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Posts Tagged ‘Church’

It’s true!images-3

I shot my students!

(even a few who are not my students)

And they LOVED it!

And they even shot me back!

Of course we were playing Lazer Tag, so the shooting was all on the up and up 😉 .

It was an event birthed in the repeated conversations between a pair of students (could there be a better place to birth an event for students?). Then one day, I heard one of the students mention it to their mom …

and I saw the ‘look’ …

the look that wordlessly said,

“I have put this off too long, but I have so much on my plate …”

When my children have friends over, my life becomes easier, for many with children with special needs, having a friend over can be more planning, more work, more exhaustive.

Months ago I had written a previous post of these “Moms That I Admire“, and in that mom’s facial expression of ‘momma guilt’ I was reminded again of how very heavy the burden of raising a child with special needs can be.

I was also reminded of a line from the child dedication ceremony that my hubby has led many a congregation in:

“Will you, upon hearing the commitments made by these parents, do your utmost as God gives you opportunity, to ensure the fulfillment of these promises and seek to encourage, support and be faithful to these parents and this family?”

The correct response is “we do” or “we will”

Back to these “Moms That I Admire” …

As the momma-guilt look showed all over this lovely but weighted down parent, the commitment from these child dedication ceremonies reminded me that part of our task … as Christ-followers … as friends … as schools, is to come alongside of these families. These families raising a child with special needs, need the support of His people, His churches and schools named for His Son to do the job well.

And I thought, “wouldn’t it be great to support these two families in a practical way.” So, the dreaming began. Then the dreaming was shared with a co-worker, and we began to run with it!

In the end, my co-worker and I, along with twelve students (half deemed ‘special ed.’ and half not or ), and a school alumni, left school at noon on a Friday , leaving their classmates to snooze through their afternoon classes. We donned the vests of the battle, issued mortal threats, complete with evil laughs, chose code names, then we marched off to battle.

An hour and a half later, sweaty and sticky (and stinky) … and laughing with great memories made, we headed for Slurpies, then a slow drive back to school … we didn’t want to get back too early … that would have meant having to return to classes!

You might be asking, “so, Carole, what academic benefit was there from this event?”

To which I would reply, “none.”

But the goal was NOT academic, it was purely social skills.

About half of the students are designated ‘special education’ students, and learning the skills to be socially acceptable in the larger society is a main factor in their learning (of course if anyone walks the halls of any high school, the majority of students might seem to need social skills learning … heck, if anyone were to walk into the staff room … but, I digress 😉 ). The best place to teach and reinforce these skills is in a true social setting, not in a classroom.

These students got to talk, interact, laugh and observe their more ‘typical’ peers in a social setting. There was no ‘us’ and ‘them’ that day, only ‘we’. The ‘typical’ students got to be noticed for the intrinsic way that they already care for their peers … a ‘thank-you’ that most probably did not feel necessary, as they are who they are because that is how they have responded to God’s call to “love their neighbor, classmate, as themselves” (Mark 12:31). These ‘typical’ students were chosen by their ‘not so typical’ peers … no higher praise could be earned!

I cannot wait to see and hear the interactions, and rehashing of memories next week in the halls and classrooms of school.

My favorite part was when my co-worker recounted the words of one of the boys, who said something to the effect of, “I think I will remember this for an exceptionally long time.”

I hope he does, I know I will too.

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When I got married to my hubby, there were two people who wondered aloud about the life (as a pastor’s wife) that I was entering. But I was young, in love, and there was nothing that we could not survive, as long as we were together!

It did not take long to realize that this life had it challenges, but it also had amazing blessings. Our life is designed around the challenge of making the life of Christ one that others want to follow, in a deeper, more sincere way. Along with that, much of our mutual desire is to help those who have been hurt, deceived, or ignored by other Christ followers see that we are not all like that, and that the One we follow is not in the business of hurting, deceiving or ignoring.

Through the years we have added three kids to our family, and as our kids they were born into the title of Pastors Kids PKs). There were negatives like having a busy dad (who has made a commitment to not miss the important events of their lives) and a life where everyone in the church knows you (but often that has meant the blessing of many dear people who pray for them), but I really did not see PK as a negative stereotype for our kids.

Our kids, like their peers (and their parents), have moments when they blow it royally, but they do so not because they are PKs, but because they are fully human.

The reality of our life in the church means that they know things others in the church do not. Things that we sometimes do not want anyone exposed to, especially them. Things like times when their dad has been spoken of derogatorily, or when their mother has been hurt. They have experienced the social ‘shunning’ by peers whose parents do not support the work of their dad. Then there are the times when they have been the center of the negative conversation, and a ‘friend’ has relayed the conversation to them (without any mention of defending them at the time). They know the discouragement and disappointment that ‘serving’ God in ministry can mean.

God has given us such a beautiful life, and we have laid down our lives for the sake of this ministry. But God has given us the beautiful responsibility of introducing His love to two daughters and one son, and that is a responsibility I will never sacrifice.

So, I do what other mothers may shudder to consider. When our children reach high school, I sit them down and explain that I want them to know the freedom of Christ without the confines of the title they were born with. I tell them that we, their parents, have no expectation that they will choose our church as their church. And then, I encourage them to …

GO!
-to a church where they choose
-to a church where they are ‘just’ another believer
-to a church where they can serve simply because they feel compelled
-to a church where the style of worship encourages them to worship
-to a church where the delivery of the message feeds them

“go into the world, and tell everyone the Good News” (Mark 16:15).

That is the most important message I can give them … that, and wings so that they can choose to fly.

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The guest post today is from a blogger I have guested here not that long ago. This particular post made me consider how important it is to be aware of the movements and trends in society when we are involved in a church.

This Holy Soup post by Thom Shultz discusses the ‘Seeker Sensitive’ movement in churches in the last generation or more.

After reading this post I did a little research, and learned a few things about this movement that I did not know before. For instance, the seeker sensitive movement has been closely associated with the mega-churches, primarily in North America, who have modeled their worship services on other ‘entertainment’ that interests society as a whole, as a means of attracting non-church-ed people.

What I did realize about the seeker-sensitive movement is that of the desire to make church appealing to those for whom going to church is foreign.

This is not a bad thing, not at all! Certainly if someone enters the doors of a church they should be warmly welcomed, not looked at from afar with curiosity. No visitor should enter the doors of a church, and leave afterwords without someone at least greeting them. After all, as Christians, we would all agree that our purpose is the Great Commission (the instruction from Jesus to spread his teachings to the world), and we really cannot do that without relationship. How fortunate we Christians are when that world walks right through our doors.

What this post from Thom Shultz is saying is that maybe their are fewer seekers than we previously thought? Maybe we have created and re-created our worship for seekers who are no longer seeking?

Personally, I think our world will always have seekers. In the words of the French mathematician, physicist, inventor, writer and Christian philosopher Blaise Pascal, “there is a God shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator, made known through Jesus.” And that “God shaped vacuum” will keep people seeking … they just might not be seeking in churches.

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I was first introduced to Thom Schultz back in the day when hubby was still working in youth ministry. Hubby was very influenced by Mr. Schultz, and he was foundational in how hubby saw youth, their families and the church. This rubbed off on me, and I have appreciated his wit, wisdom and resources over the years in everything from Sunday nursery to ladies groups. Even now, working as an Educational Assistant in a high school, I am eager for newsletters from Thom, as they never fail to educate me, and make me think.

Thom is a writer of at least a dozen books, books about children, youth, teens and the christian church. He is founder of Group Publishing (resources for children, youth and teen church ministry), as well as the more newly founded Lifestyle Cafe (to quote their website “it’s a “conversation café”-a place and time for people to gather weekly to experience stories and talk about thought-provoking topics relating to life and faith”).

He also has a great blog HolySoup and this particular post was one that I thought worth sharing with my readers.

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So, I went to church on Sunday (that is pretty normal), and I got heck from someone!

Let me set the scene. This particular Sunday, those involved in the various areas of Christian education (kids club teachers, small group leaders, etc) were being prayed for. Those people were asked to stand, to show the congregation who was being prayed for. Then, the leader asked anyone who is a teacher in a school to stand, as well. After that, more people stood, and then they prayed.

It was then that I got a bruising elbow to my ribcage. My daughter, sitting beside me, then whispers, “you are a teacher, why didn’t you stand up?” To which I answered, “honey, I am not a teacher, and you need to consider a future in football!” “Mom, you teach people every day, you are a teacher, and you should be standing.”

What is a teacher? Dictionaries will tell you a teacher is someone who teaches, or a person who educates students. I guess, by those definitions I am a teacher, but that is not my ‘title’, officially, or in my heart.

My title is Educational Assistant, and it is a role I love. But, I have to be honest, what I am paid to do is not as important as what I feel called to do. For me, whether teaching my daughter to paint furniture, or teaching “Lifeskills” to a student at school, I am called to do it with the heart of a mother. It is from that calling that I do pretty much everything else.

Years ago, when I was pregnant with our eldest daughter, I was also working in a home for disabled adults. There were up to five living in this home, and as an employee I was responsible for everything from personal care, to making meals, to housecleaning, to planning and taking them to social events. My title was Residential Care Aide. I loved my job, and the people I cared for.

Then I had my baby girl.

When I returned to work, six months later, everything was different. All of a sudden, those five residents had become the sons and daughter of someone. It felt as though my eyes were opened to seeing them in a new way, as new creations. Even though most of them had no contact with their families, even though most had given their children over to the care of the province, they were the adult children of someone.

I would go to work after having had a snuggle with my daughter, breathing in her baby scent, and see a man in his fifties, not as the stinky, non verbal, man that I had known before my giving birth, but a man who one day was snuggled by his mother, who too had enjoyed his baby scent.

Or, I would leave home after having cleaned up the over-turned plant that my daughter pushed over from the curiosity of toddler-hood, and see the young woman, not with just mischief in her eyes, but wonder for how things work.

The people who I assisted with life did not change one bit, in the six months I was gone from work, but I had. I had become a mother. I had truly labored her into the world, and as she was being born into this world, I was being born as a new creation, a mother.

Ever since that day, I have been changed. I cannot turn off my title as mother. I cannot take a vacation or decide to quit. I cannot trade it in for a new title. And every other title I might have (Educational Assistant or Teacher) pales in comparison. But, in being a mother, my ability to fulfill those other roles is enlightened, improved and fulfilled with more purpose than I ever could have imagined.

I might never stand when teachers are asked to stand, but ask for mothers to get to their feet, and I’m the first one up!

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Woohoo! It was a summer Sunday and I got to skip church, and go to the beach! Could life get better? Sun, sand, surf, and an endless horizon.Okay, so maybe it wasn’t quite like that. As a matter of fact there was no sun, not even blue sky. It looked like it might rain at any moment. It was cool, and breezy, and the forecast even had thunder and lightening in it.

I also did not get to skip church.

A twelve-year old friend of my son had invited us to a church service and to his baptism. We arrived, late, but thankfully the service had not yet begun. So, donning our flip flops and opening our camp chairs, we settled in to an outdoor sanctuary (my person favorite).

I cannot remember the songs that were sung. I do remember that the pastor talked about John the Baptist, baptizing Jesus, then his time of being tempted in the desert.

Matthew 3 tells this story.

John the Baptist wore clothes made of camel hair, and he ate locusts and honey … and I am pretty sure there was no chocolate to make the locusts go down easier! He also had just emerged from quite a while in the wilderness, so he probably was quite … naturally scented. If he were here today, he would probably go by ‘Johnny’, and most would see him as the equivalent of a hippie.

His message was, “repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” (v.2)

Then his cousin Jesus, who once set his feet to dancing while in-utero (John Lept), came to the river, and asked John to baptize him too. John was not so cool with that, as he felt way to under-qualified to do the deed. But, since Jesus is Jesus, John consented.

Now, back at MY beach: each of the three who chose to be baptized stood, spoke about why they wanted to be baptized, then whoever wanted to could go up, lay hands on them, and pray for them. It was pretty meaningful as friends, grandparents, and mentors spoke words of thanks, words of affirmation and words of blessing to God, on their behalf.

My son’s friend shared of how a close family tragedy made him look more seriously at his life. His words, though those of a twelve year old, were ones that reflected insight, awareness and desire for what he was choosing to do.

I am sure there were tears in every eye … I just couldn’t see them through my own.

Then people were invited to come and pray for him. His grandfather prayed, another youth prayed, then a familiar voice … that of my son. He spoke to our God as one who knows Him, intimately. He spoke as one who knows his friend, and who wants the very best for his buddy.

… and more tears were shed.

Then we all made our way to the water, where one by one, the three completed their public profession of a life committed to living with Christ, with an endless horizon as their backdrop.

… and more tears were shed.

As my son’s friend came to the edge of the water his mother hugged him, as did his father, who said, “I am proud of you, son” (or something very similar).

Oh, and the rest of the story from Matthew 3 …

“As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” (v. 16-17)

An endless horizon.

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These words come from God, in Exodus 9:1, when he told Moses that he needed to declare (not request) to Pharaoh, “Let my people go!” Now the people God was referring to were the Israelite people who Pharaoh had been using as the equivalent to pack mules, working in fields, building the kingdom for a king who seemed to forget that they were the majority people group in his land. It could be said that the Israelite people were singing “another brick in the wall,” (Pink Floyd) with all the brick making they were to do.

The words God instructed to Moses came into my thoughts the other night when I attended church with my eldest daughter. She has been attending a different church, of a different denomination from us, for over a year now. I was eager to go with her to church, to worship together, and to see her in her ‘own place.’

I am a strange mother, when it comes to church. I tell my kids, once they are in middle school, that they are free to attend any youth group, of a Christian church, that they choose. I tell them they are free to attend, or not attend, the youth programming at our own church. All that I ask is that they go, and participate in a youth program, on a regular basis.

I am stranger still, because hubby (aka. their dad) is a pastor of a church.

He has also been a youth pastor, many years ago. From that experience, he, and we have come to understand that our kids experiences with God and church do not have to be isolated to where we attend (and where their dad works). It is far more important to both of us that our kids worship and serve sincerely than to worship and serve with us, just because WE want them with us. We want them to never think that God is only where we are. We want them to see God as there for them, as individuals, not through the experiences and choices of us, as parents.

Over the years we have worked intentionally in broadening our kids experiences of church, and christianity. When hubby is off, we attend other churches, of varying denominations, of varying worship styles, and of varying means of expression. We have encouraged awareness to things of the christian sub culture (music, literature, camps, missions). We want them to know that God is bigger than any church, any denomination, any method of expression, and any pastor.

Exodus 9:1 … the entire verse says, “then the LORD said to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh and say to him, ‘This is what the LORD, the God of the Hebrews, says: ‘Let my people go, so that they may worship (some versions say ‘serve’) me.'” God does not want US (as parents) to be worshiped, or served, but God, who we are all called to go and serve.

And so, with all that said, last night, I was longing to worship with my daughter, for a change. My mother heart just wanted to sit and stand beside her, worshiping and serving our God … together. And, it was good. But, it is better knowing that she is seeking God, for herself, not to please me or her dad. She is on a journey that we, as her parents, blanket with our prayers. It is a journey that does not stop when a person finds ‘their’ church, but when one finds themselves in the arms of our Savior, at the end of their earthly life. And it is there, in heaven, that I will get to worship and serve my God, with all my family around me. And it is there that longing will be no more.

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