Thursday, October 18, 2018

Reflections for Youth - Leadership Skills

"Be aware of people who brag about who they are.  
A lion will never have to tell that they're a lion."

A friend of mine posted this quote on Facebook this week. And it got me thinking about leadership. Great leaders should never have to tell you that they are great. We recognize great leaders by their actions and how they treat those who they are leading. 

In our scripture passage this week,  Jesus dishes out the simplest and most important leadership advice.

Read Mark 10: 35-45 

Jesus and the disciples are walking to Jerusalem and James and John have a questions. They ask Jesus if they can sit on either side of him when he "enters his glory." I can picture them arguing about this like my brother and I used to fight about who would sit up front in the car.

Jesus responds by saying that everyone is important to God and no one gets a more special place than anyone else.

Jesus talks about how they all drink from the same cup (hinting at what's to come when they share the last supper together?) and that he was baptized just like other followers. In verse 40, Jesus reminds them it is not for him to decide and the Kingdom of God has been prepared for God by all. 

The Bible says the other disciples get angry.  Maybe because that's not at all the answer they want to hear. Maybe because James and John asked before they got a chance.  Jesus gathers them up and points out that among the gentiles (non-Jewish people) the people that are considered the greatest leaders are tyrants over the people. He wants them to be different.  He wants them to be leaders that come not to be served, but to serve.

Jesus tells his followers that the best way to serve God is to serve others. He reminds them that he came to help people and show them God’s love and wants them to do the same.

Jesus takes this moment on the road say this to his followers:  “If you follow me, you won’t look for ways to show people how special you are. You will look for ways to serve, to care for people, all people.”

I think he might be reminding us that if you are in a position of leadership to be recognized and admired then you are barking up the wrong tree. Great leaders are the ones who's true agenda is to serve the people. 

Who do you consider a great leader?

What things can you do to serve others and lead by example this week? 

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Reflections for Youth - Making Room and Doing Hard Things

A few years we rescued on older black Labrador Retriever from our local animal shelter. His name was Django and we were told he came in as a stray and wasn't quickly adopted because of his age. Django was, at best guess, 8 or 9 when we got him.  Django loved play with toys and fetch balls but his all-time favorite activity was collecting and carrying around sticks he found in our yard. It was hilarious to watch him. He would carry around two or three sticks at a time. We would often watch him, already carrying a mouthful of sticks, find another one that he wanted to pick up. Most times he would try to get all the sticks in his mouth at once. But every so often he would drop what he already had and pick up the new one and start over.  This week's scripture passage kinda of reminded me of Django and his adventures in the yard.

The passage might be pretty familiar. It's contains the famous words from Jesus: "it's easier for a camel to fit through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get into heaven."  You've heard that one before - right?

So, Mark's version goes like this:
Jesus and his disciples are walking along when a rich man approaches Jesus and asks what he need to do to have "eternal life."  They converse, and Jesus basically tells him that he needs to sell all his stuff and follow Jesus, and his teachings.

Read Mark 10: 17-31

This story from Jesus is a hard one for all of us living in today's world to reconcile. We live in a culture that encourages the "American Dream" - that if we work hard enough and believe in ourselves than we can have anything we want and we can do all the hard things. And here comes Jesus saying that we can't enter the Kingdom of God unless we give it all up, sell all our stuff, and follow him.  He tells us that we can't really do anything with out God's help. 

Thanks a lot Jesus - for clearing it all up for us. (Of course I am being snarky, as usual)

So, what does this passage have to do with my dog picking up sticks in the yard - I'll get there I swear:)

Maybe this passage isn't really about being rich and how rich people get into heaven. Maybe this message from Jesus is about simply making more room for God in our lives.  Having a lot of things, taking care of those things, and worrying about keeping things  - and thinking about
getting more things can take our focus from loving God and loving our neighbor.  It allows us keep our focus squarely on ourselves.  I think perhaps one of the things that Jesus could be trying to teach us with this story is that when we are holding on so tightly to things - our status, our power, our achievements - or whatever is it is we are hoarding in our hearts - then our hands and our hearts are too full to hold or grab anything else.  And that something could be what God is trying to show us or teach us.  Maybe Jesus is telling the rich man that he has to give away the things that he thinks he needs so that he has room to receive the things from God that he really needs.

So here's the dog part: Maybe the scripture is about us being willing to let go of our mouthful of collected sticks so we can make room for a new, tastier one.

What things can you let go of this week to make more room for God?

I am also thinking this passage is about teaching us that we can do hard things. The scripture says that the man walks away from Jesus and is sad.  I wonder if the man was sad because he knew he couldn’t sell his stuff and wouldn't be "entering the Kingdom of Heaven" -  or if he was sad because he knew he had to sell all his things and knew how hard that would be. 

What do you think?

Jesus at the end of the passage tells the disciples that for God, all things are possible and God loves us no matter what. Sometimes we have to do things that are really hard, but with God's love and comfort we can do those hard things.  That's something that Jesus is pretty clear about. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Learning about and Worship and Sacraments - October 2018

Last week we held a Worship and Sacraments class for the children of our church. The kids gathered in the Sanctuary to learn about baptism, communion and we baked Communion bread to be used the next day on World Wide Communion Sunday. It's a great opportunity for the kids to get to explore the sanctuary, ask questions, and learn about worship. Here are a few photos!

Our Communion Bread Recipe: 

Resources, activities, and material used for this event were taken from:
 "Taste the Water, Taste the Bread: Exploring the Sacraments with Children" 
for grades 1-3 published by Cokesbury.  

What We are Reading - October 2018

Here are the books we will be reading during
Extended Session during the month of October! 

All theses are available through the Carnegie Library.

You're a crab! : a moody day book

by Jenny Whitehead 

Eli's lie-o-meter : a story about telling the truth

by Sandra Levins 

The spiffiest giant in town

by Julia Donaldson 


by Nancy White Carlstrom 

We are in a book!

by Mo Willems 



Thursday, October 4, 2018

Reflections for Youth - Everyone's Invited

This week we are celebrating World-Wide Communion Sunday which means that churches all over the world celebrate the sacrament of communion all on the same day.  Communion is one of the very special things we do in church to remember the time that Jesus broke bread with his disciples . We remember him by eating bread which represents his body and wine (well in our case grape juice ) that represents his blood. 

In our church, everyone in worship is invited to participate - no matter what their faith background. This can be somewhat radical for people from other denominations or faith traditions.  In other churches, there are rules and procedures about when people are able and invited to take communion.  In our denomination, the Presbyterian Church (USA), all those who have learned about communion and it's meaning are invited to participate.

This way of welcoming people is reflective of Jesus' words and teaching in our scripture passage this week.  Mark writes in his Gospel that everywhere Jesus went people that came to see and hear him teach about God.  Sometimes they brought friends and family who were sick for Jesus to heal.  Sometimes parents came with their children in their arms wanting Jesus to touch them and give them God’s blessing.

One this particular day Jesus had a lot of people around him and those pesky Jewish religious leaders (the Pharisees) were close by -  as always  - and asking all the questions. Right before this passage, in verses 2-12,  Jesus answers questions about divorce (which is a conversation for a whole other post!)

The disciples probably thought Jesus looked tired and so they stopped some of the parents that were coming to Jesus with their children.  But Jesus didn’t want the disciples to send away the families. He said 

“Let the children come to me—you will need to be like these children if you want to be in God’s kingdom. "

Then Jesus hugged and blessed each child, showing them God’s love.  Jesus throughout his teachings always sets the example of welcoming those who are not in a place of power.  In his time, women and children were dependent on the men in their families and communities. They didn't wield much influence and were rarely seen and never heard.  Jesus shows through his words and actions that everyone is welcome to the table. 

Here's what I am thinking about this week: 
How would it feel to  never, ever be seen - but then been seen and welcomed by Jesus?   
I wonder how it feels to be hugged by Jesus?
Who don't I see this week? And what can I do to help someone feel seen, heard, and loved?

Come to church on Sunday and share communion with us! Be seen, heard and feel loved! 

Friday, September 28, 2018

Reflections for Youth- - Psalm 124

Sometimes (this week for example) I find it hard to articulate all that I am thinking and feeling about whats going on in the world.  And sometimes prayer - talking to God - is hard.  On these days it's necessary for me to use someone else's words to pray.  So, instead of reflecting on this weeks Gospel or Old Testament lesson I am sharing this week's Psalm.   Use it for your prayers if you need!

Psalm 124 - The Message (MSG)
A Pilgrim Song of David

 1-5 If God hadn’t been for us
    —all together now, Israel, sing out!—
If God hadn’t been for us
    when everyone went against us,
We would have been swallowed alive
    by their violent anger,
Swept away by the flood of rage,
    drowned in the torrent;
We would have lost our lives
    in the wild, raging water.

6 Oh, blessed be God!
    He didn’t go off and leave us.
He didn’t abandon us defenseless,
    helpless as a rabbit in a pack of snarling dogs.

7 We’ve flown free from their fangs,
    free of their traps, free as a bird.
Their grip is broken;
    we’re free as a bird in flight.

8 God’s strong name is our help,
    the same God who made heaven and earth.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Reflections for Youth - Greatness and Ghost Hunting

My favorite game that we pay at youth group is Ghost Fighting Treasure Hunters.  If you are not familiar it’s a board game  where each player travels through the rooms of a haunted house looking for treasure and fight ghosts along the way. I love it because it is a  game no one person can win.  We all have to work together to finish the game. Each player has to help other players and we all have to work together to find the treasure and fight the ghosts. So, we either all win—or the ghosts win.

Now when it comes to playing games or just in life it feels pretty good to be the winner—to be the greatest. Right? 

But if you are the greatest or the winner, then that means that someone else is not the winner—and I know that I sometimes feel sad for people when they try really hard but don’t win.  That’s why I love playing our ghost hunting game  - everyone wins and nobody is sad. 

In our scripture passage today for this week Jesus teachers the disciples about true greatness.

Read Mark 9: 33-37

Jesus and the disciples are walking to Capernaum and he hears the disciples arguing. So, when they get to where they were going Jesus asks them what all their squabbling was about.

And the disciples got very quiet. They had been arguing about which one of them was the most important, was the greatest—who was the winner.

So Jesus sat down and they sat around him and listened to him teach.

“Whoever wants to be first must be the last of all and the servant of everyone.”  Then Jesus picked up a child (and remember children were not very important at the time Jesus was living).  Jesus held the child in his arms and said “Who ever welcomes a child welcomes me. And whoever welcomes me, welcomes God, who sent me.”

We all have times when we wish were are the best and the most important.  But we need to remember that we are important and loved by God just as we are.  Jesus is calling us to put others first and that our greatness comes from our humility and our ability to love our neighbor.  Now realistically we live in a world where not everyone can win.  I am pretty sure that Jesus is not saying that we should never win - or never strive to be the greatest.  I think that Jesus is reminding us to remember the people who don't win, people who are vulnerable, and people who are powerless.  Jesus tells us in this passage that true greatness comes from lighting up the greatness in others.  

What are some ways you can be a servant to the world this coming week?

(Also you can find Ghost Fighting Treasure Hunters HERE)

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

What We Are Reading - September 2018

Here are the books we will be reading during
Extended Session during the month of September! 

All theses are available through the Carnegie Library.

Elizabeth, Queen of the Seas

by Lynne Cox 

Liam takes a stand

by Troy Wilson 

Maverick and me

by Katherine Schwarzenegger 

Middle bear

by Susanna Isern 

The elephant keeper : caring for
orphaned elephants in Zambia

by Margaret Ruurs 

The circus ship

by Chris Van Dusen