Tag Archives: Children

Children are Our Future

Jesus-and-poor-childrenAdvent
December 22, 2015

Scripture Reading: 1 Samuel 2:18-20, 26

Now the boy Samuel continued to grow both in stature and in favor with the Lord and with the people. –1 Samuel 2:26

Shouldn’t this scripture be our goal for every child? Don’t we want all children to grow up healthy and strong and in the favor with adults? Yet we live in a country were children are not of primary concern to either the people or the government of the people that represent us. Just look at poverty and children. Contrary to common myth the vast majority of children have parents who work at some point during a given year, around 90%*, but 28% of US children are recipients of some type of what we call public assistance*. Seventy percent of children are eligible for free or reduced participation in the school lunch program**. The school lunch program is the only food available for some of these children on a routine basis.

Hunger is just the tip of the iceberg. Public school systems are being underfinanced throughout our nation. Our failure to meet the most basic needs of children is considered by some to be a pipeline to prison***.

This Advent season, I invite all of us to take stock of the local state of all our children and consider whether they have equal opportunities to grow in stature and in favor with the people.

Prayer: Lord, help us grow in our knowledge of the status of the children in our hometowns and across the world for as the children go so goes our society. Amen.

*Kids Count Report from Annie E. Cassie Foundation see at http://datacenter.kidscount.org/data#USA/1/0

**http://frac.org/federal-foodnutrition-programs/national-school-lunch-program/

***http://www.pbs.org/wnet/tavissmiley/tsr/education-under-arrest/school-to-prison-pipeline-fact-sheet/

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized 
Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council 
of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights 
reserved.

Legacy

Legacy of LoveLiving in the Spirit
July 14, 2015

Scripture Reading: 2 Samuel 7:1-14a

When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come forth from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom for ever. I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me. When he commits iniquity, I will punish him with a rod such as mortals use, with blows inflicted by human beings. –2 Samuel 7:12-14a

I was at my sisters for the 4th of July and learned that her 12 year old grandson had taken up the ukulele. She and he played a duet for us, Dustin on his ukulele and she on the piano. As I sat and watched them play, a very clear picture of my father flashed into my mind. He would have been so proud of his great grandson. He died many years before Dustin was even born, but most nights when I was a child after we kids went to bed, we would be lulled to sleep listening to my dad play his guitar and sing.

In the story of Nathan and his discussions with David about building a house for God, we hear God saying what David passes on to his sons about God is more important than any building he could put up to honor God.

What legacy are we passing on to the children of our world today? Some are thriving and learning of God’s love and how to love one another in comfortable homes with adequate food and clothing. Others are learning to survive on mean streets in as many ways as it takes. Still others, in parts of our world, would be thrilled to have only a mean street to face as they risk their lives fleeing from war’s atrocities living and dying with no hope.

God has granted us as humans finite time and energy to bring toward fruition a world reflecting God’s love. When we choose to use these resources unwisely we pass on a more troubled world with which our children must deal. Our working to infuse the world with God’s love will reduce the threat of those mean streets and bring hope to the hopeless creating a world where all of God’s children will be able to worship God in peace and with justice.

Prayer: God of Faith, Hope, and Love, heal our souls so that we might love like you love and leave a legacy of love for our children. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Caring for Children

Child of GodLiving in the Spirit
July 12, 2015

Scripture Reading: Mark 6:14-29 But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his courtiers and officers and for the leaders of Galilee. When his daughter Herodias came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests; and the king said to the girl, ‘Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will give it.’ And he solemnly swore to her, ‘Whatever you ask me, I will give you, even half of my kingdom.’ She went out and said to her mother, ‘What should I ask for?’ She replied, ‘The head of John the baptizer.’ Immediately she rushed back to the king and requested, ‘I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.’ –Mark 6:21-25

It would be classified as exploitation in our world today, using a child for a sinister purpose. This example is quite egregious. We do not know how old the child was or whether her dancing was art or eroticism. In illustrations, it is most often expressed as the latter. Today we see this happening most often in the sex trade industry. Children become pawns to satisfy the lusts of people who can pay their way out of crime. Perhaps more prevalent is the situation where children are caught in the middle of an unhealthy relationship between their parents whether the parents were ever married, are married, or are no longer married.

Although those who long for children would disagree about the first part of this statement, in most cases having children is one of the easiest jobs to get and one of the most challenging to do. Whether we have children or not we are all responsible for the health and wellbeing of each child. They must be nurtured and educated, protected and loved, and encouraged to become the persons God created them to be.

John Ortberg credits Jesus with being the turning point in the worth of children as he recognized them fully as persons of worth, not the chattel of their parents. Children are our future. We would do well to cherish them for the gifts from God that they are.

Prayer: Lord, we pray for all children today that they may know your love through our love, flourish through our support, and be the next guiding light toward the fulfillment of your Kingdom on earth. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Testing the Boundaries of Love

No greater loveLent
Palm Sunday
March 29, 2015

Scripture Reading: John 12:12-16

His disciples did not understand these things at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written of him and had been done to him. — John 12:16

Do we understand now what Jesus was all about, what the prophets may or may not have said about him, who this man really was, and most importantly what that means to you and me? Some—I think at times I grasp some of this Jesus. I remember loving him as a child. Jesus, loves me this I know for the Bible tells me so*. Jesus, loves the little children, all the children of the world**. Jesus wants me for a sunbeam to shine for him each day***. At times, I think that relationship is the relationship. Jesus said, ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.’ (Matthew 18:3) Other times I need to make it more complicated. Adults are supposed to understand life at a more complicated level aren’t we?

The ability to think in abstractions has certainly moved our world further and faster than once would have been thought possible. After all, it was God who gave us our brains in the first place. God who imprinted us with God’s own image.  I think God wants us to test the boundaries of understanding, to use every bit of every resource with which we have been endowed. We do that in many areas of life, but the most important gift God gave us was his love and we have had its full capacity forever. Have we even begun to test the boundaries of our gift of love?

This week, Holy Week, we enter into the journey where God’s love was fully applied. Once again we ride into Jerusalem with Jesus, eat his last supper with him, go to the cross and watch him die, all in an attempt to increase our understanding of God’s love. Are we ready?

Prayer: Lord, walk with us as we once again walk with you so that our love may grow exponentially as we attempt to understand your love. Amen.

*Jesus Loves Me by Anna B. Warner, 1860 see at http://library.timelesstruths.org/music/Jesus_Loves_Me/

**Jesus Loves the Little Children by William Bradbury, Anna Warner, Tom Fettke see at http://www.metrolyrics.com/jesus-loves-the-little-children-lyrics-veggie-tales.html

*** Jesus wants me for a sunbeam by Eugene Kelly and Frances Mckee see at http://www.metrolyrics.com/jesus-wants-me-for-a-sunbeam-lyrics-vaselines.html

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Labor of Love

labor of loveLiving in the Spirit
Light a Candle for Children
October 16, 2014

 Scripture Reading: 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10

 We always give thanks to God for all of you and mention you in our prayers, constantly remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. For we know, brothers and sisters beloved by God, that he has chosen you, because our message of the gospel came to you not in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of people we proved to be among you for your sake.— 1 Thessalonians 1:1-5

What is your labor of love? The Greek word translated “love” in this scripture is Agape, which is often described as God’s love. Agape is based in the word “prefer”. Thus Agape is the act of doing what God prefers. Our calling in Christ is to do what God prefers. Our love for God is expressed in our honoring of what God prefers. Since God created us, I cannot help but believe, that we were each created by God to be a part of God’s kingdom and that when we find the thing that God is calling us to do we will find not only what God prefers but it will be exactly what we each prefer and our source of greatest joy. Jesus described it as the pearl of great price. (Matthew 13: 45-46)

What is your labor of love regarding children? Is it volunteering in a neonatal ward at a hospital, coaching soccer, taking a turn teaching in the children’s nursery at your church, tutoring a child in school, organizing activities for children, advocating for the rights of children, being a teacher or a pediatrician, being a big brother or big sister, regularly and faithfully provided financial support for programs that help children or???

God never sends us on a journey of service alone. We are equipped with God’s power through the Holy Spirit. Let us all examine our lives to determine what we are doing for the well-being of children in our world today. Ask the Lord, if God is calling you to do something more or better. Once you have found God’s preference that is also your preference, never let it go. It is a precious gift.

 Oklahoma Fact: In 2011, 576 Youth resided in juvenile detention, correctional and/or residential facilities*

Prayer: O Lord, my God, help me to find your preference for my life that is also my preference and fill me with the Holy Spirit so that that I can fully do what you are calling me to do. Amen.

*http://datacenter.kidscount.org/data/tables/42-youth-residing-in-juvenile-detention-correctional-and-or-residential-facilities?loc=38&loct=2#detailed/2/38/false/867,133,18,17,14/any/319,320

 All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

 

God’s Got our Backs

Cleft of the RockLiving in the Spirit
Light a Candle for Children
October 14, 2014

 Scripture Reading: Exodus 33:12-23

 The Lord said to Moses, ‘I will do the very thing that you have asked; for you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name.’ Moses said, ‘Show me your glory, I pray.’ And he said, ‘I will make all my goodness pass before you, and will proclaim before you the name, “The Lord”; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. But’, he said, ‘you cannot see my face; for no one shall see me and live.’ And the Lord continued, ‘See, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock; and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by; then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back; but my face shall not be seen.’ — Exodus 33:17-23

This must be my week for remembering old songs for as I read this segment of scripture, I thought of the song, He Hideth my Soul (in the Cleft of the Rock) by Frances Crosby*. I must confess, I was surprised when I pulled the song up on the Internet and saw the author listed as Frances Crosby. I have never heard her called anything but Fanny. I was also surprised that I actually remembered most of the words to this song because I haven’t sung it for years. Maybe children really do learn something by overhearing the gospel in worship, but I digress.

In my reading of this scripture today the words that struck me the most were, I will make all my goodness pass before you. This is the heart of the matter isn’t it? God’s goodness can be reflected in each of us.  There is a lot of discourse among theologians making sense of the various references in the Bible regarding seeing God’s face, but I wonder if there is another level of meaning here also. In context this story is a part of a plea for mercy on the behalf of the Israelites for their worshiping the golden calf.  It involves repentance which literally means to turn around. In this scene is the gracious goodness of God informing Moses and us, “I’ve got your back.”? Is the knowledge that God has our backs the very thing that makes repentance possible? We must do the turning, but it is far easier to turn around, go a better way when we know that God has our backs. I cannot image any back that is stronger than God’s.

Our world is in tremendous turmoil with war and contagion fueled by discrimination and greed. Our children are the ones who will ultimately pay the price, if we do not turn around and find the better way. It is scary considering the changes that we face, but we need to remember: God’s got our backs.

Oklahoma Fact: Almost half of the world’s forcibly displaced people are children. Between January 1 and August 31, 2014, 284 unaccompanied child immigrants were released to Sponsors in Oklahoma. **

 Prayer: God we thank you for your gracious goodness and for never giving up on us. Strengthen us to turn around and follow your better way. Amen.

* http://library.timelesstruths.org/music/He_Hideth_My_Soul/

 ** http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/orr/programs/ucs/state-by-state-uc-placed-sponsors

 All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

 

God’s Presence

Presence of GodLiving in the Spirit
Light a Candle for Children
October 13, 2014

Scripture Reading: Exodus 33:12-23

 Moses said to the Lord, ‘See, you have said to me, “Bring up this people”; but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. Yet you have said, “I know you by name, and you have also found favor in my sight.” Now if I have found favor in your sight, show me your ways, so that I may know you and find favor in your sight. Consider too that this nation is your people.’ He said, ‘My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.’ And he said to him, ‘If your presence will not go, do not carry us up from here. For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people, unless you go with us? In this way, we shall be distinct, I and your people, from every people on the face of the earth.’ — Exodus 33:12-16

In recent years, I have become very aware of the need to recognize God’s presence in my life and in the life of the community of faith in which I participate. God’s company is not something we should take for granted. God has chosen to make God’s presence known to us. Think about how very hard it is to be fully present to another. We should never take this gift lightly.

This segment of scripture today follows the story of Moses’ receiving the tablets of the covenant on the mountain. As he carried them down the mountain he began to hear the singing and dancing of the people as they worshiped their golden calf. Moses’ anger burned and he threw the tablets to the ground and broke them. Without Moses, the people had lost faith in the presence of God. Our scripture today reflects his frustration and his angst. Was God still with them?

Ever been there? I find myself in that spot regularly as I see the dumb things we humans do to skirt real problems when in the back of our minds we know what is just and what is right. Such knowing is imbedded in our DNA. An old hymn may say it best. You may remember it in a more modern version from Godspell:

Turn back, O man, forswear thy foolish ways.
 old now is earth, and none may count her days.
 yet thou, her child, whose head is crowned with flame,
 still wilt not hear thine inner God proclaim,
 “Turn back, O man, forswear thy foolish ways.”

  Earth might be fair and all men glad and wise.
 age after age their tragic empires rise,
 built while they dream, and in that dreaming weep:
 would man but wake from out his haunted sleep,
 earth might be fair and all men glad and wise. 

 Earth shall be fair, and all her people one:
 nor till that hour shall God’s whole will be done.
 Now, even now, once more from earth to sky,
 peals forth in joy man’s old undaunted cry:
 “Earth shall be fair and all her folk be one!”*

Oklahoma Fact: 12% of Children live in areas of concentrated poverty**

Prayer: Thank you Lord, for your presence. Write on our hearts your justice and your righteousness so that we turn around and forever be fully present to you and your will. Amen.

*Words by Clifford Bax, 1919

**http://datacenter.kidscount.org/data/tables/6795-children-living-in-areas-of-concentrated-poverty?loc=38&loct=2#detailed/2/38/false/1201,1074,880,11/any/13891,13892

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Whatever is Just

JUstice for childrenLiving in the Spirit
Light a Candle for Children
October 10, 2014

 Scripture Reading: Philippians 4:1-9 

Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.— Philippians 4:8-9

I am a very goal oriented person so it takes work for me to get into the processes of life. I have learned though that attaining most of the goals of life result from people doing the processes with perseverance. We must have a nice balance in both being goal oriented and dedicated to doing the processes that result in the attainment of our goals. Sports is an excellent example of that. The goal may be to win the game, but the game is won because the athletes have learned and practices the processes of the game so well that they become automatic on the field of play. Our goals as a follower of Christ are to love God, to love our neighbors as we love ourselves, and to make disciples for Christ. In our scripture today, Paul lists some of the processes that need to become automatic in our lives to help us achieve those goals. Doing justice is one of them.

Justice does not happen by accident. We must do justice. Justice, however, is not something we can ever do alone. It always entails interdependent relationships. Justice, of necessity, involves our working together, one with the other, and that requires us to find common ground on what is just.

Most of the issues that relate to our children are issues of justice. What is right for every child? Every child needs to be loved; have his or her basic needs of food, clothing, and shelter met; be educated; have proper preventive and, when necessary, restorative medical care; and be protected from harm. The list could go on but the point is these needs are the responsibility of all of us and the details of what they mean must be addressed in community.

 Oklahoma Fact: In 2010, 24.8% or 929,666 people in Oklahoma were children.*

Prayer: Lord, challenge us to take up both the goal and the processes of justice for children as they are more vulnerable to the storms of injustice than even we adults are. Amen.

* http://datacenter.kidscount.org/data/tables/2541-child-population—decade-count?loc=38&loct=2#detailed/2/any/false/133,11,1,42/any/8997,8998

 All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

 

Rejoice in the Small Things

The Starfish StoryLiving in the Spirit
Light a Candle for Children
October 9, 2014

 Scripture Reading: Philippians 4:1-9

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. — Philippians 4:4-7

How do we rejoice when everything seems upside down? I have been working around justice issues regarding children for over 40 years and in many ways it is just sad that we have made no more progress than we have made. Some things have actually gotten worse like child abuse, or we now know more about the actual incidence than we did then. I don’t know which. Other data about child wellbeing show some improvement but certainly not enough. We have made great strides in some areas in Oklahoma like early childhood development, but it teeters on the edge of adequate funding each year. The education reforms of 1990’s have gradually been dismantled. Our teen pregnancy rate goes down and then back up in rhythm with our commitment to address it.

In times like these, I think of the story of the boy walking by the sea when he comes upon a man tossing star fish that have washed ashore back into the ocean. The boy asks him why he is doing that for there are hundreds of star fish on the beach and there is no way he can save them all. The man reaches down and picks up another star fish and gently tosses it back into the ocean replying, “I saved that one.” We rejoice in each and every child who could not read and now can, who nearly died from a simple sinus infection who now thrives, who has moved three or four times each year all of her life from school to school who is now succeeding in college, and who walked to school each day among drug dealers and gang members but maintained his values and is now an officer in the U.S. Army. This is just a short example of my list of children about whom I rejoice. I suggest that you make a list of children about whom you can rejoice today and offer their names up to God in praise.

Oklahoma Fact: Between 2006 and 2010 the school dropout rate declined by 21%*

Prayer: Lord we thank you for each and every child whose paths we have crossed in whom we have seen your glory as they overcame obstacles that seemed insurmountable at the time. Thank you for all the lovers of children you made available to them who may never have known what a wonderful impact they made on each child. Amen.

*http://datacenter.kidscount.org/data/tables/4129-change-over-time-in-high-school-dropout-rates?loc=38&loct=2#detailed/2/any/false/1020/any/9367

 All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

 

Idolatry

CampaigningLiving in the Spirit
Light a Candle for Children
October 6, 2014

 Scripture Reading: Exodus 32:1-14

 When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered around Aaron and said to him, ‘Come, make gods for us, who shall go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’—Exodus 32:1

The Israelites in our scripture today were rudderless without a leader. Moses went up into the mountain and stayed longer than they had expected. In their impatience for someone or something to lead them, they built an idol. It is hard for us modern people to comprehend that anyone would think that a blob of metal shaped like a bull is anything more than a blob of metal even if it is made of gold. We should not be so quick to judge the Israelites for we do the same thing all the time, perhaps in a more sophisticated manner. We all want our cake and to eat it too. Campaign ads play into that reality.

It is election season and we are once again in search of leaders to represent us at various levels of governance. We need to keep this scripture in mind as we search for the right people to select. While their future actions will impact us, more importantly those actions will impact our children and they don’t get a vote. First, I want to encourage everyone to vote, most don’t anymore. Second, please take the time to find out from reliable sources where the various candidates stand on issues that matter and what their track records have been. I appreciate TV stations providing public forums like debates for the exchange of information. Third, I like the law that requires candidates to say or write I approved this message in their campaign ads, but have you noticed those ads have become positive platitudes. The dirty work is being done by outside groups. Personally, when I don’t hear that phrase, I tune out the ad. Fourth, I hear a lot of campaigns complaining about what other leaders are doing but I don’t hear very much about what the candidates would do themselves. My message to those candidate is that I will make up my own mind about others, tell me what you would do to solve the problems for which you are criticizing their actions.

Oklahoma Fact: In 2012, 19% of Children have one or more emotional, behavioral, or developmental conditions*

Prayer: Forgive us when we turn away from you for leadership and guidance and search for other gods to solve our problems. Guide us in our quest for governance that is truly of the people by the people for the people. We pray for all who are running for office and ask that you guide them in their sharing of information with the public. Amen.

*http://datacenter.kidscount.org/data/tables/6031-children-who-have-one-or-more-emotional-behavioral-or-developmental-conditions?loc=38&loct=2#detailed/2/38/false/1021,18/any/12694,12695

 All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights reserved.