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!)

a blue line


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.

When you discover who Jesus is, what will you do?

Wherever Jesus went, crowds generally formed and miracles turned up. He healed the sick, cured the lame, calmed a storm, turned water into wine, and brought the dead back to life — to name just a few.

A collage of miracle stories

Why did Jesus do miracles?

The last thing Jesus would have wanted was his miracles to be seen as some sort of “magic.” His ambition was not to have people follow him around just to see him do miracles. Perhaps this is why he often told those cured to, “see that no one knows about this” (Matthew 9:30.)

Jesus had compassion for those who congregated before him. He saw their needs and helped them. But on the hillside that day, with over 5,000 people gathered… many of them could have been hungry, yet…

No one would have starved.

Why did Jesus choose to feed them all so miraculously?

He wanted everyone to discover who he was.

Jesus had said that he was the Son of God. He showed people that he came from God by doing many wonderful works. On this particular day people seemed to get the message. Afterwards (perhaps spurred by what Moses had told them) a long time ago, they all said:

Open quote markSurely this is the Prophet who was to come into the world! (John 6:14)

Jesus’ miracle had made people think: Could this be the one? The Messiah? The one we’ve been waiting for?

It appears that Jesus had accomplished what he’d set out to do: to teach who he was.

So these days, how does Jesus show you who he is?

And this stimulates more questions…

  • Are we ready to see more?
  • Do we have the same sort of “is this the one?” reaction when we encounter daily miracles?
  • Are we prompted to want to follow Jesus?
  • Do we seek to desire to know more about Jesus, to live like he did, to perform miracles in our own way, by bringing God’s love to others?
What result will this miracle produce in our hearts and minds?

a thin blue line


Photo credits:
Various miracles of Jesus, depicted in stained glass. I created this collage from images shared under various CC licenses. Images on either end by H. Zell. Windows in Iglesia de El Salvador, Santa Cruz de La Palma, Canary Islands, Spain, via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0).
2nd image from left by: Nheyob. Windows in Chapel of the Immaculate Conception (University of Dayton), via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0).
3rd from the left by: Fr Lawrence Lew, O.P. Window in Leicester Cathedral, UK, via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).

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Are you hiding your talents and skills? Take courage!

Third servant digs a hole
After hearing The Parable of the Talents, we pondered what was the most surprising thing we learned.

The hands down winner (in a crowd of 1st graders) was that the third servant chose to bury his “talent.”

 
Indeed, who today would bury something valuable?

I explained that the people who heard Jesus tell this parable would have approvingly nodded their heads when told of this concealing effort. In those days, to bury money placed into your care was considered a secure way of protecting a treasure. This third servant had done what everyone would have expected – gone for his shovel!

Except, according to the parable, the master wasn’t happy with this choice.
What resembled a smart decision, delivered a sad outcome.

How should we be guided by this parable — this story used by Jesus to teach his listeners about living in God’s kingdom?

Don’t bury your talents.

And here we aren’t only talking about the first century use of the word “talent” which referred to a large sum of silver or gold. Our use of the word “talents” encompasses much more — all of our resources including our money, our skills, our abilities, our time, and our stuff! Don’t hide these aptitudes; use them!

Making use of our talents? Easy, right?

What is holding you back? Are you allowing your “inner voice” to control your actions?

Do you explain away your behavior with…

  • I’m too busy.
  • My efforts are too small to make a difference.
  • I’m not ready.
  • I am afraid.
  • What will people think?

I’ve bestowed all of these excuses upon myself. I need a daily reminder to banish my fearfulness.

Everything is a gift.

Today, marks the ten-year anniversary of my near-fatal brain aneurysm. Because of an incredible story of everything happening at just the right moment, and lots of prayer, and skilled medical care, I survived. I received a precious gift: a second chance to do my best with the gifts God has given me.

Yet I don’t always act in this manner. I behave like the third servant in our parable.

Unlike his fellow-workers who were emboldened by the chance to make something of themselves — to serve their master faithfully — this third servant was afraid.

He forfeited opportunities to risk investing his gifts.

God asks only one thing for giving us the gold coin of life: Use what you have to facilitate God’s kingdom here on earth. We are not told how to use our talents, just that we should use them.

How will you make use of your resources, your gifts, your money, your skills, your abilities, and your time?

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Photo credits:
An illustration from my favorite kids Bible, The Jesus Storybook Bible, used under an educational fair use category. (Link goes to Ann Arbor District Library holding.)

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For such a time as this?

Esther found herself in a tight spot: Face death if she went before the king, or do nothing and have her people be annihilated. Her wise cousin Mordecai was suggesting that she’d been situated as queen, so she’d be available to step in and save her people. He told her…

Open quote markAnd who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this? Esther 4:14b

Have you ever felt as Esther did – stuck in a quandary?

I’ve been in muddled-mode for a long time. There are lots of things I’m not sure I want to do anymore. And then there are new things that appear. Should I take them on? Something has to go from my to-do list but I’m not sure what!

I feel like I’ve been trying to do more and more, and accomplishing less and less. How do I decide what to let go? What if I choose wrong! Rather than make a decision, I’ve been just spinning my wheels. Perhaps it’s time to realize that I’m at a “such a time as this” juncture.

When one finds themselves in “such as time as this,” faith and trust need to triumph over fear.

A road sign indicates trust is straight ahead

Here are words of a blessing I need to hear and live:

Open quote markMay you be willing to leave behind a risk-free life and go out on a limb, for such a time as this.

How about yourself? Join me in becoming unstuck?


Did you know that blessing someone gives them a precious gift?
Click on a box if you would like to…
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Photo credits:
Click here for info on banner photo (not visible in readers or email).
Road sign in the Public Domain, via Pixabay.

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When tornados stir things up – what to say to kids

Aerial shot of damage in Dexter, MI 2012 tornado

Why didn’t God save their house? Why was it destroyed?

How do you answer the tough questions?

Rather than panic, take a moment to marvel! Isn’t it wonderful that God created your child with a unsuppressed, passionate sense of wonder and curiosity! (How will they find out about the world without cross-examination?) Thank God for their questioning nature!

But, there is this hard question hanging in the air. Perhaps in your household due to the recent Oklahoma tornado. (Which for me, stirred up memories of our own close-at-hand destruction in March 2012.)

The nature of the question asked may be different, but at any rate a response is required. What will you say? Here are some things to consider in formulating your reply:

  • Ask them what they know about the situation. You want to be able to provide them with answers that are specific to what they are looking for. (No need to go into details beyond what they have wondered about.)
  • Perhaps you need time to think about what you will say. It is okay to say: “I would like to continue talking about this, but I need time to think it over.” (But remember to reintroduce the topic later! Saying: “Remember when you asked me about…”)
  • Use age-appropriate words to describe what has happened. Give them a name for their feelings. “You sound frightened” or “You seem worried.”
  • It is okay to say that you don’t have all the answers! Words like: “I don’t know. God’s world is sometimes really hard to understand. We can’t see the reasons for why things happen. Sometimes we have to live in the mystery. All we can know is that God always loves us. God wants us to be safe.”
  • For specific questions:
    • Where was God?
      Your religious thinking may differ but Methodists don’t believe that God creates storms or other natural disasters to punish people. Reassure them that God weeps right along with those who suffer loss. God’s love never ends! And nothing that happens can separate us from his love. (See Romans 8:38-39.)
    • Why didn’t God stop this from happening?
      Back in the beginning of time God set in motion the creation of our world. God created our world to be ruled by natural laws. Take, for example, gravity: gravity is good – it keeps us from floating out of control! But gravity can also be bad – such as when an airplane looses power and falls to earth. It would be nice if God could save the airplane and temporarily suspend the law of gravity. But if that were to happen, we’d all go spinning off into space! Specifics in the case of a tornado: we have an unsettling mix of hot and cold air. Yet individually, hot and cold serve purposeful parts of our physical world. God doesn’t arbitrarily manipulate the laws of nature!
    • I’m wondering if I can trust God?
      A valid concern! God gives us a choice. Point to Bible stories such as Joseph in Egypt; Joseph chose to trust God in spite of difficult situations he faced. He eventually saw a purpose for his suffering. (See Genesis 45:4-7.) Trusting God doesn’t make troubles go away; it does make troubles easier to handle.
  • Point out the helpers. God always sends helpers. (Especially when you are looking for them!) Ask your children how they think that they can be a helper? (Prayer for victims is always one answer.)
  • Create a family plan for what to do in a similar situation. Calmly hold a family drill.

Are there questions you have or topics you’d like to see addressed? Fill out the form below to let me know.


Photo credits: Click here for info on banner photo (not visible in readers or email).
Damage in Dexter, MI March 2012 tornado by Andy Fowler, who licensed this photo on Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

Who me? Deny Christ?

a to-do listI start off my day with a list of what I need to do.

But I wonder… in all of my busy, everything must be perfect, planning… have I left room for God? Is “cultivate my faith” on my to-do list?

Am I denying God entry into my life?

 
Peter pretended like he didn’t know who Jesus was. Now, that is denial. But do my choices make me just as guilty?

The Denial of Saint Peter-Caravaggio (1610)

Paraphrased from John 18:16-18, 25-27, Peter said…

Open quote markAre you talking to me? I don’t know who that man is!

What does denying Christ look like for us today?

Here’s a discussion for your family, at the family dinner table (or wherever your family is gathered together).

a blue line

  • When was the last time you faced denial?
  • Tell about a time when someone pretended like they didn’t know you.
  • Have you ever denied knowing someone?
  • Adults: share a story from your growing-up years. And then share Peter’s story.
  • It is easy to see that saying you don’t know someone is denial. Do you suppose that we ever deny Jesus? How about when we…
    • speak harshly?
    • are quick to follow the crowd – trying to make them like us?
    • forget to pray?
    • turn the other way when someone needs our help?
    • are mostly concerned about our needs?

All of us, through our lifestyles, actions and attitudes, have denied Jesus. But, be reassured, there is hope!

Open quote markSo turn to God! Give up your sins, and you will be forgiven. Acts 3:19

I am thankful for God’s grace!

a blue line


Photo credits:
A to-do list by John Athayde, who licensed this photo on Flickr under a Creative Commons License.
The Denial of Saint Peter by Caravaggio, circa 1610; in the Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

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When life seems scary…

Sometimes life is scary and confusing and what are we to do?

a painting of the angels announcement to the shepherds by Gaddi Taddeo [public domain] via Wikimedia Commons

We know that the shepherds were afraid.

Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified . . .
Luke 2:9

What did the shepherds do to feel braver?

They acted on their faith.

Do the same among your family.

  • Look for God. (See here for help in tying this quest to Christmas.)
  • Tell the faith stories!


For help in how to talk to your children about the tragedy in Newtown, CT, Mr. Rogers says it best: Look for the helpers.

Photo credits:
Click here for info on banner photo (not visible in readers or email).
The Angelic Announcement to the Shepherds a painting by Gaddi Taddeo, in the public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

I want directions!

a weather vane points NW

Some days don’t you just want definitive directions?

Why is it so hard to understand the words and workings of Jesus?

And just how are we to explain the mysterious nature of God to our literal-thinking, want-a-definitive-answer, continually questioning kids? This sort of frustration happened in Jesus’ time as well.

Nicodemus came to Jesus with questions. He had high expectations but he left his visit even more puzzled. Jesus had told him: One needs to be born from above (often translated as “born again”) in order to see, or experience, the kingdom of God (from John 3:3). How can an adult be born a second time? Nicodemus didn’t get it. Do you?

So what are we to say when our kids ask a tough question?

Use this phrase: “Sometimes we have to live in the mystery.”

Go ahead; practice saying it: “Sometimes we have to live in the mystery.”

Ambiguity is a fundamental part of our faith journey. If we knew with absolute certainty all of the answers, we wouldn’t bother to experience anything new! It is important to cherish the questions and the wondering.

Jesus rarely gave a straight answer when questioned. It is said that he only directly answered three of the 183 questions asked of him! So when your kids ask you a tough question, explain as best as you can and when you don’t know anymore say, “Sometimes questions about God and Jesus don’t have clear answers. Sometimes we have to live in the mystery.”

Then, of course, your kids will want to know what you mean by “live in the mystery.” Explain this concept by using a technique that Jesus often employed: storytelling. Try telling a story that has a bit of frustration in it; something where the ending leaves you with more questions. Something like this:

You are visiting a far-away country where the language is different from your own. Conversation with the locals is downright impossible. Thankfully you find a place to stay by looking for that international symbol for lodging – a picture of a bed. Because you are somewhat adventurous in your eating habits, you order food in a restaurant by pointing at what someone else is having. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t. There are daily frustrations. You try to buy cheese at the local market, but nothing looks like the cheese you want! You don’t know how to describe cheddar. You leave the store empty-handed. Later, back in your home country you think of your time in that foreign place and you wonder what you were to have learned from your adventure. You don’t know. Sometimes we have to live in the mystery.

I’m struggling to live in the mystery. How about you?

Photo credits:
Weatber vane by 23am.com, who licensed this photo on Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

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