Explaining God

I overheard this conversation the other day.

Tornado E:  And God is great.   He is real! He lives in Heaven.  And He can control EVERYTHING.  He can control the weather.  He can shoot lightning from his hands.

Tornado S: Count Dooku is real!  He shoots lightning out of his hands!

Tornado E: Count Dooku is not real!  God is real!

Tornado S: God shoots lightning out of His hands!  And Count Dooku shoots lightning out of his hands!  They are both REAL!

Tornado E: No, Tornado S!  That’s not how it works!  (little wheels in the brain spinning, spinning, spinning)

Understanding God

It was barely raining as we drove to Tornado E’s school.  Then it stopped.

Tornado S: Who turned off rain?!  Mommy!  Turn it on now!

Tornado E: God turned off the rain.

Tornado S: Oh!  He turn it on now?!

As soon as we got out of the car, God turned back on the rain, and I, being the crazy mom that I am, allowed my sons to enjoy it in all its glory.  Tornado S got to relish it more because he didn’t have to go to school and he was wearing his fireman’s boots to splash in the mud puddles.

We left the school with a happy, muddy Tornado S.

Tornado S: Mommy!  God turned off rain!

Me: Yes.

Tornado S: Where is he?!

Me: Um-

Tornado S: He hiding behind the mountains?!

Me: Well, He’s everywhere.

Tornado S: Oh!  He invisible!

Me: Yes.

Tornado S: And He hiding behind the mountains!

Later we picked up my mom to drag her to story time with us.

Tornado S: Grandma!  God turn off rain!  And He invisible!

Now all we have to do is teach him transubstantiation and he has all the makings of a good Catholic.

The Importance of Prayer: or Teaching Memorization to a Toddler and a Preschooler

The nice thing about being Catholic is we have a prayer for everything, FOR EVERYTHING.  You need a prayer to ask for forgiveness; we’ got several.  You need a prayer for hope, consolation, joy; we got those too.  How about one for your pets?  Yes.  Need a prayer for finding lost things?  Sure.  How about one to find a parking space?  Yup.  (I swear it works; I don’t know why because I would assume the Mother of God would have more important things to do than get some one a parking space.)  So when you have writer’s block when talking to the Big Guy, it’s nice to start off with a Catholic sanctioned prayer to get things rolling.

 

I’m a big believer in prayer.  I think it not only helps you talk to God, but it helps you understand yourself and goals.  I remember my mom telling me to “Give it to God,” which I felt was a cope out.  I felt that the challenges I faced were meant for me to handle, not pass off the buck to God; while, now I understand it’s more like letting God hold it for a minute as I do the mom-thing for a moment and when the kids are in bed, I can take back the burden and figure things out.  Since I do feel everyone should have some sort of relationship with God, I am trying to pass it along to my boys, and the best way I can think of is teaching them to pray, to talk to God as I remember my dad and mom doing with me and my brothers.

 

Every night we pray with the boys, and since I can’t stand saying “If I die before I wake” with my boys (because that’ll freak them out and that’ll freak me out and I prefer not to stay awake all night listening to their breathing.  I’m trying to get over that), we pray “The Guardian Angel” prayer.

 

Angel of God, My Guardian Dear,

To whom God’s love commits you here.

Ever this day be at my side

To light and guard and rule and guide.

 

Once in a while Evan will say it with us.  Though he would prefer to argue with me over the correct way to say and do “The Sign of the Cross,” which Evan insist starts on the right side, rather than the correct left, and gets very upset if I don’t do it his way.  Then we have to practice it his way, and that buys him another five to ten minutes of awake-time.

 

Another prayer I am teaching the boys is a prayer that I learned when I was a first grader in Catholic school.  Our teacher taught us a prayer to St. Theresa of Lisieux, the Little Flower, who believed we could all do little things, if we could not do something big.  So when we heard a siren, we would pray for the emergency and the people who needed help.

 

Little Flower

At this Hour

Show your Power.

 

I now say it out loud for the boys’ benefit (because it was so ingrained in me at six that I never stopped saying it and people give you weird looks if you start “talking” to yourself in public).  The other day, Evan, on hearing a siren go pass the house, yelled:

 

The Power!

The Flower!

The Hour!

 

Um, close enough. 

 

As I sometimes am a poor excuse for a Catholic (oh, you mean they have mass every Sunday?), we don’t pray every time we need to, like when we get up or before meals.  (Granted my Mom usually doesn’t pray before meals either, but now that my Grandma has dinner with them every night, you better believe that she prays.)  Now the beauty of Catholicism is EVERYONE says the same before meals prayer (as well as a lot of other prayers and the mass is always the same).

 

Bless us, O Lord, and these Thy gifts

Which we are about to receive

From Thy bounty. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

Two Thanksgivings ago when we sat down with my father-in-law and my Catholic mother-in-law for dinner, my mother-in-law asked us to pray.  She and I opened our mouths to say- Only my husband’s voice rang out, “Angel of God, my –.”  He looked around as my mother-in-law and I burst into laughter.  Of course, we thanked him for trying and went on with the “real” prayer.  (That story was for all the Catholics out there.)

 

Well, this Christmas, surrounded by Catholics, we prayed our before meal prayer with “The Sign of the Cross.”  Wouldn’t you know it?  Evan never argued on how to do it, just copied the rest, and amazingly, so did Sean.  When we got home and settled back into our routine, I made dinner, and after chasing everyone down for the meal and passing out food and plates, I forgot to pray, which is my usual reason.  But Evan piped up, “Mommy!  We have to pray!  Bless our food!”

 

I’m sorry Mommy is a bad Catholic; she remembers to fast on the right days but not to pray before the meals.

 

In closing, I will leave you the prayer my little brother would say when he was Evan’s age.

 

“Thank you for food, ‘prize, and patience.”

 

That was a prayer for the meal, a hope for a “surprise” like desert, and patience for my mom as she had three kids under the age of five and often she would yell, “God, give me some patience!”

 

 

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God’s Story

GODDAMNIT!

 

Said my husband when he noticed the stain on the white shirt he was ironing so he could wear it for work.  It was said in front of the boys, and I held my breath because if Evan remembered that phrase, I was getting my mouth washed out with soap this Christmas . . . again.  My father (as he is not my dad when he disciplines) hates that phrase, and the last time I said it in front of him, at eighteen, fresh from my first semester away at college,  I was astonished as I was marched into the bathroom and told to open my mouth.  Now I know for sure my father would not hesitate to wash out my mouth again.  If it had happened three months ago, my father would be right to do so but not when I’ve been so good.

 

But God was merciful.

 

Evan: Daddy!  God means church!  God means we’re going to church!  God wants us to be quiet in church!  If we’re quiet in church, we go out to eat breakfast!  Then we go home!  The end!  That was a good story, Daddy!

 

I think we better go to church this Sunday to thank God.

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Childhood Theology

When I was a child, I believed God was made up of all the good things we thought, did, and said.  He/She (as a child I never thought of God as a gender) was always growing and changing.  We made God with all our beauty and humanity.  But every evil thought, deed, or action killed God.  A slow toxic death.  As a child I was convinced more good happened in the world than evil, so God was always strong.

It was an interesting theology.  As my mom is a Roman Catholic and my dad a Nazarene, it seems even more odd that I didn’t believe God had a gender.  I went to Catholic school, Catholic mass, and Nazarene church.  No one can accuse my parents at not trying to raise good Christians.  The only reason why my parents raised us Catholic was due to a premarital promise my mom extracted from my dad, who tried to back out when I was about to be baptized.  But my parents are open-minded people.  Hell, I didn’t even know racism actully existed until after college.  I was so sure it was dead, regulated to a few uneducated, crazy people in the South.  So my brothers and I were raised to have tolerance, even an appreciation for other religions, which I thought extended to all religions until I got to college and tried to explain Paganism to my mom.  She wasn’t too keen, but my dad, by that time, was ahead of the hate crimes division in the police and had met and befriended many different people from many different origins, cultures, and religions.  My dad’s super.

So I grew up in a dual-religious household.  I read ancient myths, and the moment I graduated Catholic middle school , I went in search for everything the Catholic’s tried to hide.  I was nearly an expert on the Inquisition in high school.  When I went to college at a libral school, I met so many neat people.  Religion fascinates me because it seeps into the soul of a person, of a culture, of a nation.  Even in secular USA, there are the roots of Protastant Christians, burrowing deep into our core values.  As a mother, I want my boys to learn, understand, and appreciate all religions as there is truth in each. 

But now, as my husband and I struggle to take the boys to church (due to marital disputes over toddler behavior), I find Evan creating his own theology.  We pray with him every night, and sporadically go to mass or a United Church of Christ where my best friend is the youth minister.  Evan can recognize any church. 

Once we were passing a park and stopped at a red light.  “Mommy, what’s that?” asked Evan, and I explained it’s a park that we’ll go to later.  (This was when asked “what’s that?” to everything, even though he knew the answer.)  “No, Mommy, what’s that?”  asked Evan again, more instant.  “I don’t know,” I said hoping for an answer.  “It’s where God lives!”  Sure enough, I looked, and he was pointing to a roundish building with a sign mentioning it as a church of some kind.  I was shocked.  There was nothing to make a person believe it was a church except the sign.  (I’ve actually seen that building shape used for a library.)

Then yesterday Evan came into the kitchen and said, “God bless me.  God bless Seanny.  God bless Mommy.  God bless Daddy.  God’s not a genius, Mommy.  He’s a faery!”

Um.  Sure.  Why not?  We don’t know what God is.  So a faery is just as reasonable.  But as I contemplate Catholic school because this kid needs pre-kindergarten next year, I just hope I can keep his theology from bursting under church doctrine.  Hell, my mom did it.  She just didn’t think her little push would shove me past slightly left to almost all the way left.