Sunday, February 25, 2018

Lent for Littles: Making Room to Listen & Grow

My friend Jenny came up to me at church and pitched the idea to me:  "I really want to make Easter more special to my kids-- at least as special as Christmas, because, you know... to a Christian it's supposedly the most important day in the year.  So, I was thinking-- could you maybe teach a lesson and some songs for the church playgroups I'm hosting during Lent?  I can do a craft if you do!!"  Always up for a teaching challenge-- especially one including music!-- I said "sure!"  But as my mouth was forming the "sure" my brain was whirring, How in the world am I going to teach "Lent" to a bunch of toddlers??  I started praying and brainstorming and finally took my pink journal out during naptime and started brain-dumping everything I had learned or knew or wondered or had heard about Lent, fasting, and Easter.  I re-read parts of John Piper's A Hunger for God, and the children's book Make Room, and prayed more.  I read about Jesus' time in the wilderness, read about the children of Israel in the wilderness.  The Lord brought Hebrews 12:1-2 to mind as great theme verses for the concepts swirling in my head and a skeleton of a lesson emerged.  I think it worked rather well so I'm posting it here in the hopes that it might encourage others!

Making Room to Listen & Grow
Hebrews 12:1, Matthew 4:1-11; Deuteronomy 8:1-10

I recruited my 8 year old daughter to help me with a little skit (which she relished!).

She came quite literally running in, dressed in shorts and sneakers, with a headband and jersey on.  She also carried in her hand boxes of toys, several purses and an armload of books, with a backpack on her back.  She quite theatrically stumbled and everything went flying!

this picture of E dressed as a runner
(from Jan 2016) always makes me laugh
Woah, woah!  Where are you going?
Oh, I'm going on a run!!
Well, why are you carrying all these things?  You can't possibly run very well with all that!
Oh, but I LOVE these things!! This is my favorite doll!  And these are really REALLY good books!! And I might want to play a game... and in my backpack I have all kinds of snacks, and a sweater if I get cold...
Kids, do you think it's a good idea to take all this with her on a run? (NOOOO) Honey, I think you're going to get hurt!  
But these are all GOOD things, Mom!!
They totally might be, but sometimes we have to put some things down in order to do other things well!  You'll be able to run much faster, and you can see where you're going... Actually, we're about to talk about this-- do you want to take a little rest and listen?  
Ok, I guess I can do that!  

So, like Eowyn and I were just learning, sometimes we have to say "no" or "not now" to GOOD things in order to do other things, or do things better.  Did you know there is a Bible verse about this?  We're going to need to stand up to sing this one!  (This is the tune from VBS Reachout Adventures' Olympion) This song is about throwing off things that "hinder" us-- do you know that word?  It means "gets in our way and slows us down."

"Hebrews 12:1, Hebrews 12:1, Let us run run run (run in place) the race marked out for us (motion to self) There...fore.... since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses (spin around)
let us throw off (throwing off motion) everything that hinders,
and the sin that so easily entangles (pretend to pull a rope from around feet)
and let us run with perseverance (running motion)
the race (clap clap)
marked out (clap clap)
for us.
Let us run run run (running in slow mo)
Run with perseverance
Let us run run run
The race marked out for us
Let us throw off everything that hinders (throwing off motion)
And let us run run run (running) the race marked out for us."

The Bible uses a "race" to help us understand what we are doing-- we are all trying to follow Jesus and live like He did, in a way that obeys and shows love to God.  That's what is called the "race of faith."  So when we say we are going to "run run run" in that song we are talking about how we live.

Did you know that a long long time ago, God wanted to teach His people about putting some things away for a little while so that they could learn to listen to His Word better?  This is a picture of the Israelites in the desert.   Do you see any flowers or trees? What about nice gardens and farms?  No... there isn't anything like that.  God called His people away from those for a little while.  But look at what amazing things He gave them instead!  This is a picture of Him feeding them with manna-- the bread of angels!! It fell from Heaven!  That is so special, something they never would have enjoyed if they were still eating their own food from their own gardens!  And look at this!  Water from a rock!  And best of all, God's own Law coming down from Heaven at Mount Sinai!!  God called His people into the desert to teach them His Word.  They spent 40 years learning obedience and trust in His Word in the desert.

Did you know Jesus also spent time in the desert?  Not 40 years, but 40 days.  Right after His baptism-- which many of you learned about in Sunday School just last week!-- God the Father called Him into the desert to learn obedience and trust in His Word, too.  Jesus didn't just leave behind gardens and flowers-- He went without ALL food!  How do you think He felt?  Hungry!!  But He had all kinds of time to listen to His Father and think about His word.  He was ready when His Enemy, the devil, that old serpent came to try and trick Him.  Oh... I am not sure if you are ready to see this picture.  It's kind of scary.  Are you ready?  Ok.

Jesssssssus, I know you are hungry... why not just make yourself some bread?  You don't need to wait for God the Father to give you food. And Jesus said "No, Satan!  don't you remember what the Israelites learned in the desert?  Obeying God's Word is more important than worrying about food!" Jesssusssss, I know you want to become king of the world... instead of going to the Cross, why don't you worship me instead?  Then I'll make you king!" "NO!  God's Word says-- worship God only!" Jessussssss, why don't you show everyone and Yourself just how amazing you are-- jump off this high place and let the angels catch you!  God's Word says they can do that!  NO, God's Word also says "do not put God to the test!"

After Satan had tried all these temptations and Jesus had said NO to them all, Satan gave up and left (for then)-- and do you know who came then?  Angels actually did come, and the Bible says they took care of Him-- maybe they brought Him manna just like the Israelites had.  

So in both of those stories, for a time, God called His people to put aside very good things-- like trees, gardens, even food!-- to make room for Him to teach them His Word and to listen better to Him.  Like that verse said, sometimes there are things that are "hindering" us and we need to throw them off so we can run.  Sometimes there also is sin tangling our legs up, and we need to ask God to help us repent and stop that too!

With all these great things there are no room for flowers!
I know this is kind of tricky to understand so I have one more picture for you.  Let's imagine that you are this little boy (hold up a Playmobil boy) and this cardboard box is your garden.  Let's pretend you really want to have lots of flowers in your garden!  But first... you put in a bench like this.  See?  It fits so nicely!  And now you can sit and enjoy your flowers!  Then you get an idea of some rocks to climb on, so you put those in too!  See?  I made a little rock path.  But then you remember that merry-go-rounds are really fun, and
you decide to put one of those in!   And last of all you decide you really really REALLY want this slide and monkey bar set!  Ok... now for the flowers.  OH NO!! Where will they fit??

They won't!! 

Are the bench, monkey bars, slide, and rocks BAD things?  No... but we might need to take some things out of this little garden to make room for flowers.  Wow!  Look how beautiful the flowers are!  That's what Lent is all about:  making room in our lives to listen better to God.  Your moms and dads probably will be talking about what they are putting aside -- a good thing they are going to stop doing or enjoying for the next 40 days, because they think it might be hindering them a little bit.  It might be going to Target... it might be watching a show... it might be a special food...  These are things that are good, but sometimes we need to put them aside to make room for better things.  This is called a "fast."  Often God uses fasts to teach His people things about His Word and Himself.  We make room to listen so we can "grow."  We let go so we can "run" better.
Now there is lots of room for flowers!

Now we are all about to make some crafts with flowers and seeds-- these will help you remember what we have talked about!


Now I know there are lots of other aspects of Lent and fasting and repentance and seasons that I didn't tap into ... but they were little bitty kids and even with my craziest voices and best visuals I can only keep them paying attention for maybe 15 minutes, hah!

Stay tuned for part 2 on Hebrews 12:2-- Fixing our eyes on JESUS-- and the Easter story!

Rest and Refresh

For Christmas my dear friend gave me an uncommon rarity:  a book I'd never heard of.  :) It was the set of books "Refresh" and "Reset" by husband & wife Pastor David Murray & Dr. Shona Murray.  I looked at the back and refrained from rolling my eyes... ANOTHER book about grace?  Well, ok, fine, my friend gave it to me, I'll give it a try...


As some of you may know from my past blog entry on postpartum rest, I have been realizing that our culture desperately needs to remember the meaning of rest.  And **I** need to remember and incorporate rest in my own life.  I've said before that if I ever write one book it will probably be on recapturing the Sabbath in today's rest-less culture... well... that clearly is NOT my life mission because David & Shona Murray have already done it!!

The books are very similar in content & style but are aimed at women & men respectively.  I've found Refresh to be encouraging, practical, insightful, theologically astute, and so so so needed.  If you are a go-getter type person, someone who feels overwhelmed, or you love someone who is either of those... read this book.  Actually probably everyone should just read it. :) . I won't say more because... well... that would defeat the point of telling you to read the book!!