A boy’s fear of heaven

Notice the brilliance one parent displays when she assumes that spirituality already exists in her young son.

“As my son was going to sleep two nights ago he said he was afraid to go to heaven because he didn’t know what it would look like. I told him to ask God to show him while he was asleep. I forgot to follow up about it yesterday, then remembered this morning. This is what he said.

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I saw the biggest house you could imagine and its color was gold. God was there. I saw his white robe and it had a thin, black, rope-type belt double-tied [like my son ties his sweatshirt around his waist for school]. There was grass, but it wasn’t like here below. It was taller and filled with purple, red, violet, blue, yellow and green flowers. There was a cliff that I almost went off, and there was water under the cliff. The sun was there and it shined so bright that I could only squint and open one eye.

I asked him if it took away his fears, now that he saw it.

He said yes. I asked him to give me one word of what he felt about seeing it and he said, “Love.”

Here’s someone who honored the spirituality in her son.

She listened to his description without judging. Then she checked in on his emotional state which had previously been fearful.She believed that his human spirit could handle the child-sized challenge of asking God to show him while he was asleep.

And she hoped, even with a speck of hope, that God was listening.


A mom’s brilliant response when her son says he is afraid of heaven. Click to Tweet

[Originally posted January 2014.]

Spiritual trust: deposits or withdrawals?

458313_10877109languageIt is well-documented that children learn to trust as physical and emotional needs are met consistently.There appears to be a striking difference in how trust develops in the human spirit.

It is as if there is a full allotment of spiritual trust as children start out, and withdrawals are then made on the trust account.

Spiritual trust and language learning share many properties.

We are born with the ability to say all the sounds of every language. At the point where the brain starts to form speech, we discard the sounds that are not a part of the language we learn.

From this point on we can still learn new languages but the later in life we learn them the more an accent is detectable. (Current research shows that children who learn more than one language at this critical point also create certain other benefits in the brain.)

Young children trust readily.

It’s part of our original blueprint that we possess the necessary trust to be connected with the divine. The human spirit stirs in response to the presence of the divine apart from the influence of external circumstances or people.

Children have no problem believing in what they cannot see.


Santa Claus, the tooth fairy, God, and imaginary friends come to mind.

Yet when a caregiver tells the child there is a tooth fairy and they later discover that there isn’t one, spiritual trust could diminish. When they watch a movie about Santa Claus and believe, only to discover later that is not true, another withdrawal could be taken from the account. Parents know what each of their children can handle.

How can we help keep their spirit’s trust account full?

We respect and honor their trust when we present a description of God that is deserving of their trust. Through our own actions and words we make known that God loves everyone, God knows everything and God cares about us.


Children start life with a full allotment of trust in spiritual things until we make withdrawals. Click to Tweet

Prom: seeing the divine in everyone

“I felt so beautiful that night. I loved the red carpet so much I went down three times. Everyone wanted my autograph and to take pictures with me.”

“It was the best!”

This from Julia, one of 425 honored guests from 70 schools at a special-needs prom in a California county. She has Williams syndrome, which causes cardiovascular disease, developmental delays and learning disabilities.

“At this event, everybody who goes to the prom feels like they are in the in-crowd,” says the mother of a young man with Down Syndrome. “Every child is treated as if they are the most important person.”

Prom-goers get the full treatment

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From hairdos and makeup to flowers, jewelry, dresses, tuxedos, pictures and limo rides, everything is free, paid for by donors. “It feels like you are watching a fairy godmother experience. It’s something you never thought would happen in your child’s life,” says another parent.

It’s not just the students with special needs who benefit from the prom.

2005-8 Amy w Brian at Andy's Wedding

“It is the greatest feeling and most incredible experience I have ever had,” says a high school senior who was paired with a student with special needs. “It’s like any other high school dance– if you minus the awkwardness and multiply the happiness.”

“We don’t have a special-needs child in our family at all,” says one of the volunteers. “We were just so inspired by how wonderful it is. It is a lot of hard work and fund-raising, but every moment makes the effort worth it.”

We all love to dance. It brings out something in us.

“No matter how severe someone’s disability is, the music just speaks to them,” says Marci Boucher, executive director of the Society for Disabilities.

[Excerpts are from this USA Today article.]


This prom has lots of dancing and no judgment. Click to Tweet



“The Fault in Our Stars”: teens and questions

I saw the movie “The Fault in Our Stars” this week after a friend recommended it. When I arrived at the 1:00 matinee, it was a lot of teenagers and me (ancient, by comparison). One group of five girls came in and sat down in front of me– prepared with a box of tissues.

The story line

Those of you without teenage girls in your life may not know the story line of “The Fault in Our Stars.” It’s a romance between two teenagers with cancer. Living in the face of death, they consider the afterlife and ask questions about the meaning of life that many of us are too afraid to ask.

The tough questions

Like, does the universe care about my suffering? And, what happens when you die? Does it matter what we leave behind, or only what we did with our time on earth? Or is all of it a cruel, pointless game?

Adults who watch this movie alongside the teens in their life can use questions like this as a springboard to more open dialogue about meaning, belief, relationships and pain. We can’t protect them from these kinds of questions forever– a point that the movie itself addresses in some of the on-screen conversations between parents and their teens.

The mysterious beauty


I appreciated how the film shows the beauty in the way pain can be transformed into something beautiful. The movie is a testament to that. Pain can also be transformed into something ugly as in the life of the author Van Houten.

The fact that we have all suffered, we all have lost something or someone we love, is something that unites us all.

[Note: I took the insightful questions above from a reader’s comment about the TFIOS book but I cannot find the comment to cite it.] 

How we teach the children in our lives

A child’s need of direction for their human spirit includes acquiring basic ethics to guide the way they live. Part of the role of a caregiver is that of a teacher. We teach morals in the very same way we teach life skills.

734842_98231030 chores

If you are teaching a child to clean up the dishes, you don’t say, “How do you feel like this should be done? What seems right to you?”

You show them, you let them try it, you provide corrective feedback, you show them again, you let them try it again, and so on. It’s incredibly repetitive, they often don’t do a good job for quite a while, and it’s certainly more difficult than simply washing the dishes yourself. But that’s how people learn.

As caregivers, we provide children with modeling, direction, and feedback.

We demonstrate patience and a tolerance of mistakes during the learning process, and offer praise when the child makes a good effort or achieves a goal. This is the fun part of directing kids: seeing their excitement when they can show off a new skill, seeing their confidence increase as they say “I can do it!”

And we do it as life unfolds.

We teach right and wrong the very same way as we teach life skills. We keep living in the moment, focused on building character, on strengthening conscience–theirs and ours–as we walk with them through their daily life of schoolwork, recreation, relationships, and lessons.


  • A child’s need of direction for their human spirit includes basic ethics to guide the way they live.  Click to Tweet
  • We teach children right and wrong the very same way as we teach them life skills. Click to Tweet