Learning your own God Language
I have twin nieces who when they were very young, like many twins, developed their own language. The mixture of sounds that came out of their mouths meant nothing to me but to each of them the message was crystal clear. They knew what was said, they could communicate back and forth, and the language drew them closer.
I believe that we have inside us a longing to grow closer to God. However, many of us struggle to make that closeness a reality. We strive to do it through studying ‘more’, praying ‘harder’, ‘doing’ stuff but all too often find that we still don’t feel the desired connection.
What if the answer to our quest is in a special “temperament” or “language” through which we can best communicate with God? What if God has a style of communicating with each of us that will fill us with God’s presence? By utilizing these “languages” we can fashion learning experiences to reach the intellectual, or the caregiver, or the activist or the…. By considering the “temperament” of various members we can provide different worship experiences (not necessarily Sunday morning Services) that touch people. By looking at these temperaments we can better identify the kinds of ministries that the church is best suited to pursue. This is the message of those who have done research and study into the area of “spiritual temperaments” or “God languages” such as Gary Thomas*, Myra Perrine* and Dan Dick*. Their conclusion is that each of us “approach” God in particular ways and if we identify our temperament(s) or language(s) and reach out through them we will find more powerful experiences with God.
What are these temperaments or God languages? Thomas has identified 9 temperaments (which Perrine utilizes and details) but makes it clear that there may be more. But what do these look like? You may recognize them as:
*the person who knows much of the Bible and loves to work out the details of issues and thoughts,
*the person who is always making sure that others are being thought about,
*the person who will raise questions or issues that you know are to be have one “right” response,
*the person who can’t wait to give praise to God and who bubbles over with joy about the Lord,
*the person who has a special personal connection with God and who loves solitary prayer time,
*the person who experiences God best on walks in the neighborhood, woods or …,
*the person who works hard for God and desires few personal comforts,
*the person who loves the beauty of the ceremonies of the church and “hasn’t worshiped” unless we
say the Lord’s Prayer.
*the person who wants to include more “experiential” aspects in worship or learning about God
because that makes God more real.
As we understand these temperaments several things open up for us. We discover a pathway to help ourselves and others grow closer to Christ (e.g. styles of Bible Study, Worship experiences, activities). We gain an insight into what others value and need. We identify areas that we can grow in so that we discover more of God.
If you would like more information about this topic or information on hosting a workshop of Spiritual Temperaments contact Rev. Stephen Wallace at: Wallace SC&W
405 740-8800 firstname.lastname@example.org
*Gary Thomas “Sacred Pathways”, Myra Perrine “What’s Your God Language”,
Dan Dick & Barbara Miller “Equipped for Every Good Work”
A modern overview of the short and long term psychological effects of bullying by Holly Davis
Bullying is a systematic abuse of power and is defined as aggressive behaviour
and intentional harm-doing by peers that is carried out repeatedly and involves some sort of victimization. It can manifest itself in a number of different ways and it does not necessarily have to be physical. For example, excluding a peer from a social group or ostracizing a physical characteristic.
Being bullied is still often wrongly considered as a “normal rite of passage” and many adolescents are perceived as “cool” when bullying others. Although it is seen as a display of power many bullies often tend to have psychological problems themselves which they hide behind an aggressive façade.
The following review considers how this victimization affects academic performance, physical and mental health. It also explores the long-term effects of bullying and reduced adaptation to adult roles including forming lasting relationships, integrating into work and being economically independent. With so many studies pointing to bullying being a major risk factor and safeguarding issue it is time for it be drawn into the spotlight. It is frequently dismissed by teachers, parents and health professionals as insignificant, but growing bank of evidence suggests that it is well worth paying attention to. Effect on academic performance.
A large study undertaken by a group of psychologist in UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles) has found a link between bullying and poor academic performance
. It showed that high levels of bullying were associated with lower grades across all middle schools that were involved in the study. As well as a questionnaire completed by students, teachers added with their observations on student participation in activities and class discussions.
Students who were bullied the most perform much worse than their peers and tend to be quieter in class for the fear of being bullied. These pupils also end up disliking school and are more likely to skip lessons to avoid clashes with their bullies. To these students it seems like an easier, less embarrassing option than telling their parents or teachers. Lead psychologists of the study, Juvonen and Nishina, advise parents to be attentive to their children and talk about bullying before it even happens. This will help children feel more comfortable about discussing their issues if they arise and will have an overall positive impact on academic performance. As well as that, helping children overcome bullying might have an effect on their physical health as students who get bullied not only develop psychological problems, but get headaches and colds more often.
Bullying in schools should be addressed seriously and teachers should be provided with comprehensive training on how to deal with it. It is not just a matter of managing a few bullies for the sake of better grade averages for the school, but a very important issue that should be at the core of school ethos. Long term Psychological effects
A recent study led by a group of scientists in Norway investigated long term psychological effects of bullying on adolescents and the associated mental health problems that arise in adulthood as a result. It was a broad longitudinal study
(over 12 years) across a variety of age groups and involved both genders. The specific aim was to examine the link between bullying experiences at teenage years (around 14-15 y.o.) and psychological problems and psychosocial functioning in young adulthood at 27 years.
The study yielded some findings that support existing theories on links between bullying and mental health problems. The results showed that all groups involved in bullying in young adolescence, be it as a bully or a victim, had adverse mental health outcome in young adulthood as compared to the non-involved ones. Both victims and bullies showed reduced leisure activities when compared to their non-involved peers. And bullies specifically, showed reduced mental health in adulthood compared to those not involved in bullying in younger years.
Bullying victims were the ones affected the most, with increased levels of depressive symptoms and high levels of critical symptoms. In this study, critical symptoms consist of atypical behaviours such as breaking things belonging to others, being unhappy/sad, self-harming and fixating on negative thoughts. This group was the one likely to receive help for mental problems at some point in life.
Bullies themselves also scored highly showing that their aggressive behaviour has an effect on their mental health. All groups involved in bullying had increased risk of psychiatric hospitalisation compared to those who had no bullying experience.
These findings alone should be a good enough reason for implement zero-tolerance policies in schools and teaching educational professionals about importance of combating bullying. Cyberbullying overview
Unfortunately, with technological advances arrived an era of online bullying and “trolling”. Now, the bullies do not have to be the meanest or biggest in the playground, they can simply hide behind a monitor while inflicting some serious damage on their victims’ mental health. Some statistics
show almost 7 in 10 young people are being bullying online with females being targeted more often.
As with a normal type of bullying, victims are unlikely to share their concerns with peers, parents or teachers which leads to the above mentioned complications such as lower self-esteem, higher levels of depression, poor academic performance and social isolation. In severe cases it could lead to suicide.
It is obviously harder for parents and teachers to intervene with cyber bullying
, especially if they are kept in the dark. The best way to tackle this problem is to educate children about cyberbullying and online security from an early age. There is always the option of blocking or ignoring the bully. However, if the problem becomes persistent, evidence should be saved and reported to the appropriate authorities. It is very important to stress that no one should be ashamed of seeking out help
. Bullying is serious problem that should be addressed accordingly.
Thinking Thoroughly/Theologically Are you ever surprised because a friend or acquaintance promotes a course of action which goes contrary to their values? Have you ever caught yourself being inconsistent in pursuing a course of action which diverges from your beliefs? It is easy to not “think through” situations or issues, but it is important that we do just that. Why? To make sure that we don’t act in ways contrary with our beliefs, priorities, and values. To make that we don’t wander down the wrong path. To make sure that we don’t miss an opportunity to be a light in a dark area.
Our nation and church needs to think thoroughly and theologically. Theological thinking is something we need to teach our congregations to do as well as to encourage them to do and model for them. Laurie Green in her book “Let’s do Theology” gives a process for think kind of thinking. She says it starts with:
*Looking at Experience (ours or another’s/present day or historical)-What happened? What are the dynamics? What created the circumstances for what took place?
*Do more Exploration of the situation.-How do you feel about it or think about it? What were the feelings or thoughts of those in the situations (be sure to look at various people from different perspectives).
*Take time for Reflection.-What is the meaning of what took place to me, to society, to the people directly involved? Why do/did I respond as I do/did? What other possible pathways of action or perspective are open to me/society? What are the short and long term consequences of the pathway chosen?
*Based on the previous steps, what is my Response.- What understandings or beliefs of life and faith do I want to assimilate based on steps 1-3? What response do I want to take now? What is the new experience I want to create out of this?
Sometimes it may take weeks, months or even years to work though specific experiences before a direction is found. During this time multiple and even contradictory ideas may be held onto. (The video offered this month has a section about how to think theologically.) After all, it is not a matter of whether we are going to think theologically but whether we are going to do it well or poorly; whether we are going to do it to help us be consistent in our faith or haphazard. Today there is too much haphazard, kneejerk, and what is convenient thinking and acting. How can we help our congregations and world think through the consequences, implications, and beliefs of what our actions, words and values bring?
Parent/Child Dedication Service
Introduction of the parents/families and infants
Scripture reading: Matthew 19:13-14
13 Then little children were brought to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for
them. But the disciples rebuked those who brought them. 14 Jesus said, "Let the little children
come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these."
Reflections and Vows:
The Lord has honored you in making you parents. It is a great blessing as well as a great
responsibility to mold and shape the values, attitudes and experiences of a child. Scripture tells us
that children are a gift: a gift which is to be care for and cherished. It is not easy raising a child; it
will take changes in you, giving up some things and starting up others. There will be times when
you are at a loss for what to do. There will be other times when you will be scared to death.
There will be times of joy that are marvelous. There will be times of celebration that make life
You do not have to undertake this journey alone. God will be beside you each step of the way,
providing you with what is needed, and this community of faith will walk with you as well. The
covenant you stand here today to make is that you will share our faith in Christ with this young
one. This means sharing Scripture with them, teaching them about Jesus and his great love for
them, seeking to lead them to be followers of our Lord and Savior. It means praying for them
regularly as well as praying for God to help you be the best parent possible. So I ask you now:
Will you care for your child to the best of your ability? Will you raise this little one as a child of
God? Will you provide for the physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual needs? Will you
pray for them and for your ability to be a good parent? If so say “I will”.
The task of raising child is one that we as a community of faith have a responsibility in as well. A
child’s parents need support and guidance, care and compassion, words of encouragement and
actions of help. The child also needs our love and acceptance to help them grow in the faith. So
as a community of faith:
Do you accept your part of the privilege and responsibility in raising these children? Will you
live in ways that show them Christ? Will you pledge to pray for them and their parents? If so
say “I will”.
Giving of Symbols: Cradle Cross- In times passed God has the people set up symbols which
provided an opportunity to share the story of what God has done. People would see the symbol
and ask what it meant and then they were to tell of the great love of God. The cradle cross is hung
is the child’s room to be a sign of what God has done and is doing.
Rose: is a sign of beauty and has a wonderful aroma. But it also has thorns. Parenting is full of beauty and wonderful things but it is not without its difficulties and sorrows. If we are not careful we can focus on the thorns and loose sight of the beautiful flower. So remember the joy of what God has brought into your life with this young life and celebrate it.
Medical Advocate Ministry
A couple of months ago she fell and broke a hip. The retirement center sent her by ambulance to a large local hospital. After waiting in the ER for a couple of hours the x-rays confirmed that she had indeed fractured her hip. Yet even though she was in the hospital with a fractured hip she was given no pain medicine. The next day family members repeatedly asked for some pain relief and yet the system failed this lady. “The doctor hadn’t written a prescription” the nurse said. Staff had to be pressed to call someone so that some could be given to her.
This was the beginning of a couple of months of frustrating experiences with two hospitals and a rehab facility. Over those months the family frequently and passionately sought answers about this lady’s health and treatment. Medications were not given; including in one facility her regular prescriptions for heart and blood pressure, and in another the anti-biotics for an infection for which she was admitted were missed for two days. Appeals for a catheter to be removed after being moved to the rehab facility, which the hospital said should be done in a day or so, were ignored for two weeks. This led to a urinary infection which left this woman in a dire situation.
Now why am I recounting this story? Not to slam medical professionals. Our health care system is stretching medical staff extremely thin with a myriad or regulations, policies and demands that they have to take care of. Instead I raise it because this is an all too frequent situation, and when people are physically or mentally unable to advocate for themselves during these times it places them in a very dangerous place. For congregations this is a need that we can do something about. It is an opportunity for a ministry team to be created in many congregations which would help keep up with the needs of those who are vulnerable and need advocates. This wouldn’t be for all who are hospitalized but only for those without family or friends to watch out or for those who are not mentally or physically able to do it for themselves (e.g. Alzheimer’s, etc.). What might it look like? Obviously there are HIPPA laws which would need to be dealt with as well as the wishes of the individual himself/herself (e.g. privacy, whether they want you to help, …).
*Possibly someone who watches what is going on and the progress or lack of progress in healing,
*Possibly someone who becomes knowledgeable in the patient’s health (allergies, when things were done or not done (when they ate, were given medications, given therapy),
*Possibly someone who raises question with staff when he/she sees something going astray,
*Possibly someone who helps be a communication conduit to those the patient would like to ‘be kept in the loop’,
I am sure you could think of many ways this could be helpfully enacted. With this family visiting daily it was still difficult to catch oversights or to keep things on a good track. With nobody watching there is sure to be things that need to be seen that are simply not. How can we help watch over those who are vulnerable?
We hope that this devotional book helps enhance your Celebration of Christmas. The next 25 days will be spent reflecting on the people and things of Christ’s birth. Enjoy and may we all be lifted up closer to Christ by them.
This section looks at what God brings and how we are to respond:
Dec 1 Luke 1: 5--7 Zechariah – Disappointment but Faithful
Dec 2 Luke 1:8–20 Zechariah – Discerning God’s way
Dec 3 Luke 1: 21-25 Elizabeth – Showing Favor
Dec 4 Luke 1: 26–35 Mary – Unexpected Turns in Life
Dec 5 Matthew 1: 19-20, 24-25 Joseph – Uncertainties & Trust
Dec 6 Matthew 1: 20-23 Angels – Where to Find Direction
Dec 7 Luke 1: 57-64 John’s Birth – Carrying Though
Dec 8 Luke 2: 1-5 Joseph – Living in the World Watching for God
Dec 9 Luke 2 5-7 Inn Keeper – Hard times
Dec 10 Luke 2: 8-14 Shepherd & Angels - Joy Accepting
Dec 11 Luke 2: 15-18, 20 Shepherd: Deciding What to Do
Dec 12 Luke 2:19 Mary: Keeping Track
Dec 13 Luke 2: 21-24 Jesus: Keeping Tradition
Dec 14 Luke 2: 25-28a Simeon: Confirmation
Dec 15 Luke 2: 36-38 Anna: Waiting
Dec 16 Matthew 2: 1 Magi: How much Effort to Give
Dec 17 Matthew 2: 1-3 Herod: Disturbed by God’s Plan
Dec 18 Matthew 2: 3-6 Bible: Living Word of Help
Dec 19 Matthew 2: 7-9, 12 Herod & the Magi: Traps
Dec 20 Matthew 2: 10-11 Magi & Jesus: Worshipping
Dec 21 Matthew 2: 11 Opening Treasure: Gold
Dec 22 Matthew 2: 11 Opening Treasure: Frankincense
Dec 23 Matthew 2: 11 Opening Treasure: Myrrh
Dec 24 Matthew 2: 13-15 God: Protection
Dec 25 John 3: 16 Jesus: The Gift
December 25 - Jesus: The Gift
Scripture: For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
December 24 - God: Protection
Scripture: 13 When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”
14 So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, 15 where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.” Matthew 2: 13-15
December 1 Zechariah – Disappointment but Faithful!
Scripture: 5 In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. 6 Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly. 7 But they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both very old. Luke 1:5-7
December 2: Zechariah – Discerning God’s way
Scripture: 8 Once when Zechariah’s division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, 9 he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense.10 And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside.
11 Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. 12 When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. 13 But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. 14 He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, 15 for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. 16 He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. 17 And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
18 Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.”
19 The angel said to him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news.20 And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time.”
December 23 - Opening Treasure: Myrrh
Scripture: - 11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Matthew 2: 11
December 22 - Opening Treasure: Frankincense
Scripture: 11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Matthew 2: 11
December 3 Elizabeth – Showing Favor
Scripture: 21 Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah and wondering why he stayed so long in the temple. 22 When he came out, he could not speak to them. They realized he had seen a vision in the temple, for he kept making signs to them but remained unable to speak.
23 When his time of service was completed, he returned home. 24 After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion. 25 “The Lord has done this for me,” she said. “In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.” Luke 1: 21-25
December 4 Mary – Unexpected Turns in Life
Scripture: In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin's name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, "Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you."
Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end." “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Luke 1: 26–35
December 21 - Opening Treasure: Gold
Scripture: 11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Matthew 2: 11
December 20 - Magi & Jesus: Worshipping
Scripture: 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Matthew 2: 10-11
December 5 Joseph –Uncertainties & Trust
Scripture: Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. 20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. …..24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25 But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus. Matthew 1: 19-20, 24-25
December 6 - Angels – Where to Find Direction
Scripture: 20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).
Matthew 1: 20-23
December 19 - Herod & the Magi: Traps
Scripture: 7 Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. 8 He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”
9 After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was.....12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.
Matthew 2: 7-9, 12
December 18 - Bible: Living Word of Help
Scripture: 3 When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. 5 “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:
6 “‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.’” Matthew 2: 3-6
December 7 -John’s birth: God’s Plan for Us vs. the World’s
Scripture: 57 When it was time for Elizabeth to have her baby, she gave birth to a son. 58 Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown her great mercy, and they shared her joy.
59 On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him after his father Zechariah, 60 but his mother spoke up and said, “No! He is to be called John.”
61 They said to her, “There is no one among your relatives who has that name.”
62 Then they made signs to his father, to find out what he would like to name the child. 63 He asked for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s astonishment he wrote, “His name is John.” 64 Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue set free, and he began to speak, praising God. Luke 1:57-64
December 8 - Joseph: Living in the World Watching for God
Scripture: In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2 (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.)3 And everyone went to their own town to register. 4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. Luke 2: 1-5
December 17 - Herod: Disturbed by God’s Plan
Scripture: After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem 2 and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” 3 When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him.
Matthew 2: 1-3
December 16 - Magi: How much Effort to Give
Scripture: After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem
Matthew 2: 1
December 9 -Inn Keeper: Hard Times and Way
Scripture: 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
December 10 - Shepherd & Angels - Joy Accepting
Scripture: 8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
Luke 2: 8-14
December 15 - Anna: Waiting
Scripture: 36 There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37 and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. 38 Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem. Luke 2: 36-38
December 14 - Simeon: Confirmation
Scripture: 25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. 26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27 Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, 28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God.
Luke 2: 25-28a
December 11 - Shepherds: Deciding What to Do
Scripture: 15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. ….
20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.
Luke 2: 15-18, 20
December 12 - Mary: Treasuring/Keeping Track
Scripture: 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. Luke 2: 19
December 13 - Jesus: Keeping Tradition
Scripture: 21 On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he was conceived. 22 When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”), 24 and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.” Luke 2: 21-24
On October 6th many neighborhoods around the United States will celebrate Neighbor’s Night Out. This is a time to open the front door, go outside, and spend time with those who live around you. It is an effort with a very simple purpose; helping people get to know each other. It use to be that we knew our neighbors and many families would sit out on the porch in the evenings interacting with neighbors as they walked by or sat on their own porch. Today it is more likely that kids (or parents) are playing on the X-Box while other family members are plopped in front of the TV. Isolation in many neighborhoods has become the norm and many people couldn’t name you 5 people who live on their street.
Just as it has been easy for families to isolate it has been easy for the church to become isolated from its neighbors as well. So as the church what are we doing or what can we do to help build neighborhoods? What successes have you had and what hasn’t worked? Have we become isolated or are we reaching into the areas around us to see the needs and to ‘get to know’ our neighbors? Do we plan events for the neighborhood with the intent of building community or just do events to get people to join our church? Does the church have service activities targeting the area around it (homes or businesses)?
Here are some ideas of things you can do to build your neighborhood:
*Go out into your area and introduce yourself to the neighbors (businesses or homeowners)
*Watch for needs in the neighborhood and take the initiative to help meet them (e.g. trash pickup, offer to be a Safe Place for abused women or lost children)
*Offer fix up services to neighbors (this could be to change light bulbs, trim bushes, or more)
*Walk the block and pray for the businesses and homes; maybe even invited requests from neighbors
*Host a block party just to have a positive thing for the neighborhood
*Pay attention to what resources your congregation has that could bless the neighbors or what resources you could put in to be a blessing (e.g. air conditioned rooms during summer time for those without AC, outdoor basketball courts or other outdoor sports facilities)
*Offer the Home Owners Associate a place to meet for its annual meeting
*Find good area restaurants and hold meetings there or lunches out
*Create some event working with various businesses (e.g. support for a local charity, social group, family who has experienced tragedy or hardship)
What ideas do you have to bring your neighborhood together?
Encouraging Volunteerism Outside our Walls
The church talks a lot about the importance, value, and need to volunteer, and for good reason. There are tremendous benefits to giving of our time and abilities to others. Unfortunately this call is often focused just on getting people to fill the roles the church needs. Certainly there are great benefits to volunteering through/in the church. But the need for volunteers within the church can make it easy to be hesitant to ‘let go’ of a volunteer to an activity or agency outside the walls of the church. Yet the church must fight becoming inward or self focused. We are to be about ministering and to making an impact on the world and often that impact is accomplished more powerfully by activities and efforts that are centered beyond the church’s walls.
If you were to evaluate your congregation’s view toward encouraging volunteering beyond the church what would you find? Is there hostility toward anyone suggesting that people focus their efforts there? Is “outside volunteering” seen as a second class effort to “inside volunteering”? Is there any effort made by the church to connect volunteers with activities outside the walls? On a scale from hostile to encouraging where does your congregation fall? Where do you fall?
If you were focus on outside volunteering what could your congregation do to encourage it? Here are some possibilities. In one congregation I served we had a bulletin board where we listed volunteer opportunities at various agencies and activities. We had a member who made sure to connect with people in the community and various agencies so that she was one of the first to know what was needed and could communicate what was needed to us. Congregations could highlight member’s volunteer efforts outside the church; maybe through a display or in newsletters, or on a page on your website. The missions or outreach committee could be encouraged to see this area as part of what they are about. Congregations could change the language used about outside efforts….for some this might me that they may start talking about them. Perhaps have a special effort every year or quarter or month that is outside focused.
Over the past couple of years the majority of my volunteering time has been done at my son’s school and in coaching his sports teams. One of the things that I have noticed is that this gives me the opportunity to support, encourage, and just be nice to people that I would never see through my inside the church efforts. Christ calls us to be a light and a kind presence in this world. We will never be successful at this until we step out beyond the walls of the congregation and spend part of our lives serving there.
Would you like to increase the impact of your ministry? Would you love to have your ‘touch’ live on beyond you? One of the most powerful efforts that I made in ministry was to create apprenticeship programs and to have others join the ministry in Christ’s service. These were opportunities where people who had an interest in working as staff for congregations could get a taste of what it was like and grow in his/her knowledge/understanding of how to do that work.
Here is what those apprenticeships looked like: (a) the person, along with me or their mentor, identified the area of interest for their focus (e.g. music, youth, pastoral care, small groups), (b) the person agreed to work a certain number of hours per week focusing on the apprenticeship (usually around 8-10 hours/week), (c) I agreed to provide weekly training sessions on ministry topics (e.g. Bible, Church History, Theology, Stewardship, Pastoral Care, Counseling, Ethics, Goal Setting & Evaluating, and more), (d) I met with them to devise goals and objectives for their time as well as to review progress as the weeks/months went along, (e) the initial period was typically for 6 months to 1 year, although I did do some summer internships of 3 months, and (f) the initial period could be renewed, which was done in 1 year increments. The apprenticeships program was approved by the congregational leadership and the apprentice was treated as a staff person. Most of these apprenticeships were unpaid but I also had some that included a salary (the summer internships are one example).
These efforts provided some wonderful opportunities both for the apprentices as well as for the congregations. I offered these in large congregations as well as in a congregation of about 100 in worship. Some of the learnings from these efforts include the following: (a) for the first year you (the mentor and church) will put in more time and energy than you ‘get back’. It is an investment in the future and will pay off in powerful ways! (b) somewhere toward the end of the first year the balance of investment/benefit begins to shift and a tangible positive difference is felt in the congregation (assuming that the apprenticeship is going well), (c) these individuals are passionate about the possibility of following God’s call and so would do more than what I often felt comfortable ‘asking for’, (d) prayer, Bible study and other spiritual disciplines are an important part of this process, (e) treating the apprentice as a staff member gives them credibility with the congregation. Don’t minimize them or treat them as 2nd class staff members because then the congregation will discount them. (f) there are more people than I would have ever imagined who have this interest and only need the opportunity and encouragement to try it. (g) apprenticeships expand the possibility of the kinds and depths of ministry a congregation can offer. We publicized the program several times throughout the year and talked about what was involved. Obviously having an apprentice was an ongoing advertisement for the program.
Now, you might say “but I don’t just have time.” That is true unless you decide to make the short term investment for a long term blessing. An apprenticeship program does require a change of priorities in how your time and focus is spent. However, if you do make the investment then after a few months you will see how having a second staff person covers more ministry than you ever could have done on your own.
Now, you might also say “but I don’t have all of the training material to give them or time to create it”. Then let me help! We offer a series of ministry training videos on 24 topics (Spiritual Disciplines, Communication Skills, Theology, Bible x 3, Goal Setting/Evaluating, Relationships, Ethics, Worship, Visitation & Pastoral Care, Church History, Conflict, Special Services (weddings, funerals, house blessing, etc.), Stewardship, Administration, Counseling, Preaching, Group Dynamics, Learning Styles and Issues, Connecting people to God x 2). Most of these are 1 to 1.25 hours long. Our Board is offering these for free and they can be found online 24 hours a day. When I taught these classes I used fill in the blank Participant Notes to make capturing the highpoints easier as well as providing additional information on several of the topics. These are available for a slight fee ($5 per session).
If you have questions developing an apprenticeship program please drop me an email or give me a call. I would be happy to help. Of course there would be no charge, it is just our ministry.
April 23, 2015
Have you ever been told to pray? I was thinking the other day about how many times I have been told that I should pray. Sometime I was even told what the content of those prayers should be…thanksgiving or confession or requests or praise/adoration. But I also thought about how I often wasn’t told or didn’t tell to my congregation the methods or patterns available for prayers. So I tended to what I knew…saying prayers in a linier format as if reading sentences off of a page. That is a great method to use for many of us but at times even I felt like I needed some other format. Have you?
Prayer doesn’t have to be all linier and page formatted. Instead it can take a variety of shapes. It can take the form of art where you finger paint (or use a brush if you must) your feelings or those hard to express thoughts/emotions. It might take the shape of music. It might take the form of sculpting clay or sand on a beach. Its shape might be a journal or a letter to God. It could take the form of an old chant, prayer of another, or poem that powerfully captures your heart. I know of some who pray in pictures; images that come to might that express their hopes, fears or hurts. Others pray by using repetition or by using patterns (e.g. Stations of the Cross, rosary) that keep their mind focused. Is there value for you in using movement as the expression of our prayers (e.g. dance, positions such as kneeling or prostrating).
What shapes or methods do you pray in and teach and are there other forms that could help you and those you lead pray more powerfully or completely?