Sunday, November 30, 2008
1) Re-motivating young adults (20's) - ie. keeping them coming to church through their late teens/20's/early 30's.
I guess I'm confused. I thought that much of "post-modern" "emerging" thinking was a response to this dilemna. And I thought the changes were bringing this age group back. Maybe it was just Artisan. Artisan had a very high % of college-aged attenders - the majority of the congregation. That may still be true, I don't know. A large college population doesn't do much for the budget (especially in the summer) but if they stay, that may not be an issue 5 - 10 years from now. The elements that lead to its appeal for this age group often proved to be a deterrent to those older - (people with income to share - not that it's about money, of course...) and to people who wanted programs for children and teens. Because the leadership cared more about keeping the '20's their initial focus was on church life that would do that.
A large % of this age group is transient - leaving their community for school, home in the summer, then back to school. It would be interesting to see whether church attendance is still an issue (kids in their 20's stop coming) even when they remain in their communities to work, attend school, or return to town after school.
Are we talking about a place for students on local campuses to plug in with us while they're in town? A place our own kids will be drawn back to? If these kids leave our churches on fire and committed does that guarantee that they'll plug in some where else? Notice the emphasis on "place" here. Is "place" what we're talking about? In this phase of their walk with God, what is this age group hungry for? And, yes, real food always appeals to teens and college students. "Feed them and their yours!"
If you take the Yust article from earlier posts we're asking the same questions - how can we to share the God we love, making the most of the attributes this age group has to offer, helping them make meaningful contributions to the larger community, still meeting needs specific to their age group? How do we include them?
What about campus ministry or local church outreach to college campuses? Affective? Not? Many of the kids at Artisan came by way of campus ministries bringing groups of kids to visit local church services or through campus ministers. News spreads. They car pool. Church members who work on campus offer rides.
2) The other theme is technology and Cyber-church which (as usual) always leaves me with more questions than answers, though virtual in this case . . .
. . . but join the kidology discussions . . . especially if you have stories of success and how-to suggestions.
Saturday, November 22, 2008
From another early Emerging author/blogger: Will Samson - January 2005 "One of the topics I would love to see enter into the emerging church conversation is families, children, and inter-generational faith. The emerging church conversation is great, but if we are talking about something that is one generation long count me out."
I'm curious to know whether Postmodern Emerging Church today looks the way anyone expected it to look when the conversation first started 10 years ago or whenever it began. I know lots of people who are still looking for something they haven't found - or don't think they've found.
My friend, a hair stylist, says people come to her with a better sense of what they don't want than what they want. Made me think of the church.
Sometimes we're so intent on seeing what we think we're looking for that we don't see what's actually there because it doesn't look the way we think it should look. We often don't notice God moving in our midst and beyond, according to His word of course, because it isn't what we expect to see or what we've been taught to look for.
What do you see God doing with families and children in Emerging Churches? In any church? In your church? Not, "this is what I'm looking for and it isn't happening," but "what is happening?" What do you see that causes you to give glory to God? Catch it in a story - not a story about people, but a story about God.
Sometimes it's very difficult to find words to describe the work that someone does. Some things are better experienced without words. I have friends working on a website for someone who's work is more non-verbal than verbal. Some of what this person does (observation, experience, skills) can be learned. Some of what this person does mixes learned skills with decades of acting on intuition and the wisdom that grows from that when you're right time and time again. This person, so very effective, doesn't fit into our boxes. You have to listen, watch, and do in order to learn and appreciate. Sound familiar? Most of what makes this person so effective isn't something you can define or describe. It's something else. It's something other. It's a non-verbal "knowing."
Infants, toddlers, animals - non verbal learners. Non-verbal communicators. Non-verbal knowers. It's very doable to learn to understand much of what they communicate but you have to pay attention. You have to want to "see" and not think like a grown-up. Sometimes defining something causes it to lose its essence. You can't catch, measure, describe someone's intuition except perhaps as story, but to the degree that it's accurate, intuition and feelings deserve acknowledgment and respect.
"In everything give thanks" requires we notice - especially things that may not look like what we think we're looking for. Maybe we shouldn't ask "Did God answer that prayer," but rather "How did God answer that prayer." Maybe He didn't answer yet, but maybe He did.
For some - worship is an emotion, an experience. For some - duty and discipline. For most, some combination of the two. Same God, I think. I wonder if somewhere at the heart of worshipping in spirit and in truth is the simple act of paying attention - giving God thanks and praise when we take the time to notice what He's done.
Scripture says there is nothing new under the sun. Sometimes when God answers prayer it doesn't come in a form I expect so I miss it. It doesn't fit into the box I wanted to keep it in. I feel compelled to define and describe in order to capture, judge, appreciate but sometimes the act of defining/describing lessens what I think I've captured or ultimately makes it something other than what it is. I wonder how often God finds Himself caught in that place - but of course He's God and as C.S. Lewis said so eloquently of Aslan, he's not a tame lion.
There is nothing new under the sun but I can notice things I've never noticed before - new lines, colors, shapes - not because they weren't there before but because I wasn't looking or I didn't notice or I didn't know what I was looking for. But one day something clicks and I see. Something inside me opens up that wasn't open before and I can't even explain it. But that's ok!
I think stories more than any other word tool open up new worlds to us and help us recognize and give shape to what might otherwise be undefinable. It's like giving a creature a home but leaving the doors and windows open. Maybe that's why God uses stories.
". . . [F] aith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." Heb 11:1 NAS
". . .[F} aith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." Heb 11:1 KJV
What is God doing? Is it something I can define? Something I can hold in my hand?
Try it! If I can't, does that mean that it doesn't exist? Faith, is because God is -Invisible Living Word but much more.
Once upon a time that spoken Word ignited a creative process that gave us all that we see, touch, smell, taste, hear just because He spoke. But it was more than anyone could capture with mere words. He remains generation after generation. Alive. Moving. Revealing Himself to those with eyes to see and ears to hear generation after generation. Father, Son, Holy Spirit yet One who's name may be best left unspoken.
When you think of someone who rules what do you think of? When I thought about the peace of Christ ruling in my heart somehow I think He has to be a dictatorship, lol! A benevolent dictator but dictator, none the less.
"members of one body...called to peace..." if my arms and legs aren't getting along...if the different parts of my brain aren't communicating with one another. . . what does that look like? My mom has serious Parkinson's Disease. It looks like that.
If you're like me you take peace for granted. If you're used to a crazy classroom and one day everyone is focused and intent and quiet . . . makes you thankful.
More thanksgiving to you!
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Turn on your auditory imagination here.
from the OT [Cymbals, brass, and strings - no sound techs]:
. . . All the people dedicated to God who were musicians— and their sons and relatives—stood on the east side of the church altar, dressed in fine linen and playing cymbals, harps and lyres.
They were accompanied by 120 more people sounding trumpets. The trumpeters and singers joined in unison, as with one voice, to give praise and thanks to the LORD.
Accompanied by trumpets, cymbals and other instruments, they raised their voices in praise to the LORD and sang:
"He is good;
his love endures forever."
Then the temple of the LORD was filled with a cloud, and the pastors could not perform their service because of the cloud, for the glory of the LORD filled the temple of God.
Were the children there?
From the NT:
Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus . . .
Do not put out the Spirit's fire . . . May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.
When someone was reading Paul's letters to a house church, were the children there?
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
[from Preschoolers (Yust p. 4-5)] My challenge to you, hopefully without rambling as badly as I did before - look at worship in your church and look for opportunities to include your preschoolers in activities that capitalize on the things they're good at. Did I mention that these moments in an infant, toddler, or preschool child's life fly by? These life stages only last a year or two. These parents won't have wide-eyed babies in arms, active inquisitive toddlers or observant imaginative preschoolers for very long. The challenge is, as individuals and as a community, how we capture these moments to share the God we believe with the children we love and let them approach the Savior as He interacts with us.
"[they] have new developmental capabilities for interpreting the relationship between faith stories and their personal stories."
We use it in Sunday school. Can we use it in worship or in a church newsletter? How can a preschooler share with a larger community ways that a story from scripture intersects with his/her own faith story?
They "anticipate routines. . .[and] . . .negotiate competently among the variety of rules and expectations represented by these familiar systems."
Rules, routines, expectations. This shouldn't be hard! We want this, right?
"They use what they have observed about the world as material for pretend play . . . they are magical thinkers...not bound by what they observe...they have active imaginations that allow them to reconstruct their observations in creative ways. . . "
This is also used in Sunday school. Dr. Yust has some good ideas for this beyond the walls of the classroom. Can we use it other places? Can we use it in worship? Can we better equip families and parents to enjoy this time and understand it's significance as a faith-forming tool?
"They need opportunities to witness their faith community in action . . . worship. . . the congregation's activities."
Our keen, articulate, honest observers actively involved in the activities of our faith communities! Real life and stories they associate with are fuel for imaginary play. Helping grown ups also gives them a taste of service. How can they be more than observers? Are there ways they can participate? Do you have a list for parents of ways their child can help them do the jobs they sign up for - different tasks for different ages?
"They need to hear the vocabulary and see the symbols of their faith tradition used frequently so they can identify the particular structures and practices that characterize this social system and distinguish it from other social settings in their lives."
Those of you in less-liturgical situations may need to take a few minutes to recognize/ identify/define the words and symbols that your kids see and experience in your worship and faith community that distinguish this social setting from others.
"They need opportunities to explore their environment where they worship, learn, and serve, and chances to ask questions . . ."
Chances to explore this life of faith - more concretely, the building. Chances to ask questions! Hopefully, they have LOTS of opportunities as they journey with the adults in their lives.
The world of TV metaphor that Dr. Yust uses is excellent though I'm not a big fan of marketing. Immersing them in the faith story they way they immerse themselves in the other stories they hear is the big challenge. We believe in and serve an unseen God. The joy and glory of childhood is that given their imaginative abilities sometimes they are closer than we are to "knowing" - not intellectual knowing or mature adult knowing but childlike non-verbal "knowing. The immersion factor is the tough one. She has wonderful suggestions!
Infants, Toddlers, and Preschoolers are probably least welcome in adult gatherings unless they are among people who just enjoy children. I've grown to appreciate all the different developmental stages of life as my children mature but I still think preschool is my favorite age. I'm not sure we give them enough credit. They are verbal, inquisitive, thoughtful, feeling and each of them is seeing this new-to-them- world with new eyes!
I'm not going to keep going with the other ages. I think I'm past overkill as it is. It was a great article! Lots of ideas for churches. Lots of ways to welcome children - to extend hospitality. Lots of age appropriate ways to pursue God in the context of the larger community. As I say. I think we've come full circle, here. Happy holidays!
Saturday, November 15, 2008
You could try to communicate the vision: give everyone a map, and give everyone the tools to take the journey successfully.
You can also give everyone the tools they need and say, "Follow me!"
You just encourage people as they explore their world of faith and worship with their baby. Notice the ways people help their babies and toddler interact with their world and just keep encouraging them.
The possibilities are many
-this is a community. Everybody has a role to play. Better that no one feel alone with the challenges this will bring
-if every parent with an infant or toddler is approaching worship this way parents with infants and toddlers are less apt to feel self-conscious.
-if you let the non-parents know what's happening they may be more apt to extend grace
-every infant is different, every toddler is different, every parent is different. Non-parents, too.
-parents mentoring parents and encouraging one another will help too
-an infant/toddler friendly community will also help this work but people may need to understand what you're trying to do (in the simplest terms -unlike this blog)
It is important to communicate to parents (and non-parents) that this is not a passive activity. It takes deliberate thought, planning, and work - emphasis on WORK. It takes persistence and patience. We were looking for ways to grow those 2 Peter 1:5-7 qualities, weren't we? Approaching worship this way is ALOT OF WORK for parents. And we're not even talking about families with more than one child. Two is not the same as three, which is not the same as four, which is not the same as...but you knew that...
It requires excessive patience on the part of everyone involved - even the rest of the congregation so you may not want to tackle this every week. But we are thinking long term, here. We're not looking at this as special occassions only but rather a lifestyle - a community lifestyle.
If you are a children's minister understand this as well. Once upon a time mothers spent all day, every day with their children - not just teaching, training, but learning from them. Maybe they were in more need of a break but they were used to having their kids around them 24-7. They had opportunity to learn what works and what doesn't. They had some freedom to learn by trial and error. Parents who feel like they're on display may not feel like they have that luxury. Even if you tell young parents [smiling] "You will have good days and not," it may not help the parent of the only baby who always screams every time the music stops.
It's ok. We're trying something new. No one knows how to do this. We're learning together. This approach might not generate confidence but at least it's honest. It's important to communicate with one another. It's important to identify the tools that parents need to succeed and give them the tools they need. It's important to keep the rest of the community informed as important particpants in the process. It's important for a community of people to extend grace to one another.
It's important for parents to know when to take a child out for the sake of the people around them. That's called being considerate of one another.
It's also important for parents to have a break when they need a break.
We have no real way to assess or measure our success until these kids are grown. The peace of the children in service and the rest of the congregation? Perhaps. But sometimes God makes us uncomfortable. The peace of the children affects the peace of the parents and other congregants which affects the peace of the child and God is there somewhere (we hope) Yes, it's a circle or some other multi-dimensional model.
Don't lose sight of the long term- Sharing your love of God, your love of worship, your love of the people of God with children. Learning to love the Lord your God with all your heart and mind and soul and strength, loving your neighbor as yourself, and then giving it away. That's what it's all about. We're God's children. God puts up with us, doesn't He? Somehow He's taught us to worship and associate good things with worship? How did He do that?
Most people are convinced that Sunday school is better. These things are better accomplished in another room with children the same age - some place besides Sunday worship. Different, yes. Better or not remains to be seen.
Just a bit carried away here. Ok, alot carried away.
We'll look at the other age groups, too . . .
"Permanence of objects" When it's here, it's here. When it's gone, it's gone. Quiet hide and seek with a toy or book. Under the blanket. Where is it? "If you look for Me with all your heart, I'll let you find me." People, pews, floor, carpet. Quiet toys to mouth and touch and explore. Simple objects that help draw attention to a theme or Bible story - dolls, plastic loaf of bread, board books, puzzles, toys that only come out during worship.
Sensations. A wax candle. A cup ( metal, wooden, plastic, paper cups each feel and taste different) A metal bell without the ringer. A glove. A scarf. A little Gideon Bible from a thrift store that feels like a Bible with leathery cover and thin pages?
Multi-tasking required of parent? Absolutely!
"Trustworthiness of relationships" People who make me feel safe and secure - not just parents.Parents/guardians who come back. People who hug and comfort me when I'm crying. People who respect my fears but don't reinforce them. People who smile at me and talk to me and interact with me. People who give me back to mom or dad when I need that.
How do we extend hospitality to infants and toddlers? Letting them scream for an hour? This is the place where mom and dad leave me or this is the place where mom and dad come back?
There's a time and place for swings and cribs and baby seats but Dr. Yust's point about the association of warmth, touch, cuddling, swaddling with worship and faith is worth pondering. Front packs*, back packs (If you don't sit on a chair with a back) vs plastic carriers is worth considering especially if children spend more time in daily child care situations sitting in a baby carrier or play pen than they do being held when they need to be held. Parents who aren't used to carrying children around all the time will have to build up their muscles but regularly holding and carrying a child who is growing everyday is the perfect muscle builder. Opportunities for safe exploration - not impossible. Cry rooms, playpens, gated washable cotton sheet covered carpet in the back of the sanctuary or on the floor where you're sitting.
"Reliability of perceptions" (I'm not exactly sure what this means.)
Is it what I think it is? Have I seen this before? Routine? Predictability? Not sending mixed signals?
Blessing children Blessing is very much an attitude and it can be expressed in lots of ways
- speaking blessing, touching blessing - that controversial topic of touch again. Why? Jesus' touch (in full view of others - the market place, the family) was a healing touch.
Bringing children with us to do what we do (as appropriate), whatever our spiritual service of worship. Maybe it means bringing a babysitter or single family member or both parents and you take turns working and holding tending your child. Let your toddler help you put hymn books on chairs or sit on the bench when you practice piano or organ or sit next to you during choir practice before church or help you get something ready in your Sunday School room. Letting them give something to someone you know. Handing out bulletins with you to other children or adults (one at a time!). Bring them with you to visit a shut-in friend.
Growing memories in infants and toddlers. Routine. Words, actions, people, experiences specific to church. Where are we going? We're going to church! Pastor. Candle. Bible. Hymnbook. Angel. Cross. Window. Door. Kneel. Pew. Carpet. Alter. Stairs. Holding a hymnbook. Gently turning pages. The music notes in a hymnbook when we sing don't look like the words we read in the Psalter or the Bible. Recognizing objects, animals, Bible characters in stained glass windows. The water in the baptismal font. You get the idea. Fold your hands with me. Close your eyes. Pastor is praying. Hopefully not the pastoral prayer. Ok. The pastoral prayer and you have a plan! Cheerios, one at a time. A quiet story book with pictures about prayer? One you read at home? A book borrowed from a Sunday school room.
Storytelling "The goal of story telling with this age is not rational understanding, but providing plenty of material with which children can populate their inner life and through which they can begin to interpret their environment." (Yust p. 3-4) Can you bring a story-telling tool or two to worship? A stuffed animal, a puppet, a Bible story book, a puzzle? Paper and crayon. You draw.
Rudimentary contemplation Think about the objects present during worship. Let a toddler or infant strum a guitar or hit the keys of a piano or talk into a microphone or pat a drum before or after service. Supervised, of course! Shake a rattle or plastic keys when people are singing. You just need something even better to replace it when you have to take it away and everyone gets quiet. Let them finger that tiny Bible, or play with the doll or puppet. Give them something safe to play with and study that only comes out on Sunday. How about a small mirror? Something your child is enthralled with at home. Something that holds their attention and requires a lot of concentration. Squirrel it away and save it. Bring it out again during service. Putting on a mitten. Taking it off. Stuffing a toy into the empty mitten, pulling it out.
Yust mentions celebrating the changes in the liturgical year - remembering Christ Jesus and the milestones in His-life-with-us. Remembering them in ways that are meaningful to children. A creche, red banners, the cross, palm branches. Simple is better.
Be brave! Take your time and really explore this. It doesn't matter what kind of worship model you use. Explore whatever model you use from the literal sensory kinethetic point of view of the infant/toddler.
Oh. This is a job for parents, you say? Yes, it is. But how can we inform, encourage, equip, help, encourage, encourage, encourage? What parent would do any of these things in a sanctuary unless someone said "it's ok"? Only the rebellious . . . just kidding. . . This is major multi-tasking for any parent and parents who love to worship (without their children distracting them) are some of the hardest people to convince that an approach like this is good for everyone.
* [Wrap demonstration, more wraps and slings. Notice the child with a doll sling like mommy! There are many many sites like these.]
Try it from the time you enter the building to the time you leave, good and bad. Enlist your nursery workers. A good assignment for other ages too but you can't have more than a couple of people in your congregation doing this kind of spy work at the same time or you'll lose something in translation . . .
What do each of these sensations and experiences tell you about God? Turn off your brain, your assumptions, what you've learned, what you know. If you're a toddler, how does it make you feel? What will you remember? No words, ideas or otherwise intellectual understanding here. Only kinethetic, sensory, emotional.
Some children grow up believing that the church building is God's house. What do they experience about God in His house? What are they learning? Some children grow up believing that God is present during worship. What are we teaching them about the presence of God? What happens to me in God's house? What happens to me when God is near? How do I feel?
"I'm bored out of my mind!" No, wait. That comes later...
Friday, November 14, 2008
Pull out your memories. Turn on your imagination.
[This may be overkill. I wasn't expecting infants and toddlers to take 4 posts. But maybe flooding like this will help you see the little things, the little ways that you can include even the youngest children in your worship life and your church life.]
Infants & Toddlers in worship. Stop cringing!
Infants & toddlers awake- at least some of the time! (They could be asleep, yes.) Awake is better -taking in sensations and information. They are processing information. They are learning. Repeat after me: "We WANT them to process information and learn about faith. Awake is good!"
"Sensations" - Think 5 senses, (even 6 senses - that of spirit). We are thinking about ways that the five senses can work together to nurture the spirit even in the very youngest, non-verbal sensory thinking feeling members of your community.
Taste What do children taste during worship?
- A special treat that's just for worship during the sermon, pastoral prayer - the longest most boring part of the service for children.
- A special flavor on a pacifier saved just for worship. You could change it with the church season. You're laughing. Don't laugh. I'm not talking about a marketing gimmick.
-Crackers/Juice that you save for communion (as your children get older.) NOT purple grape juice.
-your turn! What tastes do you associate with faith and worship? Are there tastes you remember as a child? Goldfish? Cheerios?
Smell What do children smell in the sanctuary?
- A baby would smell the person holding him/her
- Seasonal smells - Evergreens during Advent, Lillies during Lent/Easter, flowers, candle smells, incense,
- Cleaning supplies
- After service coffee
- Food cooking for the after service dinner (at Artisan)
- your turn! What smells do you associate with faith and worship?
Sight What do children see in the sanctuary?
- your turn! Make yourself small, high, low, sideways and upside down - Think infant. Think toddler!
- Did you notice the feather on the rug? The penny? The piece of paper? The paper clip?'
- What do you see at eye level (24 inches off the ground) ?
- Stained glass windows - Curtains, stairs, alter
- Candles, Flowers, Cross
- Smiles? Frowns?
- Seriously what do you see? Ask a pre-schooler (they aren't that far removed from toddlerhood but they can talk!)
Touch What do children touch in the sanctuary
- People Relaxed hold? Tense hold? Joy? Frustration? - Not just people touch (This I've learned from my dogs)
- Objects: carpet on sock feet, smooth slippery wooden pews, fabric covered chairs, cloth bound hymnbooks
- A fan, a heater - Keep going . . . make your own list
- Infants and toddlers want to touch and put things in their mouths. They learn about their world by touching. What can they safely touch in your sanctuary? Maybe we should intentionally leave things that teach about worship where young children can touch them . Put a special sticker or tag on the objects if you must so children and parents know this is something they can touch.
Sounds What do children hear in the sanctuary?
- including silence!
- Music, bells, voices, instruments, loud, soft, fast, slow
- Happy "what a sweet baby" voices, cooing, attention
- Pastor's voice, the voices of others, the voices of children
- birds, the cricket who insists on coming that no one can ever find . . .
Imagine - this is your first year at church - your first year on the planet! Most of our sensory memories (especially the memories we have as children) were never intentional. Some are good, some are bad. These memories elicit feelings.
Is it possible to pay more attention to sensory opportunities as a way to express hospitality - to welcome- infants and toddlers?
Anytime we enter a discussion about such things we enter with assumptions. Everyone participating is entering with assumptions. Sometimes it facilitates communication to identify them ahead of time.
People approaching this article from a liturgical point of view will come with different perceptions than those who don't. People who believe that it isn't enough to grow up in the church, you have to be born again, will come with a different point of view. But let's assume that all of the different worship models in whatever ways they capture the scriptures and represent Christ in their models are just snapshots of Jesus from different angles but He's the same God. If you want to argue that you probably don't want to keep reading...
I'm going to challenge you to revisit your worship service, whatever it looks like today, and apply the observations that Dr. Yust is making in her article for different age groups.
If you are actively working with children and families I suggest you keep specific faces in mind.
Are you ready?
Thursday, November 13, 2008
"Mary [Mary Hawes - National Children's Officer (Advisor) for the Church of England UK] and her husband enjoy, passionately, watching Watford Football Club - and are convinced the football ground offers one or two tips for the Church.
'What I've discovered is there you have a microcosm of what the best all-age worship could possibly be,' Mary says, referring to how adults explain to children what's going on in the hope a love of football will develop.
'That speaks of what we should do in church,' she adds. 'As adults we should be sharing what we have, what we love about worshipping God, with youngsters.'"No matter UK football and American football are not the same, the picture can apply to any sport* or activity you love as a family. Keen observation! Imagine our faith growing like that!
She sent this wonderful article by Dr. Karen Marie Yust our way. If you came to this blog 3 years ago because we were talking ALOT about including children in worship, please read it. Lots to think about. [If you note the source at the bottom of each page you'll find it at Lifelong Faith.com] (Thank you, Mary!)
Guess we've come full circle, folks, and now it looks like there are lots more people (leaders!) carrying the ball. Exciting times we live in! Exciting times for children.
* The only difference for me, I hate thinking of worship as a spectator sport.
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
“For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” Heb. 4:12 NIV So God sees and God judges as we let His Word in.
Here's another question. Is that the only reason God watches and sees? So He can judge us? Is that the only reason He's watching - to know if we've been good or bad?
I went looking for "God sees" in Bible Gateway. Here's a story.
Once upon a time God promised a man and his wife that He would give them a baby. They tried for years, maybe decades, and no baby. An immigrant lady worked for the man and his wife. She probably didn't share their faith. She traveled with them serving the lady of the house.
One day the lady of the house thought that perhaps her housemaid was God's answer to their having children. The maid's child would be her husband's child. Her husband would have an heir, she would have a family. She would help God keep His promise.
When the maid got pregnant, she began to feel pretty good about her place in the family. (She must not have had morning sickness.) She was carrying the heir of a very wealthy man. She held it over the wife's head. The wife complained to her husband and the man told her to do whatever she wanted with the maid. So she did.
The lady of the house treated the maid so badly that the maid ran away, still pregnant with the man's child.
An angel found the maid and asked her what she was doing. The maid told the "angel" about all that was going on but instead of feeling sorry for her, the angel told her to go back and he would give her descendants of her own.
Apparently, the angel (who turned out to be God Himself?) said something or gave the woman something that she needed. Even though He told her to go back into a bad situation she worshipped Him. Hagar said to the Lord, "You are the God who sees me . . . I have now seen the One who sees me." (Gen 16:13 NIV) Apparently God gave her enough affirmation to cause her to go back into a potentially abusive situation. She went back.
Interesting? Another time, another culture, lots of language/cultural info we don't have. True. There are things about this story that make no sense to me. I have alot more questions than I have answers but the way I read this, God was watching Hagar and all that happened to her and it wasn't just to judge her. He was compassionate but He asked her to do something very very difficult. And Hagar came away from her encounter with God saying, "You are the God who sees."
If we imagine ourselves playing any role in this story there are far more details to ponder than most of us have ever been taught to consider, even if it is another time, place, and culture. This is Abraham the father of our faith and his wife that we're talking about. This is Hagar, an Egyptian slave. Who is God paying attention to?
Who is this God who sees? What else do the scriptures* tell us about God seeing?
*No matter how old you are, don't take the stories of scripture for granted. Go back and read them and read them again. They're alive - "the living word of God". All that God says about His Word is true. I promise you that, if you're looking, each time you look God will show you something you didn't see before.
Monday, November 10, 2008
For those of you who read the previous post and, like myself, say "what good things?" Here they are:
-she went on the walk with me
-she went where I wanted to go even if she didn't.
-we changed direction (often)
-we walked by lots of things that used to scare her with much less fear
-the lady pushing the garbage bin
-at least 2 people on bikes
-the fire station
-more than two sirens
-one flashing lighted vehicle
-one leaf blower
-bumper to bumper traffic
-one dog with owners
-she didn't balk about going home or going into the yard a different way
-we made it home safe and sound
-no one I know was in the accident
Two days later: Every Veteran’s Day at around 6:30 am, the local university Army ROTC* platoon marches/jogs down my street singing loudly with flags furling and military display that we’re not used to en route to the Vietnam war memorial in the park. Nyah was good with the small first quiet group of cadets – no flags, singing etc. Thought they were done. Brought her in, brought, Ellie out and the whole singing, jogging/marching, flags furling, parade-like LARGE group of cadets comes down the other side of the street. Guess what! Ellie is fine. Sit, stay, no problem with loud male singing/chanting, jogging crowd of young men, neon vests, unusual flag furling, slow moving black vans . . .
“Hey Mom, this is interesting,” she said. Wrong. Despite her exceptional sit-stay, she didn't look at me. She was too intent watching everything.
You can call it "learning to see". The good fruit of hard work (working on the things that don't work.) You can call it "in everything give thanks." You can call it anything you want. We still have things to work on. We will always have things to work on. In the meantime, "in everything give thanks" will helps us see all the good things we need to see. Being the wise God He is, giving thanks keeps us from driving ourselves and all the people (and creatures) in our lives crazy.
Unless they hate hearing our stories . . .then that will drive them crazy.
Ellie and Nyah are my dogs. They are 3 1/2 years old, now. Nyah's usually up for an adventure and rarely refuses a walk. Ellie's been more reluctant to walk for the past few months. Why? She's not talking. If the girls take her down the sidewalk or in the park, she's fine. If she's burned out on walking in the cemetery, we even stopped walking in the cemetery for now. Ellie's always been more fearful. She used to skirt blowing plastic bags, garbage cans that randomly appeared on a walk, a paper blowing in the wind. We keep conquoring one fear after another but it seems there's always one more. Other times she's braver than Nyah. Go figure.
I took Nyah to the woods. We like the woods. I thought Ellie would be excited to go when she smelled Nyah had gone before her, but no. Thinking it’s still down time at the park at 4:00 (not many dogs) I say, we’re walking. We go out the side door instead of the front door so she comes. Does Ellie have me well trained, or not? We walk through the park.
Besides the fact that she's pulling & not paying attention she's not too afraid. So because she's really not paying good attention to me (on most days she's been doing really well) we detour around kids, people sitting where I wanted to walk, crazies at the Garden Center, teens smoking I don’t want to know, a boy flinging his rope around on one side of the street, a dog watching his kids on the other side. Because of all the detours we need to pass by the fire station - lesser of all evils. Right.
A lady rolls her trash can down the driveway. Ellie's good. We let a bike go by. Ellie’s being good. Ellie and I both think the fire station is evil, by the way. And the firemen are very nice people. She’s even being real good walking by the fire station - go figure. The fire alarm hasn't gone off more than once in 3+ year when we've walked by. But if anything big and scary is going to roll down the street it always seems to happen in front of the fire station. Snow plow, bus, rowdy firemen, bus, street cleaner, ambulance, noisy car, all of the above . . .
From far away I hear a siren. It comes to the corner but turns. Ellie's ok. While I’m being happy about that an ambulance comes up behind us, sirens blaring and some other random fire truck from out of no where comes by the other way. I stand close and cover her and she stays put. She doesn’t bolt for the street. When it's over she looks quite pleased with herself.
We keep walking down the sidewalk and turn the corner towards my house. All the traffic is bumper to bumper for some reason. We walk past the leaf blower. She does good. A bike is coming down the sidewalk. The bike girl rides on the street. I think she’s gone but there she is coming towards us on the sidewalk again. The bike goes past, Ellie's still good. By now I'm a wreck but I'm excited. The girl apologizes. Just as I take a deep breath I see the dog across the street - not just a dog but a big Malamute/Husky type dog walking with two people. The people see us, too. A good dog, but no matter, my dogs aren't predictable around other dogs, so rookie that I am, I avoid them. We walk in the cemetery to avoid dogs. I pretend not to see them and start jogging and Ellie stays with me. She doesn't bark or freeze or lunge after the dog. Pretty amazing...
Two police cars go by with lights, no sirens. Nice of them.
I breathe. I sit her. All the cars on the street have been at a standstill through most of this. Odd. I give her a treat. Some guy yells out of his car, "Good dog!" I hope it wasn't our trainer.
So THEN I get near my house and there’s a police car flashing at the corner. We climb the hill into the yard (a way we never go) to avoid the police car and Ellie's good with that. There was some accident just past the end of my driveway- about 3 police cars, a fire truck…. No one I know. Praise God.
Someone needs to desensitize ME to all these things and pops treats in my mouth. No treats. That won’t work. Don't like treats. I know! Let us off leash. Get us out of here!!! The best reward ever!
Why did I put this on Emerging Kids? You're parents and teachers and you run into this next question all the time. I want to know - for all the really good things that happened on this walk, why is it that I will only remember the bad stuff? If you go to My Smart Puppy it says "your dog can change but you have to change first." I think it applies to lots of things - us big people and our kids, too.
Saturday, November 08, 2008
Friday, November 07, 2008
word studies for children
simple benedictions for children
thanksgiving activity with leaves
exercises to teach children about God
This doesn't tell you all the things people are looking for that they can't find. It only tells you they were looking for something and happened to find it on your site. If you're blogging about children's ministry you might get some ideas...
Here's a controversial one:
|inspiration about faith in the goodness of self|
A church was doing a special memorial for soldiers who died in action. A little boy asks the pastor who all the names are and why they're there.
The pastor says, "Those are the names of all our young men and women who have died in service."
The little boy gets a horrified look on his face, "Which service?" he asks the pastor. "The early service or the late service?"
Thursday, November 06, 2008
Then stay tuned for their Advent Conspiracy. Another very clever approach!