Why Children’s Ministry is Important

This post has been rolling around in my mind for months…gathering momentum, losing momentum, changing focus, improving focus….you get the idea. And as I finally sit down to write it, for the third time, I feel a bit concerned, but more driven.  What I’m going to say isn’t going to make everyone happy, and I’m finally okay with that. It still needs to be said. So here goes.

I’m distressed that “the church” (general term) doesn’t understand the value of children’s ministry. Effort, funds, and emphasis are placed on the ministries of people who can drive and give money and vote…but not on the future generation of smaller citizens.

An effective children’s ministry doesn’t need glitz. It just needs sincerity.

Play-dough is worth millions when it is rolled from a loving grandmotherly volunteer to an open-minded child. Paper and crayons can create a multitude of crafts in the hands of widows, widowers, and college kids….crafts ready to be shared by eager kids. Here’s my point: lack of materials should never be an excuse to not have a children’s ministry.      The Bible and a willing reader are all that is truly required.

But therein lieth the struggle of so many church leaders…willing volunteers. I wish I truly had THE answer to that conundrum. But here are a few suggestions, from my experiences:

  1. VISION–Children’s ministry must be in the vision of the whole church…and not just lip-service, and not just from the kidmin leaders. Many churches have grandiose ideas for their congregations…but what about the children of the congregants?  The church leadership (pastor(s), decision-making board, ministry leaders) must believe in the value of children’s ministry to start with. If they are truly committed to the importance of the spiritual growth of the kids, that fervor will be seen/felt and trickle down. Volunteers are more likely to step up if the requests are for heart-felt ministry, not mere babysitting opportunities.

2. RELATIONSHIPS— Getting to know congregants, their jobs, their interests is vital to finding volunteers. If you know who likes to cook, then ask them to cook the hot dogs/cookies/pancakes for the kids’ events. Crafty stay-at-home moms are a great resource for Sunday School  or VBS preparations. Who are the OCD people? Ask them for help organizing the supplies or scheduling. Who are the ADD people? Ask them to lead the active activities with kids. Who are the social butterflies or the musicians or the builders? Once you know who these people are, ask them to use their skills with the kids. Don’t just expect them to volunteer, ASK them. Tell them that you see the value of their gifts…and you know where they could be useful. It may be out of their comfort zones at first, but remind them the relationships they will form are priceless.

3. DELEGATE–I made the mistake of loving all parts of children’s ministry too much…and not delegating enough. Again, the relationship piece is vital. If you know who is good at something, ask them to help. If you’re obsessive about the way something NEEDS to be done, give specific directions…or get less obsessive and be more thankful for the help. Delegating now prevents burnout later. If some church members are willing, but hesitant, have a coffee-talk about their concerns. Maybe they just need reassurance that the kids aren’t really little monsters. Maybe today’s older adults want to help, but they aren’t sure they can relate to modern kids….talk it out. If they are willing, help them be successful. Talk to kidmin leaders at other churches and plan events together…even across denominational lines. It will be good to share/gather ideas that work, split the labor, and build community.

4. SCHEDULE DOWN TIME— Overused volunteers become non-volunteers. Make a rotating schedule of helpers so that the ones who are always saying ‘yes’ will have a forced ‘no’ time. Despite what they tell you, they DO need a break. Whether rotations are set on a monthly, seasonally, or yearly basis, they need to happen. And appreciation gifts need to happen as well. Ask those bakers to bake some goodies for the Sunday School teachers, nursery workers, or VBS helpers. Get the artsy crew to make personal thank you cards for the ones who work each Sunday. An occasional ‘night out’ for the children’s ministry team is a great way to build relationships and rekindle the fire of service.

5. THIS REMINDER–The children of today’s church are the seeds of tomorrow’s church. They are the ones who will go out and tell their friends what a great place their church is…and invite their friends (and parents) to come along. Today’s children are tomorrow’s leaders. We want them to be grounded in holy truth and Godly wisdom if they are going to lead our country into the future. If we skimp on their spiritual growth, it will not be a priority in their lives as they age. God help us if we are responsible for raising a godless generation.

Church, we are failing our children if we fail at children’s ministry. Inconvenient truth: we only get one chance with our kids. One chance to show them that God is important. Love is vital. Justice is right. If we ignore the development of this part of our ministry, we shouldn’t wonder why college kids and young adults don’t attend church. We didn’t show them its purpose.

We have one chance, church, one opportunity to impress on our children the importance of a relationship with God. What are we doing with it?

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‘I don’t know how to play this game’

Recently, my son had a friend over for the afternoon. After several hours at the pool, the two boys settled down to play a video game while I prepared dinner. They started with something they both knew, but then my son invited his friend to try a new game.

‘I don’t know how to play this game. I’ll watch you for a few minutes.’

I overheard those wise words and was astounded at the humility of our eleven-year old neighbor. A total admission of ignorance to a peer…and a willingnes76552_449036944583_6570936_ns to learn from him.

Where was the bravado? Where were the false claims of high scores past? No puffed-up chest and big talk? No testosterone-encited braggadocio?  WHAT????

I loved it! The simple truth.

I don’t know how to do this thing. I want to know how to do it, but I’m ignorant at this time. Please show me how, and then I can participate with you.’

Now, I realize THAT’S way to lengthy and philosophical for these  controller-wielding preteens, but I’ve been around longer. I know where that priceless humility leads.

It leads to honest friendships and worthwhile relationships. It leads to being a target for manipulators, true, but oh, the depth of trustworthiness that humility displays to the rest of the population.

Being honest about faults and ignorance is the antithesis of original sin. Lucifer wanted to be equal, if not better, than God. Eve and Adam thought they knew their own limitations better than God, so they tried the forbidden fruit.. Pride…damned pride. Thinking we know better than the one who created us. We are fools.

To present ourselves to others as desirous of knowledge on a new topic, craving relationship and connection…that’s what God really wanted at the beginning of this whole existence thing. He wanted us to be open to learn, wide-eyed with wonder, reaching out to gain from experience with others, Himself foremost.

I don’t know how to do a lot of things that I want to know how to do. I want to demonstrate more love to my husband. I want to raise children who love God and others. I want to use my money more wisely. I want to find ways to help those who don’t have as much as I do. I want to bridge relational gaps.

Can you help me play this game? I will watch you and learn how to do it. Then, we can enjoy doing it together.

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James 1:2-6

My brothers and sisters, you will face all kinds of trouble. When you do, think of it as pure joy. Your faith will be tested. You know that when this happens it will produce in you the strength to continue. And you must allow this strength to finish its work. Then you will be all you should be. You will have everything you need. If any of you needs wisdom, you should ask God for it. He will give it to you. God gives freely to everyone and doesn’t find fault. But when you ask, you must believe. You must not doubt. That’s because a person who doubts is like a wave of the sea. The wind blows and tosses them around.

This world is crazy

In light of recent world events, have you found yourself shaking your head, gasping, and saying to people, ‘People are crazy!’ ? The world is seeming to be more dangerous,  and wretched place than ever before. The media is not helping, by using choosing words that instigate rather than educate, stir up trouble rather than tell the truth.

Whew…come quickly, Lord Jesus.

So what are we to do until he comes? How are we to live? Where is peace to be found? I want to just have coffee with Jesus and ask for advice…or call him and cry…or text him to come over so I can just sit and learn from him.

Matthew chapter 4 and the beginning of chapter 5 tells us thatNews about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed; and he healed them. 25 Large crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan followed him.’ Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them.

People went to Jesus with all kinds of problems they didn’t know how to solve…and he helped them. And when they went to him en masse, he purposefully went to an large area, intentionally sat down, and taught them. He desired their curiosity and questions. He waited for his disciples, his closest followers, to come…and then, he told them how to live.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Those who are worn, exhausted and weary from well-doing, you are blessed! Jesus himself is addressing you! All of heaven awaits you after this world! Keep going, hold on to hope, and believe that God is with you through every moment on earth…and forever in heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Hearts ache now, but comfort is coming. Grieving is a process, and we will work through it. Light awaits on the other side of this temporary darkness.

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who live quietly, observing the goodness around them, praying for peace and seeking it. Hype and publicity are short-lived and shallow, but quietly recognizing the hand of God in everyday is a lifestyle.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
When we are hungry, we seek out a snack. If we want to live a righteous life, and we seek it, we will find it. Godly friendships, Bible studies, church services, worship songs, quiet moments with God…these fill seekers with righteousness when they crave it.

Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. This one is tough because it doesn’t always appear to be true in this present world.  If we show mercy and grace to those around us, God knows it. People around us may still be critical and hard to tolerate, but in the long run, God is glorified and people are brought to him when we live gracious, merciful lives.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.  If we strive to be pure in heart, not manipulative or catty, sneaky or deceptive, then we will have an openness to see God at work. If we’re trying to make things happen for our purposes, we will miss the privilege of seeing God’s plan unfold. 

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. The term ‘Christian’ can be more of a jab than a compliment these days. Said with mockery or jest, it may not be exactly the label we want. But don’t we want to be known for being peaceful, not hateful? Don’t we want to be safety and security for those who are hurting? Regardless of how the world labels us, being a child of God is a wonderful thing.

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. The kingdom of heaven isn’t just waiting for us when we die. It is the joy of fellowship with God and believers here on earth. We will be teased, mocked, ostracized and ridiculed because we want to live a life that is different from a lot of cultural themes. But we have a circle of loving arms waiting to encourage us when we discouraged by the world.

Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. Hold on to your faith! This world is only part of our existence. Our heavenly home and eternity with God await us after this crazy madness of life on earth is done.

So what do we do in this crazy world? We accept our poorness in spirit, and we mourn. Then we meekly seek righteousness, with a pure heart and endure persecution while we make peace. And know that God is blessing our efforts all the way.

This is only the beginning of Jesus’ words of life and wisdom to the listening crowd. Go sit at his feet and be encouraged and directed by his Sermon on the Mount. Peace be with you, as we children of God live to bring hope to the world.

 

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Relinquishing the key to my heart

A few months ago, I stepped down from children’s ministry leader at my church because I was completely burnt out. I had felt it coming on, but I had tried to run from it…I slowed down in my commitments, reduced the number of projects, repeated some old but good activities, but my spirit was weary. The flesh was still willing, but the spirit was weak…so I knew it was time.

But I LOVED children’s ministry. I loved the kids, sharing God with them, researching projects, planning activities,  mingling with parents…the whole shebang! I loved it all. Children’s ministry introduced me to some of my dearest friends. It led me to blogging and a myriad of websites of kidmin ideas. It fulfilled a vision for me. What’s a girl to do when she feels like it’s time to take a break from what she loves?

Pray about it. And fast…the spiritual fast, not the quick one.

And so I did. I used my Lenten fast this year to seek God’s direction about my role in my church’s children’s ministry. And he showed me. He reminded me through parents and children that I had done well during my time. But through a series of serious trials within my family, he reminded me that my family was my first responsibility.

I wrestled with God about this, until he started making it more painful for me to stay involved. Stories like Jonah’s refusal to listen to God, Zacharias laughing at the angel’s news, Egypt’s suffering from plagues because of Pharoah’s hard heart, and even Adam and Eve’s defiance kept popping up in my devotions. Anddddd, verses about rest and peace were becoming more prevalent, too.

Let the peace of Christ rule in your heart, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. (Colossians 3:15)

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:7)

Turn from evil and do good. Seek peace and pursue it. (Psalm 34:14)

Come to me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. (Matthew 11:28, 29)

And that’s when it hit me. My pride was my problem. I didn’t want to let go because I wanted to continue to be in charge. I loved what I was doing. I didn’t want someone else to do it…I wanted my energy to come back. But fatherly God said to me, ‘What do you do when you are tired?’ And finally I relinquished. It was time to rest.

It has been awkward, admittedly, stepping out of leadership and being ‘anonymous’ again. Saying ‘no, I really can’t right now’ instead of ‘well of course I’ll do it’. I haven’t liked slowing down, but I have needed to do it. For my sake, my family’s sake, and for the sake of others that God wants to use in my place.

It’s been about three months since I had ‘the talk’ with our associate pastor about bowing out of my kidmin job…and almost a year since I started to run from slowing down. I’m happy to report that I still have zeal but it’s been tempered. I excited for what God is working on for my future. And I know that I will be prepared for that challenge…whatever it is.

Here’s the key to the supply room at church, my happy place for the past 5 years. *sigh* I love that it says ‘Do not duplicate’ because it’s place in my life can never be duplicated…and whoever receives it next will truly never be the same again.

Thank you, Father, for being the God of rest and the God of action. The God of then, now, and not yet. Thank you for memories made and futures promised. And thank you above all for being with us through it all. Amen. FullSizeRender(1)

 

 

Do something about it

When I was a kid and I was discouraged about something…or as a teen and battling anxiety and depression, my Pollyanna mom repeatedly gave me the same sound advice. “Get up and do something for someone else.” While self-care is vital, wallowing in pity is detrimental.

Our nation has undergone some serious changes lately, changes that have sent many reeling into bouts of national anxiety. Others have responded with anger and threats. And others are just speechless.

It’s time to pull ourselves up out of our pit and get active for others. If you’re mad, change something. If you’re depressed, help someone else. If you’re hopeful, spread it around. Regardless of your present emotional state, do something about it.

Here are some options. Each of these organizations has opportunities to help nationally and internationally. Put feet to your faith. Go and do.

http://www.umc.org/how-we-serve

http://www.ywca.org/site/c.cuIRJ7NTKrLaG/b.8481993/k.4AE9/Services_at_YWCA_Local_Associations.htm

http://www.allowthechildren.org/projects/

http://www.redcross.org/about-us/our-work/international-services

http://www.salvationarmy.org/ihq/zones

https://donate.worldconcern.org/44cents-spiritfm?utm_medium=banner&utm_campaign=fy17_spot_radio_44cc_spiritfm&utm_source=spiritfm#amount=44.00

http://www.bloodwater.org/about-us

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Be the change you want to see in the world.                                      ~Ghandi

Lice…and other giants

Anxiety attacks are no fun. I had them during my adolescence and single years. They came on again during my post-partum recovery. And this weekend.

If you’ve never had the joy of this experience, try to imagine this. You feel like you are not in control of anything anymore. You are in your own skin, which may be tingling or itching, but you are just moving through your day in a fog. Any task is too  much. Any demand just brings you to your knees in helplessness. Tears, trembling, vomiting…they’re all close to your delicate surface. You can stand in the middle of your familiar kitchen, and not truly recognize how to do anything. One dirty dish or one full clothes basket is an immense challenge…a moutainous task that will take all day to accomplish. And it feels like the rest of your life is doomed. No one is your friend anymore, everyone has abandoned you. You are all alone and helpless.

This was my feeling this weekend as my husband was leaving for the week…and then we got snowed in…and then we discovered that we had lice. I thought I was going to lose it.

Having gone through the emotional torture of these attacks before, I knew what was going on, but I still had to ride the waves. Stuck indoors, with nasty, insidious, darn-near-invisible bugs invading my family. I find it difficult to even articulate the panic I experienced. Overwhelmed. Helpless. Shrinking inside. I couldn’t eat, couldn’t sit still, couldn’t think straight. I texted some friends to ask for prayer, but I couldn’t even speak prayers myself.

And then, a God-sent friend came to the rescue. She had the contact information (from her own personal experience) of a lice removal specialist, a nurse, trained and certified in lice removal. 100% clearance rate…with a take-home comb and plan of action.

Providentially, our family got an appointment quickly and spent 5 hours in the precious care of a Godly woman who educated us (and ridded us) of the nasty little beasts.

And we talked about God. Sweet balm to my soul…we talked about God. His love for his people. His 10 plagues on Egypt (which included lice!!!) to get his people back from Pharaoh. His might to open the sea AND TOTALLY DRY UP THE LAND for his (million)people to escape.

Being in the presence of this woman was so healing to my oppressed spirit. Her dedication to her mission healed our bodies, but her spirit revived my soul.

I woke up during the night last night with the panicky feelings returning, but I recalled the God we had talked about…the God of Big Love. The God who stood with little David when he faced the giant Goliath. The God who sat with Daniel in the dens with the hungry lions. The God who stood with Shadrach, Meschach and Abednego INSIDE the flaming furnace. The God who rained down fire on Elijah’s soaking wet sacrifice in the presence of Baal’s prophets. The God who sent an ARMY OF ANGELS to protect his prophet Elisha and his servant.  The God who rode with the unwed Mary to find shelter in overcrowded Bethlehem. The God who brought his own son BACK FROM THE DEAD. The God who defeats big challenges with little people.

I recited Psalms to myself in the night, as my momma had taught me to do. “God is my refuge and strength, an EVER-PRESENT help in time of trouble. He is my rock, stronger and taller than I. He is my fortress. He goes before me. He sets up a table of rejoicing in front of my enemies…” This God cares for the little guy (gal). This God knows the ways of the birds and cares for them. He knows the life patterns of the flowers and he cares for them. How much more does he care for me…and want me to rise up out of this funk?

I’m not discounting medication for anxiety…oh no. I’m not surviving this time in life without chemical intervention. Anxiety runs in my genes, and I do take meds to help. I also take a magnesium supplement to keep myself balanced. But while those things take care of my chemistry, I need the knowledge of God’s strength to take care of my mind.

I’m just a little person, but I know that God has used me in big ways, and he will continue to use me in big ways. The giant of anxiety is my occasional foe, and I’m so glad there are stories of heroes who have overcome immense obstacles that can remind me of truth in the midst of emotion.

 

 

I know what you’re getting…

This year for Christmas, I’m turning the kids’ playroom into a ‘maker space’. As preschool is long past, the building blocks and baby doll strollers are just taking up space. Now that the days of elementary school are here, new hobbies have arrived. img_9070

B likes to work with his hands, often to the detriment of household items. The kitchen whisk has been untwisted, his alarm clock met an untimely demise, and several remotes are  remotely useful now. To save our sanity and his college fund, we are just giving him his own construcIMG_0012tion/destruction space.

D likes to craft, write, draw…and be generally artistic. She draws on paper, pillows, bouncy balls, doors! While we have had to establish some boundaries for her crafting, we have also realized that art is her hobby. She also needs a place to work out her talents.

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Bizarre storage unit, before it got some lovin’

Sooooooo, rather than giving them more toys to scatter throughout the house, this year, we’re giving them space. I bought a card table for $10 at a yard sale for him, and for her, I repurposed a table from elsewhere in our house. I found a bizarre storage unit and some pegboard in my parent’s basement to use for housing the kids’ respective supplies. After a trip to the dollar store for little storage containers and labels, and a trip to the hardware and craft stores, badda bing, badda boom…Christmas is on its way.

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Notice the space, not the dangling monitor, which has since been removed

This project has been in my mind since September. I’ve been slowly gathering materials, planning layout, removing old toys, cleaning the empty space, and waiting for the big set-up night. The kids have NO idea this room makeover is coming. They think I’m just on some crazy cleaning spree. Now that they’re home for Christmas break and antsy for something to do, I am more and more convinced that this room of creativity is desperately needed. I’m so excited for them…and I can’t wait for Christmas morning!

A thought occurred to me today as I was buying the final item for the room and considering my own excitement. Is this what God feels like when he’s waiting for things to fall into place in our lives? Is he watching us and saying “Just a little bit longer… and things are going to change for the SO MUCH BETTER.” Does he smile at our restless talents, knowing that they have specific purposes in the future? Does he bite his holy lip and suck in his holy breath when we are on the verge of making a decision that would really just postpone our happiness? Does he keep certain events a secret until the time is right because we would probably interfere if we knew too soon? Does he say to himself, “I really want to tell you what’s coming, but it’s just not time yet”?

Thimg_9419is year, I’m as eager as the kids for Christmas morning because I know they’re going to love what we have planned for them. And now, I have a new perspective on how God sees us when we’re in the waiting times.

The prophet Jeremiah had an incredible message from God for His children in exile (ch. 29) God told them to build homes, plant gardens, get married. He knew what was in their future. He told them to settle down and chill out a bit. His ultimate plans weren’t ready to unfold  just yet…and they wouldn’t be ready for DECADES! Verse 11 has this promise: For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” He wanted his people to maintain hope and trust in him during the waiting times and believe that he had  really good things planned for them.  13 When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart, 14 I will let you find me, says the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations…”

I struggle to keep my holiday cheer for a few weeks when life is going well, much less maintain my trust in God’s goodness for decades! This project has given me his perspective briefly, as a reminder that he always has good plans in mind for us.

I hope that as the ‘new room’ becomes a part of our lives that I’ll remember the excitement I had in knowing what was coming for the kids…and beaming at the thought of it. And I hope that I remember that’s how God views the plans for my life. He beams when he considers my future and my fulfillment.

Psalm 37

3Trust in the Lord, and do good;
    so you will live in the land, and enjoy security.
Take delight in the Lord,
    and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Commit your way to the Lord;
    trust in him, and he will act.

 

 

 

Anticipation

The weeks leading from Thanksgiving to Christmas are full of anticipation. Screen Shot 2015-02-06 at 10.45.18 AM

Kids counting down until the magical morning arrives.

Parents checking online orders and hoping for timely deliveries.

Ministers preparing for each meaningful Advent service.

Teachers, police officers, postal workers, garbage men, retail clerks…all kinda wishing the best but enduring the worst of the holiday hype.

Anticipation. Waiting and hoping.

I snapped the picture below at the local garden store on November 25. The Christmas tree delivery was due the next day.

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I loved the depiction of eager expectation. Little metal posts extended like open arms, waiting to hug their trees. They know what’s coming, and they know it’s going to be good.

Likewise, the buds on this Christmas cactus are preparing for their days of glory.

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Once a year, they share their beauty with the world around them. Their tiny nub of a bud slowly swells with natural enthusiasm and explodes a bloom of brilliant cheer.

Christmas can lose its thrill for adults. We know all the gifts…few surprises there. We have to shop for the gifts, wrap the gifts, hide the gifts, assemble the gifts…and clean up after the gifts. This season can turn into a season of toil instead of joy.

But let us not lose our anticipation. With the disappointment of adulthood also comes the wisdom that it’s not all about Christmas morning. It’s about what happened that night. It’s about the journey, the baby, the news…none of that was very thrilling to the adults involved. They were burdened with the journey, labored with the baby, and confused by the news. But they knew there was a  deeper meaning of it all. It meant change was coming…for the future world.

Let us reflect on what is to come, not what is happening now. It’s not about the present(s), it’s about the future. We don’t know what that holds. That’s still a surprise…and God is going to take care of that! Let us lift up our arms and hearts to receive that good news. Let us allow our hearts to swell with natural enthusiasm…and explode with brilliant cheer.

Watchful waiting. Eager excitement. Anticipating Advent.

About EVERYTHING

“Do we pray about everything?!” he asked in whispered desperation during a church prayer one Sunday. I shushed him but smiled and contemplated his inquiry.

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After that prayer was complete, I perused the bulletin  and made a mental tally.

-Gathering, Announcements, Prayer of Centering (at the very beginning of the service)

-Sharing of Joys and Concerns (after the beginning)

-Apostle’s Creed and Prayer of Affirmation (before Scripture reading)

-Congregational Prayer (after the children’s moment)

-Pastoral Prayer and Lord’s Prayer (before offering)

-Scripture Reading and Prayer (before sermon)

-Prayer of Commission (after sermon)

-Benediction (prior to leaving)

Our service is NOT four hours long. It’s the standard one hour service. But after considering the order of worship, I realized that a third of that time is occupied in prayer. Prayers of the pastor, prayers of the people, silent prayer, meditation after prayer, prayers before action, prayers after action…

I reconsidered my son’s question–Do we pray about everything?!

Why is so much of our church service used for prayer? We pray before we start, we pray just after we start. We pray for those who are ill and absent, and we pray when the Word is shared with children who are present. We pray before we hear the Word and after we hear the Word. As we began with prayer, we end with prayer before we re-enter the world from our worship experience. Every activity we attempt, we bathe in prayer. We approach God with our intentions and ask His direction. We return to Him later to request his blessing. We plead for answers, we ask for patience while waiting, we praise Him for the outcome. We turn all our actions over to His divine plan.

Church is the holiest place we encounter all week. If we this often in THIS place, then how much more often should we pray throughout our week? Before we get out of bed, while we’re drinking the morning joe, on the way to work, before we enter work, throughout the workday and on the way home again. Before we enter challenging situations, in the midst of them, and after them.

I Thessalonians 5:17 advises that we “Pray continually”...and verse 18 goes on to say “…giving thanks to God in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

Pray continually. All the time. About everything. Before, during, and after. Everything.

So, yes, son, we do pray about everything, as we well should.

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Photo credit: http://www.karipatterson.com/long-view-short-prayers/

 

Beautiful mess

Her sweet, warm, sleep-reddened cheeks were hidden behind a tangled mess of blond hair. The same twice-conditioned hair I had combed for 15 minutes last night, hoping to ward off the dreaded tangles of sleep. The morning began with that mess.

And he stumbled out his room, rubbing sleepy eyes, leaving behind a twisted pile of pee-soaked bedclothes on the floor. The same bedclothes I had just washed yesterday and replaced on his bed last night. Sigh…another mess.

The spill of coffee grounds, the puddle of milk, the jumble of who’s dropping off where and when is who picking up whom. The mess of the day continues.

As I drove to work, recalling her tangle of golden hair and my sleepy-eyed fella, I thought, It’s a beautiful mess. All of it is…living is just a series of beautiful messes.

I thought of the Israelites, heading to their promised land, coming upon the Jordan River. The mess of chaos as they traveled through the path God made in the river. The beauty of the stack of stones left behind, an alter of remembrance and praise.

The death of Lazarus, a drastic loss to his sisters. A mess of emotions and finances. But then, Jesus showed up…and Lazarus did too, leaving behind a beautiful mess of burial cloths.

The mess of a heathen giant threatening to eat the bones of the cowardly opposing forces. The beauty of his silence.

The mess of persecution heaped upon new believers by the over-zealous Saul. The beauty of his repentance.

The mess of a boat of panicked fishermen in a storm. The beauty of peaceful waves.

The mess of the ark. The beauty of the rainbow.

The mess of crucifixion. The beauty of resurrection.IMG_5339

The written account of the Bible may have ended thousands of years ago, but we continue to live the out the grace of God through our beautifully messy lives. If the Bible were being written now, my sloppy days wouldn’t make the canon to be included.

But I would love to think that my faith in the beauty through the mess would rank up there with the heroes of the faith that have gone before.

Lord in your mercy… img_6877