Saturday, December 31, 2011

Not Too Small (Part 1)

When I was in college, I had the privilege of working with some of the most amazing girls in the world. My minstry for two years was Saturday Bus Class. Like most Baptist churches, Lancaster had busses that picked up kids and brought them to church every weekend. The only difference was, soo many kids wanted to come, they had to split the programs into Saturday and Sunday. The fun part about Saturday was that it was more relaxed, things werent quite and rushed and we were able to get to know some of our girls on a more personal level. My girls were around 4th-6th grade and full of energy and spunk. I loved them.

Now, when you are teaching a classroom full of kids who have grown up in church, the struggle can be to find new and interesting ways to tell them the same stories that they have heard a hundred times before. With girls who haven't grown up hearing those stories, the challenge is to explain Jesus to them in a way that they will truly understand who HE is.

You see, if I were to tell my girls that Jesus is like a father, it most likely won't be a comforting thought for most of them. For a lot of them, their fathers were in jail, not around, abusive, dead beat, mean.... And that is not what Jesus is to us at all.

So not only could I not come at it from that angle right away, but I had to break it down and be clear and simple. Because large words and spiritual verbage were not going to mean a lot to them. All in all, it was a wonderful lesson for me. It helped me get a fresh perspective on Christ, when it would be so easy to become complacent and prideful in my own spirituality.

One Saturday, my friend Kendall, who was the teacher, asked if I wanted to teach the following week. I was nervous, but I still wanted to do it. You see, I love to teach, and these girls were like little sponges. Even if they were pretending not to listen. We found that out when 90% of them could recite ALL ten commandments after we studied them.

All week I prayed about what I should share with them... I thought about what could be most applicable to their situation, and to what they could best relate. Then I started thinking about Bible stories with young girls. I remembered the young girl who became a maidservant to Naaman's wife. She had been taken from her home, forced to be with people who hated her. Hatred not from who she was, but WHO she represented. This might work. Some of my girls were in foster homes, split homes, homes where their mom always had a new boyfriend.... Just like the girl in the story, their situations weren't ideal, or what they had dreamed of.

But I didn't want to just tell them the story... I wanted it to come alive for them... So the Lord gave me an idea... What if I took some literary liberty, and rewrote the story from the girl's point of view? I would keep to the Biblical account, but I could add possible scenarious to help them really see the story.

So I started writing, and put together about 3 pages for my lesson. To say I was nervous would be an understatement, but I also know God's Word doesn't return void, and that He would be the one guiding this lesson, not me.

So here is part 1 of the story, and maybe in the next few days I'll post part 2 and let you know how the girl's and my friends responded.... Enjoy....

Not Too Small

Rachel huddled down farther between the mat and the wall. Maybe, just maybe she could shrink down far enough to block out the screaming and crying of the women and children.  For two days, the Syrian army had been plundering and pillaging their village. Just last night, Rachel’s own parents had been taken captive. Rachel closed her eyes, and began to remember the details of the previous evening.
“Rachel, please go out into the storehouse and grab me some more barley. I don’t have enough for the meal.”
“Yes Mother,” answered Rachel.
She hurried out the back door to carry out the task for her mother. Just as she reached the storehouse,  she heard a scream. Dropping her basket, Rachel rushed back to the house. As she approached the backdoor, Rachel saw her father and mother being forced out the front door by a Syrian soldier. Rachel opened her mouth to scream, but no sound came out. She didn’t know how long she stood outside, but soon the chilling winds and the grumblings from her stomach brought her back to reality. Rachel slowly made her way into her now empty house and curled up on her parent’s mat and fell into a fitful sleep.
Wiping tears from her eyes, Rachel began to think about what she would do when the army finally left her village. Just as she was beginning to formulate a plan, angry voices were heard outside her kitchen window.
I don’t understand why we have to check all the houses again. We know that we got all the Jewish scum anyway”
“Because Captain Naaman told us to that’s why. Now you take that house and I’ll take this one.”
Not wanting to get taken with the rest of her village, Rachel hurriedly stood and prepared to make a break for the back door. Just as she was about to leave her door shattered into a million splinters as the Syrian soldiers broke into her home.
“Well… what have we here?” growled the soldiers as he glared at Rachel with hate filled eyes.
Rachel held her breath, afraid to move, not knowing what would be ahead of her this night. Just as the soldier approached Rachel, a loud horn sounded in the streets. Upon hearing the horn, the soldier jerked Rachel up by her arm and dragged her outside.
“Jewish scum. They are nothing but problems for us to deal with every day of our lives. It's just another problem of this stupid war.”
Tears began to fill Rachel’s eyes. They were not tears of pain or even tears of hurt over the Syrian’s cruel words, rather they were tears of fear. Rachel didn’t think that she would ever see her homeland or her family again.
After a grueling day of journey, the army and all of the captives stopped to rest for the evening. Rachel didn’t think that she could go another step without a bite to eat. Just as she sat down on a rock to catch her breath, she heard someone yelling and screaming at her.
“What do you think that you are doing?”  yelled the soldier. “You’re not here for a vacation, I need my uniform cleaned.”
As the soldier continued to rant and rave, Rachel saw a tall, commanding man approach the screaming soldier.
“Marcais,” said the man. “What do you think you are doing?”
“Um…well… you see sir... I was just… um… I was just making sure that our prisoner was earning her keep.”
“I don’t believe I asked you to make sure that this young woman was earning her keep by seeing to your personal needs and responsibilities.” Answered the man with a firm and determined look in his eyes.
Rachel stood there dumbly, not knowing what to do. The giant of a man stepped closer to Rachel and knelt down in front of her.
“Well little one, you must be hungry. Let’s go get you some nourishment.”
After her belly was full, the man, whom Rachel learned was Naaman, the captain of the Syrian army, spoke to Rachel about her future.
“My wife is in need of a maid to see to her daily needs. I believe you are capable of the job. You will be well taken care of and all of your needs will be met.”
 Rachel knew that she should be grateful, but she really did not want to be thankful when these men had taken her from her home and now expected her to care for their selfish spoiled wives.  Just as Rachel was about to respond in anger to Naaman, a still small voice spoke to her.
“Do not fear my little one. I am with you always and I have great things planned for you.”

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Twas the Night Before Christmas

I consider myself to be a fairly organized individual. I make a to do list, I have my bills on my calendar. I manage my time somewhat efficiently at home as well as work. All in all, I’m pretty productive, I think… Yet somehow, once again, the Christmas season snuck up on me. Truth be told, my mind wasn’t really on the holidays, even though Christmas is one of my most favorite times of the year. It wasn’t until my best friend was talking about Christmas gifts that I realized, “Oh yeah, I need to buy some of those!”
So I sat down to plan my gift giving enterprise. But as I sat there, I had to ask myself, “Why have I not been thinking about the holidays?” “Why am I not as excited as I normally am?”
Now, I know that many people will either be really spiritual, or really honest, meaning….
 Some people say in one breath, “You should be thinking about Jesus and His birthday, not gifts.” When inside they care JUST as much about gifts as the next person, and will even be offended if you don’t get them something.
Then you have those people who will just come right out and hand deliver you their Christmas gift list, because they have no shame in the fact that they wait all year to get their wish list fulfilled, lol.
But as I sat there pondering my slightly apathetic attitude towards the holiday, I took that moment to really examine myself. Not to give myself a guilt trip because I wasn’t more focused on the birth of Christ, or to think about what I REALLY wanted for Christmas. Instead, I had to be honest with myself and admit that I had allowed work to become a sole priority in my daily life.
Now don’t get me wrong, I truly enjoy and find fulfillment in my work, and I know without a doubt that it is where the Lord has me. But I realized that I am putting so much into it, that I am losing sight of the other things that are important to me. And I didn’t like that very much…
The Lord has blessed me with a very full and wonderful life, but I had become a little one tracked in my day to day activities. I was so focused on work and the tasks of the day that I wasn’t even stopping to enjoy the festivities and joy around me.
I know that the holidays are not all about gifts, but I still want to find joy in giving them to others. Because for me, it is a simple way to show the people around me that, despite the craziness of this world, they are still important to me.
And while I know that we celebrate Jesus’ birth, I don’t want to just think about it in December; I truly want to engulf myself with Him all the time.
For the first time in my life, I started getting tired of holiday music about a week ago. Now, I love ‘Santa Baby’ just as much as the next person, but most days, I listen to the Christian station for a large portion of the day, and I was beginning to really miss my time of worship with the Lord. So yesterday at work, I found the most beautiful song about Jesus' birth. It is called “Born in Me” and the artist is Francesca Battestelli. It brought me to tears because of what my Jesus did for me in being born. Listen to it when you get a chance, it will bless your spirit.
So on this most wondrous of celebrations, take a minute to just enjoy what is around you. Whether it is a Christmas party, worship service or just time alone with God or friends, enjoy it. Drink in the moment and thank the Lord for this beautiful life that He has given to us in Him.
I have included a funny poem that I wrote my junior year in college. I meant it as a gift, but never got that far, lol. It is a slight play off of “The Night Before Christmas.” Hope you enjoy! Merry Christmas All!
Twas the week before Christmas and school had let out,
For this wondrous reason, I no longer did pout!
My ticket was purchased, my bags almost packed,
The room was all clean, but the thermostat jacked!!!!
My pockets were empty with no cash inside,
"How would I buy presents?" I shouted and cried.
Just then my small brain began churning and groaning,
I had an idea and could stop all my moaning!
I’d write up a poem all sweet and endearing,
And by the end of my rhyme they all would be cheering!
At this time of year we love carols and holly,
We take pictures with fat men who are constantly jolly!
The stockings are hung and the cookies are baked,
The presents are wrapped in all sizes and shapes.
On the eve before Christmas, no child can sleep,
The utter excitement might cause them to creep,
Down the stairs to the presents all waiting below,
That when opened tomorrow will cause such a show!
But why do we bake all those cookies each year?
And why do we wish people merry and cheer?
You see in a manger lay a small baby boy,
Who would bring to the world love, peace and joy!
His birth marked the point of change here on earth,
His death marked the why of our simple worth.
So on this occasion so joyous and grand,
Let’s not forget the birth of the man.
As I end this short rhyme and I turn out the light,
Merry Christmas to all, and to all a Good Night!!!!”