Monday, November 25, 2013

Who Am I?

I remember well the day I got my glasses. I was only ten years old. And I wanted them. My mum and dad had them. My sisters had them. My brothers had them. I wanted them too.

Until I put them on and looked in the mirror. True, I could actually see, for the first time, but I suddenly became ugly. I gazed back in horror at this strange person who did not look at all like me and I knew that I would never have a good relationship with these thick, chunky, jam jar lenses that distorted my blue eyes, and made me look like some sort of alien.

And so for the next ten years, I stumbled around almost blind, but I refused to wear them. My glasses defined me. Every time I put them on, they spoke to me. Loudly. They told me who I was... ugly.

And although wisdom comes with age, so do wrinkles. And although my heart knows that I am not defined by what I wear, or what I weigh, or how I look, my mind still somehow listens to those voices of the world, who shout in that loud voice, and try to tell me who I am.

But when I focus instead on the Voice of the Word, I hear something entirely different, even though I have to really strain to hear those quiet whispers. 

When God talks to me, I hear,

I am God's beloved
God chose me
I am God's special treasure
I belong to God
God delights in me.

Now those are the things I want to hear. Those are the statements that define who I am. And those are what we need to teach our children, who are growing up in a world that threatens to devour them. And when I find myself worrying about that prospect, then I hear Jesus shout, not whisper:

Take heart! I have overcome the world!

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Hand

The candle flickered as we stood in a circle at the close of our lesson last Sunday morning. Just a regular, small group of tweens-  ordinary kids, each involved in many other activities, each holding dreams, each eager to please, each with upturned hands, ready to draw a symbol on each other's palm ...a symbol that would hopefully remind us of our time together, and what we had talked about that morning as God had moved among us.

I took the permanent marker and drew a tear drop on a young girl's hand. Then I wrote God inside. We had talked that morning about suffering...not knowing why we suffer, not finding answers, but acknowledging simply that when we cry, God cries too.  

I traced the teardrop, and said quietly, God is with you when you suffer. She took up the pen, turned to her friend, drew the tear drop and repeated the words, until the little action had gone around the circle, and made its way back to me. I smiled as I looked at the little visual on my palm. Such a cute reminder of our time together. I blew the candle out.
And that was that.

But unbeknown to me, that little symbol was about to become much, much more...

The young girl was a greeter at church that morning. She left our class, and headed upstairs, her pony tail swinging behind her. She was ready to smile, and welcome, and shake hands, as she often does, with all who would step through the doors of our church. But this morning was different.

Little did those people know, as they took that young girl's hand in theirs, and their palms met,  that she was silently transferring that symbol, passing on the reassurance, even though they did not know it, that God is with them when they suffer.
For we all are one.

Hands meeting hands, eyes meeting eyes, God meeting us...through a young girl. And that little experience confirmed to me what I have really known all along as I serve in children's ministry...
it's not about me blessing the children, but about them blessing me.

Monday, November 11, 2013

My Grandson's Name

It must be my season to be a grandma. Just three weeks ago, we welcomed a third precious grandson into the world. And for a day or two, that was his name...Grandson Number Three. But then my son told me the name they had chosen, and I smiled. His name is Brixham.

Now for most of you, that name will not mean much. But our third grandson is named after a little fishing village in the south of England, where we would go with our four sons every year for our summer holiday.

Ask any of those sons what they think of when they hear that name and maybe they will tell you, like I would, that at the mention of 'Brixham', they see images of a little seaside town where pigeons sit in a wall, and seagulls fly, and boats drift; where cottages of many different colors cluster around the harbor; where there is a little shop that sells shells, and a cafĂ© on the corner where we ate fish and chips. They will tell you how, on a balmy summer's evening, we would sit and listen to Brixham's great grandfather playing his trombone on the quay, as the sun went down over Brixham's harbor and the notes danced on the waves.
Brixham is truly a name that makes us smile.

I think that when God hears your name, God smiles too. But not because it conjures up happy memories of anything you have done, or anything you have said, or anything you have tried to achieve. Your name makes our creator smile simply because of who you are, because you're you....God's child.

Let's teach our children that lesson...surely there is no lesson more powerful.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Sharing a Hymn Book

I saw a beautiful little scene unfold before my eyes in church last Sunday. Two young boys, robed in red, after playing bells and singing in the kids choir, stood together, side by side, holding a hymnal between them, ready to join in with the first congregational hymn. Occasionally they smiled; just once or twice they nudged each other; but most of the time they sang in unison, heads bowed together, holding that hymnal for each other, repeating ancient words that have been sung by generations before them.
Just two ordinary boys. Just a hymnal. Just a song. Just a little scene unnoticed by most.

But a precious moment in time seen by me, and the pastor, and the boys' parents, and God. Because it seemed to me that those boys were doing much, much more than singing together. Even though they did not know it, those boys standing side by side were nurturing and watering seeds of faith, and love, and hope, and witness, planted in their own little hearts, by their parents, their grandparents, and the generations who have chorused those words before them.

And over time, seeds grow. And maybe, one day, those boys will be dads themselves. And maybe they will watch as their own sons robe, and play bells, and sing in the choir, and stand, side by side with their brothers and sisters in Christ, sharing a hymnal from which to sing. And the seeds keep on growing.

Generations come, and generations go, but as we raise our children in God's ways, we leave a rich legacy, a heritage of faith that stands the test of time. And from little seeds, mighty fruit trees grow.

Your faithfulness continues through all generations. Psalm 119:90