Jump and Wiggle…

When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.
Luke 1:41

22_Dove

Outside of our kitchen window we have two bird feeders set up.  We love to watch the birds come and go and  eat their fill.  Once when we were having breakfast we thought we saw a dove.  As you can imagine we were so excited!  We watched it while we ate.  It hopped and danced around the yard.  It would get food and then go back to it’s happy dance.

Doves are symbols of God’s Holy Spirit.  Lots of people explain the Holy Spirit as God’s work in the world.  Another way to think about the Holy Spirit is that feeling that you get deep inside of you.  You know that feeling – the one where you feel God’s presence and love.

Elizabeth knew that feeling.  When  Mary proclaimed the greatness of God, the baby inside Elizabeth’s tummy wiggled and jumped for joy.  That’s totally understandable isn’t it?  Whenever I hear about how amazing God is – I want to jump around and wiggle with joy.

I am curious.  When do you want to jump and wiggle with joy?  Christmas maybe?  It’s coming soon and we will be filled with the Holy Spirit just like Elizabeth.  And maybe, just maybe the whole world will join us in all the joy.

Building a Family…

When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife.
Matthew 1:24

21_Joseph final

Whenever I think about Joseph I wonder if his hands were rough and calloused.  He was a carpenter or a builder so he was used to working with his hands – building up and tearing down.  Placing things together and binding them so they will stay put for a very long time.  It’s no wonder God chose him to love Mary and Jesus.

When you think about it, God would want someone who knows how to work hard to be his Son’s earthly father.  Fatherhood takes a lot of work.  Motherhood takes a lot of work.  Being a family takes a lot of work.

In your family you have to work hard to build one another up and not tear each other down.  Especially this time of year!  It is so easy to get anxious (remember that word) and start snapping and snarling at each other.  It’s probably good to have reminders like Joseph to help us remember to be patient and loving with one another.

The angel that appeared to Joseph told him “Do not be afraid.”  Whenever I hear that phrase in this story I can’t help but think – don’t be afraid Joseph, your hands are rough and calloused but your heart will never be.  Joseph knew how to build things.  Probably the most important thing he helped build was his family.

You might be curious.  How do you build a family?  Some of the ways you build a family are the following -

Saying nice things to one another.
Forgiving one another when mistakes happen.
Admitting you have made a mistake.
Every time you say I love you.

I am curious – how do you build your family?

 

Letting light seep in…

The people walking in darkness, have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.
Isaiah 9:2

20_candle

When you were little were you afraid of the dark?  I was.

When it was time for bed I would turn off my light, run across my room and fling myself onto the bed and under the covers as fast as I could.  I can still remember the rush of my heartbeat and the fear that would grip my body.  I would hide my head under the covers and curl up into a ball.  Eventually someone would come in to give me a hug or a kiss goodnight and I could rest easy.

I always looked forward to the moment when the door would open and light would seep in.  I always knew someone was coming to comfort me when that would happen.

I hated how my fear of the darkness held me captive every night.  I knew I didn’t need to be afraid but I just couldn’t help it.  I think a lot of people feel that way about darkness.  They are afraid of it and can’t wait for the light to seep in and someone to comfort them.

Isaiah must have known that.  He was a prophet in the Old Testament (first part of the Bible) and sometimes he had to confront people and sometimes he had to comfort them.  Isaiah’s name means “the Lord is salvation” and the book of Isaiah is often referred to as the book of salvation.  Salvation is a fancy-churchy word that means saves.  It is not hard to see why the book of Isaiah is called a book of salvation.  Just listen to the words from Isaiah chapter 9 verse 2  –  The people walking in darkness, have seen a great light;  on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.  And later in verse 6 Isaiah says, For  a child has been born for us, a son given to us, authority rests on his shoulders and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  It is like Isaiah is opening the door for us and letting light seep in.  He is reminding us that Jesus the Messiah is coming and will be here soon.  And when Jesus comes we won’t have to hide under our covers and curl up into a ball.  We will be able to see that the darkness isn’t so scary because the light is so much stronger than the dark.  And Jesus (who Christians call the Light of the world) comes every year to comfort us and let us rest easy.

I am curious.  Why do you think Jesus is called the light of the world?

Scream and Holler

From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the Lord his God.
He said: “In my distress I called to the Lord, and he answered me…
Jonah 2:1
19_Jonah

I am curious.  Have you ever been swimming?
Which is your favorite – swimming at the beach or swimming in a pool?

Both can be tons of fun.  Except when you accidently swallow water.  Ewwww-Yuck! I hate it when that happens! I wonder if the great fish that swallowed Jonah thought that?  Remember the story of Jonah?  The prophet who tried to run away from God but was tossed into the sea and swallowed by a great fish.  If not you can find the humorous version here.

I’ve been thinking about how scary that must have been for Jonah.  Way worse than swallowing too much water.  Maybe like when you swim too far down and have to work really hard to get back up to the surface.  Sometimes you can feel a little panicky and distressed when that happens.  Distress is a pretty big word, isn’t it?  It means pain or anxiety.  Yikes anxiety is a big word too!  Let’s see…

Being distressed is like when you are in your room at night and all snuggly for bed.  Your parents kiss you goodnight and turn off the lights and close your door.  In the dark you think you are seeing things.  Maybe those things remind you of scary monsters or alligators under your bed.  For a moment you panic and want to scream and holler.

I bet that’s what Jonah wanted to do – scream and holler.  Oh wait a minute – that’s what he did do!  Jonah chapter 2 verse 1 says,  From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the Lord his God.  He said: “In my distress I called to the Lord, and he answered me…  Smart Jonah! Not panicking and giving into his distress but calling out to God for help.

I bet that was really comforting to Jonah to call out and pray to God like that.  Can you imagine?  Sitting all alone in the belly of a fish?  I bet it was dark  and smelly.  I imagine there wasn’t a lot of room and even if there was you wouldn’t want to move much.  I imagine it was scary and calling out to God helped Jonah to find comfort.  Like when you call out to your parents when you feel panicky and distressed from being in the dark.  Your parents come and comfort you don’t they?  They turn on the lights, hug you, and talk about the items in your room that looked like scary monsters in the dark but are actually the toys and clothes you should have put away before bed.  ;-)

That is what God does for us when we call out in our distress.  When we pray and call out, God comes and shows us the way and makes us feel loved.  We are not sure exactly how this comfort from God happens (we aren’t God so we can’t really know) but we know that somehow things get better.

I think God’s comfort happens through the people that love God.  They give us hugs and tell us how much we are loved by God.  They remind us about the people of God who cried out when they were scared and turned to God for help – this way we know we are not alone and definitely not the only people who have ever felt anxious and panicky.  God’s comfort also happens through a peaceful feeling that comes when you talk to God.

I am thankful for Jonah and the reminder that it is okay to cry out to God when I am feeling anxious, panicky, or distressed.  I am also thankful for the time to go clean my room!  :-P

Singing the same song…

One of the servants answered, “I have seen a son of Jesse of  Bethlehem who knows how to play the lyre.  He is a brave man and a warrior.  He speaks well and is a fine-looking man. And the Lord is with him.”
1 Samuel 16:18

18_David's Harp

Recently I attended a choir concert.  All of the students involved were around eleven or twelve years old.  They were dressed up and they sounded heavenly.  It was fun to watch the looks on their faces while they were singing.  You could see the look of concentration on their faces and how hard it was for them to stand still and sing.  It looked as if some of them wanted to dance around but knew they shouldn’t.  That must have been really hard – standing still and singing without dancing or swaying or tapping your foot!!!

They were all dressed the same.  The boys were in white tuxedo shirts with cumberbunds and bow ties.  The girls were dressed in long flowing black gowns.   They all looked so royal and impressive.  They obviously had been told to stand a certain way, enter and exit a certain way,hold their arms and heads a certain way.  They looked like a black and white troop of singing angels armed with voices that melt your heart and bring bursts of joy and happiness.  As I watched them I became curious about all their different personalities and talents.

They all looked the same and sounded alike but I know God created us to be unique and diverse.  What is each child like when they are not in choir?  Are some of them gifted musicians like King David?  Are some of them gifted speakers? Comedians? Athletes? Students?

We are all created by God and made to be special.  King David was special and had some pretty cool qualities – he was brave (remember when he fought the giant) and he was talented (he played music for King Saul) and faithful (he waited a pretty long time before he became king.) David’s story reminds me that God created each and every person with special qualities and talents.  I was also reminded of this at the concert.  As I listened to the beautiful music and I looked at the diverse faces I knew that I was seeing a glimpse of the world as God intended – voices singing the same song and God’s children standing together yet somehow all the differences and unique qualities were present too.

I am curious.  What special qualities do you have?  What are your talents?

Thank you for all the animals and little birds

But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you.
Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay.
Your people will be my people and your God my God.”
Ruth 1:16
17_Ruth final

I am curious.
Do you ever think about what people teach you?
Okay there is the obvious  -
Teachers teach you about math, science, english, reading, etc.
Coaches teach you all about sports like soccer and basketball.
Music teachers help you learn the piano, guitar, and how to sing.

What I am really curious about is whether or not the regular people in our lives (like our family and friends) teach us things.  I think they do.  Whether they realize it or not.

Ruth taught Naomi about loyalty and love.  You can read about Ruth and Naomi here or watch this silly video here.

Ruth said to her Mother-in-law Naomi “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.”  Ruth stayed with Naomi and loved her and cared for her.  Isn’t that amazing?  Ruth was Naomi’s daughter-in-law and didn’t have to stay.

I am thinking Naomi witnessed (a fancy churchy way of saying teaches through words and actions) the love of God through her willingness to stay with Naomi and take care of her.  Ruth went into the fields and took up the stray grains that would feed them.  Can you imagine someone caring for you so much they would go hunt for food for you?

There are tons of little things we are taught everyday.  There are the things we notice like how to tie shoes, ride bikes, play scrabble, and how to walk the dog. But there are also the things we don’t pay much attention to like how to cook dinner, grocery shop, clean our rooms, sweep the floor, be patient with one another, argue in a loving way, read the bible, pray, and on and on and on the list goes.  Yes… there are tons of things we are taught every day and we don’t even realize it!

You might be curious how I know this is true.

Well one time a loooong time ago it occurred to me that my children were praying a prayer I did not teach them.  They would pray a grace before meals -

“God is Great, God is Good; Let us thank Him for our food.
By His hands we all are fed, Give us Lord our Daily Bread.
And thank you for all the animals and little birds. Amen.”

 I never prayed the part about the animals and birds – where did they learn that?  To my surprise their grandma taught them that part of the prayer!

They learned to pray for and care about the animals through the time they spent with their grandma.  She loves animals so much that she has witnessed to her grandchildren that it is important to care for and protect God’s critters.  They learned that from her not me – I am totally afraid of critters!  Over time they have learned that God loves the earth and all God’s creatures (especially the animals) by the witness of care for animals through their grandma’s prayer, her work at the animal shelter and her fostering of cats.

I am curious what else my children have learned about God through other people.   And I am seriously curious about  all the new things they will teach me about God’s love and care!!!

That’s Not Fair!

Moses called together the people of Israel and said:  Today I am telling you the laws and teachings that you must follow, so listen carefully.  Deuteronomy 5:1

16_Ten Commandments

I am curious.
Have you ever hollered out “That’s not fair” during a game?

I once saw a group of boys holler at each other through an entire game of basketball.  They kept yelling “That’s not fair” over and over and over again.  Eventually they were so mad at each other I thought they were going to start physically fighting – fists and all!    I tried to help so I asked them what was up.  One team said the other side was cheating and of course the other team said the first group of boys were cheaters.  I couldn’t help much.  All I could do was listen and try to calm them down because I didn’t know the rules and regulations of basketball.  It was a very, very frustrating experience for all of us!!!

I wish I had known how to play basketball so I could have been more helpful and reminded them how to play the game .  It makes me think about how important the Ten Commandments are to people.  Now they aren’t really rules or regulations.  The commandments are more like ways of living.  They are God’s words to us that help us so we don’t holller and scream  and physically fight.  They are God’s words to us that help us to love God more.    They help us by setting some expectations (a fancy way of saying things we are meant to do)  for our lives.  Here is a summary of them but you can find a much better list here.

Love God.
Make God the most important thing in your entire life.
Always respect  God’s name.
Honor God and yourself by taking a day of rest.
Respect your parents.
Don’t hurt anyone.
Always be faithful to your husband or wife.
Don’t take things that don’t belong to you.
Tell the truth.
Be happy with what you already have.

These are some pretty good words to live by.  Hard ones to live by too.  I think they are worth learning and knowing.  You never know when you might overhear a group of guys hollering “That’s not fair” in the game of life and you might need to help them!!!

You’ve got a family in me.

John answered them all, “I baptize you with water.  But one who is more powerful than I will come… He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.  Luke 3:16

15_baptism

I am curious.
Do you have a favorite toy?  Or two?  Or twenty?
Whenever I think about my toys from when I am a little girl, I am reminded that I loved them.  They were like my friends and I just knew they loved me right back. 

Some people might think that is kind of silly.  But not everyone does.  They made a fun movie for kids out of that topic – Toy Story.  Come to think of it they made 3 movies out of the idea that toys love us right back!  I love all of the Toy Story movies – 1, 2, and 3. 

One of my favorite scenes is in Toy Story 2. Here is the clip if you are interested - it is one of the many epic Woody and Buzz argument moments.  I love the way Buzz reminds Woody what he was created for – to be loved and love a kid.  Woody is stubborn and refuses to go, sits down and wipes his boot off and sees Andy’s name on the bottom of his boot. Woody remembers who he belongs to and what his purpose is. 

I imagine on the day we were baptized God put his name on us.  It is at our baptism that God adopts us into his family.  We are sprinkled with water to remind us that God created the world, the Israelites (God’s chosen people) were led through the sea to the promised land, and Jesus was baptized with water by John.  When the priest marks the sign of the cross on our forehead with the special oil (chrism- yup very fancy name for holy oil) Jesus has marked us as  his own forever and ever and ever.   

John the Baptist reminds us of our baptism.  He reminds us when we are baptized we belong to Jesus Christ and that is super special!  Special like knowing that you are made to love and be loved like Woody and Buzz and your favorite toy.  Special like we belong to God and are part of God’s family.  Special like because we are family we can always remind one another that we are made to love one another and be loved. 

So in case you forgot – you are loved by God. Go and love others.

 

“Here I Am.”

When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!”  And Moses said, “Here I am.”
Exodus 3:4

14_burning bush

I am curious.
Have you ever been afraid of change?  I don’t mean pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters chasing you and saying boo.  I mean the kind of change where something happens and you are different.

Moses experienced that kind of change.  He was feeding his father-in-law’s flock and went to Horeb, the Mountain of God.  While he was there he came across a bush that appeared to be covered with fire but was not burning up.  He also heard God’s voice calling him.  God wanted Moses to bring his people out of Egypt and to a better place.  Moses wasn’t so sure about this.  God told Moses that he would be with him.   Moses and God discussed this for quite a while.  Moses was afraid and full of doubt.  But Moses also ended up doing what God wanted.  Moses was changed over time by his experience with God and through his leading God’s people.

This kind of change is called transformation.  I know, another fancy-schmancy word!  But using it reminds us that our relationship with God is special.  Seeing a burning bush is pretty special.  Hearing God’s voice is pretty special.  And both can change you!

Whenever we meet God we are transformed.  We probably don’t notice the change but it is happening.  Transformation happens over time.  It happened to Moses and it happens to you too.

You might be curious and thinking – what does that look like for me?  I don’t see burning bushes and notice God’s voice.  How do I know if I am changing – being transformed? Well, it might look a little like this…

You are out for a walk in the park and you notice a beautiful flower.  You smile and think the world is so beautiful and your heart becomes full of love for all the trees, the grass, the flowers, and squirrels around you.  As you continue to walk you notice some trash on the ground.  You think – how dreadful! That is not okay to do to God’s world! And so you decide to clean up.  You don’t normally like to clean but surprise, today it is really important!  You have been changed – transformed into caring about the world around you.

I can think of a few more examples but that would be just too much to read!  I would much rather hear about your thoughts on how God is transforming you.  I’ll just bet you have some interesting stories.  And you know,   you don’t have to be afraid to tell – I won’t doubt you.  I know God is with you leading you to transform the world all around you.  God is with you leading you to say (just like Moses) “Here I am.”

Dream about God…

Now Israel loved Joseph more than any of his other sons, because he had been born to him in his old age; and he made an ornate robe for him.
Genesis 37:3

13_Joseph

It doesn’t seem right to post the blog I had planned for today.

Many people are feeling sad today.  Sometimes, I am sad to say, people can do terrible things to one another. 

Joseph from the Old Testament knew all about terrible things.  His brothers were not very fond of him – in fact they hated him.  They betrayed him (a fancy way of saying hurt him) and got caught up in their hatred.  I am not sure why they hated him.  Maybe they were jealous of the relationship he had with his dad – after all his dad gave him a special coat.  Maybe they were jealous because he had special gifts he used.  Maybe they were just unhappy and angry.  I don’t know why they were filled with hate but they were.  I don’t know why people are filled with hate.  But sometimes it happens.

But I don’t think the story of Joseph is just about hate.  I think it is about how God never leaves us and wants to be with us.  Somehow God was with Joseph through the good times and in the bad.  Joseph had a gift.  He was able to dream and tell of God through these dreams.  Maybe that is what the story teaches us – dream about God.

Joseph was also able to listen to other people and hear about their dreams.  Sometimes those dreams were about good things and sometimes they were not so good.  Joseph listened – and God was with him through it all.

Let’s pray, 


Dear God,
Please be with all people today.
Let our smiles comfort people who are sad.
Let our hearts be filled with love for all your people.
Let our minds dream about you.
Bless us with peace so we can know you are with us always.
Amen.