only BIGGER thinking

I don’t want to hear any more news today.

I don’t want to hear the opposing sides shouting self-righteously about how armed teachers could have saved those children or how gun control could have prevented this all from happening in the first place.

I don’t want to hear the names they’re calling the shooter, like “evil” and “coward”.

I don’t want to hear about innocence and unfathomable grief and holiday presents that will never be opened because my heart just can’t bear that right now.

I don’t want to hear Wolf Blitzer on CNN saying things like, “It may be maudlin to say, but just imagine how tragic it will be when we start seeing the actual images of the children’s bodies.”

I don’t want to hear timelines, recorded police calls, press conferences, crime experts, or the President.

I don’t want to hear reporters eagerly clamoring to confirm whether the…

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Happy Holidays? Does it really matter?

Christmas TreeWe just heard yet another news story about the evergreen tree with colored lights on it being called a “holiday tree” this year. We attended the Phoenix Symphony yesterday for a wonderful afternoon of “Holiday Pops,” where Santa Claus wished us all “Happy Holidays.” And last night a very kind Home Depot employee noticed my VBS t-shirt before telling us that he refuses to obey corporate policy and always wishes people a “Merry Christmas.”

All of this got me wondering, does it really make any difference? Perhaps the bigger issue is how we, who know Jesus, celebrate every day of our lives!  In fact, instead of watching the world take Christ out of Christmas, what if we put Jesus INTO every holiday?  Why not try celebrating a bit differently in 2013:

  • On January 21 (MLK Day), honor God and Martin Luther King, Jr, by living in peace with others in so much as it is possible for you.
  • On February 14 (Valentine’s Day), don’t just talk about love; set aside your “wants” and do what’s best for another human.
  • On March 31 (Easter), dedicate your life to enjoying the “life” (and life abundant) that Jesus came to bring.
  • On April 22 (Earth Day), consider God’s blessings and see how you might be a better steward of all he has loaned you.
  • On May 12 (Mother’s Day), consider how you might truly “honor” your mother, and her Creator.
  • On May 27 (Memorial Day), remember those who have served you, by serving others in the name of Jesus. (Have you washed anyone’s feet lately?)
  • On June 16 (Father’s Day), consider how you might truly “honor” your father, and his Creator.calendar (I can always use a, “Thanks for trying hard to be a good dad,” from my kids.)
  • On July 4 (Independence Day), confess the sins of our country and admit our dependence on him!
  • On September 2 (Labor Day), thank God for your job…for the call he has given you to make a difference in the world!
  • On October 31 (Halloween), recognize the reality of the spiritual realm, and be thankful that our God is a mighty God.
  • On November 11 (Veteran’s Day), pray that Jesus returns soon, to end all wars!
  • On November 28 (Thanksgiving), show your thankfulness for his blessings by not obsessing over Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Be satisfied!
  • On December 25 (Christmas), don’t worry about what Santa wishes you, but know that Jesus came so that we might have life and commanded us to made disciples of all the nations.  Hey, maybe that should be our New Year’s resolution?

Merry Christmas,

Gordon & Becki West

What’s the key to good discipline?

The Key to Discipline: Giving students what they want!

We know it seems contrary to everything you’ve ever been taught about nurturing children, but the quickest way to achieve a well-disciplined classroom is to give your students (of any age) exactly what they have been wanting all along. Let us explain.

Garrido, a researcher in the field of children’s education, says it clearly: “Children quickly become restless when they are given peripheral material, but concentrate and settle down when given what they have been hungering for.” The problem is that if we don’t know what our students are hungering for, we end up giving them the peripheral materials that cause them to be restless, i.e. to not behave well.

So what is it that children really want…deep down inside? While each child might have his or her own items to add to the list, we believe that it is safe to say that all children of any age in every culture desire a few simple things:

  • To be treated with respect.
  • To be loved unconditionally.
  • To be given safe boundaries.
  • And to experience deep, meaningful relationship with God.

While many of us work hard to create lessons that are polished and presented with great flair, we believe that some simple elements in each session can improve overall behavior.

Start your class by lighting a candle. While this may sound too “churchy,” children are very aware of symbols and your weekly reminder that God, the Holy Spirit, is present in your classroom will have great impact on your students and the depth with which they approach what goes on there.

Spend a few minutes in silent prayer, just listening to God. Children often struggle with prayer because they think they have to come up with lots of big words. Ask your students to sit silently and simply listen for God’s still, small voice. Trust that God is willing and desiring to speak to your students and give him the chance. This very real connection with God combined with a quieting activity will help students focus.

Finally, engage students’ imagination in the Bible story.  Instead of the teacher deciding the point of the story and telling her students how to apply it, try asking open-ended questions and making statements that cause students to think.  Ask your students to “find themselves” in the story and then explain why they identified with a specific character.

Why do these approaches work? Each of these suggestions is designed to connect your students with God and God with your students…an essential  way to feed a child’s hunger.  But they also show the child that you and God both respect her, love her unconditionally, and are providing enough attention to keep her safe.

Give a child what he is hungering for, and he will be his best!