Friday, November 13, 2015

Love Is Kind

This year I am helping preschoolers memorize some verses in the Bible that talk about love. They are found in 1 Corinthians 13. It had been a month since the previous chapel time I led, so I wasn't expecting much when I asked them if they recalled what we talked about before. But one kid quickly called out, 'Love is patient.' I told that young boy he won the day.

Then I told them I was going to talk about the next aspect of love, kindness, by telling them a story.

Once there were these 5 guys that were friends. But one of those friends was paralyzed. Do you know what that means? It means he couldn’t move his arms or legs.

Let’s pretend we can’t move our arms and legs. Just as an aside, I'm going to figure out how I can include this story in every chapel. Those kids all sat frozen while I told the story. 

One day those friends heard that Jesus was in town. So the four friends that could move decided to pick up their friend, carry him on his bed all the way to Jesus. When they saw a big crowd, they decided to dig a hole in the roof and lower their friend right down in front of Jesus.

Jesus saw their kindness and healed their paralyzed friend. Then he was able to get up and carry his bed home. It was at this point that I told them we could all move our arms and legs again. That was also about the time I lost many of them. 

That is kindness and love is supposed to be kind.

Proverbs 3:3 tells us to wear kindness around our neck. I asked them if any of them had a kindness necklace at home. To my surprise, and maybe yours, they all said they did, in fact, have such necklaces.

I don't normally call kids liars, but I did at this point and then explained what Solomon was talking about when he said we should wear kindness around our necks. That’s kind of a funny way to say it, but I think it means that God wants us to always be kind, to everyone we see.

Another verse says “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” ~Ephesians 4:32

In other words, because God was kind to us, we should be kind to others. I was going to ask them for examples, but most of them were still trying to convince me they had kindness necklaces. So I lovingly and kindly closed our time together in prayer.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

A Snowflake Just Like You

So, the next time you see a snowfall and your first instinct isn't to pause and stand in awe f the Creator, you may want to check yourself. Listen, I get it. I was born and raised in Florida. Snow was what my grandparents talked about. Snow was something we saw in movies.

But now I have lived over half of my life in these places where the white tundra is just expected for half the year. You call it North. I've asked God for forgiveness for what I call it.

Recently some guy I've never heard of (I'll give him credit below*) took amazingly close up shot of individual snowflakes. What I see is evidence of a Creator. But not just a Creator. A Creator that doesn't seem to care what you and I give Him credit for. Take a look at these and consider that, for thousands of years, these flakes have been falling on the ground, mostly unnoticed for their stunning beauty and individual style. 

snowflake10  snowflake9  snowflake8  

snowflake7  snowflake6  snowflake5

These unique flakes, all beautiful, fulfilled their purpose and virtually nobody noticed. They fell. They came together with thousands of other unique flakes. They formed something noticeable, for a time, on the ground. Then they simply melted away.

It kind of reminds me of....people. Yes, people. You. Me. That one guy who lived in that one place and did that one thing. All of us.

When I think of the totality of humanity, I see the evidence of a Creator. But not just a Creator. A Creator that doesn't seem to mind what He gets credit for. Take a look at people and consider that, for thousands of years, these people have been walking the planet, mostly unnoticed for their stunning beauty and individual style.

These people filled the Earth. Many of them have fulfilled their purpose. They came together with other people, perhaps forming something noticeable. Then these people simply melted away.

The snow hasn't begun to fall around here yet. When it does, it will be unlikely that I will take time, nor have the ability, to notice the beauty of each individual flake. But I will try to thank the Creator for what I know is there.

I may even try to do the same with the flakes around me that I know to be people, each made with loving care by a very creative Creator.

*These photos by Alexey Kljatov, using a homemade contraption, are extreme close-ups of an individual snowflakes.

Monday, November 2, 2015

In Search of Adolescence


You could call this a portion of a book review, or you could call this my attempt to bring something more scholarly to this space. Either way, it is likely best described as my acknowledgement that I am not the first, such as Sir Isaac Newton recognized when he said “if I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”

See, though I know it was not original with me, I began my youth ministry career by repeating that what I do is not about a religion, but about a relationship. At times I imagined it seeped into my brain from some of my youth ministry mentors. But I have been reading In Search of Adolescence: A New Look at an Old Idea by Crystal Kirgiss. Now I see the idea goes back much further.

In this book, Crystal battles the idea that adolescence is a modern day construct. Showing how previous generations dealt with the people we know as teenagers, she proves her point well. At one point she quotes John Greene and Solomon Stoddard, a couple of preachers from the early 1700’s.

“God will have no respect at all to any service that you offer up to him, as long as you withhold your hearts from him…For this, as has been hinted, is the foundation of all religious practice…For while this is neglected, the doing of other things will be to no purpose.” Youth were encouraged not just to attend Sunday services but to live a life of obedience all week long because God is “not only their father’s God, but their God also.” If they learned to worship faithfully now, not because they had to but because they wanted to – because “God has given rational souls to you that you might understandingly praise the Lord” – then it was believed they would continue in the faith and fulfill their spiritual purpose: to glorify God.

(In Search of Adolescence: A New Look at an Old Idea, pgs 105-106)

Indeed.

I’m hoping that my teens not only recognize this idea, but are encouraged, as I am, by the idea that we are not the first generations enjoying a struggle of seeking out God in a relationship that matters.