How to prepare to hear youth champion choosing love?

Youth Worship 2017 LogoThis weekend, the Youth in grades 7-12 will lead worship at both Greenwood on Saturday evening and downtown Sunday morning. Why should you make sure that you and the kiddos attend one of these services?

Three reasons:

  • Little kids need to espy big kids in action. (Hey, I get to do that some day!)
  • The viewpoint the Youth will promote is wise: Choose Love.
  • There will not be any Cool Disciples workshops for grades 1-6 this weekend!

Do you suppose the “open door” in their logo, parodies to a degree, that old TV show Let’s Make a Deal – where contestants picked either door number 1, 2 or 3?  (The Bible story the Youth will reference does have three characters making choices about showing love.)

But choosing love is not random. And it is more than just choosing to love and care for someone else – it also involves choosing to allow God to love us!

This door opens two ways: to receive God’s love and to show love to others.

A little preparation for worship may be helpful. (And certainly a debriefing afterwards!) How about using three ways – all involving stories and song. (Something I’m sure that we’ll hear lots of in worship!)

the number one  The Parable of The Good Samaritan is depicted in artLet’s start with a review of a familiar Bible story: The Good Samaritan.

Read the story in Luke 10:25-37.

Which of the three in this parable that Jesus taught – the priest, the Levite, or the Samaritan – chose a loving response to the beaten man by the side of the road?

What were the risks that each person faced? Why do you suppose the Samaritan chose love?

 

the number two  The cover of the book Forever Young by Bob DylanNext, how about a storybook based on a song? Forever Young by Bob Dylan (yes, THAT Bob Dylan) for ages 5 – 10, is about a young boy who is given a guitar by a street singer; his story shows how a gift to another can impact countless lives. (Ann Arbor District Library has this book. See if it is available!)

Do you suppose a simple act of giving (and loving) can still have an impact in today’s world?
Do you think it is better to give love or to receive love? Why?

 
the number three  And the third choice is a song by Pete Townshend: Let My Love Open the Door. The Youth have been learning this song and we’ll hear it this weekend.

Consider how these words could be God speaking to us, reaching out in love.
“I have the only key to your heart
I can stop you falling apart
Try today you’ll find this way
Come on and give me a chance to say
Let my love open the door
It’s all I’m living for
Release yourself from misery
There’s only one thing gonna set you free
That’s my love
That’s my love
Let my love open the door
Let my love open the door.”

 

The Youth from FUMC at Soulfull Retreat 2017
Youth at Soulfull Retreat at Lake Louise Retreat Center, 2017

Come experience the youth as they share their faith in music, drama, and liturgy. Members of the senior class of 2017 will share their journeys with the congregation. (Always a tear-jerker for me!)

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Photo credits:
Choose Love logo designed by Wendy Everett. Group photo of youth at Soulfull Retreat at Lake Louise Retreat Center, by Peter DeHart, © 2017. Used by permission.
An icon of The Good Samaritan, photo by Ted, licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-SA 2.0). Orange Numbers in the Public Domain via WPClipart.com.

How “acting as if” makes way for a miracle?

The formerly paralyzed man walks!

The crowd inside the house was packed tight. And now four hard-working, faith-filled, determined men had created a hole in the roof so as to lower their paralyzed friend into Jesus’ presence. These friends were certain that Jesus would heal their buddy.

They chose to act as if it were already true.

I have read this story countless times. (It’s what I do when I am writing Rotation lessons.) I even will find myself returning to the story, reading it again, after the lesson is complete. Why?

Because usually I discover a new insight.

And sure enough I did. Something occurred to me that I hadn’t previously considered.

When Jesus says to the lame man:

'
Get up, take your mat and go home.

What would have happened if the lame man hadn’t gotten up?

What if he was too afraid?
(He could fall flat on his face, and make a spectacle of himself!)

I had discovered another miracle in this story! The story that already contained several miracles — the industrious nature of the four friends, who overcame hardships to take a friend to Jesus, and the miracle of sins being forgiven and of course, the miracle of a previously paralyzed man able to walk! And now this miracle:

The lame man had to get up. He had to act as if the miracle were true.

'Immediately the paralyzed man stood up. He took his mat and walked out. (Mark 2:12)

Acting on a truth is what is needed for it to actually become your truth.

What is stopping you? Can your faith be an instrument that helps someone “get to” Jesus?

What about your kids?

Act as if your child is a spiritual being. (Because we are all spiritual beings!)
Act as if your child is interested in talking about faith.
Act as if you will discover something new.

You need to be brave — to “act as if” — to take part in miracles – however big or small they may be.

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Photo credits:
The lame man walks is a screenshot from a video posted by Bible Society Australia, who licensed their work under a Creative Commons (BY-NC 2.0) License.

Want an easy habit for 2017 that will bless your kids?

the sun rises over Lake Superior

As the sun rises, are you ready for the start of a New Year? Are all-systems-go in the annual building of resolutions? How about just one more easy habit to take on for 2017 – one that I guarantee will generate good-feelings in your child.

AND, this intention only takes about 30 seconds. And, it’s flexible: it fits into your morning, or your evening routines, or whenever. What could be better!

What is this simple practice?

Bless your children.

Blessings are simply saying good things to your kids, on behalf of God. It’s giving them a daily stamp of approval! Like swearing on a Bible, you state truthful words; language your children desperately need to hear.

Easy instructions: Get started today! Trace with your finger, the sign of the cross either on their forehead or on their hand, while saying their name and something up-lifting about the new year ahead. Try this…

'You are a very special person, created by God to do good in the world. May you eagerly approach the New Year, open to change and excited by new beginnings.

Tomorrow, either repeat the same words or use something else.

Want to know a secret?

You can even use these affirming words to bless yourself!

(I’m thinking that I’ll start off the new year doing just that.)

Whatever words you use, start an easy, new habit and bless your child every day.

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Photo credits:
A sunrise over Lake Superior by Sharon Mollerus, who licensed this photo on Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

Hidden inside the ordinary, will you see God-alongside?

Christmas eve worshipAs you gather with your family and/or friends, ponder this question:

What was your favorite part of the Christmas Eve worship service?

I’ll bet you get a variety of answers.

My unofficial poll included the music offerings, and when all the lights are turned off and Silent Night is sung by candle light.

The telling of the story didn’t make our list.

I wonder if we have become so familiar with the story of Jesus’ birth, that we forget to be amazed?

Mary and Joseph travel to Bethlehem

I spent Christmas Eve too sick to attend worship. Home alone, in bed, I decide to read the story. I’m glad I did. Functioning as the only component of “worship” that I had, it allowed for deep contemplation.

I was reminded of the wondrous, amazing aspect of Christmas.

What’s that you say?

As explanation, I’ll use a phrase often heard in this season:

The Incarnation

Star of Bethlehem Nativity

The Incarnation is a concept that leaves me awestruck. (And also feeling a bit jumbled – reminding me that sometimes we have to live in the mystery.)

Incarnation is a big word that comes from Latin, meaning “the act of being made flesh.” It’s what God did in the birth of Jesus. Somehow, mysteriously, Jesus is both fully God and fully human!

In Jesus, God is with us!

The prophet Isaiah had described our coming Savior as Emmanuel. What a perfect title for Jesus, because “Emmanuel” means “God with us.” It’s the very thing we need and look forward to the most: the presence of God himself! Jesus wasn’t born just to save us from our sins; God came to be with us.

God loved us so much that he chose to come into the world in the actual person of Jesus. We find this expressed in John 1:14, which paraphrased reads…

The “Word” was made flesh and moved in with us.

The Adoration of the Shepherds, a painting by Gerard van Honthorst, 1622

Even more amazing (if that is possible)… God joined us, not just in human form but as a tiny, helpless baby! What are we to make of this news? Knowing what we know, what will we do?

Who would have looked for God as a baby in a manager in a stable?

If the way we live shows what we believe, should we be actively looking for God among us?

What does God with us look like today?

Richard Rohr calls it, “hidden inside of ordinariness.”

The Incarnation

A humdrum home for animals, equipped with a feeding trough. Where will God-with-us show up next?

Have you observed God, hidden, yet present with us, in the ordinary?

Let’s look for Emmanuel! Here are a few searching suggestions:

  • Go for a drive at night, and be dazzled by the neighborhoods festooned in Christmas lights.
  • If it snows, go outside and catch flakes on your tongue. (Or spend time studying the rain drops rolling down the window pane.)a child ponders the first snow
  • Lay on your backs under your Christmas tree and silently gaze upward, pondering the beauty and perhaps the scent of pine or spruce.
  • Watch and notice when your child seems in an attitude of awe. (A moment of wonder is often characterized by quiet stillness rather than enthusiastic activity.) Silently join them in their observation.
  • Where will you find God?

May you experience God with you — in whatever ordinary awesomeness he arrives.

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Photo credits:
The first photo is from my archives.
Mary and Joseph travel to Bethlehem was created by moi from an Unsplash.com image by Tim de Groot. The figures were adapted from wpclipart.com; the words are the start of Luke 2:4, NIV.
Star over Bethlehem by Garrett W. offered on Flickr under a Creative Commons License.
Birth of Jesus is a portion of “The Adoration of the Shepherds,” a 1622 painting by Gerard van Honthorst; from Wikimedia, in the Public Domain.
Babe in a manger by Rapolas; from Pixabay, in the CC0 1.0 Public Domain.
First snow by Joe Thorn, offered on Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

What happened to me on a night full of beautiful miracles

ambulance in action

When the kids were little whenever we heard the siren of an ambulance or a fire truck, I would always say, “Make way for the helpers!”

One Saturday night, eleven years ago this night, I needed those helpers.

I don’t remember much about the eve of November 19, 2005 but I found out later that there were miracles happening left and right – even before the ambulance and the fire truck got there. (I was told later that the fire truck arrived first.)

I was home alone and I sustained a burst aneurysm in my brain; usually a fatal event.

When an aneurysm — a bulging, weakening in the wall of an artery — ruptures, it leaks blood into the space around the brain. Things did not look good.

The first miracle: At the moment it hit, I was on the phone. I was talking to my husband, Greg, who was over in the western part of the state, for a hockey tournament with my son. Greg was just passing the phone to my son, when he heard a slight gasp — the aneurysm hit and I lost consciousness. Not hearing any response from my end of the conversation, they thought the connection had been lost. Redialing. Busy signal.

The second miracle: My high school daughter was out babysitting and came home early(!) I think the story was that the parents she was sitting for had decided (for some unexplained reason) to call it a short night.

The third miracle: She had left her phone on the floor by the garage door. (Hidden under stuff?) I guess in those days a phone was not as important? The timing of events was about to get unbelievable.

The fourth miracle: My daughter walked in at the instant my husband — continuing to get a busy signal when calling me — dialed her phone. The phone was ringing as she walked in and of course, she answered. I often think of what would have happened if a minute had passed between her entrance and his call. She (being a teenager) would not have looked for me (situated in the back office); she’d have headed straight upstairs. She would not have gotten the call.

The miracles continue… Needless to say, my daughter called 911 and the neighbor — a nurse. The rest is a blur of activity and more miracles. The best brain surgeon at the University of Michigan, the best nurses in intensive care, friends and family who believed in prayer…

I had a 5% chance of living. And it turns out that I kept defying those odds. Friends have told me that the surgeon came out and said, “We’ve done all we can.”

And yet I survived.

Then they would say, “Well, she may never walk again.”

And then, I would. (After much physical therapy!)

The next dreadful prediction was that I may never talk again… or have fine motor control or… and on and on. Each one gradually torpedoed.

You all prayed. And here I am.

praying peopleThis experience has taught me to believe in prayer!

The miracles continued to come. Released from hospital after 6 and a half weeks. Friends and neighbors who decorated the Christmas tree for our family, drove kids, and brought meals. A dear friends who drove an hour just to get me outside for a short (very short in those first days home) walk!

 
And the miracles continued. A friend who recognized my need for additional Physical Therapy and fought for me to get it! Another friend who took me with to one of his “stretching” sessions with Coach James Henry, and solved an aftereffect of surgery — deliberating pain in my toes!

Eleven years in and I am still recovering and still receiving miracles. Praise be to God!

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Photo credits:
Moving ambulance by Clker-Free-Vector-Images, from Pixabay, and praying people,adapted from clipart by algotruneman. Both of these images are licensed under a Creative Commons Public Domain License.

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Are you encircled by an uplifting, nurturing, cloud of saints?

On All Saints Sunday we  wrote on a tablecloth the names of saints in our livesThis weekend during worship at FUMC, we celebrated All Saints Day.

As always happens during this day of remembrance, we think about the “saints” – those who have contributed to the spiritual journeys of people whose lives they have touched.

On All Saints Day we recognize those from our church who have died over the last year; a bell tolls with the name of each saint that is read.

 
But people don’t have to be dead to be called a saint! Anyone who personifies God’s extravagant love, or serves others tirelessly, or who nurtures and inspires us, is a saint!

They represent the face of God in our lives.

So to remember all of these saints in our lives, we wrote their names on a tablecloth. Since it was a Communion Sunday, we were invited to make note of our saints as we came up to share bread and juice in community.

I like how after Communion had been served, the pastors took the tablecloth and laid it over the Communion elements. It sort of looked like a cloud.

The tablecloth covers the Communion elements

We call our saints “a cloud of witnesses.” Isn’t that a wonderful metaphor? Can you picture yourself protected and supported by a puffy cloud?

I hope we see more of this tablecloth in the future.

The tablecloth is set up for the 2nd service
The tablecloth is ready for the 2nd service on Sunday. A lot of saints are noted!

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Photo credits: Photos are from my archives.

How to add one small (but critical) thing to your day?

When was the last time you gave yourself a pat on the back? Really! After all, you do hard work in the trenches — shepherding kids! (Whether they are yours or someone else’s.)

Shepherd with sheep

Nurturing children transpires into a mighty challenge! You spend time with them, read to them, carpool them all over town, offer healthy foods, make sure they brush their teeth, enforce a respectable bedtime… you love them! You are doing a great job, especially because you push through when it gets hard.

Because, sometimes you don’t have all of the answers.

It is the same way with talking to our kids about their spirituality. Do you feel inadequate? (I do.)

I’m giving you permission to add one small, but critical thing, to your parenting portfolio.

Keep on trying to add conversation about faith issues.

Figure out where you are regularly gathered all together. (In the car, at the dinner table, or at getting-ready-for-bed reading time). Make a new daily habit.

Ask just one question: Where did you see God today?

That’s all you have to ask. Just listen. (And don’t worry if it doesn’t happen every day.)

Allow time for digging deeper. Empower your family to wonder at the mystery of what God is up to and how he wants to be in your life!

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Photo credits:
Shepherding sheep by Biegun Wschodni, who has released this photo to the Public Domain. Offered at unsplash.com.

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How to practice kind words? Chutes and Ladders anyone?

kind, caring word cloud

You’ve heard the old rhyme about sticks and stones, and words not wounding?

Not true!

Our words do matter; to others, and to God!

God really cares about the words that we use and how we use them. How do we talk about this issue with our household? Join us for some discussion!

Start the conversation in the car, or around the family dinner table, or wherever your family is gathered together. Spread the questions out over several sessions. Ask these questions even if you missed the video showing!

Have some family time discussion…

  • Do you find it easy or hard, to use kind words with someone you know well? What about with someone who is a stranger? With someone you dislike? Someone who is giving you a hard time?
  • Have you ever heard the expression: “Kill them with kindness” — what do you suppose it means?
  • Do you feel that there is a difference between acting kindly and true kindness that comes from the heart? How would the two look different?
  • The Bible has lots to say about how we should use our words. Take turns looking up a verse and talking about what it means to you: Luke 6:45, Proverbs 15:1, Proverbs 15:4, Proverbs 16:24, Psalm 19:14, and Ephesians 4:29.
  • Several of these verses were from the book of Proverbs. Proverbs is a book full of short instructions on living wisely. Watch this short video about Proverbs. (If reading this in an email, you can watch this video on YouTube.)
  • The Bible tells us that our words are important to God. Why do you suppose God cares about what we say?
    Jesus taught that “A person’s mouth says everything that is in their heart” (Luke 6:45). God listens to what we say; it tells him what is in our innermost selves. God loves us. So of course God would care about us. And, since God loves everyone, he cares about the effect our words could have on other people.
  • Chutes-and-Ladders game boardIn class on Sunday we played a version of Chutes and Ladders. If your child didn’t bring home a game board, get two here. (This will download a Word doc to your downloads folder.)
  • Play this game at home. Use small items as game pieces and toss a dice to play a round.

    Have fun while practicing using kind words!

     

    This summer, we hope you’ll join us on our movie adventure and also, continue the learning at home.

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    Photo credits:
    A created word cloud by moi. Shared at flickr under a Creative Commons license. I also created the game board.

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