I Wanna Be a Genos-Christian

I Wanna Be a Genos-Christian

I already wrote about why Genos (from One Punch Man) is totally adorable…but he’s more than that.

He’s given me a mental image of what a true Christ-follower should be. Here’s why I want to be a Christian the way Genos is a “Saitaman.”

ALERT: Spoilers for One Punch Man Season 1

ONE “Sign” Makes Genos a “True Believer”

Genos and Saitama meet under rather unusual circumstances. Genos is in a heated battle with Mosquito-Girl, when Saitama makes an un-stately entrance and saves his bacon…with one slap.

And from that moment – from the moment Saitama splatters the bad gal over the landscape with a single hit – Genos is sold.

Taken. A “true believer.” Totally devoted and completely determined.

One single display of Saitama’s prowess is enough to convince Genos that whoever this weirdo is, whatever he is, this is the teacher he needs.

And Saitama isn’t even God!

I’m reminded of an incident in Mark 5, where a man is so full of demons that they call themselves “Legion.” Well, Jesus deals with them with about as much effort as Saitama giving Mosquito-Girl the “bad girl” smack…and the freed man begs to go with him.

Jesus tells him “no,” and orders him to spread the word to his friends and family.

I Wanna Be a Genos-Christian — Kimia Wood

Why would I doubt my Alpha?

The rescued man…wait for it…ACTUALLY OBEYS.

All he saw was one amazing act. And since he was possessed by demons in the middle of it, one could argue about how much of the performance he actually witnessed.

But that was enough. He was sold…taken…blown away…totally devoted.

Devoted enough to obey.

I can also think of a more uncomfortable parallel.

It’s when the disciples are crossing the lake with Jesus, and a terrible storm blows up. They freak out until Jesus wakes up and tells the elements to shush…whereupon they really freak out.

And Jesus says:

“Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” (Mark 4:40 ESV)

Still? You still have no faith?

After all the disciples had seen – the blind receive sight, the deaf hear, the lame walk, the demons banished – they still don’t see…they still don’t trust.

And that hits pretty close to home.

He Knows Saitama Is On a Different Level

Genos says so in so many words after he and Saitama have a training bout.

Genos can obliterate cliffs and skyscrapers with his firepower.

Saitama pulls his punch…and the air-blast flattens a section of coastal cliff.

Genos knows he will never reach Saitama’s level…ever. But he’s okay with that, and still wants to be around him.

How easily we forget this about God!

Even in the church, we can sometimes act like God is just a “big guy.” Sure, He’s the biggest grown-up in a room of little kids…but deep down, He’s just stronger than we are –

Nope! His defining feature is His very nature is fundamentally different from us. We are created — He is un-created. We exist in time — He invented time. We are spirit tied to matter — He is spirit…but in the person of Jesus He “put on” matter to better interact with us.

Gah! God is just so amazing! And so different from me – thank goodness. But don’t take my word for it…passages like Isaiah 6, Ezekiel 1, and Revelation 1 & 4-5 will give a good picture of how “different” He really is!

Genos Enters Saitama’s Life and Won’t Leave

Saitama is kind of put off by this, to be honest. He finds Genos’ stalking to be a little creepy.

But Genos’ perseverance is inspiring. He’s so determined to get the strength Saitama has that he humbles himself, puts himself under Saitama’s authority, and throws himself into studying Saitama.

He won’t let anything or anyone get in the way of him getting closer to Saitama…which sounds kinda creepy when you say it like that, but think of it in the context of Phil. 3:12-14.

God calls us to perseverance, too.

Great chunks of the New Testament are spent telling Christians, “Be strong! Stand firm! Keep at it!”

It’s hard. There are many enemies. In fact, we carry our own enemy around with us – called the Old Man.

I Wanna Be A Genos-Christian — Kimia Wood

Heh heh…”drink” up more Jesus…! Image credit

But Jesus is worth it! Run to win the prize. Don’t settle for a participation trophy…throw yourself into God’s hands 100%, do what He asked you to do, and focus on drinking up more of Him.

With God, the prize is way, way better than superhuman strength. It’s eternal life!

Genos Hangs on His Master’s Every Word

Genos spends his free time writing down what Saitama has taught him and sketching out his master’s “training regime.” (He also washes the dishes and cleans the bathroom and stuff like that. Matt. 20:26, eh?)

No matter what Saitama says – even if he’s just making it up on the fly – Genos hangs on his every word and trusts him implicitly.

Now compare that to how we treat God!

I’m reminded of Paul of Tarsus, whose personal correspondence with his protégé Timothy is included in Scripture…because he just couldn’t keep himself from bursting out in these theological ecstasies.

And because all of his life, his work, and everything he wanted to say to his dear friend was wrapped up in their “mutual Friend” and Master – Jesus Christ the Promised Servant-King.

*resolves to read Bible more*

Do you still have no faith?

How many times has God come through for me? How many prayers has He answered?

Remember the broken washing machines He’s paid for…the friends He has protected…the hate and fear He has removed from my heart.

How many times must He hold my hand while I walk past the lions before I will remember He will never leave me? That He is stronger than my enemies?

When will I get to the place where He says it – and that is enough for me? Where I treat His word like gravity…unassailable, inevitable, steadfast, self-evident?

Genos Wants His Master “Built Up”—Not Himself

I Wanna Be a Genos-Christian — Kimia Wood

Image credit: One Punch Man Wiki

The public doesn’t really understand or appreciate Saitama (sound familiar?). But while the Hero Association and the public have promoted Genos and praised him and assigned him a place of standing, that’s never important to Genos.

Not as important as building up his master.

Heh – when Saitama gets hate-mail, Genos goes full-on “I will find whoever did this” mode!

But it’s not just that he wants to defend his master’s name…he actually likes to see Saitama succeed.

When Genos is defeated by the giant meteor – and by the monster the Deep Sea King – then Saitama shows up. And even though Genos is lying in a pool of his own melted parts, missing his arms (it’s okay – he’s a cyborg), Genos gets this tiny little smile.

As though to say:

Wait ’til you see this…that’s my master!

Yes! I never get tired of seeing him at work!

It’s all going to be okay now…that’s the boss-man!

Chills!

And Saitama isn’t even God!

Do I go out of my way to defend my Master’s honor? True, He doesn’t need my help, and He told me to “speak the truth with all gentleness” – but do I bother to worry about it?

When I meet someone who doesn’t know Him…or when my washing machine breaks…or when I find something in myself that shouldn’t be there…I should say:

Yes! Now I get to watch Master at work.

All right, Master. Make me Your tool and do Your work!

Breathe. Master is here. I wonder what amazing thing He’s going to make out of this?

And I should definitely remember Mark 8:33 – don’t correct the Master (unless you want to get called “Satan”).

He Wants To Be Like His Master

In the beginning, Genos follows Saitama around because he’s strong, and Genos wants to be strong, too.

(Maybe like a new Christian who’s just here because Hell sounded really bad.)

But the more he hangs out with Saitama, the more determined he is to be like him. Even when he realizes he will never reach Saitama’s level, he sticks around. He wants to be near Saitama’s awesome-ness.

And when Saitama demonstrates his heroism – helping out just because people need help – Genos recognizes that this self-sacrificial quality is something he wants to cultivate in himself, as well.

I want to be like Jesus!

I Wanna Be a Genos-Christian — Kimia Wood

Image credit: Pixabay

I know I will never be all-knowing, un-created, and eternal like my Sensei…but He told be to “be perfect,” like He is perfect (Matt. 5:48), and so I embrace the working of His Holy Spirit that makes me more like Him!

He is patient, and kind, and forgiving, and merciful, and just, and wise, and self-sacrificial, and humble, and generous, and –

And I want to be all those things, too. (See Luke 6:39-40)

BECAUSE JESUS IS SO AWESOME I JUST WANT SOME OF HIS AWESOME ON ME.

From Now On, I Want To Be a Genos-Christian

I hope that, now you know what it means, you want to be one, too!

Genos is not perfect – and Saitama is not God – but I’m grateful to have one more illustration to refer back to.

Maybe it seems like a child’s drawing, but it reminds me who I want to be when I grow up.

“Imitate me as I imitate Christ.”


I Wanna Be A Genos-Christian — Kimia WoodKimia Wood grew up under an aspiring author, so spinning words and weaving plots is in her blood.

She currently lives somewhere in the American Midwest with her family – including the brother people mistake for her boyfriend…bracing for the collapse of society by baking, knitting, writing, hobby-farming, and reading as much Twitter as possible before the web goes dark.

Subscribe to the mailing list for a FREE e-copy of her post-apocalyptic adventure novella Soldier! You’ll also receive periodic updates on her latest reading and writing adventures.

Disgourgement of Art

If, in the following note, I have used poetic language, it is because of the cascading radial beams I observe in the beauty around me. Please understand that I have attempted to capture the over-abundance of this life-force, and do not wish my meaning to be obscured by lofty ambitions of prettiness.

You are an Artist. This is why I speak to you. I am an artist. Note the distinction. Some may mock at your works – image, sound, building of words – but I do not intend to. I merely intend to send forth the clarion call of warning that echoes in my being – that echoes in the universe – and pass on the scent of danger that I have caught from your work.

Yes, your work — seeing as it is separate from you, I do not despair of you – nor of it, please note. There is only a pathway to Death – not Death itself (if you are reading this!). I do not even say that the work in itself is evil (not in this fashion) but only that – if taken wrongly – can cause death…like medicine, or water, or sunshine.

One final preface: I have addressed you as “Child” because that is my affection for you…as an anxious mother bending for her child, eager to see the young ones follow in her footsteps, but afraid that by misunderstanding her example – and her instruction – they shall be misled and end up far away.

(Not that I am your model, you understand – in art, in work, or in other areas — but I strive for the glories I wish for you, and so am your fellow-worker, a fellow-artist (not Artist), and consequently concerned (read: terrified and sick with longing) for my brothers, my sisters, my BFFs…my children.)

Oh, Art. How I sicken of it.

Now, now, Child – I myself “do art”. But Art is a sucking of vapid desire that cannot be met outside of Faithful and True.

Take music. I sing, dance, feel the rhythm of the melody echo in my membranes with the cry of the cords that animate creation. Think me immune to the swell? I feel, too. But I do not worship it, any more than I worship the sun. Any more than I worship the crackling, biting, rhythmic flow of power that courses through the machines as the lifeblood of the digital world.

I have seen them: the ones who take Music (as Art) and cling to it as though with the patterns of sound – waft and wave – they could unmake and remake the very cords of humanity. They mistake the beauty – the Art – for Who put it there…and that is Deadly.

You see, I do not say that these things cannot be sanctified, but to suppose them to be holy of their own nature is to confuse the flow with the source, to confuse this beauty and this pic-line to the soul with Holy Holy Holy (being His name).

Oh Fool of my fellowship, oh Child of my family-blood, how I long to gather you as a sheepdog gathers sheep – and will you flee?

And now, what is art?

Do you not know that all time and space, all matter and every point of being, even language and thought itself, is directed toward this: worship? What you worship: in that lies Everything.

Art. Beauty. Paint and stone and words words words, and notes in harmonious sequence. What do they make? Beauteous Child, do not clutch gravel thinking them stars. You know Eternity stares at you whenever you close your eyes. And to step forward to meet the Eternal One, or recoil backward out of His grasp, has been the whole aim of mankind.

We all have our ways. Whatever we make with these clarion calls to the soul of Man, it will not go unrecorded. (There are “books”, you know, for that purpose. Rev. 20:12) And here again, with worship in mind, we find imitation the simplest tool in our hands. What, surely you know how Story has been used before! Do I presume to create new worlds, or do I hope – with what I weave – to capture the vibrating cord of Creation that echoes backward and forward and in every particle of the universe the eternal call of worship to the source: Holy, Holy (thus His name).

So you see we all chant back but one refrain — all our speech has one end, to speak Faithful and True.

Reach for the Eternal One, and all Eternity shall be yours to explore, along the paths of radiant joy that pierce the outermost shadows.

Disgourgement of Art — Kimia Wood

The Light pierces the Darkness; Image from ArtStation.com

What is Art?

A picture, a statue, a concept, a form, a beauty, an abiding, a pretty thing, a cry from the soul of Man.

No, no, some say. My Art is not this…not a stylized beauty, an Object, a thing of crude matter to cheat the haggard, clutching fingers of entropy. It is passing, like our lives. We stare in the face our own mortality.

This man does not build a statue…he builds an “event.” What are his tools? Steel, plastic, cloth, earth, people, words. Time and place. The hearts and souls of men. It is not art…it is interaction, relationship, human spirit, human energy, experience. He draws pictures, he spends money, thousands of lives are touched, someone takes a picture, and they call it Art.

“A matter of days,” he says. “A matter of days, and it’s gone. I take it down.” Flirting with his own unraveling, this event mimics the vaporization of his own humanity. “I did it!” he says. “I have created Art; I tore down my child with my own hands.” The Art is the idea, the memory, the fusion of human energies. “My name shall abide.”

Disgourgement of Art — Kimia Wood

The Gates; Image from Wikipedia

They grasp for the immortal. They think an idea will not die. Granite crumbles, bronze ferments, wood and paper melt, but the words, the concepts, the memories of millions…how can they die, in the hearts and souls of men? It shall abide.

Folly. The thoughts of men evaporate before the morning dew is birthed. How can your name abide in the minds of men, the outcry of your soul in their hearts? It is but a shadow, a mist. The emotions, the thoughts, the dream will fade faster than the grass.

What is Art? Can it be a form, a thing, a holding-in-the-hand?

Some have sought everlastingness in this…a stone, a page, a piece of glass.

Imagine a youth. His master calls, and he comes, strips, and stands in position, waiting to be turned into stone. The master works, and then he cries, “I have made beauty. — I have signed my name on a page. — Now I shall abide.”

Disgourgement of Art — Kimia Wood

Image courtesy of Jörg Bittner Unna/Wikipedia

Men see the statue. They enjoy its form, and the work lives on. They cherish it and care for it, and it goes on into the centuries to follow.

Disgourgement of Art — Kimia Wood

Vincent van Gogh; d. 29 July 1890 (aged 37); And the worms ate his flesh…

What of the youth? His master finishes, he walks away, and his flesh dissolves into earth. And his master? Can he abide in a name, in a form? In his hand-children, even in his own mirror image? No…the worms eat his flesh.

“I have made beauty.” “I have made Art.” “I have made a concept, a vision, a dream, a human thing.”

Meaning. By which they reach for eternity. What abides? Meaning. Purpose soars into the ages beyond, while the aimless dissipates as the vapor that creates it.

Fie! I say, this crumbling snatch at the immortal. This grasping for the eternal, the timeless.

Look.

See. What do we see?

Tree…mathematical formula…star…cat…galaxy, physics, newborn’s hand…I don’t just see beauty. I see the beauty of God.

Give him your soul, and he will give you life. Clutch it to your breast, in greedy fear and hesitation, and you will die for all eternity.

What joy, what love, is mine!

What bubbling of life in my soul! What can I do – what will express this other-worldly life?

I find color in my hand. I reach out…what does it touch? No matter… I look at a tree. At first, I get a sketch. But soon, I get a form, a drawing, a painting, a sculpture, an image of beauty. Not reaching for time, for life, for myself…forming a mirror image of His hands as they craft delight and beauty and thought.

What is the heart and soul of man?

Reach for the Eternal One, and He will lift you up.


Originally written 2016. Dedicated to my dear friends who have mistaken the means for the end…I hope you learn to see.

Disgourgement of Art — Kimia WoodKimia Wood currently lives somewhere in the American Midwest with her family, including the brother people mistake for her boyfriend.

She’s bracing for the collapse of society by knitting, baking, writing, hobby-farming, and reading as much Twitter as possible before the web goes dark.

Subscribe to the mailing list for a FREE e-copy of her post-apocalyptic adventure novella Soldier! You’ll also receive occasional updates on her latest reading and writing adventures.

Listen, Kid…(What Do You Say Next?)

Listen, Kid…(What Do You Say Next?) — Kimia Wood

CHOOSE YOUR PATH! Photo by Oliver Roos on Unsplash

So once upon a time an older person met a younger person. They didn’t know each other very well, but were connected through socio-cultural similarities.

Wanting to encourage the younger person, the older person chose to give advice about their potential life choices.

See if these words sound familiar…

You’re interested in writing? You should go to a four-year college and get a Master of Fine Arts degree! That will let you make money as an author.

You did very well with your three lines in the church play! Maybe you should go to a four-year acting college, move to California sight-unseen, and get a job in the movies!

You enjoyed high school math and economics? Invest in that! Go to this website and check out internships in your field, then look into advancing your education and getting into clerical/economic positions!

Do you notice anything…off?

Naturally, there’s a lot of good here: the older person is trying to affirm the younger person…to notice their interests and passions…to give them positive feedback…and encourage them to better themselves.

The older person wishes only the best for the younger person. They seize on what little data they can find, and build on that…with nothing but the best intentions.

And yet…

What god do these people worship?

Take a close look at the quotes. There’s not a lot to go on, is there? There’s mention of a “church play”…but what else in the scene places these two characters?

They might be meeting at a Lions Club. They might be distant relatives at a family reunion. Perhaps they’re total strangers interacting briefly in a store.

Look again at what the older person said. Based only on their words, who (or what) do they consider the most important thing in the world worship?

Short Aside—What Is A God?

If you’ve ever read the Bible, you know that “idols” are things people worship apart from God, and it makes Him very angry.

Because, if we’re Christians, we’re “married” to God…but every time we put something else in His place, that’s like having an affair with the idol.

That’s what He literally says through his prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel.

(Anyone else feeling dirty right now?)

My dad defines a “god” as this—

A god is something we go to when we want to get things done…or something whose claims on us we acknowledge.

Examples?

Money is an easy target. It’s even mentioned in the Bible. Money is a very generous god…it gives us anything we could desire.

But in exchange, it demands our soul.

Power and sex are other “gods” we go to for getting what we want.

Sports is a harsh authoritarian, demanding our Sunday mornings, our school nights, and our time with family. It can be hard to deny Sports the things it demands.

Pride? Pride is a god worshiped by many (including me – that’s why Jesus needs to change my heart). I want other people to praise me, to acknowledge me, and to speak great things of me. Because (get this) it’s all focused on ME…not God.

And in exchange, Pride rots my heart from the inside out.

Back to Our Fairytale…Who Gets My Life?

An older person spots a younger person…just starting out, an image of what they themselves once were, with a chance to do anything and be anything this world offers.

This older person wants to advise the younger person…to give them a hint about the direction they should take…to encourage them to put their youthful energies and resources into something meaningful.

So the older person says:

[…what would you say?…]

[…what is the most important thing?…]

[…what one thing would you point to, that you wish every whipper-snapper in your life would devote themselves whole-heartedly to?…]

There’s no guarantee they’ll listen. They’re young…they probably won’t.

But what is so critical, so vital, that you’ll use your one interaction with this incarnation of Past You to impart?

Think about it. Your answer will say a lot about where your heart is…


Listen, Kid…(What Do You Say Next?) — Kimia WoodKimia Wood lives somewhere in the American Midwest with her family…including the brother people mistake for her boyfriend.

Subscribe to her mailing list before society collapses and the web goes dark! You’ll get a FREE copy of her post-apocalyptic adventure novella Soldier…plus periodic updates on her latest reading and writing adventures.

Christmas Night, From the “Other” Side

What is he waiting for?

Christmas Night, From the "Other" Side — Kimia Wood

Image from Pixabay

The shepherd men are here. The mother and husband are in position.

Do you have any idea how long I’ve been waiting? Isn’t it time?

I got excited when the Emperor signed the census order. After all, that was finally the beginning of the end, right?

Then there was that Simeon guy…Remember when the word came down? Somebody took him a message from the Throne:

You won’t die until you have seen my Promised Anointed One with your own eyes. (see Luke 2:25-26)

Good grief gravy! I was so pumped I couldn’t walk straight. Remember how we said to each other, “You know what this means? It’s happening soon. Like, human-standards soon!”

Man! I can’t even–

What is he waiting for? How long can it take to deliver a baby? Couldn’t some of us dash over and give the girl a hand? Please?! I’ve been waiting so long!

Just make yourself visible already! We can’t come out until you come out! Listen, I’ve been practicing this song since Isaiah got the tip.

All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned every one to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:6)

I can’t even imagine being separated from Him – even for a moment. I despise our former kin who took up arms against Him.

And yet…these weak, momentary humans…He’s coming for them! The Great Plan – you’ve heard the rumors, yes? The little, cryptic hints we were allowed to give the prophets?

Gah! So long! Why is this taking so LONG? Don’t you tell me, “It’s only one night.” This is THE night — the night all other nights are counted from…

The point where Eternal, Immortal Invisible cracks Time, the Physical, the –

We have got to go to the stable after this and see for ourselves. Imagine Him – wrapped in a flesh body – hokey smokes, won’t the light and majesty just leak out of Him like a bush on fire?

WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR? The shepherds are just waiting around for us. The fat one is asleep – I can tell. Wake him up! Wake them all up! Wake up the whole damned, soon-to-be-redeemed-and-ransomed world!

He Is here! In the flesh! God fused with human form so closely and completely that He is fully both –!

At last! Look at ’em scream and hide their eyes. If you only knew, boys…if you only knew.

“Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:10-12)

It’s time! IT’S TIME! Can’t take it any more…gonna become visible – Boom! Listen up, little men of the sheepfold – listen!Christmas Night, From the "Other" Side — Kimia Wood

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” (Luke 2:14)

He’s here! He came! The Son of Man Himself! How can you not be shouting – dancing – with me? He’s come to redeem your poor, pathetic, flesh-bound lives and make ALL THINGS NEW!

How can you not sing?!


MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Kimia the Author lives somewhere in the American Midwest with her family – including the brother that strangers mistake for her boyfriend.

Subscribe to her mailing list before society collapses and the web goes dark.

Now I gotta go dance and sing for a while…

8 Tips for Visiting at Nursing Homes

Nursing homes are scary. Not only is there the perpetual smell of urine and chemical cleaners, there’s the constant blathering of a thousand TVs all set to something different…not to mention they’re full of little old ladies who mistake you for their daughter (when actually you’re their son).

8 Tips for Visiting at Nursing Homes — Kimia Wood

Image credit: IrishExaminer.com

And yet…Those little old ladies are sick, lonely, inching towards death, trapped in this mysterious and scary place that smells like body fluids, and could sure use a smiling face to set the day apart from all others.

In short…they could use YOU to break up the week and bring some cheer into their pain and uncertainty!

Impossible, you say? You could never go visiting in a nursing home? You’d rather be caught dead than in one of those places? (Jinx.)

It’s not as scary as you think. Check out these tips for visiting a nursing home…and then you might decide that even you can help out in this important ministry!

Starting is the Hardest

The first time I visited a nursing home, I wasn’t sure I would make it.

When you walk in, you might not know anyone. Besides the intimidating environment, you don’t know what to expect. Anything could happen.

You’re there to “love on people” and “touch lives”…but what does that even look like in real life?

You won’t know until you try. And chances are, it’ll look different in your case than it did in mine…but don’t give up!

Here are some strategies to make those new friends:

  • Walk down the hall, knock on doors, and see who smiles back at you. Chances are good that people will let you say hello for a few minutes, if you just ask.
  • Contact the staff of the facility where you’re visiting, and ask them which residents don’t have family or friends in the area…or which residents might enjoy having the Bible or a devotional read to them. The staff will probably be excited to help you…Our bodies heal faster when our minds and emotions are in good shape!
  • Bring a dog, baby, or small child with you. People will come to you to make friends!
  • Talk to the activities director or other person in charge, and bring a craft, special movie night, or other activity in to the facility. Those who are able and interested in participating will show up…and now you have a connection for other visiting opportunities!
  • Go see someone you already know: a relative, former church member, or friend of someone you know. Chances are they’ll have a roommate you can talk to at the same time, and you might meet someone in the hallway you can get to know.

It does get better!

You’ll get the hang of things, find a routine, and make new friends.

Just like the first day of school, the first month in a new town, or the first few weeks in a new apartment building…it’ll take getting used to.

Just remember: there are no strangers – only friends you haven’t met yet!

Take a Buddy

Yes, you’re there to make new friends…but sometimes the best way to do that is to bring old friends!

From the disciples Jesus sent out, to Paul and Silas and Barnabas and John Mark, to the multiple-elder model of the Biblical church, we’re supposed to do ministry together.

Not only does this provide accountability, to 1) keep us on the straight and narrow and 2) protect our reputation from the Enemy…but it’s also more fun!

Walking into a strange place to speak to people you don’t know is a lot less intimidating when you have a buddy at your side. Whether it’s a family member, a friend, or someone from your church, take that buddy!

You can’t swim without a buddy…don’t try to visit without a buddy. They’ll be there for you when you don’t know what to say, they’ll be a prayer partner with you, and they’ll keep the ball rolling on days when you can’t make it.

No one ever said you had to do this alone! So don’t try 🙂

Don’t Worry About What You’ll Say

8 Tips for Visiting at Nursing Homes — Kimia Wood

My grandma, dying of brain cancer

What do you do when an old lady looks right at you and says, “I’m dying?”

When a woman tells you she has cancer?

When someone weeps about the disfunction in her family, and how she’s not getting the care she wants?

Just like Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, the temptation is to open our big mouths and fix everybody’s problems.

Sometimes they need their problems fixed. Sometimes God put us there to share Jesus with them and point them to ultimate healing.

And sometimes…the very best thing we can do is sit beside them, holding their hand and crying with them.

It feels like doing diddly-squat. But people appreciate it more than you’ll ever know.

Pray. A Lot. For Everything

What about the times when you need to say something?

You’ve got the Holy Spirit inside you, right? Leave it to Him.

If He starts poking you from the inside, whispering, “This lady will go to Hell without Me — introduce us!” you just better listen is all I’m saying.

And as long as you’re having good, long conversations with Him on a daily basis, you’ll have the strength you need.

Pray for one another

You can also pray for your friends – new and old!

While it’s vital that you spend quality time with God for your own spiritual health, it’s also important to bring others before him.

Your contacts in the nursing home will have obvious needs (physical, emotional, and spiritual) that you should tell your Father about…but what about your visiting buddies?

Don’t forget to pray for them, too — that they will have just the right words to say, that they will meet just the right person God wants them to minister to, and that they will be strong on the days that are hard.

(And encourage them to pray for you, too!)

Just Showing Up Means the World

If you don’t take anything else away from this post, learn this:

Don’t sweat it.

God is able to take your little, pathetic efforts, and work His grand, amazing scheme out of it.

You’ve taken the first step. God doesn’t ask us to give Him everything all at once…just one thing more.

And until you actually step out, you’ll have no idea how much five minutes of conversation actually means to someone!

Just one short conversation with someone who isn’t paid to be there, who isn’t necessarily related to them, and who’s only there to brighten their day…people will be so grateful, it’ll break your heart.

Commit

Like dieting, exercising, cleaning the house, and other good habits, consistency is key.

Go once a week…or even every other week. That’s all. No pressure.

The more you show up, over and over again, the deeper your relationships with the patients will be. They’ll start to expect you. They’ll remember you from last time, and smile.

You’ll have made a friend.

They’re the ones stuck in a nursing home, so it’ll be up to you to make the effort. But you can do it!

(Not only that, but the staff will start to notice your commitment and faithfulness…which gives you another place to shine Jesus’ love!)

Just show up – week after week, month after month – and people will begin to trust you…in a way that they can’t trust someone who might or might not show up, maybe.

Find a schedule that works for you.

Don’t let yourself make excuses. If this is what God wants you to be doing with your time, make sure you get it done.

And again…don’t sweat it. Emergencies will come up, you’ll miss a day here and there…and sometimes your “contacts” will be out, too.

Just make sure that, when you commit, you really mean it.

It’ll mean the world to some poor senior or patient.

Pray – All the Time – For Everything

Did I mention this?

It’s not super hard to remember to pray for your new friends…especially if you write it down and ask your ministry partners to hold you accountable.

What I find harder is remembering to pray before I go visiting…and to pray for the right words, that God will lead us to the right people, that I will trust Him in every situation, etc.

8 Tips for Visiting at Nursing Homes — Kimia Wood

Look at that smile 🙂

But this is just as important.

Pray for your fellow visitors. Also pray for the families of the people you will meet, and for the staff, and for the healthcare system as a whole (it needs it, trust me).

Pray that Jesus will be evident in every single action we take.

In this way, you will immerse yourself in God’s will, and invite His Holy Spirit to take charge of your life – and of your commitment to visiting.

I said “take a buddy.” The Holy Spirit is the best buddy you can take.

You Will Fall in Love

I keep saying, “You’ll make new friends.” This is not a figure of speech.

You might just get addicted to this. If a week goes by, and you don’t visit your little buddies, you’ll feel weird.

You’ll have deep conversations…some hard, some amazingly cool. You’ll get to gush about Jesus, and maybe find out you have “brothers and sisters” in some unexpected places.

Your heart will break. You’ll be built up. You will touch the lives of some lonely, desperate people.

God doesn’t call all of us to this kind of ministry…but if He’s calling you, don’t be afraid. He’s got this!

Now go be sunshine to someone who needs it!


8 Tips for Visiting at Nursing Homes — Kimia WoodKimia Wood currently lives somewhere in the American Midwest, bracing for the collapse of society by knitting, baking, writing, hobby-farming, and reading as much Twitter as possible before the web goes dark.

Subscribe to her mailing list for a FREE e-copy of her post-apocalyptic adventure novella Soldier! You’ll also receive periodic updates on her latest reading and writing adventures.

One Christian Single and the Story God Used

This week Amanda Tero published her novella Wedding Score…the story of a pianist wrestling with God over still being single.

This story really spoke to where I am right now, and I’m so glad the author wrote a guest post to share with us where the story came from, and what God has brought her through—


Left Behind: What About the Christian Singles?

It was 2016. I was 25 in a family with seven children over the age twenty and no one married. One night, I jotted down a few lines of an idea.

“This makes wedding number what that you’ve played for?”

Ruth looked at Uncle Charlie with a grin. “I haven’t counted them all—but my sixth this year.”

“When will it be your turn to walk to the chorus, not play it, right?” He gave me a friendly nudge.

Ruth shrugged, another easy smile gracing her lips. “I really don’t know. Still waiting on the Lord’s timing for me.” Her pat answer that came with ease.

I was really passionate about the idea: one of a single girl who helped with weddings yet was still single (and yes, her name changed since then). A few times, I even tried to brainstorm ideas and get the story going, but it just didn’t happen. Instead, God let the story sit and simmer as, in the three years following, four of my siblings and several cousins married and started their own families. We had always teased that “once one Tero gets married, they’re all going to get married.” We never really thought it would happen quite like that.

Though weddings are a beautiful thing, anyone who has had a sibling or close friend marry knows that it can also be tumultuous as you experience shifting relationships in the midst of emotional change. I will openly admit that there were times I was tempted to bitterness and resentment—not because my life wasn’t changing and others’ was (because, for the most part, I really was okay with that), but because others didn’t realize that they were leaving me “behind.”

The original idea didn’t have a Caiden and Livvy. But after I lived through more of this “singleness stuff,” I realized that often what made things doable as a single was because I wasn’t alone as a single. My best friends were also single. But when they got new best friends and I didn’t have anyone to replace them, I was a little lost. Even though I wanted them to be best friends with their fiancé/fiancée and knew they should be, it affected me far more than I ever thought it would (I’ve often teased that instead of all these courtship and dating books, someone needs to write one for the siblings of these couples—because we need a manual too).

In addition to that, I can’t neglect THE “singleness struggle.” Wanting to be married and have a family, and it’s just not happening. Like Stephanie, my single years have been somewhat smooth. But there is something about having those closest to you get in relationships that make you want that “best friend” who never leaves and never moves on to a new best friend. Like I cover in Wedding Score, I believe it is a God-given desire—but it is also a desire for His perfect timing. Yes, I went through some really raw moments yearning for that “special someone” in my life with no one on the horizon. In those seasons, Psalm 37 became my lifeline (just like it did Stephanie’s). Because I know that God’s plan is perfect, even though I don’t always understand it.

There were some very difficult weeks and months to live through. Something I really didn’t want to live through (but, when do we ever want to live through trials?). But God has graciously taught me so many lessons about living as a single in the midst of a bunch of married couples—and being joyfully content in it all. I could never have written this book in 2016—it would have been so shallow. And I couldn’t have written it in 2017 or 2018—the feelings were still too raw as I was figuring out a new dimension of single living. But 2019… I wasn’t even planning on writing Wedding Score. I had just finished Protecting the Poor and was glancing through my ideas lists when… it was just perfect timing. So much so, that to-date, Wedding Score is the quickest written-edited-released novella I have (especially considering a crazy busy life). I’m honestly sitting here in awe, because it’s all God. He gave me the original idea but it had to live through life experiences before coming to completion.

Have I finished living through the struggles? No. I know they’ll come in waves again. But I know that the God Who helped me through the last three years will help me through the next three… and the next three… and all the years after that. Knowing that, I can look at this whole experience with a heart full of gratitude. God has taken my struggles and made them into something beautiful that encourages others and points others to Him. Wow. I am totally in awe of His work.


You Are NOT Alone!

Sometimes the most encouraging news we can hear is that we’re not alone in this wilderness! That’s something I’ve gleaned from getting to know the “old maid” ladies in my church — that God was faithful in their lives, and even now that they’re old He has not abandoned them…perhaps He will not abandon me, either!

Thanks for reading, and be sure to check out Amanda’s book at your favorite retailer…or head to her blog to enter a giveaway (expires 11/02/19)!

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes&Noble | Kobo | Signed paperback

Preschool: Over-promise, Under-deliver

Preschool: Over-promise, Under-deliver

NOTE: This post is something of a departure from my usual tone, as it will be more dry and academic than I usually write. This is because it’s a subject I have strong emotions about, and in an attempt to avoid breathing fire on my keyboard, I’ve squeezed a lot of my normal humor out of it.

But it’s still an important piece about a vital subject, so please take the time to read it and form your own opinions. I promise I only froth at the mouth a tiny bit.

What if we’ve been wrong about preschool this whole time?Preschool: Over-promise, Under-deliver — Kimia Wood

Lots of people see “preschool” and they think “good.” We all want our kids to learn, right? We want them to have the best chance to succeed, right? And wouldn’t starting them in an institutional learning system as early as possible be the best way to do this?

No.

There’s also the question of whether this is the best way to honor God with our children. We want them to “achieve their full potential” and get good jobs, etc., but if we don’t make honoring God our chief focus (and make sure our kids know as much as we can teach them about Jesus) then we’re not living our Christian witness to the best of our ability.

But I’ll save that for a different post. For now, I’ll focus on the benefits preschool promises: academics, adult interaction, and affirmative action.

Let’s dive into this topic and try to figure out what we’re hoping to get out of preschool and whether it really delivers (or not)!

Academic Achievement

We all want Little Johnny to learn “reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic”. After all, “whatever you do, do it as though you were working to the Lord.” We want our kids to be able to support themselves, contribute to their communities, and enrich the lives of others…to say nothing of living full lives themselves and using the intellectual gifts God has given them.

It all starts with a “good education,” right?

And preschool is one of the best ways to give kids that, right?

No.

Where child development is concerned, there are very few absolutes…but the evidence is coming in stronger and stronger that preschool – especially an academically-focused preschool – does not give kids an “edge” to learning…and in fact might hurt them.

Academics over Learning

There’s been a lot of emphasis lately on pushing kids to achieve higher standards at earlier ages. The Atlantic tells us how kids who used to be expected to read by the end of first grade are now expected to read by the end of preschool. Maybe I’m doing the math wrong, but isn’t that a two-year advance?

Preschool: Over-promise, Under-deliver — Kimia Wood

How can we help our children thrive? Image from Pixabay

A recent article in the newsletter from the Home School Legal Defense Association cites several researchers and testimonies from parents that children grow and develop at different ages. For instance, “children who had learned to read in kindergarten had no substantial advantage over those who learned to read in the 1st grade.”

Kids have different development rates, and that’s okay. Trying to force them into a one-size-fits-all system is a terrible way to let them flourish.

Parents testify to children as old as seven and eight years old who would not have done well in a traditional, sit-down-shut-up learning environment. Forcing these children to attend a rigorous preschool at four or five years old would not have helped them with “school preparedness”…it would have destroyed them. They needed a kinetic, hands-on learning environment tailored to their particular interests (an environment that their parents did provide for them).

The article also references increased diagnoses of Attention Deficit Hyper-activity Disorder (ADHD), or similar disorders on the spectrum, when kids who aren’t developmentally ready for school are expected to conform to the school environment. Do these kids really have a learning disability? Or are they just being asked to perform above where their brain and body have developed to?

Long-term consequences?

There’s more. According to Psychology Today, an intense focus on academic attainment (learning reading, writing, and math through worksheets and instruction) in preschool almost doubles a child’s chance of a felony record. (Presumably because the early pressure and behavioral expectations led to them acting out more in school, and elsewhere…although it’s impossible to finger causality in cases like this.)

Contrast this with “play-based” preschools where children are encouraged to play, interact with others, and explore on their own…sort of like what they would do in a natural home setting, perhaps in conjunction with play-dates.

EdLibertyWatch.org collects quotes from several different papers, including this study from the National Bureau of Economic Research: “…researchers concluded that preschool has a positive impact on reading and mathematics scores in the short term and a negative effect on behavior.”

Further, the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) reports that a 2015 study found that “while children coming from ECE [early childhood education] programs earned higher achievement scores in kindergarten, these students did not test higher than their non-ECE attending peers by first grade, and tested below their peers by the third grade.”

Which is more important?

A slight, temporary rise in test scores in exchange for increased behavior issues, and even more ADHD diagnoses? Wait – should this even be a trade-off at all?

The homeschooling examples prove we can suit our education models to each child’s learning needs. Maybe we shouldn’t throw the “preschool” baby out with the bathwater…but it’s high time we stopped taking it for granted that the earlier we got our kids into preschool, the higher their college entrance scores would be.

The spiritual dimension: anti-Biblical curriculum

Preschool: Over-promise, Under-deliver — Kimia Wood

Image from Unsplash

I know I said I’d leave this for later, but I came across a quote during my research that just stunned me:

What is gender identity? Why should it to be taught to three and four year old children? How [will it] close the achievement gap for poor and minority children?…

The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAYEC), whose accreditation results in both more Minnesota state funding for childcare programs and gains a higher rating in the Parent Aware quality rating system, promotes these types of “gender anatomy and gender identity” exercises in its curriculum.

(Education Liberty Watch, quoting from the National Association for the Education of Young Children)

Notice that both state money and professional validation are tied to accepting the NAYEC’s view on this moral issue. And homosexuality is only one example – the culture has a whole hat-full of issues to introduce to your kids.

If you thought preschool was all about “school readiness” and getting a jump-start on learning the alphabet, these secular educators have one up on you. Kids at these ages are sponges, ready to accept whatever the “people in charge” teach them.

And if your child’s preschool is teaching transgender issues with anatomically correct dolls, wouldn’t you want to know about it – and be involved in conversations with your child?

To defuse the part-to-whole objections:

No, I’m not saying every teacher in every school is out to make your preschooler gay. But think about the trend of the culture, the political pressures of “this present age”…and remember who God will hold accountable for the children He entrusted to you.

Adult Interaction

Preschool: Over-promise, Under-deliver — Kimia WoodWe want kids to grow up to be confident, competent, fully-functioning adults. Kids are great at learning by imitating (just wait until they start repeating that one word you wish you hadn’t said).

So the best way for them to learn how to be adults is…by putting them around adults.

More specifically, there’s plenty of research that what children at the preschool ages need is not math worksheets and vocabulary tests, but stable, lasting relationships. They will have plenty of time to grasp the more cerebral concepts if their emotional, psychological, and spiritual health is firmly grounded in relationships with trustworthy adults.

As Morningstar Education Network’s research adviser, Denise Kanter, says: “Young children need to be at home bonding with their mothers and fathers.”

KindredMedia.org collects several reports that speak to this:

“Young children learn best through meaningful interaction with real materials and caring adults and their peers, not through the drilling of isolated skills.”…Kids from play-based programs usually catch up academically, while kids from academic backgrounds may never catch up socially. — Education.com

…the years from birth to age 5 are viewed as a critical period for developing the foundations for thinking, behaving, and emotional well-being. Child development experts indicate it is during these years that children develop linguistic, cognitive, social, emotional, and regulatory skills that predict their later functioning in many domains. — Early Childhood Education: The Long-Term Benefits (PDF)

But won’t my child miss out on socialization if he doesn’t go to preschool?

If you do the necessary socializing and relationship-building that parenthood involves, your child won’t suffer from missing out on preschool. Just because a good preschool is superior to plopping kids in front of the TV and ignoring them, though, doesn’t mean it should be our go-to method of child-rearing. (See below!)

The Atlantic article cited above explains that organic, child-driven learning (coached by engaged adults) is more interactive – and more educational – than the traditional “butt-in-seat” classroom model. This is where a teacher (or parent) uses a child’s natural curiosity to let them explore the world and ask questions (yes, millions of questions) and let them learn through the natural give-and-take of human conversation…instead of a list of facts they will be tested on later.

Focus on the Family insists that preschool should enhance the parents’ relationship with their child, not hinder it — nor simply be a way to get a “leg up” on those other kids! After all, trying to “keep up with the Joneses” isn’t very neighborly, is it?

The spiritual dimension

We should be especially concerned about this as Christians. Rod Dreher in his book The Benedict Option – which is all about cultivating a deliberate, passionate Christianity that informs every aspect of our daily lives – talks about how the model of “education” has changed over the past century. Instead of learning about the natural world and human history as a way to understand God better, and as a way to provide context for the divine order of the universe, modern schools are focused on retaining facts and applying them to work skills.

“Every educational model presupposes an anthropology: an idea of what a human being is. In general, the mainstream model is geared toward equipping students to succeed in the workforce, to provide a pleasant, secure life for themselves and their future families…and to fulfill their personal goals—whatever those goals might be.” (pg. 147)

Christian education, in contrast, should focus on “join[ing] ourselves to Christ and striv[ing] to live in harmony with the divine will” – from the time we wake up and have breakfast, to when we’re walking past the weird stranger on the street, to when we say our prayers at night.

As Christians, we need to teach our children that God is an important part of every single facet of our lives…that He is not somehow unrelated to physics, or social studies, or English spelling.

Tend your own personal orchid

Remember how every single child is unique, and develops at his or her own rate? Just because your child is seven years old and can’t spell doesn’t mean he (or you) is a failure. It means he needs someone caring and invested to give him the help he needs to learn in the best way for him (like getting up and moving during spelling tests, instead of glued to a desk with a pencil in his hand).

My mom used to have me write short stories with the words I missed on spelling tests…and now I can spell “snake” and “rabbit” just like any other well-adjusted twenty-something! (And, well, check out my “Books” tab to see what encouraging my story-telling got us!)

Kicking your orchids out of the hot-house make them shrivel…

Going back to that wealth of materials collected by EdLibertyWatch.org, the National Institutes of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD – 2007) say:

The more time a child spent in center-based care the more likely he or she was to be described by sixth grade teachers as one who “gets in many fights,” is “disobedient at school,” and “argues a lot.”

Children need a stable home life to help them develop emotionally and behaviorally – and that maturity will only improve their academic endeavors later on. In fact, to quote the rest of the excerpt on the NICHD study:

…NICHD tracked 1,364 children who had participated in early childhood education. Preschool participants were more likely to score higher on factors of aggression and disobedience as reported by their teachers. This finding was true even for children who attended high quality center-based care.

Remember: who are the two adults children will interact with for the greatest part of their growing-up? Their parents. Even if they go to institutional school and learn from different teachers every single year, they need a strong relationship with their parents to anchor them throughout their childhoods and beyond.

Children are more than a statistic…and when it comes to their lives, we need to be concerned about more than what the “experts” say, “what we’ve always done,” or what supposedly “works” to get the outcome we want.

This isn’t about outcomes. It’s about doing what God says. Right?

Teach a man to fish…

My parents have always affirmed that teaching their children how to study is one of the most important things they could do.

Children who develop emotional, psychological, and cognitive maturity will be self-motivated to study…and if they haven’t had their love of learning “snuffed out” by over-exposure, they will drive their own educational journey through grade school, high school, college, and beyond into adult life. (You knew we don’t stop learning once we get a job and don’t have a designated “teacher,” right?)

Assisting the Disadvantaged

Preschool: Over-promise, Under-deliver — Kimia Wood

I don’t have a picture of an impoverished child, so enjoy this cute dog instead.

A lot of voices in favor of preschool emphasize “closing the gap” between the “disadvantaged,” poor children and those with a better home life. A noble goal, and one in line with God’s own plan for us (check out James 1:27 and Mark 12:29-31).

The orphan (or in some places “fatherless”) is already late to the starting line, before the race even starts. That’s no fault of theirs, and God cares deeply about giving justice to the oppressed and helpless (just read, like, all of the Psalms).

However… While it’s good to feel for children who are growing up with only one parent, who suffer lack of opportunity due to poverty, etc. – none of that explains how the preschool system is superior to the natural, historic, and God-given system of two dedicated parents raising and educating their own biological children themselves.

And our concern for disadvantaged kids should in no way interfere with the raising of those kids who are blessed with a committed mom and dad.

But what about those poor kids who don’t have the same chances other children do?

Maybe they’re living in a single parent home, or their family doesn’t have the financial resources for books, etc. Maybe they really do have ADHD, autism, blindness, or some other physical barrier to learning the way other kids do. Do early childhood education programs help them succeed better – both now and later in life?

The Psychology Today article referenced above shared the results of a study among “sixty eight high-poverty children living in Ypsilanti, Michigan”. This study was largely to examine the effects on these children of a “Direct Instruction” preschool classroom (that focused on academic attainment) versus a “Traditional” preschool (which emphasized play). To quote:

[T]he experiment also included a home visit every two weeks, aimed at instructing parents in how to help their children. …

The initial results of this experiment were similar to those of other such studies. Those in the direct-instruction group showed early academic gains, which soon vanished. This study, however, also included follow-up research when the participants were 15 years old and again when they were 23 years old. At these ages there were no significant differences among the groups in academic achievement, but large, significant differences in social and emotional characteristics.

That’s right. “No significant differences in academic achievement“!

This is the same pattern we saw in the other studies. The writers suggest that the children in the so-called “play-based” preschools learned to “plan their own activities, to play with others, and to negotiate differences” – skills which served them not only in the later grades, but beyond into adulthood. (“Teach a man to fish…”)

The article writers also theorize that the home visits encouraged the children’s parents to reinforce these teaching styles. The Traditional “play-based” preschools encouraged the parents to let their children interact with the world creatively. The Direct Instruction preschools were focused on test scores and other “academic” markers of “personal achievement” – and this focus on “personal achievement” could have encouraged these children in the selfish attitudes that led to their generally more anti-social behavior.

Without being simple pragmatists, let’s look at the fruit.

The Bible tells us we can evaluate teachers by their fruit…or in other words, we can pick up hints about whether to listen to them by watching their actions (Matt. 7:15-20).

What is the outcome of preschool for disadvantaged children?

Obviously in some cases the outcome was…not too good. Early pressure to achieve, plus a focus on personal performance, encouraged anti-social behavior in some of these individuals. We might go even farther, and say that denying them a carefree childhood, and the opportunity to learn at their own pace, hampered their emotional and social growth.

So we see that even for disadvantaged children, the best outcome is the one that mimics a traditional, Biblical upbringing centered in the home of their biological parents.

But, post writer, what about all the terrible parents who will just stick their kids in front of the TV and who have no idea how to parent –

Statistically speaking, children with “bad” parents will have poor outcomes, no matter what school system you devise for them. The students discussed in Psychology Today had professionals visiting them at home to advise their parents how to support the teaching curriculum of their preschool – and the results still weren’t stellar.

The point is not that we should “give up” on these disadvantaged kids, but that we need to have our eyes firmly fixed on JESUS and to make sure we’re 1) trying to accomplish what He wants, and 2) going to Him for direction in how to do that.

Systemic Dysfunction

Preschools that drill facts and figures into little kids doesn’t help them. In fact, in the worst cases, it hurts their chances because they missed out on that crucial period of character development by worrying about head knowledge.

Children at these young ages should be sending down their roots and finding out what can be depended on…not raising their branches to test high on impersonal markers of “achievement.”

The preschools that did seem to succeed were the ones that allowed children to flourish at their own pace and ask questions naturally…in fact, the care centers that mimicked a nurturing home environment.

Further, as Christians, we understand that there are more important markers to success than grades or salaries. Give me ten children who respect their parents, treat those around them with kindness, and love their Creator over one “child” who makes six figures with his graduate degree and can’t keep his marriage together.

Institutional education is the cultural norm.

My grandparents have finally stopped asking when I’m going to get a college diploma (although they’re still not satisfied with my Associate’s Degree). The culture around us expects us to send our kids off on the bus as soon as they can walk, and our young adults off to college as soon as they’re old enough to join the army vote.

But is that the best way? Is that really how we’re going to accomplish our goals? Even if it was, the ends do not justify the means. (Otherwise, as my brother loves to shout, there is no justice, only means.)

Preschool: Over-promise, Under-deliver — Kimia Wood

Which is the “straight and narrow” way? Photo by Oliver Roos on Unsplash

God calls us to justice and righteousness. How can we strive for that in our everyday lives, and with our children?

Maybe in some other post, we’ll examine what God calls us to in our daily lives, and what that means for raising our kids. Until then, take a good, hard look at your own decisions.

I firmly believe the system of institutional education is broken – and that goes all the way down to preschool. Whether you agree with me, or think my mom dropped me on my head as a young’un, your kids are worth more than the default.

We need to get out of the rut of thinking “preschool” always equals “good.” Can it help? Sure – under certain circumstances and in certain situations.

But don’t do it because “everyone else is doing it.” Don’t do it because it’s expected of you, or because the grandparents want you to.

These are your kids we’re talking about – the kids God gave to you. Look at all the evidence, and decide if preschool will really help your kids to send down their roots, and thrive in God.


Preschool: Over-promise, Under-deliver — Kimia WoodKimia Wood was raised by an aspiring author, so spinning words and weaving plots is in her blood.

She currently lives somewhere in the American midwest, bracing for the collapse of society by knitting, baking, gaming, writing, hobby-farming, and reading as much Twitter as possible before the web goes dark.

Subscribe to the mailing list for a FREE e-copy of her post-apocalyptic adventure novella Soldier! You’ll also receive periodic updates on her latest reading and writing projects.

When Meta-Gaming Breaks Play

Meta-gaming is a term that refers to when gamers try to think outside of the “box” of the game narrative…and just focus on winning.

You might not think this is such a bad thing, but it really is…because it infects more than just games.

World of WarcraftWhen Meta-Gaming Breaks Play — Kimia Wood

It’s easiest to see in a computer role-playing game (CRPG) like World of Warcraft.

Once upon a time, WoW gave your character “talent points” for leveling up, and you applied these points to a complicated tree that eventually led to other abilities or perks. (Other CRPGs frequently used this system also, such as Diablo 2.)

With so many branches to choose from – and different end goals that you had to work hard to achieve – you could truly make your character unique.

I personally poured all my talent points into making my mage’s cast time faster.

Other players? They crunched numbers and created Reddit pages dictating the exact specifications you “needed” to “really be an X, Y or Z.”

Are you a Warrior? You need this build order. Are you a Hunter? You must put your talents into these things. The algorithms are such that only this configuration will give you a “proper” character of your chosen class.

No matter if you just wanted to make your cast time faster, and wouldn’t be caught dead in a player vs. player (PvP) scenario (unless you’re doing the Children’s Week achievement…and the reason you avoid it is you usually end up dead! Ugh).

The Reddit types are no longer playing. They are gaming.

Instead of helping Varian and the Alliance defeat the undead, they’re now trying to max out their gear.

They’re not interested in breathing life into their avatar by giving them a totally unique build of talents and quirks. They want to know what will give them the maximum edge in combat, and then they’re playing to win.

No wonder Blizzard Entertainment simplified the talent system to where you choose one of three new spells or abilities every level (instead of funneling points toward different branching tree systems).

Dungeons and Dragons

When Meta-Gaming Breaks Play — Kimia Wood

Image credit: Wikipedia

Relaunching our campaign and delving into the world of AD&D has given us a chance to examine this gaming system.

My dad especially has found there’s a lot of tips to help Game Masters (or Dungeon Masters for some) prevent players from “meta-gaming.”

This is why players aren’t allowed to trade or give items to each other (imagine two siblings teaming up and sharing all their loot…how unfair would that be?). Same reason players are discouraged from running two characters at once (of course I will let Myself borrow my Magic Sword of Dragon-Smiting!).

You might be wondering, “What’s wrong with people being friendly and wanting to share?”

Meta-gaming!

See, each character in D&D has “stats” – like strength, dexterity, charisma (how convincing you are to people), constitution (how well you recover from illnesses), etc.

Meta-gaming knows what these stats are, and tries to work them to its advantage.

It tells the strongest character to try opening the door, the prettiest character to get information out of the innkeeper, and the smartest character to read the cryptic writing on the scroll. It gives the magic sword to the guy who needs it most (not the guy who found it, for example), and tries to distribute other items, potions, etc. according to stat needs.

Of course, with all these actions you have to roll the dice to see if you succeed…and a good GM can either give you a helping hand, or totally mess with your plans.

BECAUSE THE POINT IS NOT WINNING.

I mean, obviously we want to win. But the point of the game is not to play with pencil in one hand and calculator in the other, figuring out the exact probability of each fight and moving into just the right place to maximize profit. (Which is exactly what the brother and I do playing Battle for Wesnoth, by the way…:} .)

The point of the game is to play.

You are this character. What might they do? Sure, your character sheet says you have great charisma…but how good is your acting when you talk with the GM (who plays all the non-player characters)?

Yeah, the sheet says this character is the strongest…but his player has portrayed him as a gentle giant, unsure of himself, so it doesn’t make sense for him to rush into the fray.

Besides, the guy with lower strength got a really good roll, and opened the door with no problem.

I said earlier that meta-gamers think outside the box…but actually, they’re confined by the numbers and the probabilities, and don’t have the creative freedom to try a true “outside the box” solution. (Like “let’s pull on the door together – or use this broken sword as a lever” or “his character is ugly as sin but the player is great at improv – let him talk us out of this”…)

Where am I going with this?When Meta-Gaming Breaks Play — Kimia Wood

So meta-gaming can make a game less fun (unless lots of math or internet searches is how you like to spend your game time), but is it really worth a whole post?

Is it really so bad? Can’t I let some players do them, and let me do me?

Theology

It doesn’t just apply to games, see. Though that’s where it shows up most visibly…

Jesus had a lot of harsh things to say to the Pharisees – a brand of “hyper-observant” Jews who took the Law of Moses and the Old Testament super seriously and were doing their best to follow what God said.

Or were they?

What was that Jesus said to them?

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. (Matt. 23: 23)

And He got more explicit:

You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men. And he said to them, You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition!

For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’

But you say, ‘If a man tells his father or his mother, “Whatever you would have gained from me is Corban”’ (that is, given to God)— then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do. (Mark 7: 8-13)

See, they weren’t focused on playing. They were into gaming.

God said, “Here’s My game. Here are My rules. Now let’s play.”

But the Pharisees said, “I crunched the numbers, and this is how I need to play to win the encounter.” (I.e. their goal was “eternal life,” not actually “living with God wherever He is.” – see John 5:39-46)

And God said, “That’s actually not the point, and no, you don’t win.”

Go with the Game Master

It’s so easy to fall into the meta-gaming trap. We think if we put tracts in every bathroom we visit, then we don’t have to witness to our neighbor next door.

Or that because we went and visited lonely people in the nursing home, we can sass off to our mom at home.

We’ll say, “The man is not doing his job; but the job needs to get done. So we’ll have this woman do it” – even though that’s exactly what God said not to do!

We see that parents are not taking care of their kids…so we decide we’ll do it for them, instead of helping the parents fulfill their God-ordained duty to raise/teach their own kids!

WHO DID GOD GIVE THOSE KIDS TO AGAIN?

I know you couldn’t get an 18 on the parents’ character sheet if you added all the numbers together (18 is the max stat), but that doesn’t mean you can mess with the encounter.

The GM says it’s their role to do this. /end rant

This “pragmatism” is a “need to achieve.”

When you meta-game, you are essentially saying:

  • “We can’t trust the GM to arrange things in our favor. We have to become slaves of the numbers to make the system work.”
  • “The actual children aren’t important, only the test scores/high scores/level achievements we get. We’re not here to walk beside our children and trust God to bless us…we’re here to do ‘whatever it takes’ to get the output we want – e.g. the good grades, good jobs, good social skills we’re sure we’ll get if we use the Magic Wand of Academic Readiness.”
  • “I saw on a Reddit page that soup kitchens help reduce crime. I’m not sure how, so let’s not bother to establish strong, stable relationships with the hurting people we meet – or heaven forbid share Jesus with them! – but focus on running as many people through our lunch line as possible. Because Jesus said, ‘Go thou and get high attendance numbers,’ right?”

What does the “Game Master” really say?

He says that checking off the prayer, Bible reading, soup kitchen, and “smiling” boxes doesn’t win the game for you! This is not about getting the “proper” gear for your class.

This is about immersing yourself in the game, and playing with all your heart.

Cry when a side character dies. Don’t sweat that your stats aren’t high enough. Solve the puzzles in new, creative ways. If you “break the fourth wall” too much, it won’t be there anymore…and you won’t even be in the story anymore.

Trust the Guy-in-charge-of-the-game. If you play His way, you will win. The Referee is on your side, see 😉

‘Cause it’s not about winning. It’s about playing the game with your “Dad.”


When Meta-Gaming Breaks Play — Kimia WoodKimia Wood was raised by an aspiring author, so spinning words and weaving plots is in her blood.

She currently lives somewhere in the American midwest, bracing for the collapse of society by knitting, baking, gaming, writing, hobby-farming, and reading as much Twitter as possible before the web goes dark.

Subscribe to the mailing list for a FREE e-copy of her post-apocalyptic adventure novella Soldier! You’ll also receive periodic updates on her latest reading and writing projects.


Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. May not copy or download more than 500 consecutive verses of the ESV Bible or more than one half of any book of the ESV Bible.

Notre Dame vs. Notre Pere – Every Cathedral Will Burn

Notre Dame vs. Notre Pere – Every Cathedral Will Burn — Kimia Wood

Image credit: Yahoo news

This week came the shocking news: the cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris burned.

We don’t have a television, so it was even more surreal for me to happen upon a public TV and sees shots of the iconic cathedral wreathed in flames.

While now it seems only the roof and spire were destroyed, it’s something that can’t be undone. 850 years of history and more, gone. Some suggest that France does not even have large enough trees to repair the damage.

The whole thing was even more poignant to me since I just watched a video essay about The Hunchback of Notre Dame and how Disney’s version (and the other film adaptations) differed from Victor Hugo’s original vision…which was basically to focus on the cathedral itself, how architecture was used to convey values, and how the written word was rendering that practice obsolete (video link here – language cautions).

Why bother talking about this? Well, it got me thinking – as many things do…

Buildings Decay

If you’ve read the books of Kings and Chronicles, you’ll recall that the Temple of God that Solomon built in Jerusalem kept needing to be repaired (and the kings Joash, Hezekiah, and Josiah all raised money for that purpose). (See 2 Chron. 24; 2 Kings 17-20; 2 Chron. 29-30; 2 Kings 22-23; and 2 Chron. 34.) Continue reading