Tag Archives: Children

Chasing After Baptism

Grace Amelia's Baptism  140330 croppedLast evening my second grandchild, Grace Amelia Keller, was baptized. It was a big celebration with aunts, uncles, grandparents and friends rejoicing in a new child of God. When my first grandchild, Jack, was baptized I reflected on the significance of baptism here.  Last night I was struck with a whole new perspective.

Grace Amelia's Baptism  140330  John Crosby croppedBefore the baptism, Pastor John Crosby gave some instruction to the gathered congregation regarding baptism. He emphasized the role each of them has in modeling and teaching the faith to Grace. At one point he said, “And if Grace is running down the halls of the church, you should be chasing after her.” I am not sure exactly what he meant by that image of running and chasing, but I immediately flashed back to my own son, Jonathan, father of Grace, running up and down the halls of the church when he was a toddler.

Children do a lot of running and exploring. Last night after the baptism, Jack and his friend Lily were both running/toddling/crawling about the church, exploring every nook and cranny. They wanted to see all the musical instruments, the doorways and pews. In an earlier age, I might have discouraged such behavior in “God’s House,” since it seemed disrespectful. Today I encourage it as children seek through exploration to understand their environment. They have not become jaded or apathetic about church space.

Our congregation’s Easter postcard (inviting new residents to Easter worship) is simple this year. It is a young child running with joy in a park. In John 20:4 Peter and John race to the empty tomb after hearing Mary’s report of it being empty. They ran with joy and excitement.Easter 2014

Maybe that is why we need to chase Grace and other children down the halls of the church. Not so much to stop them or to keep them safe and quiet. Rather that we might capture their childlike enthusiasm of exploring the sacred. To find Jesus. After all we are all children of God. Together lets run to see him.

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” (Luke 18:16-17)

In what ways do you think we should receive the kingdom like a little child?

Lord Jesus, create in me a child’s desire to run after you.

Bible Camps still needed?

campwapo_bannerThis week I have invested my time and energy with the children and youth of Resurrection Lutheran Church. I have been at Camp Wapogassett near Amery, Wisconsin. The children and youth here love to  play large group games, sing and dance at campfire, hang with friends and be in an intentional, intensive Christian community.

Part of each day is devoted t0 studying the Bible as a cabin group. Though this may not be a child’s favorite part of the week, it is still a crucial part. After all, Wapo is a Lutheran BIBLE camp. There is a purpose to having our children and youth grounded in the stories and teachings of this ancient book.

When I was in college, I served as a camp counselor at a Lutheran Bible camp in Washington State. The program director one summer was a psychologist who was skeptical of the value in spending time each day in studying God’s Word. He thought we would be better off simply focusing on human relationships and how we love and care for one another in meaningful ways. He was a persuasive individual and he did help us see the value in building healthy relationships with the campers and each other.

Yet some of us challenged his assumption that spending time in the Bible was unproductive. We reminded him that our Christian love for one another is shaped and nurtured by God’s love for us. Without the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ, our love can become sentimental and weak. Most of us were camp counselors because we had experienced God’s love in a powerful way through God’s Word. The Bible had touched our lives and so in turn, we want to share that “good news” with the children and youth who came to camp. I continue to see that same enthusiasm among the many counselors at Camp Wapo.

I recognize that taking time to study God’s word can seem boring to a child when there are nine-square games, swimming beaches and gaga pits just beyond the cabin walls. Still the very act of studying and discussing the stories of Bible plants the seeds of faithful living. I rejoice that we still have Lutheran BIBLE camps.

In what ways has Bible Camp touched your life?

Lord Jesus, bless and guide our Lutheran Bible Camps and their staff.

Praise and The PIT

PRAISE is the theme of our Vacation Bible Adventure at Resurrection. We are using curriculum developed by the Go Fish Guys, a contemporary Christian band that creates children’s music. The curriculum has great videos that energize the children to dance and sing as they praise God.

As a pastor, I enjoy watching the children and youth/adult leaders jump and clap, move and groove to the strong beat of praise. On occasion I have joined them in the dance, but I try to save my energy for later in the morning.

After the large group opening praise session, the children scatter in small groups to four different stations: games, crafts, snacks and Bible story. I have the joy of leading the Bible stories. Just as Go Fish are strongest when singing and praising God, my strength centers in finding creative ways to tell the Bible stories.

The PITAll the stories this year revolve around praising God in difficult times. A central motif in each story is The PIT. Shadrack, Meshack and Abednego faced The PIT of the fiery furnace in Daniel 3. Daniel has to enter The PIT of the lions’ den in Daniel 6. Paul and Silas praise God while be in The PIT of the Philippian jail in Acts 16. And Jesus give us reason to praise when he entered The PIT of death and rose again to give us life. The PIT cannot keep us from praising God.

Each of us enter The PIT at times. It may be a bad choice we have made or it may circumstances beyond our control. The PIT can be a broken relationship, a chronic illness, unemployment or despair. When we enter The PIT we may call out for God to rescue us. We may lament and call out like the psalmist, “My God, My God why have you forsaken me?” (Psalm 22) The PIT can be very real and very dark.

PraiseHowever The PIT is only for a season. The practice of praise can give us strength to face The PIT while trusting God. At some point God releases us from our despair. The relationship is mended, the sickness healed, the job found. Jesus’ resurrection promises that even The PIT of death will be overcome. At that point do we remember to praise God? Do we remember to dance and sing with others in worship of the one who rescues us?

Thanks, Jesus, for teaching me to dance and sing with your children.

A Child’s Christmas

Christmas is often associated with children. Santa Claus, flying reindeer and elves combine to make it a child’s fantasy. Like many children I grew up with many deep memories and traditions surrounding the holidays, from staring at the Sear’s toy catalogs to rushing down the hall to open presents. Even as an adult, I catch myself trying to recapture some of the magic of my childhood Christmas’ memories.

ChristmasPageant2011Of course the Biblical story of Christmas adds to that child focus. Though most of the characters are adults (Joseph, shepherds, wise men) the two central characters are Mary, a young adolescent peasant girl, and Jesus, her new born infant. And the unique setting of his birth, a cowshed, provides a wonderful setting for a pageant.

I grew up participating in many Christmas church pageants. I read the lines of Gabriel, the angel, and in my father’s bathrobe I walked with Mary to the manger. In later years, as a pastor, I wrote and preformed Christmas plays that incorporated my own children in the story.  A favorite Christmas memory of mine was when my three children dressed up on Christmas morning to retell the story in their own words.

My daughter this morning shared a link of YouTube Video that retells the Christmas story from a child’s perspective. It has plenty of Biblical inaccuracies, but it captures the joy and wonder of Christmas.

You can watch the video here:  http://youtu.be/zduwusyip8M

Remember, it was Jesus who told his disciples, “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs.” Mark 10:14.

Lord Jesus, restore within me a child-like trust in you.

Christmas Peace

Christmas Children and PresentsI normally add a picture after I write my post, but today is different. The picture above became my inspiration. I was struck by the serene, peaceful aura of each child as they opened a Christmas present. This is obviously a stock photo of an idealized Christmas morning, especially how the little girl is observing her brother as he opens his package. It is what families hope for, but somehow it is appears too surreal to be true.

None of my siblings did that with me when I opened a present and I don’t remember it happening with my children either. We did take turns; it was not a free for all. Still the rapt attention the girl gives to her brother is off the charts. I bet they ate their Christmas oatmeal and made their beds before they started opening presents.

But there is something else that caught my attention. It is the bookshelf behind them. I always like a well-stocked bookshelf. That made me wonder if the children know the Biblical story of Christmas: the birth of Jesus, the shepherds in the field, the angelic announcement.

“Behold I bring good news of great joy for all people; for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior.” (Luke 2:11).

What troubles me is that this idealized picture does not need a savior. The kids are angelic already. Now it is simple a moment caught in the lens. Who knows if chaos erupted immediately after the present was opened.  I wonder if there is a Nerf gun inside.

Now I hope your Christmas morning is peaceful and joyous. I pray that your children, grandchildren, cousins, or siblings experience a special moment of Christmas love and cheer. But remember, even if chaos reigns, a Savior has been born. One who comes to rescue us from our self-centered ways. And that might be the best gift of all.

Lord Jesus, come.

Playing during Worship

Yesterday during worship, I pitched my small backpacking tent as part of the children’s sermon. I wanted to communicate the ancient Israelite experience of the tabernacle or tent of meeting as being portable. I had practiced setting it up prior to the message and thought I had it ready to go. But my practice session was outside with plenty of space. Inside on Sunday, it was a different story.

The poles are very long, even for a small tent. I was concerned that none of the children be struck by the poles, but I forgot to warn our musicians. As I whipped one pole around to insert into the tent sleeve, I nearly blinded the pianist. Fortunately she has quick hands and avoided any serious damage. I was sweating bullets until the tent finally popped up. After the tent was up I placed our altar Bible in the tent as a reminder of the ark of the covenant which rested inside Israel’s tabernacle.

Of course I wonder if the children made the connection between the Biblical story and our brief experience with a small backpacking tent. Hard to judge. Yet for a moment I saw in their faces a moment of astonishment or surprise when the tent “popped” up. I remember creating tents as a child out of blankets, chairs and small tables. It was a form of play that I enjoyed. I wonder if we had a brief moment of “play” in worship yesterday as the tent sprang up and later as the children walked through it.

In seminary, I remember reading an essay regarding worship, work and play. The article suggested that we sometime confuse the three: we tend to worship work, to work at play, and to play at worship. People often overstress their careers, become too competitive at their leisure activities, and behave lackadaisical at worship. We forget that worship is entering the holy presence of Almighty God.

Still the “play” moment in worship yesterday had a bit of awe and wonder within it. And I trust that God delighted in the children’s joy. I sure did.

How do you sort out work, play and worship?

Lord Jesus, let me find my purpose, my joy, my life in you.

Teach Your Children Well

I am amazed that God’s first act of his Creation Recovery Plan is the birth of a child. (Genesis 12:1-3). God will rescue humanity through humanity. There is something humorous, laughable even, to think that a child could save the world. It was a good thing that Isaac name was linked to laughter (Genesis 18:12-15). Yet the birth of Isaac to Abraham and Sarah will eventually lead to the birth of Jesus to Mary and Joseph.

Children continue to be a prime focus of God’s plan of redeeming the world. Resurrection Lutheran Church has made the faith formation of children a central component of our mission. We will continue that in the years and decades to come. Each generation needs to inspire and educate the next.

Centuries after Abraham and Isaac’s death, Moses was instructed by God to teach God’s word to the Abraham’s descendants.

You shall put these words of mine in your heart and soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and fix them as an emblem on your forehead. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, so that your days and the days of your children may be multiplied in the land that the Lord swore to your ancestors to give them, as long as the heavens are above the earth. Deuteronomy 11:18-21

Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young sing a song about teaching our children,

Teach your children well, their father’s hell did slowly go by,
And feed them on your dreams,
the one they picked, the one you’re known by.
Don’t you ever ask them why, if they told you you would cry,
So just look at them and sigh and know they love you.

In my own experience, my parent’s “dream” was to follow Jesus. They brought me to church, taught me to pray and to trust in Jesus. And for this I love them.  And my wife and I are called to do the same. Children deeply matter to God.

How are you passing the faith to the next generation?

Lord Jesus, help me to teach our children well.

Teach Your Children Well

Yesterday’s post reminded me of the importance of teaching our children well.  They are watching everything we do, even at church.

A family was riding home from church one afternoon and the father was complaining about the pastor going past the noon hour and the fact that he has missed the first inning of his favorite team.  The daughter was distraught with the fact that her boyfriend sat in a row with another young lady and the mom was commenting on what she thought was the poor quality of some members of the worship band.  After a couple of moments of silence the little six year old brother commented from the corner in the back seat “Well, I thought it was a pretty good show for a buck”.

Son Jonathan and I hiking

Parents remain the primary teachers for our children.  What I value as a dad has certainly influenced my children.  I know that my son learned to enjoy camping, hiking and backpacking primarily because he and I would spend a week camping every summer during his childhood.  It was something my father passed on to me and I have shared with my son.   I also know that my children highly value their education because my wife stressed its importance from an early age.  She was constantly seeking ways to enhance their learning beyond the classroom, helping each child reach his or her full potential.

The same is true for spiritual formation, from prayer to Bible reading, from stewardship of finances to volunteering.  As parents we are the primary models of what it means to follow Jesus Christ.  Our words and actions are being watched each Sunday morning as well as the rest of the week.  Are we being models that reflect God’s grace and power?

Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.  Recite these words to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away. Deut. 6: 4-7

O God, giver of all life, provide wisdom and encouragement to all mothers and fathers. Make them teachers and examples of righteousness for their children.  Let their light shine brightly so that their children can discover the path to you, our Lord and Savior

Entering the Story

Children's Christmas Program

Sunday afternoon was Resurrection Children’s Christmas program.  In spite of the snow and cold, families made the trek to our “Bethlehem Marketplace” and then participated in the retelling of the Christmas story.  Children were dressed as angels, shepherds, stars, sheep, wise men as well as Mary and Joseph.  The stable of Bethlehem was filled with life.

Families have been attending Christmas programs for generations. I remember being a wiseman as a child (some might joke that it was my one-time experience); I hope someday to see my future grandchildren being shepherds or sheep. Christmas programs allow all of us to enter into the story of Christ’s birth and to experience the wonder and surprise within it.   Too often we treat the stories of the Bible as abstract history lessons that are dusty and dull.   To act out the story helps it come alive and fresh, filled with truth, hope and love.

 Haddon Robinson, a noted evangelical preacher, did many of his sermons as a first person narrative.  He said recently, “You can take that story from the point of view of one of the characters and tell it. You don’t have to be a great actor. It’s amazing how interesting it is for people to hear somebody who as a character relives that story. In our day it can make a great impact.” http://www.preaching.com/resources/articles/11565763/page-4/

This Christmas eve I will be retelling the Christmas story in a first person narrative.  It will be my first at Resurrection, but I rejoice that the children have prepared the way.