Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Books! - August 2020

Hello Friends! Most libraries are open for curbside service! I wanted to share some book recommendations for kids that complement our lectionary passages this month. All these books are available to borrow through the Carnegie Library! The links are below. 

Picnic by John Burningham

Matthew 14: 13-21 is the familiar story of the Feeding of the 5000. In the scripture passage,  Jesus tells the disciples to feed the hungry people who have gathered. Although Jesus is the one who makes the miracle happen, the disciples are the ones that feed the crowds. We see Christ’s empathy for the people and we see the transformative power of Christ that happens when people break bread together. In Picnic,  a boy and girl go for a picnic and invite friends along the way. Everyone plays and eats together. What starts out as the children having plans for themselves ends with them including and feeding their new friends. 

The Darkest Dark by Chris Hadfield


This part of Genesis is the story of Joseph and his brothers. 
In The Darkest Dark, a boy wants to be an astronaut but he is afraid of the dark. In the darkness, he sees aliens, monstrous eyes, scary things. In the passage from Genesis, Joseph’s brothers cruelly sell him into slavery and scary things are ahead for him.  Joseph and the boy in this book learn that we may experience terrible and scary things - but God is always with us. 

squirrels_cat_next_door.jpg (192×191)

Those Darn Squirrels and the Cat Next Door
by Adam Rubin


 At the start of the book of Exodus, a new Pharaoh is in power in Egypt.  He fears the Hebrews and makes an awful plan to kill all the male children born in the Hebrew communities. But several brave people fight this new Pharaoh’s terrible plan.  In Those Darn Squirrels and the Cat Next Door, Ms. Hu and her cat move in next door to Mr. Fookwire. The cat is a terror to everyone, especially to the birds, whom Mr. Fookwire loves to watch, and also to the squirrels. Typically the squirrels and Mr. Fookwire are at odds with one another, but when the cat arrives, they share a problem.  Like the squirrels who ended up protecting the birds, the Hebrew women stepped up when a terrible thing was happening.  

Hank Finds an Egg by Rebecca Dudley


Moses comes upon a burning bush while watching his sheep.  From the burning bush, God’s voice speaks and gives Moses a mission to fulfill, and people to take care of, with God’s help. As the title of this book suggests, Hank the bear is out in the forest when he finds an egg on the ground.  In these two stories, Hank and Moses are given a bigger purpose and mission from an unexpected encounter. 

Monday, July 27, 2020

More Summer Resources! - July 20202

Hello! These resources were recommended to me by ministry friends and I think great, too. 

The first is a plan for driving prayer stations! Not going on a road trip this summer? Try this instead. Grad the family and follow this guide for a prayer experience through your community. 

The Summer Activity pack linked below is from Living into the Vision and is packed full of art projects, family activities, and a ton of other options focused on Ecological Justice. It's a lengthy resource but provides some terrific things. 



Friday, July 17, 2020

Crop Walk - Take a Walk for a Great Cause!

Friends! I am sharing some info for something great the families can do together for a great cause! Sixth Church member Sue Koehler is our Crop Walk organizer and cheerleader and is encouraging our church families to get involved. Please see the information below. Also, Sue is interested in finding a family that would be interested in a social-distanced photo op so we can promote the Crop Walk. Her email is below if you are interested! 

Friday, July 10, 2020

Refections for Youth - Seeds and Soil

There's a park just a few miles down the road from my house with access to Cross Creek Lake. On the cooler days, I like to venture over there and dangle my feet off the boat launch into the water.  I also like to people-watch. These days there are a lot of people taking advantage of the large lake to kayak, fish and go out on their boats. Last week, I watched a couple head out in their kayaks along with their two dogs. I can guarantee that my dog would never-ever stay in the kayak! 

Anyway, the other day when I was out there I was thinking about the times in the scripture when Jesus was out on the water.

There is a scripture passage in the 13th chapter of Matthew that tells about a time when Jesus was sitting by a lake. A lot of people had gathered around him, so many people that he climbed into a boat and went out on to the water away from the shore so everyone could see and hear him.

From the boat, he told a parable.  Parables are stories that Jesus told that teach about something. Jesus used stories about things people knew about so they would understand. This story was about seeds and good soil.  If you have been planting or gardening this summer - then maybe this story will make sense. 

Read Matthew 13: 1-9, 18-23

Jesus told the followers about a farmer who scattered seeds on the ground. Some seeds landed on a path. Some birds came along and ate the seeds, so the plants didn’t grow. Some seeds landed in dirt with lots of rocks. The sun was too hot and burned those seeds, so the plants didn’t grow. Some seeds landed in dirt with too many weeds. The weeds choked the seeds and crowded them so the plants didn’t grow. But some seeds landed in good soil, and the plants grew and grew!

Jesus wants us to share God’s words like the farmer who scattered the seeds.  Just like some of the seeds didn’t grow, some people will not listen to God’s words. But many people will listen and God’s word will grow in them and all of us.

Have you ever talked to a friend about God? It's scary - right?  Especially if you are not exactly sure what you feel or believe. But give it a try. Ask questions and listen. You might be surprised at what ideas and thoughts may land in good soil and grow.  

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Refections for Youth - Persistance (and more Pineapple)

So here is a familiar scenario: Let's say you really, really like a certain food.

Maybe it's pineapple on pizza.

So, you recommend it to someone. You tell them its delicious. They may tell you that they've never tried it. Or they tell you that they don't like pineapple so they know they wouldn't like it. Maybe they make a lot of excuses about why they won't try it. But still, you invite them to try it anyway. Harkening the words of grandmothers everywhere, "You never know unless you try." 

We give it our best shot. Why? Because you love it and enjoy it and want someone else to enjoy it, too.
So, this is probably a really simplistic example, but it is the type of conversation that Jesus is talking about in this week's scripture. 

It's a little confusing out of context so here is some background. At this point in Jesus' narrative, he is with traveling around with the disciples and teaching and preaching in their cities. John the Baptist, who is in prison, hears about what Jesus is doing and asks his followers to ask Jesus if he is really the Messiah that they have been waiting for, or should they look and wait for another. Jesus tells the people to go back and tell John what they have seen have heard. He wants them to tell John about the people that have been healed and reached by his ministry. After John's followers had departed, Jesus talks to crowds about the appeal and significance of John's ministry. He reminds people that John is a prophet that came before him to prepare the people for the coming Messiah. And he reminds them that starting with John, people have rejected and violently reacted to the teachings about the Kingdom in Heaven. 

So here's is where this verse starts. Jesus talks to "this generation" - the crowds that he is speaking to. He uses analogist language and says that the people are like children sitting in the marketplace and that they (he and John) have come with messages of God's love and peace and it was rejected. They called John a "demon." Jesus scolds the people who have seen his greatest miracles yet didn't change their hearts and lives.
Jesus is saying that there are certain people, who, no matter what you offer them, they will make excuses to refuse and reject what is being offered. But it's more than just convincing someone to try pineapple on pizza. Jesus was inviting them to receive God's love and peace.
The people in the story responded like I do when my husband cooks liver and onions. I make a bunch of excuses not to try it. 

The people who make excuses may think that their reasons make sense, even if those excuses don't make sense to others. But whatever their reasons were, the end result was that they said no to what Jesus was offering them. 

Despite people saying to Jesus, “No, I won’t listen to you or try what you are saying because I have excuses” Jesus kept sharing God’s love and peace. And because Jesus kept sharing and inviting, he also found people, like the disciples, that said "Yes, I will follow you." They said, "Yes, I will try that pineapple pizza."

We know what happened next. Those people kept sharing with others just like Jesus did and so on and so on. So, here we are in our lifetime and people are still choosing to follow Jesus and share God's love and peace with others. 

For me this week, the message Jesus is sharing here is a comfort with all that is going on in the world. It is a reminder that I can choose for myself what my values are and what I believe in. I can share those beliefs with others. Some won't agree. Some won't listen, make excuses, and not try to understand. But, I can keep sharing because there are some people who will listen.

Long story short: Keep Swimming. Don't give up on sharing what you think is right and what you believe. 

Friday, June 26, 2020

Reflections for Youth - Who lives in a Pinapple Under the Sea?

Yinz guys.

I bought a pineapple. I didn't have it on my grocery list - but when I walked in the door of the Squirrel Hill Giant Eagle, there it was. Right in front of me. It looked so welcoming and inviting that I put it in my cart. 

Now, do I know how to properly cut a whole pineapple? Nope. But I am sure a can find an instructional YouTube video to help me out. 

I think perhaps the reason I grabbed the pineapple is that I learned a while ago that in many parts of the world a pineapple is a sign of welcome.  

In southern states or at places along the eastern seaboard you might see a pineapple carved into the entry of a home; or maybe brass door knockers in the shape of a pineapple attached to their doors. My husband's family lives in South Carolina and we've traveled through the state quite a bit. Pineapples are common decor inside and outside of homes. 

Long ago, before there were airplanes, pineapple, which grew in tropical climates, was not available to most people in the world. Explorers returning from a voyage sometimes brought pineapple to their king and sailors fastened a pineapple to their gate post when they returned from sea. As a result of these customs, the pineapple became a sign of welcome. 

Here are some pictures - maybe you've seen some, too. 

One other random thought? Spongebob Squarepants LIVES in a pineapple under the sea. I wonder if that's not just a silly cartoon idea but an intentional symbol of welcome?  

This week's scripture passage from Matthew is just two verses (40-42) from the 10th chapter (NRSV) 

40 “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. 41 Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous; 42 and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple—truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.”

It's a pretty easy formula. Welcome others = Welcoming God. 

When we welcome others, when we make others feel comfortable and love, we are sharing the love of  God. And we are welcoming God.

There are many kinds of welcomes and we have many ways of welcoming others.  Now, while we are in the middle of a pandemic welcoming others is kind of complicated. But even just a wave, a smile, or a sign in your window could make others feel welcome and loved. 

Maybe you can even give someone a pineapple!