Friday, September 30, 2011

God Requires Action



I see, but I don't want to get involved. It might cause me grief. Why rock the boat? Someone else will take care of it. God protects His children. All His children. God is angry at the house of Eli for its actions and its inactions. The adoption of the Justice in Education resolution at General Assembly was a first step for children. We must now act upon that resolution to do what we can to "level the playing field." 


Prayer
Father, I pray that heads won't turn away from what needs to be seen. I pray that we see and do something. I pray that we do Your will. Amen.


Jim Price
Member
First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
New Martinsville, West Virginia

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Here I Am!



“Here I am!”  Samuel repeatedly mistakes the Lord’s call for Eli’s and goes rushing to his master. Eli, with his spiritual wisdom, is able to respond to Samuel’s particular need and guides him.


Young people are naturally eager to learn. They come running, “Here I am!  Show me. Teach me.”  Unfortunately, most public educational systems do not allow children to follow their natural yearnings to learn. They are instructed according to abstract standards and tests.


What would it be like if when our children ran to us, “Here I am!” we responded according to their desire, making education fit them? What would it be like if we guided and mentored instead of tested?


Prayer
Precious One, you have made each of us filled with curiosity and a desire to learn. When we are taught in irrelevant ways, too many lose interest and give up. Give us the courage to demand that education fit the child instead of the child fit the system. Amen.


Rev. Maggie Sebastian
Portland, Oregon

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Entrusted by God


Longing for a child, Hannah was finally entrusted with a son by God. She knew that God had only entrusted her with Samuel, not given her the child. Hannah recognized that Samuel was a full human being with his own life journey. She was willing to be away from him during most of his childhood for the sake of his education, offering him up as a nazirite. 

What would the world be like if we dedicated every child to God? How would we treat each child if we really believed that they were themselves being lured by the Divine along their own spiritual path? Perhaps, we would assure that every child had an education that suited their particular gifts. 

Prayer
God of diverse talents, Help us to see your Divine spark in each child that you entrust to us. Strengthen us for the task of providing every one of your little ones an education suited to their needs. Amen.

Rev. Tim Graves
Embracing
Portland, Oregon

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Accepting the Challenge with Joy



When mothers and fathers hold their newborn child they hold God’s most precious gift to humankind in their hands--the gift of life. In that moment lies not only the hope and future of that child, but of a nation. Each child possesses its own beauty and purpose. The care and nurturing required to turn that beauty  into its fully blossomed potential belong to each of us as care takers of the garden of our lives.  It’s an awesome responsibility.  May I accept the challenge with joy.

Prayer
God of Life, help me to be an advocate for all those things which will nurture with care each and every child that you are bringing to full blossom in my life.  Amen.

Judy Bennett
Island Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Wheeling, West Virginia

Monday, September 26, 2011

Bible Stories



Bible stories. I remember hearing Bible stories from Sunday school teachers, ministers, and my father.  My dad’s were the best because, let’s face it, in his embellishing and dramatization, he made the stories lively if not always completely accurate.  

Never did my parents expect my public school teachers to lead me in prayer or educate me in the faith. Families and faith communities are supposedly best equipped to convey the faith, and if we are not, we need to get ourselves educated.  

The text commands that we tell our children of the love of God at home and away, when we lie down, and when we rise up. These are family times - precious, memorable, holy. Let’s not abdicate this responsibility to anyone else.

Prayer
God of Israel, we are to love you with all our heart, soul, and might.  Our children will learn to love you in this way when we live it for them to see.  Amen.

Rev. Maggie Sebastian
VA Medical Center
Portland, Oregon

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Giving Bread & Eggs


With few exceptions, North Americans believe that our children need a good education. Too often, we have responded by pressuring our children and their teachers with high-stakes testing. Yet, what children need most are learning experiences within the context of welcoming, loving, and compassionate relationships. Children learn best when they are free to creatively explore without fear of being marked as a failure by external tests.

Prayer
God of Relationships & Hospitality, May we give children the bread and eggs they need and ask for, rather than fish and scorpions. Give us the wisdom to trust Jesus’ example of compassion and hospitality as we interact with our children and their teachers. Amen.

Rev. Tim Graves
Embracing
Portland, Oregon

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Rebuilding the Community


We see families move out of impoverished communities for better schools, where poor children are left with dwindling resources and deteriorating conditions.  But there is hope!  


Jeremiah promised the people of his day that there was a reward for their work: God would bring the children back to their own country.  There is a reward for our work: when we invest ourselves in poor communities, we not only build a brighter future for children, we build up the whole community now.  


Consider connecting with a congregation in a community with educational needs and invest in a relationship with them.

Prayer
Loving God, You told us to welcome children in Your name.  May we not only welcome, but build a welcoming community for all children, and may we serve where there is need.  Amen.


Rev. Mindi Welton-Mitchell
Member
First Christian Church
Durant, Oklahoma

Friday, September 23, 2011

Deciding for Love



How often do we, as a society, force families to unduly decide the fate of a child?  Too often the choices that are laid before us are false choices.  King Solomon knew this well.  Recently a family was severely criticized for not making immediately known whether their newborn was male or female.  When God calls us to love all children, why do we need to know the sex of a child in order to express our joy, excitement, and love?  We don’t.  It’s a false choice that is more about the needs of society than a loving God.  

Prayer
O God of all peoples, help us to love our children unconditionally, as you love us.  May we never force parents, teachers, coaches, and others who lead our children to make decisions based on societal standards, but only on the basis of love.  Amen.



Rev. Allen V. Harris
Pastor
Franklin Circle Christian Church Cleveland, Ohio

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Creative Solutions





In Moses’ birth story, he is born into a kingdom that demands all baby boys to be killed or thrown into the river. Instead, Moses’ mother protects him as best she can by placing him in a basket and setting him among the reeds on the bank of the river. When he is discovered by the Pharaoh’s daughter both Moses’ mother and sister respond such that Moses is raised by his mother for the first few years of his life.

While the situation of Moses’ birth seemed dire and inescapable, seemingly doomed to die simply because he was a Hebrew baby boy, his mother and sister found a creative way to make sure Moses could still live, and not only live, but thrive.  While we may not know the outcome of every child, we know there are creative solutions to our educational system that can advocate for all of God’s children so that they not only receive education, but thrive in their education as well.


Prayer
Creating God, open our minds and our hearts to your creativity and imagination.  Help us to see the many ways that we can inspire and support our children, even if it is not the most obvious answer.  Direct our hearts and minds such that we can find a way for all your children to thrive.  Amen.


Rev. Laura Phillips, Associate Minister
First Christian Church
Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Facing the Impossible

Matthew 19:13-15


“Stop!” Screamed this tiny two-year-old voice, in her sunglasses and pink coat.


It was Kate’s first trip to see the ocean. Kate seemed hesitant. She stopped at the edge of the rise, just where you could hear the waves. I turned to see Kate and stopped as instructed.


Then she pointed her finger. She wasn’t directing me. She was demanding the Atlantic Ocean, and its mighty roar, to stop.


“How absurd,” may be the initial reaction, “how na├»ve… how cute.”


But at two, like a child, she was standing up against something that seemed impossible to defeat, through the eyes of an adult.


Prayer
Let us face the great roar of the challenge of life like a child.


Pat Barton
Chalice Christian Church
Gilbert, Arizona
http://www.chalicechristian.com



Tuesday, September 20, 2011

"You're welcome . . . sort of"

Matthew 10:40-42

In our congregations, often kids are welcome to be seen, not heard.  Members love to see many little ones gather for Children’s Moment but would rather not hear them before or after.  Sound familiar?  Do young people read liturgy?  Does the preacher only use big words in the sermon?  How many of our congregations include children on the Board or search committees, even those hiring a Children’s Minister?  


Welcoming implies an opportunity for leadership and acceptance, not simply lip service or tolerance.  We must continue to advocate for true welcoming in the whole life of the church and beyond. This is our calling as followers of Jesus’ teachings – “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me.”  Is that so hard? 

Prayer
Welcoming God, Implore us to receive with open arms the little ones in our midst.  Help us to go beyond lip service and strive to empower young people to be leaders in our churches, that we may open the doors to You and Jesus by doing so.We ask this as Disciples of Christ, Amen.


Rev. Sarah Renfro
Associate Minister for Families, Youth & Children
First Christian Church
Frankfort, Kentucky




Monday, September 19, 2011

Leading Astray

Matthew 18:6-7



Children depend on adults to teach them right from wrong and good from bad. In today’s world there are many adults who are not up to the challenge. If we do not show children the right path how can we expect them to walk it?
Today’s children are surrounded by poverty, violence, war, and social degradation. If there is no one in their life who will teach them how to rise above this, they will inevitably repeat the cycle. The children are our future. How do you want to spend it? 

Prayer
Lord of guidance and truth; Help us to have the wisdom to lead the children. That we may show them the right path and help them to overcome all the stumbling blocks in their lives. Amen


Angela Kern
Portland, Tennessee

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Being God's Eyes & Ears

Genesis 21:15-20

How often in the news do we see the tragedies that effect families and children? Often children suffer most for the mistakes of parents or uncaring adults.  Fortunately most of us will never know the desperate situation Hagar faced when she placed baby Ishmael under that bush. Unfortunately there are others in our world who do know this sense of anguish.

In the horn of Africa thousands are fleeing famine in search of food and have lost children to a horrific cholera epidemic. Here in the U.S., since 2000, the number of children living in poverty has increased by four million. We can only imagine the choices these families face.

Prayer
God, remind your people of your presence in the world and equip them to be your eyes and ears, your hands and feet, and most of all your heart in this hurting world. Amen.

Rev. Tracy Parker
First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Paris, Kentucky


Saturday, September 17, 2011

Shine the Light

Isaiah 58:5-11

The Children’s Defense Fund 2011 report of the State of America’s Children announces that in the last decade the number of children participating in the National School Lunch Program has increased 15% over the last decade. Finger pointing is useless and the motions of prayer are not enough, says Isaiah. The light of a nation rises when the children are fed.  

Prayer
Lord, we are looking for your guidance. May we find courage and compassion in these forty days to stand up for children who depend on school lunch for nutrition. Show us ways as Church to provide for them when our nation dims its light. Amen.


Rev. Laurel Ragland
First Christian Church
Claremore, Oklahoma




Friday, September 16, 2011

God Remembers Those That Suffer

Psalm 9:12-18



God created all of us equal and promised to take care of us. Some children of God are not treated equally by all of us. These children are looked down upon. They are left out because they are different or face challenges. We must strive to make our leaders and planners remember children who are left out. God has promised that, "the needy will not always be neglected and the hope of the poor will not be crushed forever." 
Prayer
Father, may we often be reminded that we are all made in Your image. May we hold those who cause suffering accountable while remembering that you are the arbiter of justice. May we help You eliminate the suffering of those who are different. Amen. 
Jim Price
Member
First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
New Martinsville, West Virginia

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Seek Good

Amos 5:14-15



Amos warns the wealthy that what they have gained by “trampling on the poor” will be lost.  He tries to redirect the people to “seek good, not evil,” “hate evil, love good.”

When society places its priorities on the accumulation of wealth by whatever means, evil has already taken a front seat. 


Employers closing facilities for cheaper, often exploited labor, leave communities bereft of jobs and public school funding. Seeking good?   Allowing children to attend school in crumbling buildings with out-of-date texts, no basic supplies and over-wrought teachers speaks more to trampling on the poor than loving good.
Who will be the Amos of today to cry out for the children?


Prayer
Lord help us to find our courage to speak for justice “at the gate,” - in the places where the most vulnerable gather. May we seek good and live. Amen.


Rev. Maggie Sebastian
VA Medical Center
Portland, Oregon

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Feed My Sheep

Deuteronomy 24:14-20



Just harvesting.  Just living.  Those who are the most vulnerable, the most needy, the text tells us, are to be taken care of first no matter what the normal business policies may be.
Preferential treatment of the poor is the idea that God, as revealed through scripture and experience, expects that the poor, the least of these, are to be given more consideration by the rest of society because of their fragile state.  Nearly 15 million or 21% of children in the U.S. live below the federal poverty level.
Too often in our “pull yourself by your bootstraps” society, we want to condemn those who are impoverished as lazy, stupid, or at least lousy decision-makers. God makes no such judgment. God does not give qualifiers to poverty. God just says, "feed my sheep."


Prayer
Lord, Lord, we want to deem who is worthy of our great beneficence.  Perhaps we should pray, Dear One, that we are worthy to be Christ-like benefactors. Amen.


Rev. Maggie Sebastian
VA Medical Center
Portland, Oregon

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Our Job

Isaiah 28:14-17



Quality education is the cornerstone of a nation. That this cornerstone fit perfectly into the foundation on which this country is built is not only a desire but a necessity.  As the surveyors, carpenters, and masons named on the God-entrusted contract we hold in our hands, it becomes our job to make available the best tools possible to each and every child. They look to us with hope and trust. They are our building apprentices. Their final achievement level is our challenging task.  May we approach it with love and justice for all.
Prayer
God of Learning, may I recognize and accept with gratitude the job you have given me to do in being a part of educational reform in my nation.  Amen.  
Judy Bennett
Island Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Wheeling, West Virginia

Monday, September 12, 2011

Educating Leaders

Isaiah 3:4-9



It is a gloomy picture of Judah.  No one will even want to be their ruler.  Justice is no where to be found. 
The problem is this: uneducated people--children according to the text--are given responsibilities beyond their capabilities.  They have not been taught the ways of just governance.  
So how are we doing in educating our young people to be leaders in the church and community?  If we fail to teach our children justice, fairness, and compassion, we will be like Judah. “The people will be oppressed,” and we, their educators, will be found guilty.
Prayer
Holy One, give us hearts of justice and compassion that we pass on to our children.  May they learn by our example.  Amen.
Rev. Maggie Sebastian
VA Medical Center
Portland, Oregon

Sunday, September 11, 2011

God is Not Partial

Deuteronomy 10: 12-22



God is not partial. God executes justice for those in the greatest need. God took care of our ancestors when they were strangers in a strange land. Let us recognize what a loving God does and do likewise. 
In this time of diminishing resources let us remember the generosity of God and extend that generosity to others, without partiality. We, faithful followers of Jesus, must continue to work just as hard for educational opportunities for the children of strangers as we do for our own children.
Prayer
God of justice and impartiality, as we begin this season of prayer for children, open our hearts and give us courage to speak and act on behalf of those who are most vulnerable, the children, in our local communities and in the wider world. Amen.
Kaye Edwards
Church of the Covenant, UCC/Disciples
Lynchburg, Virginia