The Big Meow

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“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you,” Matthew 7:17.

“’…Now, we shall back our desires with some faith. Stand back, everyone. I shall not be driven back by mere noise…when I see the promise of God carved in stone!’ Christiana commenced to address herself to the door with a right good will. Indeed, she attacked it with such violence that it sounded as if she were wielding a battering ram rather than a mere walking staff.

“Now when He that waited within heard the thundering vehemence of that knocking, He smiled and with great joy threw open the door and bade them welcome.” (New Amplified Pilgrim’s Progress, Part 2, Christiana ©2005)

It is some dark hour in the early morning, and my husband and I are peacefully asleep. Slowly, leaking into the sleeping crevices of our senses, comes a soft patting sound low on our closed bedroom door. In groups of three it comes. Pat, pat, pat…pat, pat, pat…on and on and on. Persistently, incessantly, never-endingly.

After a time, those pats become a bit stronger, more urgent, and perhaps followed by a “meow.”

Yes, God has blessed us with two cats. They are siblings: Goldie and Gracie. It is usually Goldie who pats at the door wanting to be let in. After a time, we (usually my husband) open the door and let Goldie and Gracie in. There, Goldie jumps up onto the bed and begins to play predator/prey with our toes. Gracie jumps up to look out the window, knock things off the nightstand, or to meow at her brother. She usually creates such a ruckus that by the time their food dispenser goes off, any extra sleep on our part is out of the question.

Goldie thinks he never gets enough food, so after breakfast he is meowing continually at me, following me around trying to get me to follow him back to the kitchen where he knows the treat bottle is tucked away in a cupboard. Invariably, he gets his way. As soon as I pull down the glass jar containing the tasty morsels and open its lid, both Goldie and Gracie are right there, purring, meowing, and eager to take in the tasty treats. Goldie often catches them; Gracie often misses and has to chase after them.

Once they are satisfied, Goldie will work his way into my lap, curl up with a sigh of contentment, and fall asleep. All is right with his world. Gracie will climb into a box perched nearby on my desk, and she too will snooze away the day.

In the evening while I’m having mother-daughter time in Charity’s room, Goldie will come in and “flop” over. He’s asking for a tummy rub. So, I’ll get down to his level and rub his tummy. Oh, how he purrs and stretches and smiles and soak in every bit of this gentle massage. Gracie comes in, jumps up on Charity’s bed, curls up on a big fluffy pillow, and goes to sleep.

At night, if Goldie is lucky to find we left the door open, he will slip in and quietly curl up at our feet, and again fall asleep, content that all is right with his world.

Ok, so, what does this have to do with the text and the Pilgrim’s Progress passage above?

This. Just as Goldie and Gracie are incessant about being let into our room each morning, so are we to be incessant in our prayers to God. Come before God boldly, and in faith that the door will be opened. Not just a weak, little, “if thy will be done (don’t get angry with me for asking)” type of prayer, but a bold, fearless, pounding on the door.

When Goldie is asking for “the bread of life,” he is eager to catch and gobble the bites of goodness. Gracie isn’t so adept at catching, but she chases after the fallen ones and eats them just as eagerly. So are we to be that eager in studying the Bible. Even if we don’t “get it” the first time around, so are we to chase after it and until we can “eat it” eagerly.

My lap is a place of security, warmth, and contentment for Goldie. So is resting in the lap of Jesus — a place where you are safe and warm in His love.

Goldie loves having his tummy rubbed; Gracie likes being near me. So should we love interacting and staying close to God on a daily basis.

Goldie often sleeps at our feet. So should we sit at the feet of Jesus and learn from what He has to say.

As John Bunyan/Jim Pappas wrote in the Amplified Pilgrim’s Progress, “There are godly lessons in virtually everything about us.” I invite you to look about you this week and consider how your garden, the rain, the sun, your pet — wherever you are and whatever you are doing — can point you to our Father in Heaven. And, share it with us.

 

What are you doing to get youth involved in your church services?

I wonder if all churches have the same problem ours does — th2013-05-04 11.10.45at is, where are the youth? Well, OK, many youth during the school year are away at academies, or so you might think. But, in reality, at most only a few families have chosen to send their youth to boarding school. This school year, we have one from our church at the academy; we had only one last year, and that was only part of the year. Does that mean we have a small church? No, we are one of the five largest congregations in the state! So, where are the youth?

Working at summer camp? Well, possibly, but camps don’t run all year.  So, where are our youth?

In the case of our congregation, they simply don’t come, or if they come, they wander around the church or gather in the parking lot to talk; they don’t participate in the church service. Why?

The answer is simple. There is nothing that attracts them.

Sad.

In our church, what few youth we do have in our congregation tend to migrate to other Adventist churches which have dynamic youth leaders with great programs. That is all well and good, and I’m glad to see they are welcomed and appreciated, but what about our congregation? Even I have had to keep very close eyes on my son and redirect him to the church service at hand when he is distracted by his disinterested friends (on the few occasions they do come to church).

Have you encountered, “I don’t deal with youth well.” Or, “So-and-so can do it, I just don’t have the time.” Or, “My kids aren’t that age, so I have no interest.” Or, “I’ll help if someone else leads out.” I thought so — because not only have I encountered it, I must admit, I have said it.

So, what we have done to change that? My family and I have begun using video cameras and young people (pre-youth age) as our camera crew. About six or seven years ago, the church purchased a couple of cameras and a camera switcher (known as the Tri-Caster). For six months those cameras remained unused, until my husband pushed the church board into providing additional funding to wire the church so we could connect the cameras to the Tri-Caster to use them for our church services.

After a few trial-and-errors, and a lot of desperate attempts to recruit adult help, I finally turned to our pre-youth young people. They were eager and excited! I did have to convince a few very skeptical board members, but with the head elder on my side, we moved forward. Very quickly I had more kids than positions, so I set about making new positions! Over the course of the two-and-a-half years we’ve been using kids, it has been amazing to see what has happened. Families are becoming more involved. One family (and this is a story in itself*) is now involved with Pathfinders and teaching Primary.  Another young person, now a youth, is in academy at her request after spending all her previous school years in public school. Our camera crew kids include those who were naughty and troublesome before, but now are striving to become leaders and positive role models.

And…

Our congregation is giving each of these crew members not only the video skills they are gaining, but also leadership, organization, accountability, and, most importantly, a feeling their church accepts them and loves them.

So, what are you doing to keep your youth, or youth-to-be in your congregation?

*That family that is a story in itself? I didn’t even intend to ask that boy at the time, but I did due to a misidentification. You see, we had two kids, siblings, whose dad had recently passed away. Our head elder had asked me to specifically ask these two kids to be a part of the crew to help them deal with the grief of their dad’s death. As requested, I asked the older girl if she wanted to be a part of this, and she agreed. Then I turned to her younger brother (or so I thought) and asked him. He agreed. A few seconds later I realized my mistake. I couldn’t really un-ask the boy, so as promised, after church, I went to the mother and explained what we do, not saying a word of my mistake. Her reply stunned me and convinced me that in those few brief seconds, God blinded me as to the true identity of the boy I was asking. She told me, “Thank you so much for asking. We were about ready to go to another church which had more activities for him.” Today, not only is this boy a dependable and hardworking member of our crew, but because of his involvement, the whole family is involved with Pathfinders, Sabbath School, and in other offices of the church. And, that boy was recently baptized…all because of a mistaken identity. The family gratefully acknowledges it is because their boy was asked to be part of our camera crew.

 

Coincidence or Inspired by God?

 

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Coincidence or inspired by God?

It was just coincidence, wasn’t it, that we met up with the guy just starting out in his kayak to paddle the Mississippi River from its source to its mouth?

My parents visited us here in Minnesota recently, and we took them on an overnight trip to Lake Itasca and the headwaters of the Mississippi River. We arrived on a rainy, cool Wednesday afternoon and checked into the historic Douglas Lodge. After putting away our things, we got back into the van to explore the state’s first park.

Following a simple map, we reached the interpretative center just a few hundred feet from the beginning of the “mighty Mississip.” It was closed.

So, we wandered down the drippy and muddy trail to the lake/river itself. We were the only people there, and the kids had fun crossing the rocks at the very beginning of the river. We took pictures, played around in the chilly water, and then headed back up the trail.

The rest of the evening was spent in the Lodge.

Thursday dawned bright and beautiful. After a restful(?) — not too restful when sleeping with a thrashing girl — sleep, we all gathered for breakfast. After a simple worship and a planning of the day, we loaded up our things, checked out of the Lodge and walked across the parking lot to the gift store. Here’s the thing, I KNOW I read the store hours correctly — the resource book stated it opened at 8:00 a.m.  But the sign on the door said 10:00. (It was about 9:00 at this point.)

Oh, well … OK.

So, we decided to go back to explore the visitor’s center. It was open, and we looked, listened, discovered, searched, and did all things we do at such hands-on places. We learned much about the history of the park and the role U.S. President F.D. Roosevelt’s CCC — Civilian Conservation Corps — played in developing such a beautiful spot. There was a small gift shop there and we looked around; the kids bought a trinket or two.

We checked the time. We were enjoying ourselves and really had no set schedule. From the center we meandered back to the interpretive center; you know, the one just yards away from the river? We looked through that one, learning about the history of the discovery of the river, and we explored its massive gift shop. After completing our purchases there, we walked out. There were many people around now, each determined to enjoy the beautiful summer day. We asked ourselves if we wanted to go back to the headwaters. Oh, sure, why not! So, back we went.

About a hundred feet down the path from the interpretive center, we crossed the bridge where the tiny river gurgles underneath, slowed by the abundant amounts of growing wild rice. We stopped so my kids could “cross the river.”  As they were having fun striding across the river (my 16-year-old son said, “Look, Ma, I can cross the MisIMG_7355sissippi River in two strides!”), we noticed a man pulling an orange and yellow kayak through the grass. He pulled it up to the steps that led down into the river which my children were using, and set about rearranging his kayak’s contents.

Curiosity got the better of me. “Where are you headed?” I asked.

“To the Gulf,” he replied.

REALLY?!?  That’s more than 2,000 miles.

The rest of my family got in on the conversation, completely enthralled with his journey. He told me how to track his progress, and I carefully made a mental note of it. After a few minutes, he was on his way and we on ours.

Late in the afternoon we bade farewell to Lake Itasca and began winding our way back home to the Twin Cities. As the river twists and turns a crazy number of times near its source, we cross it many times as we traveled southward. One time as we sped over the swampy creek, a flash of orange caught our eye. “THAT’S HIM!! THAT’S HIM!!” the kids shouted.

Fast forward a month: Our kayaker friend was now just a few miles from our house. By prior arrangement, we headed to a nearby dam to meet him, help him with the portage. That completed, he headed on down the river another mile or two while we hurried down to a nearby park where we would pull him and his kayak out and provide lodging for the night.

One night turned into two nights because of bad weather … then three nights because he wanted to experience his first Sabbath.

His first Sabbath.

Was it just coincidence that the first gift shop was closed after everything I read said it would be OPEN?

Was it just coincidence that our friend was delayed two days before starting his trip?

Was it just coincidence? No, I don’t think so.

What is the bottom line?

Back in our room at Douglas Lodge, our simple worship was this prayer: “Lord, let us be used by You today. Let us be open to your promptings. Give us words and actions that will draw others to You.” Then, be sure to live it.

 

Read to Your Kids — Even Your Teenagers

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We all know that reading is very important, and that reading time as a family (i.e., reading to your kids) is just as important. But, how old should the kids be when you stop reading to them? Really, you should NEVER stop reading to your kids!

“But wait!” you might say. My kids are in seventh grade, eighth grade, high school. Certainly, I don’t have to still read to them.

Yes, in my honest opinion, you should.

“Why?” you may ask.

For several reasons: One, it shows your growing child that reading never goes out of style. Also, if you focus on reading with great expression and feeling from the very start, your kids will emulate you. They, too, will read with great expression. This makes the act of verbal and silent reading that much more enjoyable.

In our family, my reading aloud has spread to family worship, where we all take turns reading a passage from our worship book (often an EGW book, currently Christ’s Object Lessons). I have been able to quietly “test” my kids (they don’t realize it) as they’ve read aloud — with expression and good pronunciation — the sometimes difficult words of the 19th century. Even my husband, while he does well in reading, has not, in the past, been an outstandingly expressive reader. Now he is picking up more of the small nuances of reading expressively as he listens to our children read.

“But, what do I read?”

I started when my (now 16-year-old) son was 11 and in the sixth grade. We began with Little House on the Prairie books, and he loved them. The following year we focused on the Sam Campbell books. We then went back to pioneer times with Jeanette Oke’s Love Comes Softly series. Then we did a series on student nursing, including those nurses who worked during World War II.  Last year we focused on Adventist heroes during WWII, including American and German Adventists. This year we are focusing on analogies. Guess who puts my book by the lunch table along with the plates and silverware as we prepare for lunch? (I read during our lunch time.) It isn’t my 9-year-old daughter; it’s my son who makes sure the book is out and ready.

One of the best gifts you can give to your children is the gift of reading aloud to them, even into their teenage years.