Obedience: Contaminent Detected

Sunday in HopeKids we began our new series:

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I must admit, I was a little apprehensive about entering a series on OBEDIENCE the month that school begins. I mean, really, aren’t kids going to hear about obeying enough already? I could just picture their sad little eyes and droopy shoulders. “Ugh. More rules?” I had a moment of feeling like this…

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…until I dug into the Word, and God socked it to me. As He usually does. Obedience is not about rules. It’s about love! 2 John 1:6 tells us so.

2 John 1-6

Doesn’t it always come back to love? Of course it does. This is our memory verse for the month. The series recommended Hebrews 13:17 “Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account.” An important verse, but it is my goal for children to understand the amazing truth of God’s love and that EVERYTHING flows from that place.

Our story on Sunday was a familiar one. It was the story of Adam and Eve and their choice to disobey God, the choice to place their trust in someone other than their loving Father. Their Father who gave them SO MUCH! He gave them the whole world, to be exact, minus one small thing. One lone tree was off limits. We pictured Adam and Eve running blissfully through the garden like kids in a candy store, “Oooh! Look at THAT tree! And THAT one! Lovely! Beautiful! Delicious! I’ll have one of those and one of those, and oooh, that one too! It’s a wonderful life!”

And then…in comes the serpent. The sneaky serpent, who questions God and then calls him a liar. It’s pretty in your face. “Ok, so God gave you all of those trees, but what about THIS one? What he said about THIS one is a lie. And look at IT. It’s the most delicious. Much more satisfying than any of those you already have. He just doesn’t want you to have it as good as you could, as good as He does. Why would you obey Him?”

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We want Eve to respond, “Because God LOVES me and takes care of me! He knows what is best for me always! Go away you ugly, evil creature!” We want her to slay the serpent with sharp-edged trust in the her Father.

But, instead, the voice of the enemy becomes her way. Eve accepts it as truth over the loving, generous, protective voice of her Father. And she chooses to disobey Him for something she wants in that moment.

Oh, the kids leaned in so close for this part of the story. I love those moments more than I can explain. The energy in the room changes and there is stillness and breath and connection. I knew what they were thinking. Their eyes were big and the message was clear. “Whoa. That’s CRAZY. Why would they listen to a SNAKE over God?!”

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But, oh boys and girls! You know what? We all have snakes in our lives, calling our God a liar, persuading us in silky voices to choose their way over His way. They are everywhere.

Voices that assure us it’s ok to do it just once, our parents won’t find out. It’s really not a big deal. SNAKE.

Commercials that tell us what we have is not enough. We need the newest, fastest, best! SNAKE.

Flashy things that steal our time and our energy and leave nothing to give to the Lord. SNAKE.

We can choose to disobey the Lord in His commandments or we can trust that His way is THE way. Our bottom line this week:

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We obey the Lord because we love and trust Him, and our action is obedience. It is love + trust + action. It requires that we humble ourselves and listen. To Him. To the Creator of all, our Refuge, our Strength, Provider, Protector. Whew, He knows so much more than we ever could! 

When we think our way is better, let’s remember the voice of the Lord. Let’s fall at His feet and listen. Let’s mute the snakes in our lives and trust Him. And then, let’s act on His Word.

That is obedience.

It’s my prayer for our children this week, as they begin a new school year with so many voices competing for volume, that they tune their ears to the voice of the Lord and that they have the confidence to follow Him. That they slay any snakes that arise with their choice to obey their Father in all things. Amen.

I can’t wait to see your children this Sunday! Thank you for sharing them with me.

Summer

P.S. Since this month is a science theme, we’ll have some experiment fun each week. On Sunday we made elephant toothpaste. It was fun and simple and illustrated our idea that when we allow disobedience to contaminate our hearts, it keeps expanding beyond our control. If you want to try it at home, here’s a link to the experiment: https://sciencebob.com/fantastic-foamy-fountain/

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Nehemiah and the Angry Birds

Oh yes. Angry Birds. Who doesn’t love launching virtual wingless creatures with a virtual slingshot across a virtual field to destroy virtual bad piggies? This is random-ness at its best. Which is why kids love it! And if kids love it, I must find a way to use it to my advantage. (Insert villainous laugh.)

Kidding, of course. I want to use it for God’s glory. Surely that can be done, right?

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Phew! Those Angry Birds are everywhere! They are persistent.

Along comes Nehemiah, and it hits me like an Angry Bird flung out of that slingshot at perfect trajectory! An idea was born: Nehemiah and the Angry Birds.

Nehemiah was a man with a plan. He was a man who saw a need and moved. He was a man of INITIATIVE.

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Nehemiah had God on his side in big ways, and yet his task rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem was still not an easy one. Sure, it may have seemed easy at first. The king agreed to let him go, gave him letters for safe passage and supplies, provided him with guards for protection. When he arrived in Jerusalem, people were happy to join his team and begin the good work.

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The girls doing good work, building their wall.

But once the work began, things got tough. The middle is always the hardest part, isn’t it? When a project begins, everyone is excited and motivated; when the end is in sight, energy is reignited; but it’s the hard work of the middle that often gets us down.

This is especially true when we are trying to rebuild walls in our own worlds. When we are tackling an issue that others have ignored or attempted and failed. You see, the world doesn’t want us to succeed in destroying darkness. The world will come at us, flinging Angry Birds at full force in the form of mockery, deception, and even physical harm. Nehemiah experienced all of these things. Sanballat and Tobiah ridiculed him for his efforts (4:1-2). Nehemiah prayed to God for help and continued building. But when the people heard that the wall was progressing, they “plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and stir up trouble against it.” (4:7-8) Again, Nehemiah turned to God. Still, the people tried to scheme and deceive and spread rumors (6:1-9).

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The Angry Birds of the world.

We shared with the children on Sunday that they can expect the same in their lives. When they try to work on a wall in their lives, to do good – to stand up for someone who is being bullied, to obey when others are misbehaving, to choose not to follow the crowd – their peers and sometimes even their friends will make it hard. And sometimes continuing will feel impossible. Our spark can be blown out when we take it into the hurricane winds of the world. Unless we are constantly refueling in Christ. Again and again, Nehemiah turned to God. He never stopped praying for God’s help and God never. stopped. answering.

This is such amazing encouragement! God’s generosity is poured out in our lives when we turn to him over and over again. It is not a one time deal. If we begin with God and leave Him in the middle, we will find ourselves left stuck right there in the muck. Our wall will never be complete. And that wall, whatever it may be, is oh-so-needed in this world!

Oh, our game. What fun we had building our walls! And what fun we had playing the enemy (just for pretend, just for a moment), flinging Angry Birds to knock walls down. We played boys vs. girls, and boy did they see each other as the enemy! Haha. The kids built their walls strategically and cheered for their teammates and desperately wanted their wall to be lasting. The energy was big and the joy was palpable.

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Slinging our Angry Birds.

I hope your children came back to you happy and excited…and motivated to do something good. To move and build and keep at their good work.

And I can’t help but wonder…what’s your wall?

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Love in Christ,

Summer

P.S. There is an Angry Birds movie being released next year! We may have to take a HopeKids trip to the theater. Here’s a link to the preview, in case you’re interested, just for fun: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1U2DKKqxHgE

Nehemiah and the DIY Myth

Sunday we began our study of INITIATIVE in the book of Nehemiah. We started our lesson with a small construction project, Jenga style. The kids got in groups and tried to build the tallest tower they could in three minutes. They planned (quickly) and cooperated (mostly) and we ended up with three completely different, creative ideas.

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One group started with a very solid foundation before building up tall and lean. Another group made a complete Jenga structure and removed blocks to add to the top. The third group decided to use the wall as a support system and constructed against it. They had such fun doing the building. Not thinking about it, talking about it, and moving on to other things. Actually doing it.

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Lesson: Nehemiah 1

Bottom Line: When you see something big to be done, ask God for help.

Initiative. A word that resounds in our schools and workplaces and communities. Take some initiative! Be the one who gets the job done!

The one. Do you feel the pressure of those two small words like I do? The. One.

I know, I should feel empowered as an individual. I should. I mean, I can DIY my entire life on Pinterest. I am one and I can do it! Quickly and cheaply and beautifully. We are in the midst of a Do-It-Yourself movement, it seems. And sometimes this IS empowering and exciting. It is when I’m saving money by DIY-ing home decor or cupcakes or Halloween costumes. But when I look at this troubled world and WANT to do something about it and feel like I SHOULD be able to Do-It-Myself, I am defeated before I begin. And so I don’t. I choose not to begin at all.

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And then I read Nehemiah. I can relate to his heart broken for a cause so close to home. I know those tears. My own cheeks are well-worn from the trails they have run again and again. I read Nehemiah’s 13-chapter story and admire his initiative and am astounded by his accomplishment in those few pages. And for a moment, before really even diving in, I allow that feeling of defeat begin to overtake my spirit. Yes, Nehemiah did it. He saw a great need in the wall of Jerusalem and took the initiative to do the impossible thing. He did something big. But how can I be The One to take on a task so monumental in my busy life right now?

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When I get past my own initial stress and feelings of inadequacy and allow myself to sink deep and heavy into Nehemiah’s story, I see that his example is full of hope and possibility and encouragement…because he makes it abundantly clear right away in chapter 1 that he did not DIY the rebuilding of the wall of Jerusalem. He didn’t for a moment think he could do it all himself. Where did Nehemiah turn first? Not to his brothers, his friends, his earthly leader. Not to the nearest self-help shelf in Persia or the first DIY wall-building website he could find. Nehemiah turned to his Father. There was no pause. In verse 4 he wept broken-hearted, and in verse 5 he lay his heartache at the feet of God. He poured out his soul in prayer, pleading for God to make him successful in this impossible task. And God answered, bigger than Nehemiah imagined. Of course He did! “My God is so big, so strong and so mighty, there’s nothing my God cannot do.” Do you know that little song? What powerful truth!

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It was such a great pleasure to tell our kids on Sunday in full honesty that they CAN do something about the the things that break their hearts. And they don’t have to do it alone! Thank goodness for Nehemiah’s example, reminding us that we don’t have to be The One because God is. We simply have to tune into Him, subscribe to His channel. We simply have to open His Word and ask for His help. That’s our initiative.


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These are our Nehemiah glasses. So we can see the way he sees. Fun, but unnecessary.  Your kids don’t need any help seeing the needs in the world. They already do! And their vision is creative and bursting with hope and possibility. 

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We were not created to DIY our way through life. God makes that obvious from the very beginning, remember? God created Adam and immediately said in Genesis 2:18, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” We need God and we need each other.

So there it is. The DIY Myth exposed. I hope this truth is as freeing for you and your children as it is for me.

Now…where should our building begin?

Summer

Wisdom: Choose Your Own Adventure

I must begin with WOW. Just WOW. Sunday was a crazy awesome day in HopeKids! Our room was full in the most wonderful way. The first Sunday after kids return to school always provides a harvest of plenty…plenty of bodies, plenty of excitement, plenty of energy! A week of sitting and listening and giving their best little selves in a classroom…they needed a little space and time to be. Thank goodness for swings, slides, kickballs, and sunshine. Oh yeah, and mud. There was also mud. My apologies if your child wore evidence of that.

After we spent a few minutes being kids together, we returned to our room ready for adventure! Following God is always an adventure, isn’t it? (I’m certain I heard someone somewhere in the universe declare an Amen that rattled my walls.) Maybe it even feels a bit like walking the plank…trying to maintain balance, teetering on the edge of dropping deep into the shark-infested waters of popular culture?

Walk the Plank

We began our lesson by walking the plank. Everyone took a turn. We smiled and laughed and sang and cheered. Some took careful steps and others leaped across that plank! They were confident and sure-footed. Our prayer for them exactly, yes?

Lesson: Making the Wise Choice, Proverbs 2 & 3

Bottom Line: If you want to be wise, look before you leap.

I do wish I had a picture of our beautiful youth helper from Sunday. Anna Grace does a tremendous job illustrating our lessons in skit. She opened as Red Riding Hood, trying to make the wise choice about which path to take to poor, sick Grandma’s house. She knew she could take the straight path and make it there quickly, but there was another path, a crooked, winding path that promised some fun. You know the kind of thing…yummy berries, cool friends, cute boys. She knew the RIGHT choice, but it was a CHOICE after all. And in that word, there is much freedom.

That Way     This Way

Red asked the group which path she should take. And because they are wise and good (and answering the way they know they should – wink), they all emphatically directed her to the straight path. When someone else’s life is onstage and we are the audience, it’s easy to see clearly. Red, however, saw the straight path in front of her, she heard everyone’s direction, but she made her own choice. She chose the crooked path. Maybe you can relate? Maybe you wish someone had told you this long ago in the midst of your choices?

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We left Red there, deep in the tangle of unwise choices, and moved to our life map.

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The kids all gathered around the edges of our giant map (9 ft x 20 ft) eager to hear God’s Word. I think they were all a little worried about Red’s ending. We reviewed our Life App: Wisdom.

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WISDOM is finding out what you should do and DOING IT. We read together from Proverbs 2 and learned that the Lord gives wisdom, “from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.” (Proverbs 2:6) But of course, we are not always listening to the Lord, seeking his wisdom.

I asked the kids if they had ever read any Choose Your Own Adventure books. Do you remember those? (Former librarian side note: If your child hasn’t read these before, you should check some out from the library. They are fun for the whole family! There are even nonfiction versions where you get to choose your own adventure on the Titanic, etc.) We looked at our map and saw that in our lives, we get this glorious and frightening opportunity to choose OUR own adventures. There are many paths we can take, each leading to a treasure of its own.

Crooked Path

First we examined the crooked path of unwise choices. And here’s the thing. These choices are usually normal, not super-over-the-top-big-deal-bad kinds of choices. They are things like choosing to go along with our friends when they are making fun of someone at school, or sneaking and doing something our parents have told us not to do just for a little bit, or kicking our brother or sister out when they desperately want to play with us. I saw several glances around the map at that one. Including from my own sweet children, of course.

This path is obviously wrong when we examine it from the periphery. However, when we dig in to the treasure at the end, we see that this path is oh-so enticing! You see, in that treasure box we find popularity and wealth and power and attention and worldly things that we desire. And this treasure is a dangerous thing, indeed.

Worldly Treasure

Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:21, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Picture your heart buried in this box, deep in greed and pride and envy. Ugh. This is not the end we would choose. But when we set off on our adventure, the end is out of focus and indistinct. We only see the shine.

But the good news is JESUS! Of course, of course! And more good news is that we can choose to step off that wicked path at any moment. The straight path is not far away. It’s a small step. It’s one choice: Jesus. When we are lost and confused and searching, Jesus is ready. Ready to place his arm around our waists, inviting us tuck into his side and rest our heads on his shoulder. “Oh, ye who are weary…” One of my favorite memory verses growing up may have been one of yours, too. Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” 

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HE will make my paths straight. He will take my wrongs and make them right. He will come to me again and again and again. Always. And his treasure is exactly where I want my heart.

Godly Treasure

It may not look glamorous on the outside…it’s hard to compete with the glamour of worldly ways. But inside is where I want to bury my heart. In humility, in truthfulness, generosity, and kindness. Sigh.

In choosing we are free. Free to go the wrong way, free to try and fail again and again…

…and free to change the path we’ve chosen. That is one beautiful freedom.

My prayer for our kids this week is that they Choose a Wise Adventure. And that they revel in it! That they celebrate and find joy and deep friendship and a life that is full.

Thank you for sharing your treasures with me each week.

Summer

Knock, Knock…It’s Spiderman!

Who doesn’t love a good knock, knock joke? What’s your favorite? How about this one:

Knock, knock.

Who’s there?

Opportunity!

Ok, so it’s not exactly a joke. But it’s better…it’s TRUTH! Sunday we began our theme for the month of September: Opportunity Knocks, Responsibility Opens the Door.  This month is all about RESPONSIBILITY.  And we began, well…in the beginning. The beginning of it all, our Genesis.  We peeked into creation to explore RESPONSIBILITY with our favorite newlyweds, Adam and Eve.

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Bottom Line: Show you can be trusted by taking care of what God has made.

Bible Verse: Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much. Luke 16:10

Before we brought Adam and Eve on stage, we began with a little skit about responsibility. Whitney acted as my trusted assistant who was asked to take care of my dear plant Greenie while I was away.  (Side note: Greenie does not belong to me in real life. I personally have no “Greenies”. I am a terrible, terrible gardner. I would have single-handedly destroyed all beauty in the Garden of Eden. Luckily, gardening is one of my amazing neighbor’s many talents, and she allowed me to borrow her beautiful fern for our lesson. My own fern will make an appearance later. Be prepared to LOL.)

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So Whitney was given the RESPONSIBILITY of caring for something small – my fern. And she failed miserably…because we all do (and because it was scripted). See that coke on the table? That was dear Whitney’s way to water our beautiful Greenie. And then she decided they would go take a little nap together in a nice, quiet, DARK place.

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As she walked out with Greenie, the kids all looked at me with big eyes, shaking their heads, muttering “That is NOT a good idea.”  I even heard, “That plant is going down.” Sometimes they make it so hard not to laugh out loud.  They are incredibly entertaining.

Then it was time to take it to the Bible. We looked into Genesis and read together about the creation of the world and all its untouched splendor. God made it beautiful, and He saw that it was good. And then, he created man to care for it all. “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our likeness. Let them rule over the fish in the waters the the birds of the air. Let them rule over the livestock and over the whole earth.'” Genesis 1:26. Let’s not miss the gravity of this. God made this amazing thing and saw it was good…and then He gave it to man. I’m sorry, what? I had the same thought the kids shared, “That is NOT a good idea.” Yet God gave it all. He trusted us with his creation. Me?  I stand amazed at this trust…a wake up call to RESPONSIBILITY.

“The Lord God put the man in the Garden of Eden. He put him there to work the ground and to take care of it.” Genesis 2:15. God created this precious little man right here to take care of His masterpiece. Behold, our Adam:

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I love this kid. He truly IS so very responsible. He tended our garden well and named our animals, as God instructed him. He fulfilled his tasks beautifully. But of course, no one man can do it alone. Even dear, hard-working, responsible Adam. And so, God created a helper who was perfect for Adam. It doesn’t get much more perfect than this:

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Seriously, how cute is our little Eve? God gave Adam and Eve these small jobs and when they showed they could be trusted with little, he gave them much. In the NIrV, Genesis 1:28-29 says “God blessed them. He said to them, ‘Have children and increase your numbers. Fill the earth and bring it under your control. Rule over the fish in the waters and the birds of the air. Rule over every living creature that moves on the ground. I am giving you every plant on the face of the whole earth that bears its own seeds, I am giving you every tree that has fruit with seeds in it…’ And that’s exactly what happened.”

And that IS exactly what happened! He gave and He gave and He gives!  It hits me heavy how often I overlook His gifts. These small gifts that are abundant in my life, that are not actually small at all. And I wonder if I am showing God that I am responsible with this majesty He entrusts to me. Am I?

Are you?

Are we teaching our children this responsibility that first begins with thankfulness? Be thankful, children. Recognize this world as your gift. And be RESPONSIBLE with all God has so graciously given.

Our lesson concluded with Whitney returning from her nap with Greenie and, alas! What happens when RESPONSIBILITY is lacking:

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Greenie became Brownie. (Enter my own dear fern. I know, I know. Be more responsible, right? Water the plant. Tend the garden. Note taken.) The kids found this hilarious! Whitney realized the error of her ways. She should have been more RESPONSIBLE. She should have shown that she could be trusted with little so she could eventually be trusted with more. With the good stuff! I don’t know about you, but I want God to trust me with MORE. I do. I crave His praise and His trust in me to do His will.

I can’t help it…I am a mom of two little boys (and one sweet, sweet girl to whom this particular discussion does not apply), so forgive me here…but every time I hear the word RESPONSIBILITY, I think of Spiderman. Perhaps because there is often a Spiderman running loose in my house. Or jumping into the pool next door. My life:

Spiderman

“With great power comes great responsibility.” I know this was spoken long before the Spiderman movies, but in my head I hear it in Peter Parker’s voiceover. There is great truth to this statement. (Would anyone like to see a little more responsibility from those in great power in our country at this moment? Sigh.) But there is also truth to this: With great responsibility comes great power.

And so, may I suggest this: Let us be greatly responsible. Let us accept the power God has given us with arms thrown wide. And then, let’s use it for good. For the GOOD of God’s beautiful creation. And just maybe, hopefully, we’ll hear a familiar whisper from the heavens: “It is good.”

Summer

People Are Like Oreos

I don’t know about you, but my favorite cookie is an Oreo that has been soaking in milk for so long that it is mushy and gushy and oh-so delish. I love it when I forget momentarily about my Oreo (which doesn’t often happen because what sane person forgets about an Oreo?), and it begins to dissolve into the milk so much that I have to fish it out with a spoon. Yummmmmy. Our lives are filled with favorites…favorite cookies, favorite songs, favorite books, favorite people…And it feels good to have our favorite things around us, doesn’t it? We call these things our comforts, and yet we are not called to a life of comfort. Sigh.

Respect

Bottom Line: Respect Others Because They Are Important to Jesus

Bible Verse: Show proper respect to everyone. 1 Peter 2:17a

Sunday was our last lesson studying RESPECT in the Skate Park. We went back to James for his strong black coffee wisdom on showing favoritism. This subject makes me uncomfortable because it speaks to me. Loudly. And it speaks to our children, too. They long for lunchtime so they can sit with their favorite friend. They groan when their teachers assign partners because they want to choose the person they like best. They race to recess because…well, because it’s recess.

Our lesson began by forcing children to choose favorites by looking at the outside.  First, they had to share who they would choose for their basketball team, Lindsey or Travis. Who would you choose?

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Would you have guessed that Lindsey is actually our basketball superstar?  Next they had to share who they would choose for their math study partner, nerd-girl Kenzie or cool-guy Elias. Who would you want them to choose?

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Cool dude Elias was our math expert! The truth is, we make judgements based on a person’s outside. Based on their clothes and their hair, their words and their actions. But James tells us this in 2:1: “My brothers and sisters, you are believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ. So treat everyone the same.” It’s a simple cause and effect. You believe in Jesus, therefore you treat everyone the same. Period. Hmmm…so I shouldn’t treat the cashier I see at Wal-Mart each week any differently than I would treat the President of the United States (political issues aside)? I shouldn’t treat the homeless man on the corner holding his sign any differently than I would my best friend? Can it be that simple?

When we broke into our small groups to apply James’ advice, we did an activity called On the Inside. Each group was given a “person” they might see at school. This person was actually a box labeled with descriptive words like “mean” or “weird” or “annoying”. Every child walked up the person and squirted silly string in his face, symbolizing the meanness we often throw at people. Many of them were hesitant to do it! Pure sweetness and I love it. But, in the end the silly string made it ok. Anything that makes a mess is gloriously fun when you are 5. Or 35.


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When we were all out of insults (aka silly string), our poor people were just a mess!  We looked at them and felt sad and talked about how terrible they must feel to be covered in hurt.

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So we opened our people up and peeked inside. And what we found was proof that our outsides do not reveal our inner truths. Well, we literally found balloons…representing inner truth!  The balloons declared each of these people “Child of God”, “Important to God”, “Loved by Jesus”, and “God’s Masterpiece”. It was a joyful experience! And then…I love children because their hearts are so much purer than mine…some of the kids started cleaning up the silly string. They were pulling it off of the boxes as if they just couldn’t stand it being there any longer.  It was a special moment (despite the fact that some of them started making silly string balls and throwing them – hey, they are children after all!) and gave us the opportunity to talk about how we can “clean up” the messes we make when we hurt others. They said such smart things. Moments like this…I love my job.

Inner Truth Balloons

So, a reflection. I think if we are honest with ourselves as parents, we might realize that we encourage our children to show favorites. We encourage our children to choose the “right” friends, don’t we? Believe me, I am not placing judgement…I am sharing my personal truth. We do it with good intentions. We want our children surrounded by good friends so they are encouraged to make good choices and be good people. Is that so wrong? Let me invite you to see this at its ugliest…in me. I shudder to reveal it, but it’s truth.

On the first day of school this year, when I walked my kindergartener and my fourth grader into their new school auditorium, full to bursting with children of all sorts,  I found myself unintentionally perusing the crowd and mentally selecting good potential friends for my kids. You know, the friends who looked like them.  The ones with clean clothes and new backpacks and well-brushed hair, quietly waiting for the day to begin with their hands folded nicely in their laps. This went on for a bit before I even realized what dark path my thoughts had taken. And it hit me hard. With my words, I encourage my children to be friends with everyone, but it is superficial encouragement. What I mean is this: Be NICE to everyone, but choose the RIGHT friends. Ugh. My heart is a work in progress, and if anyone needs James right now it is me.

Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes. And suppose a poor man in worn-out clothes also comes in. Would you show special attention to the one who is wearing fine clothes? Would you say, ‘Here’s a good seat for you’? Would you say to the poor person, ‘You stand there’? Or ‘Sit on the floor by my feet’? If you would, aren’t you treating some people better than others? Aren’t you like judges who have evil thoughts?” James 2:2-4

Yes James, my thoughts are evil. Thank you for your words and thank you for these children who illustrate your truth in big ways.

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Reverse Musical Chairs – Include Everyone!

Parents, if we let them, our children can change us. And then…they can change the world. I believe it with my whole heart. Do you?

Summer

P.S. We ended with Oreos to sink in this truth:like oreos

Sticks and Stones: The Myth

Sundays are my absolute favorite day of the week! It’s Game Day for this church girl. This Sunday we continued our study of RESPECT in the book of James. Now, I personally LOVE James. His book is one of my favorites because he is straight strong black coffee…no cream and sugar to ease his message down. I admire this greatly because I am exactly the opposite. Truth…this is what my coffee looks like:

coffee with frame

Let me clarify what you are seeing. This is not coffee from Starbucks or any other such fancy-schmancy shop. This is what I make at home. Every day. Two-thirds coffee/one-third flavored creamer (this is caramel macchiato, though the flavor of the creamer often changes) with whipped cream on top. Sometimes I add cinnamon. Opposite of strong, black, in your face? I think yes.

While I am a true fan of James, the idea of sharing his book with children doesn’t exactly make me run grab my pom poms. I mean, immediately after he welcomes us in with greetings, James tells us to “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds…” There are no rainbows here. No slingshots of glory. Simply James, standing in the front of the classroom, giving us a list of “rules” to follow as Christians. Keep in mind, if you will, this lesson was also being taught immediately following the first week of school.  For some, it was the first week of school EVER. Maybe this picture of our adorable kindergarten group will give you a vague idea of what I was up against. Cute to the core? Yes. Ready to embrace black coffee James? Hmmm. I see many emotions here…tired, scared, in the spotlight, needing the bathroom. But I’m not sure I see a face ready for the Man of Steel.  And yet, we plunge into James 3!

K-1

Bottom Line: Respect Others With Your Words

Bible Verse: Show proper respect to everyone. 1 Peter 2:17a

Respect

We began our lesson by tangling our tongues with a few old favorite tongue twisters.  You know the deal: “She sells seashells by the seashore.”  And “Toy boat. Toy boat. Toy boat.”  The lesson also suggested this one: “Comical economists. Comical economists.” Interesting choice, you think?

After untangling our tongues, we dove into James 3 to discover the full power of this muscle. James tells us in 3:5 “…the tongue is a small part of the body.  But it brags a lot. Think about how a small spark can set a big forest on fire.” I wonder…have you thought about that intently? I don’t know about you, but I can pinpoint spoken words – both positive and negative – that have set my world on fire. I picture that image, and it makes such sense, doesn’t it?  Words are powerful. They can blaze a trail or burn a bridge. And here’s the thing…we get to choose which power we give our words. It’s important for our children to understand this about the words they speak. It’s important they learn to use this power for good.  Just look at these guys. They have so much goodness inside of them to share out loud!

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James continues in 3:9-10 “With our tongues we praise our Lord and Father. With our tongues we call down curses on people. We do it even though they have been created to be like God. Praise and cursing come out of the same mouth.  My brothers and sisters, it shouldn’t be that way.” I love the ending here. Simple and direct. It shouldn’t be that way. But it is, isn’t it? We are incapable of looking at people and seeing the face of God. Instead of seeing Him, we see the things that drive us crazy and we question worth and we make our humanly judgements and our mouths submit.

What if, instead, we meditated on Psalm 19:14: “Lord, may the words of my mouth and the thoughts of my heart be pleasing in your eyes.”?  What if we daily lived Paul’s words in Ephesians 4:29: “Don’t let any evil talk come out of your mouths. Say only what will help to build others up and meet their needs.”?

The truth is…words have power to break far beyond that of sticks and stones. Bones heal, rather quickly even. But words hurt the heart, and those wounds can remain for a lifetime. I’m sure you are well aware of this.

So…a bit of Frozen wisdom. Is your child a fan of the movie? Has your family personally choreographed routines to the soundtrack, like mine? This movie has played in the background of my motherly duties more times than I can count. If you have experienced something similar in your house, perhaps you remember the words of dear Grand Pabbie when Anna’s family brings her to him for healing: “You are lucky it wasn’t her heart. The heart is not so easily changed…” Profound for a troll, I think. And so true. And there’s more. Later he tells Anna, “There is ice in your heart, put there by your sister. If not removed, to solid ice will you freeze, forever.”  Say what you will about Disney movies, but there are moments, I tell you… Maybe you remember that in this same scene Grand Pabbie declares “only an act of true love can thaw a frozen heart.”

Unfortunately, it is true that words can break us, can freeze us, can burn us from the inside. But, friends, we have long been given this act of true love. The act of true love that far surpasses any other ever given or ever to be given. I ponder this love Jesus gave me and you and these awesome kids right here…

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…and I know that it is my responsibility not just to use my words kindly, but to share Jesus’ love so big and warm and sincere that they (and you!) drink it in like medicine. Sigh. I must remember this.

I wish I could tell you that this lesson was amazing and powerful and the kids walked out committed to using their words kindly. But, alas, real life doesn’t always work that way, does it? Sunday felt…distracted and a little chaotic maybe. Fun, always. But, I’m not sure children absorbed the truth of it all. I didn’t even send home the weekly Parent Cue connection. Forgive me. My hope is that the seed was planted, and we can continue growing it up together. And always, that they want to return next week.

I love these kids. Their smiles bring me joy every week and make me excited for Game Day. Thank you for sharing them with me.

Summer

P.S. I fully understand the power of words…and as such, writing this post took me longer than it should have! Which is why it is later than I intended. And so I share with you my truth:

flaws