Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Painted fingers and toes

I don't usually wear nail polish. Mr. Theophilus doesn't like the way it smells, I can't keep it nice for more than a few hours.

But today, I'm wearing polish.

Why? As a tangible reminder to be a bearer of good news.

Today my girls and I looked at the story of Naaman's wife's servant. She isn't even named, but the wisdom of a little girl lead to the healing of an army commander.

Even though she was a nameless servant, she pointed someone to God.
Even though she didn't get any benefit out of it, she pointed someone to God.
She shared her faith in a real way, and it bore fruit.

We talked about Isaiah 52:7: How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bear good news! The girls thought that feet that had just climbed a mountain were probably pretty dirty and stinky, but they seemed beautiful when they came with God's good news.

To remind ourselves to proclaim peace, good tidings, and salvation, we painted our toenails. While it wasn't the neatest job, it gave us an opportunity to talk about who we could share good news with and ways to do it.

So I'll wear my diamond sparkle pink nail polish this week, and remember to bear good news whenever and where ever I can.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

My little bit of oil

The wife of a man from the company of the prophets cried out to Elisha, “Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that he revered the LORD. But now his creditor is coming to take my two boys as his slaves.” Elisha replied to her, “How can I help you? Tell me, what do you have in your house?”

“Your servant has nothing there at all,” she said, “except a small jar of olive oil.”

Elisha said, “Go around and ask all your neighbors for empty jars. Don’t ask for just a few. Then go inside and shut the door behind you and your sons. Pour oil into all the jars, and as each is filled, put it to one side.” She left him and shut the door behind her and her sons. They brought the jars to her and she kept pouring. When all the jars were full, she said to her son, “Bring me another one.”

But he replied, “There is not a jar left.” Then the oil stopped flowing. She went and told the man of God, and he said, “Go, sell the oil and pay your debts. You and your sons can live on what is left.”
2 Kings 4:1-7

Even though the girls in my class are 8-10 years old, they face problems that seem as big as the widow and her son's problem: moving across the country, ugly divorces, and just the general problems that come with school, family, and relationships.

So today we read about the widow and her oil. Even though it seemed like nothing, God was able to use her meager resources to fulfill her needs--with some to spare. While the girls don't have olive oil, they do have things they can offer to God--their hearts, their attitudes their hands, their allowance. So we decorated "_____'s Oil Jar", and filled them with slips of paper with what they could give to God, and prayed for faith to call on Him when we have a need, trust directions that might not seem rational, and eagerness to do whatever He asks of us.

I need to remember this too. I often feel overwhelmed by problems bigger than my olive oil supply. It's a reminder to dedicate what I do have to God, and ask him to multiply it for his glory.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

David vs. Goliath

When you think of kids in the Bible, David definitely comes to mind. Last week we talked about how David was selected to be king--a lesson that resonated with the girls. This week we talked about David and Goliath, and next week we'll talk about his friendship with Jonathan.

One of the challenges in teaching Biblically literate kids is that they think they know the story. Isn't that true for adults too? So how do I make it fresh and new?

Well, we did our usual strategy--we acted it out. It was a long story, broken into four scenes, but we made it through. But in our "think about it time" we focused on 1 Samuel 15, 25-27:
25 Now the Israelites had been saying, “Do you see how this man keeps coming out? He comes out to defy Israel. The king will give great wealth to the man who kills him. He will also give him his daughter in marriage and will exempt his family from taxes in Israel.”
26 David asked the men standing near him, “What will be done for the man who kills this Philistine and removes this disgrace from Israel? Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?”

What was different about David than the men in Israel's army? Why was he willing to stand against a giant that grown men cowered and hit from?

He remembered whose battle it was.

It wasn't him, going for wealth, a wife, or prestige. He knew that this was God's fight, not his.

When he went up against Goliath, it wasn't just him, his sling and a few smooth stones against Goliath; it was him, his sling, a few smooth stones and the Almighty God of Israel, and with God on your side, nothing is impossible.

How quick I am to forget that--to see the giant in front of me instead of the God who has my back. I'm prone to "yes but" God instead of seeing the "but God" who wants to do things for His glory through me.

To impress on the girls how big Goliath was, we made a nine foot Goliath and put him on the wall (his head hit the ceiling!) We then threw tape ball stones at him, saying "The battle is the LORD'S!" The first time was for fun; the second time I had them pray about a battle they're facing (I know some of them are going through divorce, moving, and parental instability, so the battles loom large), and remember that God is on their side, and is the one really fighting the battle.

They got it. And I hope I can too.

Lord, help me step out in faith and call on You to fight Your battles through me. Help me to see you behind me instead of the seeming giant in front of me. Be with the girls this week, and help them trust You as you work in and through their lives.

Monday, December 13, 2010

No room in the inn?

As a kid, this phrase seemed like a statement of fact. Lots of people were going to Bethlehem; of course the Inn was full. It was like trying to find a hotel room on the night of the big concert, graduation, or the Indy 500--be early or be out.

As I've been studying Mary with my 2nd-4th grade girls, I realized a few things...
...if both Mary and Joseph were decended from David, the other people in town were their relatives. Mary's mom, mother in law, aunts, cousins...they would have been there.

...a little town, like Bethlehem, wouldn't have had a Hilton or a Marriott or a Best Western. The word for inn, is the same word that is used for guest chamber the other two times it's used:

Inn; Guest-Chamber:

akin to kataluo (see Note above), signifies
(a) "an inn, lodging-place," Luk 2:7;

(b) "a guest-room," Mar 14:14; Luk 22:11. The word lit. signifies "a loosening down" (kata, "down," luo, "to loose"), used of the place where travelers and their beasts untied their packages, girdles and sandals. "In the East, no figure is more invested with chivalry than the guest. In his own right he cannot cross the threshold, but when once he is invited in, all do him honor and unite in rendering service; cp. Gen 18:19; Jdg 19:9, 15." These two passages in the NT "concern a room in a private house, which the owner readily placed at the disposal of Jesus and His disciples for the celebration of the Passover . . . At the festivals of Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles the people were commanded to repair to Jerusalem; and it was a boast of the Rabbis that, notwithstanding the enormous crowds, no man could truthfully say to his fellow, 'I have not found a fire where to roast my paschal lamb in Jerusalem,' or 'I have not found a bed in Jerusalem to lie in,' or 'My lodging is too strait in Jerusalem'" (Hasting, Bib. Dic. GUEST-CHAMBER and INN).
See INN.

Now if I was choosing who got to stay in my guest chamber, an extremely pregnant woman would probably be the chivalrous choice. But Mary's condition--an unwed mother, a couple that had "jumped the gun"--made them unwelcome.


It reminds me that Mary's "may it be unto me as you have said" wasn't a no cost statement. It actually carried some heavy burdens--like rejection by her family, loss of her reputation, a label that stayed for a lifetime.

Lord, help me say YES to you, even when the costs are great.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

What (Not) To Wear

Last weekend, Mr. Theophilus surprised me with a quick trip to see Clifton Kelly from "What Not to Wear." While I didn't win a shopping spree, I did get some advice about what to wear as an interviewer.

Then, tonight at a gathering of parents at church, the topic of appropriate clothing for church came up. The two events has thoughts about what God thinks about what we wear to church. Should we dress up, or is ok to be more casual?

I haven't had enough sleep, so I can't formulate my thoughts into words, but here are the relevant passages I found:

1 Samuel 16:7 But the LORD said to Samuel, "Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart."

Matthew 6:28: "And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin.

Romans 13:14 Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ.

Galatians 3:27
for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.

Colossians 3:12
Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.

1 Timothy 2:9-10 I also want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.

James 2:2-4 Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, "Here's a good seat for you," but say to the poor man, "You stand there" or "Sit on the floor by my feet," have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?

1 Peter 3:3-4 Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight.

1 Peter 5:5 All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble."

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Laying down your life

We had a cliff hanger today, Genesis 22:1-10:

1 Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, "Abraham!" "Here I am," he replied.
2 Then God said, "Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about." 3 Early the next morning Abraham got up and saddled his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about. 4 On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. 5 He said to his servants, "Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you."

6 Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, 7 Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, "Father?" "Yes, my son?" Abraham replied. "The fire and wood are here," Isaac said, "but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?"

8 Abraham answered, "God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son." And the two of them went on together. 9 When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son.

Why the cliff hanger? Why not finish the story and let it resolve?

This is a story my girls know well, they've heard it before. I wanted them to really put themselves in Isaac's shoes, to sense what it would really be like to lay down their lives. So we did. After studying the passage, we acted it out--I was Abraham, they were all Isaac. We gathered sticks from the yard (and prop closet). We "camped out" in a changing room and looked at the stars, remembering God's promise to Abraham. We stopped for a snack and a story about the sacrifice Abraham made earlier and what a burnt offering sacrifice was. Although our journey didn't take three days, we ended in the sanctuary, with each of them taking a turn laying down on the pile of sticks, imagining what Isaac might have thought and felt.

I think they got it. Isaac didn't know the outcome as going to be what it was. But what he did know was that his dad loved him and trusted God. And when those two things were in conflict, he chose God.

That's a tough choice. Abraham didn't always make the right choice, but he had enough experience with God to know that really, making the right choice the first time is the right thing to do. Even if it seems hard or to lead to something opposite of what God has promised you.

Laying down your life it a big thing to ask of a kid...but it's exactly what God asked of Isaac.

Wow. That's a big "ask" for an adult, let alone a kid.

But that's what God does. He calls kids to big things.

Am I ready for that as a parent?

And in a cool twist, this week's memory verse comes from the passage we used the first week, 1 John 3:16:

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for one another.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

God's timing

"The Lord was gracious to Sarah, just as he had said he would be. He did for Sarah what he had promised to do. Sarah became pregnant. She had a son by Abraham when he was old. He was born at the exact time God had promised him. Abraham gave the name Isaac to the son Sarah had by him. When his son Isaac was eight days old, Abraham circumcised him. He did it exactly as God had commanded him. Abraham was 100 years old when his son Isaac was born to him. Sarah said, "God has given laughter to me. Everyone who hears about this will laugh with me." She continued, "Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? But I've had a son by him when he is old." Genesis 21:1-7

This is the passage we studied tonight. We focused on God's promises and when they are fulfilled. I love seeing the girls look forward to digging in! And as usual, the lesson was as much for me as for them. Though God's timing seemed strange (especially to Sarah), it was EXACTLY when God had planned to fulfill his plan. Gotta love that!

I debated cutting out the verse about circumcision (yes, I had to figure out a way to explain it to six 2-4th grade girls!), but left it in. Gotta teach it all! But it does make for a delicate conversation, that's for sure :)

I'm definitely praying over next week already--the sacrifice of Isaac. That's a tough one to approach from the child's point of view, but a powerful opportunity to talk about laying down your life and Christ's substitutionary sacrifice.

thanks for this opportunity, Lord, and that your timing is always perfect. Help me to believe like Abraham and not laugh like Sarah.