Monday, October 5, 2015

Loving God, Teaching Preschoolers

I told you I would be sharing how my preschool chapel times go throughout the year. I'm attempting to teach God's love, which is actually a bigger topic than we ever give it credit for. Here was my introduction to the topic.

I like to play games that involve a ball. One of the reasons is because balls do not have an end.

See this ruler? It has a beginning and an end.

A ball does not have an end. It just keeps going and going. That’s like God’s love for us. God’s love has no end. He has loved us ever since He made us. He will always love us, no matter what.

There is a second reason I like this ball. You can share it. A ball is more fun when you play games with it with other people. With a ball, you don’t keep it to yourself. You share it with others. God’s love is the same way. It’s better when we share it.

We’re going to try an experiment. I want to toss this ball around. If we want to show love, we will toss it to someone else. But in order to show love, we will toss it gently. It would not be love if we tried to keep the ball to ourselves. It would also not be love if we tried to hurt someone with it.

Believe it or not, this actually worked out pretty well, except for one thing. Preschoolers are not very good at catching. It's a good thing I chose a beach-ball. 

In the Bible, there was a guy named Paul who tried to define love for us. He said that if we didn’t have love, we were like a gong or clanging cymbal. Nobody wants to listen to that very long. 

They were getting squirmy at this point, so I pulled out some mini-cymbals and got their attention back pretty quick. They agreed that it was an annoying sound. Win!

Our goal is to live a life of love. The next time you see a ball, I want you to remember that a ball is like God. The ball does not have an end and neither does God’s love for us. A ball is something to share, just like we want to share God’s love with others.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Teaching Little Children the Most Excellent Way

Every year I share in the chapel duties for our Church preschool. Being a type-A, I like to plan it out for the entire year. I will be given 12 opportunities (give or take) to grab and keep the attention of 60 preschoolers. Yes, I am willing to be crazy and loud and funny in order to accomplish this.

Sometimes it works. Other times my wife, who is the preschool director, just gives me the nod as my signal to pray and close and hope for better the next time. After all, sometimes leading a mini-Bible study with little ones is like herding cats, although I've never actually tried this.

To give you an idea, I have tried many extreme object lessons; juggling, dancing, playing guitar, telling silly stories, etc. Mid-stream I will have one of these young kids raise their hands. I mistakenly assume they are about to ask some good theological question based on my amazing teaching. More often I hear their new dog's name or some silly comment about bodily functions.


The challenge is always to find a topic or verse that can be broken up into small toddler-size chunks. So one year I chose to teach the fruit of the spirit, since it’s a nice list. Another year I focused on stories of Jesus interacting with different people. This year I thought I might tackle the topic of love. 1 Corinthians gives us a nice memorable list. The kids might even memorize a few verses along the way.

After reading it through a couple of times, I realized how complex love can be. But I will forge ahead because, after all, it is the most excellent way. I’ll post my chapel ideas here and let you know how it’s going.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Parenting Win?

Before you read this story, let me be clear on a couple of things which should be obvious for anyone who knows my family.

  • Sarcasm is a love language.
  • Sympathy is not in abundant supply around here.
A few nights ago, I was sharing some wishes with my children for my funeral. I told them I wanted a closed casket, but at the end I wanted the organist to start playing 'Pop Goes the Weasel'. Then I wanted them to look at the faces of everybody as they sat and watched the casket. (Yes, I saw this joke on Facebook.

My kids responded that it was as good as done. They even had an idea for a lever that could make the casket open at the appropriate time. 

Fast forward to the weekend, where I was dutifully mowing the lawn. Some bees, which must be straight out of the pits of hell, came out of the ground and stung me in both my ankles and my pinky finger. 

I left the mower behind, and with much anguish, called out to my wife, who quickly made a paste to take the sting out. (I assure you this is the only bright spot of this story.

As I cringed, I told my loving wife, who has given birth to my 3 beautiful children, that she has never felt such pain as what I was currently feeling. Knowing she would pull the labor-and-delivery card, I said this was like "giving birth through my finger". That's right! I said it!!

I also indicated to my wife that I thought this might be the end for me. I might die. That's when one of my aforementioned beautiful children (the 9-year old) came out and said, "Well Mom, at least if Dad dies, we can do that thing with the casket." 

My finger still hurts, but at least my children are growing up funny. 

Thursday, September 24, 2015

The Kind of Church I Want to Be a Part Of

I wear a few different hats at my church. That may be understating things, but suffice it to say I get to know a lot of different people in a lot of different age groups.

One of the benefits is the relationships I build with multiple generations and the vantage point from which I can see where our church is at. On any given Sunday, I will have lots of different people that I would like to catch up with as several people that might seek out my attention.

Yesterday was one of those days. But I should mention that one of the areas I oversee is that of children. And children will get your attention....ummm...whenever they can.

I was leading in our worship service, which will involve leading the singing as well as calling ushers to collect the offering. This year in our church, we have children collecting change for missionaries.

So while the ushers are collecting money in an organized fashion, we have about 20 kids running around the sanctuary, shaking people down for their loose change. Then they make their way to the stage where they drop the change into a big container.

And that's when this one young boy sought out my attention. After dropping some change into the bucket, he crossed the stage to where I was, lifted up his shirt sleeve and proudly showed me his tattoo.

There's a service going on? Doesn't matter.
You're not a sailor? Who cares!?!

This is the kind of thing I want happening at my church. It's a place where people seek one another out. It's a place where the flow of what was planned can be interrupted for the spontaneous. It's  a place where we can celebrate what is going on in our lives, even when that celebration centers around a no-doubt temporary tat that will be gone by next week.

That's the kind of church of which I want to be a part.

Monday, September 21, 2015

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Pregnancy

I am currently in the middle of a teaching series with my youth group on Romans 8. Wow, does this chapter have a bunch to say. Here's a small taste of something I shared and the scripture that went along with it.

Pregnancy is a funny thing. A woman gets pregnant for the first time and she is normally excited. This is a married woman. An unmarried woman gets pregnant and she is cursing and panicking, which is why we save sex for marriage. I digress. A married woman is excited. She can’t wait to tell her friends and family.

Then something happens over 9 months. She goes through some changes.

In the first trimester she experiences something called morning sickness. She’s puking, she’s sick and it’s not even flu season.

In the second trimester, she is beginning to show a baby bump, which means certain clothes don’t fit, but her appetite is back. She has these cravings for certain foods. The husband happily obliges.

Then the third trimester shows up. Jabba, I mean, the wife, just wants the jar of pickles to herself. The only clothing that fits was sewn together by Omar the Tent-maker. Sleep is impossible with this basketball making it difficult to get up, much less roll over.

Oh, and then we have what is called labor and delivery. There’s water breaking and swearing that reminds you of bad movies you’ve seen. There’s pushing and groaning, blood and goop and, after hours of this, a little mini-version of yourself appears. The mother and baby are united and all the pain suddenly disappears.

But there’s one more miracle of childbirth. As difficult as it was, after the baby turns one, most mothers say something odd. ‘Let’s have another.’

What?!? What women understand is that the pain is worth it. The discomfort, the groaning, the loss of sleep and sanity are all worth it. And this is what Paul is trying to explain to us. We “wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship”, enduring the pain for a while, because we have a hope. We don’t see it yet, but we wait patiently.

We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.
~Romans 8:22-25

Do you have hope?

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Things I Won't Consider At 99

I am not yet middle-aged. At least, that's what I tell myself. If you double my life, I'll be 20 years from the century mark, which I fully plan on reaching. And while I'd like to think I'll have as much awesome then as I do now, there are probably things I won't be doing. They include, but are not limited to:

  • Exercising. If I make it to 100, I'll treat myself to some days without getting the heart rate up.
  • Eating healthy. All cookies, all the time. You never know when it might be your last.
  • Going to the bathroom just once in the middle of the night. Let's just be realistic here.
  • Working. Except maybe as a Walmart greeter. It could happen.
  • Having more babies. I'm not saying I couldn't. I'm just saying I wouldn't.
But there was a guy I read about recently who was having babies at 100, and for him it was a big deal. Reading the story of Abraham and Sarah takes only a relatively few chapters in the book of Genesis. But it stems over 25 years of their lives.

What is interesting early on, of course, is the struggle they have to have a kid. They live by faith(mostly). They attempt to fulfill God's promise through their own means, Abraham even having a child with another woman.

But what struck me recently as I read is that for most of his life, of you had told Abraham that someday there would be an annoying children's song in which his name was invoked and we were encouraged to move our limbs, he would likely have thought you were making fun of him.

I think God is funny like that. It's ironic, don't you think?

Buy for the most part, Abraham lived by faith, and this faith was credited to him as righteousness. Right living simply because he believed God would do what He said He would do.

...even to the point of circumcising himself as a 99 year old man. Ouch!

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Things I've Said to My Children

I've said some things to my children which, upon review, sounded pretty stupid. And we've all heard the classic parent answers which require answers we wouldn't enjoy. For instance, 'Do I look stupid to you?' 

Seriously, who wants to hear the answer they'd get from a grumpy child?

So when I saw a book titled Things I've Said to My Children, I knew this was a must have. Nathan Ripperger has saved and illustrated some of the more odd things he's said to his children.

Anyone who isn't a parent won't get this book. They might have it in their possession, but it will be lost on them. But for that club that can only be joined by suffering sleepless nights and crazy trips to the grocery store, as Nathan said, where children lick the grocery carts, this will be a funny read. 

Since it's illustrated and filled with short quotes, it's a quick read. Half the fun for me was imagining what was going on in their house that led to several of these quotes. I've been there, Nathan. We've all been there. 

I received this book from my good friends at Blogging for Books for review. They don't tell me what to say. They simply ask that I say something, which now I have.