Monday, February 24, 2014

Sunflower Dance

A sunflower at its very best,
near our chateau
This morning as I looked out at the four feet of snow piled high on my deck, I closed my eyes and dreamt about the summer of 2010, when I spent an unforgettable seven days in a gorgeous chateau in the south of France...

My family gathered, over thirty of us, to celebrate my brother's birthday. Every evening we would sit outside around a huge table, laden with crusty French bread, cheeses, and delicious food from the grill. We would talk and laugh the evening away as the sun went down over golden fields.

For as far as the eye could see, our villa was surrounded by masses and masses of yellow sunflowers. Every day, I would watch them as they swayed in the early morning light. Whenever the sun shined on them they turned their heads toward it, a splendid sea of golds and yellows- dancing at their very best.

But if, one day, the sun failed to shine, then the sunflowers failed to dance. Instead, they hung their heads, sad and despondent...utterly dependent on the sun, and quite miserable without it.

It made me think about all of us, who serve in ministry. Like that field of golden sunflowers, turning our heads upwards every morning, God shining on us, helping us dance, being the very best we can be.

May the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you;
the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace. Numbers 6:24

Monday, February 17, 2014

A Glimpse Into Godly Play...

I am sitting in a circle of children listening to the storyteller. She tells the story slowly, her eyes downward, focused on twelve little wooden characters as she moves them up the mountain. There is a lot of silence. The children listen. They watch, and they wonder. Wondering is a very real part of this environment, where biblical stories are retold, but not explained, and little minds are at work, making meaning out of mystery.

And as the storyteller asks the questions, the children know they do not have to answer ....because these are just things to ponder. There are no prizes to be earned for the correct response, no popcorn to be won, no gimmicks to entice involvement. Only the wondering...

I wonder how the twelve disciples feel being called to be with Jesus?

I wonder what they said when they told the news of the Kingdom of God?

I wonder how the people felt when they heard it?

And into the space and silence, a little boy ventures a one word response...


Mmm.. I wonder why they would feel happy? asks the storyteller.

Maybe because it's good news, he says, smiling.

And now it is my turn to does he know that? How does one so young know that the kingdom of God is good news?
Unless, of course, the kingdom belongs to him?

And just like the upside down teachings of Jesus-  we who plan, and prepare our lessons so diligently, we who hold our 'learning objectives' like a measuring rod in our minds.....
must remember that when we set out to teach our children, it's actually they who end up teaching us. It is they who understand kingdom concepts better than we, even if they cannot put it into words.

And as a teacher, surely this is what I must strive towards-  to nurture that spirituality already present within the child; to value the pondering, the wondering, the space created by silence, and trust that God is at work in ways that can never be measured.

This is a hard approach for me, because it requires that I change.

But I know that in the upside down kingdom, I must change and become like a little child, in order to let the child teach me.

Learn about Godly Play

Monday, February 10, 2014

Practicing the Presence of God

I kneel beside my grandson as he stands mesmerized at the window in the early morning light. I have my arm around him as we watch snowflakes gently fall. Branches are bowed heavy. Sunshine glistens on the garden's white blanket and we see jewels sparkling here and there. We are peeking into winter's treasure chest - its lid opened wide outside our window. There is no sound except our voices.

Where's God? asks Xander.

God is in the trees. I say. God is in the stillness. God is in the snow. God is in the air. God is in the sunshine.

But where is God? he puzzles.

Well God is invisible, remember?

My grandson is still. He thinks. He watches snow fall. And then he turns to me and asks,

God is in the house?

I laugh as I scoop him into my arms and affirm, Yes, God is in the house. And God is in your heart too.

And the words of Jesus and Henri Nouwen and Sue Monk Kidd echo in my mind as they share the mystery and wonder we find when practicing the presence of God.

And I think about an autumn day when I raked leaves and my neighbor came to talk. And how the only thing I could think about as I leaned on my rake was that God was in my neighbor, and God was in the leaves, and God was in our conversation, and in our worries, and in our smiles, and in our time.

And I want every day to be like this snowy day. Or the day when I raked leaves in the autumn.

How do we cultivate practicing the presence of God with our children?

Monday, February 3, 2014

Children as Worship Leaders

I did something in church this morning that I have never done before. I received communion from a fourth grader. It touched by heart. 

This is the body of Christ, broken for you,
he said shyly, as he carefully lifted the plate of bread towards me.

I watched as he served his mom and dad, his little brother, his grandma, his friends, and their parents. Occasionally he looked up to the pastor just to make sure he was doing everything right. He was.

This ten year old boy- who could just as well have been at home playing video games- had already led us in the opening prayer; given out certificates to new members; welcomed them with a hand shake; read the passage of scripture from the Bible he was presented with in third grade, and helped the pastor prepare the elements for communion.

And as he took his place at this altar, next to candles, and choirs, and bread, and wine, where sermons have been preached for years and years, and babies have been baptized, and people have knelt before Christ-  I couldn't help but wonder how experiences like this would help to shape this young man's life, and to kindle a sense of the sacred in his soul.

And I couldn't help but wonder, as he held his third grade Bible and read,
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God....
if he knew that he was talking about himself.

How does your church intentionally engage children in leading worship?