Weeknights can be stressful. It seems like the moment the kids come home from school the universe is set on a collision course with itself. No that doesn’t make sense. They get home and need food because the three block walk from school wipes them out and they must eat right now! Okay, I guess it has more to do with their early lunch time. Hey, let me tell the story. Anyway, then they unpack their backpacks and papers are strewn about. You need to sign this. I need this money for the school activity. Some nights there are sports or other activities. But there is always time for homework and then next best thing, complaining about homework.
Tonight I was feeling the tension. The kids were fighting. Then a couple of them were playing some random game that involved barking and marbles. No, I did not understand it, but they were getting along. That seemed to be going okay until they broke the glass jar. Then there were tears. In the next room homework was going on. That was no going so well. The way they are teaching math now is like a foreign language to me. My attitude was going south quickly. And then the suggestion: “Let’s play telephone”
How long has it been since I played telephone? I mean that would never have been a suggestion I would have made. Okay. Let’s see what happens. The kids started to come up with their phrases. “The barn is green and yellow.” Then there was something about ice cream and kibbles. We were quickly laughing. It is amazing how quickly the tension was gone. There was no more fighting as the kids now tried to think of fun things to say. Looks like the kids figured out a way to bring some life to the boredom and tension of the evening. My suggestion for you: play a game of telephone and see what happens. Lighten up a bit and mix it up. You will be glad you did. I know I am.
The season of Christmas has such interesting dynamics to it. On the one hand, it is really fun. I mean who doesn’t love seeing their kids dressed like sheep and angels? It can be fun to have time to catch up with family or friends. My daughter was giving me the details on how many sleeps it is until Christmas and the order of events. To say she is excited about this Christmas is an understatement. But in all of my preparation this week for two services, and time with my family I have been thinking about the amount of suffering that people are going through. Does that seem strange? Well, keep in mind I am a Pastor of a church and an EMT in the local community. I have seen some suffering. I know we sing songs about how wonderful this time of year is and declare “Joy to the World, the Lord is Come.” But what about those who are not experiencing so much joy
this year? You can’t just sing it and make the pain go away. Some people have experienced more loss this year than at any point in their life. Suicide. Depression. Alcoholism. Abuse of all kinds. Stress. Anger. Anxiety. Financial Challenges. Illness. I mean, can we just be honest and say that for some people this season does not make pain get better, it just amplifies the issues.
So what difference does this baby make for those who are hurting this Christmas? Micah 5:5 says that this ruler who was to come out of Bethlehem would be our peace. Peace is something we talk about and strive for, but can’t seem to achieve. But if Jesus is our peace, maybe we can experience it. Maybe this one we celebrate can actually enter into my mess and help me. And of course the answer is emphatically “yes!” You are why He came! You are why He left the comforts of His heavenly home and entered our world in an insignificant town surrounded by insignificant people on some insignificant day in a very insignificant way. In doing so, however, He did provide for us something we were so desperate for: hope. Hope says that while right now things are a mess; one day things will no longer be that way. Why? Because Jesus has come and is coming again.
Do you have some questions? Yes. Do you have some things you are hoping to see resolved? Yes. But there is comfort in knowing God was not content just telling us how to live; He needed to send His son to demonstrate His love for us.
So if you are in a good place right now and you know someone who isn’t, it could be a real good idea to encourage them in some way. In fact, I think it is exactly what Christ demonstrates for us in His birth. He showed up in our mess in order to save us from it. I have showed up many times just to visit with someone who was really having a tough time. Those kinds of things mean the world to people. It reminds them that God has not forgotten them — the very heart of the Christmas story.
Oh, and get to it because there are only 3 more sleeps until Christmas.
Want to hear more about what Jesus Christ has offered to us? Check out my Christmas Sermon Series on our Church Website.
I was listening to talk radio yesterday on my way back from a meeting. The content of the conversation was revolving around the recent snow we received and the debate over when to cancel school. On the one hand you have people who say that it makes more sense to cancel it than to have a day of school with only half the students — this one man said that he felt like it was a wasted day. That got me thinking about Sunday morning here. We had our worship service in the midst of a snow storm. There were about 20 people here; was that wasted?
In the framework of life there are many things that feel wasted. I feel like I might say something to my kids all the time and they still miss what I say. I know in youth ministry I would have phone calls that would make me want to throw my phone against the wall. It is frustrating to see someone go so far in their faith only to turn so far backwards in an instant. It is in those moments that I wonder how effective my ministry really is.
When there are deep issues to deal with in any arena of life, it can make us weary. Even Paul in the book of Galatians got a little frustrated with the people. They had heard the Gospel and had receive it. So, why were they living in the old way again?
“I fear for you, that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you.” Galatians 4:10
I think we all have days like that. Whether it is with my ministry or with my own family, I sometimes look at all that goes on and wonder “what am I doing here?” “Why do I even bother with this?” But when the dust settles I always end up landing right back where I began; with a deep sense of purpose in this life. I know that things won’t always go my way — in fact, if they do go my way I start to wonder if I am missing something. What I do know is that there is no such thing as “wasted efforts” if my efforts are done under the empowerment of God.
So what does that mean for you today? You will never have this day again. So let’s not waste it. If today is not a good day from your perspective, perhaps it is time to look for ways to praise God. I know I have a hard time being grumpy when I stand before the God who knows my heart. I know for me I will continue to press on in the challenges I face knowing that God is not wasting anything — including what I perceive as my time.
I know this is pastor appreciation month, but I really don’t want to make too big a deal of that. It is not that I don’t want to be appreciated, but rather that I feel like I don’t need any extra attention. Many people show appreciation all year long to me and those notes of encouragement are very helpful in keeping my head on straight sometimes. It is real special when something is received from a child – a child who decided to write a few things down about their pastor and leave it on his desk. I get excited about things like that because a little appreciation helps me see that important connections are being made with the children in the church. That, to me, is one of the greatest compliments and affirmations of my ministry I could receive. Thank you!
It involves a change of attitude, which comes from small, intentional steps. That is what I keep telling myself with the attitude toward some people in the church toward children. I have been in churches where they actually said “let’s get the kids out of here so it is quiet” Sometimes the church brags about having children’s church for the kids, but it really is for the adults. In my own ministry, I have fought the notion of “keep the cookies in the basement” and “children should be busy during worship so they are not bored.” That drives me crazy because if you give a kid a cookie, he will ask for a glass of milk, sure, but just let them eat it wherever he wants and if you are encountering God in worship, kids will not be bored. We must go beyond children’s church! I often talk with the kids during the sermon or intentionally share something that will connect with them as well. But then again all of that only comes because I take time to be with the kids relationally. More adults need to do this. Talk with kids. Have a snowball fight, go fishing, throw a football around — whatever it takes. Show interest in them and remember their names. It makes what you say much more meaningful to them.
One of the big shifts has been creating a small group that is for families. What I mean is not that we have kids there and they do some sort of craft on their own away from the adults, but we have the kids and adults together the entire time. We play games together, eat a snack, pray together, and talk about what God is doing in our lives. This past time we spent time making notes for the shut-ins in our church and have ministered to them through that. The group teaching is geared at the kids, but the adults find the time to be encouraging for them also. Their kids are talking about God’s Word together! Is this not what the Church is supposed to be?
Perhaps one of the most telling events was our baptism service. We used a water tank for cattle and set it all up outside. This tank was a nice looking pool. That day was a hot day so keeping the kids out of it was very difficult. But after we were done with the baptism, the kids went in, some of them in their clothes. We maintained the respect for what baptism is and made sure we exalted God in it. But once that was over with, it was time to get wet. This is just another piece, I feel, that makes what we are about as the Church authentic and inviting for kids. This is important because if it isn’t authentic and inviting for kids, they will most certainly check out. But if we can get them to understand that the Church is them, now, then perhaps they will grow to be an active part of it.
So, I wonder — are there specific ways your church has tried to connect with children beyond children’s church?
It has been over 6 months since we left the familiar life we had on Cape Cod for a totally new way of life in Southwestern Wisconsin. Let me tell you , it has been a journey. We have found this community to be a huge blessing to us and our kids. We have also had opportunities to meet kids and families in the community that has only proven to make our transition smoother. My kids have developed a working knowledge of crops. “Hey dad, that looks like corn!” or “I think that is soybeans” have become common conversation. When we arrived here they thought that milk was only something that came from the milk store. Now they know what a cow is and will point all of them out when we drive.
This part of Wisconsin is quite scenic and not as flat as most people think. The sunsets are something to enjoy every night and the culture is just more laid back than we had grown accustomed to on Cape Cod. This has made our summer more enjoyable.
I have been able to fish more than I ever did on Cape Cod and we have actually gone to the beach more also. (ironically) The main reason is that it is much easier to get around.
On the flip side, my kids were not used to severe weather. Tornadoes had become such an obsession for my 7-year-old son that he has checked out every book on tornadoes from the library. I showed him slides from my storm spotting class and he has increased his understanding of things like wall clouds and shelf clouds, among other things. This has been fun to see him develop. That all changed a few weeks back when at 10 pm we were hustling our kids from their beds to the basement as a tornado quickly formed just outside of town. Once the kids stopped crying they decided we needed to move somewhere else. Our tornado chaser in training exclaimed “this is the worst day of my life.” Of course I told him “you are young” We only lost the tree in front of our house, but out of town they had true tornado damage.
We are enjoying summer as much as we can because we know that everyday is one day closer to winter. We went canoeing, went to Lambeau Field for a Packer Clinic for the kids, and played some little league.
But God has been so gracious to us and this is very simply my testimony to that. I know God has plans for our family here as we continue to walk forward and I look forward to seeing how it all plays out. In the mean time we are going to enjoy every day because each day is a gift. Make the most of it!