Finding Meaning

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Children Bless Also

By skip Hellewell

A fascinating study was published the other day. The findings came from Harvard’s “Growing Up Today Study,” following 26,000 children since 1996. (The children were from mothers in the Nurses’ Health Study, started 20 years earlier, so there was prior family data.) What have they learned? Kids benefit from regular church-going. It’s associated with higher life satisfaction, reduced depression, a greater sense of purpose, and less risky behavior (smoking, drug use, early sexual debut). “Weekly” is the key word, for less than weekly attendance had little benefit, though regular prayer or meditation gave similar results. If you want to bless your child’s life, take them to church.

The study led me to ask the opposite question: Do children bless the churches? We know that when kids grow up and leave home, there is a big decline in church-going. But we also know it tends to reverse with marriage and the arrival of children. Preachers have a saying, that babies bring their parents to church. It’s true; parents want the best for their young children, so they find their way back. Children, with their innocence and simple faith, bless our churches in other ways.

In a recent Laguna church service, 13-year-old Lauren Kimball rose to sing a solo. When Lauren was 11, she started to lose her hair. The doctors were mystified, but after many tests, determined a rare auto-immune disease was the cause. Lauren had earlier health challenges, including asthma, so going bald just as a girl starts to become a young woman was an added burden. “Why me?” she wondered, like Job of old. It’s a heavy question for a child.

Lauren’s song was “How Great Thou Art,” a gospel song with Swedish origins that Billy Graham popularized as his theme song. Because Lauren’s youthfulness and short wispy hair implied frailty, it seemed an ambitious song. Lauren, however, sang with surprising strength, perhaps a blessing earned through her struggles. Have you been in a congregation when the Holy Spirit becomes unusually present, where normal movement pauses and a silent stillness descends, unifying all as one? It happened as little Lauren sang, rising to the final refrain:

“Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to Thee

How great Thou art, how great Thou art.”

By this time, we were wiping our eyes, overcome by the moment. The speakers spoke well, but when we look back many years hence, I suppose we will only remember Lauren, and the lesson she taught though her singing. Yes, the children bless our churches.

This brings me to a closing thought I think important to share. Children don’t yet have our abilities and we often expect too much of them. There are disappointments. But it’s important to appreciate that they are trying as hard as they can. We don’t realize how they constantly work to make their parents proud. Or how much they bless our world. The good Lord bless the children—they give meaning to our lives.

 

 

Skip fell in love with Laguna on a ‘50s surfing trip. He’s a student of Laguna history and the author of “Loving Laguna: A Local’s Guide to Laguna Beach.” Email: [email protected].

 

Places to worship (all on Sunday, unless noted):

Baha’i’s of Laguna Beach—contact [email protected] for events and meetings.

Calvary Chapel Seaside, 21540 Wesley Drive (Lang Park Community Center), 10:30 a.m.

Chabad Jewish Center, 30804 S. Coast Hwy, Fri. 7 p.m., Sat. 10:30 a.m., Sun. 8 a.m.

Church by the Sea, 468 Legion St., 9 & 10:45 a.m.

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 682 Park Ave., 10 a.m.

First Church of Christ, Scientist, 635 High Dr., 10 a.m.

ISKCON (Hare Krishna), 285 Legion St., 5 p.m., with 6:45 feast.

Jehovah’s Witnesses, 20912 Laguna Canyon Rd., 1:00 p.m.

Laguna Beach Net-Works, 286 St. Ann’s Dr., 10 a.m.

Laguna Presbyterian, 415 Forest Ave., 8:30 & 10 a.m.

Neighborhood Congregational Church (UCC), 340 St. Ann’s Drive, 10 a.m.

United Methodist Church, 21632 Wesley, 10 a.m.

Salt Chrch, 8681 N. Coast Hwy, 10:00 a.m.

St. Catherine of Siena (Catholic), 1042 Temple Terrace, 7:30, 9, 11, 1:30 p.m. (Spanish), 5:30 p.m.  There are 8 a.m. masses on other days and Saturday 5:30 p.m. vigils.

St. Francis by the Sea (American Catholic), 430 Park, 9:30 a.m.

St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, 428 Park Ave., 8:00 & 10:30 a.m.

Unitarian Universalist, 429 Cypress St., 10:30 a.m.

 

 

 

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