What does it feel like to be called?

A bunch of us were gathered for our weekly Disciple Bible study, and talk turned to being called by God. “Called” as in: God prompting you to do something. This sparked the question in my mind:

How do we know when God is calling?

What does it sound like (or look like or feel like) when God calls?

Discuss this concept with your family group (perhaps around the dinner table). Start off with a couple rounds of the game “Telephone.” (Where one person starts and whispers something to the person next to them. They in turn whisper what they heard to the next person, and so on.) It can be fun to see how the whispered phrase likely gets distorted.

Was it hard to hear? (Especially through the giggles.)

We live in a very noisy, active world. How do we listen for God?

For most of us God doesn’t talk with words passed via whispers in our ears. But then again, perhaps God does whisper! How?

  • God speaks to us through the Bible. A suggestion: Read our current Rotation story. Check the latest schedule post for the scripture.
  • God speaks to us through prayer. Prayer is more than just communicating our thoughts and needs. Include a time of being in silent prayer to listen for God. Try closing your eyes and breathe normally. If you have trouble being silent try starting off with repeating a sacred word or phrase that calms your mind. (Try “Lord come,” or “Holy One” or “Immanuel.”)
  • God speaks to us through worship, and music, and nature, and books, and other people.
But I don’t know if what I heard is my idea, or God’s. How can I tell?
  • What is the source? Can it be trusted?
  • Examine your thoughts and compare them with the Word of God. Does what you are hearing align with what the Bible teaches?
  • Do certain phrases or ideas keep randomly “reappearing?” Pay attention!
  • Talk with trusted adults about your call.

Followers of Christ put faith into action!

What is God nudging you to do?


Photo credits:
Telephone by Florian Seroussi, who licensed this photo on Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

Being a disciple is hard work!

A cropped picture of a painting of Jesus calling Matthew by William HoleA few fishermen, a tax collector, and some other unseemly students… the hard work started with the abrupt summons: “Follow me.” They don’t even seem to give it a second thought! Consider what they each gave up to become disciples of Jesus…

Matthew probably gave up a pile of money. (That’s him in the painting, in his tax collector’s “booth”).

The fishermen gave up a rich haul of fish (as told in Luke 5:1-11).

Bartholomew (called Nathanael in John’s gospel) gave up his uncertainty.

James and John, sons of Zebedee, gave up their fishing equipment… and they left behind their father!

What about yourself?

What must you forfeit to follow Jesus?

Discuss these possibilities amongst your family group. Do you give up…

  • Sleep? Most of us don’t get enough sleep; I sure could use a few more zzz’s on Sunday morning.
  • Time? Read the Bible? Pray? They take time! My days are already jam-packed! (And I’d rather play a computer game.)
  • My ego? Because being a disciple places the focus on God and I like things to be about me.
  • My comfort zone? Because I don’t enjoy _______. (Fill in the blank: Hanging out with people I don’t know, or rubbing shoulders with the down-trodden, or opening my wallet.)
  • Dignity? Because I might do this disciple-thing wrong (and what would people say?) And yikes! Every decision I make is an exercise in discipleship!
  • A firm life-path? I want answers and a road map. Following Jesus can be scary! Who knows where I will be led next?
  • Reputation? Because maybe I’ll be laughed at. (You follow Jesus!?)
  • Society’s endless clamor for praise, power, and possessions? There are just so many distractions from Jesus’ calling! This is hard!
What difficult choices are you being called to make?

(Mess up? Me too. It’s okay. You can start to follow again and again!)

Photo credits:
Painting of Jesus calling Matthew, by William Hole, in the Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Eat well, exercise, get enough sleep, and practice discipleship

A Super-Disciple!

It is easy to understand why Jesus assembled a crew of special disciples. Jesus needed help!

Enter, the Super Disciples!

These were not just average, I-like-the-sound-of-what-you-are-preaching, admirers. Jesus invited his apprentice good-news-broadcasters to come, follow me; become my students.

Fairly early in his ministry, they were called to receive basic training in Super Discipleship.

These selected followers saw it firsthand: God was up to something big! Here was a belief system that changed how you looked at everything! Transformed lives! And though they stumbled at times, Jesus’ disciples ended up doing an admirable job of spreading the good news about Christ, especially once they had the Holy Spirit.

Today Jesus still needs disciples to work at transforming the world. What about us?

Are we ho-hum fans, or are we Super-D disciples of Jesus?

It shouldn’t be a surprise that we need to work at becoming the latter.
How? It’s just like learning to play an instrument: we practice!

But how does one practice becoming this sort of committed disciple?

Here are some thoughts to ponder in forming a disciple-practice-plan:

  • Gather your family — how about around the dinner table? Read some of the stories of Jesus “calling” his disciples – fishermen, a tax collector, and others. Note that sometimes eventual followers were skeptical at first. Are we allowed to wonder at the mystery of what God is up to? You bet!
  • Next, discuss with your family what the difference is between an everyday follower and an in-it-for-the-long-run disciple like Peter and Matthew and James and John? How would it look if your family just “said” you were Jesus-followers vs. acted like you meant it? Would anything change or are you on that path now? Would you have to give something up? Is being a disciple of Christ one more thing to add to our to-do list? Or is it a new way of living?
  • According to your definition of a “Super Disciple,” tell stories of when you encountered someone like that. What was it that made that person memorable? What could you emulate? Perhaps you could invite a voted-upon Super D to share a supper with you?
  • Discuss which of these areas need your focus:
     A check-box On-going Christian education (not just for the kids!)
     A check-box Worshiping together as a family.
     A check-box Celebrating Communion together as a family.
     A check-box Regular Bible reading and prayer.
     A check-box Participation in mission to others.
The Rule of Discipleship: Worship, Devotion, Compassion & Justice

As United Methodist followers of Jesus’ teachings, we are guided in our quest to be Super Disciples by what is called “The General Rule of Discipleship” which is described in The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church as: following Christ “through acts of compassion, justice, worship, and devotion under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.”

This means we practice being disciples by inward, life-giving means such as worship and “devotion” (prayer and Bible study), and by outward participation in God’s mission for the world: seeking justice and having compassion for others.

Pastor Nancy Lynn told us about this in a sermon she preached at FUMC on September 7, 2014, saying: “These four acts reflect that our journey of faith is personal as well as social, private as well as public, inward as well as outward. And to grow and be healthy, we need balance between them.”
A person who commits to practicing can become a Super Disciple. How are you practicing discipleship?


Photo credits:
A Super Disciple! was altered from an image by Jam Zhang, who licensed this photo on Flickr under a Creative Commons License.
The Rule of Discipleship symbol © 2014, The General Board of Discipleship of The United Methodist Church. Used with permission.


Come, watch, hear, see, follow, and… learn to fish?

Updated to add all of the fish prints in the slide show below!

Have you seen them on display around the church?


We hear a lot about disciples. Every time someone is baptized in church we all say together: “We will pray for them that they may be true disciples…” And every Sunday (at the 9:30 service) we sing the kids on their way to Sunday’s Cool: “Go ye, go ye into the world, and make disciples of all the nations…”

So what’s a disciple? How does one get to be a “disciple?”

  • The word “disciple” means “student” or “learner.”
  • A teacher has students/disciples.
  • A student/disciple watches his teacher very closely, listening intently to everything he says. A student/disciple will even watch how his teacher ties his sandals!
  • A student/disciple tries to emulate their teacher; their desire is to follow in his footsteps.

In Jesus’ day the cream-of-the-crop students could pursue their education by asking a scholarly teacher, known as a rabbi: “Could I please be one of your students?” I picture ambitious eager beavers literally burning the midnight oil memorizing the Jewish Bible (our Old Testament) to achieve entrance into just the right group. Only the brightest were chosen to be the disciples of a particular rabbi. (The run-of-the-mills took up a trade such as carpentry.)

Jesus followed a different path. The teacher Jesus, the rabbi Jesus, invited people to be his disciples. We say that he “called” them.

A fish print done by a 5th grader

At least four of the people Jesus called, had made a living catching fish. In fact he told them…

Open quote markCome, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!
Matthew 4:19

Jesus was asking lowly fishermen to be his students?

It proves you don’t have to be somebody important to be a disciple of Jesus.

You don’t have to be perfect.
You don’t have to be worthy-enough.
Or get straight A’s. Or live in a big house.
No midnight oil required.

A fish print done by a 4th grader

In our Art Workshop for our current Rotation at FUMC in Ann Arbor, MI, we are making fish prints using an ancient Japanese process called Gyotaku (pronounced gee-oh-TAH-koo). Long ago Gyotaku was a way of making a record of the size of a fish one caught.

A fish print made by a 5th grader

Why make fish prints? It turns out that fishing has a lot of similarities to being a disciple.

  • You need to have the right training and some basic supplies.
  • It takes persistent practice.
  • Sometimes you don’t catch anything. Yet you cast again and again.
  • At times, being quiet helps.

Enjoy the slide show of the fish prints.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Photo credits:
Photos are from my archives.

Want to see the lesson we used? Visit here.

The Calling Continues…

We are moving from one call to another! A call as in…

Call   \kawl\   v.  (but sometimes n.)
As a verb (in our usage): to ask or to invite; as a noun: a message.

In our last Rotation Samuel anointed David, signifying David’s “calling” as Israel’s next king. We didn’t identify it as a calling per say, but sure enough, it was one. It was also a message from God to David.

God texts David

The Bible doesn’t tell us but we can imagine that David and his family were surprised at this invitation.

As equally surprised as the fishermen that Jesus invited — called — to be his disciples; a lot of years later.

As I said, moving from one call to another!

Our next calling story is about Jesus calling his disciples. Read about it in Matthew 4:18-22, 9:9 and in Mark 3:13-19.

From the Brooklyn Museum - The Calling of Saint Peter and Saint Andrew by James Tissot
        A painting by James Tissot, “The Calling of Saint Peter and Saint Andrew”

Join us at FUMC our Cool Disciples experience Rotation Model Christian education, as they learn about Bible stories and concepts through kid-friendly multimedia workshops.

This is where the “Schedule” used to appear — which grades were visiting which workshops over the course of this Rotation. However it was removed as it was sort of out of date 🙂 Our current schedule of workshops, for whatever Rotation we are currently on, can be found on this page.

For prosperity, here is what we did in each workshop for this Rotation:

  • In the Cooking Workshop students will make (and eat!) “fish-shaped” pizza to recall the significance of fishing in the calling of the disciples.
  • In the Storytelling Workshop students will hear congregation member share their story of being “called” to follow Jesus. They’ll learn that “calling” takes many forms!
  • In the Art Workshop students will use the Japanese process of Gyotaku – fish printing – to open discussion of Jesus calling disciples. View the slideshow of completed prints!
  • In the Video Workshop students will watch portions of the live-action video The Visual Bible: Matthew and play a game to spark discussion about ways we are disciples of Jesus.

View a growing list of opportunities to foster faith learning at home for this story.


Photo credits:
The Calling of Peter and Andrew by James Tissot, in the Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons.
Text message created from speech bubbles also in the Public Domain, via wpclipart.com.