pay Attention

   Sophia was asked to speak to the students of a local medical school.
   “Sophia, what do we need to be better doctors?” the students asked.
   “Doctors,” Sophia said, “need strong stomachs and strong powers of observation.” Then she opened a canister. The putrid smell quickly moved through the classroom. Sophia stuck a finger in the jar, pulled it up, and then licked it. She passed the jar around encouraging each doctor in training to do the same. Each did, and though many felt nauseas, no one got sick.
   “You all have very strong stomachs,” she said. “But your powers of observation need some work.”
   “What do you mean?” they asked. “We did just what you did.”
   “There is one difference,” she replied. “The finger I dipped in the jar was not the finger I licked.”

Caretake this moment. Immerse yourself in its particulars. Respond to this person, this challenge, this deed. Quit evasions. Stop giving yourself needless trouble. It is time to really live; to fully inhabit the situation you happen to be in now. Epictetus

Mary’s Faith

This week, we celebrate Mary and her faithful response to the Angel’s visit. Here is the story of her encounter with Gabriel from Luke chapter 1,

26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” 29 But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.30 The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. 33 He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” 34 Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” 35 The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. 36 And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38 Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.

We know the story so well, we often miss the power of not only an angel’s visit, the transforming words he offers, but Mary’s response. There is no request in the angelic proclamation. He does not ask, “Mary, God has a job for you to consider.” The only consideration is her response. Here is a painting which helps me capture the power in Mary’s choice.

mary

Here are the details, their possible symbolism, and parts of the story we may have overlooked.
Red Dress: If you went to high school when I did, you likely read The Scarlet Letter. Regardless of the origin of her future child, Mary would not have been seen as a ‘good’ girl. Like many teenagers with child, Mary does what many had to, went away to see their cousin. Sometimes they stayed until the baby was born, sometimes in Mary’s case, at least until the intensity of the scandal calmed.
Sight: In the paining, Mary is looking forward. She has a clear sense of vision.
Umbrella: Mary is in the rain. The umbrella is before her. To get out of the rain she has to step forward. The choice is also before her. She can stand still or step out.
Water: She can step forward to get out of the rain, but the path ahead is not dry. She will have to step into an apparently deep lake. The minor choice seems to be accompanied by a large one, out of the rain and into deep water. If she trust’s God’s messenger and God, then she will not see herself as cast off no matter what her culture and family might say about her, but the step will be into deep water. God works that way. God called Abram and Sarah – they left their homes and went into a famine.Jesus called Peter and the other fishermen. “Leave your nets, come and go with me and I’ll give you purpose – I’ll make you fishers of people.” “Fishers of people? Wow!” “Oh, yeah, by the way, I’m headed to the cross…”
Alone: Though Mary stands as a solitary figure in the paining, that was not how she saw herself. She knew little enough of men, the world, parenting, to have any idea what life would be like for her. She did know enough of God and know God well enough to trust, not beyond reason but beyond reservation. She had faith like that poet, Taylor Caldwell described,

I am not alone at all,
I was never alone at all.
That is the message of Christmas.
We are never alone.
Not when night is darkest, the wind coldest,
the world seemingly most indifferent.
For this is still the time God chooses.

During Christmas we retell the familiar tales, but if we dare to listen, we will hear the voice of one beyond time calling us to step out, venture from the shore, to the infinite sea of God’s impossibility made our potential.
Lead on, Mary!

Let There Be Peace on Earth, and Let it Begin with…

Many go to war in the name of peace.
Many act criminally in the name of justice.
Many lie in the name of the truth.
Many dominate others in the name of freedom.
Many wrongdoings are committed in the name of righteousness.
Many acts of hate are done in the name of love.

To walk in The Way,
   focus less on the name and more on the ways
   of peace, justice, truth, freedom,
   righteousness, and love.
   That is The Way.

Can hate produce love?
   Can war bring peace?
   Can domination promote freedom?
   Can evil foster good?
   No more than manure can give the aroma of a rose
   or a canary can give birth to a cow.

The Way of Giving, Possessing without being Possessed

You can possess objects while you’re alive
   but once your objects start possessing you,
   you will stop enjoying them as well as your life.
   Once you forget what stuff is for,
   you will become greedy.
   Once you forget what people are for,
   you will become dominated by your own anxiety.

Don’t worry about what happens
   to your stuff after you die
   because after you die,
   it won’t be your stuff.

Just as adults don’t cry
   over lost dolls and trucks from childhood
   in the next life no one cries
   over toys they leave behind at death.  

The key to peace on earth is simple:
   everyone with two coats
   give one to someone who has none.

People are starving while the harvest is great.
   Won’t someone go get the people some food?

 

In a World of Endless Name Calling, Comes The Way…

Jesus said, “Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get.” Matthew 7

Beware of categories.
    As soon as you label something as ‘beautiful,’
    you will begin to see ‘ugly.’
    Call some ‘better,’
    and you will define others as ‘worth-less.’
    Draw a circle around ‘us,’
    and you’ll see others as ‘them.’
    Build a wall to create ‘insiders,’
    and you will continue to cast more and more
    over your walls until none are left,
    except you alone.

 Beware of polarizing dualities.
    ‘Difficult’ fashions ‘easy.’
    ‘Long’ forms ‘short.’
    ‘Up’ tops ‘down.’
    ‘High’ necessitates ‘low.’
    ‘After’ surges ahead of ‘before.’
    ‘Sooner’ cuts in front of ‘later.’
    ‘Winning’ must outscore ‘losing.’
    ‘Success’ must frown upon ‘failure.’
    Each needs the other,
    like ‘richer’ needs ‘poorer,’
    ‘right’ needs ‘wrong,’
    or neither can exist.  

All are only fabrications.
Languages and labels never last.
Only The Unnamable is forever real.

David Jones, The Way and The Word – The Tao of Jesus 

Have a Funky Christmas

My favorite Pat McLaughlin quotes…

When asked to sing at church, “I don’t know any sacred songs. Well… perhaps they’re all sacred songs.”

After I finished worship, “That’s the best #*^##* sermon I ever heard.”

This song is not a carol, and it won’t ever be in a hymnbook, but it brings me joy inside. Shouldn’t all Christmas gifts bring us joy inside? With that intention, have a Funky Christmas.

Don’t know what to get your music lover for Christmas? Support quality song writing in Nashville and have yourself a funky Christmas.  http://www.patmclaughlin.com/

Name Him Bob

(Text version)

What if an angel came to you like he did Joseph? You’ve gotten the news about your fiance’ being pregnant with a child that’ not yours. In your tossing and turning for most of the night, but in that sleep a dream, and in that dream, an angel. The angel tell Joseph exactly what to do, even the name of the child. For this would be a sign to the rest of the world to just how special this child would be, Joseph, whose carpentry was average at best, did not get a great deal of respect in the village, but now he would. The name from the angel would have to be majestic. One of the older ones, Lion of Judah,  The Light of the World,
The Resurrection and the Life, The Bright and Morning Star,  Alpha and Omega.

Joseph waited for the angel to speak, to give him the name. “And you will name him….” Wait for it. “Bob.”

Continue reading “Name Him Bob”

When Children Grieve

Image result for children grievingI spent today with a boy whose father had, in his terms, passed away. When I want to know how to help a child, I ask Carrie, mom, school counselor, and sage. Here is her advice.

Loss, Crisis, and Grief: Special Considerations for Children
For children who are grieving, this is the beginning of their understanding of the life experience of loss, crisis, and death. You have an important task to support them at this present moment and, at the same time, lay the foundation for their life experience with the emotions of these experiences. Here are some suggestions to support you as you support the children you care for:
   Allow children to express their feelings in ways that are appropriate to them. Children are resilient. Nourished by love, protection, guidance, and attention, they can spring back after even the most horrendous traumatic events. The parent is often the most influential factor in the recovery of the child. One of the goals for treatment of traumatized children is to help the child face the truth of what has happened. This involves enabling the child to draw, sing, dance, talk, or engage in some other form of self-expression that is also a self-soothing activity.
   Speak honestly. Use the language of death when speaking with children. Refrain from stating that the person who has died has “gone away”, “is lost”, “was sick” or “is sleeping”. Those statements can be very frightening to children and will delay their ability to accept and understand that the person will not come back.
   Give clear and concise information regarding the death of the loved one, or children may construct their own stories to fill in the holes. Encourage children to ask questions. Make sure you understand the question and offer honest answers to the questions asked. (At times, adults think they understand the question and give an answer to something the child was not even asking. Not only is this confusing to the child, but it sends the message you don’t understand. Hint… before offering an answer, ask a question about their question… “Do you mean…? Or encourage more information for your own understanding….”Tell me more about what you are thinking so I can help you with your question.”)
   Spend more time with children and let them be more dependent on you during the months following the trauma. For example, allow the child to cling to caregivers more often than usual. Physical affection is very comforting to children who have experienced trauma.
   Provide play experiences to help relieve tension. Younger children in particular may find it easier to share their ideas and feelings about the event through non-verbal activities such as drawing.
   Encourage older children to discuss their thoughts and feelings with one another. This helps reduce their confusion and anxiety related to the trauma and gives them a peer support system in this time.
   Keep regular schedules for activities such as eating, playing, and going to bed to help restore a sense of security and normalcy.
   When your child is interested or ready, share with him/her your beliefs about death.
   Help your child find a way to honor the life of the person who was important to them. Some ideas are to write a letter or a poem; plant a tree; create a collage of words, pictures or both; make a special meal; work for and present a donation in the person’s memory to an organization which represents something the person valued.

Be Alert to These Changes in a Child’s Behavior:
  
Refusal to return to school and “clinging” behavior, including shadowing the mother or father.
   Persistent fears related to the catastrophe like the fear of being permanently separated from parents.
   Behavior problems, for example, misbehaving in school or at home in ways that are not typical for the child.
   Loss of concentration, irritability, and change in grades or attitude toward school or other regular activities.
   Startling easily and jumpy behavior.
   Physical complaints (stomachaches, headaches, dizziness) for which a physical cause cannot be found.
   Withdrawal from family and friends, sadness, listlessness, decreased activity, and preoccupation with the events of the disaster.
   Sleep disturbances such as nightmares, screaming during sleep, and bed-wetting, persisting more than several days after the event.
   If these behaviors persist, consider seeking professional support for your child.